Once again, I’m here in a Paris beset with mood swings as the city transitions from one season to another. The days are getting longer though, and a few evenings ago the sky had a striking, Maxfield Parish-ness to it as the last of the light faded away.
I finally made it back to Paris after nearly four years of being away.
If I had forgotten how bleak October in Paris can be, the past two weeks have reminded me.
The morning sky is dark until 8 am and a thick canopy of clouds can linger for days, obscuring the sun and imparting a romantic, melancholy quality to the city the gradually becomes less romantic and more melancholy with each successive gray day. Fortunately, I was so caught up in the intensity of re-immersing myself in the city and reconnecting with old friends that the gloom became an afterthought.
On my last evening, still tipsy from a long, wine-soaked lunch, I stumbled (quite literally) into the Luxembourg Gardens, where the last moments of the day had given way to a blaze of light that was almost jarring.
It was a fitting conclusion to a trip during which dreary moments mingled side by side with florid, intense ones. It was also a reminder that more than two decades since my first trip and after nearly four years away, the city still has the ability to tantalize, seduce and surprise me.
I’ve booked a return trip for the spring. See you there?
Sweden is in the grip of its chilliest, rainiest summer in centuries, and shortly after my arrival in late-May I began pining for Mediterranean heat, sun-baked terraces, and humid evenings laced with ice cream and strapless dresses.
So in July I fled south to Gavorrano, Italy.
Never heard of it, have you?
Neither had I, which I immediately took as a good sign.
Straddling a steep hillside in southern Tuscany’s Maremma about 25 miles northwest of Grosseto, the medieval mining village is free of grand hotels, “menus turisticos,” chain stores, and gourmet gelaterias (basic, perfectly tasty gelato is available at the local bar). When the midday sun is at its hottest the main square and nearby roads empty out; the sounds of voices and footsteps replaced with the buzz of cicadas and the mistral wind barreling over the hills.
It was as middle of nowhere as you could get for Tuscany in July, thrillingly devoid of the summer tourist crush, and with the bonus of the exciting (and alarming) possibility of running into a pack of wild boar after dusk.
Lake Tahoe has been struggling through one of its driest winters in history, so when the forecast predicted snow on Tuesday, I dashed up to the ski house late Monday night.
On Tuesday I awoke to the winter wonderland I have been craving since December, and by Wednesday I was hitting the slopes at Northstar. Alas, the winter interlude was fleeting. By the end of the week the temperature had increased to a balmy 60f, the snow was melting fast, and hungry bears were roaming the region in search of food.
I snapped this photo off Highway 267 on the way to the Northstar resort. The lonely cabin appears as fragile as this season’s winter.
I’m back in the San Francisco Bay Area getting visa stuff sorted before my return to Sweden in a couple of months. I feel a bit like a dry docked boat: tied up, grounded, and impatiently waiting to freely roam the archipelago once more. The upside? Time with family and friends, jogs through the redwoods, skiing at Lake Tahoe, foggy Sunday mornings spent writing and drinking Honey Yuzu tea, Soule Domaine’s ahi, Viansa’s Cabernets and Shimizu’s Piedmont Roll.
Nordic Lad and I are also making plans for upcoming spring/summer adventures. Boating around the Stockholm archipelago is definitely on the list!
First impressions of a late-November in Stockholm in 100 words:
Awaking in darkness. Large black birds with white wing tips dart from tree to tree just beyond the terrace, and by 3:00 daylight is already draining from the sky again. Stockholmers are beautiful—the women are slender with maliciously poreless skin and uptilted fairy-eyes. They flounce down the streets in tight jeans and tall boots and shiny jackets like haughty dolls. Lanterns flicker outside the entrances of shops and restaurants in the afternoon, and cheesy, American holiday music filters out of taxis past midnight. A French grocer in Vasastan. Muesli with filmjölk in the morning, and procecco with jazz after dark.
The blur of people streaming out of Radio City Music Hall perfectly captures all that is mad, frustrating, beautiful, electric, and delicious about a weekend in New York. There were monsoon rains, humidity more fitting for Miami than a Manhattan autumn, champagne at Griffou with a good friend, more drinks in the East Village, ravenous pizza noshing at 3am, a rainy train ride to Long Island’s North Shore, chocolate cake and red gloves in a weathered art studio, Cirque du Soleil, taxi rides with Nordic Lad under a damp, gray sky, a giant, white breast on the wall at Trattoria dell’Arte, a first glimpse of the WTC construction site, the crush of bodies and the blare of sirens, and the sensation of loss and relief as I board the plane to San Francisco.
The trailhead to the late Lora Josephine Knight’s ’20s-era holiday home looks deceptively summery, but remnants of one of the region’s longest winters–it snowed on June 6– has all but eliminated typical mid-June activities. Swimming is out, most trails are off limits, and the river is too swollen for rafting. What’s a girl (and her visiting Nordic Lad) to do? Take a cue from Tahoe’s jazz age set, of course.
Just as it took a certain level of ingenuity and determination to construct a Scandinavian-style mansion in the middle of the Sierras, so too does it require resourcefulness and fortitude to find hikes that didn’t involve trudging through tall snow drifts or plunging through river wells (don’t ask me how I know this). The determination paid off, and now I can’t stop raving about Nevada’s steep Flume Trail, where you can catch one of Tahoe’s most picturesque panoramas.
Under the Santa Barabra Pier, a photo by erinz on Flickr.
Taking a road trip to Santa Barbara and L.A. to visit a couple of longtime close friends. Looking forward to salty air, beach treks, crepes on Anacapa, Sunstone Merlot, speeding down PCH in my red car with the moon roof up, smoothies at the Malibu Farmer’s Market, hearing the words “ove'” and “gnar” again, admiring the first Jacaranda blooms, talking late into the evening, and catching a film at the Arlington. Mostly, I am looking forward to reconnecting with my pretty ones.