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SPRING BLOOMS ON THE TERRACE: MAY, 2019

While hunting for our retirement home in France, we knew that we wanted to be in a village, a village with a bakery, with a place to buy milk and eggs. Maybe a butcher. Bread trucks are fine for some. Not for us. And we didn't want to have to climb into a car just because we ran out of butter. Restaurant? Nice but not necessary. Cash point?  Petrol station? Nice but...

The house itself needed to have a place for me to hide...I mean, to work. And separate living and dining spaces so that Cathey could cook without having to entertain at the same time. In other words, no 'open plan' combination living/dining room with a kitchen corner.

Finally, there needed to be outside space. Not a communal courtyard or a piece of sidewalk commandeered for personal use. A private garden or a terrace, thank you. Attached. The idea of a plot on the edge of town on which to grow veggies is an interesting European concept but not sufficient to our needs.

In the end, we found exactly what we w…
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RESTAURANT ETIQUETTE IN FRANCE: SIMPLE PRIMER (WITH TONGUE IN MY AMERICAN CHEEK)

My recent reading of a poor internet review of a favorite restaurant of ours prompted this post. Some people simply should not be allowed internet access. Speech may rightly be free, but it shouldn't be worthless.

From reading the review, I could determine that the reviewer was a tourist who started out in a bad mood because he had to pay extra for parking a camper van that exceeded the maximum height for parking in the free lot. His party arrived at the restaurant at the end of lunch and without a reservation. At first, he was told that an empty table that he pointed out was reserved. When he persisted, he was informed that lunch was over. Since none of the other restaurants in town were still open, the reviewer had to miss lunch.

Let me count the ways...

RESERVATIONS ARE NECESSARY. Maybe not at Burger King, maybe not in a touristy restaurant in a touristy destination. But if you are really hungry, if you really want to try that restaurant that everybody's talking about, or …

STUPID STUFF - APRIL/MAY, 2019: SPEEDING PIDGEON, LYFT, US TAXES, REALITY, AND MORE

A German speed camera recently snapped a picture of a pidgeon flying 45 kph in a 30 kph zone. Law enforcement does not believe that an arrest is imminent.

In response to a lawsuit concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act, Lyft's lawyers argued in court that Lyft is not a transportation company. They are a technology platform. That's like Ben and Jerry saying that they don't make ice cream. They provide cultural commentary that tastes good. UPDATE: The EU courts have just ruled that Airbnb is not a real estate company. It's a technology platform! Live long and be amazed...

The US Congress has moved forward the (intentionally?) misnamed Taxpayer First Act that would prohibit the government from developing free tax preparation software. Sellers of for-profit software who distribute campaign contributions on a bipartisan basis helped write the legislation. But campaign contributions have nothing to do with the legislation, right? And contributions from Big Pharma ha…

IMMERSED IN VAN GOGH: PROJECTED ART IN A MINE IN LES BAUX-DE-PROVENCE

Yes, that's a four-story tall projection of Van Gogh's self portrait on a wall of an old limestone quarry. My photo doesn't do the reality justice. Reproductions of Van Gogh's paintings rise from the floor, glide through the mine's galleries, all to appropriate (mostly) music. It's immersive art. It's a high-end refinement of the French penchant for such projections, called lumières.

Some lumières are just plain silly, more like graffiti than art, like the concentric yellow circles that were projected on the walls of the old town of Carcassonne recently. But some, like the Carrières de Lumières in the abandoned underground limestone quarry in the gorge below the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence, are simply awe inspiring. Previous shows have featured the work of such diverse artists as Chagall, Bosch, and Gauguin. There even appears to be an annual two-day event dedicated to Star Wars that's a fundraiser for the local Kiwanis Club - a service clu…

VISIT TO BERN, SWITZERLAND IN PICS: APRIL, 2019

My first cousin, once removed (the son of my first cousin) is on sabbatical in Europe with his family. We hadn't seen each other for 25 years or so, give or take a decade. After a bit of back and forth, we chose Bern as the most convenient place to catch up. We weren't able to spend much time together but it was quality time and I got the skinny on all of the family members that I had lost touch with over the years.

Bern was worth the visit, too. The Old Town is typical European with the appropriate local twists - a pedestrian-friendly space with interesting architecture, plenty of shopping and restaurant choices, and since it's Bern, fountains and bears. Pics with commentary follow: