Category Archives: France Retour

Celebrating One Year of Survival!

David in June, shortly after we got back from France

Today marks one year from the day David’s cancer was discovered, and we are so very grateful that he is still here with us! We know each day is a gift.

Since the events described in the last post, we finished our time in France by showing Tom and Lexi around some of our favorite spots in Paris: certainly Musée de Cluny — Musée National du Moyen Âge, where we admired again my favorite tapestries . . .

La Dame à la licorne
Stone Chapel in Musée de Cluny

And this very cool stone chapel David discovered on our first visit to this museum.

Then we were headed back to our Airbnb appartement,  when  David had a much better idea since it was seriously toasty in Paris, even though still only the end of May. His suggestion: Find a café for a beer. This place, Maison Sauvage, was half a block from the apartment and became our regular afternoon refreshment stop.

Maison Sauvage, Paris

We mostly called it “Wild House” for short, which had the benefit of not requiring David, Tom or Lexi to attempt any actual French pronunciation (although Lexi’s not too bad, actually).

The next day, Musée d’Orsay . . . 

Musée d’Orsay looking out to Sacré Coeur
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

. . . plus Sainte-Chapelle . . . plus ice cream at Glacier Berthillon on the Île Saint- Louis . . . then the OUTSIDE of Notre Dame. They flat-out REFUSED any more of the forced march for that day. Um . . . I can get a little carried away.

The next day we took the Batobus (boat bus) to the Tour Eiffel (we let them climb while we rested and watched the vendors entice tourists with scarves and trinkets, then on to Notre Dame and back to the apartment (or Wild House) for Tom and Lexi.

David at the outdoor Ritz Bar, Paris

David and I finished our France adventure by walking over to the Ritz for a final drink in the Ritz bar. Helen had asked us to raise a glass there in memory of her husband John, who died earlier this year. He had treated her to a surprise trip a number of years ago (at her half-serious request for a drink at the Ritz Bar to celebrate her 60th birthday), and they made a pact to come back at least to raise a glass to the one who had gone on before when that time came. She wasn’t quite up for the trip, so we raised a glass in her stead.

And then we raised another glass to us and our 2017 France adventure!

By June 2nd, we were back home and David was back in chemo on Monday the 5th. The last couple of months have been tough, and many things are uncertain. But he is still here and I thank God every day for that. Remember regular updates are on CaringBridge.

David at Logan Airport 14 August 2017

As you can see, he never lost his hair, and even though we cut it short (just in case) it is now getting pretty long again and now it’s super curly in back, like it never was before. Makes us smile, and trust me, ALL smiles are welcome!

We’ve even managed a couple of other trips in the last month or so, but they will have to wait for another post.

So, wherever you are, even though it is probably NOT the Ritz Bar in Paris, raise a glass or an amen to David’s one year survival against all odds. All your thoughts, prayers and supportive comments are so very much appreciated. Bless you!

La Rochelle with Glossis

I promised WEEKS ago to tell you about our last week in France, which we shared with our good friends Tom and Lexi Glossi.

Lexi et Tom chez Pascale et Jacky 26 mai 2017

June flew by with various challenges and July has been about the same, but I find myself with a small lull, awaiting test results and doctors’ recommendations (see CaringBridge for updates), so thought I may as well enjoy a few moments reminiscing.

The one fabulous thing about sharing a favorite place with new people is you have an excuse to see it again. Tom and Lexi arrived on May 19th, and the first few days were a bit rainy and cool. Fortunately, I knew exactly where we should go. I love the La Rochelle Aquarium and especially photographing the strange and the beautiful (and sometimes the strangely beautiful), but I lost most of my photos from 2014 in a hard drive crash. With the Glossis, I had the chance to get some new shots . . . . ↓

When the sun came out the next day, we were off to climb the three famous towers, while David enjoyed some people-watching down below. David is actually in this photo on the right (okay, he’s a tiny speck, but still). Hint: he’s leaning against a rail near the water’s edge.

Tour de la Lanterne

 

 

 

Tom is not a huge fan of heights, but he never complained, even when we were trapped–for a WHILE– between two dawdling groups and had to simply breathe and take in the view from the narrow walkway near the top of Tour de la Lanterne. Not the middle walkway. Nope. We were stuck on the TINY ledge you barely see about two-thirds of the way up the tower. And yes, the railing is only about waist high. Seriously, not one complaint. Well done, Tom.

Meanwhile throughout the week, we had several opportunities to introduce Tom and Lexi to Jacky and Pascale and spend some time together.

Counting on me to translate! (photo by Pascale)

More friends with whom to celebrate another birthday in France . . . .

Birthday dinner at Les 4 Sargeants

Then out into the beautiful La Rochelle evening . . .

Rue St Jean du Pérot (photo by Pascale)

Before we knew it, it was time to say au revoir to La Rochelle and to Jacky and Pascale. À très bientôt, j’espère!

On to Paris for a few nights, though, before heading back to the states. What a treat to have had the opportunity for this French adventure. And what a nice pause from our current concerns to pass a few moments remembering good times.

Rhythm de La Rochelle 2017

After our tourist weekend with Pascale and Jacky, we settled back into our regular La Rochelle rhythm: mornings down to the marché . . . . . . to buy strawberries (definitely), cheese (often), and whatever else looked good, then over a few blocks to my favorite boulangerie for a fresh baguette, then maybe across the street for a bottle of wine. Once we had dropped everything off at the apartment (we LOVED the central location), we’d head to the vieux port, where we’d stroll a bit, sit and people-watch in Cours des Dames, and eventually choose a restaurant for lunch. We could choose a brasserie, bistro, café, or restaurant, depending on our mood and how much we wanted to spend. Although it was always clearly popular, we never got around to trying this one . . .

Le Petit Bleu

But this petite rue also has lots of choices . . .

Or here . . . 

We would often eat at Brasserie des Dames, under the white umbrellas you can see in the distance on the left, right at the beginning of Cours des Dames. But we also liked the friendliness of the staff and the moules frites at Le Pass’port (far right).

Then David would head “home” to the apartment and I would head to my French lesson with Natacha (three to four times a week). She lives over on the other side of the park, so I’d often walk through the parc animalia. There’s one enclosure with about eight peacocks, and weirdly, a few chickens. This year there was also an enclosure with a Jersey cow. Yup. Not your usual zoo fare.

Then, after an hour and half or so with Natacha, I’d head back to the apartment to start work, which would last as long as I could stay awake, somewhere around midnight. I’d do homework during lulls, finishing in the morning when there weren’t enough lulls.

The next morning it would all begin again. We loved the rhythm of our days in La Rochelle. Fortunately, as people who have been known to dance on occasion, we can also enjoy other rhythms!

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul. ∼Plato

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ∼Maya Angelou

Here’s hoping the rhythm of your days makes you feel like dancing!

Next post: Tom and Lexi in La Rochelle

 

Saint-Émilion 2017

We’re back home in Colorado now, and David has had another round of chemo. See CaringBridge for updates on David’s battle against pancreatic cancer. The break seems to have been very good for him, and we are very grateful it was all possible and went so smoothly.

Toward the end, I was so busy trying to fit everything in, I decided to wait until I got back to share a bit more about our France adventure, so a quick review to get you oriented:

12-14 May 2017 — We spent much of Friday on Île de Ré, then Saturday morning we were off to Bordeaux. Click on the links to see previous posts for details. Here’s part three of the weekend:

We had a lovely evening at the Château de Sanse in Sainte-Radegonde:

Dinner at the hotel. David hamming it up for the camera, apparently, or maybe not convinced about what I’m saying!

The next morning, après petit déjeuner, bien sûr, we headed back west a few kilometers to Saint-Émilion. David and I had been there very briefly on our way south in 2013, but this time we were really going to have a chance to see it. Pascale had done some investigating ahead of time, so here’s what we did first . . .

On the Great Vineyards Train

This little “train” drives around the perimeter of Saint-Émilion, describing the various famous vineyards of the area. We chose the ticket that allowed us to stop and tour one vineyard, complete with a tasting. It was all in French, with a very abbreviated English translation for David, while everyone else looked at David and waited for the real tour to resume.

On the Great Vineyards Train — Saint-Émilion in the distance
Medieval ruelle of Saint-Émilion

Then back to town for lunch. The best restaurants seemed to be on this . . . er . . . street, which we walked down, then back up a few too many times that day. Not easy. The hand rails were actually necessary at points, especially with the ancient cobblestones trying to throw us off balance. But seriously picturesque, non? We ended up in the same restaurant David and I had found the last time we were here.

Then Pascale wanted to see the largest monolithic church in Europe, which happens to be here . . .

Église monolithe de Saint-Émilion

In 2013, David and I had walked right by, snapped a few photos and hit the road. We were on a fairly tight schedule, but still. This time we all climbed back up the little medieval road and went to the tourist office for tickets to get in. The next two tours were sold out, so we had time to seek out a less steep route back here to Place du Clocher (above). The sun came out, which we loved for about ten minutes. But with all the stone it soon got TOASTY. See that tiny corner of shade in the photo? Yeah, we all four crammed in there. Fortunately, the shade expanded as we waited.

Then the tour. No photos allowed, but wow. David made us promise not to reveal that he didn’t understand French; this time it would have been 30 people staring at him. We’d both read the English translation of the info sheet while we were waiting–when we weren’t using it as a parasol–so had the gist, and I translated a bit in whispers as we went along.

The tour included the cave of Saint Émilion, the catacombs, and the monolithic church–some of the most ancient things I’ve ever set eyes on and very much worth the hot wait. Then goodbye to Saint-Émilion . . .

Saint-Émilion

. . . and back home to La Rochelle.

I wonder how many other treasures I’ve obliviously walked right past? What a treat to get a second chance.

i thank you God for most this amazing day

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and for the blue dream of sky

and for everything which is natural

which is infinite, which is yes

∼e. e. cummings

Wishing you adventures with dear ones, treasures to appreciate, and second chances if you miss them the first time!

Bordeaux et Chateau de Sanse

David ready for another adventure

The day after our adventure sur l’Île de Réwe packed a bag for the night and were off again with Jacky and Pascale. We were leaving Saturday morning, when the huge marché was in full force and no cars allowed anywhere near our apartment, so we walked a few blocks toward the port and waited there. Then we were off. As always, Jacky drives no matter how far without complaint, and Pascale navigates, aided–sometimes hindered–by the GPS.

We arrived in Bordeaux about two and a half hours later, found parking eventually and started walking. Everything in Bordeaux is BIG . . .

. . . and impressive. The drizzle made everything a bit dreary, but the bistro Pascale had found was cozy and the food was very good.

If you look carefully you can see all four of us in the reflection, mostly David in the center (and an apparently faceless person with light hair, which is me taking the photo).

After more strolling around Bordeaux, a bit hindered by the on- again, off-again rain, and the attempt to avoid making David walk too far, we got back in the car and headed east toward the Saint-Emilion wine country and our hotel.

Sounds easy, right? No, as it happened. Someone had hit one of the signs necessary for pointing us in the right direction, and the sign was now on the ground or otherwise MIA, so we drove around tiny winding roads among the fields and vineyards, looking for someone, ANYONE, to give us directions. The instant we FINALLY found an actual human, Jacky slammed on the brakes, and Pascale leapt out of the car and ran across the road to ask for assistance. It turns out we had been within five minutes of the place for forty minutes or so, but at least it was lovely and green and we were all still laughing about being lost. And when we found it, ahhhhhhhhh.  Here’s the view . . . ↓

View from the terrace of Chateau de Sanse, near Sainte-Radegonde, France

David found this spot immediately . . .

Chateau de Sanse

What a peaceful respite from the crowds this place was. AND, we had left the rain behind!

At the request of Jon Lachelt, here’s a paragraph in French, written as an assignment for my tutor. I think I’ve corrected all the errors she pointed out, plus a few I noticed later that she was too kind to mention, but no promises!

Nous avons passé samedi soir dans un endroit bien paisible et beau. Tout est vert et verdoyant. Après avoir passé l’après-midi à Bordeaux parmi trop de monde, sous la pluie, dans les rues de pierre, dans l’ombre des bâtiments énormes où tout était gris, les arbres, les fleurs et les vignes nous ont laissés respirer, se détendre et décontracter. La vue depuis la terrasse était tellement belle. Même regarder les vaches de l’autre côté de la vallée pouvait me donner un sens de paix. Le bleu du ciel était reflété par le bleu de la piscine, tranquille ce jour-là sans nageurs. Un petit chemin partait de la piscine et descendait dans un bois. Il nous a tenté mais nous n’avons pas envie de remonter la colline. Un autre jour peut-être.

The gist in English, short version: We didn’t really see Bordeaux under the best conditions that day, so it seemed rather grey. On the plus side, that made the green beauty of the hotel and its environs all the more welcome.

David is still doing really well. I posted an update on CaringBridge earlier today, so check that out for details. Way too much fun for one post, so I’ll tell you about Sunday in Saint-Emilion next time.

Wishing you adventures with friends and green oases when the grey gets you down!

 

 

 

Retour à l’Ile de Ré

Oh, là, là, là, là. Humblest apologies for all the weird errors in the last post! I was trying to finish it late Thursday night because we were heading out the next morning for a new adventure, but I ran out of time before I could proofread adequately. Yikes. I think I’ve caught everything now, but of course everyone who is interested has already read it. Eh, bien.  So on to the next . . . .

Jacky, Pascale, and David with the bridge to La Rochelle in the background

Friday morning Pascale and Jacky picked us up for a return to Île de Ré, the beautiful island just off La Rochelle, from the west end of which I took the beach photo that appears sometimes at the top of my blog. You get there by way of a long, swooping bridge. We decided against un pique-nique this time, since the weather was iffy, but the sun happened to appear just as we reached this spot. Pascale has been sharing her photos with me, so I’m not always sure who took which shots. I’ll try to give credit where credit is due, but certainly, if I’m in the shot, Pascale took it (sometimes Jacky).

Next stop, Abbaye Notre-Dame-Des-Chateliers . . .

Abbaye Notre-Dame-Des-Chateliers sur l’Ile de Ré

. . . where this was the view. ↓

Les Coquelicots sur l’Ile de Ré

Friday’s weather was a bit changeable, sprinkling a bit one minute and sun breaking through the next, but it made for some beautiful light conditions.

We stopped in Saint Martin de Ré . . . . . . and strolled a bit while Pascale went to find us a good restaurant for lunch. 

Late in the afternoon we stopped by some friends of Pascale’s and Jacky’s to see their amazing garden, an excellent mix of serious gardening and whimsy.

Sunny, David, Jacky, Jocelyne et Daniel

Deep in the back of the garden, almost to the end, there is a long table under a tent-like shelter, and on the wall of one of the short ends, there are shelves with all sorts of aperitifs and other mysterious concoctions. We were ushered in with the warmest of welcomes and offered some home-infused absinthe. Daniel buys the eau de vie from a friend who distills it, then infuses the eau de vie with a plant from his garden for at least a year. The one we tasted was two years old with the plant still inside. Here’s how it’s served . . . ↓

I was hesitant, but was eventually convinced to try it, and here is my response . . . ↓

So THAT was an adventure!

David later asked Jacky and Pascale (well actually asked me to ask them, but you know what I mean) why all their friends were so warm, generous, and welcoming. How could they ALL be so great?  Pascale’s reply, “On ne garde que les bons!”  (“We only keep the good ones!”)

There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met. ∼William Butler Yeats

Wishing you a warm welcome and new friends wherever you go!

Bon anniversaire, Jacky!

This past Saturday, we strolled a bit in the garden of the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, which is always lovely, but especially when the sun breaks through the clouds . . .

But even better than that, on Sunday, around noon, Pascale picked us up here . . . →

. . . since living right in the center of town makes getting to us a bit more challenging. She was bringing us back to Pascale and Jacky’s house to celebrate Jacky’s 70th birthday with family and some of their closest friends. What a treat to be included in the celebration.

I was a little intimidated at first, wondering how my language skills would hold up. And certainly a great deal of French went right by me, but it didn’t matter.  A LOT was very fast and multiple conversations were going on all the time, as you would expect, and jokes were frequently of the jeu de mots variety (play on words–absolutely no idea how to pluralize that correctly in either language — jeux de mots and “plays on words” maybe, but it sounds weird in English, so who knows).

Anyway, I did manage to understand quite a bit and even converse with a few people. It helped that everyone was so very welcoming and friendly.

Graziella et Jean-Claude

And it was just plain fun in any language. Antoine, who was sitting next to me at the table, was helpful and hilarious. ↓

Pascale, David, Sunny, Antoine (hamming it up for the camera), Anne-Marie, Jacky (maybe contemplating being 70) and the back of Jean-Marie

We had no idea what was in store for us. We knew we would be wined and dined, but had no idea this party would last TEN hours. And it flew by. We started with champagne, ended (the first meal) with cognac and had amazing wines in between, not to mention the courses that just kept coming. Here’s Jean, who is working toward being a chef, assembling the entrée (which is the first course after the apero and amuse geules) . . . . ↓

Jean assembling the tiramisu aux deux saumons (fresh salmon on the bottom, smoked on top, with savory mascarpone in the middle)

Then of course le plat principal, then salade et fromage, then . . .

Anne-Marie and Magali watching Jacky pretend to bite into his birthday gateau carrelet

. . . le dessert, in this case a birthday gateau carrelet.carrelet is a type of fishing hut on stilts from which one lowers a net into the sea and some time later brings it back up, preferably with fish in it. The “boulders” below were little eclairs, and the small white “rocks” were candy-covered almonds. Super creative.

Clockwise from bottom left: Antoine, Anne-Marie, Pascale’s daughter Anna, Pascale, Pascale’s son Jean, Jacky’s daughter Magali, Jacky with the carrelet

So after several hours of eating and drinking, a number of the women took the dog for a walk and all the men, plus Anne-Marie and I, got in a couple of cars to go play pétanque.  The first thing we learned is that you can play ANYWHERE.

Pétanque n’importe où — Jacky, Anne-Marie, Jean-Marie, Antoine and note the boule being thrown either by Jean-Claude or David
David awaiting his turn in pétanque

Fortunately, both David and I acquitted ourselves reasonably well, and our team, Jacky’s team, won all three games. Nice for Jacky to win on his birthday, but there was a fair amount of chance and mischance involved, since we were playing in a random industrial construction zone, so the ball would hit a rock and go jetting off in a completely unexpected direction. Still, super fun. And don’t you love how great David is looking?

Then back to the house, where the aperitifs came back out and another smaller meal, but still with le plat principal, la salade, du fromage, et dessert. Pretty soon it was after 10:00 at night and time for Pascale, who had been slaving away all day, rather than drinking like the rest of us, to take us home.

We felt so very privileged to be included in this special day.

Jacky and Jocelyne, presenting Jean-Marie’s and her gift

We had found a card to accompany our gift to Jacky which really says it all:

Être avec des gens qu’on aime, cela suffit . . . . ∼Jean de La Bruyère

(To be with people one loves, that is enough.)

Wishing you beautiful places, whenever possible, but more than that, beloved friends and family with whom to share special times, even if that means playing games among the rocks.