Jeannie and Chris

Jun 302019

View of Verona from the Roman Theater. - WCF-3356.jpgJune 2019 – So much can change in one year! It’s hard to believe that it was twelve months ago we returned from three-months of travel in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. We walked Italian cities, hiked the Slovenian countryside, and cruised on the Adriatic along the Croatian coastline aboard a small ship. It was a great year of travel and the fifth year since we embarked on our long-stay adventures.

Over the past five years, whenever we would return to Florida, we began to notice the increasing costs of housing and transportation (among other things). We had only been in our apartment for the past two years, but then our monthly apartment rent and water/sewer services increased, and the monthly cost for renting a car had been increasing steadily and significantly since we began our travels. This triggered another “rent vs purchase” discussion, Chris did his research, Jeannie built a spreadsheet with full analysis, we took a vote and bought a car.

WCF-0004.jpgIt wasn’t long after we began planning our future travels, that we knew we would need to store the car while we are away for three or more months at a time. Cars don’t fare too well sitting undriven, outside in Florida’s hot, summer climate, so all things considered, it was time to purchase a home base with a garage rather than continuing to rent.

But where? 

Rovinj, Croatia - WCF-0820.jpg

We had done some research and wanted to consider other areas of the southeastern US for a home base. Specifically the Asheville area of North Carolina and the Knoxville and Maryville areas of Tennessee had caught our attention. After delightful visits to each locale we decided to remain in Florida. The thought of living and driving in cold, snowy and icy conditions intimidated Jeannie. And since we are away from friends and colleagues for 3-to-6 months during our travels, we didn’t want to be permanently away from those we’ve known for 40+ years.

Wekiva Home - WCF-5095.jpgOur number one criteria in a new home started with being able to walk to a grocery store. Since this is the way we shop when we travel, we wanted this for our home base as well. Also important was a place with minimal maintenance that we could easily lock-and-leave for our travels.

Proximity to nature was a major factor for us. After a bit of looking, we found a townhouse in the Wekiva area of Longwood Florida, within three miles of the Wekiwa Springs State Park, a favorite place of ours. We have lived close to and enjoyed the Park since 1983, and knew this was still the right place for us.

Wekiva_Home--20.jpgThe entire process of buying and moving went rather smoothly, and while there were some things in our new home that we changed or updated, even those projects were completed without difficulties.

As we settled in, we discussed when and where our 2019 travels would take us. Our short list contained Argentina, Greece and Portugal, and in the end we decided on Portugal. And since we still wanted more time to put our new home in order, we looked further down the calendar to a departure in August. Wow, so we’ll have an entire year stateside, a first in 6 years!

Once our basic overseas travel plans were set (more on that later), and our new place was feeling like home, it was time to resume wandering, this time stateside. So, we made several trips to visit family and friends in some far ranging parts of the country.

Our travels after our return in June 2018 included:

  • Located off the Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, California, Crystal Cove State Park is one of Orange County's largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore. - WCF-4417.jpgSeptember 2018 – A Southern California trip with Barb, a good friend, to visit other friends (Bill and Jane) at their lovely home in Rancho Santa Margarita. This visit set the stage to go whale watching, visit some iconic seaside towns and beaches, and enjoy copious wine and good food!
  • November 2018 – Texas (Houston and Austin) was the next destination for a wedding and good times with family visits with nephews and nieces, grand-nephews, grand-nieces and new baby. My brother, Mike and his wife Kathy, on his first travel since his injuries in Italy, joined us.
  • April 2019 – Jeannie ventured off to the Big Apple for a girlfriends reunion to see Hamilton!
  • Great white trillium - Trillium grandiflorum. - WCF-6503.jpgMay 2019 Sheboygan Wisconsin, Jeannie’s parents’ home town, was the location for a whirlwind visit of cousins and grand-cousins. The region was cold and colder, with only one sunny day. But although spring still had a few weeks before its full appearance, the visit was warmed by the hospitality and good times.
  • June 2019 – Our Southern road trip to visit friends, family, and former colleagues in Georgia, North Carolina (including over two weeks of house-sitting at the edge of the Smoky Mountains) and Virginia, was especially delightful. It was a month of renewing friendships, visiting family, hiking mountains, and seeing many waterfalls; oh, and a five-day rain.

WCF-2019.jpgCurrently, we are home for about a month before we fly to Portugal the first week in August. We’ll begin in the north of the country in Porto. There we’ll have an apartment for almost two months, exploring the city famed for its history, food and its “Port” wines. At the same time, we’ll take trains or buses further afield to some of the vineyards (maybe in their autumn colors), medieval villages, and Roman ruins. For the remaining five weeks, we’ll take time to dwell a couple of nights in Evora before occupying an apartment in Lisbon, exploring this city’s treasures, and the surrounding countryside as well.

At least that’s the plan …

Thanks for following along, your comments, complaints, and corrections are always appreciated.

May 222017

“One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” ~ Edith Wharton

WCF-8731.jpgOf 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.

Now that we are in the fourth year of our nomadic adventure, we realize how much richer we are because of the lives that have touched us along the way. And during our return to France and England this year, we are happy to know that we will see some of those friends once again. 

The friendly staff at our Montchat boulangerie. - WCF-1513.jpgThe friendships that one makes while traveling come in many forms. Some are small encounters that result in an exchange of smiles and understanding that may last for just moments, yet will be remembered for far, far longer. Like the young woman who always cheerily welcomed us into the Boulangerie in Montchat, and who, while riding her bicycle saw us strolling down the sidewalk, smiled a big smile, waved and greeted us with a happy “bonjour!”

Some friendships are grand, and the threads that pulled us together will connect us the rest of our lives.

travel-couple-4Here are a few images of friends that we have made during our travels over the last few years, though most of the time we don’t get photos – we are too busy talking to think about the camera. Their smiles in the moments of our time together is at the heart of why we continue to travel.

One of our first new friends along the way was the owner of the apartment we booked for our “practice” visit to Montpellier, France in winter 2014. Barbara, originally from California and now living in New Zealand, had a beautiful flat for rent on one of the lovely squares in the city. We spoke to her during the booking process, and after looking at the pictures of the cute French décor, knew that this would be a welcoming environment for our first short stay. We were delighted that one year later we would meet her in person, in Madrid. We have learned to stay in touch and look for opportunities to reconnect with new friends, and it’s always a joy!

Miquel, Montserrat, son Josep, and daughter, Montpellier France 2014 - 2015 WCF-6073.jpgLater, while on a walking food tour in Montpellier, we met a family from Barcelona Spain – Joseph, Montserrat and their grown children. We exchanged emails and one year later after renewed contact, we spent a lovely day with them in Barcelona. Had we remained longer in this delightful city, we would have continued our friendship, and will certainly be in touch even if we don’t return to Barcelona.

Brigit & Matt, Florida friends in Rennes France 2014 - WCF-0011.jpgAurelie & Catherine, Rennes France, 2014 - WCF-1010702.jpgAt times our travels reconnected us with friends from the USA, and this was the case with our young friends Bridgit and Matt. We met up with them at an outdoor café in Rennes, France, where they introduced us to several of their local friends, especially Aurélia and Catherine who later invited us to dinner, and recommended other places to explore in their lovely city.  These two lovely ladies helped us arrange a visit to a local Osteopath to help with the mending of Jeannie’s broken wrist. They accompanied her, provided translation assistance, and moral support; what great friends!

Nicolas, Lucie, Noemie, Lyon France 2014 - WCF-6480.jpgOur French connections continued with a chance encounter at a small café in Saint Malo while we were living in Rennes. We met Nicolas, Lucie and Noemie when he initiated a conversation with us, and Chris’ brother and his wife who were visiting. This chance meeting triggered our decision to spend several weeks in Lyon later that year.

Michel and Françoise, Ancy France 2015 - WCF-1438.jpgLater, they joined us for the Fête des Lumières on a cold December day and evening, being our personal city guides as our friendship evolved. When we moved to Lyon in April 2015 for three months, they shared their busy lives with us and we became close friends. They welcomed us to their family celebration of their daughter’s 3rd birthday party, where we met their parents, other family members, and friends. Being in Lyon for several months allowed us to meet-up several times in the city, and Lucie’s parents Michel & Francoise, even invited us to their home in the country for a weekend. What a delightful time we had! When it was time to leave Lyon, we promised to stay in touch and look for another opportunity to see each other. While that was not able to happen later in 2015 or 2016, we will  visit them during our time in Toulouse this year.

Kate and David, Montpellier France 2014 - WCF-7062.jpgThe way we have met people is as varied as the places we travel. In Montpellier during our six-week stay, we frequented the Halles Castellane, the city’s main covered market. At one of the boulangeries we spoke to Sophie who worked behind the counter, attempting to buy baguettes with our limited French. During one exchange where understanding was not completely achieved, we gave her one of our contact cards. Several days later we received an email from Kate and David. Sophie had been trying to ask if we knew the other American couple who often came to the market, so she passed our card on to them and our introduction was complete. We met Kate and David several times while we lived there, including a trip outside the city for a hike. Washington state residents, they had purchased a lovely apartment for their frequent visits to France. The next year, Kate visited us in Lyon and we were able to share a few highlights on her first trip to this city. Our stay in Toulouse this year will overlap with their time in Montpellier, and they are planning to come visit us.

Herb and Jeanie, Florida friends in Montignano Italy 2014 - WCF-0266.jpgWhen we left France in late 2014, we went to Italy to visit our Florida friends Jeanie & Herb who own a cottage in Umbria. They introduced us to an American couple, Claudia and Gary, who now live permanently in Italy. The six of us shared a fabulous New Years eve and day, feasting & celebrating life in Italy. Though Jeanie & Herb had to return to Florida, Claudia & Gary helped Jeannie celebrate her birthday at a fabulous restaurant in Cortona.  When we plan another visit to Italy, we will most certainly find an opportunity to see Claudia & Gary again.

Mel and Joan, Americans we met in Lyon France 2015 (photo in Florida, USA) - WCF-215612.jpgWe have made other new friendships with Americans through locals trying to connect travelers within their city. We met Joan & Mel through our apartment manager Benoit. Unfortunately our introduction occurred at the end of their stay in Lyon, where we shared an afternoon beverage at an outdoor café. We weren’t able to meet again in France but did share a day in Florida when they came to Orlando in late 2016. A picnic in the state park, followed by dinner in a local restaurant was a great way to continue this friendship and we hope to see them again, somewhere.

 Karl and Ingrid, Villingen Germany 2015 - WCF-1299.jpgAfter Lyon, we lived in Strasbourg, and as we realized how close we were to Germany, we began to consider how to take a trip over the border. A friend of mine Linda, has cousins in the Black Forest area so I contacted her to see if we could get an introduction. Soon we had train tickets to meet Karl & Ingrid, and spend a day with them. They arranged a wonderful itinerary, driving us to several of the highlights of the region, which included a slice of the famous Black Forest cake.

We have since stayed in touch, and when they came to Florida to visit Linda late last year, we all spent a great evening together, including a German dinner at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café. If we don’t travel again to Germany soon, we hope to see Karl and Ingrid again in the future when they return to Florida.

Miriam & Mick and her brother, Killarney Ireland, 2016 - WCF-231713.jpgOften a friendship begins from a chance encounter and casual comment, and such was the case with Miriam. On one of our walks through Killarney National Park, we paused at the edge of the woods. Miriam said hello and asked if we had seen the local red deer near the path. From that initial comment, we soon found ourselves invited to dinner at her home. We spent a great evening with Miriam & her husband Mick, and her brother; we sipped wine and enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner, followed by homemade rhubarb pie. This was a wonderful way to celebrate our 42nd anniversary! Just before we left Killarney, we met Miriam for a coffee, and have since connected on FaceBook. We’ve just learned that they will spend several days in Bordeaux during our final weeks in Toulouse, and maybe we’ll have a chance to meet again!

Mike and Angela, Downham England, 2016. Convertable-coupleOn a sunny day in the village of Downham England, we met Mike & Angela. After a great walk, Chris and I stopped at the local tea shop for ice cream. It was a beautiful warm sunny day, and we were relaxing at a table outside when a convertible with the top down rolled slowly by. We watched their heads turn as they saw us enjoying a cool treat, and they quickly found a parking place and then settled at the table next to us. Of course conversation began, our story shared and we soon had new friends following our blog.  With our plans to return to the UK, we’ve discovered there may be an opportunity to meet up with Mike & Angela later this year, perhaps at another ice cream shop?!

Jean-Marie and Maria, Bergen Norway 2016 travel-couple-3During our month in Bergen Norway, we took a number of fjord trips to enjoy the scenery of this beautiful country. And when you are on a tour, it makes it pretty easy to strike up a conversation with other tourists/travelers. Along the way, we met a French family, Jean Marie, Maria, and their two grown children. We were excited about having additional French friends, however, they are from Reunion Island, a French department in the Indian Ocean. They speak very fluent English, so conversation was easy in spite of our limited rusty French. When we discovered that our apartments were a short walk away, we met several other times to enjoy drinks and conversation. It is not likely that we will travel to Reunion, but we hope to stay in touch and possibly connect if we travel to the same location.

Travel-CoupleThere are so very many other wonderful people we have met along the way, far too many to mention in this blog post. But simply put, our lives are enriched by everyone we have met on this journey, and as William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”


Aug 162015

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. We lived in Rennes, Montpellier, Lyon and Strasbourg, and visited many different cities and towns near those areas.

• Italy takes second place with 52 (14%) days. Here we stayed in our friend’s cottage in Umbria, and traveled to Cortona, Assisi, Spello, Orvieto, Florence, Venice and Rome.

• A very short stay of eight days in Belgium, where we stayed in Brussels and visited Bruges and Ghent.

• We returned to Florida to see family and friends for a short visit of 40 days (11%).

• After we left Florida again, we started with two days in Oslo, Norway and five days in Gothenburg, Sweden before settling again in France.

• What isn’t counted here are a few day-trips visiting Germany (Kaiserstuhl) and Switzerland (Basel and Lucerne). With many countries just a short distance from France, we wanted to experience some of the different flavors of Europe.

• Even though we’re at the one year mark, we are still traveling. Next will be Spain – Madrid and Barcelona – for September and October before we return to Florida via a 13-day transatlantic cruise (Celebrity).

How did we travel?

• Our travels into and out of the US were via airline (Delta and Norwegian Air), as were the shifts to Italy and from Scandinavia to France (Easy Jet and SAS). Most of our other travel was by train, such an easy and inexpensive way to make short and longer transitions between cities. We purchased the French rail line “Carte Senior+” pass (a benefit to achieving 60 years of age) which gave us really good discounts on our train travel.

• Our return to Florida in November will be via transatlantic cruise. We are looking forward to experiencing the full distance traveled and arriving without jet lag!

How have we made it work, financially?

• In our initial planning we set a budget based on our former, normal living expenses (including vacations) prior to 2014 (thank goodness for Quicken reports). So far for the year, we’ve averaged about 10% over budget (not too bad, according to the project manager of this venture). One reason is because we eat out a bit more frequently, but dining is an important part of this experience. Also, we don’t buy in bulk so we don’t get “Costco-sized” bargains. Our transportation costs have been more than normal vacations (airfare, cruise); and while we haven’t rented cars very often, this does cost more, especially insurance.

• Finding comfortable living space is important. We want to be able to spend time relaxing and not be in tourist mode every day. Our set of housing requirements has been fine-tuned over time, and we have been able to find housing that mostly meets our needs. The best savings on an apartment is to book for at least one month. This can drop the daily rate by up to 40-50%.

• Being flexible is essential. When we started last August we only had about three months planned. We have always planned a couple of steps ahead so we don’t pay last-minute fares for housing and transportation. But we haven’t had all pieces planned from start to finish. It’s good to decide based on accumulative experience.

Who does what to make this work?

• Jeannie handles planning and numbers: budget, lodging selection, activities director, food & beverage coordinator. She is also the blog reviewer, and an occasional contributor to the blog.

• Chris is tech support, security, journalist, photographer, marketing, navigator, “McGyver” whenever things don’t work, and Sherpa.

• Most other tasks are shared, with one of us taking lead as needed, like laundry, house cleaning, cooking … fortunately no yard work is required, though we did plant a few herbs at our last apartment in Lyon.

What we love the most:

• Seeing new places and living in places where we formerly would not have chosen to live. City life never previously appealed to us, but for this phase, we have thoroughly enjoyed the bustle, availability of markets, shops, restaurants and events, and adopting this wonderfully different pace of life.

• Experiencing a more dramatic change of seasons.

• Meeting new people. Every connection with others can be an energizing boost to our day, no matter how brief.

• Fresh food and wine. The French take their food very seriously. Meals are much more than eating, they are for socializing, reflecting, being with family and friends, being alone, enjoying life, AND enjoying really good, fresh food, properly prepared and serve with pride and ownership.

• The sounds. The pealing of church bells – everywhere, children laughing, the French language – it is a song, the bees humming in the lavender and other spring flowers, and the four-note SNCF tune heard in every gare.

• Public transportation. We don’t need or even want a car here (tiny one-way streets and parking are a nightmare). Trains and buses are efficient, easy, reasonable, and go to many if not most of the places we want to go. Walking in the cities is easy, and it’s good exercise.

• Wine and food (did I already say that?).

• We’ve had a number of visits from friends. It was great to share our life abroad, the beauty of the city, and the fantastic food and wine. And being able to speak English for hours and days was a real treat.

What we miss:

• Friends and family. Although Facebook, e-mail, the blog and free Wi-Fi-calling do help us to stay connected.

• Chatting. Although very many people do understand or speak some English, most don’t, and our ability to speak their language is, at best, poor. However, when the opportunity presents itself to have conversations, the French are always fun and accommodating.

• Stores being open on Sundays and evenings, but we do find the quiet pace a nice change from the 24/7 bustle of  shopping. We just have to plan our shopping and dining out in advance as many shops and restaurants are closed both on Sunday and/or Monday.

What we want to change in the next phase (to begin Feb 1, 2016):

• Better access to green space. We want to be able to walk a short distance and be in the woods, or on a trail across a meadow. Living in a city has been experienced, so we are looking for a change.

• Avoiding temperature extremes in the seasons. We’ve had freezing temperatures and snow during winter and +100° F degree temperatures in the summer (without air conditioning).

• We are currently looking to New Zealand for winter and early spring, and the UK in the summer. It is interesting how things sometimes bring connections later on – when we stayed in Montpellier Feb 2014, our trial trip to see if we could live there for a period of time, we stayed at an apartment owned by Barbara Drake. She is living in New Zealand and we have now reconnected with her for input regarding staying in Auckland next February. It is important to keep track of connections that we have made along the way, as one never knows when there may be another opportunity to meet.

• Learning to pack lighter. We still carry too much. And Jeannie needs to allow some empty space because “not shopping” along the way isn’t an option.

The Blog and Photographs

It’s been said before, but this blog is first and foremost for us. It is sort of a diary of this trip that we are sharing with whomever wants to read. It is a labor of love that we will be able to look back and remember, in words and pictures, what a wonderful opportunity we had. We are very fortunate, we know that, and this is one way we will remember that.

• Chris has made 27,520 photographs, and almost 5000 images have been posted in the blog or on FaceBook.

• 142 Posts and pages have been published on the blog, mostly written by Chris.

• 754 Comments have been made by those reading the blog. Your comments are an inspiration to keeping the blog going, they are appreciated more than you know.

• The Slow Nomads blog has been viewed 21,154, and the largest number of views in one day was 302 on Thursday, March 19, 2015.

• The blog has been viewed in more than 38+ countries. The top five (with number of views) are:

1. United States (17,294), 2. France (2,374), 3. Denmark (561), 4. Italy (221), 5. United Kingdom (137)

How much longer?

We have always said that there are three primary components to this adventure – Health, Budget, and Desire. As long as we have all three things we will continue, and as of this post, we are going to continue.

The single most important thing that has made this entire endeavor work is that we love each other, still. Yes there have been some rough places and some disagreements, but after all we are together pretty much 24/7, all the time, every day. Some friction is bound to occur. But, love … and adventure … conquers all.

Besides we’re still having fun, why stop now.

Thanks for joining us!

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Below is a random selection of 60 images from the past year, to see another 60 refresh your browser.

Jul 182015

_MG_3996.jpgThe 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 and about a total of one hour travel time, we arrived in Munster.

_MG_4008.jpgMunster was the site of a 7th-century abbey or monastery founded by monks from the Munster region of Ireland which gave the place its name, and is famous for Munster cheese that the monks developed. Unfortunately, over the years, Munster suffered yet survived many wars including the Thirty Years War that raged 1618 to 1648, the First World War when 85% of the town was destroyed, and then World War II.

_MG_4023.jpgOne of the first things we noticed in Munster was the large number of storks nesting on the rooftops. Though they are rather common in this part of Europe, there was abundance here. Storks have little fear of humans if not disturbed, and often nest on buildings. Legend says that not only do stork deliver babies, the presence of a nest on a house was believed to protect against fires. It was also believed that their souls are human, while some households would encourage storks to nest, to bring good luck. Still other cultures believe that storks bring harmony to a family on whose property they nest.

Though not quite as charming as some of the other wine towns we have been to, we stopped at the Tourist Information office to find maps for walks out into the countryside. They only had map packages produced by the local Vosgien Randonee group, so we purchased a set that included walks directly from Munster. We needed to make one more stop in town to get lunch (sandwiches, cookies and water) for another picnic.

_MG_4034.jpgThe start of the route was clearly marked and began with a steep uphill climb on a gravely path. I had brought both of my walking poles anticipating the inclines and rocks, and needed the extra stability. My two falls last year were quite enough, so I try to be more cautious (too much so for Chris at times). We climbed and climbed, and though we were in shade part of the time, it was hot! Tres chaud, and it was still morning. We hoped our four bottles of water would be enough.

There were benches for resting and enjoying the view along the way, but our walk was just beginning so we huffed on. Along the way we passed a couple of old concrete bunkers, remnants of past wars.

Eventually the path leveled out (yay!) and we were in the shade of the woods with the bonus of a slight breeze. Our path took us through deep forests, across fields with wonderful views of distant mountains, and we walked narrow chemins or farm roads, with the occasional passing farm equipment, to the village of Hohrod. We found a convenient picnic table in the shade, and though it was not yet noon, we were hungry, hot, and ready for a rest.

_MG_4118.jpgThe rest of the walk was slightly downhill, and a stretch of the path was also marked with cairns and other little objects. Some were new and others quite old and moss covered, still others integrated the remains of old garden equipment (a shovel blade) and it was fun to imagine walkers balancing the stones as a fun diversion along their way.

Once we arrived back in Munster we stopped at a brasserie for a cold drink. After re-checking the time and the train schedule, the next train wasn’t for two hours, so we had plenty of time to rest and then wander the town.

As we enjoyed our drinks under the shade of the brasserie’s awning, a number of cyclists parked their bicycles out near the street and soon all tables were filled, including the other chairs at our table. It was soon clear that they did not speak French (as if we do), and when Chris attempted a conversation we determined that they were from the Czech Republic on a cycling tour. We attempted to tell them that we had visited the Czech Republic and they shared that they had been to Canada and once to Florida. Struggling to remember even one word in Czech (a very difficult language), we remembered “ice cream” or in Czech “zmrzlina“. Even with Chris‘ very poor pronunciation, they understood and we all had a good laugh.

IMG_4159.jpgWe said goodbye to the Czech cyclists and decided to venture to the park to fill our time. Spreading a cloth on the ground, we enjoyed a brief nap in the shade of some giant trees there, and then walked to the train station (stopping along the way for some “zmrzlina“), only to discover that the schedule we were using for the train was not in effect in July. So we walked to another park, and waited on a bench watching children in a playground, then we finally caught a departing train at 4:41.

After arriving in Strasbourg, we noticed that the temperature there had reached 38°C or 100°F (only a little higher than Munster). Needless to say we had a lazy dinner in front of our fan, and turned in early to sleep the sleep of hikers.

It was a great day and another beautiful walk!


Jun 292015

Michel and Francoise  _MG_1438.jpg

Our busy weekend, begun in the previous post, was not yet over, there were more friends to visit. We had been invited to spend the night at the home of Michel and Francoise (Lucie’s parents) in the Beaujolais area. So Sunday morning, we took a short train ride to L’Arbresle where Michel picked us up. After stopping in a neighboring village for bread we continued to the small village of Ancy. We arrived at their beautiful spot in the country, where they had purchased the land and built their home 12 years ago.

Francoise is an artist and a wonderful cook, and Michel is a great sommelier and “tour leader”. Over two days, we traveled in their car and by foot through beautiful Beaujolais countryside in the golden stone region. One of our stops was in the village of Oingt, which is a classified and restored medieval village listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France.

_MG_1228.jpgAround the countryside it is cherry season and everywhere people are harvesting cherries, filling boxes with fruit to take to market. We picked cherries from the trees on Michel and Francoise’s property, as well as raspberries. Their garden was the source of the salads we enjoyed over the 2 days, as well as potatoes (cooked in duck fat, yum!) It truly was a honor to experience French life so closely.

Francoise prepared a beautiful lunch of veal cooked in a delicious sauce, served with risotto and girolles (mushrooms). In the French custom, this was followed by the cheese course. Four different cheeses were offered, two types of goat cheese, one very fresh and soft, the other a bit more flavorful, a cow cheese, and the delicious Comte (one of our favorites). A beautiful praline tart was served as dessert (yes, another course, and this is lunch!). And the finale, a nice cup of coffee.

IMG_1199.jpgLater we drove to several different sites in the lower Beaujolais area arriving back home around 20h00 (8:00 pm). Francoise went to the kitchen to prepare the apero while Michel and I went to the garden to pick lettuce and potatoes for dinner. We then relaxed on the terrace with a lovely rose champagne (what a wine cellar they have!) and an assortment of saussison, olives, cherry tomatoes and crackers.

Afterwards, we watched Francoise as she began cooking the small potatoes in duck fat, while Michel told us how they and three other families get together to share seven canards (ducks ) each December to add duck fat and meat to their pantries for the coming year.

_MG_1173.jpgA simple dinner of salad and potatoes was served, with a delicious red wine. Of course cheese was then served followed by another slice of praline tart. It was well after 22h00 (10pm) as we watched the sky darken , and soon after went downstairs to our room and slept soundly until 08h00 (8:00 am) Monday.

The day began with a large cup of coffee, fresh bread (a nice soft loaf almost like brioche), and an assortment of jams from abricot (apricot), groseilles (currants), coing (quince), green tomatoes, quatre fruits rouges (fraises (strawberries), cerises (cherries), framboises (raspberries), and groseilles (currants)), and miel (honey).

_MG_1261.jpgChris and I then joined Michel as he walked to the local carpenter to see about a project, but as the carpenter was away, and the day was beautiful, we continued our walk down the country road past cherry, peach, pear, quince trees. Prickly vines of raspberries and blackberries lined the way, and flowers of every color dotted the landscapes, while lazy cows grazed with their tails swishing to and fro. We walked about two miles, ending back in their small village of Ancy before we returned home. After a bit of relaxation, it was time for lunch.

Francoise was pleased to see our happy faces when she set the pot of lentils and sausage on the table, and we told her how much we like the French lentilles. This dish was preceded with a nice green salad, and again was followed by cheese. Dessert was a beautiful dish of fruit, with a scoop of ice cream, framboises (raspberries), and groseilles (currants), and topped with a crunchy butter cookie.

IMG_1181.jpgWe then relaxed on the terrace and they each shared a few personal mementos with us. Francoise showed us one of her many travel books, in which she had organized the many brochures and tickets collected along the way. We found a brochure about the “Glacier-Waterton” area of southern Montana and Canada, and we told them the story of our bicycle ride many years ago. She also shared her journal where she made notes and sketches of highlights of their trips. They have traveled extensively and we imagine that there are many similar books on the shelves in their home.

Michel shared the history of his father who as a young man during WWII was forced to “volunteer” to work in Germany. His father had never shared this part of his life with his family, and attempts to talk about his experiences were met with silence. But after he passed, among his possessions, the family discovered the diaries that their father had kept. In it were the details of a 19 year old man, though not a prisoner, was forced to work for an enemy. Fortunately, as the war came to a close he was able to return to France to start his family.

However, it was time to start our return to Lyon. But Michel had one more stop for us, at a very modern convent and cloister near the gare or train station. Couvent Sainte-Marie de La Tourette was built between 1953 and 1960 and is the last major work of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, well-known as “Le Corbusier” in France. It is a very modern piece of architecture, imposing and simple. It is considered so extraordinary that in 1986 it was chosen by French architects as the second most important modern architectural project in France, with the Centre Pompidou in Paris being number one.

Once we arrived at the gare, it was time to say “au revoir” to our dear hosts and friends. We had a wonderful time sharing their home and their countryside; we had eaten delicious home-made meals and drank some delightful wines. But most importantly we enjoyed their company and the honor of staying in their home. We departed hoping that we will be able to meet again … somewhere.

Our trip home was not on the “train” as we had taken from Lyon to L’Abresle, but we were on a tram-like rail service from L’Abresle to Lyon Gorge du Loup where we transferred to the metro for the final legs of our journey home.

It was good to be home. But we first had a light dinner on the terrace and reflected on our incredible weekend of friendship as we live our life away from our former routines and our family and friends in Florida.

Now, time to do the laundry…

Jun 172015

IMG_0379.jpgWine 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 in Lyon, we are pretty much at the one of the centers of the wine universe. In 2014 France was the world’s biggest wine producer, making almost 4.5 billion litres (1.9 billion gallons or about 6 billion bottles).

People enjoy wine with their lunch and later in the afternoon, as well as for dinner. They take time for the apéro, or cocktail hour, where they relax and visit with friends over a glass of wine or beer or some other aperitifs. Kir, for example, is a light aperitif that is frequent selected, especially in the summer. Usually crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with a white wine, though other flavors are used as well, framboise (raspberry) or peche (peach). But I digress.


Map courtesy of
the Society of Wine Educators

Last year in Montpellier, we took a wine tour into the Languedoc AOC region with friends Rich and Patti who visited us. Along with areas of Provence, the oldest planted vineyards in France were planted along the southern French coast by the early Greeks in the fifth century BC. From the fourth century BC until the early 19th centuries the Languedoc had a reputation for producing high quality wine. However, in the late 19th century, production shifted towards cheap red wine that could satisfy a growing work force.

After decades of deterioration, phylloxera, and over-production the Languedoc wine industry is again experiencing commercial success due to outside investment and an increased focus on quality.

We toured two very different vineyards to experience the Pic Saint-Loup wine named for the mountain that overlooks the production areas. This wine tour with Carine, of Montpellier Wine Tours was described in a previous post, so I won’t detail it here.


Map courtesy of
the Society of Wine Educators

Here in Lyon we are situated in between the famous North and South Côtes du Rhone, that lie to the south, and the Beaujolais & Burgundy wine countries just to the north. Each region offers very different grape varieties, wine styles, philosophy and landscapes.

Our first formal introduction to the wines of the regions around Lyon was at a personal wine tasting with “From Vine to Wine”. The owner, Shannon Tesseyre, helped us understand the basics of the history, geography and geology of the Burgundy region, and selected wines to illustrate the differences in terroir and other factors that contribute to the complexity of these famous wines.

The best part of Shannon’s Wine tasting was that it was tailored to what we were looking for – to learn more about the wines where we were. The wines she chose were excellent, and the cheeses and sausissons were chosen to help learn how different wine/food pairings could affect the palate. A native of the San Francisco area, Shannon was delightfully friendly and passionate about wine.

On one of our day trips by train, we previously posted Beaune, the “Capital” of Burgundy wines where we hiked out into the vineyards. We also had an opportunity to taste several Burgundy wines of the region.


Map courtesy of
the Society of Wine Educators

While we have been here in Lyon, we have had opportunities to tour two different regions of wine, using the services of Kanpai Wine Tours with guide Olivier. On each of the two tours we were joined by friends who were visiting from the States, as well as four others, couples and family members who had signed-up for the tour. It was great fun meeting the others and sharing experiences and tasting wines.

We first traveled south with friends Barb and Shirley, and four others in Olivier’s van to the Northern Rhône valley, home of the legendary Syrah & Viognier grapes. Only 25 minutes out of Lyon, we saw some of the oldest and steepest vineyards in France with terrace walls built during Roman times. Visiting two very different family wineries, we enjoyed wines from the Cote Rotie, Condrieu & St Joseph appellations, considered among the best Cotes du Rhone wines. Of course, we purchased several bottles to enjoy in the following weeks.


Map courtesy of
the Society of Wine Educators

Several weeks later, when friends Mary and Harry visited, we decided to use Kanpai Wine Tours again to see a different region, the Beaujolais “Crus” Region where the elite Gamay wines are produced. Olivier drove us and four others through charming towns with beautiful chateaux or castles, and introduced us to some of the most renowned Beaujolais wines, first in the magnificent cellar of a Chateau, then at a small family estate.


Olivier of Kanpai Wine Tours

All along our routes to and from the vineyards we marveled at the beauty of the countryside as Olivier provided a wealth of information about the very complex history, geology and cultivation of the grapes that made each wine so unique.

Once again, we were unable to leave either vineyard empty-handed, and we took home several bottles of our favorite selections to complete a delightful afternoon.

Wine production in France is very complex. Its history extends back to before the Romans settled here. It has been influenced by geography, geography, religion, politics, wars, insects, diseases and the weather for centuries. What remains is a delicious and refreshing drink that can be as complex as its history. However, the best way to appreciate good wine is simply to drink it. Santé