Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Caunes-Minervois


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

During our trip to France, we planned to visit different markets. We lost a bit of steam during the final week, enjoying hikes and long lunches rather than traveling to various villages.
One morning, we had limited options for markets and we decided to drive to Caunes-Minervois.
The description we had read talked of a full and lively market, so we were a bit surprised when we arrived to find just a few carts set up. Not even a haircut caravan like we found in Roquebrun.
We bought a few apples to give the mule the next day on our hike. The apples were a bit shriveled, making us even more disappointed in the market, although it was late in the morning.
We kept imagining that we were in the wrong place, that we hadn't found the right market.
Spotting signs for the tourism office, we went to figure out where we had gone wrong.
The very nice woman shrugged off the incorrect market information and instead focused on the benefits of the town.
It's know for its special red marble and a Romanesque abbey. We hadn't missed the fabulous market: there wasn't one.
With a map in hand, we decided to explore the village.

You can see the marble on this fountain. I'm not sure why it was dry. 
We wandered through the stone streets and I took a shot of this Medieval building. I'm not sure it is a castle or the abbey. 


Once again, it was getting past lunch time and we became nervous about finding a place to eat. We headed toward the main road, but didn't see any restaurants. Back into the meandering old part of town, and we saw a bus full of people heading for a hotel restaurant. We had already looked at the menu and the prices there and decided it wasn't for us, but we felt jealous of that busload of tourists filing inside to eat. 
We consulted the map and changed directions.
Finally, we rounded a corner and found a restaurant. I could see that the indoors was a bar and several tables with umbrellas were set up outside. 
I asked one of the servers if we could get lunch and he answered, "Of course."
We settled under a big red umbrella and every picture I took has a red hue to it from the reflection. 


Earl looks tired in this picture, but I actually think this was the one time we got a bit tipsy at lunch. We started with an aperitif -- kir au vin blanc, which is kir in white wine. Then we had a half pitcher of wine. We had to sit at the table for quite a while and walk around the town taking pictures before we were certain we could drive back.


The food was mediocre, but we sat under the red umbrella, eating, drinking and watching people. There was a community table where locals came, some joining for lunch, others for coffee or wine. How nice that men and women alike greeted each other and sat at the community table. 
Because I could see that inside the building it was a bar, and some cafe/bars frown on having women inside, I sent Earl in first to use the "toilette." 
He came back announcing that it was fine, clean. He told me I could even go in the other outside door to avoid walking along the bar. So I did, but when I got to the women's restroom, I saw the sign that women needed to ask for the key. I trudged to the bar and requested the key. I'm not sure why the women's restroom needed a key and the men's didn't. Was it to discourage women? Was it so it stayed clean?
After our meals and dessert and a coffee, we walked around town some. 
Near the parking lot, canals had been built using the red marble and sending trickles of water from the river throughout the park area. 


Along with the canals were series of statues. Some of the art seemed abstract while other statues were more realistic. 


I think this one was called "the kiss." I know, not an original title. 


This was some sort of wild cat, maybe a jaguar -- plus Earl, of course. 

And here I am, by the riverbed, map in hand before we drove to Carcassonne to search for a chocolate shop. There's only so many days we can go in France without buying chocolate.
This isn't a village we plan to move to. I'd probably give it two baguettes.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Paris Wedding


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Just a short post because I'm in the middle of painting the final bedroom in preparation to sell our house.
Here's a picture from our final days in France during this trip.
 I always wonder how people in other countries celebrate weddings.
As Earl and I were walking along Rue Mouffetarde, we heard singing coming from a bar. We assumed it was a rowdy singalong bar, like the Irish bars that I went to in Washington, D.C. during grad school.
But as we walked back up the road, we saw that the singing was coming from a restaurant where a young couple celebrated their wedding.
Here they are greeting or saying goodbye to a casual couple outside the restaurant.

As you can see, the groom is high fiving the man by the stroller, and the bridge is beautiful in her ball gown wedding dress. 
And to think, lucky couple, they live right there in Paris. 

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Brief Political Tirade

Please excuse me for this brief tirade, but I feel like people are not connecting some dots in the James Comey/President Trump episode.
Some lawmakers seem to have seizing on the fact that President Trump said, "I hope"  you can make this Michael Flynn thing disappear.
That wasn't an order if he said "I hope," they claim.
How can we prove it was an order?
Well, Comey didn't make the Flynn investigation disappear.
So Trump fired Comey.
How are Republican lawmakers skipping over that part of it. The president told Comey what he hoped happened. Comey defied him. He got fired.
The FIRED part is the important connection.
See, that's how you can prove that it was obstruction. Comey didn't do what the president wanted so he got fired.
Then Trump said firing Comey had relieved so much pressure on the Russian investigation.
Now back to talking about France and raising kids and beautiful weather.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A Beautiful, Rejected City

How could a city that looks like this be rejected?

 

This is Sommières. We visited here in the evening, after checking out Uzès and the Pont du Gard, so we didn't get to see the market. The bridge in the photo was built by the Romans.
We parked near the river and didn't notice until we were returning to the car that there were signs warning of inundation when the river ran high. Luckily, that didn't happen during the few hours we explored the city.
I should have taken a picture as we drove across the bridge above which goes straight into the city gate. But, I was driving so I didn't get a picture.
Here's the gate from up close, looking back toward the bridge rather than into the town.


I know! I was excited too. I said to Earl, "It has a portcullis!" A portcullis, in case you didn't study castles with your boys like I did, is the grill that comes down to close the entrance. I'm sure the original medieval town had a drawbridge too. 
As we walked toward the gate, we passed several bars where townspeople gathered. They looked a bit rough. 
Once inside the gate, everything was magically transformed and Sommières' toursity side became apparent, even though not many tourists meandered around. The shops were for aromatherapy and new age items, perfumeries and luncheon restaurants that had long since closed.
We walked past the big old church and headed to the heights to see the 11th Century castle. It was closed, but the view from above was worth the hike.

Here's part of the castle tower.

Part of the castle was in ruins so we explored that section and ran into a group of young men playing boules nearby. 
A man in his 20s came up the castle road alone and sat on a bench while Earl and I explored. I got a creepy vibe from him, like why was he sitting alone and not looking at his phone?
Earl said he was probably just enjoying the peace and quiet. When we started to walk down the road, the man followed. My husband has a habit of wandering off to look at things, leaving me alone, but I stuck close to him and nothing happened, so maybe I imagined the sinister vibe. It's the only time I've felt unsafe in France, other than sometimes in a big city like Paris.  
After we hiked back down the road, we ordered sandwiches to go (à emporter) for our dinner once we returned to the apartment. 
The gate as we left the walled city was quaint too.

I had a distinct feeling as we left the village that it wasn't the right one for us in spite of its beauty.
The wide division between the tourist areas and the local areas made me uncomfortable. The occasional flooding made me nervous; we'd probably buy a house that ended up covered in water, and it was one of the few times that I felt unsafe in a small city.  
But, it's nice to sometimes know for sure that a city can be checked off the list. I'd give this one two baguettes out of five in my rating system.  

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sticks and Stones and Siblings

Sibling relationships rarely change.
I think that when siblings get together, they fall into their old grooves, whether good or bad.
My family, of course, had a shake up when my oldest sister died at 18. I often wonder what our family dynamics might have been like if she were still alive. Would I be as close with my mother or would she be the one to fill that spot?
My younger brother and I are fairly close. He went to the same college that I did and lived just down the hall from me when I was a senior and he was a freshman. When I traveled to France and again to graduate school, we sent each other long letters, confessing all the joy and problems in our lives.

My older brother, well, that's another story. My mom would say that we were too much alike and that's why we didn't get along. Maybe she saw a different brother than I did. As he hit his teen years, he would yell out the window to insult fat girls. Why would anyone do that? Insecurity?
And he was the one who gave me my ultimate embarrassing moment. Yes, it still bothers me to this day. I must have been in 6th or 7th grade, a time when my girlfriends were beginning to notice my cute older brother. We often hung out at the baseball field to watch the boys play. During one game, my brother went to get a drink from the drinking fountain between innings. I walked over and said something to him, something innocuous like, "How's the game going?"
Bent over the drinking fountain, he looked up at me, took a mouthful of water and spit it all over me, soaking my t shirt and jeans.
I can still feel tears pricking my eyes as I write this. I know it's ridiculous, but at that age, I was humiliated.
So we've had a bumpy relationship since then.
Underneath, I believe that we love each other.
He lives in Texas now, which is forever away from Ohio, nearly an 18-hour drive. I see him once a year sometimes. Not at all other years.
This year we saw each other in December for my Dad's 80th birthday celebration. We spent several days together, including his 4th wife who I don't know well, but we all managed to be nice toward each other. (Yes, that is throwing shade at him to comment that it's his 4th wife.)
Then this weekend he flew into Dayton to go to our family reunion on my Mom's side of the family. My parents are visiting from Florida.

When I traveled to Dayton, we planned to celebrate Father's Day with my dad before the reunion.
I hugged both of my brothers and my older brother said, "You still here? When are you going to France?"
I told him we'd just gotten back then said, "Oh, you mean when are we moving? Are you going to come visit us?"
"No, I'm not going to visit."
"Oh, you just want me gone," I laughed.
I didn't think about it the rest of the visit, but as I drove home last night, I wondered why he cares if I'm here or in France. Only seeing each other once a year isn't that big of a burden for him to bear.
Maybe I misinterpreted his words.
But one of my cousins asked him if he was going to visit me in France and he laughed and said "No." He's a Republican and has disdain for most "socialist" countries.
I guess I'm writing about it because I can feel those same middle-school tears pricking at my eyes. Why does it bother me? I'm not intimidated by him any more? He can't hurt me by spraying water on me.
I guess I always want that relationship that we can't have.
We did have a moment of genuine emotion as we walked across a field toward the parking lot after the family reunion. I said that it was nice of him to visit for the family reunion, that I knew it made Mom happy.
He responded that he's scared to death that every time he sees Dad it might be the last time.
I shared my, whatever it's worth, wisdom, that life isn't about the last moment that we're together but the span of all the times we've shared.
Our family hasn't been the Leave It To Beaver kind of family. My parents divorced when I was three and then remarried each other again when I was 10. My brother was old enough to remember the divorce and be angry at my father when they remarried. Since then though, they've built a good relationship, when they see each other, every year or sometimes twice a  year.
None of us are ever ready to lose our parents, but I guess we need to do what we can to be at peace, knowing that it will happen eventually.
And the same is true of our siblings. I want to be at peace with our relationship, knowing I do, or have done, what I can to be a loving sister, in spite of our differences.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Another Potential Home


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

We were afraid, as we visited charming city after charming city, that we were being seduced with the beautiful, sunny weather. Maybe the towns weren't as fabulous as we thought.
So on a cloudy day, we pulled into the small mountain town of Uzès.
The drive there was gorgeous and the history is amazing. Celts created a settlement there before Romans moved in and then a duchy or kingdom was created. Parts of the castle remain
Perhaps if we hadn't parked in the parking garage just a few feet from this restaurant then we wouldn't have been smitten.

The restaurant once served as the stables for the castle. 

But we did park there at 2:30 and began to walk toward the village when the restaurant's proprietor stepped outside and motioned us into the restaurant assuring us that, of course, it was not too late for lunch. Many French restaurants have strict hours for eating. 12:30- 2:30 are general hours. Since the French take a couple of hours for lunch or dinner, there isn't a lot of leeway for stretching those hours. 
After we were welcomed in, we sat in the restaurant with the white stone arches stretching over our heads and enjoyed our meals with a few other stragglers. Each course being served in its own time, in spite of the late hour that we began to eat.  
Earl had lasagna Bolognaise and I had a cod and potato dish mixed together in a casserole called gratinè de brandade de morue, along with salad on the side.

For dessert I had goat cheese while Earl chose tiramisu. Of course, we shared both. 

After a photo, the restaurant owner gave us directions for finding the tourism office.

The tourism office gave us a map and a bit of history, but we stopped at a chocolate shop and the man behind the counter gave us a route to take as we walked around the town. We wandered through the charming town, where the sun still wasn't shining, past the castle  



and a Medieval Garden
We made our way to the cathedral, dominated by a high tower,

 

and we spent quite a bit of time lollygagging at the overlook. Somewhere in the distance was the Pont du Gard, which carried water from this village, Uzès to Nimes, about 16 miles away.

We walked back through the village, the skies still cloudy and had coffee in a charming square where the students gathered after they got out of school.

And my overwhelming feeling throughout the day as we walked the cobblestone streets was that I could live here too.
Darn it! I feel that way about so many of the towns and villages.
As we walked back to the parking garage where we had left the car, I saw a parking garage Zamboni. Just a guy on a little blue cart, making sure the parking garage is spotless.

He's under the red arrow -- not that I planned it that way. 
How can you not love this country?
So there's another small town where I could happily live. 
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Arriving in Paris


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

A week ago Friday, we made our way from Southwestern France to Paris. We wanted to end our trip with a few days in the magical city.
When I'm buying plane tickets, I usually include a hotel room in Paris either as we are arriving or leaving. I find that the hotel room doesn't really increase the price of the plane tickets, so it's like getting a hotel room for free. So our flights from Ohio to Paris with two nights in a hotel in Paris were about $800 each.
This time we stayed in Trianon Rive Gauche, which was in the 5th arrondisement. The rooms are always small in Paris, so don't expect anything like an American hotel room, but the bed was firm and the bathroom remodeled, plus we didn't spend that much time in the room.
Since we took the train to Paris, we arrived at the Gare de Lyon in the 12th arrondisement. I had checked ahead of time and walking from the train station to our hotel was about 2 miles. Even though we were wheeling suitcases along, I wanted to walk and enjoy the city.
When we first got off the train, the sky looked like this!



How glorious!
So we started walking, following some vague directions I had downloaded from Google maps.
Soon the sky ahead looked like this.


We kept walking as the wind picked up, wheeling our suitcases behind us. And then the rain began to fall and suddenly in front of us, a bistro appeared with a broad red awning. I pulled my suitcase next to an empty terrace table and Earl joined me.

We had shared a sandwich on the train, but after walking for a while, we were definitely ready to eat again. Paris is used to tourists who eat at all hours of the day, so they didn't look askance when we ordered a charcuterie and cheese planche (board) along with a Kir au vin blanc, which is kir mixed with white wine. 


This is the huge board that arrived with ham, salami, three kinds of cheese, butter, pickles and bread. We sat there watching the rain for quite a bit, until it had passed and we were definitely sated.
After checking our directions again, we moved on to arrive at our hotel with slightly damp suitcases.
Two nights in Paris is never enough, but I know that we'll be back to explore more.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Dreaming of France -- Caunes-Minervois

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog . Share with the rest of us yo...