Favorite Books Read in 2014

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 23, 2021
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2014 was a great reading year for me. Almost all of my 77 books this year were decent or better, so picking my favorites proved a harder task, as there were so many great reads. What a lovely “problem” to have. (Also, the 15 graphic novels this year really helped my book count *smile*) Here you go:

The Martian” by Andy Weir: One of my favorites of the year, and it was a good year for me. I laughed aloud often. The tone and sarcasm of the main character’s narration felt just like my best pals. And it’s a harrowing story, as well, that does a good job of not getting too bogged down in the tech of staying alive when stranded on Mars. I devoured it. Very fast-paced read. Truly wonderful. Not sure it will stand up to repeat readings, but for one time through, it was a great adventure.

The Girl with All the Gifts” by M. R. Carey: Fun new take on the apocalyptic zombie story. Nicely written with good pacing. Good adventure, fascinating scientific look at the mechanism of zombieism within this world, and some interesting character studies, with some decent creepy/horror elements, but not too overtly “horror.”

West with the Night” by Beryl Markham. I’m a travel memoir junkie, and this always tops the lists of the best. Finally read it. Gorgeous. Powerful. Clean, crisp writing. Great adventure. Great stories. Here is what Ernest Hemingway had to say: “…She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people’s stories, are absolutely true…I wish you would get it and read it because it is really a bloody wonderful book.”

Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein: recommended by Seattle’s famous librarian Nancy Pearl. It’s a lovely inspired-by-true-events story about plucky young british women in WWII. Spy stuff. Female pilots in early aviation. Very clever story-telling device, as our plot is revealed through interrogations of a captured fighter. Smart. Fun. Easy to read. (the plot and characters are entirely fictional. But it’s inspired by the roles of women in aviation and spy craft during WWII)

The Guards” by Ken Bruen: Gritty Irish police novel. Lots of ambiance. Decent mystery. Unique formatting and interesting authorial choices in setting up new chapters means that there are lots of half-pages, so it’s even shorter than it looks. You’ll finish it in a few hours. So maybe search out a used copy, as the dollars to time spent reading ratio isn’t great. But Bruen has a really great voice and this was a solid and quick read.

Locke & Key series by Joe Hill. Really enjoyable spooky graphic novel series. Not so much blood and guts horror, but lots of good creepy ambience. Family moves to ancestral home after their dad is murdered. They start finding magical keys, each with a different property. Kids vs Demons. I found the illustrations gorgeous and rich. There are six books total, and they tell a complete story.

Hild” by Nicola Griffith: Oh, how I do love historical epics. Gorgeous full story inspired by the seventh-century woman in ancient england who would come to be revered as Saint Hilda, who worked as the Seer to one of the kings. One reviewer said it was as “immersive as a river in rain. Her prose is so startlingly beautiful that reading description never feels like work — which is no mean feat, considering that many of her descriptions are about the running of medieval households.” It’s lovely and complex and well researched with taut/complex political maneuvers and clever and wonderful.

Romancing the Duke” by Tessa Dare: I am not genereally a fan of the romance genre. I find so much of it to be sex-negative with some worrisome consent issues, as well as formulaic drivel. But a pal recommended this to me, and I’m glad I trusted her. It was an adorable and fun little romp. While the plot might still be formulaic, the characterization and some of the backstory is refreshingly unique. Our heroine is entertaining and spunky, and the writing is vibrant and has some decent jokes, too (maybe not “laugh out loud” moments, but quirky smiles, at least).

The Criminal series, by Ed Brubaker: Fantastic graphic novel series. Very Noir. Lovely dark atmosphere and brutal stories. Also great that each of the six stories stands alone. Read together, they’re interconnecting, as they’re in the same town and sometimes ancillary characters appear in other volumes. But I appreciate that they are each their own story. Good stuff.

The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. Mr Brown was the keynote speaker at the fundraiser dinner for UW libraries this year. He’s engaging and well-spoken, but I still was reluctant, as non-fiction isn’t my favorite, and I just do not care about rowing. Like, if I was going to care about this sport, I’ve had ample opportunity over the years. One of my college roomies was on the UW rowing team, and when she and the other women were competing, even, I was excited for her personally, but still didn’t really care much about the sport (honestly, all the “racing” sports aren’t my thing). But I’m SO GLAD I finally read it. There is so much early Seattle and Washington state history about which I was totally ignorant. This is a well-crafted novel, providing great characterization and engaging writing style. I rarely felt bored, and found myself caring about the outcomes of races from 80 years ago, even though I KNEW the ending already. I am still filled with so much rage/hurt towards Joe’s parents. ARGH! So yeah, I was engaged early and my attention was held. Well done (although sometimes it felt a narrative stretch to interconnect the boys’ stories with Germany’s preparations of the Munich games. Still, it was always interesting information told in a mostly engaging way).

Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck: Not sure how I hadn’t read this until now (as I’m a travel memoir junkie, and Steinbeck ain’t too shabby a writer). It’s lovely and sweet and funnier than I expected, and not as horribly dated (ie. racist or sexist) as I’d feared. It’s a short little book following his cross-country road trip with his giant poodle.

The Last Policeman” by Ben Winters: Great. Fascinating idea, following a newly promoted detective in modern times. Unfortunately Earth will be struck by an asteroid in 6 months time and there are NO viable plans to avoid the catastrophic end of humanity. This isn’t about avoiding the end of the world. It’s about how to keep living when we know the termination date. How does modern society continue and how does it break down with six months left to live? And who stops doing their jobs well, etc. We follow this detective as he tries to investigate a murder in a world that is, mostly, giving up. Very interesting concept and an easy read.

An Imperfect Offering” by James Orbinski: Oof. Amazing non-fiction by the former leader of Doctors Without Borders. Sometimes this book will make your soul ache, as there is so much ugly in the world and the Doctors without Borders folks are in the very heart of it all. But it’s so important. And so well-written. And uplifting at times, showing humanity struggling against the ugly. Also eye-opening (to me) to learn the roles of the many local people actively involved in working at a Doctors without Borders camp, who often face much greater personal risk than the foreign nationals. And it offers actionable suggestions and offers some hope and ways to continue and strive for a better world. Vital. Powerful. True.

Wool” by Hugh Howey: Tightly written post-apoclyptic story of humanity surviving post-nuclear world in an underground silo. Great world-building. Really really well done. Interesting characters. Good page-turning plot. There are two more books in the series. But this can also be read as a stand-alone. (I still haven’t read the 3rd book yet. The 2nd is a very accomplished and satisfying prequel). Update from Jan 2021. I read the 3rd book a few months later was was also quite satisfied with it.

Under the Skin” by Michel Faber. Delightfully weird story. Atmospheric. Unsettling. Strange. I happened to read this months before I heard it was being made into a film. Still haven’t seen the film. Recommended reading, but it’s a weird little thing. I suggest NOT reading ANYTHING about the plot, because the story slowly being revealed is part of the joy of reading this.

The Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold .This author is such a joy, and a used bookstore purchase reminded me of that. (I loved her “Curse of the Challion” fantasty series a decade ago, and then read a few of her more famous sci-fi Vorkosigan series back then). These are STAND ALONE stories (bless you, Ms Bujold) with fast pacing and sarcasm and plot twists and they’re just satisfying pulpy fun. There are over 15 of them total. While it’s recommended to read in internal chronological order (not the same as published order) it really doesn’t matter. (Clearly, as they’re written as stand alones, they show up in different periods of Miles Vorkosigan’s life. So if you see one at a used bookstore, pick it up. They’re fun. She’s won a TON of Hugo and Nebula and other awards and you’ll see why. Smart and fun and fast-paced. Speaking as someone who is often bored by the technology part of sci-fi, these are tight, character driven, often fun political manuevers involved in the battle scenes. Good humor, too. Starting with Cordelia’s Honor is a nice beginning point, or begin with The Warrior’s Apprentice or The Vor Game (by itself or re-published in the compendium Young Miles).

I re-read Scott Lynch’s “Lies of Locke Lamora” and “Red Seas Under Red Skies” to remind myself of what happened before I tackle the 3rd in the series that was just released. This is some of my favorite world-building fantasy series. Great humor. Great characters. Think Ocean’s Eleven style heists in classic medieval fantasy realm. It starts out all fun and then the stakes get REAL and there’s still half the book left. Page turning with memorable characters and unexpected events.

I also re-read the Harry Potter series. Hadn’t done that since their original publications. They hold up well. The first two are pretty generic and not that great, but as JK Rowling progressed, they become really wonderful. Re-reading #6 was a particular joy, as I’d forgotten how much of the complex story was left out of the film.

Savages” by Joe Kane. I was reading Ecuador-related works in the months leading up to my travels. This is an engaging account of a journalist’s experiences with an indigenous Ecuadorian group trying to prevent oil companies from drilling on their land in the Amazonian rain forest. World politics, and different cultures, and economics, and the environment, and all the other complicated interests involved in this fight. (Further complicated when a community doesn’t share western ideas of ownership and contracts).

Favorite books read in 2013

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 22, 2021
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Here goes, the best things I read out of last year’s 76 books.

The Eyre Affair” “Lost in a Good Book” “The Well of Lost Plots” by Jasper Fforde: 

Hands down favorite discovery of 2013. Delightful, whipcrack smart, very funny, clever, and some decent adventures, too. Literature cops, pet dodos, time travel, and alternate history hijinx. If you love literature and/or adventure, don’t miss the Thursday Next series. I can’t believe someone didn’t tell me about these before now. Glad to have finally found them.

Angelmaker” by Nick Harkaway:

highly recommended. Maybe tied for absolute favorite with the Jasper Fforde series above. Best stand-along novel, for sure. Craziness, but in such a good way. It’s smart, full of adventure, great layering and storytelling, full of memorable scenes and characters. The Guardian called it a “fantasy-gangster-espionage-romance novel.” Honestly, the less known going in, the better. Ostensibly following the life of a British clockmaker whose father was a notorious gangster in the 70’s. But really, the plot is so much more, and also a framework to hang these delicious sentences and events upon. Grand in scale but never slow/hard to read. Adventure!

Shipbreaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi:

I LOVED Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl” so thought I’d see what he did with the young adult genre, instead. It’s powerful, concise, engaging storytelling. And I loves me some dystopian future novels.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home” by Carol Rifka Brunt:

flipping gorgeous. Achingly true portrait of sisters, coming-of-age, love, the early days of AIDS, life. Truly worth reading. And it’s a very easy read, too. Never weighty or self-important, the novel’s truths are revealed clearly and beautifully.

The Raw Shark Texts” by Steven Hall:

Oof! What a ride. This novel is crazy, in a good way. It’s intense and sometimes will break your brain, but so worth it. Crazy-smart and sometimes just crazy, it’s an intellectual thriller.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman:

lovely. Haunting. Gaiman’s typically great wordplay. Not as much fantasy as several of his works, but that really appealed to me right now.

Stiff: The Curious lives of human cadavers” by Mary Roach:

Roach writes great pop-science. Fascinating, engaging, funny, and learning!

Protector of the Small” series by Tamora Pierce:

Pierce is still the queen of young adult fantasy. Fun to discover there was another series set in the world established in the Alanna books (which had been a favorite when I was in junior high).

The Language of Flowers” by Vaness Diffenbaugh:

great novel, framing the protagonists experiences (often with the harshness/ugly of the world, bouncing between foster homes and then trying to be an adult) with her love of flowers and their ascribed Victorian definitions. Interesting, fast read, some unexpected events. Felt real.

Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman:

decent young adult fantasy story about medieval girl with a secret she must keep.

Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn:

Not amazing literature, but very fast-paced and engrossing plot. It’s a satisfying page-turner, but doubtful it would stand up to re-reading.

Adventures of Superhero Girl” by Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders:

lovely canadian superhero. She’s very real and this is a great collection.

Fluffy fantasy books that were decent, but not great:

Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” and it’s sequel. Intriguingly created world. There are a few stand-out moments, but it’s mostly decent, not great. (I know a few 12/13 yr olds who love them dearly, as they should, being the intended audience)

Karen Chance’s side trilogy (Midnight’s Daughter, Death’s Mistress, Fury’s Kiss) are way better than the main series. I mean, it’s still “urban fantasy” silliness, but these are much stronger/more interesting than the Cassandra Palmer series. Characters have some depth and real emotions.

Ilona Andrews’ “Magic Bites” series. I kind of hate myself for reading/enjoying these, as they are so clearly calculated to follow the “urban fantasy” formula and to sell quickly, rather than written out of a love for storytelling. And the speed with which they’re written/published (at least 1 per year, often 1 every 6 months) means there’s nothing really redeeming about the language/writing at all. But they are a fast engaging plot, you can finish each book in a day or two, and I did read all of them, so there it is.

Favorite books read in 2012

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 20, 2021
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Overall, I was kinda underwhelmed by the 52 books I read this year. There were a handful of significant standouts (seen below) but also some real duds and slogs and unenjoyable messes. Seems every other book I read this past year was disappointing…so here’s hoping for a brighter literary 2013.  Still, there were some amazing stars, too. Here’s my list of a dozen or so.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

Time Magazine named it the best book of the year. This is a perfect book. It’s not a cancer book, because (as the lead points out) “cancer books suck.” Some of its teenage characters do have cancer. But this book isn’t about that, or not just about that. It’s about life and love and novels and relationships and travel and family and video games and high school and finding who you are and everything. It’s lovely and funny and a very fast read, and yes, there will be tears (don’t make the mistake my pal Joseph did, and read the second half on the subway). EVERYONE should read it. Everyone.

“Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny

Neil Gaiman has often recommended this novel, and I can totally see why. It’s amazingly brilliant (and definitely a huge influence on Gaiman’s style and writing sensibilities). It’s smart, it’s got great wordplay, it’s complex in plot and scope, it’s funny. One of my absolute favorites of the year. Anyone who enjoys fantasy, and/or smart writing with fun wordplay and/or Neil Gaiman will definitely love this novel.

“Big Dead Place” by Nicholas Johnson

Fascinating and engaging account of the support staff who live and work in Antarctica. Nicholas started as a dishwasher and moved to sanitation, in one of the world’s harshest environments. But it turns out to be the institutions and bureaucracy that prove the hardest to deal with. Alternately funny and frustrating situations as everyone is just trying to stay safe and sane. Not a typical “Travel Memoir,” but really great reading.

“As God Commands” by Niccolo Ammaniti

Hoo boy, this novel is INTENSE! At the halfway mark, I felt that we were speeding over a cliff at 100mph and there was still HALF OF THE NOVEL to go. Hold on tight, because this ride is getting OUT OF CONTROL!! Translated from the Italian, this novel is really really great. Gritty and real, following a variety of characters in a small italian town. Most of the folks are down on their luck and don’t do very likeable things. And yet I still found myself engaged and even rooting for many of them. I LOVE IT when folks create characters with true shades of grey. If you like “The Wire,” this is definitely for you. Even if you didn’t, I’d recommend this for sure. I think everyone who read it for bookclub ended up liking it.

“Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell

I’m conflicted about recommending this. It deservedly made many many “best” lists. It’s a gorgeous first novel, full of vibrant descriptions and really unique settings (the juxtaposition of a dying themepark and a modern waterpark and the quirky characters who work at each). It’s been almost a year and these places and characters (honestly, the settings ARE characters, as well) are still rolling around in my brain. It’s definitely “literary fiction.” Doesn’t mean it’s hard to read, but it does mean that it’s true, crafted writing. So, why am I conflicted about recommending it? Because there’s a loss-of-innocence towards the end that broke my heart/soul a bit. (I didn’t have this problem with Donahughe’s “Room,” but know some people who did). And so. It’s gorgeous and has made an indelible impression on me…but a part of it hurt my heart. Consider yourself forewarned.

“The Dwarf” by Pär Lagerkvist

I was initially hesitant to read this 1944 novel about a medieval court’s dwarf, because I expected some old-timey hatefulness towards little people. But that wasn’t really an issue. This is a dark, twisted tale seen through the eyes of the a very memorable misanthropic court dwarf. Great stuff. Loaded with philosophical questions, the dwarf’s twisted morality makes for a fascinating filter as the Renaissance is happening around him. Really enjoyed this.

“Redshirts” by Jonathan Scalzi

Perfect summer reading. Entertaining concept, well told, with some surprising plot turns. Young ensigns (wearing redshirts) start their exciting voyage across the galaxies in a Star Trek-like world. The group soon learns that working “away missions” is a dangerous proposition. Very funny. And Star Trek (and its tropes) permeate our society, so even fellow-non-trekkies should find this quite entertaining, as it takes the genre to task for all its flaws.

“Three Bags Full” by Leonie Swann

Fun take on a mystery novel, as it’s the story of a flock of sheep trying to solve their shepherd’s murder. The author obviously knows sheep well (not the brightest of creatures) and it’s entertaining to watch the flock try to reason through their world to find clues. Very decent sheep-world-view. Plus, there’s a tiny drawing of a sheep jumping over fences in the bottom corner, so the book can be a giant flipbook, too.

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender

I LOVE Aimee Bender so so much. Her stories are delightfully strange, yet very real and powerful. This wasn’t my favorite of her works, but that’s only because I loved “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” and “An Invisible Sign of My Own” SO SO MUCH. Still, it’s a uniquely strange and slightly floaty novel, with real, complex, fascinating people.

“Bonk” by Mary Roach

Roach’s narrative voice is engaging, fun, and informative. This history of scientific sex studies is great. I had it with me on our trip to Alaska, and had to keep reading small factoids aloud to my sister (the chapter on inseminating pigs is particularly hilarious). Great stuff.

“Sharpe’s Tiger” by Bernard Cornwell (all of the Sharpe novels)

Okay, the actor Sean Bean is dreamy…especially 15 years ago. So I’ve watched all of the BBC films where he stars as Richard Sharpe, a British soldier fighting in the Napoleonic wars. But I just had no interest in reading these books. Finally was convinced to do so by my siblings. And I was blown away by how much I enjoyed them. I mean, I think there are 30 friggin books at this point. I just read 3 or 4 this year. But they’re engaging and fast paced, with some historical notes for those who care. I’ve never been a big fan of “war books,” but these have great pacing and I was fully invested. Fun fun.

“Rampant” by Diana Peterfreund

Silly, fast, and entertaining young adult novel. Modern day times. A young woman discovers her mother’s crazy stories are true: unicorns exist, and they are venomous killing machines. As a descendant of Alexander the Great (just go with it), she’s got special skills to be a unicorn hunter, and so gets shipped off to a training school in Italy. So yeah. If you’re looking for a fast escapist read, this one was fun. Not great, but fun.

“Layer Cake” by JJ Conolly

Loved the film, and who doesn’t want to spend a few days reading about British gangsters and drug dealers? This was quite good, lots of twists and turns. It is chock full of dialect and slang and many many terms I didn’t know. But mostly you can follow along through context, yes?

“A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole

Loved it. Wasn’t sure I would, but LOVED IT! And it’s crazy funny, too. Comedy of the absurd, as things just keep getting out of hand. Toole’s love for the characters of New Orleans is apparent. As with most of the Pulitzer Prize winners, there are sentences to get lost in and roll around with the great words. Memorable characters. Just..it’s madness, but of a brilliant kind.

“The Well and the Mine” by Gin Phillips

I was resistant to reading this, even though it was recommended by several people whose taste I trust. I just didn’t think I wanted to read another story about growing up in a poor southern family. But I am SO GLAD I did. This was truly one of the best of the year. It’s writing is gorgeous. It’s narrator is delightful. It’s just a lovely lovely novel. I was hooked within the first few pages because Phillips’ skill is very apparent.

“Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart 

Smart story set in a VERY possible near-future. Honestly, I was just so blown away by how possible/real it all felt. Shteyngart has earned all of his accolades. I enjoy epistolery novels, but this format works particularly well here. The different styles of traditional journal entries, social media blogging, chatting/texting, etc: all are powerfully utilized. Just…woah. The author has our society clearly pegged, and these characters and events are so so real. I mean, hopefully things won’t come to pass as they’re portrayed, but it sure felt like I was reading truth. Yikes. (note from Jan 2021. Just double-yikes on how many predictions Shteyngart got correct, and here’s hoping we as a society can make changes to avoid further predictions)

“Mink River” by Brian Doyle

Delightful. Great use of images and language. The combination of Native American and Irish folklore in this small coastal town in Oregon…it works surprisingly well. Lovely lyrical writing. Philosophy, allegory, metaphor, day-to-day triumphs and losses. It’s just lovely. The type of book where you want to underline great phrases, and will quickly find you’ve underlined the whole novel.

“Last Night at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan & “Dear American Airlines” by Jonathan Miles

Both of these are short, really interesting glimpses into modern life. The first follows the last night of business for a particular Red Lobster restaurant. The second follows a man stuck at the airport because American Airlines canceled his flight. Great everyday characters and non-traditional novella settings. Not exactly plot driven…just a peek into their lives. Definitely only 1 or 2 days worth of reading (I mentioned they’re short), but both stuck around, percolating in my brain.

Favorite books read in 2011

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 17, 2021
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Okay, this year’s rough total is 74 books (I used to be SO compulsive about keeping accurate track. Now I’ll spend a few weeks, here and there, not recording things. This is probably a healthy thing, actually. In any case, here were the best things I read this year:

Set This House in Order  by Matt Ruff

Fascinating, well-paced, easy to read, great fun novel about a man with multiple personalities (SO INTERESTING). I now know 12 people who have read this book this year (8 from bookclub and I’ve loaned it to 4 others) and EVERYONE has liked it. That’s kind of shocking, actually. It’s set in the greater Seattle area, which is always fun. Honestly, I feel like I learned a lot and it was very engrossing throughout (never felt weighty or like homework).  The ending is a bit rushed, which is a shame, but it’s a minor blemish on a very good story.

Mare’s War  by Tanita Davis

Great stuff. Very readable and entertaining story of two teenage girls trapped on a cross-country road trip with their grandma. Throughout the journey she recounts her experiences in the army in WWII.  The characters are quirky and feel very real, and throughout the novel there are postcards the girls send back to their friends. The voices feel real and it’s a quick read. Also, it won the Coretta Scott King Award.

All the King’s Men  By Robert Penn Warren

This is so gorgeous. That silly wine-tasting phrase “mouth feel” applies here…the words have such an amazing mouth feel.  Honestly, the prose is so poetic and gorgeous. This is definitely Literature with a capital L, but it never felt like WORK. I still can’t quite believe that I hadn’t read it before, but am so glad that I finally did.  Worth it!!

The Homeland Directive  by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston

This is a fantastic graphic novel, about some deep serious conspiracy level stuff in the US govt. It’s gorgeously represented (each story arc/character plotline has a different graphic representation, which works quite well). It’s a pretty quick read, following an outbreak of a new disease. Very cool stuff. (OMG, reading this description from 2011 now in January 2021 and I’m curious to reread this in light of current events)

Light Boxes By Shane Jones

I LOVE this little book…love love love it. Read it three times this year (it’s small). It’s definitely not for everyone, however. It’s this gorgeous poetic metaphor allegorical journey through winter and depression. The descriptions are amazing…it’s full of smell and taste and touch. Flight has been banned and there is eternal winter and I love it so so much. Honestly, I’ve written so many notes on the inside cover and underlined things like crazy (habits I haven’t really done since college). Here’s part of the bookcrossing.com review I did for it “This is a strange and gorgeous experience. Small vignettes. Playful with font, text size, and placement. It’s like diving headfirst into the deep end. No, that’s not true, as that’s an abrupt forceful action. It’s like slowly sinking or wandering into the deep end, never quite realizing when your head has sunk under the water. Lyrical. Musical. Deeply disturbing at times. Challenging, and yet, very easy to absorb if you stop fighting it. Read it like a song…”

Name of the Wind AND Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Wonderful epic fantasy. Great page turning adventure. Fun characters. Well developed world. Not nearly as grim or WEIGHTY as “Game of Thrones.” It’s just fantastically fun. And I think it’s pretty approachable by those who don’t generally read fantasy, as well. Good times.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Delightful easy read about an american high school student spending her senior year at a school in Paris. It’s sweet and silly and made me laugh and made me care about these characters. It’s Young Adult, but it’s quite good.

The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds

Holy CRAP, this is a fantastic novel!! It’s such an amazing new version of some of the best southern writing (ghosts of Flannery O’Conner and Carson McCullers). There’s poverty and tragedy in this southern town, but the characters have dignity and beauty. It’s heartbreaking and amazing and gorgeous. I loved loved loved it, and desperately wished I had a literature class hiding in my closet, because I totally wanted to sink my teeth further into this. The narrator is amazing and perfectly speaks to our world now. I just want to give her a hug and make her feel safe. great accomplished stuff. This IS Literature (with a capitol L) and the author definitely knows what she’s doing.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Fun graphic novel horror story. The art is lovely and the plot is decently creepy. Found these when the internet began showing the trailer for a TV pilot that wasn’t picked up. http://www.slashfilm.com/locke-key-trailer-comic-adaptation-fox-passed/ (News flash/update from Jan 2021 in which there now is a TV series, which I haven’t watched yet. Too much “dead da” plot line for me right now).

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Really good non-zombie novel set in a zombie world. Fascinating look at the bureaucracy and the clean-up. Months after the zombie outbreak, we follow a clean-up crew. It’s well written, and asks a lot of questions about what happens after the traditional zombie books/films end. Very enjoyable

Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke

Phew, THIS is a hell of a story. Censored in his native China (the publisher had to write a big retraction and they were only allowed the initial printing) it tells the story of one of the Blood Villages in rural China (blood donations became BIG money, until HIV spread like crazy). It’s depressing as hell (obviously), but very powerful. Also, it’s based upon true stories, and this was the “toned down” version the author wrote to try to avoid censorship. The mind boggles at what else he must’ve excluded. It’s pretty cutting/scathing at times, and DEFINITELY worth reading. Upsetting, effective, powerful.

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

Re-read it this year. Still love the Glass family so SO much! “Catcher in the Rye” never spoke to me the way that this family does (NINE STORIES is also fantastic). Classic. Love!

Celine by Brock Cole

Wonderful high school narrator. She’s an artist and has such powerful observations of the world around her. Great story. Moves very quickly. Lovely.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

I debated whether to include this in the list. It’s an interesting story, changing between narrators and timelines. I didn’t LOVE it, but I found it consistently interesting, and months later, I still find myself THINKING about it. So, obviously, there’s something worthwhile there.

Union! by Ish Klein

I won a few poetry books  at a raffle this year. Haven’t read just a collection of poems in years. This was definitely my favorite of the group. It’s playful. It’s got really lovely meter and flow. I read them aloud (as one always should to get the best feel/experience with poety, imo) in an evening. Klein is definitely sorting through some demons (depression, failed relationship, etc), but it is often PLAYFUL and bright, and many times it is super funny. Honestly, this little book of poems is a delight.

Dreadnaught by Cherie Priest

I was underwhelmed by BONESHAKER…I loved the alternate history/steampunk Seattle world Ms Priest had created, but couldn’t find myself caring for the characters…at all!  However, DREADNAUGHT (the 2nd in the series) was much better. Mercy is a very interesting person, and following the alternate history civil war experience was fascinating (and normally I find the civil war boring boring BORING). If you read the first one and liked it (or even just thought it was ok), I think it’s worth trying this one. I quite liked it, and I’ve now purchased the 3rd, so we’ll see. (News flash/update from Jan 2021. I don’t think I ever got around to reading the 3rd book in this series)

MASH by Richard Hooker

Fun to read the source material for a cultural phenomenon, eh? Could only see Alan Alda’s face the whole time. However, while the bones of the TV series are located here, it’s a different story. Grittier, darker, which makes sense. Like much of the great dark comic tales of war, it’s quite good and interesting to read.

Favorite Books Read in 2010

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 15, 2021
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(As mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to start using this space to keep track of my end of year book wrap-ups, so thought I’d share all the previous years I’ve done this first. And so, here is 2010)

I read over 60 books this year (stopped keeping track for a few months in spring, so this year’s count isn’t firm).  Here were some of my favorites:

“The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson – Fan-bloody-tastic!  Local author, too.  Really interesting story following Chicago’s world’s fair and America’s first serial killer (a contemporary of Jack the Ripper who left a truly horrifying trail of bodies).  Well paced, fascinating, and I feel like I learned a LOT!

“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford -recommended by my aunt Mary. Was worried it would be Nicholas Sparks’ style sentimental garbage, but it wasn’t.  A nice little story that raises some decent questions about identity and national policies.  I loved reading about Seattle’s international district (in the 40’s and the 80’s)

“The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga – Sat on my shelf for months before I finally started it, but so glad I did. Caustic and sarcastic, darkly comic, great fun story set in modern India.

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins – DEVOURED this in one sitting.  The entire series is great, but this first was the most enjoyable.

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro – This was a slow starter for me, and I spent much of the novel struggling with it, as I wanted it to be different than it was.  But once I accepted this lovely quiet story, I recognized its power and beauty.  Good stuff.

“Room” by Emma Donaghue – Couldn’t catch my breath for the first half of this.  Great read.  The second half is not quite as good, but still a decent novel, and a very fast read.

“Red Seas Under Red Skies” by Scott Lynch – REALLY enjoying this fantasy series (this is the second book. First is “The Lies of Locke Lamora”) following a band of plucky thieves.  It’s an old-timey Ocean’s Eleven-style heist romp set in a magic medieval fantasy land.

“Soulless” by Gail Carriger – more of a romance novel than I usually read. By all accounts I should have hated this. It feels so contrived out of focus groups and what’s “hot right now,” featuring steam punk, werewolves, vampires, our bluestocking heroine, etc.  Much of the jokes seem forced, but it was a fast read that I found more enjoyable than I expected to, so it’s made the list.  (Although the second book was boring!)

“The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi – GORGEOUS!  Rich language, fascinating plot. I found this as part of my bookclub’s challenge (read a book about a brothel or the plague. This had BOTH!!).  Some truly great futuristic writing (without all that boring space/technology stuff that normally bores me).

“Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell – Woah! What a wild wild ride.  Darkly sarcastic and comic mystery thriller, exploring mafia hitmen and modern hospitals.  Plus, I am a SUCKER for fiction with footnotes.  Honestly, I have made 5 people read this so far, and they’ve all loved it (although if you are squeamish about violence and blood, maybe not the novel for you). I literally said, out loud, “Oh My God!” a few times, speaking to an empty room, especially during the end when the pacing/stakes ramp up even further.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steigg Larsson – I liked this, but didn’t LOVE it. Initially turned off/annoyed with it…felt like Law & Order: SVU, using violent sex crimes against women to titillate the reader.  But learning that the Swedish title is “Men Who Hate Women” coupled with the domestic violence statistics throughout helped me to change my mind.  A decent mystery, and Lisbeth is a truly fascinating character.

“The Lost City of Z” by David Grann – gripping non-fiction, great adventure story and travel memoir. Even my sister liked it, and she’s not obsessed with travel adventure writing the way that I am.

“The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch – LOVED this epic fantasy.  There’s a huge shift in tone partway through, however. Begins as a fun adventure caper, and then suddenly the stakes are raised and “shit just got real.” I did enjoyed this very much.

“Cut to the Quick” by Kate Ross – Loved all four of Ross’ Julian Kestrel mysteries (this is the first).  I am not generally a big fan of the mystery genre, but these are great fun and pretty well written.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green & David Levithan – Some seriously great Young Adult reading, following the lives of two teenagers named Will Grayson.  Characters felt very true. 

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie – I am almost always a fan of Alexie, but this is truly truly wonderful.  Made both of my parents read it, and they both LOVED it, as well.  Truth!

“The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists” by Gideon Defoe – This series is so so silly, and it makes me very happy.  Definitely not for everyone, but if you like silly things and/or pirates, you must read these.

“World War Z” by Max Brooks – Put off reading this because zombies feel played out already, and while Brooks’ “Survival Guide” made for an entertaining idea, it really was a GUIDE and made for dry reading at times.  But on the recommendation of some facebook pals, I gave this a shot. SO glad I did.  Really effective pacing and story telling.  Truly great stuff.

“Lord of Emperors” by Guy Gavriel Kay – One of my favorite fantasy authors, with a talent for epic stories.  2nd (in a series of 2) modeled after the Byzantine Empire. The other wonderful thing about him (in addition to his great characterization and intricate plotting) is that many of his stories are STAND ALONE books (so rare in fantasy genre).  Even if a story is multiple books, it’s only 2 or 3 total. Very very good.

New Year, Renewal, Going Forward: In which I attempt to make an accounting of the last year of missing entries, and discuss a few possible changes/additions

Tracy,

Browse archives for January 9, 2021
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Coming up with titles for these is often the hardest part for me, as the entries themselves are just stream-of-consciousness ramblings. I’m very comfortable just rambling onto the page, and I don’t put any high stakes on the output. This whole blog started as just a fun new format for my rambling group emails home that I used to send. So I’ve been essentially doing this since 2001 (3 weeks backpacking in Southern Africa, I would find an internet café every few days to basically send “proof of life” emails home to the family. But I typed much faster than my traveling pal, so I started basically journaling into my group email. Et voila.  However, the title is often a minor stumbling block. It feels weightier than the rest of the writings, that it should have more care in its creation. But also, as I’m generally writing these mid-travel, I rarely come up with some clever and astonishingly apt heading. I just put something as a title and then retain a vague feeling of disappointment that I didn’t create a better title. Ah well.

My other main hardship with this blog project has been the final entry and/or writing up a summation AFTER I’ve returned home. Again, I find myself imbuing it with more weight and importance, that because I don’t have the excuse of “writing on the fly” then I should be crafting a National Book Award nominee, or at least a Pulitzer Prize. Kid’s Choice Award? (They don’t have a book category, do they?) Also, once I’m back home, the pressures and rhythms of real life resume, and carving out time to contemplate and share my memories proves harder.  And maybe because writing the final entry feels so, well, FINAL. So those entries are often posted a few months after I’ve been back.

My personal life started to get really difficult spring/summer of 2018. Being the primary caregiver for two terminally ill family members was a rough longterm gig (but one I was grateful I was in a position to play). Doing that while also running a business just compounds the difficulties. And of course, disease progression comes in waves: there are good months and bad months, and we all continued to find joy and laughter and ways to keep living our lives, etc.  And we all were already good about living in the moment and taking gratitude for small victories and finding new and interesting ways to celebrate and show our love. (Lessons learned and sharpened because of a misdiagnosis a few years earlier. When someone is told they only have a few months to live, that sharpens everything down to a laser focus. And then, when 18-20 months later, that person’s stated progressive condition is not progressing, that’s a huge blessing. Things happened in the preferred order, for sure. Being told a few months, then having that changed to a few years? Amazing. That’s honestly one of the reasons for my increased travel adventures. The stark reminder that none of us know how much time we have, and to say “Yes” more. While travel has always been a personal priority for me, the big international trips used to be once every two or three years (giving me more time to fill the proverbial coffers in between). But with that big blinking neon LIFE IS SHORT. NOTHING IS GUARANTEED sign, I re-evaluated my finances and started making some more budget choices at home, to allow for more frequent travel. And I’m so damn grateful. Honestly, since the Covid-19 shutdowns started in March 2020, I’ve really felt that this caretaking journey really prepared me so well, emotionally and mentally, to deal with pandemic. Those skills of Finding Your Own Fun, of celebrating small victories, of living in the present and in gratitude, of breaking down hard seemingly unending tasks and realities into smaller more manageable bite-sized tasks. It’s just about getting through this day, or this afternoon, or this round of chemo, or whatever. The Tracy of 2014 would’ve had a much harder time than the Tracy of 2020 had. I mean, if given the choice, I’d rather not have been enrolled in that multi-year Emotional Boot Camp. But it did really help me grow and reframe my life. That whole “don’t sweat the small stuff” thing was always hard for me. Not that I disagreed with it, but that I added import to ALL THE THINGS, so there were very few “small stuffs” to be ignored. But boy, going through this process helped me shunt so many more things into the “small stuff” category. That laser focus of dealing with an immediate crisis and essentially doing physical and emotional triage, I found clarity right quick.

All that is to say that I haven’t posted here in over a year. Partly delayed for all the reasons discussed (writing after the fact is hard for me in general, plus the caregiving and then loss of my parents). But also, there was a BIG “small stuff” issue I couldn’t get past. I skipped a trip/posted out of order! And I was a bit paralyzed trying to figure out how to correct this. Did I delete the Vegas birthday post, write the missing trip from September, and then repost it? Or do I post the September trip after the Vegas trip? That would be easiest, but also upsets me as it would be in the wrong order. But since my posts were already happening months delayed, did that even matter anymore? And so it became easier to just ignore it for awhile. And then it had been many many months, plus one of my main Audiences for this blog was my mom and dad, and well… I’m not sure who else reads this or cares much. Then we all have been dealing with Covid-19 shrinking and changing our lives. And so now it’s January 2021 (That year sounds so fake and so much like THE FUTURE!! Not a thing we’re living in now)

But since November 2020, I’ve begun thinking about this again, and decided I’d like to update things. Even if I’ve lost my primary assumed audience, because this wasn’t ever really about an audience outside the 20-30 family and friends who were on my group email updates back in the day. But it’s something that I used to think was fun, and am beginning to think is fun again. (Recognizing the timing for resuming a travel blog is trash, because Covid-19. But fingers crossed for a swift vaccine dispersal, and hopefully by end of summer, early August, wider travel can be resumed responsibly). Also, I’ve always set my requirements for this blog to cast a wide net of possibility. Any time I’ve spent an overnight somewhere else, it became a possible candidate for inclusion. So I’ve still got several trips from the past to write up first. (The Suncadia weekend Sept 2019, The insane My Chemical Romance weekend trip right before  Christmas 2019, an overnight trip to Vancouver BC Feb 2020 for comedy and great food, and a family memorial trip to the ocean early 2020. Oh, plus two cabin getaways during Covid19). So that’s plenty of content to recount for y’all.

And now, to return to my title (initially I wanted to include some big ole words like Expurgation, or Tabula Rasa. Started watching “Anne with an E” in this new year, and Anne’s constant love and use of words had me inspired). But in addition to the accountings of the delays, missed trips, and the WRONG ORDER (still upsets me, obviously), I’m going to be making a change/addition too.

ANNOUNCEMENT: This doesn’t just have to be for travel stuff. It still will be, mostly. (Unless I make a different choice later). But here’s the thing: Facebook got rid of its Notes section. (I can hear many of you saying “what is Notes on Facebook,” and the youths out there judging “Only old people use FB”). The reason I cared/used the Notes section was to post my annual list of “FAVORITE BOOKS READ THIS YEAR.” I really enjoyed going through my list of books, and compiling my favorites and trying to explain why I loved each book. But now I can’t do that on FB anymore. And when casting around for a replacement, I remembered that I HAVE A FRIGGIN BLOG. And I can post whatever content I please (within the bounds of the law, I guess. But other than that, no rules!!). So I’ve decided I am going to post all my previous years favorite book links, to have them in one place, and then I can write up my favorite 2020 books here too.

Still deciding on format and how this will quite work. But since I’m already going to have trips happening out of order on the blog (dramatic sigh), does it matter if book posts are scattered throughout? Or should I do all the book posts together, and then go back to documenting previous travel adventures? Decisions decisions.

So, stay tuned for some travel updates and book news. And who knows what else. Remember to tell your loved ones that you love them. Remember to celebrate each day. Find ways to find joy and make fun where you can. Remember to feel your feelings, even when they’re unpleasant. Remember that you are important and you matter and we are all in this together (even though we’re being physically separated right now). Be well. Here’s to a 2021 where we work to make this world a better place. Love y’all. -Tracy

Birthday in Las Vegas

Tracy,

Browse archives for December 18, 2019
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October Birthday in Las Vegas

Providing caregiving for two family members is all encompassing and exhausting and hard. End of August, my sister mentions it’d be really nice if she and I could go on a getaway, but says there’s no way we could, because who would be able to look after the folks. But I was sure we could get help and do a weekend getaway. So we started thinking about where to go that was a short travel distance, as it would need to be a shorter trip. We decide to go for my actual birthday weekend, too. And while I’m kind of convinced that Las Vegas is the worst place ever (or rather, full of some of the worst people behaving poorly), one can sure be a total princess and enjoy nicer hotels for less than other destinations, plus lots of great food and shows. That’s how we ended up spending a long weekend at The Cosmpolitan hotel, which hadn’t even existed last time I was in Vegas a decade ago. And then, after both of my parents passed in September, it was really wonderful to have this upcoming trip already scheduled. A bright spot, something to look forward to, and a break from reality (plus the fact that we were going together would be great, so if either of us was having feelings, we’d both get it. Safe space!)

Our flight was supposed to leave Saturday around 11:30am. It was so refreshing to go to the airport in the daylight and not have to get up at an ungodly hour. At the gate, Alaska was looking for volunteers to take a later flight. I ask Reagan if she’s willing to hang out at the airport for 5 hours, as the later flight we would be upgraded to first class and get a credit for a future flight. We discuss and I mention we could read aloud to each other to help pass the time. Here’s the thing: when mom was at the hospice facility, I grabbed three beloved novels from her shelf (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” and “Captain from Castille”) and brought those with me the 2nd night. Reagan picked Captain from Castille, a ridiculously fun historical epic swashbuckling novel by Shellabarger, starting with the Spanish inquisition and then sailing with Cortez. I found it in a used bookstore when I was 13 and devoured it. Mom loved it, too. Then the next summer, after failing to get Reagan to read it on her own, we would read it aloud to each other while the other played Nintendo games. We were super cool kids, obviously! I even wrote new lyrics to an Erasure song, that I would sing at her when trying to entice her to more story reading (I believe I already mentioned we were super cool?!?). In any case, we would spend our evenings at Hospice, after all the days visitors had left and we were running out of conversation topics, trading off reading two pages aloud (Reagan, myself, and our sister Terri Ann). It was a truly special thing. There was real grace and peace in it. And the story is super fun and ridiculous. And it was such a wonderful peaceful way to spend our evenings with mom at hospice. A few weeks after she passed, Reagan asked if I wanted to continue meeting up to read the novel to each other. I agreed immediately. And so we were anticipating we might spend some of our Vegas time in the hotel room, reading this novel aloud to each other. (Remember, we are super cool).

With novel reading as one of our possible “kill 5 hours at the airport” activities, we are both fine with taking the later flight (This trip was really about taking any trip, not the destination, so it doesn’t matter if we have less Vegas time) so talk to the front desk. They explain the credit is $150 and I point out the email Alaska sent the night previously had said it would be $250 (it’s kind of a cool thing, their automated system was asking for pre-volunteers to delay their flight the day before, but we didn’t do it at that time). Without batting an eye, the employee said, “Oh, okay. $250 then” which made me think maybe I should’ve asked for more? *shrug* Now, here was the stressful part about this. The 4 of us agreeing to the later flight are not guaranteed that later flight. They don’t want to have to pay out unless they absolutely have to. Which means that they load the entire plane, all groups, etc. (which means ALL THE OVERHEAD BIN SPACE will be gone). But we have to wait around, in case someone doesn’t show up to the gate in time, they will instead send us on the original flight (now without overhead bin space).That is very stressful to me. However, everyone showed up, so we were issued our vouchers and excited about first class in several hours. As she hands us our new tickets and vouchers, she gives us directions to the First Class lounge. Oh that’s right! We’d both forgot about such things. Suddenly our wait at the airport is going to be even better, having a quieter more comfortable place to relax.

We got to go to the NEW Alaska Air lounge (it just opened in July) and it is a really gorgeous space. They even have this adorable airplane art on their espresso drinks. We sit in a cool sofa lounge for a bit, as we sip our coffee. But Reagan is too shy to read the novel here, it’s too close to other people. But she found a corner near the bar that was relatively empty. And so we spend 2 hours reading to each other, pausing to watch planes take off and the grounds crew wash some airplanes, too. It was lovely. And the delay had us landing in Las Vegas at sunset, which was pretty striking.

The styling at The Cosmpolitan was very fun and a little unsettling. “it’s like being a Black Mirror episode” Reagan observed. (Most upsetting was during our check in process. The lobby has these giant video screen columns. When we arrived, they were showing a foggy area with human shadows and shapes moving around (trapped?) and occasionally a palm would slam itself against the glass. Super creepy. During our three days we saw all kinds of different videos, and all the rest are super cool, from very cool bookshelves to cool electrical lights and starry skies, etc. So why do they have the trapped souls wasteland option?!?). The rooms were very nice. And location was great, being next door to Bellagio and Paris.

It’s a weekend of wandering. The weather is perfectly pleasant (85* or less) so we walk along the strip the next day. Play lots of Pai Gow Poker. It’s much fun. Sunday is my actual birthday, and we brunch at the fake French bistro at Paris across the street. It’s surprisingly decent (and extra entertaining to me, as I was just in real Paris in June). Reagan hadn’t been in town since the early 2000’s, so we wander through fake Venice and the Wynn, etc. Bellagio fountains. We headed to “old vegas” for birthday dinner at Andiamo Steakhouse. While it was quite nice, and a bit cheaper than some of the fancy steakhouses on the strip proper, that Fremont Street/old vegas just isn’t my scene. It’s so much smokier (how is that possible, as our lungs were hurting after being in town just a few hours) and full of more people gambling money that it looks like they shouldn’t be gambling. I prefer the ridiculous fake fancy over the “Bro” spring break vibe. Still, the restaurant itself was nice. It’s location inside “The D” casino made me chuckle, because I’m 12 yr old.

Fun with reflections at Fremont Street

We took many selfies, and Reagan always accuses me of “just doing the same smile” in all my photos, so I tried to do different interesting faces this trip, to varying levels of success. And you’ll notice she is often just making a regular nice smile herself.   

Reagan’s friend had a pal working on the Absinthe show at Caesar’s Palace and got us comp tickets for Monday night. Yay for a free show. “It’s like cirque de soleil” we are told. After agreeing to the free tickets, we bother to look up details online. And we’re suddenly both nervous. As this show proudly proclaims it is “not PC.” Now, that could mean clever nuanced jokes that challenge expectations. But generally that means lazy hack jokes that punch down and are hateful towards others. I’ve never been a big fan of roasts or attack comics. Still, it’s free and we agree we can just leave at intermission if it’s too awful. And it wasn’t too awful. It’s more like “Teatro Zinzanni” in Seattle than cirque de soleil. It’s inside a big circus tent, and they have a variety of 1-4 person circus acts happening in the center, with an MC throughout. The MC and assistant are “not PC” and very sexually explicit in their discussions. Occassionally it was funny, often it is very cringe inducing or just cheap/lazy and unfunny. I guess I appreciated that he began by “punching up,” at least (making fun of old white guys for being rich republican assholes and young white dudes in suits for being Fraternity date rapists), so that when he started making racial jokes at least he was picking on those with power, too. But yeah, definitely not a show style i’d have paid for. Although the circus acts in between the “banter” were really amazing/impressive. And I was glad our seats were in the middle, so we didn’t have to be interacted with. Ugh.

I finally broke down and had to play the giant X Files slot machine our final night. And it was so much fun. It played music and sound effects and Skinner said he was proud of me and Skully offered me encouragement, and the seat would buzz when I got a “Special” spin. Very silly, but they sure know how to create machines that provide enough feedback to keep one engaged. And then I actually won $140 on the penny slots, when all was said and done. Overall, while neither Reagan nor I made money on the trip, both of us spent less than our daily allocated gambling dollars, so that’s pretty nice. Pai Gow Poker is the best. Game play is collegial (everyone is playing the dealer and your play won’t affect your neighbors, so you can ask for guidance every time). Also game play is slower, and you push most games. So your $80 can last a long time. They had, only a few weeks before we arrived, starting offering open face pai gow, where the dealer’s hand is known before you decide. But it’s a total suckers bet. They change the rules so an Ace high lower hand is an automatic push (this hand is very common, so puts the odds in house’s favor), and also the game play is much much faster, so you spend your money more quickly. They do not build these giant casinos by giving away money. In fact, in regular pai gow poker, your odds are close enough to 50/50 that the house takes a commission on your winnings. There’s no commission on the face up pai gow, which should tell you that the odds must be much better in the house’s favor for them to eliminate that. I sure hope they’ll be offering regular pai gow poker in the future, still. Because it’s great.

It was a nice escape. Reagan kept me out past my bedtime every night. We had restaurant breakfast (my favorite). And it was so good for our hearts to get to have a break from real life.

Glamping at the Gorge Ampitheatre

Tracy,

Back in January, at an Ovarian Cancer Research auction, I saw a package for the “Oasis Campground” and Avett Brothers. Now, I only knew one Avett Brothers song, but I was intrigued by this campground and did a bit of phone research. The photos looked pretty excellent, so I made the opening bid and ended up winning the item! So for $200 (which is comparable cost for 2 concert tickets and general admission camping) we’d get to GLAMP in these nice tents with two twin foam mattresses, and a fan, and access to flush toilets and showers! Sign me up! (I was still in my early 20’s when I swore off general admission camping at The Gorge. No thank you! It’s like MAD MAX over there. Partying all night, vomiting people, strangers trying to get into your tent, OVERLFOWING porta-potties! Yikes. Nope. I’d rather just drive home all night, which is what I’ve done. But 2 nights at this Oasis Campground thing seemed promising. And so my pal Nichole and I prepared for our August Glamping adventure.  (For a more artsy documentation of our adventures, see the bottom of this post for links to Nichole’s instagram)

Then, a few months before the show, they emailed to say Mumford & Sons concert had been added to Fri night. Nichole and I grabbed some tickets to that show, too. So now we got to glamp, see a band we quite enjoy, and then next night see a band we kind of know.

Took Friday off work and had a leisurely drive east. Found the BEST new roadtrip diner along Hwy 2 in Gold Bar. The Wallace Fall Cafe. Big sign “under new management” which is often not a good indicator. But it was fantastic! As the toast option, you could get one giant pancake instead of toast! And they had homemade marionberry cobbler filling as a pancake topping. *drool* Legit great and we’ll be back.

Stopped in Leavenworth to try to meet up with a pal, but she got called in to work. So we bought some pretzels (!!) and continued on our way. Now, I much prefer Hwy 2 to I-90 (it’s a much prettier drive) but I’ve never gone past Leavenworth on it before. So it was a fun experience, chasing the river and seeing the basalt (?) cliffs and orchards.  And as we’d taken the day off work, it didn’t matter that it’s a bit longer.

Once there, the Oasis Campground was really nice. About 100 stand up tents, each with two outdoor chairs. And they provide one bag of ice each day for our coolers. It was hot hot hot, but still very nice. (Even if I had to hide under my sarong in the lack of shade areas).

Then off to the prettiest concert venue. Just check out that view!!

The campground included access to the Cliff House. What an overhyped WASTE OF MONEY AND TIME. The drink prices were drastically higher than the rest of the venue, it took over 90 minutes for our order of mini corndogs and tater tots. (We were extra glad we had our Leavenworth pretzels as a snack option when the wait became sooooo long). The food was expensive, the options limited, critically understaffed. Total nightmare. The view was pretty, but you can have a pretty view from general admission, too. And honestly, the view isn’t unobstructed. There are big fences in the way, that photo was just from putting my camera between the fence railings. I can’t believe that people pay money for this. The only decent part was that it had two flush toilets, so a long line, but you could avoid the porta potty. Because of the extreme wait for our food, we didn’t get to see Portugal The Man, but we could hear them, at least.

Also, I hadn’t been to The Gorge since Live Nation took over, and dang. They must have VERY good friends on the Washington State Liquor Control board, because I’ve never seen so many people over-served before. As you enter the ampitheatre, the walkway is literally lined with beer/hard alcohol shacks. At least 12 before you even reach the grass. And it is not cheap. $14 for tallboy cans with $5 to add a shot. Now most events in Washington are ridiculous about serving alcohol, requiring a small beer garden fence to separate people. But that’s apparently not a concern at all here. I think those beer garden fences are silly, and that adults should be able to wander a festival with a beer. I’m just not sure how The Gorge can legally do this when everywhere else cannot. But I was irritated at the extremely high percentage of literally falling-down-drunk people there were. And when the guy who could not stand up was able to stumble over and buy another beer…woah.

The Mumford & Sons concert itself was great. Although I feel like I missed a memo somewhere. I quite like their music and own two albums, but it’s not “rock your face off” vibe. Yet this audience was hyped to an 11. They were even throwing glowsticks around, and screaming their heads off. I kept thinking, “are they seeing the same show I’m seeing?” Still, it was a great show.

Back to spend the night in our cozy tents. Woke up around 2am to the heaviest rain ever. It sounded like someone had turned a fire house onto our tent. And then lightning flashes. Woah! My first sleep-induced thought was to take a Snapchat video. Ha. I’ll try to post it here

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Then someone pounds on our tent door, saying we all have to evacuate to our cars because of the lightning. Oh! Right! There’s a giant metal pole going down the middle of our tents. So we sleepily stumble, put on shoes and jackets, grab a few things, and run into the pissing rain to the car. Once there, I was quite pleased to discover the items I’d randomly grabbed. My towel (for drying off and as a blanket), the decorative throw pillow from the tent (for a pillow) and the large bag of grapes (snacks!). How’s that for survival instincts!! I worried for the poor bastards in regular camping. That campground is always a muddy terrible mess, and with drunken folks and self set up tents, etc, I’m sure lots of folks got washed out in those pouring rains. And I doubt they had any security telling them to evacuate due to lightning. And at 2am, that campground had only just passed out/gone to sleep when this all started. yikes! We then spent 1.5 hours sort of sleeping in the Prius. It was not as uncomfortable as I would’ve expected. Not great, but manageable. Finally we were given the all clear to return to our tents.

The next day, we’re up sooner than we’d like, because the hot temperatures have returned. Lovely lazy morning at the campsite, eating the “flood pasta salad” (Nichole had made some great vinegar pasta salad for us, but turns out those disposable tupperware don’t seal so tightly, so being in a cooler with melted ice, water got inside. But turned out to still be decently tasty, with fresh crunchy vegetables and pasta, just maybe not so much dressing anymore. Ha. Made friends with Liz and Ben in the tent nextdoor. Went over to nearby Cave B Winery for some wine tasting. They had live music too. Lovely. Back in the afternoon at the campground and we start seeing lightning flashes again. While no rain this time, everyone is ordered to evacuate to our cars again. We take a little more time, packing up wine and snacks and card games and Zombie dice. Everyone rolls down their windows and a strange sort of tailgate happens, with everyone inside their cars, passing bottles of whiskey from window to window.

Ben is playing songs through his portable speaker. It’s kind of lovely, actually. And fun watching stragglers returning to the campground and their utter confusion. “Um, why is everyone in their cars?” Don’t you know? This is the traditional Avett Brothers tradition!

Actually, this evacuation is a huge nightmare the concert venue. They had to evacuate the entire ampitheatre (we just hadn’t headed over yet because we didn’t care enough about the opening bands). As it’s a giant hillside/general admission, people get in line hours before the event to claim their perfect spot, and get all set up with blankets etc. And then they all had to be kicked out. For another 90 minutes at least. Then in a huge technical snaffu, Livenations automated system sent out alerts saying the venue was re-opened BEFORE the staff on site were ready for the venue to be re-opened. Having made pals with one of the campground security guys, we got to listen in to the madness, as a very angry crowd (already pissed they’d been evacuated) were now being denied re-entry. Rough!

We did have a very dramatic sunset that evening. With TONS of lightning flashes and strikes still happening. So we are not exactly sure how it was deemed “safe” to return, as the lightning is still actively happening, while these dark clouds roam in. I think the venue just didnt’ want to have to issue refunds so chose dollars over safety, but whatever.

At the ampitheatre, we saw Lake Street Dive and it started to rain. Ugh! But Nichole was willing to stick around because I did want to see at least SOME of the Avett Brothers show. And they were decently fun. Much less crowded than the night before, but I think all the storms and evacuations caused some folks to head home early, and if we hadn’t had this lovely glamping Oasis, we probably would’ve left earlier, too. Getting into the Gorge was hilarious, as they still had all the metal fencing endless switchbacks, but no lines to justify it, so all that twisting and walking back and forth. You’d think someone would’ve just opened the path, but nope.

Sunday morning and leisurely breakfast of the rest of our camp snacks, and then a drive home along I-90 this time, to allow for the mandatory stop at Owen’s Meats in Cle Elum (to get some Turkey Jerky and their gorgeous smoked porkchops). Stopped at the mexican place in Cle Elum for a late lunch, and found this magnificent painting of a man giving his rooster a drink of tequila. Just the perfect end to a wild but fun weekend.

For a more artsy documenting of our trip, you can check out Nichole’s instagram posts about it. I’ll share the links here.

It begins.

West to East

Glamping

That view, though

Storm Evacuation

Cave B Winery

“What We Do When There Are No Shadows”.

Stormy Sunset 

Mostly empty concert 

Heading home

Passenger stories

 

 

French Disneyland

Tracy,

Browse archives for October 9, 2019
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Being the primary caregiver for two family members sure eats up ones downtime. But boy, was that one of the reasons getting to take this little Paris adventure was so extra necessary for my body and soul.

Now that there are a few moments to myself again, I’m feeling the need to document the final 2.5 days. And I’ve still got some notes on my phone from my trip, so I can share those here, and then share a whole bunch of photos (because Disney is always good for a colorful photo opportunity). When I’d first agreed to this trip, it was going to end with 1.5 days in Disneyland. After booking my flight, the group decided they needed more Disney time (as there are two parks). So suddenly it was 3 nights Paris and 3 nights Disneyland. Not my personal ideal way to divvy up the time, but it was actually really lovely. The idea of staying behind in Paris by myself for an extra day didn’t seem worth it. And I do really enjoy the Disney experience, even if it’s a total shame that their food quality doesn’t match all the Parisian deliciousness around them. But the themed restaurants are great for style and attention to detail (just not in the food itself as much).

Our final morning in Paris, we went to meet some of Melissa’s pals in Montmarte for lunch. It’s such a colorful neighborhood. Walked down a street full of tiny closet sized shops doing all kinds of different textured hairstyles. Each shop was just big enough for one barber’s chair and sink. Full of laughter and conversation on this sunny morning. Very cool.

Cheese

The streetside cafe was super cute with tasty food, and it was a lovely final goodbye to the city.

Montmartre

It was dinner time once we’d checked in to our Disney adjacent hotel. Wandering the “Disney Village” outside the parks, we ended up at “King Ludwig” for dinner. This silly Medieval European Castle themed restaurant. It was “Latin Fest” which meant all of the waiters were wearing Hawaiian shirts, leis, and those woven straw hats. Which didn’t feel “Latin” necessarily, and was extra strange to see that inside this fake castle. Also, the restroom signs were TOTAL BULLSHIT! The women’s room had a princess on the door, so I expected the men’s to have a knight or something (which is irritating enough). But no, the boy’s toilet had a FRICKING BATTLE TIGER on the front. That is a bad ass Tiger, standing on two legs, wearing chest armor and carrying an axe or something. WTF!! The girl’s room should’ve at least had an awesome dragon or Pegasus or something. Sheesh. I’ll see if I can figure out how to share the video here!

That evening, Melissa and I had this epic walk trying to find the Super Marche grocery store nearby. It was only 0.75 miles away, but was on the other side of this giant shopping center that was closed/gates drawn. And Google maps failed us, so we walked forever in the wrong direction. and then it was still much farther than listed. But we saw this amazing sunset along our walks!

And we arrived just 10 minutes before closing, with the intention of buying a bottle or two of wine. But the selection and prices were insane. So we ended up getting 3 bottles each (her of Province rose and me of premiere cru burgundy). Then I tossed a few random french candies in our basket and we started the walk back carrying all our wine and big bottles of water for Judy and Marie. Ha!

Tom’s Disney Blog was Melissa’s bible for planning this trip, and it was full of some great tips and saved us a ton of money, too. They offer different vacation packages to different countries. They way they can do this legally in the EU is by technically making them available to anyone. But they don’t advertise that fact. So we got an amazing package offered to UK visitors, that included some fast passes and special reserved seating for the fireworks show and a discount on most of the restaurants too. Pretty dang cool.

The next morning we started our Disneyland Paris adventure. I got a Yoda baseball hat. and their Sleeping Beauty castle is much better than Anaheim. We met Genie from Aladdin. Their “Adventure land” is Agrabah/Aladdin themed, and it is gorgeous and very cool.

 

It was very sweet watching a young couple waltz at the end of the castle walk through, as it plays the song.

It was the final day of their Marvel superhero stuff, so I dragged everyone to the stunt show. They were good sports about it. And it was wild hearing Captain America speak French. (The park does a good job of blending french and english, so that you can get the context, even if you don’t speak both languages. And a certain percentage has to be french language. But it did seem an odd choice that CAP was one of the French speakers. Really?!? Captain America?!?

Walt’s steakhouse (gorgeous building, mediocre food)

I loved the wide variety of different cultures and peoples visiting the park. So many different languages. Laughing faces wearing mouse ears over their head scarves. At one point I overheard a 5 yr old British girl explaining, “I didn’t like that ride, mummy. It was too tummy-flipping and scary in the dark.” Another little girl had lost her tooth and was proudly showing her bloody gums to me. We didn’t share a language, but could still share her excitement.

 

Totally warmed my heart seeing so many little girls and tweens wearing the Captain Marvel superhero outfit. Like those “muscled” full body suits for all the other superheroes, it was amazing seeing these young girls get to be superheroes too! Their joy and pride. Representation matters.

The fireworks show is pretty dang impressive. They project video on the castle, integrate water effects, and fire works. Plus Ariel sang “part of your world” in French. And a huge portion dedicated to “Frozen” because Disney ain’t fools.

Thunder Mountain remains one of my favorites. Great fun. And witnessed a super cute moment, as an old-timey prospetor costumed employee was talking to a 3 yr old boy and his mom. He gave him a written certificate with the kid’s name, because Henry was too short to ride. “Now this is very valuable. You can bring it with you once you are tall enough, and that day you can have UNLIMITED fast pass for the ride. And there’s no time limit on using this. You can even bring it with you as an adult.” So that’s pretty cool.

They sell champagne (Disney has it’s own bottle) from the lemonade stands in the evening. So we got to have a champagne toast to say goodbye on our final evening.

Our ride the next morning to the airport took us past all these gorgeous fields of poppies, and led to me doing Wicked Witch of the West impressions the whole time. (mostly inside my head).

While the airport offered a sushi conveyor belt, I was entertained to see plates with croissants also going around the conveyor. There was total drama boarding the plane. Marie had issues getting the Delta app to work and it was a bit of a panic as we tried to board. So I stayed behind as we went to the desk to get them to print out her boarding pass. They also hand me a new boarding pass with a new seat assignment. What? I had specifically chosen this flight so I could sit by Melissa. I ask if I can have my old seat back (that seat assignment was valid and on the boarding pass I got at airport check-in 3 hours ago). They tell me they had to move me so a family could sit together. I’m super irritated that I’ll have to do the 10 hour flight by strangers. But can sort of understand if they had to move people for a small child (although normally the airline SHOULD ASK for volunteers and not make these changes without consulting me). Also I’ve been given a window trapped by a stranger, when I intentionally chose aisle months ago, because I get restless and need to stretch/stand up. It sort of worked out, because it was an exit row, so the extra bit of leg room meant I could mostly get up without making the person in the aisle stand up. But still, totally lame. Also lame being next to the bathroom smells the whole time. AND upsetting to see that the “family” that displaced me had zero children. It was a mom in her 60’s and two adult children in their 30’s/40’s. WTF. Then you have to book your flight earlier if you want to sit together. Just because I was a single reservation seat doesn’t mean I’m less valuable. Also they were super bitchy entitled people who brought on MORE CARRYON bags than allowed, that couldn’t fit in overhead bin. It was a nightmare. God I wish more airlines would enforce the frigging rules. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Delta/Air France must’ve been super concerned about safety. I’ve never seen so much attention paid to exit rows before. They spent lots of time explaining how to open the doors, etc. And I’m a rule follower. And I had a Boeing engineer beside me and the two gents behind me were pilots, so we were the safest exit rows ever! If shit had gone down, we were prepared! I watched “The Hate U Give” movie and sobbed my way through those two hours. I mean, movies on planes are more likely to make me cry, and the book had devastated me, so I was prepared. But still, emotions!!!

It was a wild and wonderful 6 days. I’m so grateful that this trip literally fell into my lap, and that my life allowed me to squeeze it in, just barely. Thanks again, Paris. I’ll definitely be back.

 

 

 

 

Parisian Adventures, The Second Part

Tracy,

Browse archives for August 24, 2019
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Hoo boy, I don’t think it’s ever taken me this long to post an update. Here it is, end of August, and I still haven’t told y’all about most of my mid-June trip to Paris. And if I’m being honest, not sure life is gonna settle enough to allow for the long stream-of-consciousness recaps I prefer. These last 8 weeks have been a doozy, not really having me with the spare moments or proper headspace to share the fun adventures we had. Happily I did take little notes/observations on my phone while there. So I think I’ll just share some of those and some photos. Here goes:

So, after my whirlwind 40 hours of travel and adventure, we awaken the next morning to take our food tour. This was one of two things I desperately requested we do, and the group willingly agreed. The walking food tour I’d taken in Athens last year was one of the highlights of the Greece trip, and decided me that I really want to include such things on future travels. And I found Paris By Mouth. I’ve never experienced the number 1 thing on a TripAdvisor category before. But the reviews were amazing. And I love that they keep it small group (no more than 8 people). It’s pricey, but seemed a worthy indulgence. They suggested we pick based on timing, rather than neighborhood, as all tours will visit the same categories of shops: (chocolates, pastry, bakery, meat, cheese, wine). St Germain tour was nearby and still had space for our group of 6. I hadn’t realized, until taking the tour, what a ritzy ritzy neighborhood this was. Which meant we were tasting at some of the fanciest world class shops around. Patrice Chapon chocolat (apparently he makes chocolate ice cream for the queen of England). Alexandre Polmard butcher.

Fancy meat storage

“Des Gateaux et du Pain” Fancy pants pastry shop that has a strict “no photos” policy. The woman explained how it was turning in to a food museum, not a place to purchase and eat. And Instagram photo takers would block paying customers. Horror stories of people dropping their phones onto the delicates cakes and pastries. But our fancy group tour was allowed to take pics. Celebrating what’s freshest/best that moment, it was strawberry season. And this gorgeous pastry with tiny wild strawberries and jasmine…so good. It was like the essence of strawberry distilled into a pastry, but remarkably different (more rugged and untamed) than the other one we had that was with traditional strawberries and orange blossom. And their croissants were out of this world!!

Tant Miche bakery for baguette. La Ferme d’Alexandre fromagerie was a celebration of all the cheeses! ALL OF THEM!

Excited about all the cheese!

Our tour group was the 6 of us and a delightful couple from Australia. We were all getting along swimmingly, and seemed to have a similar sense of humor. Unlike many food tours where you eat as you walk, most of our eating was saved for the final hour, where we hunkered above a small table above a wine shop. (Although our wonderful guide Diane did give us snacks and small bites along the route). Diane wouldn’t tell us what one of the beef dishes was until after we ate it (I HATE that. I’ll totally still try it, but I like knowing). Turned out to be beef snout and it was delicious. Anyways, eating the wonderful bounty and drinking lots of wine, we were getting a bit punchy. One of the cheeses was called “Hercules” and the Australian woman started doing the “Hercules” chant from the nutty professor. That, along with all of our silliness, led Diane to pick out one particular bottle of wine. She confessed she hadn’t tried it yet, but based on label and title, thought it was perfect for our group (Also fun to see that even highly trained food professionals also sometimes pick wine based on labels). Which is how we drank the “You Fuck My Wine?” bottle. 

We had an unplanned afternoon, before our dinner reservations. And Melissa was good sport enough to let me drag her all over Les Halles in search of a World Cup scarf. We explored the Fifa fan village and found several fan experiences etc (had to skip the free face painting as we had dinner in a few hours). But no souvenir vendors. At all. Apparently that’s only at the stadiums themselves. Walked through the four sporting goods stores too, but they only had a few generic country specific jerseys. No scarves or other merch. Darn. We did get this truly ridiculous free photo, though (We thought the photobooth would offer multiple poses, but it was just the one). 

Back to the hotel to shower and change. Poor Melissa has been stricken by the horrible cold that her mom has had for the last few days. But dammit, eating at Le Train Bleu was the thing she was most excited about doing (once I saw photos online, I knew I had to tell her about it. I was right, and we made reservations right away). And so she rallied, and got all fancy dressed up, but wasn’t feeling 100%. This is a ceiling being ALL that it can be, and more so. The food is decent and occasionally amazing. But mostly just decent. You’re really paying for the setting and the history. They even have a staff member dressed in an old timey train bellhop kind of costume. Once every hour he sings a song to the restaurant and then shares an historical story about the place. He was kind enough to come over to our table each time and tell us the story in English as well. 

Melissa had the cheese plate for her dessert. They wheel over this giant cheese board. “How many can I get?” “Oh, Four, or Five, or Six…or Seven.” Melissa says, “That sounds like a Dare!” And then she picked seven cheeses. Ha.

We were out LATE LATE LATE again, what with the fancy dining. So the next morning I was too tired for my original plan (of getting up early to see St Chapelle and it’s stained glass windows). But my body needed the sleep. And Melissa stayed sleeping, because she was so sick. Judy and Marie joined me for a lovely kebab lunch. Then Marie and I went off to amble through le Marais neighborhood. Because of her foot problems (and being in her early 70’s), she was concerned she’d be too slow for me. I assured her that it wouldn’t be a problem. We didn’t have any deadlines or places we had to be (until 5pm, back at the hotel, to get ready for our dinner reservations). And it was lovely. It was warm (a little too warm for our Seattle temperate selves) and sunny and gorgeous. And there are interesting things to see every which way we looked. When needed, we could stop on a bench by the Seine, or in the gorgeous Place des Vosges park, or resting in St Paul Cathedral. Or stopping to eat the most deliciously tart lemon tarts, while a man played French horn nearby. Victor Hugo’s house was closed for renovations, but at least we saw the sign? The only “plan” (other than the aborted trip to Victor Hugo’s house) was to get crepes at La Droguerie. But once there, we were full from our lemon tarts and we had our 7 course dinner happening in 2 hours, so decided against it. And now, I shall post many lovely photos from our explorations!

Re-opened for Mass for the 1st time this morning

  

Victor Hugo door

“And here we have…Another Fountain!”

My mouth puckers just thinking about it

Ballons et velo

The view from the road

After getting dressed for dinner (Melissa appreciates it when people stand on ceremony) we had a harrowing Uber ride to Aspic.  Harrowing because of traffic (and it was already stressful as we couldn’t find a taxi so had to settle for calling for an Uber and hoping they’d allow the four of us inside). Our driver was lovely and I used my extremely broken and limited French to try to communicate. He was a total sweetheart. With lots of mime and poor conjugation, I think we generally made ourselves understood. But yeah, there may have been several of those times when he or I would smile and shrug, abandoning hope of understanding the sentence the other had just said. ha! And if you’ve got to be stuck in terrible traffic, Paris sure affords some amazing views en route.

Spark Plug tin

Delicious

Really special

Chef Quentin Giroud is doing something truly special at Aspic. Having dinner here was my other request for the trip. Reservations only become available 30 days in advance, and I had all kinds of alarms and timers and calendar reminders set. It is a small place, serving a 7-course tasting menu each evening. Really trying to break down some of the “gate keeping” in fine dining, and removing some of the pretentiousness. This was still some of the fanciest food, with the fussiest and most interesting plating. But it’s only 69 euro for the 7 courses. And adding wine flight was reasonably priced, too. The staff could not have been lovelier. It’s an open line kitchen, which is always fun to watch. And the styling had me feeling very at home. There was a comforting industrial hipster ambience, with their chef “whites” being denim colored. And exposed brick. And the bill came in a battered metal tin (we had to Google, turns out it’s a French sparkplug box). The meal was amazing. Chef Giroud delivered and explained most of the courses himself. Their sommelier was a total doll, very much playing around with our table. After our amazing meal, we stayed chatting and drinking, and they kept bringing us additional generous “tastes” of different wines. At one point, Marie leans over to stage whisper, “Okay. Just so you know, I’ve lost my shoe under the table. No one be alarmed!” The kitchen even sent out an additional bonus dessert to us. And with that very French approach to dining, with no interest in turning tables to seat new guests (even though the place is SMALL), our 7pm reservations guaranteed us this 6-person table for the entire night. Truly truly special. Hands down the number one thing to do in Paris. I want to go back!!!!

Bonus dessert!

A truly special meal experience on our last night in Paris

And so we returned to our hotel, full of smiles and great food and wine and friendship and joie de vivre, a little sad to be saying goodbye to Paris. But dang, I feel like I had so many amazing experiences in my 2.5 days, but it never felt rushed or crowded, which is a nice touch.