To celebrate our 20 years of marriage, Erin and I went for a holidy in southern France. It was romantic, and relaxing, and refreshing. It was hard to leave.
We had considered visiting Tuscany, and I had offered Morocco and Turkey and Greece, by then we decided on Provence. Hearing this, my brother, Nick, and his girlfriend, Carolyn, suggested we stay a night or two at Maison º9, in the coastal town of Cassis. They’d stayed there last June, and recommended it as a very nice place. I booked us for five nights, found a maison in Avignon for another two nights, and a hotel in Paris for our final night.
We left the family at home with Erin’s sister, Mary, then flew straight from Raleigh to Paris CDG airport, walked a few minutes over to the TGV station, and caught a fast train south to Marseille, where we rented a car, got lost immediately but chuckled when the GPS took us past the famous Marseille waterfront, and then drove east to Cassis.
We arrived at Maison º9 in the late-afternoon heat, and it was perfect. It’s an old home set on a hillside overlooking vineyards, and Cynthia Kayser-Maus, an interior designer, has remodeled it and decorated it splendidly. We were shown to the lower room, in the former wine cellar. I immediately put on my new, Euro swim trunks, and climbed the stone steps to the pool, from where you can look out to the high cliffs and more vineyards that surround Cassis. Cynthia had ordered a cheese-and-olive pizza, and set out a chilled bottle of rosé — the Cassis region is known for its rosé wines — and we enjoyed both sitting on the patio, smelling the lavender and jasmine planted all around.
The buzzing of a thousand bees dancing in the lavender was a gentle wakeup the next morning. A breakfast table for the two of us was set overlooking the vineyard, and the yogurt and fresh fruit and pastries and cheese and scrambled eggs and orange juice and coffee were worth the leisurely pace we gave them. Then we spent the day by the pool. It was relaxing. I read the Alexander Hamilton biography, about his days on St. Croix, where I visited back in April. We napped, and swam. In the evening, we walked into Cassis, saw the boats in the harbor and the tourists on the beach and the lights of the castle above. We stopped for a drink, found another restaurant for dinner. We walked back to the maison, read and slept.
The next days were just as sunny and warm, enjoyable and intimate. We slept in, enjoyed breakfast, walked every day, visited the wineries Domaine du Bagnol and Clos Sainte Magdeleine, bought gifts and fruit at the Wednesday outdoor market, watched EURO 2016 games, enjoyed gelato and tiramisu and baguette and brie, kayaked the calanques with the fantastic guide Renaud Kernacker, and drove to the top of Cap Canaille to snap photos of the town below.
It was hard to leave the heavenly Maison º9. Like Nick and Carolyn, Erin and I will gladly recommend it to one and all.
We drove away, stopping in Aix-en-Provence to walk the alleys, visit the shops, and enjoy an espresso on the main street. Then back into the car, on the search for fields of lavender, over to the famous Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque. A short drive back up the hills, and we stopped in Gordes, parked, and walked into the town. It blew us away, with its winding alleys and old church and dramatic views.
Onto Avignon, where we dropped our luggage at Maison Velvet just inside the old wall, drove the car to return it at the TGV station, then took a taxi back into the old city, where we walked along the old canal, found Le Chapelier Toqué (recommended by Maya Masseboeuf at Maison Velvet), and had the most surprising and delicious meal: velvety raw scallops for me, then moist swordfish steaks topped with a Chinese sweet-and-sour sauce, and grilled vegetables so fresh and flavorful we wondered why we were the only patrons at this tiny restaurant. A most memorable meal.
The next day, a walk to the indoor Avignon les Halles that reminded us of the West Side Market in Cleveland. Then a short train ride to Arles to tour the Roman amphitheatre, and buy more gifts at the outdoor market, and lunch at Le Criquet, another delicious meal — gazpacho, and pasta with prawns and broccoli — with light and tasty wine. Back in Avignon, we hiked up and around the Palace of the Popes, then met Aline Gemayel (friend of a friend) at Le Moutardier du Pape for more wine, and talk of the pending Avignon theatre festival, and American politics, and Arab playwrights from Beirut; Aline runs a project, Association TAMAM, that promotes Arab theatre. On her recommendation, Erin and I dined at le Restaurant d’Ici et d’Ailleurs; pistou, vegetable and cheese terrine, lamb tagine, roast chicken on mashed potatoes, a small bottle of Cotes du Rhone red. After dinner, a walk to see the Pont d’Avignon, and a thrilling ride on the Ferris wheel beside the river.
Back on the TGV in the morning, speeding onto Paris, where it was drizzly and chilly. We walked near the Eiffel Tower, weaving amid the giddy Icelanders eager to see their team advance in the tournament (France would beat them that night, 5-2). We stopped for crepes, then returned to our tiny hotel room in the 14th arrondissement to freshen up.
A short walk, and we arrived at the famous dinner party of American Jim Haynes. I’d heard his Inviting the World to Dinner essay, on NPR, back in 2009, and the timing was perfect for us to join his weekly Sunday meal, where we met other Americans, and others from Amsterdam and Serbia and England and Ireland, and a Frenchman with a houseboat on the Seine that has 2 rooms for nightly stays, and Jim’s new neighbor, a Parisian woman with a daughter who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The first person I meet there, though, is an American living in Chicago, who told me he knew a digital pioneer in Chapel Hill. “That’s Paul Jones,” I said. “He was my mentor in graduate school.” Erin, meanwhile, was deep in conversation with a fellow attorney who also had paid for law school with a Foreign Language and Area Studies grant from the U.S. Department of Education (Erin studied Swahili, the other woman studied Serbian, but now works for the State Department in Somalia).
The next day, July fourth, we flew home. I watched Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and Good Will Hunting, read more Hamilton, wrote about what a lovely holiday we’d just had, and felt deeply, humbly fortunate to be married to Erin, my sweetheart.
☀ No.16, by Anton Zuiker, on July 12, 2016
The nuts and bolts section of the about page notes the blogging tools I use. There have been some important updates in the last couple of months. A 4.6.0 beta version of Textpattern is out. I’ll test the new version, and upgrade this site soon.
Dave Winer opened up his new blogging software, 1999.io. I’m using 1999 for an Island Times blog, at blog.zuiker.com, with more frequent posts. I dig how simple it is to blog with 1999, and how that’s helping me get back to writing.
I’ve also begun to create a river of news for the various sites I read regularly. See my.zuiker.com for now.
☀ No.15, by Anton Zuiker, on June 7, 2016
Anna comes home today from an eight-day service trip to Newton Grove, North Carolina. I hope it has been as formative an experience as the one I had when I lived in Idaho and got a glimpse at the lives of migrant farmworkers.
Every year, the freshman class of Carolina Friends School travels down I-40 to Newton Grove to work with the migrant farmworkers, mostly from Mexico and living in camps nearby as they work in the fields much of the year.
This trip is one reason Erin and I wanted Anna to go to CFS, a Quaker school that values peace and serenity and service. We were excited that Anna would have this opportunity to bond with her classmates, in a setting that would give her perspective on how men, women and children from beyond our borders are important to how Americans live and eat.
The students aren’t allowed to take their phones and digital devices, so we’ve been following the blog for the trip. We were happy to see Anna having a good time in this snapshot of a group) washing a school bus. We’re eager to hear more about the week, and especially how it’s changed Anna.
My own experience, as a child living in southeast Idaho, has colored all the rest of my life and decisions. I am who I am today because of what I learned, firsthand, from the Mexican farmworkers.
My father was working as an attorney for Legal Aid, and he represented a group of men who had been treated roughly by a local farmer. As they waited for their case to get to court, the seven men lived in the basement of our home (the photo above shows the group at one of the camps). I remember the neighbors complaining after one of the men, locked out of the house and waiting for us to return, peed against a tree in the front yard. A few years later, dad’s advocacy culminated in an Idaho law requiring farms to provide portable toilets in the fields.
Later, dad took me out to see the farmworker camps and the cinder-block bunkhouses. We also worked alongside a group of guys one week, planting saplings for Christmas trees. I took my pee breaks near the creek, admiring the cattails and red-winged blackbirds.
Those childhood experiences were combined with many more lessons from my mother and father, about poverty, service, culture and society, hard work and food, family and community. Those experiences and lessons have guided me into adulthood, and continue to frame my choices as a parent, a professional, a person.
I’m grateful Anna’s been able to walk a similar path.
Meanwhile, Erin’s sister, Katherine Shaughnessy, and her husband, Tom Michael, will be moving to Boise, Idaho this summer. They’ve been living in Marfa, Texas, where Tom founded Marfa Public Radio and led it to great success. He’s now taken the job as general manager of Boise State Public Radio.
☀ No.14, by Anton Zuiker, on May 29, 2016
In April, my uncle, Larry Zuiker, took me hiking near Mesa, Arizona.
Larry is a serious hiker. He formed a group 20 years ago, called AZHIKRS, and he wrote a book about his favorite hikes in the Southeast. The day I visited him, he drove us into the Superstition Wilderness Area, readied his hiking poles and turned on his GPS unit, and led us along a stony riverbed and onto the Black Mesa Trail. The expansive desert was breathtaking, and we stopped often just to look around and see the contours of the hills. Larry had baked bread the day before, so we had hearty PB&J sandwiches when we stopped for lunch in a cool, shaded canyon. I wanted to see a rattlesnake, but none were out. The plentiful cactus, and the vistas, and the conversation along the six-mile hike made for a perfect day.
Next month, I will hike in the Parc National des Calanques along the Mediterranean near Marseilles, France. I may even wear the AZHIKRS shirt my generous uncle sent me.
☀ No.13, by Anton Zuiker, on May 27, 2016
Here’s how I spent a glorious Spring day in New York City.
Woke up early in my small-but-tidy Yotel New York room, or cabin, as they call it. Dressed in my running clothes, and walked down to the W. 30th St. gate of the High Line, a rails-to-trails elevated urban park that I’ve been reading about for a decade. The gates open at 7 a.m. this time of year, and I was early, so I waited with a cortado at Think Coffee. Then I climbed the steps and walked south on the High Line, mostly alone.
I exited the High Line at its end, and continued, running south on the Hudson River Greenway and Pier 45. Snapped a photo of One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. Turned back, ran to the High Line, walked to its north end at W. 34th St., then back to my hotel.
Showered, dressed, packed, checked out, stopped downstairs into the Swedish coffeeshop FIKA for yogurt and granola and cappuccino.
Walked over to my meeting with Thinkso Creative, to discuss the publication and e-newsletter design needs for the Duke Department of Medicine, where we’re drafting our next comprehensive, five-year communications plan.
Walked up 8th Ave. to Central Park. Sat in the grass near the USS Maine Monument. Temperature in the 70s, sunshine a light breeze. Could New York on a spring day be more amazing? Took a timelapse video of the walkers, bicyclists and horse-drawn carriages passing by.
Then, at the appointed time, I met Dave Winer by the monument.
Dave and I had biked the American Tobacco Trail — also a rails-to-trails project — in North Carolina back in 2012. A few weeks ago, I’d asked if he’d have time to meet when I was in NYC, hoping he’d introduce me to the Citi Bike system of which he’s such a huge proponent. Happily, he said yes.
First, Dave led me a short way into Central Park, past the sheep meadow, and we sat at the cafe for lunch and talk of politics, and 1999. Then, more strolling, to the Bethesda Fountain, over the iconic Bow Bridge, up and down the path, along the lake, Dave stopping a time or two to give directions to a stranger, or to point out a feature of the park. I don’t think I said much, and I didn’t snap any photos. I was stunned by the serenity of the park, and the warmth of the day, and wanted to soak it in. (The last time I was in Central Park was on a frigid day in February 2005, to see the Gates art installation.)
We were at a Citi Bike station. One minute to swipe my card, get my code, and pull out my bike. So easy. Thirty seconds more to adjust the seat, and then we were on our way, coasting down West Dr., pedaling past the Maine Monument again. At W. 59th St., Dave glanced over and asked if I was up for an adventure. Let’s go.
“We’re going to ride through Times Square,” he said.
That meant riding with traffic.
Sounds dangerous as hell, I thought, but fun, too.
Down 7th Ave., alongside yellow taxicabs and snaking through big tour buses, stopping at red lights, into the maelstrom of Times Square. I’ve walked there amid the throngs of people on previous visits, but it was exhilarating to be on wheels in the heart of it all, rolling through the artery. I was super alert, trying not to get killed, and having a grand time.
We continued south, and east, over to Midtown East. Our 30 minutes up, we returned the bikes to a Citi Bike station, and walked over to the 2nd Ave. Deli for dinner. For me, matzo ball soup, baked knish, fresh lemonade. Delicious. For dessert, a shared plate of blintzes and rugalech.
Dinner over, Dave planned our walk up and over past the Empire State Building, to the subway. Said thank you, goodbye, and thank you again, and I was on my way back to JFK Airport, and home to North Carolina.
Earlier that morning, I’d entered my name in the Hamilton ticket lottery, hoping I’d luck out and get to catch the smash musical from the first row. Dave and I were enjoying our lunch when the 4 o’clock drawing came round, but I didn’t get the your-ticket’s-waiting message. No matter.
When I finally stepped into my quiet home back in small-town Carrboro, at midnight, I was feeling damn fortunate.
I’d spent a beautiful, full day in a great American city. I walked, ran, biked, ate, listened, talked and rode through it, with a generous and knowledgable guide.
I won. What an immensely enjoyable day that was.
☀ No.13, by Anton Zuiker, on May 12, 2016
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