Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Four for Paris

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, June 25 2017

We woke early so that we would all have time for showers before Desmond, Craig and Janey left for the Catacombs of Paris. They were hoping to arrive in time to avoid a long wait in line and said they would pick up pastries for their breakfast along the way. I had decided not to accompany them because of my claustrophobia. Wandering around in underground passageways lined with millions of human bones did not appeal to me. I lingered over my coffee for a while, with the windows open to the coolness of the morning and the distant sound of cathedral bells ringing. It wasn't long before I ventured out of the building and strolled along the tree-lined streets of Paris, peeking into store windows. Most shops and even many bakeries are closed on Sunday, but I was certain that I would discover a boulangerie or patisserie nearby that was open. It didn't take long to locate one, and I stood patiently in line, eyeing the delectable treats which were on display in the glass cases. When it was my turn, I purchased a cafe eclair and headed back to the apartment to enjoy it with some fresh coffee.


My Sunday breakfast in Paris
Afterward, I tidied the rooms and then sat down with my iPad to see if there was a nearby covered market to visit. I was pleased to find that the Passy Market was just a four-minute walk from my location. An article I read about the markets of Paris stated that it is one of the best covered markets in Paris and went on to say that the baguettes there are not to be missed. The market was a truly amazing place, filled with color, culinary delights, and enticing aromas. I had fun choosing fresh fruit from one stall, a jar of onion jam from another, some duck mousse from still another stall and then was delighted to find the famous baguettes. While I was shopping, Craig called to see what I was up to and he, Des, and Janey decided to join me. They also enjoyed the market, but soon were ready for a break, so we walked the short distance to our temporary home. They told me all about their visit to the Catacombs and showed off some photos as well.

Fresh delights at the Passy Market.

So much from which to choose!

Janey in the Catacombs of Paris.

Desmond in the Catacombs.
We made up a little indoor picnic with the duck mousse, onion jam, the baguette, ham-wrapped boursin bites,sushi, crispy bits of duck fat (which are probably supposed to be a salad topping),and fresh fruit. I told everyone that I was thrilled to have snagged one of the popular baguettes before the stall ran out, and we could hardly wait to try it.  Well, my exciting purchase soon turned into a joke as we discovered it was rock-hard inside and out! It was like trying to slice and eat a baseball bat! In fact, that baguette was so hard that it could have been used as a weapon! Desmond said that perhaps I had been given the display baguette and I think that he may have been correct.

An indoor picnic in Paris.
We left the apartment and began walking toward the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. Janey was in awe of the Iron Lady, and of course we took lots of pictures. There was the usual crepe stand nearby, and while my little party was standing in line, I backed up to snap a photo of them. The two ladies working the stand immediately began yelling at me to stop and made it very clear that we were not take any pictures of them. I thought this seemed odd, because we were visiting one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, where everyone takes pictures!  After a very long wait, during which we began to wonder if we were being punished for photographing them, one of the ladies finally handed us our crepes and we walked off toward the fountains of the Trocadero. 

Janey at the Trocadero.
The day had warmed and there were tourists lounging on the grassy areas and some were even splashing around in the basin of the huge fountains in spite of a lovely cool breeze. We passed one of the carousels, with its load of happy children. We sauntered across the Pont d’Iena, the bridge which spans the Seine. Security around the Eiffel Tower had changed tremendously from our last visit. A fence surrounded the base of the tower, and everyone who wanted to enter the area had to submit to a bag search and a once-over with an electronic wand. Once inside the fenced area, we had lots of room in which to stroll around and enjoy the view. There were no pressing crowds and no beggars or street performers, so we were able to focus our attention on the massive iron structure above us. 

It was a beautiful day for a climb.

Janey and Des pause for a photo
on the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.
 My intrepid adventurers decided to climb the stairs to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. After all the walking they had done on their jaunt to the Catacombs, I was surprised, but I settled myself on a bench in the shade and happily enjoyed people-watching as I waited for the climbers to return. All around me I could hear many different languages as tourists from all parts of the globe chattered excitedly while they photographed the iconic iron landmark towering above. When Craig, Desmond, and Janey reached their destination, they purchased cold drinks (avoiding the 12-euro glasses of wine) and rested a bit before making their descent. 

A view from the across Paris from the Eiffel Tower.
The four of us then rode the metro to Montmartre. Desmond climbed the stairs to the top where the Sacre Coeur Basilica overlooks Paris, while Craig, Janey, and I rode up in the crowded Funicular. We made it to the top just a few seconds after Desmond. We found our way to the famous Place du Tertre. In existence since 1635, the square was buzzing with artists and tourists. By then, it was time for lunch. We chose to sit outside in a shaded area and ordered meals from Le Sabot Rouge. I chose roast chicken with a candied thyme sauce, accompanied by crispy fries, Janey and Craig each had a pasta dish, while Des enjoyed a big helping of moules frites. I was surprised that Janey chose not to try one of the mussels; She had been quite adventurous on our vacation so far. We all enjoyed our food and the lively surroundings. 

Moules frites in Montmartre
The entire square was lively and festive, with artists at work, chattering tourists, music, street performers, and more. We found an artist to do a charcoal sketch of Janey as a gift for her mom.  While the artist was at work, I wandered through the square taking photographs and admiring the many different styles of paintings that were on offer.

Our next stop was Sacre Coeur. Because it was Sunday, the cathedral was crowded with worshipers hearing mass, but we tourists were being allowed in to a limited part of the impressive cathedral. We all walked around very quietly and reverently. Once outside, we walked down the massive staircase, admiring the view of Paris which lay below. We were fortunate to be entertained by one of the most famous street performers in Paris, Iya, who does an incredible show by climbing a light pole and using a soccer ball in a very athletic  and acrobatic display of talent. 

Sacre Couer on a busy Sunday in Paris

The lovely view from the steps of Sacre Coeur Basilica.

Iya put on an incredible performance
 of strength and agility.
Before we returned to our apartment, we stopped at a market and purchased items for a cold supper. It had been a wonderful and exciting day in Paris. We enjoyed showing the sights to Janey as we revisited one of our favorite cities in the world.  

Friday, March 9, 2018

Marching With Pride

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Saturday, June 24 2017


I couldn't believe that our vacation was nearly at an end. Even though the high temperatures had prevented us from doing some of the things we had planned, we had still had a fantastic time. We met with many wonderful people - friends of Desmond's who have become our friends. My only regret was that we had not been able to see Arno, who was away for the duration of our visit. 

I'm never quite ready to leave, but as I packed my suitcase I was anticipating a few more days of vacation.  Showing Janey a bit of Paris was something to look forward to. I was also looking forward to spending more time with Desmond. He and I would be traveling to Florida for a short time, and then on to our home for the greater part of the summer. 

We boarded the train for Paris just before noon. When we arrived, we quickly found a taxi and soon had all of our luggage stuffed into the back. Our driver had some difficulty getting us to our rented apartment because many streets had been closed due to the Pride parade and another event. Traffic was heavy, but we eventually made it. The four of us pulled our luggage into a charming art deco apartment near the Passy Plaza shopping center. 

A welcome to Paris.

Wall decor in the lobby of our apartment building in Paris.
After resting for a few minutes, we all headed out to join the Pride parade. But first, we needed a quick lunch. We stopped at a nearby bakery where we purchased sandwiches and drinks to go, planning to eat them on the train. We were dismayed to learn that the little terminal was closed. After a brisk walk to the metro, we hopped on, only to discover that several stops near the area of the parade were closed due to security reasons. Nevertheless, we were determined to join the parade. After a lengthy walk along the beautiful Rue de Rivoli, we were able to watch a portion of the colorful parade before joining in. Desmond had brought some flags, which we carried or wore as scarves as we marched with the milling throng.  It was an exuberant crowd of thousands with a definite camaraderie and we all chanted as we passed the lovely, historic buildings along our route. Onlookers waved, cheered, and blew kisses. Many of them showered us with confetti as we passed beneath their windows. 

Thousands attend the annual Pride parade.

Proud marchers in Paris, France.
After about an hour, Janey was worn out. The temperature had risen and we were all very warm. We stepped out of the parade and stood on the sidewalk for a while, watching the bright floats pass by and waving our flags at the crowd of colorfully dressed marchers. After a while, we turned and began to make our way up a side street away from the press of people. We were thrilled to see, right in front of us, the diner which we had visited on a previous occasion! Soon, the four of us were slurping thick, creamy milkshakes. What a welcome treat on a hot day.

The Metro was very crowded as we made our back to our lodgings. We relaxed for a bit and then explored a little. We discovered that we were literally steps away from Passy Plaza, where there are numerous shops and a supermarket. We bought coffee, milk, and a few other items. 

That evening, we walked a couple of blocks to a Framboise creperie, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal. The savory gallettes were delicious and for dessert we chose several different crepes. They were all so good that we passed them around so each of us could sample them all. My favorite was the salted caramel, and we also had one made with apples, caramel, hazelnuts, and ice cream, and another crepe which was made with bananas, chocolate, and whipped cream. We lingered at our table on the shady sidewalk where a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower was visible through the trees.

We returned to our AirBnB and began to unpack. The apartment would be quite suitable for a long stay. It had a well equipped kitchen, a living room with a sofa sleeper, a spacious bathroom that had lots of storage and a huge shower. There was a water closet opposite, and a bedroom at the end of the little hallway which had many storage cupboards and a desk in addition to a comfortable bed.It was a great apartment in a perfect location and we settled in happily for the night.


The comfy bedroom at our lodgings in Paris.



Monday, March 5, 2018

Another Last Day

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, June 23 2017


We had a wonderful day. At last the heat had broken! It was beautifully cool with a lovely breeze. I enjoyed one of Desmond's protein smoothies for breakfast. As much as I love pastries, I found that I had much more energy and stamina when I drank one of those shakes. I could always have a French pastry with my afternoon coffee. 

We wandered around town and popped into a few shops. It was so nice to be outside without being bombarded by oppressive heat. We visited the cathedral, and Janey was quite impressed with the awe-inspiring beauty and history of the huge edifice.  

Craig, Des, and Janey approach
 the cathedral of Sainte-Croix

The cathedral is a marvel.
We chose the Korean restaurant, Kogi, for lunch. Craig had never tried their delicious food and he was in for a treat! We all chose the bibimbap, a dish I had eaten there before. It was as good as I remembered. Our appetizer arrived as we waited for the main course. It was a divided tray containing tiny fishes and peanuts, pickled radish, and marinated bits of something I didn't recognize. Janey and I couldn't quite manage the little fishes, but Craig and Des seemed to enjoy them.

An interesting appetizer at Kogi.

A sizzling bowl of bibimbap
 at Kogi in Orleans, France.
After lunch we took our leftovers home and then picked up the baby clothes we had purchased for Chris and Mathilde's newborn, Robin. Baby showers are apparently not a thing in France, so we had chosen lots of adorable little items in several different sizes for the new baby. Robin was asleep when we arrived, but we got to see him. We all chatted quietly for a while but didn't stay too long, as we could tell the new mom was very tired.

That afternoon, we met Chris's parents, Marilyn and Rodney, at Autour de la Terre. They are lovely people and fun to be around. They live in New Zealand and had timed their visit to France to coincide with the birth of their new grandson. They are avid bicyclists and tour all over France on their bikes. 

In the courtyard of Autour de la Terre.
We had eaten such a big lunch that we weren't really very hungry for dinner. We ended up just snacking. But it was our last evening in Orleans for this trip, and we were having a wonderful time. We met another of Desmond's friends at a bar on the Rue de Borgogne. Kozmin is from Romania and was in the process of obtaining his PHD in engineering at the University of Orleans. He was also a student in Desmond's conversational English class. He had a fantastic grasp of the language and loved to kid around. We enjoyed his stories of life in Romania.

Lovely half-timbered buildings
 along Rue de Borgogne.
After saying goodbye to Kozmin, we went to another bar that is one of Desmond's favorites. Rue de Borgogne by this time was very crowded. The bars and restaurants along the street were all bustling and lively with conversation. We managed to find a table at the edge of the street. There was hardly room for a single car to pass. Suddenly, people around us were scraping their chairs back and pushing tables away. I looked up to see a huge fire truck coming slowly toward us. It barely managed to squeeze through on the crowded street. It was literally inches away from my chair!

Janey liked her "tipsy" glass!
At 11:00 we walked the short distance to the cathedral, where we were in for an incredible treat. There was a light show projected onto the outside walls of the huge structure. The theme was historical figures and we watched in awe as bright swirling colors and images appeared before us in a magical display. The effect was enhanced by stirring music that fit the theme perfectly. We were completely transported. It was a dramatic spectacle and one we will never forget!

The light show was an amazing experience.

The images and colors changed
 swiftly along with the music.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Il Fait Chaud!!!

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal Thursday, June 22 2017


We were faced with yet another scorching hot day. Sleep had been difficult the night before, but we did have hopes of the weather cooling down soon. Desmond had some work to do in the morning hours and we had little time to talk. He gulped down a protien shake and was out the door. Craig and I walked across the square to the bakery, where we chose our breakfast pastries. I selected a lovely lemon tart, which was eaten in front of the fan. 

At lunchtime, it was just too hot to consider walking anywhere. We whipped up scrambled eggs for lunch, and served them with fresh fruit and rustic bread. Then it was more sitting in front of the fan, catching up on email and reading for a while.


A dark, rustic bread. Delicious!
Desmond, Craig, and Janey decided that another dip in the Loire would be refreshing, but I chose to walk down to Carrefour to do a bit of grocery shopping. I ambled slowly down the street, grateful for the many shade trees overhanging the sidewalk.

Craig and Janey in the Loire.


As evening approached, we walked into town for drinks. We chose a table outside in the shade of a building on Rue de Borgogne. I enjoyed a refreshing Monaco while Janey gulped iced tea and the others sipped their beer. 

For our evening meal, we decided to go to Au Bureau, as we would have the benefit of air conditioning. Craig and Janey both ordered burgers, but Craig's choice was the more unique. Instead of a bun, the meat was sandwiched between two crisp hash brown patties and topped with a fried egg. Desmond chose a hearty salad that had meat and potatoes in it. I ordered the Welsh, which was essentially a bowl of melted cheese with a hunk of bread and some ham in it. It was accompanied by crisp fries and a salad. By the end of the meal, we were all dipping our fries into the cheese. This seemed to displease our waitress, who soon whisked away the remnants of our meals. 

An interesting burger at Au Bureau, Orleans France.

What a salad!
We strolled home slowly, still making use of our little misting fans. The four of us ended the day with a movie as we sat in front of the fan. 

A peaceful scene on the Loire.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Longest Day; The Hottest Day

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Wednesday, June 21  2017

Who knew it could become so hot in France? We had expected warm temperatures during our June vacation, but nothing like this. It was like being back home in Kansas! It was barely cool when we awoke, so we didn't have the windows open for long. We closed them and secured the shutters against the blazing heat to come. The temperature would climb to almost 100 degrees later that day.

Azur enjoyed a nap under a cool, damp cloth.
We remained indoors for hours, taking time to do some laundry and only going outside to hang the clothes out to dry. They dried quickly in the heat. At lunchtime, we picked up sandwiches from the little shop on the square. In the afternoon, Craig, Des, and Janey went to play in the Loire. That river is known for its dangerously strong currents, but there are a few areas that have sand bars surrounded by shallow water. The three of them splashed and waded for a couple of hours. 

Des and Janey in the Loire

Janey cools off in the Loire.
Later, Jeff came over. We all played a game of You Don't Know Jack. When Jeff suggested that we go out for drinks at Au Bureau and happened to mention that it was air conditioned, we willingly agreed. The lovely coolness was quite welcome. Mathieu met us there when he got off work. He told us there was no air conditioning or fan at his office. We lingered over our drinks and then decided to walk to the nearby restaurant, Le Don Vittorio, for pizza. It was a very nice place with lovely decor. We were thrilled to discover that it also had air conditioning. Janey and I shared a pizza that was topped with fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, mushrooms, and a type of ham called Speck. It was a fun meal.

Des and Jeff at le Don Vittorio, Orleans, France.

Pizza at le don Vittorio in Orleans, France.
June 21 is a day of country-wide music festivals in France. There were concerts in every square and park. Even little Place de la Bascule had its share of bands and street artists. We returned there just in time to hear the steel drum quartet. The artists were busy spray-painting their creations onto huge sheets of black plastic that were hung taut between two posts. One of the local restaurants had placed a grill outside, and the aroma of grilling sausages hung in the air. The bars on the square had a steady stream of customers. It was all very festive. The music lasted until 1:00 AM, so we were able to listen to it long after we went upstairs. It was too hot to sleep, anyway. The temperature had reached 98 degrees.

Music festival on the square.

An artist at the music festival.

More art at the festival.

It felt as if Orleans was on fire
 on the hottest day in France. Ever.

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.