Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grown-Up Holiday Interlude

Mostly when we go to New Orleans, we have our grandchildren with us. We go to a family friendly hotel, we go to the Zoo, the Aquarium, maybe the Insectarium, we ride the cable cars, we eat food the kids like – pizza, sushi, crepes. Fortunately for us, they have developed a taste for French food, so we can take them to some places with decent food that we like, too.

But this time, we took a Grown-ups Getaway!

We had so many agendas, and we accomplished the most important – we had a wonderful time.

Our first stop was the Cafe Abyssinia, (3511 Magazine Street) for a combination of several vegetable dishes and lamb tips with injera, the fermented pancake-bread you use to eat the food with your fingers. It was so delicious, and so satisfying, and on the day after Christmas in New Orleans, it was easy to find a parking place.

After lunch, we needed a good walk, and what better place to walk – and shop – than Magazine Street, full of quirky shops with unique items. The funniest part was my husband wanting to visit a shop, Mayan Imports, which turned out to be a cigar shop (not his thing at all.) As we left, we noticed all the signs that said “Cigars” and it’s like we didn’t even see them as we were walking in. They were hard to miss.

Late in the afternoon we checked in to our hotel, and as soon as darkness fell, we went out to City Park to see the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could have caught all the dinosaurs at the front entrance for you. They were magnificent. We had no idea that City Park lights was such a big deal. There was a huge crowd, and for $28 you could buy tickets to ride all the rides all night. (Just admission was $10.) We had learned about City Park Lights as we waited to pick up our Christmas Eve dinner in a crowded restaurant, talking with another person who had preordered and was also waiting. Some pieces of information are pure gold!

An article I found online about the hottest restaurants to open in New Orleans in 2019 led us to Costera, a Spanish restaurant in the same space where we had once had Thai food, (4938 Prytania) near our favorite ice-cream place.

 

We got there early. It filled up fast, and no wonder. The food was fabulous. We had rapini, a broccoli-like vegetable, a beet salad, bread with a tomato smear and aioli lashings (out of this world good), duck in a rosemary sauce with mushrooms, and scallops on fideo, fideo being thin noodles with a tangy flavor. Each dish was mind-blowingly delicious. I loved the rapini, and I loved my scallops, but we shared everything and my husband’s duck was also as good as any duck we have ever eaten in France (sort of our standard for measuring) or anywhere else.

 

 

 

The food was light enough – we loved having tasty vegetables – that when we finished we walked over to Creole Creamery, just a couple doors down, where I had a small ball of bittersweet chocolate (intense and lovely) and my husband had a bittersweet chocolate fudge sundae.

 

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of our hotel as we returned; it is beautiful and elegant, The Park View.

Once inside, my husband had a glass of port before we went up to our room. The downstairs rooms are gorgeous; lavishly decorated for Christmas.

 

I shouldn’t show you this photo of our room; I should only let you see it all made up, but something about the morning light in this room compelled me to take the photo of the room in dishevelment, It’s beautiful anyway!

 

On! On! To our friend Henri, and Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works, where we have a nice visit and leave some treasures to his excellent magic.

 

We hit the mall in Metairie, a mall I really like because there are so many great seating areas. We often split up to shop, and when one finishes before the other, there are a lot of good, comfy places to sit and watch people while you are waiting.

And then, to finish our visit in a grand way, a visit to Drago’s, the original Drago’s, for their incomparable grilled oysters. Yes!

 

We are happy! We head home, content, satisfied, making conversation, falling silent, making more conversation. We have our best conversations when we are on long road trips together.

And one final photo, looking out over Mobile Bay before entering Florida:

I promise I will return to the trip, just getting ready to leave Bordeaux for the Dordogne and Auvergne. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this short interlude.

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Christmas, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Pensacola, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Interlude

Starting to post my trip through the Bordeaux and Dordogne was ambitious, overly ambitious. Usually, I say I’m going to do something, and I do it. This time, no matter how well intentioned I was, life just got in the way. I knew I could continue to blog the trip, and do a half-good job, or I could devote the time and attention my real life needed.

We had a truly lovely Christmas, and for that, it takes care and attention. There are things that are not so necessary, but help to set the stage – decorating the house, preparing special meals, buying presents and wrapping packages, and then, best of all, spending time with the family you love.

 

The angels – I think they are Rosenthal – are from an earlier life in Germany. I don’t bring them out every year, I sort of rotate things so they don’t get stale.

The Christmas plates came from the old East Germany. Good friends took us to “the other side” in Berlin, as Christmas neared and I found these in a market. We only use them for Christmas breakfast, and we hand wash them, as I don’t know for sure how sturdy or dishwasher proof they might be.

 

This Christmas tree made of cinnamon rolls is always a big hit, and so easy. I use the little cans that make croissants, just use the dough, put in candied cherries and cinnamon sugar and melted butter and roll it up, cut into slices, and bake as you see above. More candied cherries for decoration, icing made of powdered sugar, milk and food coloring. It looks complicated, but it is easy.

 

I used to use thousands of lights in my house at Christmas, and now I use none, thanks to two wire-chewing cats who have turned my rational life upside down.

 

Thanks be to God for the great gift of caffein, in the form of coffee, which powers me through it all.

 

 

And the highlight of our Christmas – the Christmas pageant at Christ Church, Pensacola, as the children tell, and act out the story of Christmas, and we sing songs to punctuate the different movements – Away in a Manger, We Three Kings, Hark the Heralds – and more. It is both light, often funny, and enormously moving.

Happy Christmas to all!

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Community, Cooking, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Bordeaux and The Aquitaine Museum

 

Leaving the market, we walk back to the Place de la Victoire and catch the B line back a couple stops to the Aquitaine Museum. Our first priority was a museum of the French Resistance, called the Jean Moulin Museum, but it has been closed for renovation, and that collection is now at the Aquitaine Museum.

As we are waiting for the tram, some young men are chastising an older woman sitting near us for smoking. They are not being disrespectful, one, although a little rough, meaning hair a little long and beard gone curly, was wearing scrubs, and spoke as an educated person, encouraging the older woman to not smoke, for her own sake.

He was wearing athletic shoes. All the men were.

When we were living in Europe, and in the Middle East, we had guidelines to follow, so as to not look like Americans. No ball caps. No athletic shoes for street use. No track suits, or athletic wear with recognizable names, unless you were on a track or field actually doing athletic things. No shorts. Dress a little more formally, men wear a jacket, women try to look polished. These were the rules we lived by to stay safe.

In France, I am delighted to say, I am often taken for French. French people come up to me and ask directions. They are surprised when I tell them I am a tourist, an American.

Now I realize they probably think I am a French woman “of a certain age,” still wearing dresses and scarves while everyone else is wearing . . . track suits. Athletic wear. The French now look American. The French are heavier than they used to be, even the women. The younger women are heavier than the older women, some very few of whom are very thin. The world is getting fatter. Even (astonished gasp) the French.

The woman ignores the young men and continues smoking until the tram comes. We all board, she has had to leave her cigarette behind, and the men continue to talk to her encouragingly about quitting, while she continues to ignore them.

At the Museum of the Aquitaine, we show our City Pass and are allowed to enter. No, they tell us, there is no section for the Jean Moulin Museum. We are seriously disappointed, but the museum offers so many spectacular options that we could spend a week here and still need more time.

 

 

This takes my breath away. Imagine the delicacy of the hand that drew this, the vision, and this is a “primitive” person.

 

 

 

I photographed all of these because they are so wonderfully graphic, and I can use them for quilt blocks πŸ™‚

 

Remember the Citadel at Bleye? There is a model of the citadel, and a gate that falls across the moat so people can enter? When I saw this photo, I think of the Hundred Years War, as the English sought to maintain control over the Aquitaine, while the French fought to oust them. I look at the faces in this photo, and wonder if the lives of those surrendering were spared – people then, as now, didn’t always play by the rules. And whether the men were spared or not, how were the women treated. If women are treated disrespectfully now, how much worse was it to be conquered, to be a part of the spoils, perhaps raped, never knowing if you would live or die, or whether, if you live, you would live a life worth living? This small picture below haunts me.

I suppose this is probably a remnant of the French revolution, and the desecration and de-consecration of so many churches.

 

 

The cenotaph of Michel de Montaine in its finished splendor – the photo below this one below is a shot of the video record of the restoration process, the cleaning, the filling in, the incredible detailed work it took to restore a dingy, broken old burial crypt.

The Museum of the Aquitaine has done a remarkable thing. Along with a truly wonderful section on maritime trade, with complete lists of what was shipped where, in which quantities, the museum has edited the displays to insert a factual commentary on slavery, and the ;rice which was paid in human lives for the trade in slave labor. There is an small but very good display of various African cultures, and displays of what happened to the lives of those taken in slavery. The callousness of the traders, buyers, slave holders of all kinds is portrayed factually. It is an apology, as opposed to a denial or a cover up. The effect is both shocking – and inspiring admiration for the kind of courage it takes to admit such a ghastly historical misdeed.

 

 

 

 

There are relatively contemporary displays with some posters I love

 

 

 

While graceful, imagine actually bathing in such attire.

I love this poster, so graphic.

The marche’ and the museum, and that’s only half a day. We need to go eat!

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Cultural, France, Health Issues, Local Lore, Public Art, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Viking Forseti, Hello Bordeaux and the Marche’ des Capucins

When we reach our cabin, after the farewell dinner with our friends, there is a card waiting for us, beautifully handwritten, to tell us that our taxi will be waiting for us at 0930, and Viking wishes us a safe trip. This kind of attention to detail makes for great customer relations.

Our friends are fretting; there is a nation-wide train strike which may – or may not – start tomorrow, as they are heading for the train station en route to Paris. It causes great consternation. We tell them that we are picking up our rental car at the same station, the Gare Sainte Jean, and that if there really is a train strike, to quickly go pick up a rental car (before everyone else tries to do the same) and drive to Paris. It’s not a long drive.

We have a leisurely breakfast and our luggage is picked up from outside our door. At 0920, we head outside, and we can see a car waiting. In Tunis, in Doha, we used to call these limo’s, they are a higher class of taxi. Often someone’s private car (then, in the Middle East, things have changed somewhat since then) you were given a phone number by a friend, and you only shared that number with people you know who would appreciate and not abuse the service. It was a beautiful, well kept car, no markings to indicate it was for hire. He took us directly to the hotel, which was not that easy to find. We thanked him, and set up a pick up for the next day, which was a Sunday.

We had found a hotel, The Grand Hotel Francais which is also a Best Western. It is beautifully located near the Grand Theatre and just up the street from Saint Andre’s. I can’t figure out how to make a mark on the map, but up in the upper right corner, just where the red line B (tram) makes a turn, you see Rue de Temple, and the Hotel is on that street. The location is very quiet, but it is walking distance to everything!

 

We loved this hotel. First, we loved the location. Second, even at 0930 in the morning, they had our room ready for us. We had been prepared to drop our bags in the hotel baggage room until official check-in time, but what joy it was to be able to go to the room directly.

 

While I am not a big fan of motel-modern, I am a fan of this room. I like space. The ceilings are very high. While the walls are plain, the room has a spacious feel.

The bathroom is also spacious, and very modern. It felt roomy, especially after the ship. Lots of towels, and big thick cotton bathrobes. The controls on the shower were sort of space-ship modern, you move this knob this way to control volume, and that ring that way to control desired heat, and how do you raise the shower-head and make it stay exactly where you want it? But it wasn’t rocket science, and once I figured it out I explained it to my husband. We ran into this configuration several times.

What contributes to the feeling of spaciousness are the floor to ceiling French doors out onto a balcony. I am a big fan of balconies. Below is the view to the right, which you will see again as the marathon runners run by later in the day/night.

Looking down this street, you can almost see Saint Andrews cathedral, the “temple” to which the rue runs.

We didn’t stay long, just long enough to leave our luggage and get what we needed for a busy day trying to do everything we wanted to do in Bordeaux. (We failed. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to go back again πŸ™‚ Β )

I had a priority. I love markets. I wanted to see the Marche’ aux Capuchins. We have an all-city pass that lets us on all the trams and busses, and lets us into several museums, so we have that joyous feeling of knowing we can do anything!

We take the B line, heading South, and get off at the Place de la Victoire, where there is a huge beautiful arch. And look at the skies! It is a beautiful, warm day; there is a lot of excitement in the air because tonight is the famous Bordeaux marathon, a crazy night where the streets of the city close down and the runners get to race on the major roads of the city.

I love public art, don’t you? Look at this big bronze turtle, and her little one, right in the middle of the city of Bordeaux. I love it that she has food in her mouth, after all, this is Bordeaux. Look at the leathery texture, captured in bronze, of her skin. I always think of turtles as symbols of long life.

The walk looks short on the map, but the blocks have a longer feel. It is a little north African, lots of kebab places, wonderful exotic smells. We feel very much at home. We come to the entrance of the famous market.

This is one of the reasons we are here. We hunger for the pate’s of fall, the Forestiere, and other local specialities. This is heaven, even just to look, it is abundant!

Umm, below, there are often things we wouldn’t even think of as food. Pigs ears? Hoofs?


 

 

 

 

 

When we lived in Tunis, we shopped at the Marche’ Lafayette where families would sell their varieties of pasta like this. It was the tastiest pasta in the world, and so fresh it spoils you for the kind you buy in stores. We have no stove, no pots, no pans and it is all I can do not to buy some just because I can, because these are so tempting, so beautiful.

Quiches-by-the-slice

Fabulous old grains breads

In the center of this photo below are fish, translucent, almost transparent fish that look like a pile of cellophane in this photo, but are distinct fish. I’ve never seen them before, and wonder how they cook up? No, I don’t ask because these merchants are interested in making a sale, and I am rally just a voyeur.

Ahhh! These are famous. We are warned to get to the market early to try these, that they bring so many, and when they are gone, they are gone. Clouds of love, and oh, my, WOW.

A thin sweet crust, a sweet sort of cream meringue, truly a fabulous cloud πŸ™‚

Plates of oysters, fresh from the sea, ready to eat!

The prices of oysters are controlled by the French government. Every place, we are told in Arcachon, charges about the same.

 

You pick out a variety of little tapas sandwiches and pay by the color of the stick.

 

 

 

 

Cucurbitacee are gourds; most of these appear to be pumpkin-like. This market was a heaven of squash and gourds.

 

 

Even as we leave the marche’ we see another sign for tonight’s Bordeaux Marathon Madness – the energy is everywhere!

 

 

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Marketing, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti; Last Day and We Visit Arcachon

This is the one trip I had really looked forward to, a beachy area famous for seafoods, and mussels, and oysters. Arcachon reminds me of all beach towns, a little casual, often a little kitch-y.

We got on a bus for a 2 1/2 hour ride from Pauillac to Arcachon. This is the train station in Arcachon. You can see it is a beautiful day.

I snapped some of the houses just to give an idea of the beach aesthetic in Arcachon.

 

 

 

The harbor of Arcachon, where we caught our boat to to out to the oyster fields.

Loved this mercantile art!

 

 

 

“Noeuds” is not a word I am familiar with, but I love that, in the context, you can figure out what a lot of new words are, in this case, I speculate, “Knots.”

 

Not unlike the Gulf Coast we live on.

 

Oysters waiting for us . . hmm. . . in the hot sun . . .

 

Boats and oyster boats


Introducing us to the art of oyster farming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always a recommendation for an appropriate “pairing”

 

 

 

 

A mosque built for foreign laborers, but somehow it never worked out and it may be a church now.

 

We ate at this very crowded restaurant. Viking had set it up and we were so glad there were tables reserved for us. The place was PACKED. Viking had set up a lovely lunch for us, fish, with some sort of exception for vegetarians. On our way in, we passed people with huge bowls full of mussels! Mussels! We need to go back and eat mussels!

 

Oyster beds all over Arcachon Bay

 

 

 

Back in Bordeaux, people are getting ready for the famous Midnight Marathon.

 

Our last night on the Viking Forseti, and we get a thrill. We get to watch the bridge raise it’s middle section to allow a cruise ship to go through. Honestly, I held my breath. It seemed to me like there was a lot that could go very wrong . . .

We had our last dinner with our friends the four ladies turning 70, and it was a delightful, noisy, laughter-filled dinner. A great way to end a great trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Food, France, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bleye, then Paillac and a Magical Dinner at Chateau Kirwan

I’m kind of figuring it out. Some days are crystal clear in my mind – the walking tour in Bordeaux, our time at the market in Libourne, walking in Bourg, my solitary time in Bleye – these are all definite. It is the times associated with the wine chalets and production where my mind gets fuzzy. OK, I can hear you laughing, but here is the truth. I like wine, I like specific tastes and particular kinds of wine, a dry, fruity Sancerre, a rich dry St. Emilion. I found a couple wines on the trip that I really liked, and after all, wine is a theme on this trip, I think it is called something like Chateaux, Rivers and Wine.

We signed on to a wine trip, so I am not whining about wine, it is just that it is low on my priorities. There were people on this trip who were really into wine in a big way, and they had a wonderful time. We drove by some fabulous wine producers (Petrus comes to mind) and we had the opportunity to learn a whole lot.

I am thinking for me, much of the wine information was sort of . . . irrelevant. So these tours are not sharp in my mind. I don’t much like bus travel, I am a big fan of history and sacred spaces and how people really lived, all the people, rich and poor. I try to imagine what their lives must have been like. So the tours were not without worth, it is only that for me, while the guides were going on, as they should, about wine, I was usually wandering off elsewhere, peeking behind the scenes and sort of self-guiding.

 

Please forgive me if some of my explanations are non-existent, or fuzzy or maybe, God forbid, just wrong.

 

Below is Bleye, the little town below the citadel, when the Mascaret has taken all the waters back out to the sea and left the fishing boats high and stranded on the remaining silt. The sky may look a little blue, but it is really shades of grey, and we start out our walk with our umbrellas, expecting to get rained on.

There are official tours going, but we really like to putter around on our own, reading signs, figuring things out, taking our time.

 

I can’t resist a church.

 

Look at the grace of those wings! It is a find like this that makes my heart flutter. I am guessing that is the archangel Michael, with the defeated serpent at his feet, but I really don’t know . . .

 

Sometimes I look at a photo and think “why did I take this?” but I can tell you why on this one immediately – look at the details. Look at the trouble someone went to to place flower pots in the middle of each little French balcony on the uppermost floor. Look at the niches built for the plant containers on the main floor. Imagine the effort to plant those containers each year. If it is this lovely on the outside, I wonder what it is like on the inside, what are the light fixtures like, do they use wallpaper or moldings, how are the spaces arranged?

Every village has its memorials to those lost in the wars. We really love it when it includes the fallen from all the wars.

So it started raining and we abandoned our walk, I think it was only a 7,000 step morning :). Now things get fuzzy. Thank goodness for the Viking Daily, which tells me we sailed for Pauillac at noon. At 2:30 we boarded buses to go explore the vineyards of Pauillac-Medoc and Margaux Wine Country.

I’ve always loved the harvests. In some places in the Bordeaux, we saw horses being used with the harvest.

I think this might be at Chateau Margaux. It was raining. There were lots and lots of tourist groups, not just the Viking tours. We were hurried along, and I don’t remember going inside anywhere.

You can see the weather is a little grim.

 

 

Off in the distance, a place I might like. I am a sucker for towers with high pointed turrets.

 

I’m pretty sure this is Chateau Giscours. I am guessing that because later in this post is a photo of a sign saying that, and I often take those photos to anchor my future self who is writing the trip up. I take pity on her lack of clarity, and help her out with some of the fuzzier details. Or maybe we are still at Chateau Margaux – the next photo is a church, and I think it was where the buses parked at Chateau Margaux.

 

For sure, this is Chateau Giscours. The hoi polloi (us tour groups) did not actually go into this building, which is probably a formal residence, or at least a party venue; we went to the wine tasting specially-built building next door, with wonderful modern restrooms built just to accommodate the tourist class.

I gave you a hint of our bus to the left, parked in front of the wine tasting addition.

Inside, those keenly interested in wines bellied up to the table.

 

After a sip or two, I slipped back outside to wander, see if I could find something interesting.

We toured another place where wine is created, bottled and stored.

 

A chart full of wonderful words we might use to describe a wine we are drinking.

I don’t believe this building is old enough to have really needed places to tie up the horses, but it may be that some nearby chateaux host travelers who want to ride horses to their wine tastings.

Promptly at 6 we leave the winery to travel a short distance to the Chateau Kirwan. Evidently Chateau Kiran was visited by Thomas Jefferson, and is one of the old Chateaux classified in 1855. Wikipedia provided me with this chart to explain the classifications;

The dinner was very elegant. I thought maybe Viking had bought this venue to use for “special” end of trip dinners, but it appears that it is a place which may be used by many organizations wanting to give their clients a special evening.

The wait staff was all from the ship. I think maybe some – or all – of the food may have been prepared on the ship.

 

We had several courses. Of course, these wines were available at the entry for sale, with other Chateau Kirwan wines.

My favorite parts were the pate’ and the terrine.

 

 

 

I liked this because the candelabra was high enough not to intrude on conversations across the table. The venue, however, was very loud, lots of excitement bouncing off beautiful hard wood surfaces, so there was not a lot of cross table conversation possible. It was difficult enough conversing with your neighbor to the right and left. But conversation was not the point of this dinner, it was to give us all an idea of how elegant and special life can be eating French foods and drinking French wine πŸ™‚

 

LOL, look at all those wine glasses! There was barely room for food!

The dinner did not drag on. It was served efficiently, and then we had a few minutes to chat or buy wine or hit the facilities before we boarded our bus. We saw one of the ladies from our dinner the night before and she said “oh! we wished we were at the same table as you!” so we arranged to eat together the next night, our last night on board the Forseti. Β The ship was nearby. We all had a big day ahead of us the next day, the last day of the tour.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: The Captivating Citadel of Bleye

I keep telling my husband, this is the hardest trip I have ever written up. We wake up in one place, end up in another. We may or may not tour the second place in the same day. We may arrive, tour one place, then board a bus and head for another. It is very hard for me to keep my days straight.

For me, Bleye was a welcome relief.

My husband was eager, from the beginning, to tour Bleye, with it’s 17th century citadel high above the river. It was built by Louis XIV to protect Bordeaux, upstream. Legends are that Roland, knight of Charlemagne, is buried here, along with Charibert II, an early King of Aquitaine. So much history, and so beautiful!

I have my own agenda. I need some quiet, I need to be away from the groups. I need to walk at my own pace, and be able to stop and ponder where I will. Bleye, for me, is an opportunity to explore, on my own, in quiet. Yep. I’m an introvert. πŸ™‚

I had a lovely adventure. I started with the group, then headed off in a different direction, heading straight up the hill of the main street after entering Bleye. I toured the entire citadel, loved my time, went around the groups when I came upon them, and ended up at a small museum with a delightful woman who loved it that I was an American who spoke French. She spoke no English, and gave me a private tour of the museum. She made it come alive! It had been a prison, and I could see the prisoners trying to sleep in the cold stone courtyard, trying to bake their meager bread in the large oven, It was a brutal life. In the basement of the museum were models of the Bleye Citadel and various artifacts, going back to earliest man in that area.

I was both stimulated and refreshed! I also found a shop with lovely hand painted silk scarves, just what I love!

When AdventureMan and I met up again, we had a lot to share πŸ™‚

Arrival in Bleye, view from the river:

 

 

It looks like a grim day in the photos, but I was wearing a short sleeved dress and a hoodie, and I had to take the hoodie off and tie it around my shoulders, it was so warm and humid. I remember sunshine, but I don’t see any sunshine in the photos. I must just have sunny memories of Bleye.

 

 

 

 

This is the main street, where, when my group went left, I went straight ahead. There are all kinds of artisan shops along this street, including an artisan ice cream shop (No, I didn’t, but I was tempted by the blueberry ice!)

 

I don’t know what this was, but I loved the feeling of it. Maybe a farmhouse? Maybe a barracks?

 

 

 

This was my favorite area. It is all overgrown, all green and mysterious.

I purposely included people in this shot so you could see the relationship of citadel to river, and see the strategic value of Bleye. You can spot any ship entering from the Atlantic headed toward Bordeaux. Also, I think this is one of those iconic photo places where tour brochures are shot, wedding photos, “I was there” shots – I think I’ve seen that overlook from different vantages a hundred times.

 

I shot this watchman’s tower because it evoked in me a feeling of isolation and loneliness; I could imagine being the guard on a cold, windy night, no fire, and hours of watching before me. You always hope for nothing to happen, and at the same time, watching and waiting is boring and monotonous.

 

Lots of happy meals available in Bleye citadel. The menu of the day, tuna tartine (a savory upside down pie?), slab of salmon with creamy risotto and chocolate cake with a pear sauce and chocolate wafer all for around $25, really, not bad for a tourist location.

Don’t you like to see what’s for lunch or dinner? Β πŸ™‚

 

 

 

The Viking Forseti waiting for us at the landing below the citadel.

In the small museum, such treasures from antiquity!

 

This is my dear friend, who made my trip into Bleye so delightful, meaningful and unforgettable. It was a lovely moment of connection. (And that’s the old bread oven)

Model of the old citadel:

 

 

I love this rendition of the entrance, especially because later, when we visit the Museum of the Aquitaine, there is a print of people at the gate of a similar castle, surrendering to an army who probably starved the castle into submission. Such were the realities of a pre-nation.

 

I loved this door; it reminded me of Tunisia. My friend the museum docent, explained to me that the studs, while artistic, also ruined any axe which was trying to break down the door. Oh! I guess it should have been obvious, but I was so taken with the artistry that the utility escaped me.

 

 

Finally! A photo with a little pale blue sky!

We spent the night, and the next morning in Bleye,

This was one of the funniest nights of our trip. We couldn’t get into the Aquavit Terrace, the only place where you can find a table for two. We anchored a table for six (the smallest table available) in the dining room, and were approached by four very beautiful and a little bit tipsy women, asking if they could join us. I said “Of course! You are welcome!” because that is the custom of the boat, you share tables, you get to know one another. But they are all looking at my husband, whose face looks like a deer in the headlights. He does not want to appear horrified, but he is overwhelmed by these laughing, beautiful ladies and for an instant, is unable to hide his feelings.

Thankfully, they joined us, and as we chatted, we enjoyed them very much. Lucky for me, I got to sit next to another introvert, who lives a very different life from mine, in a very different context, but listening to one another, we had a lot in common and a lot to share. Each woman at the table was unique and talented. They were all celebrating their 70th year on earth and more than 55 years of friendship. They had met in school, and kept up the friendship all these years, traveling to get together, and planning a trip now and then together. They were delightful, and we all ended up laughing for the next two or three hours. At some point, we were close to being the last party left in the dining room, and we broke it up. From an awkward beginning came one of the best evenings of our trip.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bourg, One of our Favorite Stops

Leaving Libourne, we chug up the Dordogne toward Bourg, arriving as we are still eating dinner. It is a dreary evening, and we hope the weather will be better for our tour in the morning.

The Cruise Director asked that everyone leaving the ship be careful as the boats were being re-provisioned. Logistics interest us, so as we leave the boat, we greet the workers and take a little peek at what they are delivering. The amounts are staggering.

This delivery man hammed it up a little for me πŸ™‚

 

Bourg is not very big. This is the entry from the harbor. There are a couple other major streets, not big streets, just streets.

 

It’s a drizzly morning, a quiet morning, and we have Bourg all to ourselves for a short while.

 

 

There is an overview of the river, and in the center of the photo below, you can see the Forseti parked at the dock.

 

The newsletter tells us “Bourg is a well kept secret. Over the course of it’s 2000 year history, Bourg was invaded by Romans, Vikings, Normans and the English. ” It is located at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, a key defense position. It is one of France’s official historic villages.

 

 

 

These masks are on the side of the church we will enter. We found these characters throughout the Bordeaux area, and enjoyed looking for them. They remind us of the television series Grimm, as if these creatures really existed.

 

 

This looks like a cat man to me.

 

 

 

This is a castle and a museum, but it is closed for the season. You can see it is beautiful inside; it is also used as a venue for concerts, weddings, parties and receptions. It contains a museum with a collection of carriages and carousel horses when we were not able to visit. I had to shoot the photo below through a locked gate. 😦

 

 

 

 

Along a shopping street, we see pre-packaged kits of local wines:

 

I loved this street. I found a little store with a lot of truly local items, and the two ladies running it were sitting at sewing machines in the back, putting things together. I didn’t do a lot of shopping on this trip, but I did at that store on this street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hiked to the top to Bourg, then found a staircase down to the harbor, near a retreat center.

 

What cat doesn’t love “attention?” πŸ™‚

 

Near the ship we found a wonderful antique shop. There was an entire Bayeaux tapestry, yards and yards of it, ready to be needlepointed. My hands itched for it, and my heart knew I would never finish it. I still think about it. My husband found an old helmet he has a had time resisting.

 

Back on board, our champagne has been replaced by bottles of a local wine, and some gorgeous French pears, so ripe, so juicy and sweet, we ate them all.

 

In the afternoon, the Forseti travelled a short route downriver to Bleye.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, France, Geography / Maps, Shopping, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: The Libourne Market

It’s a really good thing AdventureMan collected all the Daily News, because already my notebook has become confused, with arrows pointing to when we *really* did this and scratch outs where I totally got things wrong.

First, I am going to insert photos from our time on the Dordogne, en route to Libourne:

 

Yep. That’s me, on the balcony, taking photos. Thank you, AdventureMan πŸ™‚

It is a glorious afternoon, and the scenery on the way to Libourne is amazing. There is a mansion around every bend.

 

The Viking Forseti has a map you can follow on the television in your room. You can see the little Viking longship going into the bend of the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is an impressive fortress – or church. even on low ground, with no low windows, it is defensible.

 

 

November, and we are having a day in the 70’s F.

 

 

 

 

We hike into Libourne in late afternoon to figure out our plan for the following morning. Once again, we are thoroughly enjoying the warm sun, and a beautifully walkable town.

 

 

View at dusk in Libourne, from our balcony.

We get up and have breakfast so we can head into town. We know the markets get started early, and I want to be able to take photos before the groups tours start arriving.

Through all these years, those who have continued to follow me, you know how I love local markets. You never know what treasures you might find. Some of the treasures, we can’t even buy because we can’t cook them and we can’t take them back to the USA. We just have to appreciate them in place.

I covet these windows, and the shutters that you can pull closed to cover them. I would love to have a house like this!

The detail of the stone and wooden beams in the building facades.

Love the old doorbell pull and the new intercom juxtaposed.

I admire the way the French can create a garden from the tiniest patch of earth.

The outdoor market is small on this cold November day, but there are also stalls under the protected areas all around the square, and in the Marche’ Couvert.

 

 

Behind the market stalls here is a lovely Tourist office with nice goods, and a cafe full of smoking men, waiting, I think, for their wives to do the marketing. The owner was kind and let me use the restroom – clean enough for a desperate woman. I never found the people to be unkind, as long I as I asked them politely, the answer was always “yes.”

One of the nicest memories of this market is a needle-arts vendor in the center of the plane who had a little butterfly stitching kit suitable for my 6 year-old granddaughter, in colors I knew she would adore, and a small pair of sharp sewing scissors, in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. More than anything, I want her to love France, the very idea of France.

The word I learned for pumpkin was “potion” but here in the Bordeaux there are many pumpkins, and the most common one I saw was “Potimarron.” I expect it’s a variety of pumpkin, and I love having a new word πŸ™‚

 

 

 

Inside the covered market, all is immaculately clean, the foods are fresh and beautifully displayed.

Even at eight in the morning, oysters may be paired with beer and eaten with gusto.


My old friend, Mimoletta, which, I believe, is actually a kind of Belgian or Dutch cheddar, but oh, so good, especially aged.

The local and Basque special cheese:

A spectacular variety of goats’ cheeses!

Look at those beautiful scallop shells!

We were delighted to see what “Maigre” looks like in fresh form; this is the fish my husband ate at the restaurant in Cadillac.

Huitres! The magic word for oysters!

Palourdes are delicious little clams.

I really wanted to bring some of this home, but was not sure I could transport it safely.

 

I did bring home prunes from Agen, and I ration them out a little every day πŸ™‚

 

 

This is the way we bought squash in Tunisia – in hunks. It wasn’t expensive. Once, at Halloween, I caused a scandal in the Marche’ Lafayette by buying a WHOLE pumpkin to take home and carve for my three year old little son. There are some things you just can’t explain cross culturally, and buying a whole pumpkin to carve and put a candle in to burn to scare away evil spirits you don’t believe in – some things are too complicated. Sometimes, you just don’t even try to explain.

 

 

This was heaven and hell for my husband and I. We would have loved shopping, taking home some of the beautiful produce and preparing it for our own meals. What a thrill it was just to see them in such abundance. Grilled chicken, below, was expensive compared to the USA, but the chicken really tasted like chicken.

Canale’ is a speciality in the Bordeaux area. We expected to love it, but it has a burnt under taste that put us off a little.

 

Walking back along the river to the boat, we could see the results of the Mascaret, the tides coming in and going out from the Atlantic. At low tide, the Forseti had to head out to the middle of the river, and boats all along the sides of the river were stranded.

It’s around here that the photographic record becomes really important. Even with the daily newspaper and my notebook, some parts of the day become fuzzy. What I remember was the thrill of seeing Chateau Petrus. Bruno, Chief of Police talks about the one bottle he was given, and what a treasure it was. One day, I would love just a little 3 oz glass of a Chateau Petrus.

Wineries and vineyards in the St. Emilion area.


 

 

The weather has changed. As we exit our bus, we grab our umbrellas. It looks like the rain could get really serious.

I loved the St. Emilion church. You could see that it was a working church, and a beloved church. It had a special feeling to it.

 

 

I am a total sucker for this kind of architecture.

 

 

Looking out over the rooftops of St. Emilion, trying to shelter my camera from raindrops.

 

 

All the Viking guides were really good, but the one we had really seemed to bad-mouth several of the wine vendors, and really seemed to push one particular vendor. Many people were buying the wines, most of whom were having it sent or were going directly bak after the tour.


 

 

We boarded the bus, chilled and soaked, even with our umbrellas, and were thankful for hot showers when we got back to the Forseti. We loved the market in Libourne, and I loved the church of St. Emilion.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Bordeaux Panorama and off to Libourne

When you think of cruising, you think of people sunning in lounge chairs on the sundeck, don’t you? I always did. That is not the way things work on a Viking cruise. Viking cruises like to keep people busy and entertained!

In truth, even while we are on the trips, it is easy to get confused about what day it is, where we will be and what we will be doing at what time.

“How do you write these trips up in such detail?” you ask.

First, as the ship cruises the river, I keep notes. The days get all jumbled together in our minds. If I write things down, we know where we were there and when we were there and what we did there and a little about what we were thinking.

“Why don’t you just do it on your computer?” asks AdventureMan, my love and travel companion.

I’ve tried. When I keep notes on the computer, I forget to look at them. A notebook might be slower, bulkier, but when a random thought strikes or I want to make a quick addition, I just grab my notebook and jot it down, without having to start up the laptop.

This also is a great help, both on the trip and after the trip – Viking publishes a daily news, which tells us where we need to be during the day, at what time and later reminds us the same:

AdventureMan started saving them from the first day, and I was so grateful to him! Honestly, with jet lag, and with the pace of the trips, you just can’t keep it all in mind. I take pride in my ability to organize, but on these trips, I am just not in control. I have to roll with it. I need the Daily News! Even then, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the information.

Today, we will start our day with a Panoramic tour of Bordeaux (we have learned that on all the cruises, panoramic means a bus tour, and you don’t get off a lot; you have to take photos through the bus windows. It gives you a good overview, and ideas for what you want to see when you come back.) which ends up downtown with a walking tour and then some free time. (Woo HOOO, we love free time!) But not TOO much free time, as we have to be back aboard the Viking Forseti by 11:15 for an 11:30 departure for Libourne.

 

Google Maps won’t give me boat routes, but they will give me bike routes, which I can maneuver to give me a simile of the route the Forseti travels to Libourne.

But first, downtown Bordeaux. We can’t wait to go back to Bordeaux. From our first day in Bordeaux, we felt comfortable and happy in Bordeaux. They have a world-class tram system, which intersects with the bus routes. You can buy special passes, good for varying amounts of days, and go anywhere with minimum hassle.

Above is The Bourse, the heart of mercantile Bordeaux. Bordeaux has a long history of being both French and English, a major trading town even in the time of the Romans.

Bordeaux is famous for it’s Grand-Theatre.

I love this gate to the city.

 

 

Below is the Grosse Cloche, or big bell, the only remainder of the former Saint Eloi gate to the city.

We had such lovely weather for this day tour! The sun gleamed off the churches and monuments. This is a tower at St. Andrew’s, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future king of France in this church, at, I believe 13 years old. If you read any histories of Eleanor, she knew what she was doing, even at 13. She was a woman who negotiated much of her own destiny.

Below is one of the muses atop the Grand-Theatre.

This statue below tops the famous Girondins monument, so graceful!

What there are not a lot of, in France, are tourist restrooms. As we got off the bus for our Walking tour, I told AdventureMan to go ahead, I had spotted a McDonalds, and I know that the McDonalds always has a restroom. I even know where it is, because this McDonalds in downtown Bordeaux is just like the one in Metz, France, near where we used to live. So I quickly went up to the third floor, only to discover the door to the restroom was locked. An interesting woman asked what I needed, and I said “to use the restroom” (yes! I can speak French when I need to!) and she unlocked it for me. I thanked her, used the restroom and zipped out to catch up with my group. Did not see the group, but AdventureMan was waiting at a corner saying “hurry! hurry!” and got me quickly back into the group.

We had a really good guide. She showed us some places where she shops, and where she and her family like to eat, and later in the trip AdventureMan and I came back close to here and ate at a restaurant she recommended. During free time, we also located the hotel where we will stay at the end of our cruise, before we pick up the rental car. It’s all easily walkable.

 

We were also able to go to the Tourist Center where we picked up City Passes so that when we came back to Bordeaux, we could take all the trams and buses and go into all the museums at free or reduced costs. It was a great deal for us.

We are astounded that the French have adopted Hallowe’en in such a big way.

We’re back aboard the Forseti, now, have eaten lunch and are en route to Libourne.

 

Another view of the Museum of Wine.

 

 

We had time for a good hike around the city when we arrived in Libourne. We scouted out the location of the local market (world famous) so we can head out tomorrow on our own. We don’t like being part of a crowd in market cities. Well, or just about anywhere.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Travel | , , | Leave a comment