Monday, December 19, 2016

Nature beyond the neon: Reno, Nev.

The weather is brisk and beautiful during our annual visit to visit family and friends in Reno, Nevada. The sunshine entices us to spend time outdoors where we find several oases of autumn color in this otherwise casino-lit city.

Galena Creek Park

Just up Mount Rose Highway from our former home in south suburban Reno, this park is one of our favorites. We stop by to see how the trees planted eight years ago for our younger son's Boy Scout Eagle project are doing. He's relieved to see that most are still alive. The ranger tells us that he's removed the temporary irrigation that the scouts installed and he's quite pleased with the trees.

We check out the hill where our son led a tree-planting project
at Galena Creek Park, Reno, Nev.

Flags fly at Galena Creek Park in Reno, Nev.

Lazy 5 Regional Park

On the other end of town, north of Sparks, we visit Lazy 5, the scene of our older's son Eagle Scout project about a dozen years ago. He organized about a hundred volunteers to plant trees here when this park was brand new. It looks like the trees are thriving. Despite the sunny day, there aren't many visitors on this weekday afternoon, although we provide a band aid to a little girl who got a boo boo on the playground. That scout motto — Be Prepared — comes in handy.

We're pretty sure this is one of the trees planted as part of
our older son's Eagle Scout project at Lazy 5 Regional Park
in Sparks, Nev.

Lazy 5 Regional Park in Sparks, Nev.

Teglia's Paradise Park

Just down the road from our Sparks condo, Teglia is home to several species of geese and ducks. We enjoy a walk around the lake and a view of of the local drive-in theater.

El Rancho Drive-In Theater can be seen across the pond in Taglia's Paradise
Park in Reno, Nev.

One of many geese gaggles in Taglia's Paradise Park in Sparks, Nev.

Sparks Marina

One of my first assignments for the Reno Gazette-Journal was to write about this venue, so it holds a special place in my heart. We take a couple of two-mile laps around the lake, during which we spy a bald eagle.

In order to maintain a desirable water level at Sparks Marina, 2.3 million gallons
of water are pumped out of the lake and into the Truckee River each day.

A bald eagle (one of a pair) is a resident at Sparks Marina in Sparks, Nev.

A cute duck dips its toes in the water at Sparks Marina in Sparks, Nev.

Rancho San Rafael Regional Park

I love visiting the arboretum here. Although no flowers are in bloom this time of year, the park is still pretty. Each September, the park hosts the Great Reno Balloon Race.

Wilbur D. May Arboretum in Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno, Nev.,
is a pleasant place for a walk, even in the late autumn.

Wilbur D. May Arboretum at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno, Nev.

A picnic pavilion at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno, Nev.

Reno Riverwalk

A walk along the Truckee River is just the antidote for our post-election blues. The city of Reno has put in a lot of effort to create a beautiful area here, in the heart of downtown.

The Truckee River flows through downtown Reno, Nev.

These ducks seem to be enjoying the kayak park on the Truckee River
in downtown Reno, Nev.

Detail shot of a fountain along the Riverwalk in Reno, Nev.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pure gold: Bordeaux’s La Cité du Vin

La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

It’s probably safe to say that if you live in or simply adore France, you have more than a passing interest in wine. I’m a fan, but by no means an expert. To be honest, I have trouble detecting any distinct flavors, much less aromas, textures or attitudes in most wine. And the four-euro bottle of vin rouge I pick up at my local Saturday morning market suits me just fine. 

My wine knowledge may be wanting, but on a recent day trip to Bordeaux I jump at the chance to visit the new La Cité du Vin. La Cité opened in June 2016 and quickly has become a popular attraction for both tourists and residents. Allow me to cut to the chase: La Cité du Vin is amazing!

The building is an architectural masterpiece. Its gilded curves seem to pour into the Garonne river, which provided inspiration to the building’s architects, Nicolas Desmazieres and Anouk Legendre from the Parisian agency XTU. Inside is a hands-on feast of everything wine. I spend two hours here, and easily could have spent six. Despite its pricey 20 euro admission, La Cité has rocketed to the top of my list of places to bring out-of-town guests.

A model of La Cité is part of the current temporary exhibition
at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

From its spacious ground level, I walk up the stairs to the first floor where the 720-square-meter Salle des Colonnes houses temporary exhibitions. Currently, a collection of brilliant photographs by Isabelle Rozenbaum is on display. Rozenbaum was given carte blanche to chronicle the construction of La Cité from the ground up. Her photographs are accompanied by entries from her journal containing thoughts as artistic as her photography. Here’s an excerpt:

“Finally I find a large dark staircase which I climb to the fifth floor and head out onto the light-flooded Belvedere. Amid the whiteness of the space, I see people performing a variety of motions, all impossible to represent just as they are, otherwise the sunlight is dazzling my eyes. Close them. Reopen them. Look up. Look differently. Settle. Adjust my outlook. Clarify my vision. Allow a new vision to emerge inside me. Feel the movement of these people at work.”

—Isabelle Rozenbaum

This photograph of the construction of La Cité by Isabelle Rosenbaum
is part of the temporary exhibition at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

The temporary exhibition,Carte blanche for Isabelle, runs through Dec. 31, 2016.

The second floor is the heart of La Cité — a 3,000-square-meter space designed by the English firm Casson Mann, which contains the permanent collection. Here, visitors can explore 19 themed areas. I am given a headset and audio guide programmed to English— my indispensable and personal guide through La Cité. 

The World Wine Tour section at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

During my time here, I go on a worldwide vineyard tour, wander through the Gallery of Civilisations, ask a “virtual” expert a few questions about wine, and enjoy a “buffet of the five senses.” Today, I barely scratch the surface of La Cité’s more than 200 exhibits.

Wine Portraits at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux teach visitors
about the diversity of wine.

The Buffet of the Five Senses section of La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux
offers visitors a hands- and nose-on experience.

One of the displays in the Buffet of the Five Senses section
at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

A display of ancient wine vessels in the Gallery of Civilisations
at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

Tiny hologram figures perform a skit in a diorama at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

Visitors can sit and contemplate the dark side of over-indulgence
at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

All too soon, I note that it’s getting late and I had better think about meeting my friends for the bus ride home. This leaves me only enough time to ride the elevator from the ground floor to the le belvédère where a panoramic view of Bordeaux is served up, along with a wine tasting. I have to make a choice between the tasting and a stop in la boutique, and I opt to shop, treating myself to a souvenir visitors guide.

Wine tasting on the 8th floor of La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas is spectacular from the top floor
of La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

Boats anchored on the Garonne as seen from the top floor
of La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

Much more than a wine museum, La Cité hosts wine workshops, seminars, live performances and conferences. Its reading room contains more than 1,200 wine-related publications. And since I’m American, I proudly note that the 250-seat state-of-the-art auditorium is named for Thomas Jefferson for his “special contribution to promoting and enriching Franco-American relations by establishing the reputation of European wines in the United States and throughout the world,” (according to the visitors guide).

The reading room at La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux contains more
than 1,200 wine-themed books and publications.

La Cite du Vin is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Find all the information you need including directions and upcoming special events on

La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Boston in a day

My return flight to France isn't til 7:30 this evening so I take advantage of being in Boston for a few drizzly hours. The weather may not be the best, but I'm with two of my oldest, bestest buddies: my sister and my dear friend who has taken the bus down from Maine just to see me.

Boston Public Garden

I've flown in and out of Logan Int'l. a few times, and I have fond memories of exploring the Boston area when I was a little girl with my great uncle Walter serving as my personal tour guide. However, this is the first time I've actually spent time in downtown Boston. Seven hours in a city by no means makes me an expert, but I eagerly share some of the highlights of my day here.

Green Dragon Tavern was the secret meeting place of the Sons of Liberty
and, according to Webster, was the headquarters of the American Revolution.
The original tavern was located near here.

Boston is the cradle of the American Revolution, and, after picking up bagels at Bruegger's to bring home to my patient husband in France, we easily find ourselves on the Freedom Trail, a meandering stroll through the city that takes visitors past 16 historical sites.

Old Statehouse Museum and site of the Boston Massacre. Patriots
including John Adams, John Hancock and Samuel Adams worked here.

Weary as we all our from this bitter presidential campaign, walking in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers is just the tonic I need to remind me what America stands for.

Paul Revere statue in Boston
The Old North Church in Boston
Bell in Hand in Boston is America's oldest tavern
George Washington statue in Boston Public Garden
Boston's history is not only about the American Revolution. The city has a rich culture based on the many immigrants who settled here. 

Boston's Irish Famine Memorial commemorates An
Gorta Mór
(the great famine 1845-1852)
Boston's Irish Famine Memorial also celebrates the triumph
of the city's Irisn immigrants.

New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston

Contemplating frog at Frog Pond in Boston Common

Base of a Dawn Redwood tree in Boston Public Garden

'Make Way for Ducklings' sculpture by Nancy Schön in Boston
Public Garden features the characters created by Robert McCloskey.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

More delights of the Entre-deux-Mers

Today I am sharing some miscellaneous memories of a recent day trip through the Entre-deux-Mers. This area, translated to "between two seas" actually is between two rivers: the Dordogne and the Garonne. Primarily known one of six wine-growing regions in the Bordeaux vineyard. Grapes grown here are found in 12 wines including Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur, Cadillac, Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire, Crémant de Bordeaux, Entre-deux-Mers, Graves de Vayres, Loupiac, Pemières Côtes de Bordeaux, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont and Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux.

The summer tourism season is long over, so we find much of the area closed to tourism. But the hills and vines (some still laden with grapes on the day of our visit) are lovely, and our exploration yields some interesting sites.

Bastide de Cadillac

Looking toward one of the gateways in Cadillac
Two of Cadillac's four fortified gates remain standing in this town, which was founded in 1280. Cadillac's church, built in 1494, contains a marble-and-bronze altarpiece.

Interior L'église Saint-Martin in Cadillac

Château de Cadillac (unexpectedly closed on the day of our visit) was built for Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, the first Duke of Epernon, under the reigns of Henry IV of France and Louis XIII. The building was used as a prison for 100 years, but today offers a visitors a good example of French-style architecture. The château is open all year; closed on Mondays in the winter. Check the website here to confirm hours.

Moat at Château de Cadillac


Pujol's château now houses the town's Mairie and post office.

Located on a rocky spur overlooking the Dordogne River, Pujos is considered a gateway to the Entre-deux-Mers region. Highlights of the town include its castle, which now houses the town hall and post office; its church, which contains a gray marble Merovingian sarcophagus from the 5h or 6th century; and its views, which are open all year round.

Walls of Pujol's château

Arrow slit along the wall in Pujols

Stately old home in Pujols-sur-Dordogne


L'église Sainte-Florence in Sainte-Florence

I am compelled to stop in this tiny village because of a legend. It is said that the inhabitants of Sainte-Florence hauled rocks to the top of hill with the aim of constructing a church. The next day, the rocks were at the foot of the hill. Rather than thinking that gravity had something to do with this mystery, they decided to build the church where the stones lay. Notwithstanding the legend, L'église de Sainte-Florence is really quite lovely, even from the outside. The adjacent lavoir is said to have a miraculous spring. 

Doorway of L'église Sainte-Florence in Saint-Florence

Legendary wash house (lavoir) in Sainte-Florence

This is the third in a row (and final, for now) post about Entre-deux-Mers sites. There's still more of this pretty region to discover, but I think next time, we'll taste some wine along the way.