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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Le Cafe de Paris--a bit of France on Las Olas Blvd., Florida

715 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-2236
(954) 467-2900‎

Florida tour books tout Ft. Lauderdale's Las Olas Blvd. and for good reason. We met June and Sid there for dinner at Le Cafe de Paris, a family owned and operated charming French restaurant where impeccable service and excellent food made this reunion perfect. We dined inside, but there is a sidewalk cafe as well, and if the weather had not been unseasonably cool, we probably would have availed ourselves of the outside seating. Coincidentally it was Sid's birthday, and Le Cafe de Paris was a great place to celebrate.

Hors d'oeuvres selections were simple. All four of us chose escargots bourguignon. We joked about days gone by when escargots were served in the shell. In fact, June and I did them that way at home although now we do as the restaurants do and serve them on special plates with individual hollows brimming with bubbling garlic/herbed butter. This treat is absolutely delicious, hot, buttery and garlicky. A delightful morsel and a place for French rolls to be dipped and enjoyed.

As similar as we were in our hors d'oeuvres, we separated in choosing our entrees. Rob and June chose fish. Rob selected Filet of Sole Meuniere, several large slices lightly breaded and served with vegetables and lyonnaise potatoes. June selected Mussels Mariniere, a heaping pile of plump beautiful mussels, incredibly tempting. Sid and I chose from the meat entrees. Sid selected the Chicken Breast Francaise with shallot butter and angel hair pasta. I enjoyed the Veal Francaise in shallots, lemon butter, and capers served with a mushroom risotto. The three delectable, thin slices had a lovely light lemony flavor, and the risotto was full of sliced mushrooms. Absolutely delicious.

We might have ended only with our coffee, but dessert was impossible to resist. Once again we came together, each couple sharing an exquisite crème brulee served with a fresh, sliced strawberry—a sweet touch.

What could be nicer than a stroll along the boulevard after such a lovely meal. We did not walk far, but we stopped to gaze at several of the galleries and shops we passed. We hugged goodbye, once again wishing Sid the happiest of birthdays, and thought Le Cafe de Paris was one restaurant we could highly recommend.

Just some closing thoughts about Le Cafe de Paris. The menu offers selections for every budget, and I thought that was unusual. Our escargots, for example, cost $8.00, an extremely reasonable price. I could have ordered Russian Osetra Caviar—1 oz. For $100.00. The same kinds of choices exists in for choice of entree or dessert. I was impressed. Additionally there are complete dinners offered that include appetizer and dessert, and they are very reasonably priced. If you are in the Ft. Lauderdale area, think Le Cafe de Paris.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Just when we thought we’d seen everything, the Coral Princess cruised into Glacier Bay. A Park Ranger came aboard to give programs on the Bay and to introduce the cruisers to poet Robert Service, the man known as the Bard of the Yukon. I didn’t think I knew Robert Service’s poems—until I heard “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” so I’m sure many of you know Service’s work through that famous poem. BUT, until this trip, I would not have fully appreciated the truth in his poetry—so of course I bought a volume at one of the other sites we visited, and I share some lines with you from his poem, “The Call of the Wild.”

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
Where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven,
Which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley
With the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

On this trip, we had an inkling of what inspiring sights and challenges Service found in the Yukon.

As the ship glides into Glacier Bay, we experience some of those marvelous sights. Pilots board our ship to guide us around the Bay. Glacier Bay is a protected site; in fact, September 1, 2009 was the first time that year when ships were allowed in to see the Johns Hopkins Glacier because baby harbor seals need the time to grow and be weaned. When the seals need their privacy, ships are barred. We are there on September 12.

It’s difficult to imagine the gigantic size of these glaciers, but suffice it to say, some of my photos of the Johns Hopkins Glacier were taken from approximately five miles out. The Johns Hopkins Glacier is a tidewater glacier, so called because the glacier reaches the ocean.
Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay
If you look closely, you will see ice falling from the glacier. That is called calving.

Other photos I share with you are of the Grand Pacific Glacier, formed 10,000 years ago, and the Margerie Glacier. The Grand Pacific Glacier is the widest, at two miles, of the tidewater glaciers. The Margerie Glacier is 250 feet high. Compare this natural wonder to the Statue of Liberty which is 307 feet high. The Margerie Glacier is also 100 feet below the surface, runs 21 miles back, and is about one mile across. Impressive, huh?

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Even looking into the water, chunks of ice float around and as the light hits them, I feel as if I’m looking at Nature’s kaleidoscope. It’s beyond beautiful. Actually, these chunks are icebergs, with 90% under water, so ships are very wary of what looks like harmless hunks of beauty.

Seabirds are everywhere, and they use the floating ice as perches.
Glacier Bay

This is sunset on Glacier Bay. John Keats said it best, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
Sunset on Glacier Bay

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Thursday, April 08, 2010


Word of mouth recommendations intrigued me enough to pick up Malcolm Gladwell's best seller Outliers. It wasn't a sticky jacket that made me want to keep it in my hands until I finished; it was the riveting examples Malcolm Gladwell cites to support his theories.

Gladwell defines outlier as 1. something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body; and 2. a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample.

From these definitions and his sharp observations and accompanying research, he discovers incredible similarities between those who find success in life--sometimes between people whose successes are incredibly dissimilar. The result is a fascinating adventure and a series of wonderful lessons. Would you believe that the Beatles and Bill Gates achieved their iconic statures by following very similar paths? Read this book, and you will believe it.

Gladwell even deals with the idea of luck and its roll in success. Do you believe in luck?

Malcolm Gladwell's explanations answered questions lurking in my mind about people I know, opportunities I and others have, and the influences around us that shape who we are. His theories, if heeded, can indeed help one to understand how success--defined in different ways--can be achieved. Understanding opens doorways.

Additionally Gladwell is a real writer--a man whose words flow with style, a quality I deeply appreciate. I'm not giving anything away when I say he truly saved the best for last--don't skip ahead, but know you're going to read the last chapter with a smile on your face. I quickly recommended Outliers to others, went to buy another Gladwell book, Blink, and have to finish this review before I sit down with that book in my hands--I may not want to put it down.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010


Good day in Florida at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge at the northernmost tip of Florida's Everglades. It's a place to learn about the Everglades and to get an idea of how we are trying to save what is left. It is also a place to get a peek at the variety of species that grow, live, and pass through this environment—unique not only in our country but also in the world.

Rob and I begin, as always, looking for background in the visitor center, a small place packed with information about what we might see as we walk the trails. The refuge is 143,874 acres or 221 square miles, so there is a lot to learn. We see a film describing the Everglade's special qualities and detailing the history of Florida's agricultural and residential development that, without intervention, would have totally destroyed this ecological gem.

We also take a virtual airboat ride through the Everglades, viewing some of the animals and birds that live here as well as some of the astonishing features such as tree islands made of peat that float to the surface and give a place for seeds to sprout into grasses or trees.

Out in the open air, we walk the mile path through the Cypress Swamp, dazzled by the tall, tall cypress trees, the hanging moss, the cypress “knees,” the different lichens on the trees, and the other features described on signs as we follow the boardwalk.
Loxahatchee, Florida
We hear the lovely voices of many birds, but they are incredibly well camouflaged, and they are not likely to display themselves for the folks. The boardwalk is inches above what appear to be still, clear waters. The flow of water through the Everglades is virtually imperceptible. Visitors walk very slowly and very quietly in the Cypress swamp. The appearance is chapel-like, but the reality is that we all hope to see some of the animals that make this ecosystem their home. Regardless, the atmosphere is lovely.

After this walk we drive to the levees and the canals that lead into a different section of the Everglades. We're at the sawgrass edges, a sedge border of sharp grasses named for their characteristics. In the more open spaces are lilies, and from the overlooks we can see fish, turtles, different water fowl, dragon flies, and many, many things I can't begin to identify. I, of course, am looking for alligators, but I am not rewarded. I feel as if I am back in Alaska futilely looking for moose! The warning signs for alligators are clear. If they associate humans with food, they will come over, and if they don't get fed, they will become consistently aggressive, and they will have to be killed. 'Nuff said.

This section of the Refuge is obviously highly managed and does not look at all as I imagined. However, there is a five mile canoe trail through the Everglades, and there are rentals at the entrance. There are also areas for fishing, and in the parking lot are quite a few empty boat trailers. The fishermen, for the most part, are somewhere deeper and beyond our vision. I'd like to do that.
Loxahatchee, FL

Major sections of the Refuge are not open to the public. This majestic refuge is an indispensable buffer against the development surrounding it. Careful and diligent stewardship of this area is definitely in our national interest. We should be aware of it and its value today and to future generations. We should continue to make sure the government funds and supports it.

We are also planning to enter the Everglades at another point, the National Park site, and we expect that visit to be even more of an experience—just as we’ve found at other National Parks.
If anyone has trouble walking, the trail visitor center, the trail through the Cypress Swamp and the lookouts and trails along the levees are all handicap accessible. No one should miss this.

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