Monday, February 12, 2018

Back to Orléans

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Tuesday, June 20 2017

We woke early so that we would have time to clean the gite before we checked out. After coffee and pastries, we swept the floor, took out the trash, and washed the few dishes we had used. I had a moment of panic when I learned that we would not be able to get a taxi in time to make our train. There wasn't even a bus! I quailed at the thought of dragging suitcases on a gravel road for an hour or so. When our wonderful host realized our dilemma, she very kindly offered to drive us to town. It was an effort for her to remove her children's car seats from her vehicle, but we were very grateful. She received our effusive thanks plus a large tip. What a lifesaver! 

Our good fortune continued when we reached the station and learned that had our train not been delayed we would have missed it. As it was, we had two minutes to spare! Whew!  The trip back to Orleans was uneventful. Craig and Janey had fun using an app on his phone to check the speed of the train. It reached 120 mph.

Janey and Craig at the train station
 in Amboise, France.
Around noon, we walked across the bridge to have lunch at a brasserie near Halles Chatelet. I enjoyed a croque monsieur, which was served with crisp fries and a small green salad. We then wandered over to the bookstore because we knew it was air conditioned. It was fun to browse among the books and gift items. Janey had seen an Anime shop on another street, and really wanted to see it. It wasn't far, so we browsed in there for a while.

On the way home, we made a visit to the ice cream shop. They always have a large variety of interesting flavors. Janey chose lychee rose and cactus flower sorbets. I ordered a scoop of pear sorbet and one of chocolate orange. When Janey said she really didn't care for what she had chosen, I made a swap with her. No problem for me, tasting four flavors of sorbet! 

We went home to cool down and rest. By then, the temperature had reached 95 degrees. We didn't do much but sit in front of the fan. Jenni had been invited over for a barbecue, so we unpacked and cleaned house in short bursts, going back to the fan in between. When Jenni arrived, it was still hot. We had drinks and some tasty bites of boursin wrapped in ham, along with some olives, and chips. It was slightly less hot in courtyard, so we moved everything outside and then fired up the grill. The Toulouse sausages were great and we also grilled some turkey for Janey. We had cold side dishes of tabbouleh, shredded celery root in a mayo dressing, a salmon pasta salad, and a salad of peas and carrots. Jenni is a sweet person, and so much fun to be around. She entertained us with funny stories of her life in Ireland. Craig and I always enjoy meeting any friend of Desmond's. The evening ended with a beautiful sunset.

Enjoying a barbecue.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Segway Through Amboise

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Monday, June 19 2017

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning, but knew that the temperature was expected to rise alarmingly during the day. The night before, it had been difficult to fall asleep. The rooms didn't really cool down until around 2:00 AM, though the one fan did help to move the air a bit. We had little food in the gite because we were unable to shop on Sunday. I found coffee in the cupboard, along with some packets of tea. We made do with the snack foods we had brought from home. We planned to buy pastries as soon as we reached a bakery, so we set off for the center of Amboise where we were to meet our guide for a Segway tour.

Walking into Amboise from the gite.
We found the meeting place, but no bakery. However, there was a small market nearby where Craig was able to grab some cookies and Orangina. We just had time to gulp them down before greeting our guide.

We were soon fitted with helmets and went through a brief training session. Craig, Desmond, and I have lots of experience with Segway, but this was Janey's first ride. She caught on immediately and in no time we were following our guide through the streets of Amboise.
Janey receives Segway instuction.
Our guide told a story of this ancient church.

As we rolled along, our guide gave us a bit of history and told interesting stories about some of the old buildings and churches we passed. We rode along cobbled streets and through picturesque squares. It was simply beautiful.

We were told that this
 is the oldest house in Amboise.
A crowded restaurant in Amboise, France.
Another charming home in Amboise.
A visit to a wine cave was part of our tour, and included wine tasting. When we arrived at the cave, we left our machines parked outside and entered the cave. Janey was surprised to learn that she would be allowed to participate in the wine tasting, though she did switch to grape juice at one point. All of us enjoyed receiving advice and information about the different wines that were offered, and of course we purchased some to take home.

Janey, Craig, and Des in the wine cave.

Des and Craig purchase some wine.
After the tour, we were ready for some real food. We found a bistro that was cool inside, and enjoyed a lunch of pizza, sandwiches, and quiche. I ordered a lemon presse, which was refreshing and oh, so tangy!

Our next stop was Clos Luce. It was crowded and hot, but we enjoyed it tremendously. New displays had been added since our previous visit. Leonardo da Vinci's studio was so intricately recreated that it appeared as if the man himself had just put down his paintbrush and stepped out for a moment.

Leonardo da Vinci's studio at Clos Luce.

Outside, we walked the beautifully landscaped grounds, showing Janey the working inventions that had been created using da Vinci's detailed plans and drawings. It was fascinating and educational. One could easily spend an entire day at Clos Luce.

Janey tries out a da Vinci invention.

A lovely scene at Clos Luce.

Janey tries the helical pump at Clos Luce.
By the time we began our trek back to the gite, the temperature had climbed dramatically, reaching a high of 97 degrees. We walked slowly, carrying our bottles of water and making use of the tiny misting fans I had brought along.

Once home, we couldn't imagine cooking a hot meal. Des and Craig braved the temperature again to walk to the supermarket and returned with food and drinks for a cold supper. We enjoyed chicken rillettes spread upon a fresh baguette, accompanied by fresh fruit, sausage, chips, and other goodies. We wrapped up the evening playing board games.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Father's Day in France

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, June 18 2017

Father's day! It was a lovely morning and Des suggested that we take our breakfast to the nearby Jardin des Plantes. Janey wanted to sleep in, so it was just the three of us. Desmond knew of a bakery that was open on Sunday, and it just happened to be on the way to the garden. We carried our box of pastries through the parc and found some seating beneath a huge weeping fig tree. It was a cool and peaceful place to enjoy our morning treats.

Yes, it was delightful!

A small sculpture at Jardin des plantes, Orleans
After that sweet little breakfast we explored the beautiful gardens. There were many lovely trees and flowers to admire, as well as some amazing dry-stacked stone arches. Herb gardens, fruits and vegetables, a grape arbor, fountains, and ponds all combined to create a special place in which to linger. There was even a maze created out of small hedges.

The dry-stacked stone was impressive.

A soothing picture beneath the fountain.

The guys had to check out the windmill.
We walked slowly home and then finished packing for our little jaunt to Amboise. Janey enjoyed the train ride, and when we arrived at the station in Amboise she discovered a baguette vending machine. Of course, she simply had to try it! We all sampled the baguette and agreed that it was not very good. But then, what can you expect when you buy bread from a machine? Oh, well, it gave us something to nibble on as we waited for a taxi to take us to our gite. And waited. And waited.

Janey bought a baguette from a vending machine.
We did think it was odd that there were no cabs parked in front of the train station, but it wasn't until Des made a few phone calls that we learned very few taxis are available there on a Sunday. At long last a friendly cab driver arrived. He kept up a lively conversation with Desmond, who translated some of his funny stories. My favorite was the one about the viagra-shaped chocolates!

The gite we had rented was on the very edge of Amboise. It was an old vintner's cottage that had been beautifully renovated. That little house was very charming and scrupulously clean. But also very warm. Craig and I had the upstairs bedroom, and there was plenty of room for Janey to sleep on an air bed on the floor.

Our gite in Amboise had a nice kitchen,
though it was too hot to cook.
Our hosts had shown us a path near a small river that would lead us into Amboise. It was time to explore. Had the weather been cooler, the trek into town would have been sheer pleasure. We were walking mostly through the countryside, with the stream on one hand and tilled fields on the other. Colorful poppies bloomed along the path. It was a very warm day and we were grateful for the shaded farm track which led us into Amboise.

Pretty poppies bloom along the stream.
As a special treat for Father's Day, Desmond had made reservations at a Michelin starred restaurant called Le Patio. It was situated along a lovely cobblestone street. The decor inside the restaurant was done in soothing shades of gray, with soft lighting and subtle touches of color everywhere. After we were seated, the waiter brought a carafe of ice water to the table and we wasted no time emptying it! And then our meal began.

Walking toward the restaurant in Amboise.
We started with the house cocktail; a delightful combination of Vouvray and creme de framboise, with a liqueur - soaked cherry at the bottom of the glass. Smoked trout rillettes and toasted baguette slices accompanied our drinks. Next up was a platter of amuse bouche which consisted of small rounds of goat cheese covered with sesame seeds, some tiny puff pastries rolled around pepperoni, and miniature cups of cold tomato soup. Along with all of that was a basket of sliced baguette and lots of fresh butter. We were off to a great start.

Our appetizers arrived, and they were as tasty as they were attractive. I had chosen the cold crab meat with grapefruit, avocado, and radish. It was delicious. Desmond ordered escargot fritters. They smelled fantastic, and when Des offered a taste I did not hesitate. Yum! Janey decided that she couldn't visit France without trying escargot, and it was rather hilarious watching her work up the nerve to taste it.

An interesting appetizer.

Janey laughs as she
works up the nerve to try escargot.
Desmond had ordered a bottle of wine, which we enjoyed with our main course. He and I had selected the lamb shank in a candied thyme sauce, with grilled asparagus. Craig and Janey had chosen a fish dish which was served with a saffron sauce and a vegetable melange of celery root, carrots, and zucchini. By the time we had finished that, we were practically groaning. We declined the cheese board, but knowing was yet to come!

Craig and Des had chosen an interesting dessert of chocolate rice pudding which was garnished with popcorn and drizzled with caramelized Carambar. Janey and I had selected the cake, and it was beautifully decorated with lemon cream, strawberries, and lime zest. By the time we had finished we were actually looking forward to the walk home so that we could work off that decadent food.

How's that for a decadent dessert?

We didn't expect a dessert after dessert!
Imagine our surprise when yet another tray of amuse bouche arrived at the table! Oh, my! Des said he had never heard of a dessert amuse bouche, but there It was. It was all we could do to eat it, though I have to admit those little bites were delightful. We were treated to peanut cake pops,  miniature glasses of chilled watermelon juice, and the most amazing raspberry marshmallows anyone could ever imagine! They were so soft and fluffy that it was difficult to pick one up. At last, our incredible meal had come to a close.

We strolled slowly through Amboise and arrived at the gite tired but happy.

A baguette from a vending machine
 makes a good footrest.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Zip Lines and More!

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Saturday, June 17 2017

That morning, Craig and I walked the few steps to our local bakery where, as usual, we chose some delightful pastries to begin the day. I bought a beautiful pastry called a fraisier, which is made with delicate layers of sponge cake, creamy mousse filling, and fresh strawberries. 

As it was Saturday, the plan was to visit Acrobranche for an adventure in the trees. Janey had heard stories and seen photos from the previous year and she was eager for the experience. We were a bit concerned about whether our non-athletic granddaughter could handle herself in an aerial obstacle course. We explained just what she was letting herself in for, but she was determined. 

Craig helps his granddaughter prepare for
the adventure in the trees
We rode the bus to Ile de Charlemange. A friend of Desmond's accompanied the three of us. Melody had never attempted the course there, but had experienced the one near Paris, which we were not familiar with. I would act as photographer, following my little group of adventurers through the forest. After being fitted for their harnesses, everyone watched a safety video and then they were off! 

It starts with a mini training course.

Janey attacked the first obstacle
with determination.

Desmond and Craig, high in the trees.
Janey surprised us all with her enthusiasm and we were amazed at how quickly she picked up on the techniques of navigating the different obstacles. She was soon offering encouragement to others along the way. Melody, Craig, Des, and Janey completed the first course, after which Craig decided to stop. His hands were beginning to give out. We rested in the shade over a cold drink and were all surprised when Janey announced that she was ready to go again.

It takes a lot of concentration.

Janey navigates the rollers.

Just grab the cage and throw yourself in!

Des climbs a net to the next obstacle.
Melody, Janey, and Desmond set off once more, and when they had completed the next set of zip lines and other obstacles, Craig told them we would treat everyone to ice cream. It wasn't long after that when the trio enthusiastically set off for a third adventure on a more difficult course. The day had grown warm, though a cool breeze and lots of shade made it bearable. On one of the zip lines, Janey injured her finger. It hurt terribly, as she had nearly lost the fingernail, but she soldiered on. Craig and I weren't even aware of the injury until she had completed the entire course. We were very proud of her. It was a hot walk in full sun to the bus stop, where we had a long wait, but everyone agreed it had been a good day. 

Janey rode a kayak through the treetops!

Janey injured her hand on the zip line.

Des crosses on the wooden skulls. 

For dinner that evening, Des and Janey picked up kebab sandwiches and fries from a little shop on the square. We relaxed a while, and then began packing for our little mini-vacation to Amboise the next day. 

TRAVEL TIP: Don't forget your gloves if you are going zip-lining. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Flexibility is the Key

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, June 16 2017

The forecast was for beautiful weather and we thought a little day trip might be in order. After coffee and pastries, we decided that we would like to show Janey the castle being built at Guedelon, and since it's difficult to reach by public transportation, we were in need of a car. We didn't feel right about borrowing one. Des and Craig checked with some car rental services, but that fell through. We were disappointed but not upset. There is a lot to be said for flexibility, however, and it was simply too nice to stay indoors. The four of us went to Parc Floral to play miniature golf, which is always a hilarious pastime. 

It was perfect weather for mini golf.

It's not easy to hit the ball into a basket.
Janey was the only one who succeeded that day!
That evening, we invited Desmond's neighbor, Mathieu to have dinner with us at the new burger cafe which had opened just a few feet away from the apartment. Mathieu was pleased that we had included him. He speaks very good English and has visited America. He had even been to Wichita! 

Les Burgers du Boucher in Orleans France
We were all impressed by Les Burgers du Boucher. The decor was modern, with a touch of rusticity in the exposed stone walls at one end of the restaurant. The menu had a wide selection of burgers from which to choose. Many of them were served with seeded buns, and not just the ordinary sesame seed variety. These had a mixture of sunflower seeds, rolled oats, poppy seeds, pine nuts, and more. Quite tasty. And the fries! France always seems to do fries right, and these were no exception. Our meals were brought to us on wooden cutting boards, and each large, juicy burger was skewered with bamboo. 

Dinner is served! You must try Les Burgers du Boucher.

Scrumptious, and more than I could finish.
It was good to see that the restaurant was busy. They were preparing a lot of carry-out orders, which is still a bit unusual in France. We were happy to have another restaurant so close to home. We'll be back. 

We ended our evening with a sitcom and playing with Azur. After a while, even he was ready to call it a day.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Taming the Savage Garden

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Thursday, June 15 2017

Desmond had the day off! The morning was somewhat cool, so we all worked on tidying the "savage garden".  Des and Craig bought a weed whacker, which was a huge help. The day began to warm up rapidly, but we carried on for two hours and really accomplished a lot. We had no way to dispose of the branches and trimmings. That's not something you can haul away on the tram! Instead, they were neatly and compactly piled into a corner where they will quickly decompose. 

Des and Craig clear the garden

A path to the terrace. Time for a barbecue?
After we all had cleaned up with cool showers, we decided to have lunch at a cafe on the square. There were many tables outside, with colorful umbrellas to provide welcome shade. Janey and I chose the plat du jour of lasagna and a green salad. The other special, selected by both Craig and Desmond, was pollock gratin. It was a very tasty, leisurely lunch and we were appreciative of the ice in our drinks. I spoke briefly with a nice young man who was dining with his wife and two adorable little daughters. I think he must have overheard us and wanted to practice his English, which was excellent. 

A lovely view on the square

After lunch, we walked across the bridge to take Janey to Sweety. It's a cute little candy store, and we all picked out an assortment of sugary treats. We noticed a granita machine in the corner, and soon were slurping the icy concoctions as we left the shop and headed toward the art museum.

Janey and Craig at Sweety, Orléans Fr
Des had suggested the art museum as a great place to cool off. We always enjoy the many displays of various paintings, sculptures and other art. The air conditioning was a bonus! We also paid a visit to the little Joan of Arc museum. It was a bit disappointing, though, because they were no longer displaying the many fascinating dioramas which had depicted the life of Jeanne d'Arc. We did, however, run into Celine and were able to chat with her for a few minutes.

Cooling down at the art museum
After leaving the museum, the three of us met Jeff for drinks at the Paxton's Head pub on Rue de Borgogne. The afternoon was still quite warm, and that cherry beer had never tasted so good! We talked and laughed for quite some time in cool, dark interior of the bar. Paxton's doesn't serve food, so after a while we wandered over to Delirium, where could have a snack. Ice cream was about the only thing that sounded good to me on such a hot day, so I ordered a banana split. It was enormous! Janey chose the flammenkueche, which is similar to pizza. She devoured it and then finished my ice cream.

The Paxton's Head, an English pub in Orléans

Another good way to cool off on a hot day!
We walked slowly home along the Loire and then ended our day with a movie.