Jan 16th Update

This past Friday after an inconsistent PCR test on Tuesday Bob took another test and is positive so we are now a complete set. This morning Peter and Wilma went to a local doctor and got a letter stating their test situation and that they are now symptom fee and cleared for ravel. This letter will be submitted to a Bahamian gov’t doctor requesting a travel exemption. Bob will need to do the same after 10 days on the 24th. So we are here until the 25th and leaving will depend on the weather window to cross the stream. Lucky for us, when we told the marina that we were going to stay beyond our original one day that got us into the monthly rate so we do have our slip until Feb 5th.

In the meantime we are tidying and cleaning the boat and wandering around Titusville which is quite¬† quaint town. Since we are so close to Cape Canaveral we spent a day at the Kennedy Space Center much to everyone’s delight. We also went manatee watching at a special viewing platform in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Turns out it was on Haulover Canal which is where we passed through on our boat on our was south in late 2017. That was a busy Sunday and it was awkward navigating the canal with so many fishing boats buzzing about and then having to call for the lift bridge to be raised. This time was calm itself including only one manatee sighting.

March 6, 2019 – Paris

Sigh, last day in Paris.

First, our Spanish repair fellow got back from the store with salt for the dishwasher. We figure the water must be very hard if the salt dispenser is empty it won’t start. Of course there were no instructions about having to put salt in the machine and where to put it. Once he put the salt in the the machine worked. The interesting thing about this maintenance/repair job is that the fellow in our flat was FaceTiming with a guy somewhere in the UK who was also Spanish but spoke English. He was the go between telling us what was being done. The fellow in our flat was using his phone as a camera to show him inside the washing machine so he could tell the guy in the flat what he needed to do. Ain’t technology grand.

Today was art culture day. We had very successfully explored the food and wine culture, it was time for something inedible. Caroline noticed lots of posters for a retrospective of art by Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) It was at the Petit Palais, a beautiful building built for the 1900 Exposition Universale. It’s now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. Neither Bob or I had ever heard of him and on a personal level he was, as Carolyn said a pretty strange dude. He was from Bruges and a lot of his landscapes were from that area. He used his sister as the model for many of his paintings of women and was in fact a misogynist. I did like many of his works and we were all glad we went to the exhibit.

Entrance to Petite Palais
Statue of Winston Churchill outside Petite Palais

After lunch back at the flat we chilled for a while but didn’t want to sit around until dinner, we had reservations at Juveniles for 7:30. It was about a 10-12 minutes walk to Bon Marche, a very high end department store so that’s where we headed in search of a French made carrot peeler – we have one and friends have brought them at the Ex in Toronto. We didn’t find exactly what we wanted but both Caroline and I picked up beautiful tea towels. However, the real find of the trip was the rough made-in- Germany shower mitts, I’m addicted to them. I had bought them in France on previous trips at a chain called Parashop but they no longer carry them. Caroline suggested we check out a drugstore we passed which had lots of mirrors and shaving type items in the window and lo and behold, they carried the mitts. Not the same label that I bought before but these were also made in Germany and were exactly the same material. Yea! So a very successful shopping expedition.

Dinner at Juveniles was terrific, a wonderful way to end our stay in Paris. Tim, the now mostly retired owner, his daughter and her husband now run it, popped in so Caroline was able to have a good chat with him. The journey home had a minor hiccup. We had to take two different lines to get to Juveniles so when we headed back to our flat, the line we wanted to transfer to was no longer open, it closes at 10pm. Bob and Caroline to the maps and they found an alternate line which in fact took us the to metro stop closest to our flat.

Caroline and Bob to the maps

Bob has been our map man both in Malta and Paris, Google maps has links to most major transit systems, very handy for finding routes and checking timetables. It was totally worth having data turned on – at least prices from Canadian carriers have come down a bit although not nearly as cheap as having a local SIM card. Caroline and I didn’t have data on as we relied on wifi and Bob’s phone when we weren’t in a wifi environment ?

I think we are all ready to go home, it’s been a terrific holiday in Malta and Paris. We can hardly wait to experience the -17C temperatures that await us.

March 5, 2019 – Paris

Great day – we did the walking food tour in Montmartre today. We met up at 11am and finished eating and drinking at 3pm. There were 10 of us, all the others were from the US and much younger than us. One couple had their 13 year old daughter with them, they were from Atlanta and the other two couples were from California, one from LA, the other couple was from San Fran.

Our guide Theo was terrific, we guess he’s in his mid 20s. Born in Paris to an English mother and French father. His English was perfect, with an “english” accent but he was very good speaking ‘American’. He went to university in Cambridge doing film studies but said he hadn’t found it easy to break into the field, so far, so he’s been doing these tours since last October.

Theo provided a lot of excellent historical back ground about the area and the merchants we visited. He pointed out how to separate the not so authentic macaron shops, for example, from the authentic ones. Our first stop was a marvellous chocolate shop where we all picked out two favourites and then we moved on to the macaron shop. Again, we picked out two macaron to eat right then or save for later.

Chocolatier, row of goodies from which we picked our two favourites
Patisserie with the chocolate & pistachio eclairs – they were delicious.

Next was an amazing cheese shop where we got to sample a cheese but Theo bought several for us to eat later. He provided a lot of interesting information about French cheeses and their history. Next was the Jackie Gaudin Boucherie. All his meat is sourced from grass fed animals. One really interesting bit was that on Sundays he roasts all the chicken/ducks/geese that have come to their best before dates and they sell out quickly. In looking at the prices, they were not at all out of line with what we would pay for this quality of meat. We did get to sample some sausage, it was delish of course. And Theo picked up stuff for later.

Bobby at the Boucherie

Next stop, the bakery, where Theo bought many baguettes, put in one large bag, the baguettes were still warm. It was now raining on and off , started when we went to the butcher. Next stop was a hole in the wall creperie, we all got to choose one to eat on the street – yum! They were cooked to order.

Theo led us to the office of the tour company where they have a great little room with a long table for us to enjoy all the goodies Theo picked up. We proceeded to eat bread, many amazing cheeses, a goose meat rillettes (it was my favourite) a pork tourrine, a salami and ham. This was all served with wine, whites to start with and then we switched to reds. Amazingly, Bob was able to drink the reds without any ill after effects. The final course was dessert from the bakery, eclairs, with either chocolate or pistachio filling. Theo told us that French eclairs have the same topping and filling, no mixing of chocolate on top with a cream filling.

Theo slicing the amazing Brillat-Savarin, the stuff in the middle is truffle
Our merry band sans Caroline who took the picture

The whole experience was great, we were not rushed at all, could ask questions and share stories. One of the women in the office was Finnish, Laura, so I got to chat with her in Finnish for a while. She has been in France for a long time. And of course we brought home the chocolates we’d picked out the shop.

We were stuffed and just headed for the metro and our flat. Interestingly the tour company’s little office was near where we had dinner last night we so the Metro station was familiar to us.

The excitement of the evening is getting a few things fixed at the flat. David, the guy who is supposed to look after things locally has been pretty much incognito. Bob ended up phoning the US company that owns Vacation in Paris Holiday Rentals and they’ve been terrific trying to sort things out. The owner of the flat even phoned us tonight. We’ve had both email and phone contact with the US company and they’ve made no bones about the fact that they are very unhappy with David and pretty much said he was a goner.

A young Spanish man who speaks only Spanish arrived a while ago and tightened up the loose kitchen faucet. Then, while FaceTiming with some other guy, they were trying to figure out why the dishwasher would not start. The fellow on the phone does speak English so he told Bob that the dishwasher needs some kind of “stuff” – not soap, to work. We think it might be some kind of water softener/salt thing. So the poor guy has now gone off to the supermarket to get what ever this stuff is. I’ll leave the end of this exciting saga to tomorrow.

March 4, 2019 – Paris

The weather gods were not with us today. Unfortunately the Paris forecast we’ve been reading for more than a week did not change. We bundled up and headed out across the Seine to a shop called G Detou which specializes in herbs, spices and especially baking goods. It’s been around for years and not one of those fancy yuppie type shops.

It was a fairly miserable walk, windy and rainy but at least the rain was not pouring. I was wearing my hiking rain coat, not a fashion statement, especially in Paris, but it sure kept the rain out and it has the kind of hood that stays on even in the wind. Bob braved the elements with just his cap and not-so-rainproof jacket. We managed to find G Detou after a couple of twists and turns.

Just got across the Seine, by Notre Dame, windy, rainy. Ignore the blue clouds

Inside G Detou, the friendly manager (owner?)

The shop has been there for years and not fancy inside at all. We got our herbes de province at an excellent price but it’s no longer packed in kilo bags as it was the last Caroline got it. At least it’s in a plastic bottle – 250g, so easy to put in our luggage.

We walked to the Marais (includes the old Jewish quarter) for lunch at Chez Marianne, which was a Mediterranean type restaurant. The food was good, reasonable prices, and I loved the wall of red wine. Caroline had read about the best place for falafels in Paris and we walked by it after lunch. There was a long lineup outside, most people get take-out and eat on the street as there is very limited seating inside.

Bob and Caroline heading in our lunch restaurant in the Marais
Wall of wine in Chez Marianne
The famous falafel restaurant, line up was long out of the picture range

It was back home after that to warm up a bit and get our rain coats dried out although the rain had stopped when we came out of the restaurant after lunch. Caroline and I went bra shopping, to Simone Perele, which conveniently had a store just a 5 minute walk from our flat. I was not familiar with the name but Caroline has been buying it for years at Sofia’s on the Danforth – a Toronto women’s lingerie institution. Let’s just say the Paris prices were quite a bit less than in Toronto.

We had our first metro ride today to get our dinner restaurant, another Ron recommendation, called Le Pantruche. After a few missteps, we found the metro entrance where we could buy tickets. Aside from Bob almost not getting on the train, a guy in front of him stepped into the car and immediately stopped so Bob had to actually shove him in as doors were starting to close. Finding the direction we had to walk to get to the restaurant was the next challenge. The metro exit was on a very wide cross street with several other streets running off it. Thank goodness for Bob’s iPhone with Google maps. The streets had few shops with the word SEX but we saw lots of locals with kids so we didn’t feel in the least worried. There were quite a few restaurants along the way but it was not as touristy an area as where our flat is.

The restaurant was just great. Not very big, packed to the gills, we were lucky to get a reservation, and our feeling was that most of the patrons were Parisians. We saw two sets of people who were out celebrating as gifts were exchanged. We think one set was parents whose daughter joined them with some tops for the father. It was an easier trip back to our flat since we knew where we were going – always a good thing.

March 3, 2019 – Paris

With some minor twinges about waste, we enjoyed our Nespresso coffee this morning. It was a very noisy night outside, lots of people, being Saturday night, walking by our building talking in loud voices. I woke to groups at 2:30am and 3:30am and then there was the garbage and bottle pick up, especially the bottle pick up!!! around 7am – yes – on a Sunday. The garbage gets picked up every day in this area.

We all tried out the showers, worked fine and then walked to the Boulevard Raspail to the Organic Food market. It’s near the flat we stayed at in 2011 so we had hoped it was open while we were here. It looks like it operates on Sundays and Tuesdays. We checked out the vendors before we bought anything and at the end of stalls we came to a fellow who was making potato, cheese and onion galettes. So of course we had to have some to help in the decision making process on what brunch food to buy. They were wonderful.

Making galettes at Raspail market


We picked up cheese, carrots & radishes to munch on raw, baguettes, croissants, a small quiche, a small tart citron and Caroline got a small bunch of daffodils to brighten our table. On the way back to the flat we ogled the windows of the many beautiful men’s and women’s clothing shops and shoe shops in this area – not for the light of purse.

Picking out our baked goodies
Getting ready to eat, note the daffodils

After lunch and digesting for a while, Caroline and I walked over to St. Sulpice church while Bob stayed home to nurse a headache. Construction began in 1646 and wasn’t finished until the mid 1800s. It is only slightly smaller than Notre Dame. We then walked over the Luxembourg Gardens and went by the street Bob and I stayed at in 2011. Despite the overcast weather, the park was full of people. The tennis courts were full, there were pony rides for kids, and you could play in little sailboats in the large man made pond. It was lovely to see the park so well used.

One of the chapels in St. Sulpice
Ponies rides at Luxembourg Gardens
Sailboats on the pond

We had been doing battle with the washing machine over the day, which allegedly also works as a dryer, but we finally gave up. On the first try, after the wash cycle, we put it, according to English instructions, into a drying cycle which turned out to be a 2hr45min wash cycle. I found a drying rack in one of closets, we we hope by tomorrow morning most things will be dry.

Dinner was at Fish la Boisonnerie – owed by Aussies. This is another recommendation from Caroline’s friend Ron. We ate here the last time we were in Paris, the food is still delicious. Interestingly one of the French staff is flying to Montreal on Tuesday to visit his 14 year old son for a couple of weeks and is planning to move there in two years.

And then there is another water saga. Seems to be a bit of a theme with the leak on the third floor of the Malta house and water coming into Caroline’s bathroom during the wind & rain storm on Malta. We were getting ready for dinner and Bob called out from our bedroom, “why is there water on the floor”, then we could see it dripping from the ceiling. We had heard people going up the stairs earlier, speaking English, and heard footsteps above us so Caroline and I knocked on their door. It was opened by a young woman, turned to be an American studying at the American University. She said the leak might have come from the dishwasher as they were just running it. She also said there had been water problems before. She suggested we knock on their door when we got back from dinner if it was still leaking as that would definitely not be be dishwasher.

Sure enough it was still dripping when we got home and as put a bucket I found in closet under the major drip area I could feel it was hot water. So back I go and Gabby invited me into the flat – it was gorgeous! We figured it was the hot water tank leaking. She called the landlord, who of course spoke English with a gorgeous French accent. The last time this happened Gabby turned off the water and stayed at her friend Ian’s place – Ian was in the flat with her, nice young man. So the decision was she would turn off the water and they would go back to Ian’s flat and meanwhile the landlord would make arrangement to have a someone look at it Monday morning.

It took a little while for dripping to stop but it did and we didn’t have to sleep in Chinese water torture room. Actually, Caroline volunteered to sleep on the sofa and would have let us her bed (queen) if the dripping didn’t stop.

March 2, 2019 – Paris

Our alarms were set for 5:45 am, the taxi was scheduled to come at 7am. I had a dream that the taxi company called us just before 7am to say they were unable to send a cab so I was relieved when it arrived a bit before 7. We flew Malta to Munich to Paris. Both flights were pretty much on time. Interestingly, on the 2+ hour flight to Munich there was nothing for free, you would have had to pay even for water. On the slightly over 1 hour flight to Paris, we were offered sandwiches and drinks (non alcoholic) for free. I guess the first flight (Maltese airline) was one of those no-frills flights, Munich to Paris was Lufthansa.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle meeting up with our pre-arranged cab driver but we did find each other once Bob called the company. He was supposed to have been holding a sign with Story on it but he had the name displayed on his phone. I also think he was not near the exit when we arrived as we were all looking for him. However, he was a nice young man who did a great job navigating through the traffic for an hour to get to our flat in the 6th arr.

View from the taxi

The next challenge, once we got through the two sets of doors with codes, was getting the door to the flat open. All three of us tried, Bob finally got it open with a “special” tug on the big immobile handle in the middle of the door. The flat is as pictured but we’re quite sure the pictures were taken before there was much wear and tear on the furniture. However, it’s fine, the location is great which is one of the reasons we chose it. Caroline and I went to the Carrefour, which is only about a five minute walk, to pick up few groceries and a few bottles of wine – one in each colour. The walk there took a bit more than five minutes as we kept stopping to do some window shopping. Lots of shoe and clothing stores along the way.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant close to our flat recommend by Caroline’s friend Ron. It was reeeeelly good. The weather today in Paris was ok, cloudy but not cold. Sadly, if the forecast is to be believed, we’ll get some rain every day that we’re here.

March 1, 2019 – Balzan, Malta

It was an exciting last day on Malta. The plan for today was to take the bus to the cliffs at Dingli and then walk back to the restaurant where we had lunch a couple of days ago. The day didn’t start well, our bus was very late and we thought we had missed the connecting bus at Rabat and would have to wait close to an hour for the next one. The bus schedule at our stop in Rabat didn’t necessary agree with Bob’s Google Malta transit App, not unusual.

When we left the house it was sunny and quite warm. By the time got to Rabat a lot of clouds had rolled in and the winds had picked up so it was cool waiting for the bus. Much to our pleasant surprise we only had to wait about 15 minutes – that was the good part. We got to Dingli, passed the restaurant and as our bus met an oncoming bus on a typically narrow road, it pulled off to one side and in the process slightly scraped some paint off the front of a car that was parked a few inches over “the line” – on a corner. The driver of the oncoming bus stopped – he had to as he couldn’t pass us but I think also hung around to provide support to his fellow driver. The woman who owned the car seemed to be making a huge issue out of the whole thing. It was very difficult to see the damage, it was so minor. The driver of the other bus said it would be at least an hour before anything would be moving as they had to call the police.

We got off the bus and walked to the cliffs, it was only about a 10-15 minute walk and lo and behold, came across the sign for Bobbyland – who’d have thunk it!

Our driver on the right, woman in white coat is owner of car that was scraped

Windy cliffs at Dingli
Cliffs at Dingli
Navigation Transmitting Site

The views of the cliffs were pretty spectacular. It was very windy so we were careful not to get too close to the edge, but it was not as windy as when we were climbing Goat Fell !!!

We walked along the cliffs as far the Navigation Transmitting Site, which looked like giant golf ball. A plaque across the road pointed out that the first Radio Directing Finding radar installed outside of the UK was mounted underground at this location in 1939. It was supposed to be an experimental installation but as WWII was declared a few months later, it became a permanent installation which proved to be very useful in the defence of Malta and other parts of the Mediterranean.

We walked the backroads back to Dingli and had a wonderful lunch back at Diar it-Bniet. We picked up the Malta tour book that got left on the table when we were there for lunch on Wednesday. We recognized one couple that had been on the bus, we wondered whether they had come straight to the restaurant from the big accident.

Our return bus ride was totally uneventful. Packing tonight, our taxi comes at 7am, we fly to Paris for the next 6 days.

February 29, 2019 – Balzan, Malta

A fairly relaxing day today. We did the two harbours tour this morning, it was sunny but cool on the open upper deck. Our tour boat was one of the smaller ones that could go deeper into the creeks. These are very much working harbours with a very large dry dock that can accommodate tankers needing repairs. There were also many creeks with pleasure boat marinas, lots of money tied up in those harbours. I took a picture of a very nice looking Greek boat which I’m assuming was a ferry, I must remember to google it. There sure were a lot of fortifications from the mid 16th century.

Valletta side
Our tour boat came under that bridge
Dry dock, love the sense of humour painting the crane like a giraffe

The Greek boat

We parted company with Bob after the boat trip. Bob went to Fort St Elmo to do the tour, Caroline and I went back to the house and had lunch at a local cafe – it was fair to middlin’.

Fort St Elmo was built in the 1400s and expanded when the Knights of St John took over Malta in 1530 after being defeated at their headquarters on Rhodes by the Ottomans. The fort saw major action in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded killing everyone in this fort. However, there are many other forts around this harbour, the largest in the Mediterranean. Eventually the Turks had to retire as the other forts held. This fort and in fact all of its peninsula was expanded by the Knights and the new city behind St Elmo, Valletta, became the capital. St Elmo was central in the defence of Malta during WWII and was bombed repeatedly by the Italians and then the Germans up until 1942. After that it became the staging centre for the invasion of Sicily.

Fort St Elmo commands the entrance Grand Harbour
Still guarding the old gate
The last of the Knights fought to their deaths defending the St Anne Chapel altar.
For the WWII guns it took of lot of concrete to renforce the ramparts due to the guns being so much heavier. Many lookout towers were also built.

February 27, 2019 – Balzan

We went back to Valletta today first to tour the Casa Rocca Piccola. It’s a 16th century palace and currently the home of the noble de Piro family. It was built in 1580 by one of the Knights of St John, Admiral Don Pierrot la Rocca. During WWII, or really before the war began but it was obvious it would happen, the then owner had the water cisterns drains in order to build bomb shelters for the family. Once war came, up to 300 people were able to use the shelters.

Winter dining room
Summer dining room

Our tour guide was excellent and it was interesting to see rooms that included lots of personal effects, paintings and photos of the families that had lived and still live there.

We then walked to the War Rooms which Bob wanted to tour, Caroline and I did some window shopping while he did the tour. I bought a small piece of handmade Maltese lace which I plan to have framed. The shop had a lovely small piece of lace already framed but at at 200 euros, I decided against it.

After lunch, we walked to the terminal for the ferry from Valletta to Sliema and found that the regular ferry was out for maintenance so a Captain Morgan tour line boat was providing the service. It was quite a long wait as the tour boat is not as fast as the ferry so could not keep up the “every 15 minutes” schedule.

Had the most amazing dinner at a place recommended by our landlady, 10ish minute walk from out house.

February 26, 2019 – Balzan, Malta

More amazing Neolithic temples today. Our first stop, after an interesting winding bus ride that took us past the Dingli cliffs was to Hagar Qim. There was an excellent little introductory museum and also a 4D movie about the site. As with the other two sites we’ve visited, the mind boggles on how the huge boulders were moved. According to the information on the site, there is/was a lot of limestone in the area so at least it didn’t need to be moved miles and miles from where it was quarried.

Temple at Hagar Qim
Bob & Caroline – Temple at Hagar Qim
Temple at Hagar Qim

The second temple site, called Mnajdra is about a 10 walk towards the sea. According to information in the museum, both sites were again from around 3500BC and are supposed to be the oldest freestanding structures in the world.

Path from Hagar Qim to Mnajdra

We had a beer break on the sunny patio of the restaurant on the site and then took the bus to Dingli, passing the gorgeous cliffs which we plan to visit later this week. Our plan was to have lunch there, the guidebook claimed there were numerous cafes in the village, one restaurant which used a lot of local produce. When we first got off the bus we thought we’d made a mistake as we couldn’t see any cafes that were open. Then, whew, we came across Diar Il-Binet, the restaurant mentioned in the guide book. It was fabulous, the food was great and Caroline and I bought olive wood serving/cooking spoons for ourselves. We’re coming to walk part of the Dingli cliffs on Friday so we’ll be coming back here for lunch.

Dinner tonight at the local football club was not too exciting but ok.