Senior Citizen

Logically, AARP is not in France. And the age for normal retirement keeps drifting depending on which political party is in power. So, the definition of a senior citizen appears to be when you are eligible for discount cards at age 60. I have a slate of them now…one for the SNCF train system, one for Bordeaux culture and services, and one for the trams and buses. Additionally, at most ticket kiosks, the price drops for people age 60 and above.

The card I like best is for SNCF. Senior travelers receive a 40% discount on 1st class travel which usually isn’t much more than a 2nd class ticket. I’m going to be riding in style from now on. First stop-Paris in May to get my Russian visa and check out the Vermeer exhibition at the Louvre. I am loving my 60’s!

(u)   x(o)x

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Gaudi was Here

Gaudi made a mark on Palma. His buildings are iconic and you can’t help but wonder what hallucinogen he was taking. Art nouveau design is also prevalent among the colored stucco and tile roofs. There are some fountains and statues scattered around and cobblestone streets galore. Medieval and Muslim walls guard the old town and the Arab bathhouse and a Roman arch still exist. Many streets are really only passages from one placa to another…cars have to be small and their mirrors have to be pulled in…90° turns are accomplished in several back and forth maneuvers. Shopping streets are numerous and the famous Mallorca pearl industry inhabits every third storefront. Because of Easter holidays, the historical museums were closed but no matter…I think I’ll return someday. Just not with the thousands of tourists who disembark from the cruise ships!

(u)   x(o)x

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All the old palacios in Palma centered around a courtyard. Historically, they served as main gateways for horses and carriages. Today, they are considered high rent properties because of the peace and quiet that exists behind the arched and old wooden doorways. However, some courtyards let themselves be seen, whether through latticed ironwork or just a quick peek when a resident emerges or retreats. There’s even a reservable walking tour just to see Palma’s courtyards. Here’s what I saw without going on tour…

(u)   x(o)x

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Palacio Ca Sa Galesa

When in Palma, stay at the Palacio! A 13th century building with 16th century stained glass and tile, medieval paneling and floors, a subterranean pool in what used to be a Roman bath, a delightful rooftop terrace with a view to the sea, and bicycles, afternoon tea and cakes, evening sherry, and gifts of cava and birthday treats…this place is welcoming, relaxing, and right in the heart of historic Palma. The only “modern” common area is Monet’s Kitchen, modeled after the artist’s kitchen at Giverny. The staff are fabulous, treats and snacks are everywhere (honor system accounting), bathtubs are all jacuzzis, toiletries are luscious, slippers and robes and fluffy towels feel incredible, and the sheets are like curling up in an Egyptian cocoon. There’s even a pillow menu for choosing the right textiles and poofiness! I loved my stay there and may never be able to go to a Hampton Inn again.

(u)   x(o)x

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Religious and Spiritual

I am a spiritual person, tending to embrace more eastern philosophies and believe in universal flows. While I do not follow or support any organized religion, I certainly enjoy and appreciate the art, music, architecture, and ceremonies of many…which is the “why” behind my fascination with cloisters and cathedrals, mosques and minarets, altars and stained glass, and the list goes on.

It was Easter in Mallorca. Palma has numerous churches and convents and, as it turns out, numerous Easter processions.

Serendipity brought me to the Monastery of Santa Clara at just the right time to buy cookies from the cloistered nuns. They turn an old wooden circular cabinet toward you while asking for your order. The cabinet returns to them and they fill the order with boxes of tea cookies in various flavors. The cookies revolve back to you and you place your “offering” in the cabinet, which then disappears back to the hidden nuns. Despite not seeing anyone, it was my favorite “shopping” experience.

Another wonderful “moment” was arriving on the rooftop terrace of my Palacio to hear men’s gregorian chanting coming from the Bishop’s Palace. The voices carried effortlessly on the breeze and I listened for almost 30 minutes without touching a magazine or book.

On Easter Day, I witnessed one of the processions which was led by a uniformed brass band with drums and cymbals banging and clanging. A crude statue of Jesus was being carried on a palanquin by “pall bearers” up to the church. In the meantime, young girls in white dresses stepped down from the church scattering red rose petals on the ground in front of them. A statue, I believe of Mary, was carried down the steps to meet Jesus in the placa. Then everyone, including parishioners, ascended the steps into the church for Easter morning services. I’ve never seen (or heard) anything like it!

The following photos highlight some of my religious and spiritual moments…

(u)   x(o)x


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Castell de Bellver

Bellver Castle sits atop a forested hill overlooking Palma. Built in the early 1300’s, it is one of the only European castles to be built “in the round” and includes four towers at each of the compass points. Originally a royal palace, it also served as a fortress and a prison.

After viewing the castle in the morning, I went searching for my lunch spot, Bar Dia, where I planned to enjoy my traditional birthday meal…a steak! I happened to “meet” my next door table mates…Riley from Australia and Gaetano from Italy. They are young professionals, living together in London, and loving life. Gaetano was celebrating his 30th birthday that week in Mallorca. When I told them it was my 60th birthday, they enthusiastically sang Happy Birthday To Me when I received my glass of carrot cake. It was so enjoyable…and I wish them well.

(u)   x(o)x

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Joan Miro

For me, arriving in an unknown place is intimidating. I do a LOT of homework in advance and usually know how to get myself to the first hotel and whether I need a citycard or transport pass. Typically, I usually even know what sites I want to see. But I know I look like a deer in headlights when I get off the plane/train and search for the exits. I resemble a whole family of deer in headlights as I look outside for the local bus or way to the metro. And once I start walking to reach the spot where luggage and I will sleep, it might as well be the whole herd.

That’s why I LOVE hoho (hop-on/hop-off) tourist buses. I acclimate to the entire area on a round-trip ticket and it’s usually the first thing I choose to do. I rarely get off on the initial circuit and since the ticket is good for a whole day, I make maximum use of it by getting to the sites I don’t want to walk to as the day progresses.

In the case of Palma, for just a few more euros, I could get a two day ticket on the hoho bus. I’m glad I did because the entire circuit was about 2 1/2 hours long, partially because of two sites that were outliers. One was the Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro, a smallish museum partially housed in the structures Miro used for his studios. He and his wife were residents of Palma and active in that community for over 30 years…Pilar was Mallorcan and Joan had Mallorcan roots but was born in Barcelona.

To be honest, I am no fan of Miro. Until last year, I thought the artist was a woman and until now, I thought the name was pronounced like the “Joan” in Joan of Arc. On my sightseeing list, this place had the lowest priority, the highest admission price, and the most distant location. Despite all this, I decided on that very first hoho run to jump off and take a look, justifying it because I didn’t want to have to come this far again if I ran out of other sightseeing things to do and felt an obligation.

So, the somewhat surrealist male artist Joan (pronounced like the Spanish “Juan”) Miro did much more than paint weird canvases. His “doodles”, which are no better than a kindergartener’s stick figures, can fetch thousands of dollars. His sculptures, also bizarre, focus a lot on women, birds, and moons maybe? Hard to tell. He “fell” into lithography and experimented in that media until deciding to move to concrete, textiles, and drawing on the walls of his studios. Unconventional doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I’m glad I went. I learned a lot and I like that. I confirmed I don’t like Miro’s art. I concluded I don’t understand Miro’s art. I took a lot more photos than I thought. I would have bought a postcard collage if it was on sale. And then I hopped back on the hoho and listened to the earbud narrative while being blown to smithereens on the top deck as we traveled along the port road. It was a great beginning.

Check out my photos and my choice of captions for various Miro works below.

(u)   x(o)x

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Thought you might enjoy a comparison between the top 20’s for girl’s and boy’s names chosen for babies this year in France and the US. Saw the french list in today’s headlines. The US list is from the internet.

For a Girl

1. Victory…..Emma
2. Héloïse…..Olivia
3. Louise…..Ava
4. Blanche…..Isabella
5. Diane…..Sophia
6. Madeleine…..Mia
7. Apolline…..Charlotte
8. Constance…..Amelia
9. Inès…..Harper
10. Rose…..Aria
11. Alix…..Ella
12. Clemence…..Emily
13. Marie…..Abigail
14. Garance…..Evelyn
15. Victoria…..Madison
16. Alice…..Avery
17. Margaux…..Lily
18. Olivia…..Sofia
19. Isaure…..Scarlett
20. Aliénor…..Mila

For a Boy

1. Paul…..Liam
2. Louis…..Noah
3. Alexander…..Mason
4. Peter…..Lucas
5. Victor…..Ethan
6. Gabriel…..Oliver
7. Charles…..Elijah
8. Gaspard…..Aiden
9. Maxime…..James
10. John…..Logan
11. Arthur…..Benjamin
12. Thibault…..Jackson
13. Oscar…..Jacob
14. Leopold…..Carter
15. Andrea…..Sebastian
16. Thomas…..Jayden
17. Calixte…..Alexander

18. the french forgot!…..Jack
19. Thimothée…..Matthew
20. Augustin…..Michael

(u)   x(o)x

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Bits and Pieces

If you don’t mind, I’ll share bits and pieces of my Palma vacay over the next several days. Quick posts with a photo montage here and there, ok?

Arrival: The airport is on the small, mountainous island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean. It is huge compared to thinking you are “getting away from it all”. They handle over 25 million passengers a year, have jetways for ALL gates despite a climate which would allow stairs, and their security area is highly automated and top-notch. I started everything by just being amazed.

Then, took a 10 minute public bus ride to my stop near the historic center and along the route, I saw really really old and decrepit windmills…the kind you think of when you read Don Quixote. An unexpected and picturesque surprise.

After a short walk on cobblestones and past tapas bars, I entered my Palacio courtyard. First order of business? A welcoming glass of cava. Second? A tour of the buildings and amenities. Third? The particulars. The entire check-in process took over 1/2 hour! Let the relaxation begin.

By then, it was about 9 pm, getting dark and chilly, and I just wanted my comfy clothes. Cuddled up under a blanket on the rooftop terrace admiring the highly illuminated view of the cathedral and listening to water drop off the “shelf” into the “wading” pool. Decided to postpone the welcome bottle of cava grand opening until another night. Not too much later, I fell asleep in some sort of egyptian cotton coccoon on a bed that would have fit five of me.

What a beginning.

(u)   x(o)x

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Russian Visitor Visa

An American citizen wanting a Russian visa while living in France poses some obstacles. Basically, the recommended visa service centers don’t seem to know the best jurisdiction to handle my request and that’s primarily because I want to accomplish everything through the mail. It’s not logical for me to show up at a Russian embassy or consulate in the US and it’s not economical or practical to make an appointment at a Russian embassy or consulate in Paris, Marseille, or Strasbourg without a french passport or being able to speak enough french. I want and need to figure this part out before booking my St. Petersburg accommodations, however, I need an official “invitation” from my accommodation to get the visa. No matter what, my actual passport will be in mail transit twice, which is a little frightening…and since I need my passport to travel to Mallorca, nothing can be started until later in April. The clock is ticking…

(u)   x(o)x

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