France-list-2014

  • 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. We made friends here. There are so many people that…

  • Rain, Rain, Go Away … - 2014

     Overcast, rainy and cold. We are pretty much over the colds we caught, me first, then Jeannie. But between the sniffles, the cold temperatures and the rain, our time outside has been limited since the Fête des Lumières. We have gotten out most every day, including long walks (>13km or 8 miles). We even took a ride on the local Open-Tour, double-deck bus. We started late and sat up top. Froze our faces, but were otherwise warm-ish.Well, today it's been cold again, and it has been raining all day. However, we HAD to get out. So off we went to…

    Arles - 2014

    This post is from Montpellier, prior to the move to Lyon. The time-line is almost back to normal. November 19th 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 morning sun, low on the horizon, shone brightly through the window and into…

    Fête des Lumières – Night 4 - 2014

    The final night of the Fête des Lumières is tonight, and we realize that we are tired. We have already walked over five miles going to lunch and visiting the area of our apartment we will stay in when we return in April. So when we returned to our current flat, we decided not to try and hit any more of the big displays, but to stay close and go to what was billed as the Celestial Parade where “The planets and stars of the solar system meet in Lyon on December 8 at Place Kléber and parade along Cours…

    Fête des Lumières – Night 3 - 2014

    Lyon wasn’t really a destination for us when we began our planning. 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. Tonight was different ... again. The massive crowds let up a bit. The winds eased so that it didn’t feel as cold, or we just dressed more warmly. But it was just as magical and wondrous ... just different. We didn’t leave…

    Fête des Lumières – Night 2 - 2014

    Together with our new friends Nicolas and Lucie (a great story that will have to wait til later), we returned to the Fête des Lumières. Though most of the images are repeats, they show different parts of the sequences that we saw. Keep in mind that 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

    Ok, we left Montpellier and have moved to Lyon. I haven't written about all that, but I will. Often it's necessary to alter the timeline for things that are exceptional, and the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) is one of those things. 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…

    A Special Visit – II - 2014

    Our friends Rich and Patti drove to Montpellier from Barcelona, Spain to visit us. That meant they had a car. Originally, our plans were to possibly spend more time driving out into the countryside. However, given the difficulties of navigating the narrow, convoluted streets we decided to leave the car safe in its parking space. Besides, their first day was spent in Montpellier where we walked all about the town enjoying the local sights. The second afternoon was the wine tour with Montpellier Wine Tours. Any other spare time we had was filled with eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s…

    The Story of Brioche Saint Nicolas - 2014

    With apologies to Flat Stanley and Mister Bill. Click image below to view.    

    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.

    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. After the three-hour drive from Barcelona, they made it into downtown Montpellier amidst all the trams and pedestrians, but were then lost. The GPS was lost as well. After a bit of confusion I located them, jumped in…

    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. For some destinations it is impossible. But there are so many places to visit that only require a train ticket. Non-automobile travel has several obvious advantages, you don’t have to drive, or navigate, or park, and you can actually enjoy the scenery. Off-peak tickets can be very inexpensive, and even better with a senior discount. Today we decided to go to Nîmes, about 60km (45miles) northwest. Upon arrival in Nîmes, which took just over an hour from Montpellier, we…

    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. Having been in France now for over three months, on multiple visits previously, in many regions and in Paris (twice), we have never encountered out-and-out rudeness. There have been the occasional ill-mannered waiters, but one can find them in in any city or town in the world. Even in a big city like Paris, there may have been some indifference, but for us, even that was rare. The fact is…

    Adventure, Sophie, and Serendipity - 2014

    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…

    Abbeys and Castles – The Road Less Traveled - 2014

    As we took the roads out and away from Carcassonne, the massive fortress dominated the view behind us for quite a while. Even from a distance the towers could be seen above the vineyards and trees until they finally disappeared from view and, for us, became only a memory. The narrow country roads we were now traveling were designated a scenic bicycle route. Winding through the vineyard and forest covered hills, these rural lanes would make for a wonderful bicycle tour between Carcassonne and the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hilaire about 30 km away. Located in the picturesque valley of the…

    Abbeys and Castles – Lastours - 2014

    Our morning walk through the Cité de Carcassonne was, once again, cold and windy. Though this time we were bundled, the temperature difference between being in the sunlight and being deep in the shadows of the centuries-old stone walls was tremendous. On top of that, it seemed that the wind was stronger whenever we stepped into the shadows. Even though the streets were pretty much devoid of tourists, likely because of the weather, we decided to return to the B&B to begin the day’s adventure to Lastours. The road to Lastours, after leaving the urban area of Carcassonne, wound alongside…

    Carcassonne – The Medieval Fortress - 2014

    I was born and grew up in Florida, and just to the south of my birthplace is St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement 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 in St. Augustine. It is a source of pride that such an ancient structure has survived the centuries.…

    Abbeys and Castles – I - 2014

    Abbeys There are so many places that we would love to visit, and many we can get to via train, bus and foot. But there are many others that will require a car, and Carcassonne and its surrounding area was one of those places. Besides, it was time to take an expedition that was more than just a day-trip. Our plan was to take the train from Montpellier to Narbonne, where we would rent a car and drive the backroads to Carcassonne visiting several abbeys along a circuitous route through the region's wine country. The train left Montpellier at 8:50…

    Charlie’s Angels - 2014

    OK, I am getting behind on my writing, not unlike when I was in graduate school. But the nice thing about my blog is that, well it’s mine and I can do as I wish. Like this post. It is really out of sequence. But I have read the fine print and I don’t have to maintain a timeline. This post is a special edition because I told “Charlie’s Angels” that they would be on the blog, and they had guns. We took the tram from Montpellier to the beach today. It is off-season, and the weather was beautiful. We…

    Béziers – The Canal du Midi and Massacres - 2014

    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 Crusade, in which the Catholic Church exterminated the Cathar religion. The entire population of Béziers was massacred, Cathar and Catholic alike and the town pillaged and burnt. When asked by a Crusader how to tell Catholics from Cathars once they had taken the city, the abbot supposedly replied, Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. ("Kill them. For…

    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…

    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)…

    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…

    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…

    A Setback at Mont Saint Michel - 2014

    We’ve had a setback. Our travel to Mont Saint Michel was an uneventful one hour bus ride to Beauvoir, a small village near to the Mont. There was only minor difficulty locating our bed and breakfast near the village church. We were greeted warmly by our hosts Richard and Cathy, two British expats in their fourth month of running their B&B, DALIJALU - named for their four grandchildren. Though they had been in France for several years they are also in the beginnings of a new adventure. Oh yes, I mentioned setback? They spoke English. We had lots of great…

    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

    The biggest advantages of being in countries where the language is Latin-based, e.g. France, is that the alphabet is essentially the same. Except for a few (yet essential) accent marks it is generally simple to look up a word or phrase in a dictionary and derive the meaning. We couldn’t do that in China. Yet, we are still struggling. 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…

    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

    A Delightfully Cacophonous Plethora of Food - 2014

    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.

    Once Again, Nous Sommes Arrivés - 2014

    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.

    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!

    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.

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