Category Archives: France

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.

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