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Posts from the ‘Europe’ Category

No. 332: Vespas

vespa_pink_france.jpgWe have now made our way to Italy, so it seems appropriate to write about their beloved and iconic Vespas. I have actually been collecting photos of these lovable shiny scooters in Paris and around France over the years, and now that I am in their homeland, I am thinking that it is time do a little poetic waxing on the subject.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never driven a Vespa, never taken a ride on one, and never even sat on one. I guess I am just plain chicken when it comes to anything with only two wheels, except for my beloved vélo. Still, in my mind’s eye, I see myself on one of these snappy, multihued machines, tooling through the French (or Italian) countryside or zipping between cars on the Paris streets, harmonizing helmet protecting my noggin. I have a couple of girlfriends in Paris who brave the wacky French drivers, and scoot about on their Vespas, and I must say, they look quite marvelous, and save a lot of money on petrol to boot.


The Vespa came about as a response to the realities of post-WWII Italy. It was a cheap and reliable mode of transport for struggling Italians who needed to get around the bombed out country. However, had it been only a form of transportation, I doubt we would still be talking about them; but a fashion statement, now that is another story.

original 1946 Vespa…source:

original 1946 Vespa…source:

The original prototype designed by the Piaggio Company was based on the small motorcycles made for parachutists and nicknamed “Paperino” (the Italian name for Donald Duck) because of its strange shape. Not quite right, the head of the company ask for a redesign. Using their technological and design know-how gleaned from designing rail carriages, luxury coaches, seaplanes and of course, airplanes, propellers and engines for the war, and “unfettered by any preconceptions about what a motorcycle or scooter should look like”, the slick, sporty Vespa was born. Equally important to function and drivability was comfort and style. The Vespa was designed to keep its driver looking smart, not disheveled, but perfectly intact for any photo-finish. Piaggio decided to call its creation the wasp (vespa) based on the sound of its engine, its aerodynamic form, and its lean, but curvy, and sexy shape. Once he introduced the snazzy and sleek colors, we were all goners.

vespa_montepulciano_italy.jpgNowadays the Vespa is an intrinsic part of Italian (and French) social history. Riding one today, I imagine you still feel a kinship to the “Dolce Vita” years. Maybe someday I will have the guts to jump on one and ride through the splendid countryside or romantic cities of Italy and live my own “Roman Holiday”…I can picture that…


Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Viva la Vespa!

No. 303: La Coupe du Monde

I loved every moment of it and liked being part of the World. Félicitations Allemagne, and I won’t cry for you, Argentina. You’ll be back. Can’t wait for 2018…

The world cup (France v Brazil) as portrayed by calissons…


No. 264-268: Burano, Murano, Gondolas, Street Lights, and Masks

In another moment of cheekiness, I feel inclined to post about somewhere other than France this morning. I justify these infrequent and random posts secure in the knowledge that if I wasn’t living in France, there is no way I would have the opportunity to so easily and cheaply leave la belle France and explore other parts of Europe. The ability to make these trips from the bustling hub of my hometown Paris is yet another thing I love about France.

Donc here are a few colorful memories from an inspiring quick trip to Venice. While Superman was busy discussing green growth and climate change with graduate students in a city which is 18 inches or so from being wiped out by sea level rise, I was strolling through the back streets of Venice and visiting the islands beyond while they are still here.


No. 263: Monet in Venice

I was extremely fortunate to accompany Superman on a work trip to Venice, the City of Changing Light. A painter’s and photographer’s dream.






No. 235: La fête de la Victoire 1945


unconditional surrender at Reims, France; source:


Arc de triomphe; source: AP Photo/Griffin

Arc de triomphe; source: AP Photo/Griffin


la Madeleine; source:


Champs-Élysées; source:

No. 225: Un Peu de Hollande en France

The windmill in the Bois de Boulogne near the Longchamps racetrack.

The windmill in the Bois de Boulogne near the Longchamps racetrack.

The award winning flowering city of Créteil.

The award-winning flowering city of Créteil.

Bordeaux vineyard

Bordeaux vineyard



Un peu de Hollande en France: A little bit of Holland in France

No. 205: More Tulips and Flowering Things

Continuing on with my non-French cheekiness…I have to share a few more photos of Keukenhof and the tulips from the surrounding villages in Holland. Remember Amsterdam is just over 3 hours from Paris by train, and fares start as low as €70 aller-retour. Another thing to love about living in France.






aller-retour: round trip