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. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Day Trip to Blois

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Wednesday, June 14 2017

Desmond had to work all day, so Craig, Janey, and I decided to take a little day trip to Blois. We all headed over to the bakery, where we purchased pastries and Desmond bought lunch for us to eat on the train. We had coffee at home while enjoying the pastries. I had a delightful apricot and custard tart. After Des took off for the university, the rest of us prepared for our little journey. We arrived early at the train station, which was a good thing since we had difficulty purchasing tickets from the automated kiosk. We finally went inside and waited in line at the ticket counter where a young man very kindly assisted us. Soon we were boarding the train, not forgetting to validate our tickets!

Janey and Craig at Gare d'Orleans
The smooth train ride was comfortable; the scenery lovely. About halfway into the ride, we pulled out the lunch treats from Des and shared a tasty baked sandwich and some surprisingly good pizza. We had bottled water and cans of Orangina as well. It was Janey's first train ride, and she enjoyed the journey. 

Arriving in Blois, France
We stepped off the train to a bright, sunny day that was rapidly warming. After a couple of wrong turns, and an uncooperative GPS, the three of us asked directions to the Royal Chateau, which we knew was not far from the station. We approached the castle from the back, through a park and some lovely gardens. At the ticket counter just inside the entrance, we waited patiently for our debit card to be processed. Craig commented on the slowness of the machine, and the man who was helping us replied with a wink, "Well, it's an old castle." 

Approaching the Royal Chateau

The beautifully restored chateau has many interesting artifacts. I was glad the interior was cool, because every time we stepped outside, the rising heat slammed into us. Each gallery and room brought new, or I should say, old wonders to discover. The King's opulent bedchamber was fascinating to Janey, as was the display of medieval weaponry in another part of the castle. We all enjoyed the Roman ruins displayed there. There was so much to see, and yet we were only able to tour about 1/4 of the structure before it was time to make our way back to the train station. But first, we had to visit the souvenir shop, where Janey purchased a lovely sketchbook and I found a pretty eyeglass case. 

A view into the courtyard of the castle

Medieval weaponry

How would you caption this gargoyle?

Janey on the steps of the Chateau.
 How many feet have trod those stairs?

The ornate bed of a king
When we returned home, we refreshed ourselves with cool drinks. Des arrived from the university and we nibbled snacks while we all relaxed in front of the fan. We had plans to meet Jake at Oh Terrior for dinner at 8:00. The restaurant was very crowded and somehow, in all the chaos, our orders were mixed up with those of another party. We were too hungry to wait for new dishes, so we ate and enjoyed the meals. Jake had secured a table for us in the coolest part of the restaurant, where we lingered and talked for quite some time. He is an astronomer and had many interesting stories to tell. We always enjoy meeting Desmond's friends. It was a fun evening. We walked slowly home along the Loire, with Jake accompanying us for most of the way. 

Pausing along the Loire for a photo with Jake

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Good Day to be Outside

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Tuesday, June 13 2017

Craig and I awoke before anyone else, and enjoyed coffee together while we talked about events at home and his journey to France. He was thrilled to be in Orleans again. When Des got up we walked across square to "our" bakery and chose pastries for breakfast. Because Janey was still asleep, we picked up a bag of chouquettes for her. 

Our breakfast treats.
Desmond had to go to work, and since the morning was sunny and comfortably cool, Craig and I decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather by weeding in the overgrown courtyard. A quick jaunt to Mr Bricolage supplied us with gardening gloves and a few small hand tools. Our efforts definitely made a difference, though we could understand how it had gotten out of hand. No one in the building, except Desmond, had ever pulled the weeds or trimmed the bushes. We could understand why the task had become overwhelming, since Des had not possessed any yard-care tools. After a couple of hours, we halted work so that we could get ready to meet our son at the university, where we would be able to sit in on a conversation class.

The "savage" garden
Craig, Janey, and I arrived at the designated spot, and Desmond joined us with his students as we gathered outside at a shaded picnic table. A cool breeze was blowing, but very quickly we were overwhelmed by a rank odor. We all moved to a distant table, but the nasty smell followed us. Someone in the group informed us that a building on campus had been flooded and the cleanup had likely begun, which was probably the cause of the horrible odor. Back to the classroom we went, where the conversation commenced. We enjoyed listening to the bright young men and women, who were diligently practicing their English-speaking skills.They had amusing and interesting stories to tell.

Des was able to leave after the conversation class ended. We decided to have lunch at Mt Fuji. Many of the items in the buffet were unfamiliar to Janey, but she was a pretty good sport and tried several new dishes. Before heading home, we had a bit of shopping to do. We went to Le Clerc, and it took longer than we had anticipated to find a new SIM card for the phone we had brought to France. We also purchased a few groceries and other items.

We had eaten such a big lunch that none of us were very hungry for dinner. We nibbled on fruit and cheese, and heated some leftovers. The fresh melon I ate was far better than any I had ever tasted in America! After our light supper, Des suggested a walk in his neighborhood, with Janey accompanying us on Desmond's bicycle. We strolled along the peaceful residential streets in an area which Craig and I had not explored on our previous visits. The area was quiet and charming, with lots of trees and green spaces. Janey enjoyed the bike paths while the rest of us walked around, admiring the pretty park we had found ourselves in. It was surrounded by lovely apartment buildings, many of which had large, inviting balconies. 

Janey enjoyed riding a bike to the park.

It was a perfect evening for a ride.
Desmond pointed out that we were near the beautiful old church, St Marceau, which we had often passed by on walks to one of our favorite patisseries. We were behind the church, where Desmond showed us the gorgeous flower gardens there. We could imagine that this must be a popular place for weddings and other celebrations, as it was obvious that in the spring, the garden would be a riot of color and scent. Exploring the garden was a lovely way to end the day.

A garden behind the old church

There were many flowers still in bloom.

A pretty back entrance to St Marceau

Saturday, November 25, 2017

And Now We Are Four

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Monday, June 12 2017

Desmond had left for Paris by the time I awoke. We were all thrilled that Craig would finally be able to join us in France. Even though he is a seasoned traveler, Des wanted to meet his dad at the airport after what that poor guy had been through to obtain his passport renewal. It was with a light heart that I threw open the windows to a fresh, cool morning. I enjoyed my coffee and one of those little blueberry crepes I had grown fond of. Azur kept me company  while I ate. 

My little pal, Azur.
As Janey slept on, I cleaned house and started a load of laundry. After a while, I walked into the kitchen to find a large puddle of water in front of the washing machine! The water had run across the floor and into the bedroom. I was certain I had broken the washer and was just about to send a frantic text to Des when I realized that the spin cycle had caused a large plastic dishpan to vibrate off the top of the machine. I had been rinsing silverware in the dishpan and had not yet poured the water down the drain. I mopped it up with relief!

It was around 11:00 when Janey awoke. She nibbled on leftovers while I ate a light lunch of Swedish bread topped with creamy herbed cheese and fresh tomato slices. I treated myself to dessert of a chocolate-dipped meringue with some fresh cherries on the side. 

A tasty treat for dessert.
Craig and Des made good time and arrived just before noon. It was so good to see Craig again! We had coffee and relaxed for a while before we all boarded the tram to Auchan where we picked up a new TV for Des. We had been using his laptop to watch movies, which is okay for one or two people, but would make it difficult for all four of us to watch a show together. We also picked up a few groceries and some of our favorite beverages.

Craig and Des managed to transport the new TV without much of a struggle. The box had been well-wrapped by a helpful clerk. We had fun rearranging Desmond's living room, which included moving two large bookshelves. It was hard work, so we took a short break for drinks and snacks. When we had finished moving everything around and replacing all the books, it was time for dinner.

We dined at an African restaurant called Le Boloye, where each of us selected a different dish. Des ordered a meal made with tender goat meat. Janey chose grilled salmon, which was served atop colorful vegetables and salad greens. Craig asked for meatballs, which came with a large helping of fried plantains, and I had the poulet yassa with rice. It was a bit spicy, but very good. The little restaurant was warm, but the open door and a fan really helped us cool off. Creole music added a nice ambiance to the meal.

Playing the hand-stacking game
 while waiting for our meal.

Craig shared some fried plantain with me.
 They were very good.
We walked slowly home along river, pausing to enjoy the lovely view from the bridge. How wonderful it was for us to be together again!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Market Day

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, June 11 2017

It was a beautifully cool morning, and as I enjoyed my usual coffee, Desmond prepared a couple of protein smoothies made with chocolate, fresh strawberries, and bananas. As much as I love French pastries, these tasty shakes were a great way to start the day. I had more energy and didn't feel hungry until lunchtime. 

I love waking up to this!
By the time Desmond and I were ready to walk to the Arab market, the weather had warmed considerably. I'm glad Janey had chosen not to accompany us. It would have been too much for her. We walked along the river, admiring the beautiful view while panting in the heat. 

A pretty scene on the Loire in Orleans, France.
We arrived at the busy outdoor market, where cars were streaming into the parking lot adjacent to the large area which had been cordoned off for the weekly sale. Des and I had forgotten to stop at the ATM on our way, so we decided to pool our cash when we were ready to pay for our purchases. The vendors were all very nice. A few of them offered samples of fruit as we strolled by, and we found some beautiful produce. At one large stall, a young man was slicing samples of watermelon and cantaloupe. They were some of the best I had ever tasted, and I selected a small melon and a large chunk of juicy watermelon. We also purchased sweet potatoes, chives, cherries, and garlic. When it was our turn to pay for our items, I discovered that my wallet was gone! After a few heart-stopping moments, I remembered that just before we had left the house I had emptied my wallet of all my American coins and must have forgotten to tuck it back inside my purse!. Des explained our problem to the vendors and them he would go back home to get our money. They said we should just go ahead and take our fruits and vegetables home, put them in the refrigerator, and then bring their money back. It was a kind offer, but we felt strange about doing that, so poor Desmond walked twenty minutes back in the heat, found the money, and then rode his bike back to the market. 

Meanwhile, I wandered around in the hot sun, looking at the various foods being offered, but soon became very warm, so stood in the shade of the the canopy near our packages of produce. The young man who had given me a taste of melon earlier was standing nearby. Every now and then, he would come over and hand me a slice of mango or melon. He would wait as I tasted it, and he seemed pleased at my reactions to those tasty tidbits. At one point he placed a plump cherry into the palm of my hand. I was thinking of something else and didn't respond. Suddenly, in a joking voice, he said "Thank You! You're Welcome!" I laughed, came to my senses, and properly thanked him. We attempted talk to each other, and actually managed to converse. He was from Morocco and had a hard time understanding my toddler-level French. When Desmond arrived, we paid for our goodies and then went to another stand for olives, red peppers, dates, figs, and plums. On the way out, I thanked my Moroccan friend for his kindness.

 On the long walk back, Desmond pushed his bike, wearing a loaded backpack in the heat. Once home, we sat in front of the fan and began munching on olives and fresh fruit. Des brought out a tin of sardines, some cream cheese, and whole grain crackers. That made a great lunch, and it was funny watching Janey's reaction to a sardine sandwich!. 

We made quite a haul on market day!

Well, at least she tried a sardine sandwich!
Later that day, we talked to Craig, who was getting ready to drop the dog at Jennifer's house, go to lunch, then head to the airport. We cleaned house and did some laundry, then had snacks of beer, chips, olives, and sausage. We were simply too warm to think of cooking anything. Our day ended with a fun game of Scattergories. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Warm Day of Shopping

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal:  Saturday, June 10 2017

Since it was weekend, we slept late. In fact, Janey was still asleep when Desmond and I went out for coffee. We walked over to the French Coffee shop, where I breakfasted on a trio of mini beignets - chocolate, apple,and raspberry. We relaxed while listening to the bluesy notes of a saxophone, drifting down from an apartment window. 

When we were able to rouse Janey, the three of us headed into town to a thrift shop. There, we had fun buying lots baby clothes for Chris and Mathilde's unborn son. All of the items were of excellent quality. I also picked out two tops for myself. Janey is at that awkward in-between stage and was unable to find anything she liked (that fit) in either the children's or the women's section. Des got several great shirts and some jeans. 

The thrift shop is on this pretty street
 in Orleans, France.
At home, we snacked for lunch on sausage, cheese, chips, cashews. And we heard good news from Craig! He had received his passport and would be arriving on Monday! That really gave a boost to our spirits.

That afternoon, the three of us took the long tram ride to Auchan, where we picked up some new pillows and a few other things for the house. We were very hot and tired by then. What could be better than a stop at Autour de la Terre? We each enjoyed a glass of iced green tea as we lingered in the cool, calm interior of the tearoom.

The calm interior of Autour de la Terre.
In the evening, Desmond made noodle bowls for supper. The soup was delightful, full of grilled zucchini, spinach, lardons, kimchi, sesame oil, and curry paste. Yum! We ended the day with a game of Racko. The weather forecast was for a 90 degree day on Sunday, so we made plans to go to the Arab market in morning and stay in the rest of the day, cleaning house and preparing for Craig's arrival. 

Tasty and colorful noodle bowls
 made a wonderful meal.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Another Walk in the Park

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, June 9 2017

Ahhh, I was able to sleep late! I had hung a towel across the top of the window, which effectively blocked the bright morning sun. Desmond had already left for work, so I sipped my coffee, nibbled a blueberry crepe, and then took care of some household chores until Janey awoke.

A beautiful day at Parc Floral
 in Orleans France

We had planned to meet Desmond at Parc Floral for a picnic lunch. I packed a baguette, along with cans of chicken and pork rillettes, potato chips (grilled steak flavor), and fresh fruit. It had rained during the night and the air was fresh and cool. After lunch, we had some time to explore the grounds. We meandered over to the children's section, where we viewed the animals, including a peacock that was perched on a low tree branch. Janey tried the huge slide, and liked it so much that she went down several times. There were many children in the park, obviously there on school trips. They seemed to be having a great day, as were we.

Des captures a posing peacock.

Janey on the climbing frame at Parc Floral.

Now, that's a slide!

A lovely scene at Parc Floral.

Soon it was time for Des to go back to work. Janey and I headed home, with the tram becoming more crowded at each stop. Even though we had stationed ourselves fairly close to the doors, we still had to fight our way through to disembark at our stop. We barely managed it!

I called Craig as soon as we got home and learned that there was still no news regarding his passport. The lack of information was depressing. We were missing him, and were very eager to have him with us in France. 

When Desmond arrived home, he and I made a quick run to Carrefour. We took the groceries home, grabbed Janey, and hurried into town to meet Erica for drinks at  le Paxton's Head, an English style pub on the Rue de Borgogne.. It was good to see Erica again. She and Des ordered beer and I enjoyed a tall, refreshing Monaco. Janey had a complimentary drink of water sweetened with mint syrup.

We were famished by the time Erica left to catch her train. We ate kebab sandwiches and crisp, hot fries at the nearby Grec Gourmand, sitting at a table outside. Janey and Desmond were facing the cobblestone street, and they kept up a hilarious running commentary regarding the pedestrians. They would place bets as to which ones would fail to notice the  pile of dog doo which had somehow been deposited in the middle of the busy street. Disgusting and yet somehow quite funny. 

Janey at the Grec Gourmand, Orleans France

As the evening drew to a close, we walked slowly home beside the river. A movie was a fun and relaxing way to end the day.