The Christmas tree at Magna Plaza, near the Royal Palace, Amsterdam.
The Plaza's multiple arches are reflected in these ornaments.
A vitrine in the Fashion District, Amsterdam.
An abundance of lighting at this store near the Concert Hall.
Petit Bateau in the Fashion and Museum District.
Holiday-themed store vitrines on Amsterdam's most luxurious shopping street: Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat. The lovely Pia Jane Bijkerk and I met for afternoon tea in a little bistro here.
A tree made of photographs of Hollywood icons and classic designs.
"Happy Christmas" written in many languages and buildings reflected in giant green baubles.
An Alice-in-Wonderland window display near the Concert Hall.
Huge wrapped presents outside Riviera Maison in the Museum Quarter.
Balloons to entice customers into this cosmetics store on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat.
Upside-down green-backed books form a Christmas tree in this vitrine.
Stars light the windows of a residence in the Museum Quarter.
A glittery gold star in the window of an Indonesian restaurant in the Fashion District.
Miniature Mademoiselle Chanel dolls and winter-white resort wear at the Chanel boutique on Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat.
Touches of red on bikes, cars, signs and clothing near a florist selling Christmas trees.
Did you know it's possible to take a night train from Amsterdam to Moscow? At Amsterdam's Centraal Station, I saw a nouveau-riche Russian couple, dressed head-to-toe in designer labels. She had her dark hair cut like Louise Brooks and was wearing a glamourous white sable coat, inspired by '20s fashion. Her partner was weighed down with luggage, as well as bags from Amsterdam's most fashionable shops.
Good news! In February, we'll be moving to the charming maisonette that struck our fancy during our last trip to the Netherlands. It's only a half-block from a canal and within walking distance of a river. David and I are very excited about the move!
And today is my beautiful daughter Jordana's birthday. Of course I'm wishing her a wonderful day and an even better year to come! We're looking forward to her visiting us in Holland.
Perhaps we'll see you there?
P.S. Check back soon for photos of Paris holiday vitrines.
This curious monkey was leaping from one monument to another in morning sunshine at Swayambhunath Temple, a sacred site for Buddhists in Kathmandu, Nepal. My camera lens caught the creature in a rare moment of repose. The "Monkey Temple" World Heritage Site is bordered by Hindu shrines. Buddhism and Hinduism peacefully co-exist throughout Nepal, with shrines and temples often built in close proximity.
Sparkly red tinsel and baubles hang from the skylights at Les Passages, Boulogne-Billancourt.
Giant snowflakes infused with gold pinpoint lights.
A glittery Christmas grotto entrance.
Trees dressed with tiny gold lights in the grotto.
Elf workshop vitrines.
Joyeuses Fetes and the outline of a Christmas tree on this window display.
Exiting Les Passages to snowy streets.
I took these photos a couple of weeks ago with the pint-sized Sony Nex-5. Thankfully, I'm not out braving the crowds to shop for holiday gifts. Instead, am on the way to Amsterdam. Back soon, it is hoped with good news about the future abode. Hope you're enjoying some lovely holiday festivities!
Hindu religious shrine in Budhanilkantha, Nepal. Click photo to view detail.
At first glance at the image (above), you may notice the trefoil shapes in the iron grillwork, the prayers pinned to the wooden posts, the red powdered remnants of offerings and marigold petals. If you look more closely, you may see a woman in red peering through the grillwork. When I took the photo, I focused solely on the structure itself. It was only as I turned to walk away that I noticed the woman in the corner, gazing at me.
"Everything we see hides another thing," said Rene Magritte. And sometimes we fail to observe what's right in front of us.
I could not believe my eyes when I read President Barack Obama has caved to the Party of No's demands to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This from the president who has long opposed tax cuts that favour the rich, repeatedly insisting such a cynical measure was his "line in the sand."
The President now claims that "compromise" is necessary to further extend benefits for the unemployed and provide more tax cuts for middle class Americans. In return for protecting their deep pockets, the Republicans agreed to pass legislation granting such concessions to benefit ordinary Americans.
"...And no one was angry enough to speak out." - Inscription found on one of the Pyramids, Giza, Egypt.
But did John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and their GOP colleagues care about the unemployed and middle class? No. The GOP signed a letter actually refusing to legislate an unemployment benefit extension unless their demands continuing tax cuts for one percent of wealthiest Americans were met.
Why do any of these obstructionists still have a job??!! Seems the Republicans of 2010 would prefer the United States be run like a Russian oligarchy, rewarding their rich cronies and caring little about solving serious problems or righting imbalances for the rest of us.
As The New York Times wrote in an editorial, "President Obama's deal with the Republicans to extend all the Bush-era income tax cuts is a win for the Republicans and their strategy of obstructionism and a disappointing retreat by the White House."
"Welcome home." A Buddhist monk walks across paint-stenciled words at a monastery high in the hills above Kathmandu, Nepal.
So nice to have a travel-and-guest-free peaceful weekend at home. It's been snowing in Paris, offering an excuse to cosy up by the fire and read The Apothecary's House; enjoy lovely meals prepared by my resident (husband) chef and address a huge stack of Christmas and New Year's cards. Just for a day or two, everything else can wait.
The Nepali and English words inscribed on the building (pictured) indicate "The True Meaning of Life" by the Dalai Lama:
"We are visitors on this planet. We are here for 90 or 100 years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal; the true meaning of life."
"Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents and then later on in our life when we are oppressed by sickness and become old, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since at the beginning and end of our lives we are so dependent on others' kindness, how can it be that in the middle we neglect kindness toward others?"
A woman rests on burlap bags and reinforced sacks, while surveying patches of harvested grain to be bundled in Bungamati, Nepal.
"Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation." - Jean Arp.
A jumble of snow-covered bicycles, Monday night, Amsterdam.
David and I have been in the Netherlands, searching for a place to live. We looked at properties as big as Amsterdam canal houses: strange mazes of odd-shaped rooms spread over three floors, accessed by narrow twisting stairways. These curious abodes would hold all our furniture, with an abundance of empty space remaining. We viewed a city loft-type space, with too many large windows overlooking neighbours' windows and backyards. We saw exposed timber beams painted over by clueless developers.
We viewed an apartment with original stained glass windows, but basic modern design and tiny box-like rooms. Its main attraction was its sprawling rooftop terrace. We spent two hours with Samira - our wonderful estate agent - in a massive traffic jam in evening snow, in what should have been a ten-minute drive. In the estate agents' office, we drank tea and laughed ourselves silly over amusing translations from Dutch to English.
The third place we visited was a charming maisonette, in a beautiful location. It had huge windows, with splendid views of a church. It featured fantastic architectural elements that meant probably a third of our furniture would have to remain in France. But I found myself wistfully gazing out those wide windows at the snow falling and passersby laughing - and just for a moment, daring to wish the magic could last.
Spiced mulled wine and Christmas lights, Amsterdam.
Bikes along a canal.
"It's f*cking freezing outside!" The boutique's statement says it all, Tuesday morning, Utrecht. Alas, we left our hats and gloves in Paris.
Christmas carol shop window display with a profusion of French horns, Utrecht.