The River Seine is loaded, these days, with floating restaurants and other giant touring crafts. I asked my Paris friend Cathy Nolan which of the boat tours would be best, and she steered us to the original Bateaux Mouches, ginormous barges with hundreds of seats that cruise the river all day, and into the night.
The last time I saw the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (maybe 30 years ago), it was lined with stores that were terrifying to the average tourist. Designer boutiques, purveyors of Rolexes, Tiffany, and Cartier, all in little polished box stores with no excess of stock visible, attended by lean chic Parisiennes wearing dark suits, dark hose, and needle heels, plus that particular Parisian frown that signals that you’re in the wrong rodeo, cowboy.
To be in Paris for a month with no plans is something like gazing over a 26,000-acre box of chocolates. You won’t get to them all, but no matter where you start and where you go, it’s going to be delicious.
We’re back in Puerto Vallarta!
(Well, not for long. Ten days is all. We came down here to attend to a dental issue but when we got here we were told there really was no issue, so now our visit is entirely pleasure. We’re not disappointed. There’s no disappointment in Puerto Vallarta.)
This part of Costa Rica – the northern Pacific Coast – is a paradise of beaches and not much else. (This is why you’ve read nothing uplifting about our visits to ancient Mayan ruins.) Yesterday we visited Playa Conchal (Beach of Shells), recommended for having the clearest blue water around.
When we started planning our Costa Rica trip, I filled out one of those online quizzes from the tourist bureau about what I wanted to do and see. Rain forest? Sounds hot and humid. Cloud forest? I live in Portland; don’t need no cloud forest. Ziplining? No. Fishing? Um, no. Volcanoes? Not really. Jungle trip to see crocodiles, poisonous frogs, howling monkeys, boa constrictors and crocodiles? Absolutely NOT. I cannot stand anything even vaguely reptilian.
I was able to check Beach and Lunch, but there was no little square for Shopping. I abandoned the quiz and just Googled “Best Beaches in Costa Rica” and found one that had a cute town attached. That was Tamarindo.
In the small town of Uglich on the Volga, which has its medieval charm and also its unpainted tumbledown shacks, we visited Olga in the new house she built after retirement. It was a largish but simple two story white brick house. In the back was the vegetable and flower garden that every Russian householder wants and treasures,
Viking Cruise Lines arranges for its passengers to visit with real locals. This was our home visit.
I kept wondering why the buses from the boat went to the Kremlin over and over again. After all, Moscow is an enormous city. But the Kremlin, which is the old walled city where Moscow was born in the Tenth Century, is not the gray place of newsreels. My childish mind likes color and clever design, and that I found aplenty.
In our last episode, we were tossed out of gate C30 in Copenhagen because our visas would not be valid until the next day, therefore, we could not yet travel to Russia. “The Russians are very strict about this,” the Danish gate woman said. Of course our generation was brought up to be terrified of Russians, so we sure didn’t want to push it. Besides that, we were dog tired. I was secretly wishing for a real nap.