Category Archives: France Retour

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.

La Réalité

Most important, of course, is an update on David, so I’m very happy to report that he continues to do well. We walk a lot every day, starting with the marché every morning . . .


The marché  is impressive every day, but only Wednesday and Saturday marchés are so huge they spill onto side streets like this one. We browse a while then buy what we want for the day, which happens to be mostly strawberries this week. Les gariguettes, an early season variety, are tender and sweet and we can’t seem to get enough of them.  

After dropping everything at the apartment, we’re ready for a bit of wandering. We stroll rather than power walk, but we are definitely out and about every day, visiting our favorite spots.

Saturday Stroll

We still love the verdant peace of Parc Charruyer . . . ↓

A stroll through the park can take us all the way to one of the beaches, Plage de la Concurrence, but we only stay if the breeze is not too brisk. Today we kept moving.

David heading toward Tour de la Lanterne

Tour de la Lanterne has been spiffed up since our last visit. It was covered in scaffolding by the time we left in October 2014, but is now practically gleaming. David is not quite up to climbing the towers, but we did that more than once the last time we were here.

There’s always something to see, no matter where we walk. Found this interesting little piece on the wall between Plage de la Concurrence and Tour de la Lanterne. ↓ 

La Rochelle artwork, detail
La Grosse Horloge as seen from our table at lunch today

Cours des Dames is still excellent for people-watching, so today David decided to stay there on a sunny bench while I went off to find a shop I’d heard about and to take a few more photos (below).

Sometime between noon and 1:00 everyday, we decide where we’ll have lunch. Today we chose the terrace at  Brasserie des Dames, right in the center of all the activity of le vieux port. Bliss, once the sun came out.

Quai Duperré

In some ways it feels like we just got here, but the reality is we’ve now been here a full week. Until today I haven’t even had my camera with me, partly because it has often been overcast or even raining a bit, but also because I kind of wanted to pretend to be a local. Of course if I speak, no one is fooled.

It turns out no matter how comfortable I felt speaking French with the taxi driver and defending our seats on the train, the reality is that my level of spoken French has slipped since last time we were here, even though my comprehension is better. Pascale and Jacky were too kind to mention it, being friends. Although I certainly consider Natacha a friend, too, she is also my tutor, so basically required to give me a realistic evaluation. Ouch. There went all my confidence for a few days. Bit of an overreaction, I know, but my emotions are a bit more fragile these days. Natacha is strict but encouraging, so I’m hopeful of regaining and even improving on my level of spoken French by the time we head back to the states at the end of May.

David is also sometimes discouraged, not about French, of course. He’s absolutely carefree about knowing just barely enough to be polite. But being back in a place where he had routinely walked four or five hours a day, the difference is hard to miss. The reality of lower energy levels and the uncertainly of the future sometimes weigh him down (and me along with him). But it is also reality that he is doing so much better than expected, and there’s hope in that for both of us.

There’s a bittersweet quality to being here in beautiful La Rochelle, the heart and starting point of our grand adventure. Memories are everywhere of a time when anything seemed possible. The reality, of course, is that no one knows the future. We have today. We have now. We have hope. And today, in the now, we have each other. We are so very grateful for that.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ∼Desmond Tutu

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. ∼Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wishing you hope and gratitude even in the midst of difficult reality.