We’re on full-steam-ahead mode now. You’ll be happy for David when you hear that I’m finally helping with the packing. I’ve now packed 29 boxes of books, which is more than half of the fiction section of our library. It was actually kind of addictive, like a jigsaw puzzle, so I will definitely be packing more of the library, I promise.
Here is the final post about the 2013 reconnaissance mission, originally written just after we had arrived home (chez nous):
We managed to dodge all the transportation strikes in France and the lightning in Denver that almost forced our plane to land in Colorado Springs instead, and got home late Thursday evening, the 13th of June.
Here is the last set of photos from our three weeks in France. These are a few I wanted to send earlier, but they didn’t quite make the first cut. So for a temporary farewell to France, here they are.
Inside shot of Musée d’Orsay. No photos allowed in among the paintings, but this is from the little scenic overlook you can climb up to after you finish admiring the Impressionists. I think I was allowed to take this shot, but if not, it’s too late now!
The posh restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay mentioned in an earlier email. Fortunately the rain chased us in there.
Tiny park in Paris with benches after my own heart.
Another shot of the park with the pretty blue benches.
One of the other beaches on Ile de Ré. Love this picturesque ramp, but my favorite part was the sign right next to it saying, “Beach Access 0 km →” (or more likely Plage Accès) pointing to the right AWAY from the ramp. I can agree with the 0 km distance, but I question the need for the sign in the first place and certainly the direction of the arrow. Quoi? (Roughly, Huh?)
This and other mysteries will perhaps be solved soon. We fly to France on the 26th of March.
June 2013 — the final leg of the trial run. Trying to find the Avis rental car drop-off in Marseille was a bit hair-raising, involving David driving in a large and unfamiliar city in bumper to bumper traffic (sometimes literally) and me periodically hanging out the window or even jumping out at various corners and accosting strangers for directions. But we finally found the place, parked the car in an open spot and went looking for someone to check us in. When we finally did, they had no interest in actually seeing the car and just said something to the effect of, “Oh, it’s parked down there. Okay.” No checking for new dents and scratches. No even making sure it’s actually in their lot. It was a little unusual, but no additional charges ever came through, so I guess all was well.
From there, we walked around the corner with our bags and followed the crowds, since not one sign pointed us to la gare (the train station). After a few hours on the TGV — super comfy, big cushy seats — we made it to Paris for an afternoon and evening in Montmartre. Longest taxi ride ever in near grid-locked traffic from Gare de Lyon, but still only 24 euros so didn’t break the bank. We’ve learned not to attempt the Metro with multiple bags, especially if there will be a connection, which there would have been. If you’ve never used the Paris Metro, be forewarned that many steps are involved, some go down just to go right back up FOR NO APPARENT REASON except to bedevil those dragging around bags on wheels. Not to mention the random confusing forks in the road. Someone should create a map of the underground tunnels leading to the various stations. But since I’m not aware of one, take a TAXI!!!!!
But we made it. Took a bit of a wander round after checking business emails, bien sûr (of course).
Try to ignore the couple in matching T-shirts checking their i-Phone. Pretty much impossible to avoid tourists in your photos of Paris/Montmartre unless you’re willing to get up at the crack of dawn (which I’m not, even though the light would be beautiful). This restaurant was the setting for a famous Renoir painting, Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Moulin is French for “windmill.” So if you’ve heard of Moulin Rouge, it’s a red windmill that happens to be over a very expensive well-known nightclub.
Everything is VERY cute here.
Super cute. Thinking about trying to get a table for dinner. We didn’t make a reservation which is often a mistake in Paris, but we’ll wander over around 8 and hope for the best.
This is the view of Sacré Coeur when coming up from the public WC’s (down the steps southeast of the entrance, in case you’re ever looking), which I was very happy to have found! Absolutely magnificent cathedral. Made it inside today for the first time. Last attempt the line was too long. No photos allowed inside, I’m sorry to say, but it does help to maintain the sacred space feeling without cameras snapping away all the time.
We enjoyed Montmartre enough that we’ve booked a few apartments in this quartier for our various stays in Paris, one of which has a front door on a landing of one of these stairways:
We did make it home to Colorado the next day. La grève (the strike) was finished in the morning as promised (just making a statement, not hamstringing the entire country). The whole experience certainly broadened our horizons. That last evening, while I did another check of business emails, David watched some sort of Asian cooking show (with English subtitles) where several people were outside around a fire, roasting a spider they had inserted (somehow–I wasn’t watching) in an egg. Yikes. Definitely had to take that man to go find some dinner.
I’ll spare you any more photos of boxes, but you can take my word for it that they’re piling up around here. And I, dear Reader, have finally packed TWO of them. Gold star for me. Until a few days ago, I’ve been wielding my highly developed instruction-following skills by putting together our massive dossiers for our long-stay visa applications, and last Thursday, I hauled nearly three pounds (yes, THREE POUNDS) of paperwork over to Kinkos and shipped it FedEx — as instructed, of course — to the French Consulate in Los Angeles. As of Wednesday morning, the bank shows they’ve run the card for the payment of the fee, but I have no idea if that’s a good sign or not. On verra! (We’ll see!)
It has been brought to my attention that the minutiae of our projected adventure are not quite as widely known as I had somehow imagined. Quelle surprise! What else could anyone possibly have to think about? I’ve even been asked where we’re going, a subject on which I was fairly certain I had been monopolizing conversations for at least a year. So here, briefly — or as briefly as you can reasonably expect from me — is a bit of the itinerary.
We’re temporarily leaving views like this:
And castles like this:
For views like this:
And castles like this:
The Plan — Part One: In March, we’re heading off to France, for just enough more than three months to require the aforementioned long-stay visa, then back to the states for a New England summer, then back to France, for about two and a half months, but just soon enough after the previous trip to require another visa. Yippee. Excellent planning, non?
After the second France trip . . . ah . . . you’ll have to stay tuned!
9 June 2013 we drove the rest of the way to Sausset les Pins (near Marseille) to visit some customers of ours. Even though we kept to the back roads again, we made pretty good time following a couple on a motorcycle ahead of us driving as if the furies of hell were after them. We decided if they could handle all the turns at that speed on a motorcycle pulling a trailer, surely we could in our little car. Every so often I’d try to explain which turn to take at the next roundabout, but David would say, “I don’t care where you’re going, I’m following them!”
Our one departure from the back roads. This is the Viaduc de Millau (another photo shot through the windshield as we were speeding along). I took a shot of the valley very far below, but it turned out to be mostly of the blurry side rails, so I’ll spare you.
This was the view from our balcony in Sausset les Pins:
Pas mal, n’est-ce pas? Which means roughly, “Not bad, eh?” (But you probably figured that one out.)
The next day we took a bit of a walk from our hotel to scope out the area. The beach there is mostly stones, but there were a few people lying on it anyway, with not so much as a towel, let alone a chair or yoga mat or any sort of padding. And they were doing a pretty good job of looking as if they were enjoying themselves. We, however, were not tempted.
The color of the water really is this spectacular in places.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a sailboat, the wind is blowing pretty much all the time. But if you don’t, as we of course do not, you can sit on a whale’s tail and stare longingly out to sea.
Winter’s grasp is unrelenting today, so although the snow is very beautiful, here are a few more memories of warmer days. These photos are from the trial run France trip last May and June. After lunch in Saint Émilion, we drove the rest of the way to Monestier to spend the night at Château des Baudry and have another of Hélène’s amazing meals. We discovered this place on our first trip to France in September 2011 and it was just as excellent the second time.
Definitely a place to stay if you’re ever in southwest France.
Interior courtyard. The entry hall and all the rooms surround this. Each room has a door onto the outside and also one onto the courtyard, complete with palm trees, lemon trees dripping with lemons, and goldfish lazing around among blooming lily pads.
Lots of little scenic spots begging to be photographed.
Everything in bloom here too.
Last time our room was the massive corner room. This time that room was taken, but we had another beautiful room. All the rooms are less pricey than rooms in Paris and two to three times the size. I made sure to get the tutorial on the shower this time (left knob is on/off, right knob controls temperature), since last time although I lucked out the first two days, I managed to inadvertently change something the third day and had a cold shower.
It’s snowing like mad tonight, which made me decide it is the perfect night to sit in front of the fire and remember summer. Here’s another post about Sturgis 2013:
Besides shopping, Sturgis week is about scenic rides, of course, and as a passenger of a rider I trust, I was free to enjoy the scenery.
All week long we rode past photographers snapping away, always with a big sign letting you know which website to check in search of your photo. I bought this one, because it absolutely captures our riding experience: me relaxing on the back, David eyes forward with laser focus. The road you see in the background is where we just were about three seconds before this shot was taken. Iron Mountain Road is stitched together with little curliques of wooden bridges, which I loved–David, not so much.
All in-motion riding photos are taken with my little pocket-sized Nikon CoolPix. Love my Canon DSLR, so it lives in a case until we STOP.
Needles Highway was similar. The passengers were snapping photos non-stop. The drivers were white-knuckling it through all the hairpin turns, trying not to overbalance and lay down the bike if someone ahead happened to stop suddenly. There was a lot of traffic, mostly Harleys, but also a few dazed-looking out-of-towners in sedans and station-wagons, no doubt wishing they’d picked a different week for their vacation. So there were occasional sudden slow-downs and you REALLY did not want those to happen in the middle of a hairpin turn. It wouldn’t have been catastrophic, because speeds are so low on sharp turns, but it wouldn’t have been fun either, and there’s a fine line between too fast and too slow on a curve when you’ve got 1200 leaning pounds of Harley, luggage, passenger and self.
But when the traffic stretched out a bit, it was just plain beautiful.
Grâce à une gentille Française (Thanks to a kind French woman) a few errors in my French were noticed and have now been corrected in earlier posts: Il fait soleil (not du soleil) and Train àGrand Vitesse (à not de). Merci beaucoup! The following is another of the accounts of our trial run last spring:
Sunday, 9 June 2013, was goodbye to La Rochelle for a while and Day 1 of the road trip. We rented a car at the La Rochelle airport. Pascale and Jacky kindly drove us there and went in with us in case my French was not up to the task. (It wasn’t.) The guy filling out the form to note the previously existing damage on the rental car was a bit cavalier and we had to have him add a few X’s once we actually saw the car. If you’re familiar with these tiny streets with stone buildings pressing in on both sides, you’ll know why all the cars are so small here. Yes, actual cars drive on la petite rue pictured below.
It’s not even full tourist season yet, but parking was at a premium. David was not too excited about driving through the town searching for a spot, especially at one VERY tight corner. I think he was relieved we had to park several blocks out of town. Definitely, made leaving easier.
We stopped for lunch and a look around in Saint Émilion. It was nearly 2:00 by the time we got there, found a parking space (no easy task) and a restaurant that would let us in (full or done serving), so within a few minutes, everyone else in the place had finished up and left and the staff was resetting for the dinner crowd.
We apologized (in French of course) for arriving so late, ordered and ate quickly, and the waiter was gracious. Lunch is served at very specific times in France and if you miss it, too bad for you!
Tough to get photos in Saint Émilion without having them infested with tourists. You have to point, focus, shoot, with no dilly-dallying or someone in shorts and tennis shoes will pop around the very medieval corner you were framing so artistically. I shot this one over everyone’s heads.
Lucked out here with this tiny alley, but if you look carefully you’ll see the top of the tower is full of people.
Another cute little private spot. No one is there because, as we’ve already covered, LUNCH IS OVER!!