Blog Archives

My favorite photo — Paris

My favorite photo — Peru

Five reasons “all I wanna do” is listen to Sheryl Crow

Leaving on a jet plane

The Old Man and the perfectly preserved Sea-side home

Evidence of Ernest Hemingway’s demons remains scratched into his bathroom walls and, for a moment, I had to look away.

A journalist, then novelist, whose honest exploration of the human psyche (most often his own) earned him both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize, Hemingway courted specific details for his characters.

I like details too, so I turned back and observed.

Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, still looks as though its celebrated resident might lumber through its perfectly preserved rooms. His typewriter rests, waist high on a book shelf, with easy access to a pacing author.

Trophies from his big game hunts decorate the living room walls. American magazines from 1959 still fill the rack. Though empty now, his swimming pool looks as inviting as it did back in 1957 when Ava Gardner reportedly swam naked in it. Up and down the walls on either side of his bathroom scale, Hemingway’s meticulously recorded weight, scribbled there with various pens, still hints at a troubled mind.

Hemingway wrote both For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while living at the house, before a crippling bout of writer’s block stole his words.

“Can you imagine a writer with his talent unable to write a single word?” asked the docent who gave us a tour.

Back-to-back plane crashes left both Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary Walsh Hemingway seriously injured though not, as had been widely reported in 1954, deceased. He spent some time at Finca Vigia locked in his bedroom, recovering from injuries, drinking Mojitos and reading his own obituaries.

Reconstructed with care, Finca Vigia offers a telling look into one of America’s most talented and troubled authors.

Hemingway bedroom

Hemingway’s bedroom, including the typewriter he kept on his bookshelf, remains exactly as he had left it.

Hemingway headline

The headline on this newspaper reads “Heminway, wife killed in crash”. I’m not sure which would have been more insulting to him — the premature announcement of his demise, or the misspelling of his famous last name.

Hemingway's bathroom

I took a quick glance at the bathroom and had to turn away…

Hemingway's scale

I thought the meticulously kept hand-written weight notations on either side of his scale hinted at a sad obsessive compulsive tendency and I wondered how pleased he’d be for the whole world to see.


He didn’t invent them, but Hemingway did love a Mojito and we sipped one or two during our time in Cuba as well. Cuba still loves Papa Hemingway and so many bars and restaurants in and around Havana claim to have served him that our guide joked that it would be difficult to find one that didn’t make that claim. When Hemingway died, the fishermen in Cojimar, a nearby village, wanted to pay tribute to him, but they had no money. So, they collected small pieces of brass from their boat propellers and anchors and melted them down to create a bust.

The librarian and Hemingway's library

I snapped our own library media specialist, Kathy, in front of Hemingway’s well-maintained, 9,000 volume library.

Hemingway's boat

Hemingway’s boat, the Pilar, rests in a place of honor above his unused tennis court. On the left you can see grave markers for four of his beloved dogs. I found it interesting that the passionate big game hunter shared his home with 57 cats and six dogs.

Hemingway's pool

You could easily imagine Papa Hemingway cooling off in this immaculately maintained swimming pool. (Had there been water, I’d have jumped in myself. Cuba in July is hot!)

Hemingway house

Hemingway’s home now looks very similar to…

Hemingway's dining room

…Hemingway’s home in 1957. This is the exact same table, game trophies, and dinnerware you see in the dining area above. The picture is shot from the opposite angle as the one above.

A good Cuban cigar

Father’s Day in Hofa Park

An old Polish expression says, Nie chwal dnia przed zachodem slonca  (Don’t praise the day before sunset.)

We’re a pessimistic lot, we Poles.

But, we knew as soon as we set our chairs under a green and gold tent in Hofa Park, that Sunday would be sublime.

A fresh breeze rustled the tarp, the new dance floor smelled of sawdust, the polka band sounded like a party and the cool priest never broke a sweat (which is more than I can say for myself after a turn or two around the floor.)

The father among our little party, Vince, who’d been talking about the St. Stanislaus Parish Festival for months, had a great time.

He kicked up his heels with a polka band, wandered through rows and rows of vintage tractors, cheered on an old school baseball game, and enjoyed a giant piece of caramel apple pie.

We saw another father, the holy kind, preside over a Polka Mass, then offer a blessing to the farmers, then bless each tractor with a spray of holy water, then make his way to the dance floor to socialize with parishioners and guests, all while layered in robes and vestments.

“How do you stay cool under all of that?” someone asked Fr. Patrick Gawrylewski, OFM.

“I just don’t think about it,” he said.

In short, our second trip to the tiny but fascinating town of Hofa Park turned out to be just as enjoyable as our first. We can’t wait to go back.

Na zdrowie!

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I thought this little boy on the Massey-Harris tractor was adorable.

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Crop Adjustr

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Fueled by moonshine.

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I loved this vintage car and these two vintage friends.

Holy water

Father Patrick was everywhere. Here he is blessing each tractor with holy water.


Oh man, the pies! My piece of strawberry pie filled my entire plate…and I ate every bite.

Tractor blessing

A farmer’s blessing.

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Lots of action on the dance floor.

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This little peanut tore up the dance floor. She paused a minute to chat with Father Patrick.

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They’re pretty serious about their polka.

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But they had a great time. What can I say? Vince loves to polka!

Tractor blessing 2

The antique tractor parade.

Heart and soul in the City of Love

Tu es beau, Paris

Most days, Paris really does smell like a warm croissant — buttery, flaky, rich — and we enjoyed every delicious bite.

In our short time there, we found our way to 22 spots bookmarked by our most Excel-lent guide, Katherine.

Her glorious spreadsheet brought us to nearly every arrondissement in Paris — a slam poetry reading, a gypsy jazz concert, a cooking class, a très chic clothing store, a crepes restaurant, a falafel house

We walked 19 miles our first full day, drank tea on the Champs Elysees, lit a candle in Notre Dame, posed with tourists on the grounds of the Louvre, shared charcuterie and a bottle of wine.

Over and over we crossed the beautiful, swollen Seine River. We took a day trip to Giverny and Versailles, and then spent four hours seeing all that beauty captured on canvas at Le Musee d’Orsay. We toured Victor Hugo’s house, then traced his walking path through Luxembourg Gardens.

We ate a croissant every morning (pistachio was my favorite), and sipped a little wine every evening, tasted escargot, coq a vin and two different kinds of soufflé, and hilariously chatted as well as we could.

“What are you doing here?” asked the timid Norbert, who’d been forced to keep our company when the bar owner barked this at him: Are you afraid of American women? No? Then move over and let these ladies sit with you!

“We’re tourists,” Katherine replied.

“No,” Norbert said. “What are you doing here. There’s an English speaking place right up the road.”

Eventually, poor Norbert warmed up to us.

Our cooking class with the très beaux Chef Eric taught us the fine art of French flirting and how to crack an egg, but that’s a post for another day. I became obsessed with Claude Monet and that’s a post for another day. And, thanks to Katherine’s research, we discovered a young French jazz singer who blew us away and that’s a post for another day.

I snapped a few (hundred) photos. At the risk of making you feel like you’re trapped at a dinner party viewing our vacation slides, I’m sharing a few…

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This is the first picture I took in Paris and it marks the first of at least 100 times we walked across the Seine.

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I like this view of the Seine through a wheel of love locks.

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The Eiffel Tower and a moored river boat.

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The six continents outside Musee d’Orsay.

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Where all the famous writers used to gather…and some still do.

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My girls.

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I didn’t leave a lock, but I did leave a little something on the Locks of Love bridge over the Seine. You are beautiful, Paris.

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Katherine eating an eclair at Versailles.

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Check out the guys trimming the hedges in the gardens at Versailles. Quite a job, no? There are thousands of those hedges.

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You could wander these gardens for days.

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Luxembourg Gardens

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A bridge over the Seine, the 67th time we crossed it.

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The boats remained moored the whole week due to historically high water levels on the Seine.

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The 100th time we crossed the Seine, we saw this gentleman playing the piano in the middle of the bridge.

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Brings the term street musician to a whole new level.


Tres Magnifique!




Wild and crazy in Guatemala