Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 19, 2018

A story encapsulated in a poem

My middle schooler has been learning a poem by heart for his French class.

He was having a difficult time with the following poem, the excellent Déjeuner du matin by Jacques Prévert . Much of his difficulty in memorizing came from a lack of understanding.

He was reading the poem as  a type of ‘Ode to café au lait’. As a coffee lover myself, I wouldn’t be upset by this interpretation. But once my son and I walked through the story together, and he understood the story couched within the poem, it made more sense to him.

Once he understood its slow build up of the normal morning routines, with only a hint of something odd happening, up until the final, dramatic moment when the woman’s husband or boyfriend walks out on her forever, he was better able to understand the rhythm and the repetition, and to memorize it.

This little poem is a complete story, with an easy language and vocabulary for beginner students (and use of the passé composé!) And, while I can’t always claim I enjoy coming home from a  long day of work to start my ‘night shift’ studying alongside my son, I did have fun on this one.

If you’re interested, I’ve included the poem here below, alongside my English translation (but be forewarned: it sounds far better in the original…)

Déjeuner du matin
Jacques Prévert

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse

Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café

Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait

Avec la petite cuillère
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler

Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis
Son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.


English translation:

He poured the coffee
in the cup

He poured the milk
in the coffee cup

He added sugar
to the café au lait

With the teaspoon
He stirred
He drank the café au lait
And he placed the cup down
Without speaking to me

He lit
A cigarette
He made smoke rings
With the smoke
He tapped the ashes
Into the ashtray
Without speaking to me
Without looking at me
He stood up
He put
His hat on his head
He put on
His raincoat
Because it was raining
And he left
Under the rain
Without a word
And I, I dropped
My head in my hands
And I cried.



Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 16, 2018

Stunning views from the roof of Milan’s Duomo

Milan's Duomo, Italy

Milan’s Duomo, with the golden Madonnina that is the symbol of the city

I was very happy to get back to Milan recently – a city where I lived almost two decades ago.

One of the things I used to do when friends visited me in Milan was to take them to the roof of Milan’s Duomo – the cathedral. From there, there are beautiful views over the city and – on rare, clear days in Lombardy’s capital – out to the mountains in the distance.

Lots of things have changed since my time living in Milan, including the packed lines to buy a ticket for the Duomo and its roof. We wasted a lot of time waiting at this inefficient sales point, so next time I’ll look for ways to purchase online in advance.

Milan's Duomo, ItalyBecause it was December, the higher terrace level was closed due to ice, so we visited the church first, then walked around the city center until the ice – luckily – melted, and we could climb up to the very top.

And a climb it is – 500 steps, to be precise. Of course, you can also buy the elevator tickets, but what’s the fun of that?

Unfortunately, my youngest son, who is the one who sprints up every bell tower, cathedral, watch tower, etc was in his hotel bed with the flu, and missed this adventure. He already told me I need to get him back so he can climb up, so this probably means I’ll be hiking up these 500 stairs again sometime soon.

Milan's Duomo, ItalyIt’s well worth the effort. The view is how I remember it, although the crowds were much bigger than they were decades ago, and I also had the feeling there were more guard rails than when I visited last.

This was certainly an improvement, as I can recall very cautiously exploring the roof in the past. I have no idea how people scared of heights coped back then.

It was a cold but clear day when we were there, but, sadly, no views of the mountains beyond Milan. Still, the hike up, and the views over Milan were as beautiful as I remember them from so many years ago. And with my younger son still grumbling that his fever kept him from seeing anything in the city, I know I’ll have an excuse to get back again soon! Happy urban hiking when you’re next in Milano…

Milan's Duomo, Italy

Milan's Duomo, Italy

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 12, 2018

Another New Year, another Goodreads Reading Challenge

2018 Goodreads Reading ChallengeIt’s that time of year again for those of us who love reading – time to set our reading goals for 2018.

Every year I sign up for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and 2018 is no exception.

I’ve pledged to read 45 novels in the new year. I generally meet my challenge, but if I don’t, it’s no problem, since it’s all in good fun. But for those of us devouring novels anyway, it’s a convenient way to keep track of what we’re reading, share reviews and read those of others, learn about new novels out there, and so much more.

What about you, readers? Joining the Goodreads Reading Challenge this year? Happy reading to all!

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 9, 2018

Ringing in the New Year on the slopes of Abruzzo

Ovindoli, Abruzzo, ItalyI generally don’t travel far during the holidays.

While I’m almost always up for travel, the super-busy Christmas holidays is a time I’d rather not deal with hectic airports or packed trains and highways.

I tend to stick close to Rome, generally making short trips to nearby towns and cities. It’s also a great time to enjoy all that’s on offer in Rome – the theatre and exhibitions and films I never have enough time to enjoy.

And during the holidays I almost always make it out, for at least some days, to our place in the mountains of nearby Abruzzo – in the town of Ovindoli.

This year was no exception, and I enjoyed ringing in 2018 in the Apennine mountains.

Even better, there was plenty of snow on the slopes, so my family and I celebrated the first days of the New Year on the slopes – always the best way to ring in the new year.

Ovindoli, Abruzzo, ItalyMy kids are enthusiastic skiers, and as city dwellers, we’re especially happy to escape and enjoy entire days outside breathing fresh mountain air while exercising.

This year, we were lucky to have pretty good snow on the slopes, and we’d ski from early morning opening time to when the slopes closed for the day.

For me, there’s no better way to ring in the new year… and creating nice memories we’ll all draw upon now that we’re back at school and work. Sadly, good things never last forever! Hoping the snow will stick around so I can enjoy much more skiing in the new year …

Ovindoli, Abruzzo, Italy

Ovindoli, Abruzzo, Italy


Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 5, 2018

2018 – A happy new writing year to all!

2017_NewYear_2018A wonderful 2018 to everyone! But special wishes for a productive new writing year to all you writers out there!

Usually, this is my time to make writing resolutions for the new year. Until now, I’ve also been pretty good about keeping my resolutions.

But 2017 flummoxed me. I did very little (creative) writing, and kept none of my resolutions : (. So rather than come up with new resolutions, I have chosen to “live in the past” and carry over my 2017 resolutions. The main point of this exercise – for me, at least – is to carve out more writing time for myself.

And you, writers? Do you make writing resolutions? Do you keep them? Do you have writing plans and goals for 2018? Wishing you all a wonderful start to 2018!

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | January 2, 2018

Old time splendor at Oslo’s Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel, OsloOslo’s Grande Dame of a hotel, the Grand Hotel, was built in Norway’s capital in 1874 – back when Oslo went by the name Kristiania.

It is located centrally, on the main shopping street of Karl Johans gate, between the Norwegian Parliament and the Royal Palace.

I love old hotels like this, full of charm and stories to tell … if only the walls could talk.

The Grand Hotel continues with traditions – it is where the Nobel Laureate for the Peace Prize stays before being bestowed the award each year in Oslo’s City Hall.

Grand Hotel, osloThe Hotel has a fabulous lobby bar/lunch room oozing art deco charm and – incongruous for chilly Norway – potted palms.

Its breakfast room, which also serves dinner, is the Grand Cafe. This is where the famed Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen would be headed when he walked each day from his home (now on the street renamed Henrik Ibsens gate) to the cafe where he would eat his daily lunch and dinner, and spend time with fellow artists and intellectuals, including Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Grand Hotel, Oslo, NorwayThe cafe has recently been renovated, but sadly seems to have been stripped of its Old World charm as glimpsed in this old photo at right.

At the time of its construction in 1874, it was Oslo’s only ‘modern’, European cafe. Still, even with the changes,  it’s an impressive place to go.

Make sure to visit (or stay in) Oslo’s Grand Hotel on your next visit to the city. For more tips on what to do in Norway’s capital, see my earlier posts on the National Museum of Art, the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, Oslo’s opera houseOslo’s City Hall and jogging in Oslo.

Grand Hotel, Oslo, Norway

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 29, 2017

My 2017 in books

GoodreadsOkay, I admit it. I’m a book nerd.

This is one of the reasons I so love taking the Goodreads Challenge each year, because I can enjoy my end-of-year 2017 in books overview.

I love reviewing the books I’ve read over the year, and the pages (over 18,000!) I’ve read that aren’t technical reports or scientific papers I’ve for work. : )

Looking forward to another year of great reading!

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 26, 2017

Nikolaiviertel in Berlin

Nikolaiviertel, BerlinI had a  nice little wander in this picturesque neighborhood when I was in Berlin.

I suppose liking this vibe of this historic neighborhood is a bit akin to claiming one of the most stunning castles you’ve seen is the one in Orlando, Florida. For alas, Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel is a bit Disneyesque…

This small area on the bank of the Spree River once housed some of Berlin’s oldest homes, however, the zone was largely destroyed by bombing during World War II. It fell within East Germany during the Cold War period, and the East Germans made the rather controversial decision in the 1980s to redevelop the area creating a little medieval village.

Nikolaiviertel, BerlinI suppose my thinking on this, having spent much time in post-Communist countries and knowing their penchant for atrocious architecture, is that it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

The current neighborhood is a replica of what the historic buildings would have looked like before the bombing.

Nikolaiviertel also houses the oldest church in historic Berlin. Construction began on in in 1230, but dragged on through the 15th century. This church was also destroyed in the bombing of 1945, and rebuilt in 1987.

Definitely worth a wander through Nikoliaviertel and its 1980s medieval vibe when you’re next in Berlin.

Nikolaiviertel, Berlin

Nikolaiviertel, Berlin

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 22, 2017

‘Tis the season … to read!

Of course it is the season to celebrate our religion, to spend time with friends and family, to be thankful for what we have, to sit down to good meals, but I can’t help associating the holidays with also squirreling away quiet time to curl up with a good book (or two, or three, or four…)

After all, Christmas is a great time to give and receive books – it’s always been one of my favorite times to accumulate books.

And with that tempting new stash under the tree, why not curl up on the couch with the Christmas lights twinkling and a nice cup of tea to accompany your reading?

Goodness knows, I am usually happy to abandon the computer and all electronic equipment during the holidays in favor of a good book.

What about you, readers? Do you also look forward to more reading time during the holidays? Any good books on your Christmas list this year? Recommendations always welcome! Happy Holiday reading to all!

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 19, 2017

Revisiting my old neighborhood of Navigli, in Milan

Navigli, MilanIt’s always fun to go back and visit old haunts – and  a recent trip to Milan was no exception.

I did my Master’s degree at Bocconi University, in Milan, Italy. That was a long, long time ago and I – oddly – hadn’t been back in years.

On this first visit back, I chose to stay at a hotel in my old neighborhood – Navigli – Milan’s canal district.

Although Milan is about a two-hour drive from the sea, it was once (perhaps strangely) Italy’s third-busiest port city, with a  series of canals hauling barges of goods to and from the Lombard capital.

Most of those canals have been covered up and constructed over, but they are live and well in today’s Navigli area.

Back when I was in school, this was a great place to live. It was a short distance from Bocconi, it was relatively inexpensive and it’s about a 20-minute walk from smack dab in the center of Milan – Piazza Duomo. It’s also well connected by the metro and trams. And perhaps of equal importance, it had a lively cultural life – with lots of bars and restaurants lining the canals.

Navigli, Milan

With my son outside of my old apartment – looking FAR more impressive now than it did back then! : )

I lived on the Via Magolfa, a  small street connecting the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese.

The buildings in this area were adorable, but quite run down, including my fairly large but crumbling apartment.

I would imagine that one of the problem was the large number of warehouses occupied by ‘centri sociali’ – squatters, essentially.

On this visit, I saw that many of these old centers were (finally) gone and had been converted into residential areas.

The area has been gentrified considerably over the years, and the buildings – including my own – are quite beautiful.

Navigli, MilanOne of the things I liked abut this area was how much it changed in the changing light and weather patterns. Milan is famous for its nebbia (fog). Although I hated it during the long, grey winter months, it could actually be quite beautiful as it cling to the water’s surface early mornings as I crossed the bridges of the Navigli to go to classes.

I loved the reflection of the buildings in the canals, the pink tinge the water took on early mornings, the ambers and gold of the evening, and the lights dotting the canals as the evening began to take form and the people began filling up the bars and restaurants. I loved jogging along here, which would have been far better now that there are more traffic restrictions in the area. I loved the area, still preserved, where the washerwomen used to sit along the banks of the canal to wash their clothes.

What can I say, except great to be back in my old hood after such a long time. I definitely won’t wait so long before visiting Milan and its Navigli again.

Navigli, Milan


Navigli, Milan

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