More snow

Paris woke up this morning to the most snow, 15cm, since 1987.    Here are photos taken by different people of the morning of February 7, 2018

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Last night from my terrace
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This morning from my terrace

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Eiffel Tower from Trocader
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Skiing at Sacre Coeur
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Notre Dame
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Houseboat on the Seine
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Pont Alexandre III
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Waking up to snow
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Champs de Mars

 

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Let It Snow!

Today is the second day of snow in Paris.  Today it is sticking to trees, to plant life and bushes, roof tops and bus stops.  It is glorious.

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From my terrace.

When I was a young college student, there would always be snow in winter here in Paris.    Six inches to eighteen inches.  Then and now, it is other-worldly.  Men with roasters and large platters of roasted chestnuts would stand at the end of any of Paris’s many bridges.  They would take a page of newsprint, double it over then roll it into a cone.  Into the cone would plop fifteen or so hot chestnuts.  Holding them would be warmer than your glove.  Imagine a twenty year old American girl who loved to daydream crossing the river Seine, hot chestnuts in hand, snow flurries adhering the fantasy daydream.

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Along the Seine (courtesy of The Local)

Today, I have to go to one of the many French administrative offices to deal with my impots d’habitation.  I don’t believe we have a tax for renters in the US.  They are similar to what cities require hotels to tack on to our bills (and now, of course, AirBnB has to do the same thing).  I could take the metro and be warmer or I could walk a little further and catch the 63 bus.  I’ve been here four years and three months.  I haven’t seen snow in Paris until today.  This choice is a no brainer.

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Train tracks (courtesy of The Local)

It is very grey and the closer the bus gets to the river, the less the snow is sticking.  The Eiffel Tower was large and dark in the grey sky.  The bus moves through the city easily.  There isn’t much traffic today.

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Versailles (courtesy of the Local)

I thought perhaps I was the only one enchanted by the snow falling.  I hear it has mucked up traffic outside of Paris and tourists cannot take any boat rides on the river because of the flooding.  At least they could walk around all day.  Probably not today unless they want to get very cold and very wet.

I met my friend, Fatiha, at St. Sulpice where my administrative office is.  She assured me that I was not alone.  She loved the snow.  Just not enough to walk outside a lot.   When I arrived home, I was very wet and very cold.

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Walking one of the many parks

 

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One of the Wallace Fountains  — Wallace fountains are public drinking fountains designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city of Paris, France, mainly along the most-frequented sidewalks. They are named after the Englishman Richard Wallace, who financed their construction.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Two Books

Two books have come to my attention lately.  Both are about a boy growing up below the poverty line and getting far enough away to write about it.  Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance is his chronicle of being raised by an alcoholic mother and his grandparents in Appalachia. The blurb on the front of the book says it is a ‘must read’ in order to understand Trump’s America.  The End of Eddy (En finir avec Eddy Belleguele) by Edouard Louis is the memoir/novel of a young man growing up gay in Hallencourt, France and “has sparked debate on social inequality, sexuality and violence.” Quote from the back of the English translation.

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My book group chose Hillbilly Elegy as the January book.  I don’t think anyone in the group accused it of being good writing.  However, most of us thought of it as extremely educational.  I, personally, am one of those people who has been going around confused and baffled as to how Trump won the presidency.  Russian collusion aside, what was his appeal?  He was clearly a liar, a womaniser and a supremicist.  Yet, when those who voted for him were asked why, they said “We know he is all of those things but he speaks for us and we are willing to overlook those details”  Vance’s book helped me to understand who those people are and why they hated Obama not to mention liberal white people like me.  Trump’s way of talking and being wasn’t offensive because that is the way most everyone in Appalachia and working class White American talks.

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Reading Hillbilly Elegy was an easy read.  I never felt brought into his world but I got to know the people in his world.  He described it–one in which the violence of his grandmother and the Marines in which he enlisted  between HS and College made a man of him, gave him the strength to leave Kentucky and Ohio and make something of himself.  He loved his violent Grandma.  I cringed when he described incidents with her.

I discovered The End of Eddy because I went to a talk at the Mona Bismarck Centre on Quai New York.  Mr. Louis was interviewed by a Princeton PhD as to who he was/is and how this book came to be written.  Louis is a very appealing young man and a treat to listen to.  His English is excellent–not only his command of words but his ability to express his deeper thoughts.  I wished so much my french was good enough to read this book in French but feel grateful that I can read it in English.

Louis has nothing good to say about his childhood.  The violence he suffered was also supposed to make a man out of him.  But he was gay and effeminate from a very young age.  He was beaten and spat on as a matter of course almost every day of his young life.  His suffering was such that it has become the nugget that his books revolve around.  The writing is so eloquent that the reader suffers with Eddy, feels the spit running down his face and cringes when the father or older brother are near.  Yet, there is no self-pity, no recriminations.  In fact, listening to Louis, I was struck by his generosity of spirit toward everyone.  Although there is no excuse for violence he said, he understands that everyone is suffering.

I’ve never met J.D. Vance.  Maybe he would touch me in the way that Louis did.  But I suspect not.  But that is not his intention for his readers.  He wanted to tell us, the rest of America “This is the America you don’t see and don’t understand.”  In 2016, Vance quit his job as investment banker, moved back to Ohio and is considering a run for Senate as a Republican.  He is quite conservative.  Louis’ intention is to get a conversation going.  We live in such a violent world that we don’t even recognise it.  Talk about it, tell your story, educate yourself.

Vance’s childhood home voted for Trump.  Louis’s town of Hallencourt voted overwhelmingly for Marine Le Pen.  Vance has gone right.  Louis has gone left.  Two boys, two prisons almost impossible to get out of and two very different directions. ‘For Louis, the tide of populism sweeping Europe and the United States is a consequence of what he, citing the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, calls “the principle of the conservation of violence.” “When you’re subjected to endless violence, in every situation, every moment of your life,” Louis told an interviewer, referring to the indignities of poverty, “you end up reproducing it against others, in other situations, by other means.”’  (Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker, May 8, 2017)

Read them both.  Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear what readers are touched by and think of both books.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Edouard Louis:    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/01/the-end-of-eddy-by-edouard-louis-review

JD Vance:  https://www.nbcnews.com/megyn-kelly/video/going-home-best-selling-author-j-d-vance-opens-up-about-his-painful-childhood-and-the-future-ahead-975925827899

More thoughts on living in Paris

“The more you come to know a place, in general, the more it loses its essence and becomes defined by its quirks and its shortcomings.  The suggestion of something numinous or meaningful is usually available with full force only to the first time visitor and gradually decreases with familiarity”

Sebastian Faulks Charlotte Gray                                   

I have changed the tense to the present tense because those two sentences jumped out at me when I read Charlotte Gray (a wonderful book, by the way!).  I first came to Paris to live in November of 2013.  I walked everywhere.  I had time to walk everywhere.  I was so full with wonder, awe and amazement at the beauty of Paris, at my good fortune to be able to pick up and leave California and live in Paris, there were times I thought my heart would burst open.

It has been a long time since I’ve had those feelings.  I live here, have commitments here, pay bills here, run up against French administration here and unless I write it down as a date with myself, I don’t take those long walks anymore.  I still love Paris but it is completely different.  I have also changed apartments.  I used to live on the corner of Git-le-Coeur and Quai des Grands Augustins.  I sat at my table and looked out on the Pont-Neuf. I could stick my head out the window, look right and see a perfect view of Notre Dame.  I understood how Monet felt when he wanted to paint certain things at every hour of the day.  These two views changed all the time depending on the weather, on the time of day, on my mood.  Many days it would take my breath away.

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Now I live in the 16th.  I have a large terrace which I said I wanted.  In exchange, I gave up the view of the Seine, the Pont Neuf and Notre Dame.  I look out on another apartment building.  Below me is a lovely courtyard.  Every hour on the hour, I see the reflected lights of the Tour Eiffle flickering on the glass of the building across the way. The blinking lights last for five minutes then I lose the reflection.  That is the only reminder I have that I live in Paris.  And there are no high buildings or skyscrapers.  Strictly interdit in Paris.  It’s not till I walk outside and turn left on Avenue Mozart to go to the metro that the atmosphere of Paris washes over me.  Some days, especially days that it has been raining, it seems especially beautiful as the lights bounce off the sidewalk and glass store fronts.  Those days, I take a deep breath and pinch myself.  But those days have gotten far and few between.

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There are no tourists here where I live.  I only hear French on the streets.  Am I saying I would trade all this to be back in the centre of Paris where tourists abound, walk incredibly slowly driving me nuts.  Where all the photos of Paris postcards originate?  Good question.  One I ask myself every day.

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People ask me if I think I will stay here.  I always have to think out my answer carefully because it changes all the time.  Last Saturday when someone asked me, I responded that I thought I was a more interesting person living here in Paris.  I like having to walk to the metro.  I like that I can go to morning matinees of movies once a week.  I like that I never have to drive a car.  I like that I can jump on the TGV and be almost anywhere in France in less than five hours.  And that’s only because the train stops everywhere on the Cote d’Azur taking an extra two hours.  Marseilles is three plus hours away.  I adore Brittany and that I can go there and not have the tremendous crowds that Mendocino and the Northern California coast attracts.  I love going to the American Library and hearing wonderful speakers and authors one or two nights a week.  Does it really matter where I live in Paris?  The fact of the matter is that I LIVE IN PARIS!  How many Americans have the luxury of pulling up their lives and roots and move 6,000 miles away just because?

As they say in Twelve Step rooms, More Will be Revealed.

A bientôt,

Sara

La Compagnie

On Friday, Jan. 12, I flew to New Jersey to attend a Care Conference for my Uncle.  I flew a new airline.  Over the past couple of years, I read about this airline that has only business class seats at slightly more than economy price seats.  Since, I mostly fly Paris–San Francisco and back again, it wasn’t an option for me.  La Compagnie only flies Paris–Newark and back.

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Because a friend raved about it last June, I decided this was a fine time to find out for myself. So I booked a round trip ticket that cost about 1500 euros total. Sometimes I feel held hostage by United.  I have many miles, enjoy using miles to upgrade to a very luxurious Business/First seat and love all the perks that come with having Premier status.  I wanted to free myself.  Maybe I won’t have Premier Class anymore.  Tant pis!

My friend was thrilled that I was going to give La Compagnie a try.  She warned me to get to CDG early as LC check-in was tucked away.  So the night before I left, I went on-line to see if I could find where LC check-in was. Terminal 1 but after that I had to wait.  Some blogs popped up in my search.  They turned out to be “horror” stories. They were written in 2014, I held my fears in check.  Whatever wasn’t working in 2014 certainly has been ironed out now.  From the time I left my apartment to the time I landed in Newark, everything went smoothly.

When I arrived at Terminal 1, the digital board told me that my flight was on time and that check-in was in Hall 3.  I walked slowly looking left and right and there it was right next to United.  Since there are only 84 seats, the line to check in went quickly.  One can have two bags at 70 pounds/32 kilograms each. I left with a fast access through security card and could wait in the iCare Lounge.  Unlike other airlines, the check-in doesn’t open until two and half hours ahead of take off.  This again is because there are only 84 seats.

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Checking in

The Lounge was one floor down from the United Lounge, plenty large and set up for a continental breakfast.

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I still had to go through security so it was suggested to leave the lounge forty-five minutes to an hour ahead of departure.  Boarding the plane takes only fifteen minutes again because of so few seats.

The immediate impression upon boarding is of lots of space and very airy.  There are two seats on each side of the aisle.  Three attendants took care of us.  There are no frills and whistles.  No one asked to hang my coat.  I folded it up and put it in the overhead along with everything else.  Nothing is allowed on the floor during take-off.  As you can see, there is no barrier between the two seats as with other Airline’s Business Class seats.  I didn’t find that a problem.  If privacy is high on your priority list, this isn’t the airline for you.

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My “horror” story blog described the flight bags as made of tire like material with no toothbrush.  He was appalled.  The flight bag was perfect and there was a toothbrush.  The hand creme and lip conditioner were from the French company Caudalie.

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The attendant only offered champagne before take-off.  But fairly soon after, a drinks trolly came rolling by.  Everything was on offer.  This was followed by lunch (take off was at 10:30am).  I always bring my own food but my neighbour let me take a photo of his tray.  This is before the hot entree was brought.

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My only complaint is that the seat does not turn into a flat bed like most business class seats nowadays.  It would have been ok except the foot part didn’t rise and I found that hard.  Going to Newark was not a problem.  I wasn’t sleepy and watched two movies, read my book and did some writing.  My flight back to Paris left at 7:30pm and I was exhausted.  I slept on and off the whole way but the discomfort of my feet kept me from sleeping completely.  As the other blogger said, for the price I paid and having so much room, I thought everything was good.

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Every seat has an iPad.  They are turned on about fifteen minutes into the flight.  One has a choice of about 20 movies, 3 audio books and 4 special videos.  The map with the flight progress is on four screens overhead.

Everything went smoothly.  Even the bumpy parts of the flight were fine.  We landed early and taxied to the gate right on time, to the minute.

My return flight was very similar except that I have very little idea what happened after I closed my eyes.  Did they serve a dinner?  Don’t know.  Don’t even remember a drinks trolly.  The check-in was just as smooth except it was in English and there were four people doing the check as opposed to two in Paris.  The Lounge was before security and very elegant.  It had the feel of old world glamour.  The food was better than anything I’ve ever seen.  An entire dinner was laid out so I suspect that dinner was not served on board.

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When you go on-line to book a flight, after picking your dates, four different prices come up.  Each price has conditions.  The cheapest is called promotion which is what I got.  Since turning 65, I always get flight insurance now.  As they say in many countries, Shit happens.

If my opinion counts for anything, I recommend this airline for the price, the space and the ease of travel.  You do need to be going to Newark or Paris or be willing to land there before the next lap of your flight.  Happy Flying!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Happy New Year from Paris

France is the only country that I know of that does not send Christmas cards as a rule but instead sends New Year’s cards.  We have the whole month of January to get the cards out.  Ergo, I feel just fine wishing you all a Happy New Year fourteen days into 2018!

I took quite a bit of time off from this blog–I spent two wonderful weeks in London.  I’d heard for many years about the lights and store windows of Harrods, Fortum and Mason, Selfridges and was looking forward to a festive time. I exchanged homes with a wonderful family from Finchley, North London.  They stayed in my home in Oakland, Calif and I stayed in their home 25 minutes by underground from the centre of London.  For the Christmas season, it felt like the best of two worlds.  London centre was alive with tourists, shoppers, lights, thousands of people swarming the sidewalks while Finchley was quiet and peaceful.

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Arriving at St Pancras station

The first week was very cold.  My friend, Meg, from Antibes joined me.  A Brit by birth, I had the luxury of just hanging on to her coattails and following her as she led me all over the place and we never got lost!  On Saturday, Dec. 23rd, we had tickets to hear the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey.  It seems that a tourist must pay 22 pounds to visit Westminster.  However, with this ticket, I entered for free and heard the beautiful Westminster Boys Choir.

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Westminster Abbey

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The next evening, Christmas Eve, Meg took me to dinner at a long time friend’s home.  The family couldn’t have been more welcoming.  They gave me presents and thanked me so much for joining them for dinner.  Hello, shouldn’t I be thanking you??  The Brits are quite a people.

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Christmas Eve dinner with our paper crowns from the crackers

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Meg told me that for Christmas Day, every good Brit stays in their pjs and watches TV all day long.  It must be true because most of the channels had movies – of which we watched quite a few.

Meg took off on Wednesday to stay with her brother in southwest London and I prepared for my Paris friend, Barbara, to join me for the second week.  One of Meg’s friends introduced me to Todaytix.com which sells tickets to West End shows for a discount.  We got excellent seats for An American in Paris for 20 pounds each.  Barbara struck up a conversation with the couple next to her and found out about two more sites Lovetheatre.com and Amazontickets.com, that sell discounted tickets.  Through Lovetheatre.com, we bought terrific seats for a new West End production Girl from the North Country, a show based around Bob Dylan songs and Kinky Boots which I’d heard wonderful things about and Barbara was willing to go along with.

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Sara
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Barbara at Kinky Boots

 

Twenty years ago, coming to London to go to the Theatre was probably the best deal in the world.  Prices were extremely low and even more so if you were willing to stand in line at the HalfpriceTix stand in Leicester Square.  No longer true.  I saw the prices in black and white but had a hard time adjusting to the extraordinary fees for tickets.  The Book of Mormon ran 200 pounds a person and were only slightly discounted on the good sites.  So I was so happy with Rush prices and discounted prices.

New Year’s Eve, we had planned to go to a movie and watch the Fireworks on the Thames on the TV from the comfort of our couch.  As it turned out, we picked a movie that was playing at Piccadilly Circle.: Call Me By Your Name.  We both wanted to see it as it was receiving nominations already and there were (still aren’t) no signs of it coming to Paris in the near future.  As far as I’m concerned, it deserves all the rave reviews it is receiving.  Reviewing it will be another blog!  We left the theatre at 11:15pm and were told that all the underground stations nearby were closed for the Fireworks show.  So we walked to Oxford Circle.  Regent Street was closed off to car traffic and we, and thousands of others, were walking in the middle of the street.  There is something so freeing and lighthearted about walking on a main street in a busy large city and there is no traffic.

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Regent Street close to midnight New Year’s Eve
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Sara with wings!

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I found myself on January 4, not wanting to leave London.  That is what a good vacation is supposed to be.  One leaves wanting more instead of dying to get home  What was especially wonderful and surprising for me was that I hadn’t really wanted to go.  I thought it was far too soon to travel when I’d just returned from California a month before.  So to have the two weeks be so relaxing, so entertaining, so Holidayish if you will, was really a wonderful Xmas present.

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Fifth floor tea shop at Fortum and Mason
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The famous Fortnum and Mason baskets

I will close by telling those of you who don’t already know about the Charity Shops in the UK.  I love them.  I’ve been going to Newmarket every October for five years and discovered a Charity Shop every 100 yards or so.  Whenever I am in London now, I look for the Charity shops first.  I always walk away with something that I fall in love with.  This time, I found a wonderful sweater, a pair of gloves (mine weren’t warm enough) and a little wallet for my Oyster card and UK money.  These aren’t consignment shops that are almost too expensive for someone like me.  I like a good bargain but also something I can use.  I bought some Christmas tree balls just for a lark and got home to Paris to find that Bijou, the cat, had managed to bring down my little Christmas tree and I had less than half of the decorations I started with.  The joys of cat ownership!!!!

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near London Post Office–Regent Street

I hope your New Year is starting off well.  And may 2018 see some change toward the better for the world.  With so many body blows on a daily basis, it is often hard to stay open to the hard work and action required to make this world a better place but if not us who?

A bientôt,

Sara

 

One foot in Paris and one foot in…..

Christmas time is a season I love….for all the wrong reasons!  I love the fading light as the days get shorter, especially walking in Paris when the sky is a pinkish grey turning to dark purple then to nighttime black.  I love the lights around the Champs Elysees and the Ave. Montaigne.  Many arrondissements have also decked themselves out near the Mairie in an array of colours and blinking tiny little lights that tell you that FairyLand is around the corner.  The windows in the Department Stores are a delight for everyone of all ages.  There are tables set for Christmas Eve dinner with animals prancing around, chasing each other and having wonderful fun.  Mama Bears are serving up a meal and Papa Bears are cutting a turkey.  In another window, there are trapezes with more animals and dolls all sporting the the bags and clothes of the Designer who is sponsoring the window.  I don’t care.  It’s a treat!  In front of the window are families.  The adults in the back and the children up at the windows with their hands out wishing they could touch what is inside. My gardienne put up a large tree with wrapped presents under it.  The lights twinkle day and night.  I’ve never seen an apartment building like that before.  I think I have a very special gardienne.

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I’m not religious so I don’t need all the icons that go along with Christmas.  I don’t go to the Christmas concerts unless it’s Sing Along Carols.  Those I love.  My friend, Meg, is taking me to a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey when I’m in London.  This is quite religious but at least this year, I’ll hear it in English!  I can be talked in to most kinds of music with the codicil that I can leave early if I’m not happy.

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I even love giving presents.  I’m not the person who shops at the last minute which probably makes a huge difference in how much I enjoy gift giving.  I shop all year long looking at things and thinking “my sister would love that”.   I buy it and put it on my gift shelf to be wrapped at a later date for a birthday or Christmas.  So unless someone tells me that their house is bursting at the seams and not one more thing can come inside, they will get a gift from me no matter how old they are.

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Last summer, when winter and Christmas seemed light years away, a family in London asked if I wanted to do a Home Exchange.  They would spend the month of December at my home in Oakland, California and I would spend at least two weeks at their home in London.  I’ve always heard that London really knows how to throw a Christmas party.   Each time I mention to someone that I’m going to London, I hear “You have to go see the windows at Harrods/Fortnum and Mason/John Lewis, etc”  So more windows to appreciate.IMG_0062.jpg

Yet, while all this beautiful and festive time of year surrounds me, my mind and heart are partly in Princeton, NJ where my uncle Stan still lies in a hospital bed in the Skilled Nursing floor of his Retirement Home.  Very little has changed.  I’m told his appetite is coming back and the hope of everyone that loves him is that this will make him stronger.    And being stronger, his Physical Therapy will go better.  Which means he will become more mobile.  Being mobile is critical as Medicare, the great American social insurance plan for adults over 65, will assess him soon and tell us and him what his future will look like as far as living conditions go.  I feel strongly and passionately that I don’t want Medicare being the boss.  I want to be there and with his family and friends, tell Medicare this is what we can do for him.  We will make it happen.  Stan needs to stay in his apartment, there is no doubt in my mind.  Enid, his wife of 61 years, lived there with him and her presence is everywhere.  His computer, which is his lifeline to the men who are still living and flew with him in WWII, is there.  All his Princeton Basketball paraphernalia is there.  He has tapes of games going back for years.  He still watches them.  His freedom is there.  On every phone call with him he says “I am so helpless.  I can’t stand it”

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Cousin Joan and I are determined to create a bedroom for him that can have a hospital bed and a bedroom for a live-in aide–hopefully a strong male aide.  Joan wrote a letter to Stan’s lawyer asking for some kind of contract that Stan could sign saying he won’t hold Stonebridge responsible if anything should happen to him.  Even if Stan lives less months that he would if he were moved, the months would be as “good as it gets” months for him.  That is what is important.  That he leave this world with the things he loves and the people he loves surrounding him.

Those of you who have read Being Mortal recognise that some of my strength is coming from reading this book, this text for how to humanise the end of life.  And I’m not foolish enough to think that reading is doing.  I think it is going to be quite hard to talk about this stuff with the doctors, with Stonebridge, maybe even friends and family.  We Princetonites are supposed to be intelligent and educated.  So we’ll see.  I have planned a trip back there in January.

Meanwhile, it’s off to London.  It has been a long time since I spent any time in London.   More to come in these pages……!

A bientôt,

Sara