Friday, October 31, 2008

Count me In among the Decided

How can people still be undecided? Simple. They were always undecided, split in their allegiance, or confused by all the blabber and the fury. Undecided get what they deserve, though. If they don't take the time to educate themselves on the choices and then make a committment to one of those choices, they are either lazy or stupid.

They want somebody else to decide for them. And someone will. I read somewhere that we get the leaders we deserve. WE DESERVE. Simply put, people who run for office are interested in leading and governing, we assume. What we don't know is who is supporting them, who is financing their campaigns and gets a piece of his/her soul. So, those are the people who get elected, usually.

But this election has taught us something else. Ordinary folks,those who could give no more than $100 to the campaign came together, contributed what they could, and they now have a superlative candidate who is not financed by big money and selfish interests. We have a candidate whose pilgrim's progress was humble and truly christian in spirit: helping those less fortunate. He does not have country club credentials or jet-setters interests. Both he and his wife paid for their education through hard work and hope. If we had this type of candidate in the past, we didn't recognize him. He would never have surfaced to this prominence. We needed the experiences of a six-pack George administration to understand the importance of selecting the right candidate.

Undecided will get what they get. They choose not to choose. But for me, and those of us who have thoghtfully vetted our choices all these months, we have made our choice.

After Tuesday, with Barack Obama's leadership, America will finally have a government responsive to all people.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My vote

Today I will vote, finally. The ballot and the pamphlets have piled up on the dining room table, and it is time to clear the mess and committ. Not that I had to think much about any of the choices on this year's ballot. The choices were obvious, and no amount of mudslinging or pimple finding was going to distract me.

I enjoyed the charade, the attacks, the twists and turns and word=coinage necessary to convince people. My test is to look at who is sponsoring the measure. People have motives and histories. And it is not hard to Google and get facts and sources.

We go back to our basic instincts when we vote. We look at a candidate and his/her history and form an opinion, an impression of how that person lived his/her life and whether he/she would understand the needs that we have.

And then, there is the way we all express our needs. Some of us are more selfish than others. And, at election time, we don't hide it too well. Look at who wants to save whom. And who needs to be saved. And who has done the saving in his/her past.

I don't need government's help. But I know lots of people who do, not because of anything they did or didn't do. Their circumstances in life became demanding. Most people have worked and struggled. And we had compassionate people help us on the way. Government is the ultimate expression of that compassion, of people looking out for each other to do things they could not do on their own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The writer's life

In our writing group, two men and a dozen women who tend to come and go, we appreciate each other's efforts and recognize that any time, any minute, the maladies that afflict one will afflict us all, maladies as self-doubt and lack of inspiration. These are the dreaded ones.

They are virus, actually, surfacing now and then and blooming for weeks and months and even years. We know what we must do and remind each other to continue to write, and continue to believe in our own unique way of expressing experiences and beliefs.

Just as it happened in kindergarten when we loved all the new things around us, the letters, the words, the foods, the tactile experience of sharing close space with strangers, and we looked forward to the pleasures explored in that room, so it can be again, each time we write, each time we share with appreciative friends and helpful supporters.

Then, self-doubt will remain a dormant virus and writing will continue to be joyous.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Election Season

Ray Bradbury described the approach of Christmas, the making of fruitcake, in a beautiful short story, recounting the smell and feel of that season. Every four years we experience a season that has peculiar sensations, smells and feels.

It has the best and the worst, the homey and brave, and the icy and bully, a vision of hope, and a vision of fear, all at the same time.

When did politics become such a dividing rod? The New Yorker related how people as late as the 1800's had to obtain and carry their own ballots to the polls, and on the way to the polling places they were mugged, lost the ballots, or worse. Voting has never been a friendly activity.

We tell a lot about ourselves by the people we choose to support in leadership roles. What is best and worst in human nature comes out during election season. We tend to choose with our gut feeling, a primitive brain that had to be ready to flee or fight, eat or be eaten.

Our little town of 1000+ residents has a pretty good cooperative spirit most of the time. But, lately, it is divided and conflicted, recalling city councilors and badmouthing a whole lot of issues. We've seen these things before, and they do not end up well.

No wonder then, that the attacks and counterattacks are getting ugly. The spirit of election time brings out the competitive spirit in most people, and differences are shouted and emphasized to the detriment of cooperation and team spirit.

Too bad. Shouting and hollering prevent planning and reflecting and visualizing how the future will look for our children and grandchildren. All our children will remember of election season is its ugliness and a bad taste.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A new phase in America

We heard it for a while, but we didn't want to believe it, how America was slipping back, ignoring its infrastructure, abandoning its focus on creating jobs and prosperity for all Americans. We had an inkling that we were somehow overextended, though we could still go to Wall Mart and fill up our carts with cheap merchandise.

When we couldn't fill up our gas tanks, when the cost of one week's gas was as much as the weekly grocery bill, we began to voice our concerns.

When September came and our kids returned to schools that were a bit more decrepit, a bit less equipped, a bit understaffed, we didn't pay attention. After all, schools have been complaining all along, nothing new.

It took the big news of Wall Street collapsing for us to notice our Main Street had been ignored and forlorn for a while. When a rescue package was put together in Congress with more zeros than we would have picture in our household, we began to comprehend. These troubles are big. This situation involves all of us in America. Pensions, retirement funds, college savings, life savings, houses, jobs, health care, food inspection, environment, all, all aspects of everybody's lives are in this meltdown.

We noticed that the global markets took a hit as well. And that in places like Europe, coooperation and planning took place quickly and efficiently. We noticed that solutions have been worked out and somehow, if we are lucky, we will find solutions in America as well.

I wonder how we got so far behind the curve. In my lifetime, the European nations had become a bunch of rubble and broken people at the end of a war, and they too had domestic and foreign terrorists for decades. But they managed to coordinate efforts, support infrastructure building, life-style accomodations for all their citizens, provided for the welfare of those who couldn't do it for themselves, and built a new economy and a strong solidarity.

In a couple of weeks we will vote for a new leadership. America cannot stand alone in the world, doing the same things and expecting miracles. Let's roll up our sleeves and work at solutions the democratic way.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parting Words and "Au Revoir".

I could go on and on about France. Vacations will continually haunt you, caress you and make you dream. As I unpacked and collected the bits of paper, maps and ticket stubs and tried to find a place to keep all this, for times when dreaming of Provence would lift my mood, I ran across the email addresses of the fellow passengers. I wish I'd spent more time getting to know them as well. Their impressions and bits of information would add to my understanding of what we experienced.

We can write to each other and share the eccentric details sticking out from each town. Like the way the elevator and the lights in Paris were dependent on our room key to operate. That first ride, how we stood there and kept pushing the up button in the elevator with no results until someone entered, put his key in and off we went. Or the flushing mechanisms in each establishment, or the fact that when we had finished eating in that beautiful place in Baune. or so we thought, and asked for the "addition", the bill, the waiter prompty advised us that the "real dessert" was still on the way. It turned out that they handed out packets of goodies as we waited for the souffles.

I wish I had gotten closer to some people, as well. The driver of the bus was from Italy, Monza, where I have nephews who'd be the same age and might, just might be known to him. But I didn't think to ask him when I chatted in Italian with him.

In the restroom in Monte Carlo, as I paid the attendant, I heard Italian spoken. I must have laughed at the joke that the two ladies were sharing, something about having to pay to pee. One of them asked me if I too came from Italy. I told them that I grew up in a tiny town. She asked me, and I told her. It surprised both of us to realize we had come from the same town, and knew many families still living there. I could have chatted longer, but my Italian wasn't fluent enough for such intimacies.

And then the Canadian couple, he from Italy, she from England, married for forty years, our age. We got along swimmingly, though the husband reminded me of all the stubborn Italian men I'd known. His wife agreed with me.

And the kitchen gardens at the winery where we had a lunch al fresco and everybody got sun burned. I made my husband take lots of pictures. These will be my reminder that I too can work my garden space to such meticulous beauty. Every square inch was cultivated or decorated. No wild spaces, no errant bush or blackberry vine sneaking up and invading the symmetry. But then, there were no birds. NO BIRDS! I can't remember the official explanation. Is it because they hunt them?

The rows of vegetables and flowers were neatly arranged, not a weed patch anywhere. Pears and apples were espaliered, and even tomatoes were trained on one main vine. The big, clunky fig trees were relegated to the end of the garden, providing a wind barrier and some shade. Throughout, fine gravel was the foot path and rose harbors stood as gates to each distinctive area. Our lunch included food from those gardens and wine from the adjecent vineyards. Did you know that in France grapes are not irrigated? The character of the fruit is inhanced by letting the roots go deep to look for water and to extract the essence of the "terroir", the earth.

My dad was a winemaker. This intimate visit brought back many memories of him working in the vineyards, tending each and every grapevine by hand, daily concentration of love and sweat. He used to make a special wine just for me, or so he said. He would show me where my grapes grew, how much was needed for a bottle of wine. It was a sweet Muscat, watered down for me for many years, just the way most children in Italy would get to taste and appreciate wine with their family meals.

France is a place to return and visit more slowly,savoring every bite, every drink.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The French Riviera

After the wine estates and the charming medieval towns, after we viewed the Camarque and the fields of Provence, artists' colonies and romantic wetlands,papal palaces and Crusaders' bastions, we headed to the French Riviera.

Out of Marseille we drove along the Aurelian Way to visit St. Maximin-la-Ste-Baune where, according to legend, the bones of St. Mary Magdalene are buried in the Basilica, in an underground crypt. The nearby school and seminary are now a hotel, catering to the many tourists who come around after the "Da Vinci Code" put this church on the map of all pilgrims.

We stopped in Cannes for lunch and pictures on the steps of the Film FEstival Centre on the Boulevard de la Croisette. We had lunch at Freddy,on the boulevard, where the specialty was a delightful paella. Spanish and Italian influences were seen in all the items on the menu. The place was soon filled with jet-setters. If we looked carefully we could have spotted Angelina and Brat. WE were surrounded by subdued natives eating and talking in whispers, loud tourists from all over the globe, and paparazzi taking pictures of anyone being dropped off in a limo. This prepared us for Monte Carlo the next day.

Monte Carlo sits on top of a hill, entered through one main highway that is manned twenty-four hours a day. The traffic is controlled so the town doesn't get too overwhelming. Our bus was detained for a good hour before it was allowed to drive at the bottom of a hill and drop us off to make our own way to the middle of the action. To see the Casinos and the fancy restaurants we had to walk up, a vertical challenge for those of us used to easier walks. My husband and I and a couple of other people took our time. The winding road revealed breath-taking vistas of the Riviera and its palaces tightly packed and neatly organized around one way roads. The royal palace is visible at the very top of another hill.

The main piazza was busy with people and fancy cars. I had never seen so many Ferrari and Lamborghini zooming through, dropping off somebody and zooming away. We took a gelato and walked around the piazza, while others walked in the casinos and tried their luck at a roulette table.

When we finally settled in Nice, at the Hotel Ellington, pictures of American Jazz musicians hanging in the halls, 30's architecture and allure, we were tired and hungry.

Our trip ended a day later, after a farewell dinner and exchanges of addresses. We had made some good friends, had eaten some unusual food, and had seen sights that reminded us of San Francisco and Las Vegas.

I was ready to go home, where I could walk to the beach and collect shells and agates at leisure. I saw too many people and too much wealth in the last few towns and I longed for simple food and quiet streets.

France is a nice place to visit; but I wouldn't want to live there.

How the world sees us

During our trip to France we hung around our fellow travelers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and the United States. Those of us from the States were in the minority. The Australians dominated. Next in number were the Canadians. Mostly, these people were professionals, teachers, engineers, government workers, small business men and women, taking a vacation in early fall, or early spring, as the case for the lower hemisphere.

These folks were frequent travelers,stopping in France for the second or third time in their lives, taking a couple of weeks on their trek to see more of the world. Half of the tour group had finished a cruise in the Mediterrenean, visiting France before flying back home.

The time when Americans dominated tourism is past. Our dollar bought us less than ever before; and that is the major rub.

Everyone asked us about our political views. And everyone, with no exception, voiced disappointment and incredulity at our American policies. Barack Obama was the overwhelming choice among these travelers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What to buy in France

Most of us are shoppers, curious people, bargain hunters. The places we visited were full of shops with beautiful products made by local artisans. I kept looking for bargains as well. Since a Euro translated to one-dollar-fifty or thereabout, I was constantly adding 50% of the price of each item to have a full idea of the purchase price. Since France has a value-added-tax of 20% already in the price, it was hard to come up with the bottom line. I must add that in order to collect the value-added-tax at the airport, one must keep good receipts and read the fine print.

This is what I bought: soaps; jars of fleur-de-sel with herbes-de-Provence; jars of jams and tapenade; scarfs and berets; a wool shawl; books; hats; and two paintings. The last two purchases were made by my husband and are still on route. He fell in love with both the artists and the paintings and by the time we left the galleries, he had left his patrimony on the table. I can't wait for these to arrive.

I started by wanting to buy scarfs and porcelains. Frenchmen all wear scarfs with creative touches. It turns out one can spend the cost of a vacation on one Hermes scarf or one beautiful pill box. I gave full attention to these items and appreciated the workmanship and the quality. If any reader has the money and wants to purchase these on line, they will get the most beautiful designs and quality in the world. I just couldn't see wearing a scarf that cost more than an entire outfit I'd wear, including new shoes and new coiffure.

We had to dispose of some things to make room for our purchases, with airlines keeping tabs of all our luggages and charging plenty for going over 50 lbss. Simple, undergarment and ordinary T's. To replace them, it would just be a few dollars in the States. Besides, who wants to bring back dirty laundry?

Those readers who are curious about any of the elements of this post, from products to recipes, can obtain more information, including authentic Provencal recipes by posting a request.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A culinary experience in Menerbes

Menerbes is a village in the heart of Provence, in the picturesque Luberon area, now on every tour guide, after Peter Mayle wrote his New York Times bestseller, "A Year in Provence".

We prepared for the experience by learning a few French culinary terms. The plan was to take a cooking lesson from the chef at Cafe Verona, and then eat the results. We were hungry and curious when we arrived at nine in the morning, the town barely waking.

We were divided in groups of twelve. A few just sat and watched. One group went shopping for the ingredients, another toured the town, and a third began chopping and prepping with the chef. Each group participated in every activity.

Menerbes is one of the prettiest villages in France,on a promontory with stunning views of the Luberon and Monts de Vaucluse. Vineyards and farms surround the town; one main road winds up all the way to the top.

Before Peter Mayle changed it forever as a tourist destination, Menerbes was famous for having remained staunchly protestant.

Back at the restaurant, Chef Maurice showed us how to prepare and assemble the various dishes. He made sure every one of us knew how to chop, roll, cut and assemble. We learned to make gaspacho, croustillant de volaile aux herbes, and clafoutis aux figues. I had made gaspacho, but the chicken rolled in phillo dough with herbs and tapenade was new to me. And clafouti? I thought it was too hard to make.

I learned more in one hour with him than all the hours of watching cooking shows on television, even from Julia Child's. I learned how to choose the brightest, freshest and most ripe tomatoes for the gaspacho.Nothing else will do.

There is something quite uplifting about being in a bright kitchen, neatly organized, with sous chefs all around promptly responding to requests. Three-four hours after we arrived,everyone had been exposed to France's patrimony of growing the best, harvesting the best, and constantly looking at ways to improve a product. In the middle of town was the Museum of Gastronomy,with a whole room dedicated to the Truffle, what it is, where to find it, how to identify its many forms, and how to cook with it. We could have spent the equivalent of a child's college fund bringing back a jar of this product.

When the forty of us sat down for lunch, the experience was enhanced by the beautiful surroundings and the knowledge that the food was prepared through a cooperative of farmers, winemakers, purveyors and restaurateurs, all dedicated to eating well and living well.

At the end of our meal, we were all appreciative as we thanked the chef and left clutching the recipes.

Now, I just have to sit down with a dictionary and translate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marseille and Provence

We spent four days in Marseille, taking day trips to Avignon, Menerbes, Aix-en-Provence,Arles.

Marseille was much more intimate than Paris. The hotel was right on the Quai de Rive Neuve,on the bay, overseeing boat ramps and many water activities including cruise ships and private yachts. The street was full full of shops, restaurants, museums, threaters. Everywhere, people from all over the world. Most were polite and curious. There were a few beggars who approached us on the street. I heard many languages and always, English was the most predominant among the tourists.

We had great pizza and a true Marseillaise specialty: mulles-et-frites,steamed mussels and french fries. I felt as though I was in Italy.

The day trips took us out of Marseille for a good portion of the day; but the evenings were ours,to walk to the local shops or take a free ferry across the bay to get to the opposite side of town. We visited an electronic store looking for a charger for a digital camera. This kind of store was the only one where many people did not know English and kept sending us somewhere else.

In the back alleys, I stopped at a fish-monger's shop, whole fish being sold, too small to appear in our supermarkets: anchovies, sardines, dories,mussels and shellfish, lined up on ice, brought in just a couple of hours before.

We sat at sidewalk cafes, ordered espressos and sat undisturbed. They do not give you the bill until you ask for it. Imagine, nobody rushing you. And the tip is included!

The weather was wonderful; and all people seemed to be dressed casually, looking the same, actually. Until people opened their mouths, I couldn't tell who was native, and who was a tourist.

When the bill is brought to the table, the credit card is passed through a device that spits out the paperwork right in front of you. Everything is efficient and easy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In the heart of Burgundy

Our stop in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy vineyards was preceded by wine tasting lessons and a bit of history of the place. Beaune was a medieval town, with narrow streets all leading to the center of town. We left the hotel Mercury and walked to the old town, where another lesson in wine tasting awaited us, this time it was Burgundy wine.

The town was one of many small towns in the hills sorrounded by wineries and farms, typical Provence architecture, stone two-story houses with courtyards neatly lined up with fine gravel, olive and fig tree providing shade for bistro tables and chairs. Many houses had been converted to studio apartments or restaurants and shops.

Our meal in Beaune at the Jardin de Remp., a Michelin rated restaurant, was quite an adventure. We looked at the menu posted outside,all in French, and calculated that 75 Euros was a bit much, but probably worth it. The place looked like the Napa Tre Vigne restaurant, with outdoor seating in a beautiful garden setting.

The friends that joined us didn't know any French. It fell to me to order for all of us. I managed. And I was helped by an unusually sensitive and well trained staff. The food was the best we had ever eaten, anywhere.

I can tell you that each plate was a beautiful work of art, and the food tasted like nothing we had ever had. For appetizer we had a bite, yes, a bite of black cod, crunchy and salty, swimming in a foam of seagrass and curls of vegetables, resembling seaweeds nestling the fish.

A glass of Champagne started the meal accompanied by lollypops made with potatoes and beets licks, and toasted nuts acting as chess pieces on a wooden chess board.

A second dish of eggplant terrine came with a variety of breads and rolls and a bottle of Burgundy.

Our main dish was lamb medallions, small bites of really rare lamb, with pine-nuts and an unusual tomato sauce on top of a rice timbale.

The last dish was a wonderful souffle, lemony and light, surrounded by berries and drops of jellied fruit and molded ice-creams floating on a congeled bed of berry juice.

They sent us off with baskets of little cakes, candies and chocolates.

The only other time I was this impressed was in Palm Springs, fifteen years ago, at St. James. If I remember correctly, the prices were just as special.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A taste of France

Our stay in Paris was way too short; we missed visiting The Louvre, and the rest of the wonderful sights. We were headed south to Provence, the foodie places associated with France. On the highway, we marveled at the beautiful countryside, green and sparkling in the sunshine. It felt a lot like Oregon, our home state, without the pine trees. Many times our bus stopped at toll booths, paid the fees and was back on the road at a good speed. It turns out that roads charge a pretty sum. Our bus went East and South, stopping at a highway food stop for snack breaks and to fuel up. These highway grills are a lot like those we had met in Italy, with quick meals as well as freshly prepared entrees. There were also good places to purchase souvenirs.

Families would sit outside in a park-like setting, pulling out their picnic lunches and allowing children and pets to wander and explore before heading back on the highway. Italian, Spaniard, German, Russians car plates indicated the country of origin. We heard English as the language used at the counters, and various other languages spoken at the various tables. All had the need to eat, use the restroom and return on the road. I was amazed at how well behaved the pets were, many off leash, easily accepting life on the road.

Our stop in the Mercier Champagne vineyards gave us an education on the manufacturing and the storing of this special wine. I was very surprised to find out that Pinot Noir grapes make up the base of Champagnes. Our very own Oregon best grapes are the base of Champagne!

Towns passed by. We stopped at Reims, Epernay, Troyes, before stopping for the night in Beaune.

Beaune will forever remain in my memory because it was the place where my husband and I and a couple of friends had the most memorable meal in France.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Evening at the Moulin Rouge

The Cabaret stands as it did for years, crowds lined up around the block at 7:00 p.m. hoping to get in for dinner and show, or just get in for one of the shows. It is probably the most famous, most photographed cabaret in the world. Those of us who chose to go on this optional excursion were warned about the adult nature of the performances. Most of us wanted to connect to a bit of history. And some of us wanted to compare the experience to what is available in Vegas.

Our group occupied two front row tables, and were seated as soon as we arrived. The place was already full, and I wondered how the people outside were ever going to get in. The stage area seemed small until the show started and it suddenly increased its size expanding out and jutting against the dinner tables. We couldn't have had a more convenient place.

The music felt familiar, and the costumes were barely covering the dancers' bodies. The numbers were polished, fun, and the attention went to the athleticism of the dancers. Their nude bosoms were just a minor distraction soon dismessed.

We all looked forward to the most famous number, the can-can dance, which came toward the end and was quite subdued. The numbers in between, ventriloquists, impersonators and comics, drew from many cultures. There was even an audience participation that drew people from all over the world on stage. The atmosphere was charged with more genuine excitement not found in Vegas.

On the way out of the place, around ten thirty, we saw a bigger crowd ready to take in the second show. The place has too much history for tourists and natives to miss.
The meal and entertainment, which included ballroom dancing before the show with a live orchestra and international singers, were worth every euro we spent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paris in the Fall

We stayed at the Marriott, in Neuilly, a ritzy suburb of Paris where the streets were wide and lined with exquisitely hand trimmed horse chestnut trees. We learned from our French guide Mirelle,a specialist in the history and life-style of the city, that there are only two types of trees allowed to grow there, and they are trimmed by hand. So French! She spent time reviewing the history of France during Napoleon, whose tomb we visited and studied. There, she injencted other tidbits about French life, from how many hours in the week that they work, 35, and how flexible their work schedule is. We saw that first hand as we lined up to board the bus at 9:00 a.m. and saw dozens of parents,dressed to go to work, but leisurely walking their children to school before getting into their cars, or getting on a bike to get to work. There are bike kiosks everywhere, and for a fixed fee, people can borrow a bike and drop it off somewhere else. Bikes, cars, buses and motorbikes competed to get into the streets and off the streets. The traffic was horrendous throughout the day.

Paris was built like most European cities from a small kernel, an island, actually, outward. Notre Dame cathedral is on that island, the first city proper on the Seine, and on our boat tour on the Seine we saw all the major places while a beautiful weather and instructions in four different languages made the trip quite enjoyable and easy. Throughout Paris one can look up and see the Eiffel Tower, a major marker for direction.

We entered Notre Dame while Mass was being celebrated. We became a river of tourists circling the cathedral as the main nave was set up for Mass. The noise and the flashing photography was deafening. I noticed that a small candle cost three euro to light up. Inflation of devotional stature.

No matter where we were headed, we passed the Arc du Triomphe,and some of our tour members returned later to visit and take pictures. My husband and I were happy to be transported everywhere, avoiding the hassle of driving or finding our way around on the Metro. But people who ventured out on their own had no trouble finding assistance and people were happy to help. We were amazed at how many people spoke English, and when they didn't, they would help us communicate with our limited French.

What we knew about Paris unfolded in front of us at every street corner: cafes with outdoor seating, well dressed Parisians, charming buildings with well kept frontage. Our tour guide explained that buildings must be maintained according to specified standards on the outside. But, there are no standards for the inside. Many times, we stopped to have coffee at a beautiful place, and when we looked for a restroom, it was relegated to a tiny, tiny basement, accessible through a winding, skinny circular staircase, hard to see, and harder to manuveur around. Each time, the appliances were different, the flushing mechanisms were different and the places were all too stuffy.

We only had one rude encounter the whole time we were in Paris. It was at a cafe in Montmatre,full of artists and small shops, accessible by a funicular. We looked at the menu and I asked a question in French. The response was a rude: "What do you want to eat?" I put that in the category of someone who had not had much experience with the English language. The meal was not remarkable.