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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smiles … and Giggles - 2014
On a walk past an elementary school playground ... this is an audio post. We hope it makes you smile.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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…
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-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…
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)…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
With our apologies to Flat Stanley and Mister Bill. Click image below to view our story of Brioche Saint Nicolas.
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 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. ..."
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lavender in bloom - 2015
This an audio blog post, there are play-back controls beneath the image. Be sure to turn up the volume!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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, ...
Adapting to 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ll Always Have Paris - 2023
Of course, this title is a quote from the famous film Casablanca a 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. In a pivotal scene Ilsa (Bergman) refuses to board the plane to Lisbon with Victor Laszlo (Henreid), her husband, a hero of the Resistance. Rick Blaine (Bogart), the dark American whom she secretly loves, urges her to do her duty and tells her, as a final argument “We’ll always have Paris”.
A Little Jazz Manouche - 2023
We were joined by my brother and his wife for a performance at the small, intimate l'Apostrophe jazz club in Paris was nothing short of spectacular. It was a jam session, and musicians walked on and off the stage after beginning with two guitars and a bass, then the gentleman that was sitting beside us with his young son, pulled out his clarinet and moved to the stage to join in. Later, violins and an accordion and different guitarists came on stage, yet there were never more than five musicians playing at any one time.
Paris – Life Goes On - 2023
To hear the news reports or see the videos, Paris is aflame and being overrun by protesters battling the police throughout the city. While the media are doing their job focusing on the worst of the situation as news media has done since the printing press was invented or ever since tongues started wagging, the situation for us wasn’t nearly so dire.
After a week in Paris, we traveled to the city of Tours in the Loire Valley. This region is rightfully famous for the many famous châteaux that are part of the cultural and architectural heritage of the historic towns along the river Loire. But we explored the city first.
“But that's the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don't want to know what people are talking about. I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can't read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can't even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” ~ Bill Bryson, an American author who lives in…
A Bounty of Cherry Blossoms - 2023
In this part of France, cherry trees are the first to bloom generally at the end of March to early April, and herald the return of spring. Cerisier produces sweet fruit, guignier if it produces sour fruit, and a merisier if it is a wild tree in the forest. But they all flower. Though we will not be around for the cherry harvest, we have been granted an abundance of the trees with their lovely flowers all around Tours, and as their petals begin to fall, they decorate the ground like nature’s confetti. That is until the wind picks them…
Amboise - 2023
There were two good reasons to visit Amboise, one was the spectacular Château Royal d'Amboise and the other was Le Château du Clos Lucé which was especially intriguing because of its connection to Leonardo da Vinci.
Who Approved This Script? - 2023
On the way to see the doctor, again, a little bright spot in an otherwise home-bound week in Tours, France. It's a little video with music that shows how even going to the doctor can be a pleasant stroll outside in the sunshine as long as we are together.
Langeais and its Château - 2023
Langeais is a picturesque little Loire village that has been protected/dominated since 994 by whoever was in power. The Château de Langeais we see today, was rebuilt in the 15th Century into tone of the best-known examples of late medieval architecture, including a moat and drawbridge, lavish defenses, and turrets.
Apprentices & Masters - 2023
The 13th-century Saint-Julien abbey dominated the view from our apartment and having such an ancient element of France’s cultural heritage in our “backyard” seemed surreal. But the truth is that the mastery required to create so many of France’s important cultural elements was not simply due to chance.
Tour de Tours - 2023
Being sick is no fun, no matter where you are; but when you are on holiday, it’s an insult as well. The respiratory virus that attached itself to us during the early days of our third week in Tours, France was intent on making our lives miserable. It succeeded ...