My travels are over for the moment, but what a summer it has been! If you’ve read this blog much or know me at all, you know gratitude is one of my favorite things. It anchors me in the peace of God when worries and sorrows try to knock me down, and a few are trying at the moment, I’ll be honest.
Serenity is seeing a sunset and knowing who to thank. ∼ Unknown (some say Amish Proverb)
Count your blessings, we’re told. So here’s a visual list of some of the blessings I’m counting.
Tiny moments of peaceful beauty:
Long afternoons and longer evenings of joy with dear ones:
And always, forever, my beloved David . . . . I’ll never stop being grateful for him!
While I’m counting up my blessings, we’re also counting down the days until Chelsea’s baby, Beckett David Johnson, is born. He’ll be my first grandson, and the first grandchild who will live nearby. Any day now!
Baby Beckett, of course, will be one of the best blessings of all. Please keep him and Chelsea and Brian in your thoughts and prayers.
My sun sets to rise again. ∼ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Wishing you peace and beauty and dear ones to share them with!
I’m temporarily back in Colorado, but certainly have more photos to share of beautiful France, I promise you!
Whether home in Colorado or here . . .
. . . I am officially back in the states after spending six and a half very busy weeks in France. I loved it, but I love being here, too.
The first morning at Sunapee, I woke very early. I don’t see many sunrises, since I’m more of a night-owl, but 6 a.m. in New Hampshire is noon in France, so for several days after my return, I was able to catch a bit of this beautiful serenity . . .
, , , before the more active lake life begins. This place, like La Rochelle, is a home away from home for me, which is fortunate since I’m headed back soon for yet another wedding in the family.
I love sharing times of celebration, but I also deeply appreciate serenity and the two don’t always go together. Sometimes they do, though. Soak in the tranquility of this view from the top of the Dune du Pilat, near Cap Ferret in southwestern France . . .
Here’s what was actually going on when I took the shot . . . .
. . . lots of people celebrating this marvel, not to mention the fact they made it to the top!
And another shot from on high . . .
. . . which was more about celebration than serenity, since we were VERY high up on a chairlift, so not feeling completely serene as we headed down from Nellie and Stefani’s wedding to their reception, but look how beautiful it is!
After the festivities and a few more days enjoying the lake, people started heading back to their regular lives and peace took the place of parties. It was then that I had another wave of missing David so much the sadness threatened to overwhelm the serenity. And I suspect it will continue to do so sometimes. I know I’m “allowed” to miss him and to still feel sadness, but sometimes the sharpness of it catches me by surprise. When I tried to take a walk up the road, I remembered this . . .
. . . and I had a choice to make. I could be sad he wasn’t walking up the road to greet me–and I was, I have to admit–but I could also choose, even while feeling sad, to be grateful that he had introduced me to this beautiful place, and even more, that he had chosen to spend the bulk of his adult life loving me. What a gift.
So I’m finding that sadness, serenity and celebration continue to dance through my life, at times politely taking turns like newcomers at a church picnic, sometimes weaving in and out and joining together unexpectedly, forming intricate patterns more complex and beautiful than the contra dancing I enjoyed at the Folk School. But the music continues to play, and I guess all I can do is dance.
Only a few more days here, and I’m not even close to caught up, so you’ll probably be hearing about France for a while yet. Hope you don’t mind! This mini-adventure actually happened on June 6th.
I’ve always loved blues, the color in all its various hues and shades, and the music, whether haunting or funky. Not so much the emotion, but I suppose even that can have a certain tender poignancy sometimes.
Jacky, Pascale and I headed back to Île de Ré a few days after I moved into Le Patio. Fortunately, this year was mostly about the color.
Shimmering, shifting blues and greens so stunning I could barely catch my breath. I had to remind myself to put down my camera occasionally and just soak it in.
We started with lunch in Saint-Martin-de-Ré in Le Belem, the same restaurant where we lunched with David in 2017. Then on out to the western end of the island. where I took the picture that you sometimes see at the top of these posts (and most of those above). A lot more cairns now.
Pascale and I climbed the lighthouse this year, something we had not done on past visits.
Gorgeous views in every direction. . .
The island that day was an absolute celebration of color. And not just blues and greens. The coquelicots were carpeting the fields in bright orange-red.
Then just as we were leaving, we caught a glimpse of the famous donkeys of Île de Ré that wear pants and give rides to children. Jacky obligingly stopped to let us jump out AGAIN for photos. None of them were wearing culottes, since they were off-duty, but this one was posing like a model. I couldn’t resist. The more traditional shaggy ones were all dozing in the sun, facing away from us. Not the ideal photo angle.
After our tour of Bretagne, it was time to give Pascale and Jacky back their own space. We returned to La Rochelle on Sunday the 26th of May. I was moving into Le Patio on Tuesday, so Monday we had a chance for a long walk around Les Minimes, the larger beach and port of La Rochelle.
It was blustery but sunny and we walked all the way out to the end overlooking the new port and the channel into the vieux port.
A channel is absolutely necessary, because here when the tide goes out, it goes OUT.
So I’m now on the other side of the port. It used to be about 10 minutes by car, but now much of the central part of town is restricted to buses, bikes and pedestrians, and it’s a LONG way round by car. I can walk to Pascale and Jacky’s in about 40 minutes, with lots of people watching on the way. They pick me up for adventures involving luggage or events happening on my side and beyond, like our day on Île de Ré (next post).
This, by the way, is NOT where I’m staying, as you know if you read the first Bretagne post. But this gorgeous place IS in my neighborhood, only about a block away, so I walk by it all the time. Most houses come right up to the narrow sidewalk, but a few have a bit of garden in front. It’s more common to save the garden for the private space in back. Still there are lots of tall roses trémières (hollyhocks) growing up from the tiniest cracks where the pavement meets the walls. Excellent reminder to never give up.
David and I used to love the huge marché in the center of town. We rented an apartment about three doors down from it the last time we were here in May of 2017. This year I walk around the corner and inland a few blocks to the cutest little grocery, about the size of my kitchen at home and not much larger than my kitchen here, actually. But it has everything I need, including all the fancy French cheeses, a surprisingly sizable wine selection, produce so amazing I’m always tempted to buy more than I need, and dozens of fascinating little jars of soups and sauces and who knows what.
I treat the place like a museum. I spend so much time perusing, eventually someones asks me if I need help. I don’t. I’m just enjoying myself too much to leave.
So like the roses trémières and these roses from the patio, I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted, no matter how temporary. Wishing you the same!
Here it is mid-June and I’m still writing about May, but there you go. Sunday, the 26 of May, we were headed home to La Rochelle in the afternoon, but in the morning we had a chance to tour a bit of the southern edge of the Golfe du Morbihan, including the Château de Suscinio, which was so enormous I couldn’t manage to fit it into one photo. Plus, the sky was rather dreary and it was breezy and cool, so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying. I promise you can find photos if you Google it.
The back section you see in the photo below houses an elaborate and creative exhibit devoted to the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Turns out Bretagne has as much claim to the legends as Grand Bretagne has. This was news to me, probably because my main exposure to the legends was T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which I loved) and Hollywood, including Disney.
Château de Suscinio was built to house various dukes of Brittany, and even housed Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII of England, for a while, but I found these two characters in one of the rooms claiming to be the châtelain and châtelaine! Although I’m not sure why they were not wearing these fab red shoes.
Another story of ruin and restoration, this château at one point had been completely abandoned and was in the process of being dismantled, serving simply as a source of stone. It is still a work in progress, but what has been done is very impressive, with various interactive exhibits (obviously–see Pascale and Jacky above). Well worth the price of admission. Bonus: No creepy, crumbling, dark staircases.
Pascale made sure to buy a final Kouign Amann to have at home. And of course she had the ice cream, the whipped cream and the caramel sauce to go with it. No tiny Breton flag though. Somehow, we managed to eat it anyway!
Our four-day adventure in Bretagne was an amazing whirlwind of beauty and history, although I have to admit that my ability to accurately take in thousands of years of history and legend, all in French, remains moderate, at best. Still. I loved every minute of it. Many thanks to Pascale for all the careful planning, and to Jacky for all the nerve-wracking driving around a bazillion roundabouts, while the GPS only sometimes helped. But what’s an adventure without a bit of losing your way? It was fabulous and I’ll never forget it.
So sorry! I’m really far behind on these posts. I’ve been crazy busy. Lots of French lessons with Natacha . . .
. . . 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.
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.
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 . . . .
Later in the afternoon we stopped here . . .
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 . . .
. . . 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!
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:
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!
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.
Back at the hotel, Pascale asked the advice of the hotel receptionist for somewhere fun for my birthday dinner, and we ended up here . . .
. . . 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!