(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Trip Highlight - North Beach in San Francisco

I've decided to do some trip highlights featuring some of the things we enjoyed during our month in the U.S.

North Beach is a lovely section of San Francisco. Not only is it considered the 'little Italy' of the city, it also was the home of the Beatnik generation. It is located midway between Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf. It is one of those areas that feel like a small community neighborhood smack in the center of a big city. It was named for a beach from the 1800s that eventually became landfill.

Italian immigration slowed after the early 1800s, but the neighborhood still retains its Italian zest.

Lots of fun SF landmarks reside in North Beach ... the 'crookedest' street (Lombard), cable cars, some of the most steep SF hill streets (on Telegraph & Russian Hill), wonderful coffee shops, restaurants and book stores ... not to mention the nightlife of Broadway's landmark strip clubs and hawkers (remember Carol Doda?!)...and the city's oldest parish church, St. Francis of Assisi (established during the gold rush).

We got off at the first BART stop (Embarcadero) and walked along the piers lining the bay towards Fisherman's Wharf, soaking in the lovely bay views and the breathtaking angles of the bay bridge from this vantage point. We hung a left at Bay and made our way using Coit Tower as our landmark guide. We were headed there to visit ... to see the Diego Rivera and other murals, take the rickety elevator to the top and relish the circular views of the city from the top of the tower. It was built in 1933 to help 'beautify' the city.

From there, stroll back towards Columbus Avenue and her amazing city views including the Transamerica Pyramid building. Columbus is lined with shops, restaurants and tiny garden pockets which make the walk very enjoyable.

Lunch was at L'Osteria ... a tiny yet delicious restaurant with a decidedly European feel. It is so small, you wait at the half door to be seated by the servier. If you can, score a window table like us, more private and you can people watch to your heart's content.

L'Osteria del Forno has more than its share of rave reviews for deliciously authentic Italian cuisine. I would add my endorsement to the list.

They are known for making many of their dishes in the oven. An octopus carpaccio as a starter (small squid sliced paper thin and grilled ... drizzled with a fruity olive oil)...their famous pork braised in milk and served with roasted rosemary potatoes (it appears to be accompanied with some sort of polenta or such, but no that is just a reflection of the milk which forms some sort of a custardy-type sauce) and a plate of light as air gnocchi was shared as the main course. Helpful guidance in selecting a very nice bottle of their red ... desserts were affogatto (fresh vanilla bean ice cream served with a shot of espress and dollop of real whipped cream) and a berry something or other (not my gig, can you tell?!). Their focaccia is warm and delicious (we had to wait for our refill to finish baking, it is just that fresh).

We were well tended and never rushed ... we arrived to a nearly empty restaurant that was packed 30 minutes later and still were allowed to loiter to our heart's content.

More strolling was required after the gastronomic indulgences ... just continue on to the nearby architect/designer blocks to window shop as you make your way back to the Embarcadero.

The city seemed nearly deserted! Walking through the financial district and reflecting on my years there, the only conclusion I could reach is that the financial crisis and resulting layoffs/unemployment have removed scores of folks from the city blocks? anyone who has another theory, please share.

In any event, this made a lovely half-day itinerary with San Francisco...maybe best for those who have just arrived and don't want too push their jet lag too much...but don't want to sit around waiting to feel normal again!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

ma belle france ...

l'aprés midi etais trés sympa ... deux vide-greniers ... un bon dejeuner à coté la riviére ... un balade de canoe ... oui, bien sur le temps n'etais pas trés bon ... en bref un trés bon journée...

encore un peu fatigué avec la décalage horaire ... mais ça va mieux!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

there's no place like home, there's no place like home...

hello friends and foes, I'm home ...

after a tumultuous return (a bag lost, a bag difficultly ((is that a word?)) retrieved) ... a sortie missed, adding 2 extra hours on the Peripherique ... we arrived home Tuesday evening ... spent, exhausted, not an ounce remaining...but thoroughly delighted and satisfied with our journey ...

My house was carefully attended to ... my dogs in bonny spirits and delighted to greet me ... provisions had been purchased to welcome me home ... and can I tell you that a garden can revert to ye olde 'secret garden' in just 4 weeks? ... grass was hip high and all sorts of mischief underway ... not to mention the fact that I completely missed the lilacs and the snowball blooms which, I am told, were 'magnifique'...

After re-sorting our valises to ensure we had our purchases properly assigned for the journey home, my travelling companion departed for home and anticipated stresses. I, on the other hand, revelled in my return ... my sweet if decrepit little house, my darling boys and the lovely late spring weather. I decided to forego unpacking and instead attack the garden for the first pass (I'm sure at least 3 rounds will be required). I fired up the mower, raised her to her highest level and began my assault. about 2/3 of the way through, it began to rain! but I soldiered on and got it all cut down.

I am not exaggerating with the hip high statement. My poor garden was overrun and overgrown. Tomorrow I plan to weed my flower beds a bit and maybe do another pass. There were thunderstorms last night and today, smack in the middle of the day, an onsault of aggressive rain poured down for about 3 minutes and then halted. The era of summer storms has commenced.

My neighbor and friend, Nicole, passed to share aperos. She had watched the dogs and was checking in to be sure all was well. We made plans to share lunch today, I would 'knock' at noon.

to be honest, I don't remember if I ate anything before bed. But after going to bed at about 10:30, I slept till 2:40 a.m. and then realized I was famished. I went down and slapped together some bread and smoked ham. no, smoked bacon? not sure, but it was kind of like prosciutto. I then was wide awake and watched online tv till about 6am.

The next thing I remember was being awakened by Bruno's barking. I clumsily descended and realized it was Nicole...checking on me because it was after 12!!!

This afternoon has been a bit of a confused blur...I went to the village and visited the mairie re: renewing my carte de sejour and discussing my boutique's terrasse ... I visited the veterinaire and the bike shop ... I visited the supermarket and the florist ...

no real prioritization or reflection occurred with any of this...my head is topsy-turvy with the time change.

I did a 30 minute walk with Nicole .... J'ai bien mangé ... I just drank about a third of a bottle of rosé (!) and I'm hoping all of this combines for a good night's sleep and a more coherent tomorrow.

I've lots to share about trip highlights ... having just completed 4 weeks with a European companion, I have tips and favorites to share for those who might be interested in the west coast of America.

oh and maybe some pictures.

did I mention what an absolutely fantastic time was had??? wow. can't think of anything to change, except maybe more time ... for more memories!


Saturday, May 22, 2010

last day ...

last day of what has been an amazing trip ... so much fun has been had and countless memories created... I've got stories to share about some of the favorite stops along the way... a few extra weeks would have been nice but ... a French summer awaits!

à bientôt!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


my blog was unavailable for a few days ... I have debated taking it private or whatnot as described below... I've decided I want to keep my blog as it brings me and others satisfaction.

but I will be changing certain aspects and refocusing more on local happenings, aspects of France and other news that I find interesting and less on my personal life ... I took it private for a few days to reflect and also because I wanted to do some editing, you may notice some missing posts ... it is funny how when one authors a blog it seems more like a journal and while I think most of my readers are around the globe, it is the local ones that can ( or maybe should ) limit the freedom with which you write about the events in your life and your feelings about those events.

it is all too much adolescent drama for me at times and not worth the effort ... so, as much as possible, I'm going to focus on some less private topics with this blog going forward. I have started a private blog, La Petite Piaf, for the other more personal topics I wish to document.

sorry for any confusion created, I've had a number of emails inquiring about why my blog isn't working. à bientot!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

did it!

chili pepper for monsieur and a really cool design for me ... kind of hard to explain...involves a sparrow shape and my signature phrase with a fillmore style ... JY originally urged a phoenix, but this original design is just perfectly me ... I've saved the artwork as I think it would make a sweet tee or other things for the shop... je suis trés content!

tatouage ... !!!

j'espere que je garde mon courage!

UPDATE! got a lovely tattoo, pics soon along with an article extolling the virtues of the tattoo shop used.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ran into an old friend ...

small world, over the week-end found out by chance that an old neighbor was playing music nearby. My berkeley neighbor was a blues afficionado, collecting and playing all sorts of guitars ... steel guitars, lap slide guitars, ukeleles, etc. Well lap slide guitars came up in a conversation during a party, I mentioned I once knew someone who played them, he asked their name and lo and behold...Ben Bonham was known and found to be playing.

Well of course we couldn't pass it up so we went out last night and heard Ben playing and singing his unique brand of old style and Hawaiian tinged blues. It was a rare treat and also fun to catch up on his life with wife Heather.

Hope to see them soon... by the way...

thinking of either taking my blog private or focusing on other writing... JY has recently encouraged me to stop with the blog as our lives are 'privé' and perhaps are subject to too much local public consumption and instead get started on that book he knows I dream of ... hmmmm... pondering...

I do seem to have dry spells these days. Maybe it is time to reflect on the experience thus far, organize all that I've documented about this phase and see if there is a real story there.

I thought about watering things down even further than I already do...but I am not inspired to do that... this is MY blog, after all... my journal, my life experience.

Private blogging is sounding more and more like a plan even if it is just for a break.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

fun project...

we continued work on the pompeiian oven JY is making with our friends David & Kathleen. not wanting to be left out (and also wanting to be able to say I left MY mark here, too...ha), I unloaded and stacked fire brick, I dug wheelbarrows full of earth and hauled it, I washed bricks in acid and then I cut and posed bricks and then helped mortar them!

the earth is used to form a mound which will be used to create the dome of the oven. I'm taking pictures...but forgot my camera cord for my Mac, so you'll have to wait to see...but then you'll see the pics from start to finish ... it is going to be a great finished product.

the oven can be used to bake bread, pizzas, roast meat...whatever! once it is heated, it stays hot for up to 2 days! Got to hand it to those italians!

we were all bushed last night and only had the energy to watch a movie ... Coco Avant Chanel ... with Audrey Tatou, was cool.

à bientot!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


we made our way to Seaside Tuesday. Monday night we had a spectacular evening with Kathleen and David. We went to a concert with some amazing trombonists and general bluesy funkiness. The main musician had played with James Brown...so that gives you an idea of the vibe. It was at Jimmy Mak's in Portland, known for their jazz and music nights...they have moved into a new location with incomparable acoustics ... an amazing night. Monsieur nicked a cool poster for me which I plan to frame when I get back...

once coastside, lots accomplished, many repairs on the cabin (merci monsieur) and yard clean-up (boy will I miss my little cabane once it is sold, zut) ... showing off the Oregon beaches ... cooking yummy stuff ... movies galore ... wine ... etc etc ... made our way back to Kathleen & David's ... but not before seeking out rabbit ... Jean Yves made a 'daube' last night that I think will be delicious.

This week-end will continue the work on the outdoor oven, visiting with friends and general merriment. à toute à l'heure!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


nos petite aventure!
things we are already enjoying while wandering the west coast!

1. the adorable cottage of Miss Mancha and especially the cozy rooms she prepared for us and our fun dinner party!
2. fabulous lunch in romantic North Beach, our climb to Coit Tower and the AMAZING views ...
3. laughing our way through things lost in translation...
4. saving the precious bottle of wine and jars of foie gras from US immigration.
5. appreciating the Portland architecture differences now that we've landed here...
6. everyone's wonderful hospitality

continued from above (the bohemians update....)

7. discovering my camera is stuck on movie setting ... laughing at all of our videos including Jean Yves leaping like Superman with hilly San Francisco in the background.
8. surprising JY with my ability to navigate with a big old Mercedes.
9. the indescribable vistas in Washington at Kathleen and David's 'rancho blanco'... we've been transported to the real old west of america.
10. lupine and yarrow filled fields of flowers.
11. listening to the trains whistling at night
12. hiking together and having a frenchman teach me about american plants!
13. archery !!! JY is a vrais robin des bois! quelle surprise!
14. all the little moments ... franglais, englench, hilarity, patience, you name it...our amitié grows, and is profound...
15. and it hasn't even been a week! wondering what awaits...

pics when I get home...