Category Archives: France

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

 

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!