Wednesday, May 10, 2017


We flew from Paris directly to Bristol, England where we had planned a week of family history (Jim's)  research at the Bristol Archive Records.  These archives are on an island in the River Avon.  I was thrilled to see Gromit on the ferry I took.

I later learned that Aardman Animations, producers of Wallace and Gromit, are located right across the river from where we are staying.

Bristol is a city which is rediscovering itself.  A former major shipping port, the rough and tumble waterfront is being redeveloped into all sorts of mixed use.

Narrow canal boats

Derelict factory building being reimagined
New Millenium Center and Energy Tree
All around the newly developed area are edible gardens and fun statues.

Cary Grant, a famous Bristolian
The older part of town also has some great statues.  This guy is known as the Father of Indian Renaisssance.

Rajah Rommohun Roy and The Bristol Cathedral

Unicorn on City Hall
When I mentioned to a cabbie that I wanted to go to a classic English pub with a fun name he immediately told us about the "Bag of Nails," a pub with cats.

We finally made it there tonight and there were at least 6 cats, most of them sleeping in boxes on the bar.

In addition there was a list of rules, such as #4 "If you don't like Johnny Cash, shut up or get out," and other amusing signs.

As we have walked around Bristol we've seen other fun names of pubs and restaurants.

Bristol seems to have a young, artistic energy.  This poem randomly placed at the waterfront sums it up.


Sunday, May 7, 2017


This post is for all my Parmenter relatives.  Today we had some hours to kill before going to the airport.  I had noticed that there was a Metro stop called "Parmentier" nearby and we had some unused tickets so off we went.

I surmise that this is a very old subway line as we kept going further and further underground.

But all the stairs were worth it when we got off at our stop.

The subway stop had a whole history of Antoine Parmentier who was quite a guy and is most known for convincing the French that the potato was a food source for people, not just animals.

Parmentier giving seed potatoes to a peasant

Parmentier had been an army pharmacist under Napoleon when he was captured and imprisioned by the Prussians.  While in captivity he was fed potatoes and realized his country was missing a nutrition source by only feeding them to animals.  When he was released he went on an educational campaign to change people's perceptions.

He even served potatoes to Benjamin Franklin.

Parmentier studied nutrition, encouraged vaccinations against smallpox and was an all around renaissance man.

Not only is the subway stop named for him

but the street as well.

Even the local fire station has his name.

I don't know if he is our ancestor but I want to believe, and with the potato connection it would make so much sense.


Saturday, May 6, 2017


So great to be back in Paris in spite of a drizzly day.  We came specifically to see an exhibit from the Bridgestone (yes, the tires) Museum in Tokyo on loan to Paris' Musee de l'Orangerie.  We took the Metro from Republique to Place de la Concorde and were so surprised to see this wheel where a wheel shouldn't be.

Also blotting out the landscape was a bevy of motorhomes with generators running...someone is making a movie.

Some things can't be spoiled no matter what.

The museum is one of the lesser museums in Paris only because there are so many world-class museums here.  The setting is nice - in the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries, next to the Seine - and the building and gallery space are lovely.    The museum is best known for Monet's series of Water Lily murals.  He designed and painted them specifically for this space.

Several Rodin sculptures are on the grounds and there are lots of lovely impressionist paintings in their permanent collection.

The Kiss

After our visit here we walked across the Seine and had some great views.

We went back down to the Metro at Assemblee Nationale, near our old friend Rue St. Germain.  We were headed to our old neighborhood in the 5th where we have stayed for several weeks over the last 20 years or so.  This fun neighborhood is near the Sorbonne and the Pantheon and is known as the "Latin Quarter" and as "The Left Bank."  Our hotel is still there,

though many things in the neighborhood have changed.  There still plenty of places to see and be seen while sipping your Pastis or Kir

and the cheese shops still have me swooning.

We ate the little one with black and red label.  Magnifique!


There are many new restaurants, not all good.

After our long stroll down Rue Mouffetard, stopping to buy scarves and a beret from our favorite merchant at Par'ici (, and having a wonderful discussion about politics, freedom and democracy (tomorrow is France's presidential election, not unlike our recent one) with a lovely young woman at Diwali, we caught the Metro near Rue Monge and headed home.  It's been over 10 years since we were last in Paris and we both had forgotten how many stairs one goes up and down to ride the subway here and how much walking one does underground to change lines. We were happy to put our feet up at the end of our rainy day out in Paris.

Tomorrow we are off to the U.K. to do some family history research.


Friday, May 5, 2017


What a week this has been!  About a week ago we started seeing signs being posted in all the plazas.

As I don't read Catalan well I wasn't sure what it was all about but it soon became evident it was PARTY TIME!  The first indicator was this band which came marching and playing through the plaza where we were having coffee.

They were quite good.  We followed them to a different plaza where there was another band playing traditional Sardana music and everyone spontaneously joined in the dance.

Later that day I spotted this effigy heading down the sidewalk.

I tried to run around the corner to head them off at the pass but I ran into a huge crowd and another band that jumped and danced as they played.  That was day one.

The next day we were in the Rambla and kept seeing little kids in space costumes going by.

We followed and got to see a parade, apparently of different schools, each with their own theme.  The space theme had astronauts, space ships and green aliens.

There were  fire fighters, bakers ( and ovens), electricians, gardeners

and we think these little folks were engineers.

Day three was May Day.  I had been able to translate the schedule enough to know it was an antique fair.  We were not prepared for all the other fairs and events happening simultaneously.  Arts and crafts, collectibles, artisanal foods, glass blowers,

merchants, chess players....

The streets were blocked off for at least a two mile radius and there were thousands upon thousands of people out shopping, many obviously from the big city,  Barcelona.

Artisanal foods included all manor of salami-type meats, goat and sheep cheeses, the most enormous vat of honey I have ever seen, chocolate, anchovies, bread, herbs and mushrooms, all local.

Mouthwatering wild mushrooms
For some reason the antiques

were separate from the collectibles, which included stamps, coins and...champagne caps (who knew?)

There were some really creative crafts, like this guy who did masks and effigy heads.

 There was this uniquely Spanish incense burner:

Smoke comes out of cowl
At one point in the afternoon the crowd was so thick we gave up and sat down for lunch a few feet away at our favorite sidewalk cafe.

Even there, the volume from all the people around made us nearly shout to be heard.

This enormous street fair went on until after dark and all day long there was a line at the churros (a Spanish donut thing) booth where they were selling as fast as they could make them.

He turns the crank and the batter goes into the hot fat


Churros being cut and sugared

Next morning you would have had no idea there had been a street fair the day before.  The street cleaners ( 2 separate trucks, one with brushes and one with water) had already tidied up and people were going about normal life...except in the plaza where we were having coffee we heard distant drums and shawms and then saw this.

We never figured out the significance of all the purple shirt people but the crowd went wild when they came into the square and there were various dignitaries out to watch them.   Shortly after the Sardana music started again and everyone was dancing.

The next day all seemed quiet but we saw these trains parked at the Rambla with queues of people waiting to get on at 9 am.

We noticed that all businesses were closed (except food) and when I inquired I learned that May 3rd is the May Day holiday for Figueres.  The trains were taking people all day long to see "the flower crosses."  I was planning to check this out in the afternoon but it got cold and started raining so I guess I'll never know.

Our last day in Figueres was relatively quiet with only one band (a new one) playing the Sardanas and the people dancing.

We had a really great time in this friendly town and were so lucky to have happened into their fiesta season.  Now we are in Paris briefly on our way to Great Britian.