How to Celebrate a Milestone Event During the Pandemic – My Escape to San Luis Obispo, California

I glimpsed the green rolling hills from my car window, and Psalm 125:2 came to mind: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, now and forever more.” I was driving the 3.5 hour distance down Highway 101 from the San Francisco Peninsula to San Luis Obispo, on the central coast of California. It was mid-April and I was on a get-away now that Spring Break was over. I looked forward to a quiet stay to celebrate a belated 60th birthday from January, when we were in lockdown and couldn’t travel.

I was exhausted from the stress of living in general, and the pandemic specifically. Worry over money, health issues, doctor visits, and political mess, left me craving for a time away by the beach. My budget was the $600 stimulus check I had received in January to cover my Zip rental car, hotel, and gas. Having never been to San Luis Obispo, I was looking forward to writing a travel article and spending some time spiritually with God.

Day 1 – Tuesday

It was an overcast drive, until I approached San Luis Obispo and the palm trees and sunshine came into view. The downtown area was so quaint with shops of different wares: art, jewelry, cafes, and clothing. There were no signs of COVID except people wearing masks. I wanted to buy some sterling silver charms for a new charm bracelet and stopped in to visit Super Silver at 850 Higuera Street. The friendly staff helped me pick out a birthday cake charm to commemorate my birthday, along with a pen charm for being a writer, and an artist palette representing my art.

I took the store’s recommendation to eat at SEEDS, a fresh food cafe at 1133 Garden Street. There, I had a delicious ginger, mango, flax seed and spinach green smoothie for $9.79.

After retrieving the car, I drove south on 101 to Arroyo Grande, off exit 187b, to Grande Avenue. More quaint shops in the historic “village” greeted me from times past. I was happy to see that my hotel, the Agrarian Hotel Best Western Signature Collection was right off the main street at 325 E Branch Street. Across from it was a conveinent mini market for any needs.

The hotel had a historic design, and was beautiful inside and out. With a large lobby and fireplace, a table held food baskets from a local vendor for sale to the guests. The manager, Sean Dassman, was very welcoming when I presented myself as a travel writer.

I had reserved a King-sized room on the second floor in the quiet back of the hotel. As a Best Western Rewards member, I tried to stay in Best Western hotels whenever I traveled, even in France! I received my 500 bonus awards points and free water bottles on check-in, and went to unpack. My only disappointment I experienced, was no bathtub or hydro tub in the room, because I was looking forward to taking a relaxing bubble bath. However, there was a large, walk in shower. I jumped on the bed, which later turned out to be like sleeping on a cloud, it was so comfortable!

For breakfast, the hotel provided a nice ‘grab-n-go’ breakfast box in the mornings, full of fruit, cookies, yogurt, oatmeal and a bottled water. Cammi, the front desk clerk, was very helpful during my stay. One evening she told me about the town’s history, as she pointed to historic photographs on the lobby walls. Elvis, another desk clerk, helped troubleshoot a problem with my safe lock in a quick responsive way that I appreciated.

The manager, Sean, recommended Klondike Pizza down the street for dinner. Owned my a local Alaskan family from Anchorage, the place resembled the Red Dog Salon in Juneau, which I had visited on an earlier trip. Established in the basement of an old historic buidling, it was filled with Alaskan memorabilia: a big Mickey the Moose stuffed head with antlers, a player piano, and peanuts on the floor. Being game to try the local specialties, which is a fun part about being a travel writer, I tried the reindeer sausage on my pizza! I was told it tasted like venison with some beef added in, which was correct! I ordered the oil, garlic and herb sauce on my small pizza, which paired nicely with the reindeer sausage. Gluten-free crust was offered on small sized pizzas.

One of the employees, Brian, has worked there for 20 years and was very hospitable to me, checking on me and keeping me laughing with folklore of the building and area. Everyone I met on my trip, was very friendly and nice: ‘normal’ would be a good word to describe them, with just a laid back, welcome-to-our-beach-town vibe. Everything felt new to me, which was a pleasant surprise, because it had been over a year since my last trip before the 2020 lockdown.

Back in my hotel room, I contemplated taking a swim in the hotel heated pool, but it was too cold outside to brave the 50 degree weather!

Day 2 – Wednesday

Today was like a day on the French Riviera! It started with driving to Avila Beach, 10 miles north of Arroyo Grande, where parking was free for three hours! I walked along the promenade on Front Street, lined with its beach style buildings, with escapes down alleyways much like Disneyland. I then took some stairs to the sand, where I found a secluded cove and spent quiet time with the Lord. While watching sandpipers suck up little crabs, I reflected how the difficult pandemic had challenged my faith, mostly from not being able to go to church, and it had effected my walk with God. Oh, how I missed our closeness. As I gazed upon the gray sea, I prayed, “Lord, please draw me back to you in your love.” After a while, breathing the sea air did its magic and I felt at peace and refreshed. I wandered back to Front Street to Kraken Cafe, a coffee establishment, to try an affogato, a shot of espresso poured over my choice of homemade mouse track ice cream. Divine!

Next was lunch at a French Bistro I had spotted a couple blocks away on Front Street: Blue Moon over Avila. The tables, chairs, umbrellas, and linens were decorated in blue and white colors, so very French. My table overlooked the seashore where I braved the cold and wind. The restaurant was so authentically French they had a Frenchman named Gilles, who was the Maitre D’, and advised me on the menu. I chose a Croque Madame, similar to a Croque Monsuier, a baked ham and gruyere on sourdough covered in béchamel sauce, with an egg on top if you are the Madame! ($18) We talked Paris and French food, as the French music swirled around us. I was in Heaven! I shared I was a travel writer and could I take his, and my waiter Brian’s, pictures for my article? “Bon Sur” (Of course) was the reply. I marveled at the delicious food, service, and ambience, and how God had planned and blessed me with this special day.

After lunch, my steps took me to a little tasting room a few blocks away, Alapay
where I had a flight of white wines and a rose for $15, (Red wine gives me a headache, so I had none.) I loved the dessert wine so bought myself a bottle, ($36) and the tasting was then free! The winemaker has been making wine with grapes from local vintners for 20 years. The woman assistant told me the history of the town as I sipped one wine after another: All the architecture of the town is new, as they used to pump oil from the hills through town to the docks, and it soaked in, so they had to remove and replace all the soil and build again. Thus, the new beach town look.

I ended my afternoon with a nap on my soft bed with birds chirping outside.

Day 3 – Thursday

My last morning, I woke early and watched the sun rise to a glorious sunny day from my balcony. Stopped in Avila Beach again with the now blue sea and matching sky. I was in search of a healthy fruit bowl and found one downstairs at Avila Market, on Front Street. The bowl had a dragonfruit base, with coconut, chia seeds, pineapple and kiwi fruit,for $10. Then I snagged a table in the sun at Kraken’s again, ordering a delicious dry cappuccino, and wrote this article, as the sea air caressed my face. It was 64 degrees today and full sun, with a light wind. Perfect beach weather! I planned to stop off in San Luis Obispo again on my way home to visit the Mission San Luis de Tolosa, located in the downtown area, and a heritage stop for sure.

Thank you for traveling with me on my trip. God was faithful, surrounding me not only with the beauty of the mountains, sea, palm trees and vineyards, but His love and little miracles, too.

Au revoir pour le moment-


French Kings Cake – A Winter Celebration Recipe

Bon Jour!
Today is January 6, 2021 and the French celebrate it as Feast of the Ephipany, in Catholic tradition, when the Three Kings or Wise Men, came to visit Baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

I was first introduced to this cake, while in Paris. I saw a bakery window filled with these pastry rings with golden paper Kings crowns on top. “What are these cakes, Mademoiselle?” I asked a passerby.
“They are Kings Cakes, or Galette des Rois, that celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. They are made of almond paste and there is a small surprise inside the cake, a small porcelain figure or fave bean, (feve in French) and whomever finds it is made King or Queen for the day, and wears the paper crown.”

“Oh, they look so delicious, I am going to have a piece right now,” I said. Warm pastry crust surrounded by delicious creamy almond, rolled in my mouth. But no, I did not find the surprise! Make sure you warn your guests of the feve, or they will go home with broken teeth. For children, leave the feve out.

This morning, I was surprised to see the cake with its crown in the window of Mademoiselle Colete’s French bakery in Redwood City, CA. I hurriedly went inside, and pointed to the cake.
“Is this Kings Cake, Madame?”
“Oui, madame, it is.” “I will take one piece and a decaf cappuccino dry.”
Warm memories of my time in Paris came back to me during this cold winter day, as I leaned against a planter because there were no tables to sit at during lockdown. I wonder what they do in Paris? Have they removed all a seating at the cafe’s? It is not Paris without them!

Keeping with my tradition of posting things French, I have the recipe below if you feel like being a French pastry chef for the day! It is easier than it looks, and your French friends will be very impressed with you.

Galette des Rois (Kings Cake) Recipe
This cake is made of an irresistibly creamy almond filling sandwiched between two flaky, buttery layers of puff pastry. The ingredients for almond cream all go into a food processor to blend and then the paste is spread onto store-bought puff pastry making this impressive cake simple to put together. Once you master this foolproof recipe, you ca experiment with different fillings or make your own puff pastry. Serve slices of the galette with tea or cafe au lait to balance the cake’s sweetness.


For the Almond Cream Filling:
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3 Tablespoons butter (softened)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

For the Cake:
17 ounces puff pastry (thawed)
Optional: I dried fava bean
1 egg beaten
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Steps to Make it

Make the Almond Cream
-Gather the ingredients.
-Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend to a smooth, creamy paste. Feel free to make this cream a few days in advance, then refrigerate it in an airtight container.

Assemble the Cake
-Gather the ingredients.
-Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-Roll out the sheets of puff pastry and cut out 2 (11-inch) circles. Place the first disc on the prepared baking sheet, and spread an even layer of the almond cream, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.
-If you wish to include a feve, you can do so at this point: Simply nestle it in the almond cream.
-Please the second puff pastry disc on top of the filling, and crimp the edges with a fork to seal the cake. Using a sharp knife, score a decorative pattern into the top layer of the pastry, without cutting through to the almond filling. Brush the galette with the beaten egg (this will create a golden crust.)

Bake the Cake
-Bake the cake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust the cake with the powdered sugar. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until the puff pastry becomes a deep golden brown. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes.
-Serve and enjoy. Crown the king or queen with the paper diadem whomever has found the feve or figurine.

Bon Apetit!


My Art Gallery of Pandemic Life – 2020

Bon Jour!

Hello, again! It has been quite a while since I blogged on life during the Pandemic. Last April to be in fact. Things have progressed for the better, and I would like to share what I have been doing and how I got through the worst of it.

This summer saw a flood in my apartment, causing me to stay in a hotel for 16 nights, while fires raged up in the wine country of Northern California. We had eerie end-of-world colored skies. I then had a meltdown, walked away from God for about a month, and found him again in my foolishnes. We also dealt with election fraud and the loss of our democracy and religious freedoms as we know it here in America. Who will be our new President?

With the Lord’s help, I was able to create; art collages of my reflections on the coronavirus, and a new children’s book: The Blue Beret. I call it my pandemic baby, as it took nine months to research, write, and critique! I hope you have been able to express your feelings and frustrations with this year of 2020 in some creative form. It really helps!

And now, the virus rages on during our holiday season. I had a milestone and cooked my first turkey and complete Thanksgiving meal. I slathered the bird under its skin, with butter mixed with herbs from Provence, France, like they do there, and it was so moist! I await my promised French husband to come find me here in California, and begin a new life in the south of France. Miracles abound during this time, and God has brought family back into my life, which was a long-waited answer to prayer.

Will we get a new stimulus check before the end of 2020? I watch Stephen Gardner’s Stimulus Update every day on YouTube to get the skinny on our representatives in Congress. He along with Christian comedian, Leanne Morgan, in her little Facebook videos, making jello salads, and telling us, “Everything is going to be alright,” have brightened my day and given me some laughs.

But mostly, I have missed blogging to you my readers. I will be back with a new travel writing gig in January, 2021 for my 60th birthday! Governor Newsom, willing.

Art Gallery: My Reflections on Covid-19 – 2020
Collage in acrylic paint, tissue paper, sequins, gel pens, beads, gemstones, buttons and ribbon. 8′ x 10′ canvas/boards.

Butteries: God’s Beauty and Creativity

Valentine’s Surprise!: Love is a Gift

Pandemic Hearts: Broken Hearts Healed by God’s Spirit

Chaos into Order: Sky,Landscape,Sea

Glory Cross: Easter Resurrection Hope

Girlie Girl: Missing our Beauty Salon Days

Fourth of July: Parade Float and Fireworks

Child’s Play: Flower fun with Inner Child Expression

Gratitude: Psychedelic Tissue Paper Pumpkin

Candle of Hope in Times of Darkness

Stay tuned for more art! May God bless you and keep you during this difficult time, knowing He is your provider and hope, and will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews:13:5)

Avec Amour-


Where Did My Dreams Go?: My Prayer on the Coronavirus

Sheltering-in. A new dimension to life. I have not been able to write on my children’s stories at all. I am disjointed, not able to concentrate, jumpy. Feelings of chaos and worry prevail. I want to write. I am a writer. I must have something to say, I tell myself.

And then it happens. I stay up late to bake. I scored some flour and now look for my French Yogurt Cake recipe on my blog, that highlights everything French. I think I have all the ingredients for this. Yes, so in the silence of night, alone in my kitchen, I read and remember. The urge to write my feelings about COVID-19 and my dreams flows easily, as do my tears. I sleep soundly for the first time since sheltering in. Be blessed by my words and prayer:

I feel sad and tears are in my eyes. I had to look up French Yogurt Cake recipe on my blog to bake tonight and while there read all six parts of my trip to France, laughing and remembering the gift of that trip, how I planned to return and marry my promised Francois.

Then the plague. What happens to our dreams you gave us Lord? Were they just for now to give us hope and keep us going in life? What happened to my totally planned tiny house in Washington? My new beginning in Antibes? Having a little girl and a family finally?

And now they say Coronavirus will return. Is this what happens, the world just ends? Will you come on the clouds and take us to Heaven? Will you give us new dreams there?

But then I remember, my dreams would be answered. All of them: You will be my bridegroom and what a marriage feast we will have. You have prepared a new home for me, just waiting. My baby girl, Lynley, is there to finally hold in my arms and be a mother too. Perhaps, I knew this all along, but I didn’t see it clearly until now.

For you are the dream, you tell us many times to put our hope in eternity, and now it may be soon. May I focus on the glory that is too come, and let me be brave in the face of getting there. Amen.

May the God of peace and healing, gather you tenderly in His arms and comfort you during this difficult time.


My Weekend Getaway to The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA

Chills ran up my spine as I stood on the gangplank and looked up at the red-orange smokestacks of the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, California. I was fulfilling a dream of mine to visit her, after I took a transatlantic crossing aboard the opulent Queen Mary 2 from New York to England, two winters prior. What would it look like in comparison?
With my press pass in hand, I slowly walked into the ship, my heart fluttering. I was here to attend SuperBook Weekend, put on by Adventures by the Book, located in San Diego. They were hosting a literary event of 22 Best Selling authors on Super Bowl Weekend, January 31-February 1, 2020. There would be panels by authors, keynote speakers, a delicious Super Bowl-themed lunch, and an opportunity to buy best-selling books the next morning.
Held in the historic Queen’s Salon, resplendent with Art Deco artwork and fixtures, I was inspired and motivated to write again after listening to these successful writers tell of their writing journeys, their research and story-line tips, and their rejections and successes. Laughter and joy rang out in the former music room that once held famous Hollywood stars and royalty.
I met in person my new favorite author, Kristin Harmel, who writes historical fiction. I gushed about her latest book, The Winemaker’s Wife, which I was currently reading. Interested in my own stories as a writer, she suggested an idea for publishing my children’s books. Toward the end of our chat, she handed me her card, asking me to send her my thoughts on the fate of a favorite character of mine in her story. This type of personal exchange between author and reader is what Adventures by the Book is known for.
As a travel writer, I knew the Queen Mary would have a story for me to tell, but what would it be?

I was spellbound. Not by the supposed ghosts onboard, or the popular belief the ship was haunted, but by the decor of this great luxury liner now docked in the harbor since 1967. That Friday morning, as I stepped off the elevator into the Main Mall on Promenade Deck, I drew in my breath, and softly exhaled. The area was designed to look like Piccadilly Circus in London. My eyes cast over original 1920s Art Deco artwork and architecture made from many different types of beautiful wood. As an artist, I was in heaven, and joy leapt in my heart. The Golden Days of Hollywood were a favorite of mine, wanting to run away and become another Marilyn Monroe as a teenager. Snap, snap went my iPhone camera. I stepped into one of the shops and spoke with the young saleswoman.
“What did this store used to be?” I asked, admiring the curved bookcases.
“It was the first class library. There is a picture of what it looked like when the ship took its maiden voyage in 1936 outside the door. It was also used for religious services for first class Protestants.”
“Wow.” I leaned in and whispered, “Is this ship really haunted? I hear you have tours to find the many ghosts onboard of people who died on the ship.”
“Yes, I have felt that cold darkness in certain parts of the ship, including the engine room, and I hurry out of there! My supervisor advised I say when I step onboard, ‘I am here to work, I will not bother you,’ and when I leave to say, ‘I am leaving now from work, you cannot follow me home.’ The spirits leave me alone.”
My eyes grew huge. “Maybe I should say that when I leave, too,” I laughed.
My next stop was at the tour office, which used to be the first class bookstore. I bought a $10 ticket for the Glory Days Tour at 1:15pm and then went for lunch. I walked down the inside wooden promenade, with its creaking, uneven floors, the sea breeze caressing my face through the open windows. I could imagine the ghosts of past passengers walking beside me. The walls were graced with full-length pictures of Hollywood stars and notables, such as King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson, Liberace, Fred Astaire, and Elizabeth Taylor with her dogs.
After lunch, as I walked further down the promenade, I felt a cloud of darkness surround me and I became nauseous. Had I stepped into one of the paranormal spots onboard the ship? I prayed to dispel the spirits, and soon after they left me.
I had discovered the ship was haunted, indeed!

On the tour, we peeked into most of the first class rooms. My favorites were the nursery, with miniature steamer trunks filled with doll clothes, and its pastel-colored painting of Noah’s Ark; along with the curved Observation Bar at the bow of the ship, with its original painting of dancing guests hung over it. “Clark Gable used to sit on one of these bar stools and drink his whiskey,” the tour guide, Julien, said.
“Wow,” I remarked for the second time that day. “I am going to come back here later and have a drink to celebrate this fact!” And I did, awed by the history I was sharing at that moment.
The sun had started to set, and being tired, I took leave of the ship, saying a soft goodbye. I caught the free Passport shuttle back to my hotel, downtown in the East Village. This was my first trip to Long Beach. The warm weather and beauty of the town lifted my winter blues from cold San Francisco. I chose to stay at The Best Western Plus Convention Center Hotel, and it was a marvelous stay. Shawn, the manager, welcomed me and spent time pointing out all the attractions and bus routes.
Located in the heart of the art village, there are many cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs within a block or two of walking from the hotel. My favorite was the French cafe, Creme de La Crepe, which I discovered later that night. I had the most delicious cafe macchiato, made by Fanny from the south of France. It was lovely to speak with her in French and enjoy the ambiance. Little gifts like these, were extra blessings to my weekend stay.
Sunday morning, after a full complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I took my camera and shot pictures of the Art Deco buildings and murals of the village. I was thankful for the late checkout time that allowed me to do so before catching my Lyft back to the airport.
As the plane took off bound for San Jose, I watched the bright orange glow of the sun setting above the fluffy white clouds, and reflected on my trip. God had met me in so many ways. The lovely book event that filled my depleted writing well, the majesty of the now silent Queen Mary, and my artist heart filled to the brim, all made this weekend getaway one I would never forget.

The Kissing Frenchman – Help Me Find Him Again?

Bon Jour… Today I need you help finding a certain Frenchman in Paris, France.

When I traveled to Paris and the South of France in January of 2018 for my first time, I had one of those quissential Parisian moments with a handsome artist named Jonas. I met him as I walked from the Sacre Coeur steps down the cobblestone lane to the square where artists roam offering to paint your portrait. This is the famous Place du Tertre where Picasso, Renoir, Chagall and Monet sat up their easels in the 1920s and lived nearby. Located in the Montmartre District of Paris. I did not know what to expect, as an artist I was just interested in hanging out with some other artists and experiencing the joie de vivre.

Flash forward two years to today, Christmas time in the cold San Francisco Peninsula where I write this by the lights of the blinking Christmas tree. I am reading this great book called 7 Letters from Paris: A Memoir, by Samantha Verant. Loving all things Paris, I highly recommend this story to you. The main character, Sam, meets Jean-Luc in a Paris cafe and spends one night and day exploring Paris, falling in love. He writes her seven love letters begging her to write back, but upon her return to the United States, she ignores them as she is not sure what to say, and believes she will never see him again.

20 years later she is going through a divorce and remembers the letters. She digs them out of a boxed envelope and posts them on her blog with her story, to find Jean-Luc and reconnect. I won’t spoil the story any further. But this gave me an idea. If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you will know that God has promised me a French husband, my first, who I hoped to meet on my trip two years ago. All I knew was he was an artist, and perhaps lived in the South of France.

Enter Jonas. A tall, handsome man, with a cap on his head and a tight jacket against the 40 degree winter weather. He had his scarf tied in such a way that only a Frenchman could do! As I passed him on the cobblestones, he called out to me, “Madame, you have such beautiful light in your eyes, may I draw them?” I smiled at him.

“I am sorry, monsieur, but I already had my portrait painted and have only lunch money left, and I am very hungry.”

“I will do it for free, I want to capture the light in your beautiful eyes.”

Knowing this would cost me money, I laughed and agreed. My stomach could wait.

Jonas sketched my eyes, then full face, in brown charcoal as we talked. I asked him how he felt working in this famous square as an artist with those famous before him.

“When I reach way down into my soul and think about it, it stirs me and is very fulfilling”

“You are very lucky to be here and I am blessed to have you draw me.” I peeked over his paper and he pulled it away from my eyes.

He admired my all purple outfit and said, “You won’t find anything in this color here in Paris. Maybe a soft pink in the spring.”

“Yes, I see that all the clothing in the stores is black, brown or gray. I dress in the colors I paint.” We spoke some more about his art, then my art, which I showed him on my iPhone, and when he was done, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. I was pleasantly stunned!

“You are the first Frenchman to kiss me! Why did you not kiss me three times on my cheeks which is common in France?”

“Here, in Paris, we kiss four times,” he said, and he proceeded to kiss me on each cheek. I blushed while a huge grin spread on my face. I almost fainted on the cobblestones. His kisses were so passionate, like none I had experienced. I was spellbound.

Finally finding my voice, I said, “Jonas, those were wonderful. May I offer you 10 Euros for the portrait?” He had indeed captured my eyes and a good likeness of me, though my face was too full.

“May I take our picture to remember you by?” He agreed. A passerby snapped the picture with the Sacre Coeur church in the background. He looked expectantly at me. I wanted to ask for his card, but my thoughts raced through my head. I am leaving tomorrow early to travel by train to the south. We would only have tonight and I must pack. If I see him, I know I will want to have an affair with him, as I know French men are the best lovers. What if he is just a typical Frenchman looking to pick up the easy American woman? Oh, Lord, help me remain faithful to you and the man you have promised me.

“Jonas, I will remember you and this day forever, but I must say goodbye. Disappointment registered on his face. “Au Revoir Jonas.” I slowly turned away.

“Au Revoir, Miriam.”

So you see, I, too, want to reconnect with Jonas like in the story, who may indeed be that promised one I left behind. I have searched the internet and cannot find him, only a mention of another portrait by a customer of his. I do not know his last name. He has shown his art through many venues in Paris, including galleries.

If you believe in second chances, will you help me by clicking LIKE and SHARE this post to your Facebook friends and other social media contacts? Share with your French/European friends? Share with any media/press contacts? Let’s see this blog post go viral around the world back to that little cobblestone square in Montmartre, Paris, where the girl with the light in her eyes remembers his kisses.

Merci mon amis-

Reach me at: Miriam Sarzotti
Message me on Facebook, Miriam Sarzotti Author and Artist
I live in San Carlos on the San Franciscan Peninsula and hang out at Peets Coffee.
on Laurel Street. 650 454 4210

My Escape to Hawaii on the Grand Princess Cruise

The warm rain pelted my face as I stood in my lavender bathing suit on the black sand beach in Hilo, Hawaii. Coarse sand squished up between my toes. Lightening and thunder clapped in a sky filled with black and grey clouds. A scant hint of blue peeked through.“Don’t go in the water to swim until they have both stopped,” the lifeguard called to me.
The cove was full of black volcanic rocks and pebbles too hard to step on without hurting my feet, so I sat and searched for the famous turtles that swam in these waters. I spotted two resting on a large black rock. I ate my local meal of steamed pork in green tea leaves, a purple sweet potato, and rice. Oh, this is so delicious, it just melts in my mouth. This was so fun hopping on and off the $20 bus, and seeing the Rainbow Falls.

Then a loud snap and rain just fell in buckets, as I ran for shelter. A few couples from the cruise sought shelter with me. “The bus is coming, come on, let’s run for it,” they said. Huge puddles covered my silver Birkenstocks and my pink dress was soaked. Driving into Hilo, I bought a purple muumuu to replace my soaking one. Then boom! I jumped at the loudest thunder I had ever heard. “Welcome to Hilo, the part of the island that always rains,” said the man laughing next to me.

This was the first stop on my 15 day cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship. Seeking rest and refreshment after an exhausting year, I booked the cruise last minute. It was conveniently leaving Pier 27 in San Francisco, and would be gone for two weeks. Destination, Hawaii. These were my criteria for going. I just stepped out in faith and paid the $2500 flash sale rate. No single supplement was available to me.

Looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge as we sailed underneath it, the loud horn blowing in my ears, I was excited to discover what adventure waited for me these next two weeks.

I loved many things about the Grand Princess. The impeccable international staff that did such a great job of caring for us: Joseph, the head waiter in the Bottecheli dining room, picked out my gluten free meals each evening, and Ricco, my personal waiter, served them; Christopher, Julio and Joseph at my favorite bar on the lobby fifth floor, making me delicious mock-tails, including the Dirty Banana; Nike, my cabin steward from India, made me laugh so much, especially telling me how the whales would swim alongside the ship in the evenings to get wifi, knowing when the ship passed by; Anastasia from near the Ukraine, at the front desk, my first helpful soul upon embarkation, always ready to listen to my escapades with a smile.

Each evening, I feel asleep on their luxurious bedding, rocked by the waves like a baby.

During the first few days of rough seas, I sought solace in the Heart and Soul Lotus Spa, run by manager Euniss and her lovely staff. There I received hot rock massages, a milk body wrap, a foot massage, and a facial. They welcomed me with a soft, long robe and bronze slippers. I recommend the biotech deep cleansing facial. An ultrasound wand is run over your skin that stimulates collagen production and cell renewal. After, my skin looked so clean and plump, with fine lines minimized. I was very happy. I thank Tabbi, a young South African girl, for giving me this special facial.

If you want an extra special dining experience try Sabatini’s, the Italian restaurant onboard for a $25 per person surcharge. Impeccable service and gourmet food met my hungry stomach the night I dined there. A six course meal including fresh prosciutto, fondue soup, pasta carbonara, and fresh snapper delighted me. All were made gluten free by the chef. The food was also excellent in the dining rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I loved the delicious poolside Salty Dog Grill with hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, and cheesy bacon fries.

And the music; every type was offered in one of their many lounges, my favorite being the Hawaiian musicians who serenaded us while women danced the hula. Watching movies under the stars on the top deck, snuggled under a blanket with popcorn to munch on, sometimes light drizzle falling, was a magical experience. I enjoyed sitting on one of the blue, wooden deck chairs and watching the sea roll by. As I inhaled the beneficial sea air, all the stress and worry of my life lifted.

I met many wonderful people on board; Joe, Pat, Linda, Lucia, Lisa, Jim, Sharon and Duncan. I hoped to meet more singles, and learned from other passengers the cruises to the Caribbean are the ones to do so. I did attend the ship’s single and solo gathering in the evening, only to find no single men there. I was amazed by the couples who had cruised so many times with Princess, including one couple, Mary and John, who were celebrating their 85th cruise!

My inside cabin in the front of the ship on the 10th floor heard music from the Princess Theater three stories below. There is an ongoing soundproofing problem on the older ship. So try to avoid those cabins unless you like to be serenaded to sleep!

I also prefer to have everything included in my cruise price, but on Princess you pay extra money for certain things: milkshakes and specialty hamburgers; The Sanctuary, a private lounge area with pool for adults only, has a surcharge of $20 for a half day, and $40 for a full day; the soda package covered certain drinks in the bar, but not room service. These were surprises not clear on the website.

Now to the best part…Hawaii! As I stated earlier, we arrived first in Hilo, on the big Island, and docked in early morning. My goal was to sit on a warm beach and swim at each stop. But as you know, I got a big storm! I had to be back by 4:30 PM to sail to the next island, Oahu.

I was excited to see Honolulu again after attending summer school there in my college days. Warm, windy weather greeted me. I was shocked high-risers overshadowed the pink Royal Hawaiian and Waikiki beach. I rented a blue umbrella and chaise lounge for two hours for $25 in front of the Sheridan. I tiptoed through the sand into the light blue, warm water. I can’t believe I am swimming the waves here in Waikiki beach. This is so wonderful.
My next stop was to find the Tiki Village of The International Marketplace where Don Ho used to perform. It is now gone and a three story mall is in its place. I shopped to the sounds of Elvis singing Blue Hawaii. Grabbing a fruit, non-dairy Banan, similar to a frozen yogurt, I hopped aboard a bus to Diamond Head. The bus driver, Ron, told me stories of the island and left me at a local place to get authentic Hawaiian food. Tired now, I returned to the ship, happy at my day here after 38 years!

Back on the ship, we made Hawaiian leis out of purple orchid petals. At departure, we sailed slowly watching the island disappear as we headed out to sea to arrive in Kauai next. Here, I took my first excursion offered through Princess, to the Waimea Canyon, which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. This was on my bucket list.

When we arrived, wild chickens roamed around. I bought some fresh pineapple fritters before I took in the sites of this gorgeous canyon, lined with green vegetation, water falls, and rivers. Overall, I tried to plan my own trips and take local transportation: the public bus, Lyft, or hop-on-hop-off bus.

Our final stop was in Lahaina on the island of Maui. We jettied in from the ship. What can I saw about Lahaina? An old whaler village nicely preserved with shops and the Pioneer Inn built in 1824. In the downtown, I sampled a shave ice, with coconut ice cream and green tea, coconut and lychee flavors on top, much better than I remembered.

My goal was to find some pink pearls, and I went into each jewelry store on Front Street until I found the perfect ones. A long string of baroque, fresh water pearls. They were tied with a brown hemp-like string which reminded me of the stings of rope hanging down from the Banyan trees throughout the islands. I stopped at the small beach and body surfed. The air was warm and balmy with a nice breeze. I sighed happily. This was paradise. All the desires of my heart were met. I was sad as we sailed from Maui in the afternoon sun, and waved Aloha.

My fondest memory was in Hilo being drenched while watching God’s magnificent show of thunder, lightening, trees, and sea, all waving together. My perfect Hawaiian day was in Lahaina because of the weather, and it fulfilled my love of architecture and history.

As a single female traveler, I felt safe aboard the Grand Princess. Nike was in the hallway available to look after my needs at most hours. The stateroom had a comforting double lock and a small safe for valuables, but not my laptop.

If you want to decompress from the stress of living in San Francisco Silicon Valley, the Grand Princess to the Hawaiian Islands is a relaxing getaway in your backyard. No need to hassle with flying. Be sure you like spending many days at sea and are up for an adventure, because as Princess advertises…you will come back new…and I certainly did!

A French Recipe – French Yogurt Cake

Bonjour Mes Amis-

It has been awhile since I blogged. I have been going through many trials and illness, but found my way back to you today. I want to share a baking recipe that I love and is very French, in keeping with my blog theme! It is called French Yogurt Loaf, Gâteau au Yaourt, and is the definition of an “anytime cake”—not only because you’ll want to eat it anytime, but because you can make it anytime, too. Yogurt cake is one of the first desserts French children learn to bake, simple as it is. Following is the recipe to bake up on a lovely spring day, with the warm breeze blowing through your kitchen window. You probably have yogurt in your refrigerator. Welcome your guests with this delicious bread/cake and practice your French in the process.

French Yogurt Cake – Gâteau au yaourt.


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°. Coat pan with vegetable oil spray. Dust with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Using your fingers, rub sugar with lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Add yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend.

Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.

Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen.

You can add a marmalade glaze with fresh fruit, or try nutella inside! Use your imagination!

My Winter Adventure in France – Part 6 – Final

Bon Jour and welcome to my final post on my trip to France last January 2018.
Here are my final days of my beautiful trip for one month that started on the Queen Mary.
Enjoy and I hope you find yourself here one day!
I continue my story in the South of France in Antibes, right on the sea.

January 24

Today it is another day in Paradise. I slept in and went to do laundry down the street. For breakfast I ate a piece of Le Tropizane, the famous pastry I mentioned earlier, from St. Tropez, and let me tell you there is nothing that a little creme and sugar can’t make better. It soothed my hurting heart. I met a nice young Frenchman named Nicolai who runs a scooter shop. He had visited SF and many cities in America and we had a fun conversation and he helped me figure out the machine and money. He folded his clothes so carefully, I remarked on it. “Yes, then I will iron them all.” “Really, in America we throw it in the wash and wear cycle and viola, they are done.” “We have a style here in France to live up too.” “Yes, you do, and you men look so nice in your tight jackets and scarves.” He smiled. He restored my faith in men after last night. What do you think, should I try the scooter or will I ride on the wrong side and end up mort? lol,

January 25
Rainy and cold today – went back to Hotel du Cap – Eden Roc to see what surprise the Lord would bring. First off, I was standing by the wrong gates of Villa Eden Roc, and noticed a sign saying Eden Roc pointing next door. Sure enough, there was the Hotel du Cap majestic in creme with green shutters. Lush gardens and a long driveway led to it. He whispered this would be my home away from home for now, to come for respites as a place by the sea for me. “Antibes is now your home, this is your new beginning I promised”, and until he brings a real home, which he has also promised me, this will be my next step, to come back in the Spring when it opens and to also see Paris lush with grass and flowers, and the Seine a beautiful green/blue.

I wondered if another Francois would show up, but alas, no. Now I am back in my hotel room with some hot chocolate trying to warm up. So the Lord was faithful to me, there is an open door to return, a hint at a romance, and the mer to paint one day soon.

I am pondering going to Italy for the day by train to have pizza, to go to Juan Les Pins nearby and see the beaches, and still rent a bike if the weather cooperates in my three days left. I feel settled now, He has answered my prayers in ways I couldn’t even imagine. It is always different what he brings than what you expect, isn’t it? But always the best gifts, as He is the giver of good gifts.

January 26

Overcast, cold, day trip to Juan Les Pins, a coastal town on other side of cap du Antibes. I love how there are all these different markets selling things outside and today I stumbled on the lingerie market where I got three pairs of lacy, French underwear (not thongs!) for 5 euros. Oh, la la. Now I have bought some clothing. Then I dared myself to walk into a salon and get a French hair cut, which Isabelle, did, matching my hair to her style. It was only 25 euros for wash, cut and blow dry. The shampoo girl massages your head. Do I look tres chic now? lol. I hope the sunshine returns tomorrow so I can ride a bike. I miss riding mine. My heart is wanting to return home.

January 27

God smiled on me today. It was raining when I walked to English bookstore in Old Town to get a book for the plane, Ville American, a fictionalized novel about a famous villa all the notables stayed at between the wars and the romances they had there on the Riviera. When I exited, the sun came out and voila, there were bicycles to rent. I biked all along the rampart walls and mer to the plague. I picked up a falafel with eggplant and cauliflower with frites inside yum yum again. I think it is in the sauces, as I can’t imagine how to reproduce these recipes I have had once home. Oh, well. I will have to wait until I return next spring.

While admiring the view, I met a young South Korean girl here as a student and we compared stories and I warned her to be careful with the men here and not to be alone. She wanted to be Facebook friends and told her to read my stories She seemed interested in me being a Christian missionary and going to church here. We kissed on cheeks goodbye and she said “You are the first American I have kissed like that!” On the way out, I biked down narrow, cobblestone streets, narrowly missing cars, other bikes and baby strollers. A few French yelled at me, I think to say, “Get on the other side of the road.”

I rode the Ferris wheel 5 times around for gorgeous views and rooftops after I dropped off the bike. I am having my last capuchino dry (I taught the French this term ) with fresh beignets yum yum yum. How will I ever eat again at home? Lol.

January 28

Je suis triste (I am sad.). Tomorrow the taxi picks me up at 5a.m to take me to airport. Please pray he arrives on time and I make flight in Nice, and my connection in Paris. Delta ran my name together Teresalyn on my ticket; praying this is not a problem at the airport.

Today, I took Uber to Eglise Protestant Unie, the Protestant church and the poor Uber driver could not find it so around we went until we did! It was a small congregation of about 60 people, mostly elderly, but was greeted warmly. The service was all in French, but the music was universal and my soul sang along with the magestic choir music. French is so lovely sang.

They had a meet and greet and coffee afterward where I introduced my self in French and where I was from. The Pastor said “San Francisco, Caalliforrnia” making fun of how we say our state name. Quite a few women approached me and had conversation in Frenglish, what I call my half and half speech. One sweet lady said, “Are we on kissing terms”, meaning are we still strangers or can we kiss cheeks. I said, “We are all family in Jesus, so yes, we can.”
Communion was a little different. We joined in circle around the baguette and wine and took a piece, gave it to your neighbor and passed the chunk along. Then they passed the chalice of wine which everyone sipped without writing the edges off. Being taught as a missionary to do as the natives did, I did the same, thinking how in America we are such germaphobes and most of you would probably die doing this!

I am so glad I went, now I have a church family to come back to. This is where I felt Lord direct me.

I wandered to Charles de Gaule square and the water fountains there, then leisurely strolled down the Provencal market route, stopping to try my first chocolate at a shop, four pieces with crisps and pistachios. This is the best chocolate I have tasted,

I stopped at the Real Estate office and viewed the homes for sale with their prices in the window. I felt like Diane Lane in the movie Under the Tuscan sun, when she does the same and says, “I can’t go back to San Francisco,” when a local asks her if she is going to buy it! One day I will! You can get an apartment in the Old City for 85,000 euros, or a villa for 1.6 million euros or a villa on the cap for 6 million euros. What can you afford? It is actually cheaper to live here than Bay Area. Studio/one bedroom apartments go for 700 euros a month ($850). I could afford this!

After dreaming, I lined up for a chicken swarma with frites and ate it as I waked out of the Old City to my hotel for the last time. It was sunny and warm and a nice way to say goodbye to my new home, Antibes.

Merci beaucoup for traveling along on my journey and being such a fun and responsive audience! Au Revoir met Amis (Goodbye my friends)

My Winter Adventure in France – Part 5

Bon Jour Mes Amis!

My journey continues on my trip to France last January of 2018 to Paris and the South of France. I am now in Antibes, between Cannes and Nice on my second week of being there. Enjoy the journey!

January 18

Pampering day in Antibes. Took my first Uber to nail salon, all in pink, so knew Lord directed me there. Cute girl Marielle did my mani pedi for 52 euros. Yikes. They don’t do color, that is extra. Very simple pedi done in a foot bath not big chairs. Wandered to main square to perfume shop and treated myself to a lemon toilette spray (86 euros on sale!). But I must smell good for Francois!

Followed the way to la mer and the music of accordion. I sat admiring the view. “Lord, I could live here very happily. The sea and palm trees remind me of home”. My stomach rumbling, I returned to my friend Vincenzi’s restaurant and was warmly greeted by all, he even introduced me to his uncle who kissed my hand! I ordered the special of steak, frites, salat, white wine and chocolate mouse, all for $15 euros, my deal for the day. Vincenzi threw a fit when I asked for leftovers to go. He is Italian. Need I say more?! Lord it is so decadent to drink wine in middle of day. But it is so French!

I have decided to stay the two weeks planned and concentrate on Antibes and Nice. It is just too much to travel to new cities like Cannes or Monaco and not know the layout. I want to take the train to Italy one day as it is so close. Bon appetite!

January 19

What do you do when the Lord asks you to do something strange? Do you obey him? Today, I did. It was not the first time, but I took a leap of faith and told Vincenzi why I was here, to meet my husband Francois and come live in Antibes. He did not know of him, but took my card with name of hotel in case a man comes looking for le femme American, Miriam. He did not think it was crazy, as he is an talian AND Frenchman, and they believe in love in crazy ways. He kidded with me and said. “Are you asking me to come to your hotel tonight?” “Non, I am a good Christian woman.” We both laughed. He did the French trick of asking me if he smelt nice and I leaned in to smell his aftershave and he turned and kissed me on the lips! “Do the women fall for this every time?” “Oui.” He is not married nor wants to be, so I know he is not Francois. I hope Jesus is not jealous with his teasing!

It feels good to have a friend and be known and welcomed at a place here. The girls at the front desk, Celine and Aurelia are so helpful and like me to check in with them every day to see if I got lost and hear about my adventures. They are even going to let me do a load of laundry here. God is good. I had a nice, relaxing day and slept into 11 am. Tomorrow is Nice. Aurelia has drawn me maps!

Januany 20


I just ate the best pizza in Old Town of Nice in a heart shape with eggplant, olives, mushrooms and arugula. I travelled by train, then took tram to Promenade du Anglese, the street that runs along le mer and where the tragedy of car ramming happened. The have cafes right on the beach and free blue chairs to sit in. The water is a baby blue with gray toned rocks pebbling the beach expanse. I am making my way to Marc Chagall Musee if I can find it! I walked arm in arm with Jesus along the promenade. I am so much more in love with him on this trip, he has taken such good care of me, which I know is from your prayers. Merci mon amis.

Part two of Nice: Took a ride in the bicycle with Armand, who didn’t know if he could make it up the hill to the Musee Chagall, but said he would try! Well, he did it, pulling fat me up the hills! I was overwhelmed with tears again to see my favorite Jewish artist, Marc Chagall’s works. He built the museum when he was in his early 80s to feel like a home, with olive trees and mediteranean plants.

His canvases are so big, and such detail, I had to sit and find the biblical details and meanings in each one. I especially loved his Song of Songs series in pinks and purples to express the love of King David and Basheba, whom the Jews believe the Songs were written about. He has Christ crucified in many painting, to supposedly represent the tortured Jew, but I think something else was going on in his heart. I couldn’t take it all in, so stopped, as I was very tired from walking all day on the promenade.

I spoke with an artist displaying his art about the tragedy, and he feels someone in France was in on the terroism, as the security stopped bicycles from going into the crowds that day, but allowed the truck onto the road. Today, they have large white posts to block any car coming unto the promenade.

Now a local, I picked up my baguette after I returned to Antibes by train, to have with my tapenade and cheese dinner. I love it here!

January 21

Guess where I went for a matinee today? The French theater here in Antibes. A group of actors were staying at my hotel the last two days, and I met one in the elevator, John Baptiste, and so I thought I would go. While inquiring at the desk, a quiet, redheaded gentleman heard me and being the production head, he offered me a free ticket! His name is Francois, wasn’t he kind? It was exciting going, I met a nice Italian woman, Laura, who has lived here for 20 years, while having a coke before the show. It was titled Un Air du Famile about a normal, dysfunctional family that meets in a cafe every Friday night for dinner. I understood some of it, but ACT 2 was very funny, with crying and dancing and just universal themes that were expressed through drama. Isn’t the Lord good to let me see live theater here? He is full of surprises.

January 22

Today was a simple, outdoor day taking the bus to Eden Roc Villa, famous hotel where F. Scott Fitgerald, Rita Hayworth and The Kennedy Family would stay. It is closed but I got a peek through the fence. I then walked on the sentinel path along the Cap d’Antibes, stone steps along a narrow path falling to the sea. I sat and watched the waves crash on the stones, many looking volcanic in nature. Roc means rock in French.

On the way back in town, I finally found a cheap, good salad for 4.9 euros, which I have been craving veggies. I am al breaded out! I discovered a famous pastry at a bakery, which Napolean ate and to which Marie Antoniette said, ‘Let them eat cake.” Here is a pic of them and the sea walk. Enjoy.

Check back in July for the final week in Antibes before heading home after my month long trip across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and three weeks in France.

A Bientôt – Miriam