Friday, July 22, 2016

Going to Class

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It was a laid-back kind of day, with not much going on. Both Darcy and Mathieu had to work, but I had made plans to meet Darcy at the university where I would be able to observe one of her classes. It was a lovely, sunny morning. I nibbled a cupcake for breakfast instead of going out to the boulangerie. They looked so good, I just couldn't resist! Darcy had baked the dark chocolate cupcakes late the night before as a birthday surprise for her friend and colleague, Jeffrey, whom I looked forward to meeting. I was to locate Darcy at one of the university tram stops around 11:00. 

I spent the morning hours writing emails home and playing with Azur. He loves hide-and-seek, but one must always be cautious with him, as he may pop out and unintentionally scratch! He always makes me laugh. I also straightened the house a bit before packing up the cupcakes and setting out for the university. 

Darcy in her office at the University of Orleans.
I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the conversation class which Darcy taught. There were quite a few students there and it was a pleasure to meet them all. One young woman gave a presentation about her home country, Vietnam. She had brought along many visual aids with beautiful pictures. We were all allowed to ask questions after her speech, which she answered in English to the best of her ability.

We didn't have time to linger after the lesson. We were to meet Jeffrey for lunch at a restaurant several blocks away. We arrived in good time and were there before Jeff arrived. It was an enjoyable lunch at le Bunny's. Darcy and Jeffrey recommended the fried chicken, which is difficult to find in France, but I chose a croque monsieur instead. I did try a bite of the chicken and found that it would have been too spicy for me.

Darcy and Jeff seem to have an easy, comfortable friendship. They had some catching up to do, as they hadn't seen each other for a while. Her friend told stories of the recent flooding around the area where he lives. Jeffrey was touched that Darcy had brought cupcakes for his birthday. The dark chocolate cake and the rich cream cheese icing were a big hit! After we rose to leave, we all had a nice conversation with the Muslim owner of the restaurant. Darcy and Jeff often eat there and have become very friendly with him. I wish I would have caught his name, because he offered me a job! No, seriously, when he learned I was from America, he asked about the political situation there and I jokingly told him that if my candidate didn't win, I was planning to move to France. His eyes sparkled as he laughed and said I was welcome to work in his cafe. 

A recent photo of Darcy and Mathieu.
Darcy and her friend had to return to work, so I rode the tram to the stop near Halles Chatelet and then met up with Arno. We had a lovely time chatting and drinking peach-vanilla tea. That evening, Darcy made a wonderful pasta dish with duck mousse, truffle oil, cream, Parmesan, ham and bacon. And for dessert? Cupcakes, of course!    

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Blossoms and Butterflies

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Monday, May 16, 2016

A Monday holiday is such a treat! Darcy and Mathieu were both off work that day. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny day and decided that a picnic at Parc Floral would be a great way to enjoy that extra day off. After coffee and a delightful lemon tart, we packed a lunch and were soon on our way to one of my favorite places in Orléans. 

It was the perfect time of year for a walk through the lovely botanical garden. We walked slowly, admiring the gorgeous blossoms, lush ferns, and flowering trees. We were serenaded with cheerful birdsong as we strolled the grounds. It was almost as if we had the place to ourselves. Parc Floral is quite large and even on busy days there are many times when no other people are in sight.

Beautiful flowers at Parc Floral in Orleans, France.
We saw many varieties of trees, some of which were the weeping type, whose branches form private, shaded bowers and little nooks where it would be pleasant to spread a blanket and read. The iris garden was beautiful, though it would be another week or so before the flowers would all be in full bloom. I was already planning to return with Craig after he arrived in France.

Mathieu and Darcy beside one of the weeping trees.

More gorgeous iris at Parc Floral.
We visited the butterfly house and walked slowly through it, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the rarest and most flamboyant butterflies in residence. There was one large one with exquisite iridescent blue wings trimmed in black. I tried to photograph it, but it simply wouldn't hold still!

A butterfly luncheon party.
We found a shaded bench surrounded by climbing roses and sat down to enjoy our lunch. We had a pretty view of the pond, and behind it was the lovely stone chateau that, until recently, housed the administrative offices of the University. There were flowers everywhere, and a chorus of frogs calling from the banks of the pond. I ate a sandwich of ham, butter, pickles, and cassis-flavored mustard on a crusty baguette. Everything tastes so much better when eaten in such beautiful surroundings. We finished off with juicy nectarines before gathering up our things and heading toward the miniature golf course.

This was our lovely view during lunch.
The mini golf course is such fun, with some challenging holes that had us laughing as one or the other of us tried repeatedly to sink a shot! As we walked the course or paused to make a putt, we were often showered with tiny pink flowers that rained down on us from the trees above. In some places, the ground itself resembled a pink carpet.

Darcy attempts the maze at mini-golf.
When we left the park and drove home, the weather was still so beautiful that we were reluctant to be indoors. We walked over to a bar across the Loire and found a vacant table outside. I sipped a sweet cherry beer while enjoying the view. After that relaxing interval, the three of went home to begin preparations for the evening meal.

We started our meal with tasty onion blossoms and fries, which we dipped into a wonderful sauce Darcy whipped up. Then, I helped prepare Brazilian beans and rice. It was made in a rice cooker and was a delicious combination of smoked sausage, chick peas, rice, chicken broth, bay leaf, and lots of garlic. Ice cream rounded off the meal. It was a fabulous day!

Another glimpse of Parc Floral