The Lost Abbey - 2022It was August of 2017 and we were living in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. It was time to travel into Wales. Somehow, for some reason the Wales excursion was never published in the blog. So here is the lost story and photos of our visit to Tinturn Abbey, Wales.
Chattanooga has often been mentioned as a city to visit, and we were surprised how many people sang the praises of this historic Southern town. Well, the praises were all well-deserved.
Gardens in the Time of Covid - 2021
Botanical gardens and parks, small and large, have always been major elements of our travels. They are usually uncrowded, quiet, and filled with beauty; perfect qualities for escaping concerns and worries. They are always changing, and thus they are dependably fascinating – they are filled with life.
Circle-B-Bar - 2021
Circle-B-Bar Reserve is a huge tract of protected land in Polk County, Florida. With many miles of well-maintained trails, a large, alligator-inhabited lake, an amazing amount of bird life, and massive live oak trees, and big, old cypress trees a great place to spend a few hours … or days.
On the Florida Coast - 2021
Jeannie’s birthday was coming up and she wanted a change of view. So we found a place on Florida’s northeast coast about half-way between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. It was a perfect place to enjoy nature and avoid any crowds … and celebrate a birthday.
Just add Light - 2021
The soaring stone pillars and the play of the light cast through the stained glass windows creates a shaded landscape of stone and light. Never at rest, they are aroused by the changing light, they glow with energy, the patterns they paint flow across the floor inviting your thoughts to wander with them.
Random Travel Bites - 2021
Since we have been sheltering in place at our home in Florida due to the pandemic, the motivation to add to this journal has gone into hiding as well. We are looking forward to that day when we will again pack our bags for places unknown. For now, we have set up a gallery of 10 random images for a quick travel fix, or a distraction from the madness of the day. There is no verbiage other than some captions, just a visual indulgence to inspire your future adventures or just to simply brighten your day.
A Break From Insanity - 2019
When we first began our Slow Nomad travels in 2014, we estimated that we would travel for a while. But, we hadn’t counted on a global pandemic.
Street Art in Lisbon - 2019
Not all good art is in museums. A stroll through Lisbon’s hilly streets quickly reveals an open-air art scene as vibrant and exciting as any we have seen anywhere.
Three Museums in Lisbon - 2019
While we were in Lisbon we visited many excellent museums. Here are three very different exhibit spaces showing three very different types of art.
LX Factory - 2019
Rising amidst the industrial bones and old walls of an abandoned industrial complex, the LX Factory now houses one of Lisbon's most eclectic attractions.
Saudade - 2019
Having a word to describe something doesn't make it easier to deal with. But ...
Óbidos – the Queen’s Town - 2019
The one-hour bus ride from Lisbon was comfortable and scenic, taking us to the village of Óbidos, the most well preserved medieval town in Portugal.
We had been home from Portugal for less than one month and our plans for 2020 were already made. This time the destination was the French city of Tours in the Loire Valley. Now everything has changed.
Comida, Gloriosa Comida! - 2019
Food, Glorious Food! We’ve frequently been asked, what do you like best about travel? There is never a simple answer. Well, Chris says all good, ...
Heading West to Belém - 2019
Originally, Belem was the location of Lisbon’s shipyards and docks, and was the starting point for the Portuguese voyages that discovered sea routes to India, East Africa and Brazil. It is also home to some incredibly famous landmarks.
Lisbon’s Trams - 2019
While getting around this city is best done on foot, the city’s public transportation system works well, but the 100+ year old trams are the most charming and fun.
A Stroll to the Tejo - 2019
Lisbon is a wonderful place to walk in spite of the hills. We took a very interesting stroll that began near the center of the city. Downhill, the whole way.
Lisbon Begins - 2019
After Porto, Évora, and the other charming Portuguese towns and villages, we weren’t sure what to expect from Lisbon, but what we found exceeded our expectations at every turn.
Évora – a Royal City - 2019
In our move from Porto and to Lisbon, we first wanted to visit one of Portugal’s best preserved medieval towns, because of its extensive history and proximity to several Neolithic monuments.
Departing Porto - 2019
We were packed. The taxi was on its way to take us to the train station to depart Porto. I can’t say that I was really ready to go, but the excitement of going to a new place is always greater than the sadness of leaving.
A Porto Six-Pack – 2 - 2019
As with the previous post, there were too many wonderful things in Porto to devote a post to each. This is the second "six-pack" to share some more of the sights, architecture, and history that we experienced there.
A Porto Six-Pack – 1 - 2019
Porto was a wonderful city, but there were too many sights to devote a post to each, so here is the first “six-pack” to highlight some of the sights, architecture, and history that Porto has to offer.
O Segundo Dia em Coimbra - 2019
Our second day in Coimbra again began overcast with a light rain. Undeterred, we roamed off to other areas of town, the remarkable Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro, a walking tour of the centuries-old University, and later the ancient Romanesque Old Catheral.
Coimbra – Day 1 - 2019
Our stay in northern Portugal was coming to an end, but before heading south, there was time for another overnight trip out of Porto.
Passadicos do Paiva - 2019
The need to get out into nature led us to discover the ruggedly beautiful scenery of the Paiva Walkways in Portugal's Arouca Geopark. The 8.7 km (5.4 mi) long trail traverses landscapes that are beautiful, peaceful and wild.
Azulejos - 2019
The dictionary definition is rather dry – “a kind of glazed colored tile traditionally used in Spanish and Portuguese buildings.” But the reality is that azulejos a beautiful presence throughout Portugal and certainly a part of its cultural soul.
Braga - 2019
The alarm on Jeannie's tablet woke us early to catch the 08h45 train for our overnight in Braga, Portugal's 3rd largest city, built more than 2,000 years ago. It was worth the early wake up.
A Festa and a Feast - 2019
Well, it was a simple way to take the train up into the Douro valley, visit a quinta, have a lunch, then take the train back. We were kind of wrong. It was much better!
We often like to visit small, somewhat obscure towns and villages on our travels, and though we had no expectations, Santo Tirso certainly turned out to be unexpectedly delightful.
Guimarães (him-are-esh) the birthplace of Portugal, has wonderfully preserved its past. The old city center is a labyrinth of narrow lanes and charming plazas framed by medieval edifices.
On the shore of a vast, coastal lagoon, Aveiro is a historically maritime city and a prosperous town with a delightful city center known for its, architecture and its highly regarded university.
On settling into a new country or town, we often search out one of the “walking food tours”. Of all the things we learned on our food tour in Porto, the most interesting, fun, and delicious was how to eat tremoços.
Gardens, a Museum, and Hope - 2019
Porto is really working hard to clean up and revitalize itself from deep economic problems of the past. Here are two examples of their progress and potential.
We made plans to visit Viana do Castelo located at the mouth of the Lima River in Portugal. But we didn't see the town, there was too much going on!
A Year-Five Recap - 2019
On Aug 14 2014, we embarked on a life of travel. So, here are some thoughts and images of the last five years. Lots has changed over those years, but we have changed the most ... and for the better.
Traditions are everywhere. Some are shrouded in the distant past, others evolve within a couple of generations. Some exist within families, communities, regions or countries, and some are merely personal.
A Seafood Feast - 2019
The alarm went off at 07h30. The day was expected to be hot, so we decided to go to Porto’s northern beach of Matosinhos, to visit the Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos and eat seafood.
The Douro River flows to the Atlantic from high in the mountains of Spain, passing Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia about 5 km (3 mi) from the ocean. So we went.
Vandalism or Genius? - 2019
Sanctioned or unsanctioned, love it or hate it, street art exists. Is it really art? What do you think?
Another Day at the Races - 2019
When we arrive in a new city, we love to wander. Sometimes there is a destination, and often there is none, but this day provided a surprise with plenty of excitement ... a bike race!
It has been over a year since we traveled abroad, and after much research and a session of “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe”, we decided on Portugal.
Wanderlust Strikes Again - 2019
So much can change in one year! It’s hard to believe that it was twelve months ago we returned from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. We've been busy while we've been back.
A Farewell to Dubrovnik - 2019
Dubrovnik is a spellbinding place set in a valley of ancient walls and fortifications, it offers a remarkable range of back alleys and passageways in which to wander.
The Sieges of Dubrovnik - 2019
Dubrovnik is beautiful, culturally and physically, but there's a much darker story to be told about this city.
Dubrovnik is about as south as you can go and still be in Croatia. The country is narrow here, next to Bosnia and Herzegovina on the western side of the Dinaric Alps that rise dramatically from the Adriatic.
Half the Fun - 2019
It is often said that getting there is half the fun. And while the exact proportions could be argued, there is no doubt that travel by ship can be a source of entertainment in and of itself.
Parks to Palaces - 2019
The Stella Maris departed Zadar towards our day's first destination, the Krka National Park. Then after an overnight in Primošten, a visit Roman Emperor Diocletian's retirement palace in Split. Oh, and some clean laundry!
Adriatic Island Hopping - 2019
Departing early from Pula, our destination was Zadar by way of the islands of Lošinj and Olib. Getting there was indeed, half the fun, but once we got to Zadar there were plenty of wonderful surprises.
On our arrival in Poreč, our transport wound its way down to the dock near our ship. The next week is going to be a different kind of adventure for us.
Today’s walk would be along the impressive Mostnica gorge, through the meadows of the Voje valley and up to the beautiful Voje waterfall. Then, there would be one last walk before departing for Croatia.
Awakening to another beautiful morning in this stunning region of the world, the day began with a great breakfast. We were ready to meet a day that continued to get better ... for a while.
We awoke to sunlight peeking over the distant hilltops through our open window and enjoyed the cheerful songs of birds in the meadows. Today we begin our walking holiday in Slovenia.
Flowers, Fungi, and Fliers - 2018
We were expecting beautiful vistas overlooking the foothills and mountains of the Julian Alps, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. But don't forget to look down.
As the taxi pulled into the drive of Pri Lenart, Zana came out and warmly greeted us with a big, cheerful smile. Such was the start to several days of wonderfully challenging walks over some of the hills and mountains of Slovenia.
It was our last night in Ljubljana, but there was no rain or clouds or winds. Then jeannie said, “I don’t feel so great and my stomach is still a bit unsettled.”
Karst to Coast - 2018
Though Slovenia is a small country, it isn’t lacking in interesting things to see or places to visit but, we didn’t have an automobile, and many places are essentially inaccessible by public transport.
As we departed Trieste, Italy, I eagerly scanned the roadside for the first indication that I had entered the country that my Dad’s ancestors came from, and only two generations removed.
The longer we stayed here the more we came to appreciate the origin of the name Ljubljana. The most popular belief is that it derives from the word Ljubljena, meaning “Beloved”. And we agreed.
Trieste – a Crossroads - 2018
It was finally time to leave Verona. After double-checking the time and platform, we boarded our train right on time and settled in for Trieste, Italy. A new set of adventures lie ahead, and our excitement is growing.
Arrivederci Verona! - 2018
After our delightful trip to Bergamo, it was time to get serious about packing and getting ready to depart Verona, a place that for two months has become familiar and comfortable, and that we have been calling home.
Italy, Art and Automobiles - 2018
Italian automotive aesthetic mastery has been exemplified by sleek elegance, understated, clean beauty and an innovative style. It has admirably carried on the tradition and elegance of classic Italian art.
A Surprise in Bergamo - 2018
We had planned a visit to Bergamo (pronounced BARE-gah-mo), and we knew that it would require an overnight stay, and for good reason, the city was truly a medieval gem.
They say that accidents most often happen within 40 km (25 mi) of home. Not always, and that can add a whole different dimension. This post was penned by my brother Michael.
Padua, it is. - 2018
My brother and his wife were eager to go on with us someplace that we hadn’t yet visited. As we scrutinized a map, it seemed that there was one very obvious place that we hadn’t gotten to - Padua (It. Padova).
The Giro d’Italia - 2018
Of bicycling’s three Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia is the first of the season. Of all the things that my brother Mike was excited about seeing during this visit, being able to see a stage of the Giro d’Italia was at the very top of his list.
Well, even though he stopped being “little” many years ago, he is still my “little brother.” In any case, we were excited that Mike and his lovely wife Kathy, were coming to visit us again, this time in Verona.
Malcesine – part 2 - 2018
The plan was to go up to Monte Baldo, but the day had other plans. The morning was cold, windy, and overcast, so we just wandered. Malcesine is as charming in the early morning as it is in the late evening, even when overcast ... but that would change.
Malcesine – part 1 - 2018
Our brief day-trip to Peschiera made us want to return to Lake Garda and the mountains soon. The weather looked good to spend two nights in the small lake-side town of Malcesine. It was a good move.
Pescheira del Garda - 2018
Our first trip to Sirmione (Seer-me-OH-nay) on Lake Garda didn’t turn out as we had planned. It didn’t turn out bad at all, just different than planned.
There was a different feel to this city in the once-Austrian, and now-Italian region of South Tirol. When I tried speaking my rudimentary Italian, I had the feeling that someone in lederhosen might be scrutinizing me suspiciously.
Brescia - 2018
Best known as a manufacturing center, Brescia is much more than an industrial town. Its significant history, art, and architecture made for a full day's visit, leaving much still to see.
A return to Venice - 2018
The last time we were in Venice, it was our first time to Venice, it was winter, and it was cold. This time it wasn't cold, and it was more crowded, but Venice was every bit as magical.
Verona – WWII and Today - 2018
During World War II, Verona, because of its strategic importance, was a target for heavy Allied bombing. The city suffered considerable damage, and to add insult to injury, the retreating German troops destroyed all the bridges.
Fossil Hunting in Verona - 2018
As we first walked into the apartment building that we would call home for the next two months, I looked down at the polished limestone and marble floor and in one of the tiles was a spiral-shaped artifact. It was clearly a fossil.
Romeo $ Juliet - 2018
Spoiler Alert: "Romeo and Juliet" is fiction; Love is real; and the two are not mutually exclusive or equivalent. Oh, and Shakespeare was a genius.
Le Piccole Cose - 2018
For us, there are many advantages to being in one place for a while. We re-learn them every time we travel and stay in a new place. We realize it is something important, but it always becomes more evident after about two weeks.
A Morning Serenade? - 2018
Interesting things happen most often when you least expect them.
Visitare Vicenza - 2018
We are in our third week in Verona and were in need of another trip, “So, let’s go to Vicenza this Saturday,” Jeannie says. Without looking up, I reply “OK.” Then it dawns on me how that sounds.
La Bella Addormentata - 2018
Mantua is known to the locals as La Bella Addormentata – the Sleeping Beauty. While this ancient city is often overlooked by those scurrying between the more popular destinations, it is the lack of crowds that makes leisurely exploration of this old medieval city such an adventure.
Primavera Italiana! - 2018
Primavera, or springtime, is without question, the best time to visit just about any place, and Italy is certainly no exception. And while most people only think of Verona as it relates to Romeo and Juliette, it is, oh so much more.
The Tooth – a bite too far - 2018
Not long before we left Florida for Italy I was eating something, and bit down onto a hard peppercorn. Letting out a yelp, it felt like a hot poker in a lower molar. ...
Di Nuovo in Viaggio - 2018
The travel bug. Wanderlust. Itchy feet. Whatever you may call it we have a serious case. And this time we are in Verona, Italy. Ah, fair Verona, where we lay our scene.
When we returned to Florida last year we had enjoyed a beautiful spring in France and the Cotswolds of England with its delightfully cool summer before returning to familiar surroundings.
Roots - 2018
Our 2018 adventures will begin March 29, and we’ll travel to three countries. We’ll start in Verona, Italy and then Croatia and Slovenia, where my (Jeannie's) dad’s side of the family came from.
Throughout our time in Europe, we often visit churches, not for religious purposes, but rather for the fascinating history and architecture, and as peaceful places for reflection.
Three Days in Oxford - 2017
Our days in the Cotswolds had come to an end, and the plan was to drive to Oxford for a few days before our flight back to Florida.
A Rambling We Go - 2017
Once our plans to spend three months walking in the Cotswolds of England were finalized, we began our research about where to begin our explorations. In a word, it was marvelous. Here are the results.
Stone circles and standing stones are enigmatic places, but likely served several different needs, from places of ceremony and worship to political or astronomical purposes. In any case they remain a prehistoric mystery.
It was time to take a slightly more ambitious hike on the Cotswold Way as we had only been rambling about on shorter 4-7 mile walks. So we mapped out a route to Painswick that seemed a perfect destination for a 10+ mile, long day’s walk.
We were on a 7-mile, non-hilly walk with the Stroud Rambling Club when Geoff spotted the boar, at least that is what I thought from what he said. I quickly scanned the cliffs on opposite shore of the River Severn for what I expected would be wild pigs ...
Of course this isn’t the first time we have spent time in a small English village. Last year we developed a love for taking the public footpaths on long walks through the countryside. This alone would have been reason enough to return to England, but add to that the ability for greater social interaction because of a common language, we came back.
Cricket is a quintessential English game that, we are told, should be enjoyed on a pleasant summer’s afternoon, broken up by breaks for Earl Grey tea and cornered sandwiches ... and so we did.
Hamlets, Villages, and Towns - 2017
Hamlets, Villages, and Towns - what is the distinction between these settlement types. It seems contextually obvious that a hamlet is smaller than a town, but it is all somewhat defined, and they are even more fun to walk through.
One of the primary reasons we came to this region of England was to walk, and we have been rambling about the countryside for many miles every day.
Beauties and Beasts - 2017
Summertime in the English Cotswolds has been a feast for the eyes. The golden stone buildings, rolling hills, and the green pastures, fields, and woods are visually amazing. But ...
Jeannie was especially excited to be visiting Cheltenham, as we hadn’t seen any dance in quite a long time. We didn’t really know much about the group, the venue, or the city, but we had our performance tickets, a reservation for lodgings, and train tickets.
Walking in the Cotswolds - 2017
Since we’ve been here, we have been walking, rambling, strolling, ambling, hiking, strolling, sauntering, trudging, plodding, dawdling; yes, we have been doing all of these things. We have also tromped, slogged, stomped, trekked, marched, glided, wandered, roamed, traipsed, and coddiwompled.
Home … Again - 2017
It had been a good, brief visit to Bristol, but we were eager to get to our next home, in Selsley, a village of around 175 houses, a church and one pub, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Stroud.
Forward into the Past - 2017
It was about 20 years ago when we almost moved to England because of Jeannie’s work. She had traveled there regularly over the course of a year, and the opportunity to relocate came really close, but it fell through.
Au revoir Toulouse - 2017
Once again it is time to move on, and once again it is time to reflect on the bitter-sweet nature of leaving a place where we have had such wonderful experiences.
The route to the hilltop bastide of Cordes-sur-Ciel didn’t allow much of a view of the town until we were close. But the instant we saw it sitting high on its hilltop we knew that this was a good choice for a couple of nights.
The roads on the way to our next stop, Puycelci were every bit as lovely or even more so as those we had already been on. The cool air that passed through the car carried the delightful fragrances of wildflowers and occasionally the earthy scents of the pastures.
Our time in France was drawing to an end, and with just over a week remaining, we wanted to take another road trip before we left. Recommendations by many people had suggested that the region between the L'Aveyron and the Tarn rivers was an especially beautiful area. Well we're going to find out.
An Apéro Sleep-over - 2017
When we first arrived in Toulouse, Jeannie had researched some local groups that we might contact. l’Association France Etats-Unis” is an organization whose goal is to promote friendship and mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries. It was a good move ...
Serendipity does and will strike again ... someday, somewhere. This is a story of places, people, and memories, some spanning more than 20 years, all revolving around the same region in France, ahhhh.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz - 18 km (12 mi) south of Biarritz and very close to the Spanish border, is a well-protected port that reached its height during the 17th century when it was called the "Viper's Nest" by English sailors.
We were interested in a trip to Biarritz on the French Atlantic coast, but it required a bit more thought than one might think. Since it is just over 300 km (180 mi), too far to walk, and we don’t have an automobile, there was research to do, calculations to make, and scheduling to consider.
A Profitable Brotherly Visit - 2017
A day never goes by that we don’t marvel at something; whether it is being surrounded by centuries-old buildings, the food, or the culture in general. So, it was curious when, in conversation, we were introduced to the French verb profiter.
“One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” ~ Edith Wharton Of all the things we experience as we travel, food, architecture, landscapes or climate, what really impacts our lives are the people we meet along the way.
The French elect a President - 2017
While visiting friends in a small town outside Lyon on 07 May, we were asked if we wanted to walk with them to vote for their President. The opportunity was unique, and it would be five years until the next election so we eagerly agreed.
Château de Foix - 2017
We were looking for another day trip out of Toulouse and had been evaluating several options, but Foix (pronounced fwa ) kept popping up. Easily accessible by a one-hour train ride, it was in the piedmont of the Pyrenees ...
Food, Glorious Food! - 2017
The question has come up before. How do you spend your days? More often than not, some portion of our days are spent shopping.
An Early Train to Albi - 2017
Our mornings begin with the sun streaming into our small apartment, but this morning we had to set the alarm to ensure that we got up early for our first journey out of Toulouse since we arrived - to Albi.
Nous Aimons Flâner … - 2017
Wandering is one of the ways we get to know a place. Given a choice of directions we almost always pick the way we have ever traveled. Nous Aimons Flâner ... we love to wander.
Jeannie’s Day Out - 2017
Yesterday was a very low-key day. Chris woke up with that scratchy, back-of-the-throat thing and by late afternoon we had to cancel our anniversary dinner reservations. Today, the morning again started off rainy and cold, a continuation of the previous day's weather.
A Cascade of Light and Color - 2017
Before we even walked into the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, I was worried that the clear skies, and bright morning light was going to be problematic.
Adapting in Toulouse - 2017
Regardless of how many times we move into a new town and apartment, it is still a challenge. That said, it is always an adventure, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Such challenges keep the brain sharp ... or so they say. There are times when my mind just says, “huh?”
A Brief Return to Paris - 2017
Over the past three years, it was much simpler to depart on another leg of our adventure. Since we didn’t have a house and cars, packing up and going was straightforward ... we just repacked our bags and left. Yet, we have never reflected much on what we leave behind, but rather what we are going to ... always looking forward, rarely back. Still, ...
Packing … again - 2017
Goals are good, so mine is to pack lighter for this trip. Yes, easy to say, not so easy to do.
Sheboygan – USA - 2017
Our time in Canada had come to a close, and we boarded a plane for our return to the USA. We were heading to Sheboygan, Wisconsin for a visit with Jeannie’s side of the family.
Québec City - 2017
Québec City, one of the oldest cities in North America, occupies a commanding position on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence river, and is an old-world style gem with narrow cobblestone streets and 17th- and 18th-century architecture.
Just North of the Border - 2017
No matter where we travel, we always seek out nature. Whether in forests, woods and other natural areas, or parks, gardens, and greenways, we find these places to be refuges from the commotion of big cities.
A Day at the Races - 2017
It was a late summer day in Montréal, and the big event for the weekend was a bicycle race. Not just any race, but a world-class competition. Jeannie opted out of the days activities, mainly because she didn’t want to keep up with my need to wander far and wide to capture the ‘perfect’ image.
Back in North America, we were going to spend a month in Montréal, Canada in a small, charming, urban cottage before returning to the USA. This city is wonderfully diverse, friendly, historic, fun and delightfully French.
With one last, spectacular view of the fingers of the North Sea infiltrating deep into Norway's mountainous interior, the blog is off for a brief stay in Iceland - a very different and special kind of place.
A Year-Three Recap - 2017
Three years ago in 2014 we shifted the base of our life from a home with cars and work, to no home or cars or work. This post, written by Jeannie provides a brief summary of where we have been and where we are going.
The weather in Bergen isn’t always bad. Yes, it does rain a lot, but often it is short lived. Flip through the images and you will understand why we can say Bergen has been very good to us, in spite of the weather.
After a few days back in Bergen with its approximately 240 days of precipitation a year, we were ready to get away again. Previous excursions had been to the north, so this time we decided to look south. ...
On many cruises, there is only water all around until you arrive in a port and see land. But on Hurtigruten, it's different ...
A Glacial Excursion - 2016
Awakening with the 0500 (5:00 AM) sunrise, we were excited about the day’s adventures. After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we had time for a good, long hike into the mountain forests around Balestrand. Then ...
A Fjording We Will Go! - 2016
In Norway, the concept of friluftsliv, literally translated as ‘free air life’, is a deeply felt awareness that being outside is good for the spirit, mind, and body. ...
Street Art in Bergen - 2016
For most people, the words "graffiti" and "street art" are interchangeable. However, ...
Bergen Begins … - 2016
When we landed in Bergen, Norway, I think we were a bit more unprepared than we had been upon any previous arrival. I mean, we had done our homework, but ...
A Home Base - 2016
This is a break in the Slow Nomads timeline reflecting events that we feel are interesting enough to warrant such an interruption. The normal timeline will resume as soon as possible. ...
Det var hyggeligt! - 2016
Back in the big city of Copenhagen after spending almost three days on the island of Bornholm was briefly a shock, but ...
Island Time - 2016
Some readers have wondered how we came to have good friends like Niels and Jetta in Denmark. It's a simple story, and with good friends, it doesn’t take much effort to find opportunities to meet and continue friendships ... this time in Denmark.
Back in Denmark again! - 2016
It had been a very long time since we were last in Denmark. In fact, it was 1992, our friends Tom and Barb, and us, all experienced cyclists, were embarking on our first bicycle tour in a foreign country, but also our first venture to a non-English speaking country ...
A Wee Bit More … - 2016
Who knew? Obviously, we didn’t. It was so much better than we expected. And then you top it all off with a tour of a gin factory, Elton John, and a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
Time Travel - 2016
Walking over stone floors and cobblestones that have carried feet for centuries, the experience is almost exactly like someone had 300 or 400 years ago. ...
Rosslyn Chapel was featured prominently in The Da Vinci Code, a 2003 novel by Dan Brown and film of the same name, at least that’s how we knew of it, and it was sort of in our neighborhood, we figured we should go see it.
Yes, we will miss out on the experience and eclectic fun of two, world-class events that occur in Edinburgh, but we had a great day with unexpected icing on top!
A Tale of Two Castles - 2016
There are many similarities between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, both are built upon massive, rocky crags, surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs ...
A Day With Shining Armor - 2016
Though the charming town and the impressive Palace are reason enough to visit Linlithgow, we went because of a special annual event, the Linlithgow Spectacular Jousting tournament.
After our first visit to the Highlands, we were eager to see more of this remote and rugged land. We had also heard that the Hebrides Islands off the western mainland were spectacular and still more remote. ...
The Scottish Highlands cover the northern two-thirds of the country, it is there that you find much of the mainland’s most spectacular scenery. Join us on this our first visit to this beautiful part of Scotland and some of its history.
HMY Britannia - 2016
HMY Britannia was the Royal Yacht; that is, the personal vessel of Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family. After being decommissioned in 1997, Britannia was retired to the Port of Leith in Edinburgh as a visitor attraction.
A Walk in the Park - 2016
As we have said before, we love parks and gardens, and have had the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful in the world. There is a great deal of green space in Edinburgh ... have a look.
The weather on Sunday was beautiful. Though cool, the sky was clear and blue, truly a day to get outside, especially in Edinburgh. ... but.
To the Shore - 2016
The Firth of Forth ... isn't far or difficult to reach, so it was worth a few bus rides to go for a few visits.
Coddiwompling in Edinburgh - 2016
Wandering is how I get to know a place. I do it without thought, or so I thought. ...
Bagpipes, Haggis and Kilts - 2016
Bagpipes, haggis and kilts - those were the main things I knew about Scotland, oh, and that movie Braveheart and Scotch. And I really didn't know anything about haggis, and I don't care for Scotch. And, come to think of it there's also Sean Connery, and golf. ...
The Remains of the Stay - 2016
Our time in Lancashire is coming to an end, and we will miss this place. The walks, the people, the beer, the sheep ... and, well OK, the weather ...
The Short List - 2016
When we rented our car for the last three weeks of our time in Northern England, there were three places that we wanted to be sure to go. These were places that all the locals advised us were special. ...
Over Hills and Dales - 2016
In spite of the fact that we were in a small village, mostly without a car, there really was lots to do. Of course there was the walking, lots of walking ...
Finally - 2016
It was about 31 years ago when we made our first journey to England. ... we planned to visit Stonehenge ... then up through Wales on our way to the Lake District.
Medieval Abbeys - 2016
It was the early 1500’s, and Henry VIII was not happy. Though he had inherited a significant amount of money from his father Henry VII, he had spent a great deal of his inheritance. The religious houses were, at the time, the wealthiest institutions in England and Wales. ...
Many Bridges to Cross - 2016
To cross a river or stream generally requires a bridge. In the past, a place to ford may have been used, but could be impractical during certain times of the year, and not very practical in most modern vehicles. ...
A Walk in the Shire - 2016
No orcs or hobbits, but lots of sheep and cows on a glorious day in the area that provided some of the inspiration for Tolkein's trilogy of the Lord of the Rings.
To York, To York - 2016
After having been without a car in a small village for three-weeks, we felt the need to go further afield. So, we went to Manchester, rented a car, and shortly after took our first road trip to York. ...
Baaaa - 2016
There are around 32.8 million sheep in the UK. Sheep are a part of life and a part of the landscape. ... and, of course, one must watch where one steps.
An Egg Hunt - 2016
We have been admirers of British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy’s work for many years. Of all the items we kept for our post-travel life, his art books were carefully packed away for future inspiration.
Money Does Grow on Trees? - 2016
The first time we encountered a felled tree with coins hammered and bent into the wood, we assumed it was a one-of-a-kind find.
Styles of Stiles - 2016
For hundreds of years the country lanes, footpaths and tracks of England have been traversed by many a traveler. ...
After two years of travel, living mostly in larger cities, our goal was to find a more rural location with opportunities to be out in nature. After our search settled in northern England, we found an apartment ...
Goodbye to Ireland - 2016
We arrived at our hotel in Dublin after 18:00 (6:00pm) and were pretty tired after the day’s drive and visit to Newgrange. After a good night's sleep, we caught an early taxi to Dublin Port ...
One Last Stop … - 2016
Our time in Ireland was almost up. ... Our route, however, would have us diverting northeastward for one more stop. ...
Having spent most of our time in Ireland in close proximity to the sea, we departed the coast for the Irish Midlands, and more specifically the village of Kinnitty ...
A Nod and a Wink - 2016
Some say that Doolin is to Irish traditional music what New Orleans is to traditional jazz. How cool is that?
A Day on Inisheer - 2016
If you stand on the Cliffs of Moher looking seaward and it is somewhat clear, you can see the three Aran Islands. ...
After the excitement of the Cliffs of Moher walk the previous day, we were in the mood for something a little less, shall we say, perilous? Not that it wasn’t really fun ...
The Cliffs of Insanity - 2016
After a month in Killarney and the surrounding areas, we were moving on. We had nine days to get to Dublin to take the ferry to England. So, where would we go in the meantime? ...
Goin’ to Doolin - 2016
The morning was quite cold as we loaded the car and prepared to leave Killarney. There had been snow forecast overnight, and while there was none around us the mountains in the distance obviously had a fresh dusting on the tops. ...
Departing Killarney - 2016
Our days in Killarney were drawing to an end. Irish spring was still weeks away, but so were the throngs of tourists that flock to the area. Visiting places during the off-season does have its drawbacks, but the advantages are much greater. ...
A Day in Kenmare - 2016
Just a short visit after passing through a couple of times. We had originally considered living here, but Killarney won out because of the National Park. ...
The Gap of Dunloe - 2016
Just in case one might think Jeannie was out shopping, this is NOT the GAP, as in the clothing and accessories retailer, but rather the stunning mountain pass ...
April Fools … Not! - 2016
Throughout our travels, there has been one thing that has been the greatest delight, and has meant the most to us – the people we have met and the friends we have made. ...
Beara II - 2016
Our stay in Castletownbere was enjoyable. The Sea Breeze B&B was very comfortable, and though it was a long walk into town, it was scenic and pleasant. ...
The Princess’s Ring – Beara - 2016
The least well known of the peninsulas of southwestern Ireland, the Beara peninsula is a hidden jewel that shines only for those who look beyond the more famous neighbors ...
Chris and I are now in the small town of Kinnitty, Ireland, relaxing in the parlor of the Ardmore Country House B&B. Well, I’m relaxing and Chris is furiously composing and typing the next blog post. ...
The entire loop from Killarney is only about 180km | 111mi long and can be driven in a day, but it deserves much longer. ...
Our travels have taken us many places old and ancient, places of history, mysticism, religion, and lore. ...
A Tale of Two Rings – part 2 - 2016
The next morning came bright and sunny, though still a bit cold and windy. We packed an went down for breakfast and had a delicious and filling, hearty Irish breakfast. ...
A Tale of Two Rings – part 1 - 2016
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic road circuit that skirts the edge of the Iveragh Peninsula – the middle and largest of three fingers of land that extend into the Atlantic on the Ireland's south-western extremity. It is one of Ireland's best-known and most iconic drives.
Though most people think of St. Patrick’s Day as an Irish party holiday, it began as an Irish holy day, and was first celebrated in 18th and 19th-century. Originally the Irish, Catholic and Protestant alike, went to church rather than party.
Killarney – getting out - 2016
Yes, I caught a mild cold. But the symptoms were under control, and I felt reasonably well enough to get out. At least well enough for walks into town through the National Park for groceries.
Settling in to Killarney - 2016
After a good but short stay in Dublin, we took a taxi to the car rental at the airport. The line was a bit long, computers were up and down, and we decided to upgrade to a diesel rather than petrol car with a bit more space. ...
A Few Days in Dublin - 2016
Dublin was cold, rainy, windy, and wonderful. It’s a big city, crowded and bustling, yet charming and friendly. Over the next few days it was not only cold, rainy, and windy, but also sunny and it even snowed one morning. The weather can be rather changeable.
A Wee Bit o’ Pub Music. - 2016
A sample of the great pub music available in Dublin. I recorded it using my phone, and offer my apologies to the two acoustic-only performers ...
So here we are, scrambling. It is less than two weeks, um, one week, um, a few days before we depart on the next leg of our adventures and we are ready. As we have expressed before, we always try to keep looking forward. Though we don’t like leaving our families, friends, and familiar surroundings, our sights are set on distant shores, and we are excited. This time we are beginning in Ireland, the Emerald Isle. We will arrive in Dublin 02 March 2016 and explore the city for several days before heading to Killarney where we will have an…
On the Cape Canaveral Coast - 2016
This visit “home” is quickly coming to an end. Regretfully we haven’t been able to visit everyone we wanted to see, though we have been able to spend time with many friends. There have been so many distractions. Visits with Jeannie’s dad have been a priority. His health is declining yet he has generally been in good spirits; and while his strength has left him, his sense of humor is still strong. While we were in New Smyrna Beach, we traveled short distances up and down the coast. As related in an earlier post, we went north to Saint Augustine.…
The Ancient City, Florida - 2016
Life back in Florida has been pretty comfortable: walks on the beach, visits with friends, and falling easily back into some old routines. The weather that was warm when we first arrived has turned chilly, slowing us down a little. At least the mosquitoes have slowed down too.
Back on the beach - 2015
We returned to Florida not because we were tired of living in Europe, but primarily because winter was approaching. The experience of cold weather from last winter in France and Italy was still somewhat fresh in our memories so off to sunny Florida we went. Our choice of transportation for the return was a trans-Atlantic cruise that took 13 days, eight of which were in the open ocean. Someone asked “If you had known ahead of time exactly what this cruise would be like, would you have chosen to travel this way?” The short answer would be “yes”, although I’m…
The Atlantic Crossing - 2015
Our taxi deposited us at the terminal right at 11:30 a.m. It was busy with people pouring from cars and taxis, and porters loading luggage onto carts. The line moved fairly quickly as we began our slow walk toward the check-in counter. Within our first hour after departing the taxi we were boarding the Equinox. The rooms would not be ready for another hour so we located a place to park our bags. Once the rooms were ready, we located ours, unpacked, put items in the safe and took off to explore the ship. After wandering multiple decks, we found…
A Kiss in Barcelona - 2015
While walking around the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, we turned down a small street. At the end of the street we could see a mural of two sets of lips locked in a personal moment. At first we thought that it was an example of street graffiti, but as we got closer …
Barcelona – Time to depart - 2015
The leaves of the Plane trees (Sycamores) are starting to turn brown and darkness comes noticeably earlier each day. Autumn has begun. Our time in Barcelona is almost over and only a few days before we board a ship for the return to Florida. Life in Barcelona was a little busier than normal. Early in our stay here, my brother Mike and his wife Kathy came for a delightful visit. We took a “Tapas Tour” with them, and also visited the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and all the places in between. After they left we still had museums and monuments…
So many of the places we have visited throughout the world are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Barcelona has nine such sites. These exquisite buildings by Catalan Modernist architects Antoni Gaudí and Domènech i Montane are some of the most beautiful structures in the world whether you’re an expert or simply appreciate impressive architecture, they are worth seeing.
Construction of La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Barcelona's magnificently iconic and controversial church, was started in 1882 by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí and is expected to be completed in 2026—a century after his death. Its design incorporates Gaudi's geometrical ideas and aspects of Cubism and Art Nouveau, or as it was called in Spain– Modernista and Catalonia - Modernisme.
Taking the train from Madrid to Barcelona used to take just under nine hours. Today, with ALL our luggage, it only takes about three. The speed display in the car we were in showed a top speed 300 kph (180 mph), but averaged a little less than that. The terrain in the center of Spain is rather arid and brown, and as we neared the coast there was a change toward more green vegetation and trees.
We had been in Madrid for just about a month, and we couldn't see everything. That is a difficult concept to accept at times, but for the experiences we want, it is essential. The days that have no defined purpose or destination are often the most rewarding; because it seems that for those brief moments we feel as if we live there. Those are the times we made time to stop and really see the city and its people. And like any big city it’s not always pretty, but it is always fascinating.
Meandros en Madrid – 3 - 2015
Madrid, besides being the capital of Spain, is a great city. The best thing about a great city and its culture is its people; and the best places to experience being among the people are parks and markets. These kinds of things are what our travels are about - to experience the place, its people, its culture, its life.
Meandros en Madrid – 2 - 2015
Madrid is filled with people. There were times when we felt that they were all on the same street with us. But we could turn off onto a quiet little callejón, and be alone except for the little old lady pulling her two-wheeled grocery cart to the market; or the lone office worker who had stepped outside for a cigarette. The art galleries, laundry hanging from balconies, street art, litter, beautiful architectural details of past glories, all provide a rich garden from which to gather images.
Meandros en Madrid -1 - 2015
We wander, ... a lot. It tends to be somewhat directed, but our path may meander like a three-year-old chasing pigeons. Most of these images of Madrid were made sort of on the way somewhere, or once we had arrived, and yet they are a stream-of-consciousness-like collection of visuals and memories of a month of strolling through Madrid. Captions have been added to provide some context, but think of them more as a view through my camera as we ambled through this marvelous city.
Toledo - 2015
Toledo has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, as early as the first century BC. The city has seen more than 2,000 years as the "City of Three Cultures", having been shaped by the historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish influences. It survived invasions by the Moors and Visigoths, and the Spanish Civil War, indeed, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Segovia - 2015
Every guitarist knows or should know the name Andrés Segovia (1893-1987). He is considered the greatest guitarist of all time as well as the father of the modern classical guitar though he was not from the town of Segovia, it was through his name that the town was to me at least somewhat familiar. Another rather famous reference to Segovia is “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway set during the Spanish Civil War and takes place in the hills and mountains near the city of Segovia.
Salamanca - 2015
There is an energy that can be felt when you are in a university town, and there was such a feeling in Salamanca. Maybe it was that there are 30,000 students at the University of Salamanca or just a larger than average number of young people for a city, but the energy was indeed there. The University, founded in 1218, has ben a center for teaching and culture and has over the centuries, and today it is renowned for the study of humanities and languages as well as law and economics.
Ávila - 2015
Inhabited since before the 5th century BC, Avila was a small fortified town conquered by the Romans about 61 BC. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was held by the Visigoths, then the Moors. Repeatedly attacked by northern Christian kingdoms it became essentially deserted. By 1088, the town was retaken from the Arabs and began repopulating. The leaders constructed a stone town and created the walls that still stand. Indeed, its most imposing monument is the wall that surrounds the city.
Cycling's Grand Tours are the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta a España. They are the most prestigious, and grueling multi-week-long cycling events in the world. We have never been able to see the Tour de France while we have been in France since it can be expensive and difficult to get to a good spot to watch the 200 riders streak past in 60-120 seconds. But this time we lucked out. We were in Madrid for the finish of the final stage of the2015 Vuelta a España - the Tour of Spain.
Madrid – The First Week - 2015
As our train entered the Estación de Atocha safely and with all of our luggage, we quietly breathed sighs of relief. The high-speed RENFE (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles—National Network of Spanish Railways) train had travelled between Montpellier, France and Madrid at speeds in excess of 225 kph (140 mph) in some places. The few stops that were made were very short and doors closed with no warning. I guess that if you want to call yourself “High-speed”, you don’t linger ... anywhere.
Doors Close and Doors Open - 2015
We were preparing to leave France. Our last night was in Avignon where we visited the Ancient Roman Aqueduct Pont du Gard. Our train was scheduled for 8:42 AM and we were 40 minutes early. Standing on the platform, we were surrounded by all our luggage. When the train arrived, the doors opened and I hefted the first two large bags aboard, I then returned to get Jeannie and the other bags, and just as we reached the door, it closed and there went our train. “Oh crap! Now what?” hoping that they don’t blow-up unattended luggage.
As the TGV (France's intercity high-speed rail service) high-speed train leaves Strasbourg behind, the realization that we are leaving France is really beginning to sink in. In total, we have been in-country more than 9 months, and we are now heading to Spain with a two-night stop in Avignon. Had we taken the train straight through to Madrid, it would have been a 12+ hour journey, so we opted to break it into two parts, and stop at Avignon to visit the famous Roman aqueduct not far outside of town.
Strasbourg was a great location from which to explore this part of Europe. At the eastern edge of France, we were close to the Alsatian wine villages, Germany and the Black Forest, Switzerland and the Alps, but Strasbourg was a gem in itself. But as we roamed the back streets and along the canals, especially when we could get away from the holiday-makers, we found a beautiful city that we share here without further ado. We hope you enjoy Strasbourg, through our eyes.
The Black Forest - 2015
This day we were going deep into the Black Forest in Germany. It is home to a special cake, cuckoo clocks, dense evergreen forests and picturesque villages, and a place that inspired some of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. We walked to the train station to take the “Black Forest Railway”, traversing the Black Forest Mountain’s spectacular scenery and passing through 37 tunnels and climbing 633 m (2077 ft) on its way to Villingen-Schwenningen. There would be meeting Karl and Ingrid (relatives of a work colleague), who were going to show us around.
There are easy train connections between Strasbourg and Offenburg, and from there, the local train through the Black Forest. Traveling light with small backpacks, we had booked 2 nights at a local hotel. After one slight error on our part, we made it to Gengenbach. We meandered through the charming, small town toward our hotel, and though we were early, our room was ready, so we checked in and set out for some more serious wandering.
A Swiss Treat - 2015
Switzerland – home of the chocolate, cheese, watches, chard, army knives, bank accounts and the Alps. While living in the Eastern part of France, it is easy to take short trips into Switzerland. So, Jeannie began her research of the area and possible 1- to 3-day trips that would give us some more quality time in nature and out of the city. Basel, Switzerland is less than 1.5 hours out of Strasbourg so we would also be able to see a bit of Lucerne as well as a day in the Alps.
Into the Alps - 2015
The 2.25-hour train from Basel wove its way through the mountains and past small towns and villages to the city of Lucerne. We changed trains for the remainder of the journey to Alpnachstad where we boarded the worlds steepest cogwheel railway for the steep (45°+) ride to the top of Mount Pilatus (2,128 m (6981 ft)). The view from the top was spectacular. On one side was a view of relatively “flat” area between Lucerne and distant Basel, and to the other side were the high Alps.
The First Year – a Review - 2015
As of 15 August 2015, it has been one year since we set off on this adventure to travel and live abroad. There are so very many aspects of this new life, and this post is an attempt to provide a very brief summary and some reflection of our experiences of the past year. Where have we been for the past 365 days? • We spent 257 days (71%) in France. This was only possible because we muddled through the administrative process to get our one-year French Visa which allowed us to extend our travels beyond the Schengen Borders Agreement.…
Ribeauvillé de Nouveau - 2015
We slept soundly in this little medieval town, Riquewihr. We had no big plans for the day except to walk back to Hunawihr and then to Ribeauvillé, maybe get some lunch, take the bus back to Sélestat, then catch the train back to Strasbourg, and then walk back to our apartment. But first, breakfast. We headed downstairs to the basement where the breakfast room was and were warmly greeted again by Brigitte. She showed us to a large table filled with breads, jams, cheeses, hams, yogurt and fruit, and after exchanging greetings, we sat in between a couple from Belgium…
Our return to Ribeauvillé had several goals, all of which had to do with being outside. The weather forecast was calling for clear skies and comfortable temperatures. So, we packed our backpacks for an overnight away. After the relatively short train ride to Sélestat, we boarded a bus for Ribeauvillé. We had travelled this route before, so we were in somewhat familiar territory. The first order of business was to drop some of our gear at our hotel, Le Ménestrel, about a 10-15 minute walk outside of town. It was still early, so we expected that we would not be…
Two Hikes Around Turckheim - 2015
A few days after our visit to Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg and Ribeauvillé (previous post) we took the train south and west to Turckheim, famous for its surrounding medieval wall and Gewürztraminer wines. In the morning after gathering some information from the tourist information center, we went out on a walk, first through the forest and then off through the vineyards high above the town and overlooking vineyards covering the hillsides, the Rhine valley and the Black Forest Mountains in the distance. The morning washed the hillsides with a blanket of light and the green color of the vines provided a…
We have really enjoyed living in the urban apartments throughout France. Partially because it is so vastly different from our life experiences prior to this adventure; the dynamics of living in cities that are centuries or even millennia old is something that is difficult to comprehend. Certainly these are modern cultures that exist in ancient settings, but it is quite interesting to view a date over a door that was carved into stone in the 14th to 16th century. On the other hand, there are many places that were destroyed during the World Wars. Most were rebuilt using many of…
Oompah, Dance, and a Saint - 2015
Sunday morning woke to rather cool temperatures. Today was a day for long-sleeves. The event today was a performance of musique et danses traditionnelle Alsacienne at the Place Guttenberg, just around the corner from the Cathedral. We arrived a little early for the morning’s performance, but a crowd was already building. The band began playing polkas, waltzes, and marches before the dancers appeared. Jeannie was able to grab a seat, while I roamed about making photographs.
A Night Away in Alsace - 2015
Colmar, considered the Alsace's most beautiful city, was founded in the 9th century and still retains stunning medieval architecture, and even its own “Little Venice”. Not far away, Eguisheim is a tiny, beautiful, medieval village, with multicolored houses creating a small, concentric but beautiful maze.
A Tale of Two Expectations - 2015
During the summer months in Europe there are always cultural events to experience. We are continually on the lookout for concerts, dance, street performers, or other such events that help make this adventure special. This is one of those events.
Munster - 2015
The heat wave here in Europe continues. The temperatures have soared back into the 35-38° C (upper 90s F), and we needed to get out. Where to go? We are near the Vosges Mountains so maybe we can find a walk in the woods. Since we don’t have a car, we are limited to places within train or bus transport. So after a bit of searching on the internet, we found walking options from Munster (cheese, not Herman), France. The train from Strasbourg first took us to Colmar where we changed to a little local train and after seven stops…
Voyage Temporel* - 2015
Strasbourg is vastly different from any other place we have lived, on so many levels. This city lies on the Eastern border of France, on the Ill River where it flows into the Rhine on the border with Germany. It is deeply permeated with Franco-German culture. The city has been disputably French or German off-and-on for centuries, and yet today is a bridge of unity between France and Germany. There is a blend here; the language, food, products, architecture, and most everything is an interesting of being ... both cultures. As Jeannie described, this apartment, too, is different.
Some Assembly Required - 2015
As we settle into our new apartment in Strasbourg we realize that it is very different from our flat in Lyon. It’s nice, but smaller, and with not as much of a view ... from the inside. As soon as we walk out onto the pedestrian-only street we are in the bustling Petite-France old quarter. Medieval buildings of black and white timber-framed buildings line the streets and canals. Small alleys and side-streets lead to new places (plazas) filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
We were invited to spend the night at the home of Michel and Francoise (Lucie’s parents) in the Beaujolais area. So, one morning, we took a short train ride and arrived at their beautiful home in the country. Around the countryside it was cherry season and everyone was harvesting cherries. We picked cherries from the trees on Michel and Francoise’s property, as well as raspberries, and their garden was the source of the salads we enjoyed over the 2 days, as well as potatoes - cooked in duck fat, yum!
Nos Amis Lyonnaise - 2015
Leaving friends and family last year, we hoped life would not be lonely. When you don’t speak the language where you are living, how do you make friends? We discovered it is not so difficult, if you are open to encounters and accept invitations even if you are a little unsure. Early in our travels, as we relaxed in a café in Saint Malo, a brief conversation with a friendly, young French couple. That exchange inspired us to visit Lyon last year for three weeks, and then choosing it to be our home base for three months.
Lavender in bloom - 2015
This an audio blog post, there are play-back controls beneath the image. Be sure to turn up the volume!
Wine – a Tale of Three Tours - 2015
Wine is a state of mind here in France. To not have wine with lunch or dinner is almost tantamount to not breathing. It doesn’t hurt (help?) that Lyon is pretty much at the one of the centers of the wine universe. People enjoy wine with lunch and later in the afternoon, as well as for dinner. It’s what they do.
Montchat en Fête - 2015
Although we were living in Montchat for only a short time, we came to love notre beau village de au coeur de Lyon. Every excursion down the shopping street or to the market was a delightful adventure. We were admiring some items in a shop window when a grandmotherly woman stopped next to us and laughingly commented on something that we were looking at. After a few more words, I had to gently interrupt her and apologize that we didn’t speak very much French.
Notre Vie en Roses - 2015
Three hundred thousand visitors were expected for the 17th World Convention of Rose Societies. There was floral art, paintings, gardening workshops, a fashion show about roses, information stands of French rose growers, and exhibitions all over the city. The fragrance that wafted about on the breezes was intoxicating, and the colors were unbelievable. These are photos of just a few of the venues and a lot of the flowers from around Lyon. Of course Lyon is filled with flowers everywhere even if there is no Rose Festival, but this was a special event.
Medieval Festival Musings - 2015
We don’t ever have to go far to find truly medieval things. The middle ages spanned the 5th through the 15th centuries, beginning with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, then later morphed into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. There is much here that survives from that era or was rebuilt after the wars that speaks to us across the ages. We enjoyed two medieval festivals while in Lyon.
Cascades Chambéry - 2015
At the crossroads of ancient routes through the Dauphiné, Burgundy, Switzerland, and Italy, Chambéry lies in a wide valley between the Bauges and the Chartreuse Mountains on the Leysse River. We wanted to get out for a hike in the forests again, and our research indicated that there were some nice green areas near Chambéry that were accessible by public transport.
With the mountains all around, Grenoble is known as "Capital of the Alps". Its history goes back 2000 years to when it was a small Gallic village. Later, in the 11th century, Grenoble became significant as capital of the Dauphiné, though for the most part it remained a minor outpost on the edge of the French kingdom. Though in WWII, the German invasion was decisively stopped in the south at the Battle of The Alps early in the war, it was eventually occupied by the Italian army.
It’s a Big Small World? - 2015
Located in a 16th century, arcaded pink building, the Maison des Avocats (House of lawyers) is a beautiful Renaissance building in Vieux Lyon, and home of the Musée International de la Miniature et Décors de Cinéma. This museum contains an amazing array of exhibits, movie sets, props, costumes, latex masks and prosthetics, monsters, robots, models, matte paintings, and dozens of miniature interior scenes from many famous movies and TV series.
Annecy – The Venice of Savoy - 2015
Day trips out to new places are always multi-faceted adventures. Not only are we going to a place we have never been before, but simply the act of getting there is often an experience in itself. Such was our visit to Annecy. We had heard that there was some damage to the railroad tracks near there due to recent heavy rains, and rail passengers were being rerouted via bus. At the station in Lyon, we were ready to exchange our tickets and pick another destination, but …
Dijon - 2015
Yes, the Dijon of mustard fame. We had spent the night in Beaune, and our plan was to take the train the short distance further for a brief visit to the capital of the Côte-d’Or département and of the Burgundy region. It was a beautiful spring day with vineyards all along the route through one of the most famous wine producing regions in the world. From the early 11th until the late 15th centuries, Dijon was the seat of extreme wealth and power, earning respect as one of Europe’s great centers of art and science.
Yay! A Holiday - 2015
Our days are interesting here, nothing ever goes exactly as planned but that is part of the adventure. So we are flexible and enjoy the surprises along the way.
Beaune is the center of the Burgundy wine region and the primary wine auction in France is held there. It is all about the wine, it is a town dedicated first to the wine industry (i.e. tractors, harvesting equipment, vats etc.), and tourism is secondary. Even so, there are many things to see and do.
Joan and Mel - 2015
"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it." ~ John Irving
How do we decide on an apartment in another country ? What do we look for? It’s not easy when you need to balance comfort, location and budget. It can be pretty easy to find a place that meets two of these but adding the third can really reduce the options. So, here are a few observations on what we look for.
Back to Venice? - 2015
The Medieval village of Perouges had been on our list of must-see places near Lyon for a while. And as we began to do some more research, this weekend (19 April) popped up on the community calendar as the weekend of the Parade Vénitienne de Pérouges or Venetian Parade of Perugia.
A Waltz Through Vienne - 2015
We were in need of a day-trip. So we closed our eyes and stuck a pin in the map. Well not really. Our excursions are pretty much dictated by the train routes that are available, and we generally look for locations that are no more than 2-hours away. Of course, there truly are lots of options in any direction, which is an additional reason we chose to be in Lyon for a longer stay. This particular day we chose to go to Vienne, located on the Rhône River in southeastern France.
We had a couple of beautiful days wandering about Lyon, clear skies, great temperatures, and spring flowers everywhere. It is truly a grand city. Not much text in this post, just a visual smörgåsbord to delight the eyes ... enjoy.
Back when we first began this adventure we went to St Malo where we happened to meet Nicolas, Lucie, and their 2-year old daughter Noémie. Later we went to live in Lyon for three months, we were invited a birthday party for Noémie. Grandparents would be there, as would their families, and some other friends and children. We felt honored to be asked. We were honored to be included in such a cheerful celebration. The opportunity to be with family and to make new friends is what makes travel and life in any nation or culture worthwhile.
My Terrace Afternoon - 2015
Sitting outside on the terrace of our apartment, I am in awe that we are living in Lyon France. For all the traveling we have done, even the 6-8 week stays in other French cities last year, this time it really does feel like we live here, and we only arrived a week ago. Chris has gone for a wander out into the city. While I am spending my afternoon, by myself on the terrace in our little village of Montchat in Lyon, reading a book set in France during another era.
Home Sweet Monchat - 2015
In the 3rd arrondisemont of Lyon is a small neighborhood known as Montchat. It is here we found an apartment where we feel at home. Primarily a residential area, our flat is less than two blocks from the small, tree-lined commercial street Cours du Docteur Long. Montchat is far from the bustling center of Lyon; it’s basically an urban village. The Cours du Docteur Long is filled with shops and businesses of all kinds all within walking distance of our apartment.
The route from Gothenburg changed from rather rocky to rather flat the closer we got to Skara. Farms and rich agricultural land dominated the landscape for most of the drive. The red barns and farmhouses looked just like barns and farmhouses we had seen in Wisconsin and other rural areas in the US. Many Scandinavian immigrants to the US, beginning around the 1840s, brought their living styles and farming techniques with them when they came.
The Götheborg - 2015
In 1745, the 18th century Svenska Ostindiska Companiet (Swedish East India Company) shipping vessel “Gothenburg,” was returning from her third voyage, a two-year journey to China, and wrecked on a reef near the mouth of the city of Gothenburg’s harbor, and over the next two years, one-third of the cargo was salvaged. It wasn’t until 1984 that divers relocated the remains of the ship, and decided that it would be fitting to rebuild the ship.
Going to Gothenburg - 2015
We departed Oslo, Norway by train. The snow was only beginning to melt and the temperatures were still pretty cold. It would have been nice to stay longer. Spring was at hand and would be fully involved within the next week or two, but it was time to head south to meet our friends, Niels and Jette, who were driving up from Denmark to join us.
Although we enjoyed being back in Florida amongst family and friends, and warm weather, the desire to return to our adventure called strongly. Our return this time was through Oslo, Norway, and as the flight from Orlando left about midnight, we were able to get some sleep while in the air. Arriving in Oslo we got checked into our room at the Hotel Saga and promptly went out to explore. The weather was beautiful for wandering, but that was about to change.
The flight back to the US from Rome was uneventful and everything went smoothly. We even got some sleep in between movies and feedings. When we planned our return, six weeks seemed like plenty of time to take care of everything before we started traveling again. We went to our physicians, dentist, and eye doctor for annual check-ups. We ordered new glasses, replaced some of our luggage, shoes and other items , and prepared our taxes. We accomplished the necessary tasks, but it was the fun stuff and visits that we had to put off.
Escape to Rome - 2015
We had mixed feelings about leaving Venice. With only three days there, we had just barely been able to taste the mystery and beauty of the place. But Carnevale was going to start in a day or so with its crowds and expense; the weather was changing for the worse; and the full moon was bringing high water which would flood the piazzas and sidewalks. The return to Camucia/Cortona on the train via Florence and the associated adventure was chronicled earlier in a post “Snow Days ...”. So, we were ready to leave and go to Rome.
We had barely scratched the surface of Florence and its treasures before we had to leave. But that is the risk of travel. Even in those places we have stayed for six or eight weeks, we had to leave unable to see or visit everything we wanted. You can’t see it all. And as I have said before, “Embrace every experience looking forward, not looking back.” So, not looking back, we pulled our luggage to the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Stazione to catch the train to Venice.
Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, was founded as a Roman military colony about the 1st century BC. During the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries Florence achieved preeminence in commerce, finance, power, learning, and especially art. Among the most famous of the city’s cultural giants are Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Brunelleschi. Its buildings are art in and of themselves and are filled with some of the more important pieces of art in the world.
Snow Days … - 2015
Jeannie and I had been to Florence and Venice with my brother Mike and Kathy. Afterwards, we took the train back to Camucia/Cortona to drive back to Montignano while they flew to Frankfurt and then home. Taking the high-speed train to Florence, we changed to the regional train for Camucia. The forecast only called for rain, but half-way there it turned to snow, accumulating quickly. The landscape became entirely white as we approached Camucia/Cortona. Then we remembered that we would have to drive across the mountains back to Montignano in snow.
… Everything changes - 2015
hey say you can’t go home again. That’s true in so many ways. It’s because everything changes, ... you and your “homes”. I guess the trick is to not try, but to accept where you are ... now. Embrace every experience looking forward, not looking back. Then as I looked at my brother experiencing Italy for the first time, I realized that it was different, because things had changed, but it was good. For all of us.
Language problems? No. - 2015
As we have traveled in foreign places, one of the joys and one of the curses has been dealing with the language. Now that we are in Italy, we have had to switch languages again. Not that our French was getting anywhere near good, but we were just beginning to get a little comfortable; words and phrases were coming out somewhat correct and sometimes at the right time. But now, it’s all getting jumbled ... again.
A Roman Bridge to Cesi - 2015
No, the Roman bridge doesn't lead to Cesi directly, but after several days of being stuck indoors with the flu, we had a wonderful drive. First, we only had to drive a few kilometers to see the Ponte Fonnaia, and then ... well. As is ofttimes the case, we saw a tiny town on the side of a mountain (and there are many) and said, "Let's go there."
Carsulae - 2015
Carsulae is a well-preserved Roman city located in the Umbria countryside. It grew up as a way station on a previously unoccupied site shortly after the Via Flaminia was built in ca. 220 BC, its location probably influenced by the presence of some natural springs. The timelessness of this place was palpable as we wandered the streets of this long abandoned town. It didn’t take much imagination to visualize entire buildings, people coming and going, businesses selling wares brought from faraway parts of the Roman empire on the Via Flaminia.
Feasting in Italy - 2015
We’ve been in Italy for just over two weeks, and it’s been cold, rainy, cold, snowy, cold, and did I say cold? We visited some incredible towns. Some we have never been to, but several we bicycled through many years ago when we did our own tour of Italy. This time we are driving and walking.
A Neighborhood Walk - 2015
A 5 mile (8k) ramble on country roads up to Colpetrazzo, a tiny village up on the side of the Martani mountains. We strode on paved roads, dirt, and stone; through woods, farmlands and vineyards, passing old buildings and new. The bare branches of the trees provided a lattice of contrast against the grey clouds.
Snow! - 2015
When we came to Italy, it was to hopefully get away from some of the colder weather further north in France. It didn’t work out that way. In fact, much of the peninsula was hit with cold and snow 31 December. To us, from Florida, it was a beautiful sight.
To Italy We Go … - 2014
It was odd that it only took a 1.5 hour flight to travel to Rome. So much longer when you start in US. It will be interesting to travel around Europe with such short flights. We got our rental car and left the airport around 4pm, knowing we would not arrive at our friend’s cottage (named Lucciole after the summer fireflies) until dark.
Rain, Rain, Go Away … - 2014
Overcast, rainy and cold. It has been cold again, and it has been raining all day. However, we HAD to get out. So off we went to the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse … again. An indoor, high-end, high-quality market, we always salivate upon entering and encountering the aromas. The meats, cheeses, and seafoods are beautifully presented and exceptionally fresh. There are restaurants all around, and it was here that we ate lunch.
Fête des Lumières – Night 4 - 2014
The finale of the Fête des Lumières will begin with a Celestial Parade where “The planets and stars of the solar system meet in Lyon on December 8 at Place Kléber and parade along Cours Franklin Roosevelt all the way to the start of the fireworks display in the 6th arrondissement.” We didn’t have a clue as to what to expect but it sounded like fun, and it would end with fireworks at the Rhône river.
Fête des Lumières – Night 3 - 2014
Coming here evolved out of several factors. We had originally planned to search out some warmer climes for the winter, but it’s not warm here. Whatever reasons we may have had for being here have been eclipsed by the serendipitous happening of the Fête des Lumières.
Fête des Lumières – Night 2 - 2014
Together with our new French friends Nicolas and Lucie, we returned to the Fête des Lumières. The images that are projected on the buildings are filled with motion and constantly change during each performance. Some use the architecture as part of the imagery and some merely use it as a screen on which to project. The music and sounds that accompany each performance truly adds to the beauty and magic.
Fête des Lumières – Night 1 - 2014
Last night was the first of four nights when the city is brightened up by 70 installations that create a truly magical atmosphere, and that is in addition to all of the lights in stores and on the streets. The festival is probably one of the three biggest festive gatherings in the world in terms of attendance (after the Rio Carnival and Oktoberfest in Munich) with over 3 million tourists coming to Lyon.
We were only in Lyon three weeks, and didn’t know how much we’d like the place. However, how we came to be in Lyon is a delightful story that begins, "... My brother and his wife were sitting with us outside at a little cafe in St. Malo on the northern coast of France where we met a French couple and their little daughter. ..."
Leaving Montpellier - 2014
We have always said that our travels do not stem from a desire to leave someplace, but rather to go somewhere else. To us it is a significant difference. I think it is a corollary to the “glass half-empty or glass half-full” thing. And so it was, on 01 December, when we departed Montpellier. It had been a wonderful place to be, to make friends, to eat, and to explore the surrounding areas. We had not seen everything there was to see, but that wasn’t the goal to begin with.
With our apologies to Flat Stanley and Mister Bill. Click image below to view our story of Brioche Saint Nicolas.
A Little Night Photography - 2014
It has been overcast and chilly with some light rain over the last couple of days. One night there was a break, so I took off for a few shots of Montpellier at night before we leave 01 December.
Arles - 2014
The day started as one of the coldest mornings so far this autumn. It might have been nice to stay in bed, but it was time for another train trip, this time to Arles, just inside Provence. We walked to the station, and after a short wait standing on the cold, breezy platform beneath the Gare Saint Roch, we boarded. It felt good to be on the train. The train rocked gently between towns where people got on and off on their way to work, school, or shopping. We were going to Arles to visit ancient Roman monuments and be…
A Special Visit – II - 2014
Our friends Rich and Patti drove from Barcelona, Spain to Montpellier to visit us. That meant they had a car. We ate, drank, and enjoyed each other’s company. On the third day of their visit, a road trip to the ancient medieval city of Aigues-Mortes (102 B.C.E.) was called for. This walled town dates back to the 13th century, though people lived here long before.
A Special Visit – I - 2014
Long-time friends from Florida visited us in Montpellier recently. We have known Rich and Patti for far longer than I want to calculate. At our last April Fool’s party (40th wedding anniversary), they threatened to come to France and drink wine with us. To our delight, they drove in from Barcelona where they had spent a few days to do just that.
Nîmes – The French Rome - 2014
When one is able to just get in to a car and go somewhere, travel without a car can seem difficult. But today we go by train to Nîmes, northwest of Montpellier. Upon arrival, we began the day with a stroll down the beautiful, tree-lined walking avenue that took us to the Centre Ville - or town center.
On the French - 2014
Whenever I talk with friends back in the USA about living in France, curiously people most frequently inquire if the French are rude and snobby. I always reply emphatically, no. The fact is that as we travel around the world we have discovered that even though there are different cultures and customs, people are basically the same everywhere. Treat them with respect and politeness and it will be returned to you.
Of all the wonderful things that we have experienced in France, it is the people that have made this such a magical journey. In spite of the fact that my language abilities are rudimentary at best, we have been greeted with patience, assistance and, very often some English has been spoken by almost everyone we have encountered. I was always taught and subsequently verified that if you treat people how you wish to be treated and it will generally be returned in kind. It works. From the people in the restaurants where we ate regularly, who were always so cheerful…
As we took the roads out and away from Carcassonne, the massive fortress dominated the view behind us for quite a while. Even from far away the towers could be seen above the vineyards and trees until they finally disappeared from view and, for us, became a distant, wonderful memory.
The small village of Lastours is less than 10 miles outside of Carcassonne and its history dates to the Middle-Bronze Age around 1500 years BC. Its true claim to fame are four small castles each built on a large 300 m (1000 ft) high rocky ridge. The castles were built to protect the village that has been an important mining center since antiquity.
Just to the south of my birthplace in Florida is St. Augustine, the oldest European-established city in the continental United States. St. Augustine is a charming and historical city, and location of the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fort in the United States, whose construction began in 1672. It is a place of imagination and wonder for the young schoolboy I was when I first saw the imposing structure on the waterfront. I never imagined that a place like Carcassonne could exist.
Abbeys and Castles – I - 2014
There were a few places we couldn’t go exclusively by train. But going from Montpellier to Narbonne by train, we rented a car and drove the backroads to Carcassonne visiting several abbeys along a circuitous route through the region’s wine country. Our first stop was to the Abbaye Fontfroide, founded in 1093.
Charlie’s Angels - 2014
We took the tram from Montpellier to the beach today. It is off-season, and the weather was beautiful. We got off the tram not knowing where we were going. A map showed that the town Palavas-les-Flots was about 2 miles (3.4km) down the beach so we walked along the road to what we expected would be a sleepy little beach town. Along the way three guys passed by and two were wearing tutus. Huh? That should have been a clue.
Béziers is one of the oldest cities in France, dating from about 575 B.C. It was old when the Romans arrived. Its location made it a major east-west trade route through the region. Béziers suffered greatly in 1209 during the Albigensian Crusades, in which the Catholic Church exterminated the Cathar religion. The entire population of Béziers was massacred, Cathar and Catholic alike. Today within the Languedoc region, Béziers is known for two things in particular: wine and bullfighting.
Returning to Montpellier - 2014
“The only thing constant in life is change” ― François de La Rochefoucauld Leaving Belgium on the train, the early morning view through our window was like looking into a landscape painted by one of the old masters. The low morning light bathed the peaceful idyllic countryside. The cattle in the pasture, crops in the fields, and the small village in the distance was just as it was painted centuries ago when Belgium was one of the major centers of the art world. The direct train from Brussels to Montpellier, a distance of about 1000 km (600 mi), took about…
A Day in Ghent - 2014
Bruges is a beautiful little town, while Ghent is quite large and very active, and it has been said that "... you get the feeling that this is a city first and tourist destination second, in sharp contrast to Bruges." Getting off the train and making our way into town you could tell that this was going to be a different experience, but not in a bad way.
A Day in Bruges - 2014
The trains from Brussels to Bruges run pretty much on the hour. We left early hoping to avoid crowds, but that strategy didn't work. The off-and-on rains got us and the crowds a bit damp, so we ducked into a local museum for a bit. Emerging just as the weather began clearing enough for us to roam about town, we ate a good lunch at "Tom's Diner", an upscale though charming eatery rather off the beaten path.
Brussels – II - 2014
Hotel breakfasts are not generally satisfying, but when shared with friends, they are always better. So it was in Brussels. We tentatively planned our tour of Brussels with our Danish Friends, Niels and Jette over breakfast, and shortly after began the day’s exploration.
Brussels – I - 2014
Arriving in Brussels, we took the taxi to the hotel. However it wasn’t the right hotel, there are two Best Western hotels with very similar names, so of course we went to the wrong one first.
Normandy – a Day Apart - 2014
We walked the route to the train station and back yesterday so we would know how long it would take. The tour we were taking to the D-Day beaches, or at least a couple of them, was to meet us at 08:00, so an early departure from the B&B was essential. Our tour van arrived right on time and we were greeted warmly by our attractive, young, French guide and driver Lucille. She explained that there were two other stops in town to pick up the remaining five people that would be joining us. Once on our way, Lucille told…
Bayeux – I - 2014
It was a long day getting to Bayeux from Rennes. It was made longer because we were leaving a place where we had only started to get harmonized with the pace of life and our surroundings. The rhythms of our life were beginning to get comfortable, and we left. The train ride was good, going along comfortably through the countryside ‘til we arrived in Bayeux. Founded as a Gallo-Roman settlement in the 1st century BC and home of the famous tapestry commemorating the battle of Hastings in 1066, Bayeux was also the first city of the Battle of Normandy (D-Day)…
Calories Coming and Going - 2014
Jeannie and I have two different ways of looking at things ... duh. She seeks out high quality, expensive, Belgian chocolate, while I look for beer brewed by the monks at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, near the town of Rochefort, where they have been brewing beer since 1595.
Finistère-IV - 2014
Once again we woke to a foggy morning, but by the time we finished the fresh coffee with our breakfast, the fog had lifted and we had to say our goodbyes to Stang Korvann and Bryan and Jilly. While it had been a wonderful experience, we had a 4:00pm train to catch in Quimper. After packing the car and getting our directions, we first set off for Concarneau before we went to Quimper. Concarneau is France’s third most important fishing port, and a town with a fortified island, the medieval Ville Close, in the center of the harbor. Thursdays are…
Finistère-III - 2014
Morning came with a fog that surrounded the trees and buildings in an ethereal haze. It made for a slightly later departure which allowed us to linger over our breakfast a little longer. Bryan offered to prepare eggs and we enjoyed the delights of the region. Fresh eggs, croissants, butter, homemade comfitures, fruits, and good coffee would fill us until lunch. Checking with our hosts on the best routes, today we were driving to Huelgoat to hike in the woods on paths along a stream strewn with massive boulders. Again, the roads took us through fields of corn and pastures…
Finistère-II - 2014
I left the window open a crack when we turned in. So as the morning light crept in to wake us there was a chill in the air. Not getting up wasn’t an option, but the big, warm bed was so comfortable. Yet, the day called with new adventure. We had planned to drive to the coast, to Crozon, and then from there were many places to see all within relatively short distances. We had a delicious breakfast with fruits, muesli, yoghurt, coffee, and fresh croissants topped with some of Jilly’s homemade confitures (jams). Bryan offered to make us eggs…
Update on the Wrist - 2014
[For those that are just joining this blog, back on 30 June 2014, we had been in Texas for a few days near Austin, in the town of Round Rock enjoying a long overdue visit with family. As we were hiking a rather friendly, though rocky trail with my brother Mike and his wife Kathy, Jeannie slipped on an algae-covered rock as we crossed a dry-ish creek bed. To make a long story short, she broke her wrist. She has been healing, though too slowly for the purposes of our adventure. WCF] I had anxiously tracked each week (no spreadsheet…
Three Days in Finistère – I - 2014
As we close in on our final days in Rennes, we felt drawn to explore more of Brittany (French: Bretagne; and Breton: Breizh). Bordered by the English Channel to the north, the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Bay of Biscay to the south it is an ancient land. The region has a strong Celtic heritage that sets it apart from the rest of France. Celtic traditions are alive or recalled today in Breton folk music, its Celtic festivals, and its many prehistoric monuments. And yet Bretagne itself is very diverse. We wanted to have…
Tales of Two Days - 2014
Home Alone - Jeannie This weekend featured an air show outside of Rennes. Chris had been looking forward to it and we planned to attend on Sunday as it was to begin in the morning and we thought it would be less crowded. On Saturday we walked around the town hall looking an exhibit of photos from the time of the liberation of Rennes 70 years ago. Happy yet difficult times. As we strolled through the town, we first heard the roar and then saw several jets swoop across the sky, leaving blue, white, and red trails. We caught a…
We traveled to Mont Saint Michel by bus to Beauvoir, a small village near to the Mont. We were greeted warmly by our hosts, two British expats They spoke English. We had lots of great conversations and discussions. The downside? We didn’t work on speaking French. Even at Mont Saint Michel, since it is a major international tourist destination, everyone seems to speak multiple languages with ease.
A Day in Fougères - 2014
Being here long-term and adapting to French culture doesn’t preclude our being tourists - far from it. Anyway, we had to do the tourist thing and journey to Fougères, to visit the Château de Fougères (literally, Castle of Ferns), one of the best preserved fortified medieval castles in Europe. Begun in the 10th century as a wooden fort at a location protected by high palisades on a rocky outcrop in a basin of the River Nançon, it wasn’t until two centuries later that the massive fortress emerged as a formidable stronghold.
Words - 2014
Even though we study and learn new words and phrases, they seem to drop out of our brains as quickly as water through a sieve. Actually, the ones that don’t drop out of our brains we carefully line them up, analyze their position, gender, tense, and potential pronunciation. Then we open our mouths and what comes out is unintelligible gibberish.
Lemonade - 2014
Bécherel, Brittany's booktown, with 750 residents, one bakery and 15 booksellers was the destination of our Sunday adventure. The locally famous book fair was being held and it was sure to be an interesting metro and bus trip out to this small village; in spite of the fact that the books would all be in French, maybe they would have pictures.
The Slow Life - 2014
Our daily life moves in slow motion for me. I laze in bed each morning with a cup of coffee, reading e-news, checking posts from friends via email and FB. Long walks every day, daylight lasting much later into the evenings, and window shutters that provide total blackout in the apartment, all contribute to later awakening. Now if we could only hush the sounds of late night revelers; guess I need to try some earplugs. Some days we don’t leave the apartment till late morning. Chris is usually busy with his photos and writing for the blog (my excuse is…
Smiles … and Giggles - 2014
On a walk past an elementary school playground ... this is an audio post. We hope it makes you smile.
The French Twist - 2014
Not the hairstyle, but in this case, our description of the way that a pâtisserie or boulangerie will twist the ends of the small bag that contains another French twist, the croissant. Of course, a fresh croissant is so flaky and light that crispy bits will end up all over the table and/or your lap.
To Market We Will Go - 2014
I hope you don’t mind if I write a bit more about food. The markets are spectacular, with such variety of color, texture and aroma. But making an actual purchase can be a bit daunting. For instance, in French, how do you ask for a certain quantity of something? It’s easy to point to the food item desired and hold up some fingers, but quite another to really know how much to ask for. But we’re learning.
North to Dinan - 2014
Life without a car has, so far, been easy. Local trips have logically been on foot, covering 5-8 miles (8-12km) per day. That doesn’t include any transport on the Rennes Metro or bus system which we try and use daily. Beyond Rennes, it is the train. If you have to get older, and considering the option, it’s not so bad if you take advantage of discounts.
Les Petites Choses – 2 - 2014
Les petites choses = The small things
Settling In - 2014
It’s been a long time since Chris and I set up household in a new place. How quickly one forgets all the little details, and working in a different language adds a whole new dimension.
Les Petites Choses – 1 - 2014
Les petites choses = The small things
Although "cacophonous" and "plethora" are considered somewhat pejorative terms, teaming them up with “delightfully” truly makes the description adequate. Rennes Saturday market is the second largest in France, with over 300 producers with their stands. There is food everywhere. There are people everywhere. It is gastronomic overload! It was great. Enjoy the photos.
On our own - 2014
When we arrived in France we weren’t alone. I am not speaking in figurative terms, I know that all the good wishes of friends, family, and colleagues are with us on this adventure. But on our arrival, we had friends already visiting in Rennes, and the next day family (my brother Mike, his wife Kathy as well as her son and his girlfriend) arrived. We had such a wonderful time with them all, together and separately. But, today will be the first time we will be on our own. We have waved goodbye to the last of our visitors.
Routine - 2014
Nothing has been routine for a long time. From the time we launched our lives into this sea of unknowns, things just haven’t been the same. Habits have been broken, patterns disrupted, and things taken for granted have disappeared. Now that we have settled in one place for a time, we are subtly looking for some organization in our lives.
As transatlantic flights go, it was a good flight, long, with little sleep. The arrival in Paris was also uneventful. Well, let me rephrase that, as I don’t think that “arrival in Paris” should ever be paired with “uneventful.” The arrival involved no bureaucratic issues. But as our bodies said that it was 12:30AM (6:30AM Paris) the brains were a bit foggy. The train to Rennes took about 2 hours and the morning countryside was stunningly beautiful, what little we saw of it between naps.
A Distillation - 2014
“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.” ~ Joseph Campbell, ... We have jumped.
Lasts and Firsts - 2014
As the countdown continues we have begun to wax a bit nostalgic. Even though, as I said before, we don’t tend to look back too much, it has been difficult to not to take notice of the lasts and firsts. For example, last night we had a wonderful dinner with some dear friends, fellow travelers all. While the notion of a last dinner together never occurred to us, we did take notice that it was the last Saturday night we would spend in this country for quite some time to come.
The Countdown Begins - 2014
Well, it is now T-10 days. We fly out August 15th. Are we ready? Yes and no. We finally worked out a plan for the cars. Jeannie's is sold and will be delivered to its new owner this weekend. My Subaru will go to CarMax next week, then I will rent a car to give us transportation for the two days until we depart. Getting everything selected and packed is still an ongoing process. Besides limited baggage allowances (airline and self-imposed), there are the weather differences. If you notice the graphs, the average August temps in Rennes are significantly colder…
A Tour de Marks - 2014
Ah, North Carolina, especially the western mountains. Cool, moist and green. This third leg of our pre-European tour was to the Asheville area of North Carolina to spend time with friends from junior college days and their significant others, and some former neighbors. Of course, both of the guys are named Mark. The best thing about good friends is that regardless of the amount of time that has passed, you pick up where you left off. So it was with the friends on this trip.
Singing frogs rejoice in the joy of the day’s rain. Cool mountain evening. Night in the mountains, sitting in the evening air fireflies dance about. Then, the next day on the trails ... the Fungi!
Compression - 2014
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright employed a principle he called “compress and release”. Creating a small space through which one must pass before reaching a larger space, Wright created a sense of tension, followed by a feeling of freedom One author described it as “Sometimes, when we are comfortable in our surroundings, we are not particularly aware of them—it is only when we are made to feel slightly uncomfortable that our senses are peaked enough to truly notice the environment that we are standing in, motivating us to move.” So, we began moving in a rather big way.
We traveled to Sheboygan, Wisconsin to visit Jeannie’s side of the family. Though technically they are her relatives, I have always been treated as one of the family, and in spite of being a Southern foreigner I happily call them my family as well. Her mom and dad were both born in Sheboygan, and grew up there. Several generations have raised their families here, but Jeannie’s family was different. Gene, her dad, decided to join the Navy, and that took him and Marilyn, his new wife, away. Though they were stationed in several places across the US and as far…
Family and FooBeach - 2014
Jeannie and I were in Texas to visit family when she fell and broke her wrist. We originally were to have all gotten together south of Saint Augustine in the same condominium that my parents had rented every summer for several years. Several generations of immediate family and relatives would gather at the “Four Winds” condos for a week of sun, fun, food, beach, pool, and fellowship. I always referred to it as FooBeach.
A Tumble in Texas - 2014
There are adventures that you choose, and there are adventures that are forced upon you. We have been in Texas for the last few days near Austin, in the town of Round Rock enjoying a long overdue visit with family. Today as we were hiking a rather friendly, though rocky trail with my brother Mike and his wife Kathy, Jeannie slipped on an algae-covered rock as we crossed a dry-ish creek bed. To make a long story short, she broke her wrist. When the x-ray technician says “You really did it good,” you know it’s not really good.
Whispering Floors - 2014
The wood floors whisper underfoot as I wander the house, alone, for the last time. The furniture has been sold or taken to storage, there is no art on the walls, no sound but the air conditioner. From room to room memories waft about, reminding me of so many good times. We haven’t shed tears over this departure; we try not to look behind us, rather ahead. Just as the house before the fire was forgotten long ago, we let the importance of the experience have its profound and lasting positive effect on us – and we move forward.
Too Tired … - 2014
... to write. The house is, once again, empty. Surreal, but ... ONWARD! ... yet still ... .
Where is the ________? - 2014
A great friend has made me peanut butter pies for my birthday or many years. Now, these are not ordinary peanut butter pies, they are not healthy, but they are exceptionally de-e-e-e-licious. They freeze well and it does not diminish the deliciousness. We woke up for the last time in our house, early as usual, made some instant coffee and pulled our last two slices of peanut butter pie from the freezer, and had breakfast in bed. What a treat, and as the sugar and caffeine kicked in, the packing resumed with a vengeance. The movers will arrive soon.
We were in Miami the other night. The next day we applied for our French long-stay visa. For some reason we kind of had pre-test jitters, even though it is merely a bureaucratic formality. The paperwork had been checked multiple times, multiple copies had been made, and we even had copies of documents we probably didn’t need, but … just in case.
As part of our quest to simplify and downsize, we are trying to become paperless. Though we’ve heard that’s a goal of many businesses, it’s rarely achieved. Our incoming paper stream has been greatly reduced as we’ve opted for electronic statements. So, much of our accumulated paper is from prior years. I don’t know why I’ve felt the need to hang on to the last paper statement, even when it is from years ago. I guess they give me some form of security, in case the internet disappears one day.
Grandma’s Accordion - 2014
I feel a special responsibility for things that come into my possession that have had great meaning to someone. They are a special connection to the past, just as the Rosetta stone, or the megaliths of Stonehenge, or my father’s High School yearbook. So too, was Grandma Alexander’s accordion. While she was not a blood relative of Jeannie’s family, she was Granddad’s second wife, and she was loved by us all without reservation. We, by chance, came to possess her accordion.
Existential Angst … - 2014
Dear reader, this blog isn’t just for you. This blog is MY journal of the experience of this craziness we have embarked upon. If it were Jeannie’s journal it would be a spreadsheet complete with pivot tables. And she does really GREAT pivot tables, but hardly as riveting as my inspired prose. You will be subjected to a bunch of preliminary preparation stuff and philosophical introspection. And that is one of the reasons for keeping this journal. We will be able to come back here and remember the anguish of those stupid decisions.
Tetris Anyone? - 2014
Do you remember Tetris the computer game from the mid-80s? The objective of the game was to maneuver four-square shapes, as they cascaded down the playing field, by moving each one sideways and rotating it, with the aim of creating a horizontal line of ten blocks without gaps. Our Slow Nomads adventure (and life in general) is much like that game. Unknown things and occurrences appear without our control and we nudge and rotate them so that they all fit together nicely into an entire row and then they disappears. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way.
Sold? - 2014
I have always said that there are three kinds of things: - Things you have to do, - Things you need to do, - Things you want to do. I generally do the things that I have to do, then I do the things I want to do. I ignore the things that I need to do because they will eventually become things that I have to do and will get done, or rarely, they become things I want to do and they get done. And sometimes they just go away.
The garage sales are over, and trips to take items to Goodwill and the county recycling center have finally slowed to a trickle. The house goes on the market in a few days, and we have arranged the first three months apartments in France. It looks as if this is really happening. But then, at the peak of the chaos, Jeannie’s father Gene, at 85 had a bout with appendicitis. That had us deeply concerned and running back and forth to Tampa to coordinate his care with siblings.
Dryer Vent Cleaner Brush - 2014
Getting rid of certain things marks the end of one era and the start of another. Yet somewhere inside a small voice reminds me of my mortality. It reminds me that now is the time. Where is that garbage can? It is important to choose wisely. Take tools for example. Once we return and are setting up a small apartment, will I ever need my hoe or circular saw again? When we are renting will I need to have my tap and die set, or the 10-foot-long dryer vent cleaner brush?
Another step… - 2014
Well, the house hasn’t sold yet, in fact it isn’t even on the market; but we thought we’d better not wait to book an apartment in France – as desirable places get leased early. Once we decided to make our first move in August, we realized that the south of France is a very popular destination in the summer. We are not fans of crowds so we looked at the map and decided on the town of Rennes, in the Brittany (northwest) region of France, to be our starting point.
Big Cypress Swamp - 2014
We had never been to the Everglades. Rivers and swamps were nothing new to us as we have canoed northern and central Florida for many years, but we had never been to the Everglades. Of course, having to earn a living does get in the way of having fun, but we had traveled many other places, yet we had never been to the Everglades. So, since our slow nomadic travels would likely put off getting to the ‘Glades even further into the future, now needed to be the time.
Time - 2014
Shortly after our return from Montpellier, a long-time friend passed away after an extended illness. So when we wonder if this is the right time to dramatically change our lives, and experience the travels we desire we know we should not delay. We will move forward, maybe even pick up the pace. We have been so very fortunate, having happy lives filled with good friends and loving family, and we know that now is not the time to slow down. If our journey is cut short, we will have no regrets.
Mission Accomplished … - 2014
When we first selected Montpellier as the starting point for our nomadic life, I assumed we would likely see it after we’d sold our house, put things in storage, and booked our one way ticket. But then Chris suggested that we should probably check it out just to get a taste of life there, to determine if it would work for us. Having just returned from 10 days in an apartment there, our decision is a resounding Yes!
To the Sea … - 2014
Having successfully negotiated the train to Aix-en-Provence just a day or two ago, we wanted to get a good view of the Mediterranean, and decided to go a bit further afield than the local beaches that are only a few kilometers away, and Sete, a large fishing port, would make for a good day trip.
No oysters yet … - 2014
"It’s easy to get the feeling that you know the language just because when you order a beer they don’t bring you oysters…” Julia Childs First of all let me state for the record that I find French to be a beautiful language. Hearing it spoken is like listening to Debussy or Ravel. It is melodic and it is expressive. The brief exchange between two friends or between a shopkeeper and a customer is like a song, … but I don't know the words.
From Here to There … - 2014
Aix-en-Provence a beautiful town about one-half hours train north of Marseilles (which is about two hours from Montpellier). Initially, a lot of our time is spent wandering, but as J.R.R. Tolkein said, “Not all who wander are lost.” The ancient streets and alleys are convoluted and meander to and fro with seemingly no organization. A map is essential, though sometimes hardly better than an abstract scribble. However, serendipity often leads us to treasures at most every turn.
Travelling … - 2014
We have gone to Aix-en-Provence via train for an overnight visit. Lots to share later ...
Ch-ch-ch-changes? - 2014
The goal of this trip has been different from any other we have taken before. The singular question is “Could or would we want to live here, or someplace like it?" It is more difficult than we imagined, yet our enthusiasm hasn't waned, even though the exercise is challenging. For instance, living in a very small apartment, compared to our very large home will require adjustments that will likely not surface during this first foray into such realities. On the up side, a full cleaning should take only 30 minutes.
Un jour de pluie … - 2014
Weathermen and meteorologists. You really don't trust them, but you consult them all the time. Plans are made or not based on their prognostications. But (in Florida at least) they are wrong SO often, AND they keep their jobs. Well, here in southern France, The weather forecasts have been similar. The rain chances for say Monday are 100% early in the week, one day later they are 10% then 100% then 10%, the next day until Sunday the rain chances return to 100%.
The term in France for window shopping is lèche-vitrine—literally, "licking the windows". While she is doing that I make photographs ... enjoy.
Those who know me know I have a bad habit, shopping! I have been going thru a gradual withdrawal over the last 8 years, since I left the professional, high-pay, high-stress IT life. And now that we are downsizing, I avoid the temptation to buy things since everything must soon be either sold, given away, put in storage, or fit in one suitcase (size still being debated). So it makes no sense to continue to accumulate, but …
Le Premier Jour - 2014
We were exhausted after our air travels, arrival in Montpellier, getting settled into the apartment, and several miles of walking about the old section of the city. While Jeannie continued to recover from her cold, I made a side walk to the store for some kitchen items. I love trying to get lost in places like this. While I may not understand all I see, it so fascinating. It also helps me set my internal compass.
Nous sommes arrivés … - 2014
After a tiresome, bumpy series of flights, we arrived in Montpellier close to schedule. Aurore, the property manager, was waiting at the apartment for us. She showed us all the essentials, though some were lost in translation. Then she walked us to the ATM for the remainder of the rent and deposit. The apartment is beautiful. Fresh yellow roses on the table and champagne in the fridge, we're just a little too exhausted to really take it all in at the moment. A short nap is next on the list. Then shopping for the essentials and dinner out.
Reconnoitering - 2014
Sitting in Orlando International Airport we are waiting to board the first-leg flight of our visit to southern France to check out where we might want to begin our adventure. The destination is Montpellier where we have an apartment waiting for us to base a ten-day stay. Our thoughts are constantly changing, and flexibility is key. As in any research, when you find the answer to one question, ten more appear. Whether it be visas and taxes, or the desirability of locations, we are finding lots of conflicting as well as confirming information. The brain fills quickly.
Going is not leaving … - 2014
One doesn’t come to embrace an adventure such as this without weighing the downsides. We spent a weekend in our college town reconnecting with friends, some we hadn’t seen in many years. It was so good to share time together again, and it isn’t easy to think about leaving such people and places behind, but we are not leaving, we are going someplace different. To me there is a rather significant difference between the two. Besides, we will be bringing them all with us, at least in our memories and hearts.
Be Here Now - 2014
When we first discussed the plan to downsize and travel, we established a loose target date to have the house ready to put on the market. Since the house might sell quickly, we also realized that we needed to be ready regarding the move details, that is we need to decide where to live, research apartment options, visa application, travel insurance and insurance options, banking arrangements, as well as create a reasonable budget including income streams, etc., etc., etc.
Project Managing - 2014
Chris and I work fairly well together, as long as we aren’t sharing the same task. So while he is purging the garage and attic, I am working on the to-do list and budget. He is the artistic one, writing entries for the blog, and taking photographs, I am the project manager and Excel spreadsheet master. Now if I can only get him to work on the items in the listed order!
The research continues … - 2014
A venture such as this has many facets. The biggest considerations are related to preparing and selling our home and possessions. This is no easy task for several reasons. First it is a beautiful home in a great neighborhood, and it means even more to us because we rebuilt after a fire in 2003. Second, is what to do with everything we have replaced and accumulated over the past ten years. Our realtor assured us the house would move quickly considering the improvements made during the rebuild. But there is a lot of work yet to be done.
Here is how it begins … - 2014
Jeannie and I have always enjoyed traveling. We are now both retired, our health is still good and we are financially secure. Retirement has made the prospect of longer adventures even more inviting. The only thing that might hold us back is the responsibility, maintenance, and expense of our home and all our stuff. Easy, we could downsize our possessions into storage, sell the house and cars, we could take a small apartment almost anywhere. The big question would be “Where?” when we considered the bigger picture, we realized that we could go almost anywhere in the world!