Nothing like heading to Europe on the day the European Union removes the US from its “safe list” of countries whose citizens don’t have to jump through lots of Covid hoops. I think this news broke as we were flying from San Diego to Dallas. Reading the details of what had happened, as reported by the New York Times, I wasn’t too worried, however. It seemed folks who were unvaccinated would be affected — but not Steve and me.

I worried more about getting into France. Up to the minute we departed, the rules were that vaccinated folks could get in if they presented:

1) Their passports

2) Their CDC vaccination cards (completed at least two weeks before entry)

3) A form testifying to the fact that one wasn’t sick and had no signs of Covid (or immediate recent contact with anyone infected)

Steve and I assembled all these things and even fed them into an app called “VeriFLY” that electronically documented our readiness for French travel. In the Dallas airport, the crew at the check-in desk also gave us another complex Passenger Locater Record form to fill out on the plane.

We had all these pieces of paper ready at Charles DeGaulle airport when our plane touched down 10 minutes early Friday morning. After deplaning we hurried to the passport-control booths, where a cute young Frenchman casually thumbed through our passports and stamped each of them in turn. Almost as an afterthought he said, ‘Vaccine, vaccine?” “Sure!” I responded, flashing him my white CDC card tucked into my passport jacket. He waved us on, not even interested in seeing Steve’s card or the Passenger Locator Form or the health testimony forms we had painstakingly prepared. We collected our bags, breezed out of the secure area, and less than 40 minutes after our plane’s wheels hitting the tarmac, we were in an Uber heading for the home of our friend Olivia.

Another more ominous hoop loomed. Around the beginning of August, the French powers-that-be ordered all French people to show an electronic vaccine passport in order to ride on trains, visit museums, or dine in restaurants. Because the EU has standardized digital vaccine records, this passport is easy for French people to get. But for folks vaccinated abroad and armed with proof such as those white CDC cards, it’s been more complicated. At first Americans who were either in France or arriving in France by August 11 were told they could submit an application for a digital pass and three supporting documents (passport, pdf of a white CDC card, and copy of a ticket out of France) to a certain email address. But if you were arriving after that, you were supposed to wait.

On August 12 they opened the admission process for a few more days, then pushed it further down the line every few days after that. Steve and I were overjoyed when on the Thursday before our departure (8/26), the French website said we at last could submit our documents. Within minutes we had uploaded them, but we heard nothing for days, up to and including the morning we arrived at Olivia’s. This was worrisome; we had tickets to a couple of museums on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as a Friday morning train for Bordeaux.

We did have a backup plan in case our passes failed to show up. Testing stations like this are all over town, and if you get a negative test result, you can receive a 72-hour pass. But we wanted to avoid this particular hoop, if possible.

Exhausted from the flight, we took a nap Tuesday afternoon. When we awoke, the electronic vaccine passes were in our inboxes!

We loaded them into our Apple wallets, and Olivia helped us get them printed on paper as a backup. We had to use them for the first time Wednesday afternoon when the three of us made our way to the Place de la Concorde to visit the brand-new Hotel de la Marine museum (which reminded me more of the Palace at Versailles than anything else I’ve ever seen in Paris.) Attendants at the door demanded to scan our electronics passports, and the QR codes worked. We used them again Thursday afternoon when Steve and I went to the brand-new (Pinault Foundation) contemporary art museum that just opened in the renovated former stock exchange building.

Steve getting his digital vaccine pass checked in order to enter the Hotel de la Marine.

We showed them again them this morning and got blue wrist bands confirming our vaccinated status to get on the TGV. But we didn’t need them to get on the metro. Or city buses. Or into grocery stores or pharmacies or Monoprix or the sidewalk cafe where we had coffee and croissants yesterday morning. We did have to don a mask to enter all those places, and Olivia says technically everyone is supposed to mask up outdoors too. But only half the folks we see on the street are masked.

I feel confident that at least in France, any additional Covid hoops will be trivial — and probably non-existent at the wedding this weekend. Down the road there could be more. But the reality of what we’re seeing on the ground in France makes me think I shouldn’t worry much.

Two weddings and a tour of the teeny-tiny countries

If you’re reading this, it means Steve and I have managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean, enter France, and make our way to the apartment of our friend Olivia in Neuilly, just outside the Paris city limits. We will have begun an adventure I began planning two years ago, inspired by an invitation to the wedding of Olivia’s older daughter, Annabelle. Originally, we expected to fly to Europe in May of 2020, but the Covid lockdowns forced everyone to cancel all their plans. When the wedding was rescheduled and a second wedding (of Annabelle’s sister, Marguerite) was set for May/June 2021, I rebooked everything. But a surge in case levels led the sisters to postpone their celebrations again.

Now we’ve made it into the country and are just four days from the first nuptials, which will take place in Bordeaux. The second event takes place October 9 in the south of France. In between Steve and I have planned a wide-ranging tour through some of the smallest countries on earth: Andorra, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Vatican City, Malta, and Monaco.

We’ve both been to Vatican City before, and Steve made a lightning visit to Liechtenstein in 1974, but the rest will be new to us. The micro states stand out in other ways beyond their limited size. They rank among the wealthiest countries on Earth, and their citizens live longer than almost anywhere else (because prosperity and physical well-being go hand in hand?) They have oddball forms of government. Three are principalities, one’s a Grand Duchy, Vatican City is a city-state (Malta and San Marino are humdrum republics.)

We have to fly into and out of Malta (an island). But mostly we expect to get around on trains and buses and in a couple of rented cars. We smile at how this trip reminds us of our honeymoon 47 years ago. Then we tore around Europe’s Big Bruisers — France, Germany, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy. How different will it be to visit the pipsqueaks? We don’t know. But we are optimistic it will be interesting.

Our French Wedding

We came to France to attend a wedding. It’s a long way to travel, but we feel like we’ve known the groom since before he was born. His mother and I got pregnant almost simultaneously, and after decades of interactions, his family and ours feel as close as family. So Paul-Louis’s wedding stirred us and touched our hearts for many personal reasons. But it also was a fascinating intercultural experience.

Now that it’s over, I can report at least a dozen ways in which the marriage festivities were unlike their American cousins:

1) There were no night-before-the-wedding activities for those in the wedding party. This was great for us because it meant that our friend, the groom’s mother, was free to dine with us. Still, we marveled at the ability to stage such a complex dramatic event with no rehearsal.

2) The bride and groom, like all married couples in France, were wed in a civil ceremony back in March. That was a much smaller affair, but still included immediate family members and godparents. It took place at the City Hall of Neuilly, the suburb just outside Paris where our friend Olivia lives. The bigger event (which we and about 175 other people were attending) was held in a church that is almost 700 years old, built back in the days when Roman Catholic popes lived and ruled from their palace in Avignon (just across the river) from the church town.

3) The church service, naturally, was entirely in French, and I didn’t recognize a single hymn.

4) Even though it was close to 100 degrees outside (and pretty toasty inside the church), the vast majority of the men (young and old) wore suits. Ladies got to wear much skimpier outfits.

5) The service was supposed to start at 3:30, but for 5 or 10 minutes past that hour, many guests stood in the main aisle and pews, socializing. (Some of the young guys took off their suit coats for this part.)

6) Most of the wedding party zoomed up the aisle briskly, paired up in ways that seemed eccentric to our American eyes: the groom escorting his mother to her seat in the first pew on the right side of the church; followed by the bride’s and groom’s sisters, escorted by their romantic partners also to seats in the first two pews; the groom’s father escorting the bride’s mother; two female and and two male “witnesses” each with escorts, and finally no less than seven adorable little boys (the offspring of the bride’s two sisters). In the program they were identified as enfants ‘d’honneur (literally, children of honor).

The bride and her father did move at a more stately pace, however.

7) There were NO flower girls (but many comments about how Paul-Louis and Candice need to make up for the dearth of family females).

8) Most alien to our eyes: after the marriage ceremony and Mass, no permission from the priest for the groom to kiss the bride, and no ceremonial striding of the couple down the aisle to the strains of Mendelssohn. Instead, the bride and groom had to sign some sort of register off one of the side aisles, and while they attending to this, the guests gradually got to their feet and straggled out the front door of the church.

9) The big finale instead came when the groom and bride walked down the aisle of the almost-empty church and emerged onto the front step, where almost everyone pelted them with white rose petals. (Everyone except for clueless Steve and me, still inside the church, confused about what was going on.)

10) The bride and groom drove off in a classic white French Deux Chevaux (their equivalent of our Model T).

A little while later, everyone converged on a domaine on the island in the middle of the Rhone River between Avignon and Villeneuve Les Avignons, and the reception festivities played out there. These were splendid: first cocktails on a huge lawn under enormous trees, then a very formal sit-down dinner, followed by dancing. The food and wine were superb. The speeches (as far as my French went in understanding them) were witty and articulate. And once again, we were fascinated by the cultural differences. Including:
When Paul-Louis and Candice joined the party, the DJ in the room cued up music and everyone rose to their feet, twirling their napkins over their heads. This went on for quite a while.

The dinner and speeches lasted from 8 pm until about 12:30 am. Only THEN did the dancing begin!

I couldn’t resist joining in for 3 or 4, but Steve and I were pretty tired by then. We tumbled into bed about 1:30, but then arose again fairly early to join the brunch back at the domaine.

The grand lawn, where the cocktail party segment of the reception was held, along with the Sunday brunch.

All weddings are special. This was was sure no exception.

Seven reasons we liked Marseille 

Steve expected Marseille to be grubby and disagreeable. But on our whirlwind visit, we had a great time. Among the more likable things:

1) Delicious seafood

2) Reminders of how close we were to North Africa (coupled with adamant assurances from our B&B operator that, unlike in Paris, here everyone gets along extremely well)

3) Some of the most intensely royal blue and azure and turquoise ocean I’ve ever seen

4) The oldest hardware store in France (where we found the bolts and screws we needed to repair my broken suitcase handle)

5) A church filled with dangling ship models

6) A lively, sun-drenched port.

7) Lots of great vistas

One of those little islands in the distance is the site of Chateau d’If, the fictional home of the Count of Monte Cristo

(Less likable was the intense heat. But now that we’ve moved inland, Marseille feels like a cool respite.)

A Visit to Frank in the Bois

Not so much to write about, as I expected, but a bunch of great sights crammed into our 48 hours in Paris, including sections of the Seine transformed into a beach-ish place…

…and our first visit to the wonderful new exhibit space by master architect Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne. (Just a 20-minute walk from Olivia’s house, The Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuiton opened in late 2014). Both the building and the current exhibition (art by contemporary African artists) took my breath away. We had to tear ourselves away after more than three hours.

Now we’re in Marseilles, a much messier, grittier, more international kind of place.


As is usually the case with travel adventures, Steve and I had dozens of other experiences on our recent trip that intrigued or edified or tantalyzed us. But I didn’t write about them because to be interested in most of it, you had to be there. The only remaining item I feel drawn to report on is our experience with the love locks of Paris.

When Steve and I first went to Paris together in March of 1974, there were no love locks. Their exact origins are murky, but a common explanation is that sometime in the early 2000s, lovers began writing their initials on locks and attaching them to the metal bars of Paris’s Pont des Arts. After securing the locks, each couple threw their key into the Seine — a symbol of their commitment to each other and to Paris.

So many locks came to adorn the Pont des Arts that Paris city administrators periodically have ordered them removed. But the locks have reappeared and the concept has spread to other cities ranging from Taiwan to Toronto. I discovered this when I was planning this trip. Somehow, I’d never seen them anywhere. I wanted to rectify that, and as I thought about it, I decided I should surprise Steve with a love lock of our own.

The Pont des Arts isn’t that far from the Pompidou Center, so after we finished touring the Cartier-Bresson exhibit, I suggested we stroll there. Olivia was busy; we planned to rendezvous later. The afternoon was taking on the golden glow that develops when the weather is fine, and as we approached the bridge, all the locks adorning it gleamed.

Some of them are gaudy…

or mawkish…

…while most are plain. Any one of them, alone, would not be eye-catching. But as a communal art work, they have a textured beauty.

We searched for a spot that could accommodate our lock (which I had bought at the dollar store in Pacific Beach and on which I had painted our initials in pink nail polish.) We found a free patch in a corner facing the Ile de la Cite. We clicked it into place then asked a passing young woman to photograph us next to it. She looked like she was hurrying somewhere, but then she took shots from seven different angles — making sure to capture one we would like. We thanked her, moved to the center of the bridge, then hurled the key into the river. I heard a guy in his 20s exclaim in pleasure at the sight of us.

I’m not sure we’ve ever done anything quite so sentimental before. It’s not my style, nor Steve’s. But adding our love lock to the bridge in Paris made us smile. I hope I have a chance to return sometime and look for it.


Honeymoon hotel

At the end of my last post, I noted that our flight for Marrakech was at 6:10. What I did not know then was that it was at 6:10 a.m., and when I typed those words it had already left. So Steve and I strolled, care-free, from Olivia’s apartment to the Grande Jatte, the island in the Seine painted most famously by pointillist George Seurat. Later, we sipped our cafe cremes in a leisurely manner, and still later we walked with Olivia in the Bois de Boulogne. We were feeling almost cocky when we got on the airport bus with what we thought was plenty of time and arrived at what we thought was 2.5 hours early. We even had another coffee in the airport before checking the Departures board and feeling our stomachs drop.

Instantly, it was clear there were no 6:10 PM flights to Marrakech. Rather, the next flight would be at 6 Monday morning. I’m to blame for this error. The only way I can explain it is that when I made the reservations alll those months ago and saw EasyJet’s one flight per day to Marrakech, it never crossed my mind that the 6:10 could refer to that cold dark hour before dawn, rather than the cilivized end-of-the afternoon alternative.

Such is the price of living in a country that uses a 12-hour clock rather than the 24-hour one so common elsewhere. Given the magnitude of this mistake (MISSING the flight! By 9 hours?!!?), what happened next was not all that bad. We were able to secure 2 of the remaining 7 seats for the flight early tomorrow, and EasyJet only charged us the difference between the price we’d paid before and the last-minute tab. We were able to Skype our hotel in Marrakech and reschedule our pickup from the airport. We took the free airport bus the two stops to the hotel center, and we got a room at the Ibis Hotel for 97 euros. It’s clean and well-designed. The pizza and French beer in its restaurant was pretty good.

It may not be the most romantic place to spend our 40th anniversary. But things could be a lot worse.

I was trying to scowl but that made me want to laugh.


Three full days have passed, so jam-packed that there’s been no time to write. Now it’s early Sunday morning, sunny and clear. I caught a New York Times story yesterday about the fact that all the recent warm weather has generated unusual levels of smog. We noticed it vaguely, but it’s seems like nothing, compared to LA on a bad day. And in the plus column, the city fathers have made it free to ride on all the buses and metros in the city these past few days, in an effort to encourage people to abandon their automobiles. It’s certainly worked for Steve and me!

The Viaduc des Art with the Promenade Plantee above


A beautiful section of the Promenade

On foot and transported gratis by the good taxpayers of Paris, we’ve experienced all manner of things we’d never seen or done before. Two photography shows (one on Brassai and a mind-boggling salute to Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Pompidou center) and a collection of 100 impressionist paintings that are normally in private collections but currently have been gathered here at the Musee Marmottan. That’s in the same neighborhood where we had our very first home-exchange house 34 years ago. As I cringed, Olivia tapped on the windows and got the gracious young resident (who was in the midst of preparing a dinner party for friends) to actually let us come in and gawk at how she and her husband have remodeled the place. Well done!

We also: checked out Paris’s Chinatown area, explored the artisans’ shops in the Viaduc des Arts (and then walked back on the Promenade Plantee — the one-time railroad tracks that were the first elevated park project in the world and since have inspired others elsewhere), and participated in a party (for 50 or so?) at Olivia’s Friday night that pretty much blew our minds (certainly the dancing that started around 11 and went to 2:30 in the morning.)

One of the desserts we've consumed chez Olivia. How cute (and delicious!) is that?
We depart for Marrakesh at 6:10 this evening. Once again, it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to this place.



Jet-lagged in Paris

What do you do when you arrive in Paris at 5:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m. SD time)? On the plane from NYC, Steve and I figured out that this is the 10th time we’ve been here together. So we’ve had some practice with those ghastly arrival times. It helped.

Olivia’s gracious guIdance also helped. After our arrival at her flat in Neuilly, she let us nap (from 9:30 to 11:30).

Then she served us a lovely lunch.

Then we walked around four five hours in glorious weather.

We were only faking sitting in the sun, but hordes of Parisians were basking in earnest.

Olivia fed us again after we got home. Now miraculously it’s 9:40. We’re nearly comatose, but with luck we won’t be jet lagged in Paris tomorrow..


Paris at Christmas

Now that Steve and I have experienced Paris at Christmas — a Bucket List item if ever there was one — I can confirm that the city puts on a great show at this time of year. The window displays in the huge department stores near the Opera were as grandiose as reputed.  The theme along one side of the main Galleries Lafayette this year was Chaud Show Noel (“hot show Christmas”) — a bizarrely charming mix of scenes from various movies and shows: mice and dolls singing to the music of Mamma Mia, other woodland creatures and Barbies and pigs dressed as frogmen cavorting to Singing in the Rain, the Soldat Rose, the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, other tunes.

Gallerie Lafayette

Pigs as frog men -- Gallerie Lafayette

Immense Christmas Tree--Galarie Lafayette

I loved the small shop decorations at least as well.  Several cafes that I noticed had taken Christmas trees and painted them black, then adorned them with red bows. 

Paris Christmas window

One place had erected two clear plexiglas structures, about the size of old-fashioned phone booths, except much higher.  These were filled with flocked boughs of fir trees and pine cones and silver ornaments.  They stood on the street, bearing no commercial message on them.

Street decorations in Paris

The Champs Elysee is always an impressive sight, but at night, in winter, with the trees illuminated and twinkling, the giant merry-go-around erected at the Place de la Concorde, the Eiffel Tower psychedelically sparkling, it surpassed itself.

On this trip we did things that were the stuff of legend to me: bought hot chestnuts from sidewalk vendors and munched on them. strolled under the snowflakes and dashed into cozy shops to buy tea and chocolate and little presents for each other.

Chestnut seller in Paris

DeWyze-Wolfe Christmas 2010

On Christmas day, after Steve and the boys and I had opened those, we bundled up and took the metro to Trocadero.  For the first and only time on this trip, the sky was cloudless, the sun strong even though the air was frigid.  We got the glorious view of the Eiffel Tower that one gets from the Palais, then we walked to the tower and climbed to its first level. There in addition to the legendary views, an ice skating rink offered additional entertainment. 

Both Mike and Elliot wanted to skate on the Eiffel Tower on Christmas Day.  (Steve and I had visions of injuring ourselves dancing in our heads, so we refrained.) But although the rink was full when we arrived, within a few minutes it had been cleared of everyone except a figure lying prone on the ice, covered in a thermal blanket and surrounded by paramedics. After a while, we could see that it was a man whose ankle had ballooned grotesquely. When the pompiers tried to move him at one point, he emitted horrible screams. His rescue seemed to stall, but finally a stretcher arrived and he was wheeled off, and the skating recommenced.  It took Elliot only a few minutes to gain enough confidence to be zooming around (and smashing into the side boards; a few minutes weren’t enough for him to remember how to stop.)  Mike skated more confidently, if less flamboyantly, and it gave me unadulterated pleasure to watch my sons flashing by.

A few things were missing from the Parisian Christmas — the ubiquitous canned carols in the stores, for example, or Christmas trees like we have in the States. We saw plenty of trees: for sale in nurseries, or erected in the Gilon/Ville’s apartment and at Olivia’s and in stores. But most were tiny, if beautifully shaped. (The ones I priced on the street were about 45 euros apiece.)  Also missing was the materialistic restraint that I somehow expected to find, once out of the US at Christmastime. The crowds on the streets around the big department stores were enormous, as dense as anything I’ve experienced since Shanghai, and the shopping as intense. When I told Olivia I was surprised to see so much frenzy over present-buying, she rolled her eyes and said she couldn’t imagine how I’d been so misinformed. 

Buches de Noel, Paris

On Christmas Eve, we exchanged small presents with Olivia and her family, but she also gave us an enormous and priceless present: she created several evenings for us in her home that will forever glow in my heart and memory (and I imagine in those of all my family.)  On Christmas Eve, her Neuilly apartment was decked out like a scene from a storybook: beautiful tables welcoming 8 young people in one room, and six elders in the living room. We feasted on mushroom and chestnut soup, and stuffed partridges, and sensuous cheeses, and Buches de Noel that were as pretty as they were delicious. Sadly, because I was recovering from food poisoning that had struck only the night before, I could eat only a small fraction of what I would otherwise have gobbled up.

But as my crew and I made our way home on the metro, the memory of that small shadow on the evening was already fading. At this moment, barely two days later, I’ve almost entirely forgotten it.  

What I remember is the lovely young woman playing classical airs on a violin in one of the underground corridors of the #1 metro line.  She’d been there when we had journeyed out to Olivia’s early in the evening, when a crowd bustled past her and the African guys selling light-up Santa Claus hats. On our return trip, well after midnight, the vendors were all gone, and the crowds had thinned to a trickle, but the violinist was still there, still playing. I dropped a handful of change in her violin case, she looked almost as merry. It seemed like a true Christmas miracle, but I believed it.