Ruin and Restoration

So sorry! I’m really far behind on these posts. I’ve been crazy busy. Lots of French lessons with Natacha . . .

Natacha, Stéphane and their son, Solal

. . . who FINALLY let me take her picture, although she kept trying to hide behind Solal!

Also, I’ve been doing as much homework as I can get her to give me and creating my own when I don’t have enough from her. (Yes, I’m THAT kind of student.) I am here partly to improve my French after all.

Plus, there have been lunches, apéros, dinners, concerts, day-trips, and I just got back from an overnight with Pascale and Jacky down to Cap Ferret, Arcachon and environs. But I don’t want to miss sharing a few more photos of beautiful Bretagne (where Stéphane is from, by the way, though further north than where we were). So without further ado, here is Bretagne, Part 4.

Rochefort-en-Terre

Saturday, the 25th of May, we went inland. One of my favorite spots was the beautiful little village of Rochefort-en-Terre, where first we toured the grounds of the Château de Rochefort-en-Terre. Below is a shot looking down on the town from the grounds of the château.

Rochefort-en-Terre — Love these old rooftops and the sun-kissed hillside in the distance.

It made me think about how wonderfully photogenic these old buildings are and what a responsibility it is to maintain them. But look how beautiful the main square is . . . .

Place du Puits, Rochefort-en-Terre, Bretagne

Later in the afternoon we stopped here . . .

Forteresse de Largoët

The 14th century octagonal keep you see on the left was the only building open, so Pascale and I climbed up the tiniest, creepiest, dim staircase–my fault, the beginning of the larger baron’s staircase looked darker at the beginning. But never mind, we made it up VERY high until I started noticing random wooden supports for ENORMOUS stones and sections of wall that would otherwise tumble down. The floors were already long gone, burned, I think, or rotted away or both. I decided this ruin had not  yet been restored quite enough to make me comfortable four of five stories above ground with tons of stone precariously perched around me. Pascale was unfazed, but I decided to climb back down tout de suite (NOW).

I’ll leave you with another gem, the Château de  Trédion . . .

Château de Trédion

. . . that we were not able to see up close, because a wedding had taken over the place. Not a bad setting for a fairy-tale wedding!

It takes years and years and LOTS of funding, as I’m sure you can imagine, to restore and maintain these treasures. Of course, all good things, if they are to remain good things, require care and attention. I am so grateful for those willing and able to do what it takes.

Wishing you beautiful things–and more importantly, relationships–worth caring for and the motivation and resources to do so!

 

 

 

Old Menhir and the Sea

Near the Site des mégalithes de Locmariaquer

Bretagne-Part 3: Since I love to be in France in May, I have managed to celebrate several birthdays here, this year included. Friday, the 24th, our goal was to tour the northern coast of the Golfe du Morbihan, where we saw things WAY older than I am, including the megaliths of Locmariaquer and the alignments of Carnac, Ménec and Kermario, with hundreds and hundreds of stones standing upright and, well, aligned. Not a simple task for prehistoric people, so very mysterious, both the how and the why. You can see them yourself on Google Earth, like these menhirs:

Alignements de Kermario – Be sure to notice the sheep and bird for scale. These are huge.

Funny aside: In trying to confirm various details, I Googled “menir” (accidentally misspelling “menhir”), which led me to an article I could sort of translate, because it was some variation of French or ??? If you know, please tell me in the comments! I put it into Google Translate hoping to identify the language, but no luck. Google “detected” French.

Here’s an example: On menir . . . , c’ est ene grosse pire dressêye pås Omes. . . . 

Here’s how I would translate this, first to standard French: Un menhir . . . , c’est une grosse pierre dressée [pås Omes???]

Now English: A menhir . . . is a large, standing stone [no idea on the “pås Omes” part, but I kept it in to show you the cool accent and for Google Translate’s hilarious version]. . . .

Now Google Translate: It is worse . . . , it is a lot worse dressed up in Omes. . . .

I’m still laughing.

Then on to the sea!

Quiberon, Bretagne, France
Quiberon, Bretagne, France (photo by Pascale)

This was one of my 17,000 step days, and it was worth every one of them. We returned to Auray via le Côte Sauvage (the wild coast)– gorgeous.

Le Côte Sauvage, Quiberon, Bretagne, France
Le Côte Sauvage, Quiberon, Bretagne, France — Love the light!

Back at the hotel, Pascale asked the advice of the hotel receptionist for somewhere fun for my birthday dinner, and we ended up here . . .

Crêperie 1900 – Pascale and I kept jumping up to take more photos
Crêperie 1900
Crêperie 1900 (photo by Pascale, obviously)

. . . the quirkiest, kitschiest crêperie you can possibly imagine, but the proprietress / server / chef was friendly and the food was delicious. Super fun day and evening. So another year with my dear ones celebrated and even a bit of wisdom gained. 😉

Note to self: No matter how old you are, do NOT dress up in Omes! Thank you, Google Translate, for this fashion tip.*

And of course, many thanks again and again to Pascale and Jacky!

*If you have a favorite Google Translate fail, please share it in the comments!

Île-aux-Moines

Bretagne, Part 2 — Thursday (the 23rd of May) we took a boat tour of the Golfe du Morbihan with a long stop on Île-aux-Moines. We got on the ferry at Port Blanc and about three minutes later were already there. Pascale, as usual, had done her research, so we set off on the red walking route, marked on the road at various intersections.

This island was beautiful and green and sometimes reminded me of Sunapee. Seriously. Check this out . . .

Île-aux-Moines, Golfe du Morbihan, France
Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, USA

But then I’d see something like this . . .

Or this crêperie with the thatched roof . . .

Île-aux-Moines, France

. . . where I had this amazing salad for lunch . . .

Salade “Papy Jean” at La Chaumière, Ile-aux-Moines — Yum!

. . . after we returned from our walk out to the point. Here’s the map.

Proof we made it all the way to the point! “Vous êtes ici” (You are here)

A few sights along the way . . .

Golfe du Morbihan from Île-aux-Moines, France
Île-aux-Moines, France

I absolutely soaked in the peace of the place.

After lunch and a winding stroll back down to the port we caught the boat for the tour of the entire gulf. The guide was apparently hilarious, since everyone kept laughing, but I understood next to nothing due to the distortion of the sound system coupled with my limited attention as I enjoyed the sunshine and taking a bazillion photos. Still loved it. By the end the light just kept getting more and more beautiful. The photo doesn’t really capture it, but here’s the best I’ve got . . .

Golfe du Morbihan, France — Photo doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the light — sorry!

Bonus, my 17,000 steps gave me permission to have this for desert at dinner . . .

Profiterole at La Cocotte in Auray, France

I couldn’t quite finish it (Jacky had no trouble with his). Isn’t it a work of art?

I am so grateful for this opportunity to be back in France with friends who care about me and remember great times with David. Also for new adventures that remind me that my life is not over. There’s always more to see and do. I know. But I’m also revisiting favorite places from the past, partly to prove to myself I can. The other day I walked across the street from La Grosse Horloge (the huge clock that’s a major landmark in La Rochelle) over to Cours des Dames, one of the main places I associate with David. He loved people-watching there, waiting for me after my French lessons. Just as I stepped up on the curb and faced the pedestrian walkway, I could feel a wave of sadness threatening. Suddenly I heard David saying, “Don’t start thinking how sad you are I’m not here, because I am here. I’m with you everywhere. . . .” And of course he is. He is a part of me.

So the adventure continues . . . .

En Bretagne — Part 1

I’m now installed in the super-cute little house I’m renting for the next month.

Home away from home — simple facade hiding LOTS of charm!

Front door leads into the living room, with the bedroom on the left. It’s basically a U. In the photo below the kitchen is on the right, bathroom on the left, living room next to the kitchen, bedroom where I stood to take this photo–wrapped around this perfect, private little space, with doors leading out from all of them. Love it!

Le Patio

So now I have a few minutes to tell you about our adventures in Brittany, or as it’s called here in France, Bretagne (the end rhymes with lasagne). We were headed to the Gulf of Morbihan, where Pascale had planned various excursions to see ALL of it, including islands in the middle. Thanks, Pascale! All of it was well worth seeing. Way too much for one post, so here’s Part 1.

We packed up and headed out from La Rochelle around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday the 22nd and made it to Vannes in time for lunch at our first of many traditional Breton crêperies. We walked through the base of the tower out to a stone-walled terrace.

The most impressive part, though, was les toilettes — the tiniest, wedge-shaped, stone-walled, low-ceilinged, claustrophobia-inducing WC, too tiny even to take a photo, except of this sign by the tiny sink:

“In this place was the cell of those condemned to death”

So, yeah, note to self: It could be worse.

Angel in Vannes, France

I sure wish I had been participating in FitBit challenges, because I would have rocked it. I logged roughly 17,000 steps a day Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Wednesday and Sunday we were driving there and back, and I still managed 12,500 on Wednesday and 8,000 on Sunday. Wednesday was high because the lunch stop in Vannes included a walk around the town . . .

Then Wednesday evening we also walked to dinner, twenty minutes from the hotel down to the port in Auray. And back, of course . . UP.

Auray – down to dinner and back up to the hotel!

But in the company of friends, even that wasn’t too bad! My lesson for the day: life can be hard, but it can also be beautiful. Pascale and Jacky’s next door neighbor apparently agrees:

La vie est belle — (Life is beautiful).

Château de la Roche Courbon

Pascale, Jacky and I have been taking advantage of every moment. We returned Sunday afternoon from our five-day adventure in southern Brittany, (the part that sticks out on the northwestern corner of France). I will tell you all about it, but I’m not even going to begin that yet!

To keep it chronological . . .

Monday, the 20th, Jacky drove us forty-five minutes or so southeast of La Rochelle to visit the Château de la Roche Courbon. Click on the link (then on the Union Jack flag for English) for more about it.  If you’re not that interested in reading more of the history, you can just trust me it was interesting and gorgeous.

Here are a few photos, a little gift of beauty for you. Enjoy! (Remember you can click on any photo to make it larger.)

Château de la Roche Courbon

The family that has owned this amazing place for several generations still lives here and opens it to the public for all kinds of events, in addition to the regular tours.

The story of this château and its gardens inspired me by its history of determination. It was built, improved, then abandoned, then suffered various reverses, then was restored. At some point over the centuries the gardens were amazingly built on marshland. What?!?No worries for drought, but of course various complicated drainage issues had to be expensively addressed in the 1930s and again in the nineties. The gardens are actually now supported on deep piles driven through the marshland down to bedrock.

Panoramic view of the gardens from the upper terrace/balcony

I love this image of driving a pile down through the muck to bedrock and the resulting beauty that is possible. Makes me think of the encouragement of the psalms.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will never be shaken.  Psalm 62:2 NIV

I patiently waited, Lord, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you.  Psalm 40: 1-3a CEV

Wishing you abundant beauty to share, anchored on bedrock to see you safely through the mud and mire!

 

Among Friends in France

I’ve made it back to La Rochelle and am being well cared for by my friends, Pascale and Jacky.

Pascale and Jacky

Although I broke the trip into two parts, it still took its toll. I had a lovely evening Thursday with Tom and Meg (David’s brother and sister-in-law). The next day Meg and I went out for a delicious lunch at a local cozy Italian place before she took me to the airport for my overnight flight to Paris.

It’s the “overnight” part that makes it tough, not great conditions for restful sleep, but enough about that. I’m here! I slept ten hours the first night and nine last night, both mornings waking at a very reasonable 7:15-ish, so am well on my way to being acclimated to local time.

The weather I left in Colorado was FABULOUS, so I hope you Coloradoans are enjoying it! Here, it’s cooler and rainier, although the rain let up yesterday and today is only cloudy. Pascale and I took a long walk around La Rochelle yesterday morning, as I was anxious to reacquaint myself with my home-away-from-home. Tour Saint-Nicolas is currently closed and under renovation, so I’m glad I’ve already climbed it multiple times (see here and here and here).

Later, after a delicious Sunday lunch, for which I was not allowed to lift a finger, we took a little drive (yes, I slept through all of it) to Fouras . . .

. . . where some SERIOUSLY hardy souls were actually swimming!

Here’s how we were dressed . . .

. . . and we were not overly warm. The wind was BRISK. Still, it was beautiful.

It is so good to be back among friends in a place so dear to my heart. We talk a lot of other times we’ve had and laughs we shared with David. Of course, we all wish we could have enjoyed more time with him, but are so very grateful for the time we did have together.

It is not length of life, but depth of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now we will make new memories to share in days to come.

Better Than Portlandia

Time is flying! I can hardly believe I head to France this week. There have been so many tasks, getting the house ready for the people who will be staying here in my absence, and of course, getting myself ready to go. But I thought I had better write a quick post about our fabulous Easter weekend in Portland before I missed doing it entirely. This is likely to be one of the last, if not the last, of Chelsea’s fun trips before her baby is born, so we took advantage of the long weekend to pay a visit to Doug and Kristl.

We got there Thursday afternoon and had a chance to walk around a bit before Doug got home from teaching. Spring in Portland was a bit ahead of Colorado (and DEFINITELY ahead of Minnesota), so we soaked it in.

Thursday night, Doug’s band often gets together to practice, so we had a bit of an impromptu concert . . .

Doug and a band-mate serenading us

OF COURSE, we went wine tasting–Chelsea along for the views only. Sorry, Chelsea!

Doug, Brittany, Courtney and Chelsea at Colene Clemens Vineyards

. . . and no, Doug is not double-fisting it. He’s holding my glass while I snap the photo. Didn’t want it to look like the mom-to-be was swilling wine! Here’s the view . . .

Colene Clemens Winery

We had brought along a picnic from Grand Central Bakery . . .

Grand Central Bakery, Sellwood (Portland, Oregon)

. . . where I accidentally bought the last three quiches out from under the people in line ahead of me, who were asking about them while I was paying for them with another clerk. Sorry! I didn’t realize. (Not THAT sorry. They were amazing!)

The weather was a bit rainy Friday, so not quite picnic perfect, but Bergström Winery–one of the other wineries we visited–has changed its tasting procedure, so we were forced to come in and sit at a table and have our picnic while we tasted their wines. (Perfect!)

Chelsea and Brittany on appetizer prep

And because Doug is an all-caps EXTROVERT, of course he (and Kristl, who is NOT an extrovert, but is very gracious) hosted a bunch of people Saturday night. Here are Chelsea and Brittany helping prep the appetizers . . . .

By Sunday, we were all happily exhausted, so had a low-key day. Doug and I took Courtney downtown for a quick dash through Powell’s (one of my all-time favorite bookstores) and then to catch a train to visit a friend in Washington, since she was so close. Brittany, Chelsea and I headed home on Monday. Brittany had been to Portland several times before, but the time went by so fast, I don’t think I even had a chance to show Chelsea and Courtney that the quirky image portrayed in the show Portlandia exists for a reason. Exaggerated, but still. What a fun place.

The last time I had been there was the last road trip David and I took before his diagnosis, so I had a few weepy, nostalgic moments, but overall, what a joy to be able still to share beautiful places and happy times with dear ones. I am so grateful for that.

Wishing you many opportunities to enjoy beautiful places and happy times with your dear ones as well!

Next post from France if all goes as planned. Stay tuned!

Adventures in Wanderlust