Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask

When I headed to the YMCA on Wednesday, it was with a heavy heart. I have loved the reservation only swimming; I have actually felt fairly safe with so few people, and the respect for protecting one another through keeping safe boundaries. Already rumors are abounding that the Governor is about to move rapidly forward with his “evidence based phase-in” headed toward the new normal, and will open gyms.

The same day, I received my word that my sister, who was very sick this winter and was told over and over by her doctor that it was only severe bronchitis, has tested positive for the corona virus antibodies. She had it all along. She kept asking. They told her no.

That, along with my mother’s death from the virus, makes me cautious. We come from long-lived people. We are no match for this virus.

So I headed into the Y knowing that once the gym gets back into full swing, I may have to withdraw until I am certain the virus has diminished in our area, and that the “evidence” is supported by full transparency of the medical examiner’s reports (currently being censored / withheld by executive decision of the very governor who is telling us we will go forward making decisions on these unavailable statistics, nationally reported to be underreported in the state of Florida.)

Excuse me, but WTF??

So I wear my mask into the Y, but I take it off to swim, all that chlorine and I feel safe enough. One of the lifeguards gasps and says “I LOVE your mask! Did you make it?” and I told her I did, that I had made about 150 and given them all away.

“Would you make me one just like it?” she asked.

The mask is made from some fabric I found in the souks in Tunis, when we lived there forty years ago. It is a deep sea blue, and purple, with some black and white for drama, with Berber jewelry motifs, triangles with five pendants, crescents, hands of Fatima. I bought ten yards of the fabric when I saw it, and have used it through the years in projects and quilts, a little here and a little there. I loved it that she had the same immediate emotional response to the fabric that I had.

“I don’t know if I have any of that fabric cut for masks,” I told her honestly, “but I will look.”

I swam my mile and headed home, feeling lighter. I had my tasks outlined for the day, but I am nearing a point where I can’t go further – I’ve already packed items we need, like that spare tube of toothpaste, and my vitamin C serum. I got a little carried away with the packing . . .

So I scurried the rest of the morning, full of energy, and in the afternoon I rewarded myself by allowing myself to go back to mask-making, a place I haven’t been for nearly a month. Masks aren’t hard; I figured out a way I like to do them, and I really like to do them, I like the process, and I love working with the fabrics. Even better, my young friend asking me to make her a mask just like mine breathed new life and hope into my spirit; I was able to finish about fifteen masks and offer them to other staff members and life guards when I went in this morning. As I was working with them, I found just one piece of the fabric she loved, that I love, and it was enough to make her a mask, just like mine.

People around here are more reluctant to wear masks than people in places like Seattle. When I walked in with a selection of masks in lovely fabrics, people were delighted to be able to choose something that pleased them. One lady, when I offered, didn’t hesitate, she said “Oh, I know exactly what I want, I can see it!” and chose a dark blue batik with turquoise stars. Another woman chose a Florentine style ivory print with cranberry and green, and gilt highlights. It was fun for me to see them choose, and I can only hope they will like them well enough to wear them as we work to protect one another from this lurking virus.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, color, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Tunisia, YMCA | Leave a comment

No, No, I Won’t Let Go!

AdventureMan and I make a great team. He is making sure the outside and the garage sparkle, and I am taking care of the inside, except for his office and his personal clothing. He likes to manage those himself, and I can’t blame him.

There are mornings I can barely face another day of packing, and then I remember Fort Leavenworth, when my riding boots arrived, packed without wrapping, in a box with my evening dresses. There was a part of me that felt outraged, dishonored. Who would do such a thing? And another part that empathized with the worker at the end of a long day, packing for a privileged woman who had riding boots, and evening gowns, and saying “what the hell.”

I learned a good lesson. If it matters to you, pack it yourself. If you can’t pack it yourself, have a special crate built for it.

We were so young, but we saved our money and bought a bird cage from Monsieur Samouda, in Sidi bou Said, Tunisia, and had a crate built for it. We’ve had it for forty years now with many moves and no damage.

I have packed a lot of boxes in my life.

I’m finding that there are some things I can part with easily. And then some things I can’t let go.

 

We met and spent our early married years in Germany. This was our wedding candle, lo, those many years ago. I had to stop burning it on our anniversaries when it started to collapse. It still makes me smile. I can’t let go.

My Mother and Father were in the Wednesday night bowling league in Germany, and they were very good bowlers. They were also on the admin board of the league, and were in charge of the prizes, which they often won. Texting back and forth with my sisters today, I learned that they served on that committee to insure that each of the daughters received an identical crystal cookie tree, which my Mother won each year in the final tournament. Post-war Germany was a wonderland for Americans who lived there. I’m not ready to let this go. One sister let hers go long ago, the other is using hers to hold her jewelry.

I know I should let this pot go – I think it is a fish poacher – and I can’t. We bought it in the Souk al Hammadiyya in Damascus. I can tell I have cooked in it once or twice in the forty years I have owned it, not enough to make it valuable for its utility. The reason I can’t let it go is because of the artistry of the handle. Not even that it looks so beautiful, but the bird handle fits perfectly in your hand. It feels GOOD. I’ve never had any pot or pan that had such a sensuously lovely handle. Someone who made this handle really knew what he was doing, and created it with heart.

When my husband came home today, the first thing that happened when he saw the pot was that he reached for the handle, and then asked “are you thinking of parting with this?” I said “No, I can’t.”

I wish you could put your hand on this bird handle. It’s that special.

We have a family message thread with my son and his wife, who are moving to a larger home as we move to a smaller home. I often take photos and say “would you like this?” maybe with an explanation, and they say yes or no.

This time, AdventureMan texted back immediately: “Not the Kuwait Teapot from the Blue Elephant!” and I immediately packed it to take with us. When we first got to Kuwait, he planned to take me out for Valentine’s dinner, not realizing that it was one of the hugest date nights of the year in Kuwait. On Valentine’s Day, he called everywhere looking for reservations, but there were none to be had.

Being American, we like to eat earlier than Kuwaiti people, so I suggested we dress and go to the Blue Elephant, a favorite restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on the beach, where we were known. When we got there, there were only a few other couples.

“So go in there and beg,” I suggested with a grin, “Tell them we will eat quickly and be out in an hour.” I think he did exactly that. I don’t know what he said, maybe a little money changed hands, but very soon we were ushered to a table, and reminded that we needed to be out by eight, when the table was reserved.

We had a lovely dinner, at the end of which he bought me the little elephant teapot. What I love is that I am not the only one who can’t let go.  🙂

 

 

May 11, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Marriage, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Tunisia | , , , | Leave a comment

Confronting My Demons

I was showing the handy man a place under my sink which had flooded a while back and needs repair. It looks worse than it is, but it still needs fixing.

“Got enough dish detergent?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

I had hoped he hadn’t noticed. I had been pulling things out from under the sink so he could better see the damage. I hadn’t realized how many bottles of Dawn I had, it was embarrassing. I counted as I packed them away for the move. Nine bottles.

I am really uncomfortable about it, and I know where it comes from.

Growing up in Alaska, things would disappear. I remember my mother measuring us around August and ordering snowsuits. I remember her saying that the last boat would come in and after that it would be too late. People down the road had a cellar where every carrot, every potato, every home-canned tin of salmon or halibut would be toted up on a blackboard to get them through the long winter.

Later, when I married, I had a short overlap in Heidelberg with one of my sisters, whose one word of advice was “When you see something come in to the commissary or the PX and you think you might need it, buy it.”

Living in my early married years in Tunisia and Jordan, I always had to have plenty of some things with me – shoes in graduated sizes for my growing, American footed little son (yes, shoes vary by country, and German shoes are too wide for me, and French shoes are just right), books bought ahead to encourage his love of reading, chocolate chips because they just weren’t available, underwear that fit, things like that which impacted on quality of life.

It became a habit.

Every now and then as I go through the pantry, throwing out expired foods, I get a laugh. One year it might be an excess of mustard, another year I have a load of chicken broth, another year pickle relish, and always, a good supply of chocolate chips. Old habits die hard.

So now it comes to downsizing. I have too much of so many things. I have too many clothes, some from twenty or thirty years ago which I still wear. Too many swimsuits, because when they go on sale, I stock up. Too many towels (but some old ones I keep in case of hurricane, or flooding), too many sheets. We have too many books, and I am getting rid of bags and boxes full, too many fabrics (I got rid of a lot at the beginning of the year, before I even knew I was moving). As I pack boxes, I can hear the Afghani mover at my Kuwait apartment overlooking the Arab Gulf who said “Madame, you have too many things.”

He was right, and his words have echoed through the years, “you have too many things.”

Too many fabrics, too many threads, too many books, too much furniture, too much art. I haven’t even tackled the kitchen yet. I have beautiful brass trimmed copper pots and pans I bought in Damascus forty years ago, how can I give them up? Who will give them a good home? Who will love them just for being beautiful, and hand made?

I have old French things, from the antique fairs and flea markets, lovingly gathered through the years – old copper bedwarmers, a French cavalry trumpet, old tin milk containers. I won’t have space for all these old friends who have brought me so much pleasure, just by their existence, all these years.

My newest strategy is when I have a problem getting rid of something, I will move it. I expect this will be a continuing process, that in our new smaller digs I will look at things differently, more callously, and that necessity will give me some necessary ruthlessness.

Anyone need an extra Christmas tree . . . ?

May 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

Amazing Women Visiting Pensacola

When I first came to Pensacola, a woman at our church who is very welcoming and kind to newcomers told me she “wanted to find just the right place for me to plug in.” A couple of her suggestions were not exactly what I wanted, but then she introduced me to Jena Melancon, the founder and director of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council, and I found my niche.

Jena is an amazing woman. She has created this organization. She has a data base of resources that allow her to tailor visits for foreign delegates so that they can meet the needs of their missions – Election Transparency, Entrepreneurship, Environmental Protection, Leading an NGO, Military and Civilian Community Cooperation, Domestic Violence, Creating Fair Policies, Programs for Enriching Disadvantaged Children – you name it, Jena can create a program that will enrich their understanding from an American perspective.

At the same time, Pensacolians who come into contact with the delegates sent by the Department of State find that their lives are also enriched. Many times they, too, learn something new and unexpected. Both groups benefit.

Jena also has a group in GCCDC that studies Great Decisions, and creates events throughout the year for membership participation. Members of the Gulf Coast Citizens Diplomacy Council can volunteer in Jena’s office, can host dinners for delegates and have some one-on-one time learning about customs in another part of the world, can sponsor a Pensacola child in an international exchange, can host teenagers here on an international exchange, or attend the famous Mint Julep party in Spring. Many in the GCCDC are also resources; the exchange of ideas bringing inspiration to both sides.

This week, I was honored to be able to work with a group of Women in Leadership, women from Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan. Each and every one of the women was a hero in her own right, making life better in their communities by stepping into leadership roles. Rehab, above, from the Sudan, works to empower women and to make the laws show greater equality in the treatment of men and women.

 

CPT Aseel is a police chief in Iraq.

Maki, from Chad, works to prohibit child marriages and female genital mutilation.

Mariam, from Saudi Arabia, is a high level journalist in the Saudi media industry, accepting honorary citizenship from the City of Pensacola city council chair Sherri Myers.

Wasfiya is a minister of parliament in Iraq.

Ola is the delegate from Jordan.

I was honored to spend three days of my life with these women, and with Jena, and with other inspirational women of Pensacola at the Women in Leadership conference at UWF.

Here is most of the group with Judy Bense, President Emeritus of UWF, at the closing of the Women in Leadership conference, 2020. Life can be amazing when so many women of talent and confidence gather together to inspire one another.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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. 🙂

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 🙂

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?  🙂

 

 

 

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: 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

Viking Forseti: Dawn Cruise to Cadillac

(The map above shows the land time to Cadillac; I couldn’t make it show boat time. We were not on land, we were on the river 🙂  )

 

It’s Sunday morning, and a whole new world for us. We gave in to jet lag the night before, so at four a.m. when we can no longer sleep, we have the whole ship to ourselves. The ship will sail at 6:30 a.m., en route down the Garonne River to Cadillac, home of the famous Sauternes. We feel like a great adventure has begun.

Above is a view of the lounge (LOL around 5 a.m., not a creature is stirring) from the wrap around bar.

 

More lounge, and where the night time entertainment takes place. The entertainment is wasted on us; after a long day, and a dinner that stretches a couple hours, we are in our cabin making notes, reading, or crashing 🙂

 

The dining room, above, with a variety of tables for six or more people at each meal.

 

Breakfast is semi-buffet style. The wait staff are there to bring us coffee, tea, hot chocolate or anything we want off the extensive special order menu, which includes French Toast and Eggs Benedict, as well as eggs to order, etc. The buffet is enough for us, and more than enough. There are many kinds of rolls, and at least two home made jams, in addition to butter, and other spreads.

 

 

The chef will do omelets to order, scrambled eggs, whatever you wish.

 

For me, I am delighted every day to find smoked salmon or herring, just thrills my little Scandinavian heart. People always ask “Don’t you gain weight on these cruises?” and I say “No” because there is a secret. Many of the portions are tiny, just a taste, to prevent waste. Usually the small taste is enough for me. With all the walking we do, I actually lose weight on these trips, in spite of some truly fine eating.

 

The tables are beautifully set, even at breakfast. Our attendant this morning, Roxana told us that one of her favorite stops on this ship is Bordeaux. “Better than Paris?” we asked her, and she just laughed and said “Paris is full of rats! Have you ever seen rats bigger than cats? Paris has rats the size of DOGS!”

 

As we finish breakfast, the Forseti moves away from the dock, headed in the direction of downtown Bordeaux.

 

 

Sunrise from our bedroom window.

 

Along the route are fishing camps, and these nets when lower down right into the river to catch fish. The Gironde flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean sends tides up the rivers, a tide called the Mascaret. The Mascaret can cause a huge lift, enough to make going under bridges difficult for ships, and, alternatively, can cause very low water, making it possible for ships to go aground, so the ship captains have to be very aware of the tidal forecasts on these associated rivers.

 

We are told that this is the first ship in months able to go as far as Cadillac.

 

We have a fire drill, put on our life vests, show up at our emergency posts, then go back to the cabins to stow the life vest and get ready to go ashore in Cadillac.

This is the interior of one of the Viking buses. It is roomy and comfortable, and has it’s own toilet  aboard. We aren’t on the buses long, but they take us to the various vineyards and wineries for educating us on wine production and tasting the wares. And selling the wines, of course. We are warned that this is a very good time to buy French wines before the new Trump French wine tariffs go into effect, pushing up the prices and limiting the availabilities of the finest wines.

 

Today is Sauternes.

 

 

 

We arrive shortly at Domaine de Rayne, where we tour the wine storage area, and sip dry, semi-sweet and sweet Sauternes. I am not a fan of sweet wines, but I could understand how these could enhance the right pate’ or dessert. They were good, just not my favorite.

 

 

The late harvest is still continuing, and I loved that there were still grapes on this vine and at its foot.

 

 

 

 

 

The tasting began. It is sad to see civilized people elbowing others aside.

 

 

We headed back outside where a rainbow appeared and brightened the day.

 

We are told that roses are planted with the vines so that if a fungus or disease shows up, it hits the roses first and most visibly, sort of like a canary in a mine can indicate when air flow is low.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the bus, on the way back into Cadillac, our guide, whom we really liked, told us a cross cultural story we could really relate to. She and her husband had a good French friend, and they were invited to their house for dinner. The non-French couple wanted to make a really good impression; they really liked these people They didn’t know much about wine, so they bought a bottle with a beautiful picture on it and hoped it was a good one. She baked her famous chocolate cake to take with them and give to her, and they bought chrysanthemums from the florist. When they arrived for the dinner, and presented their gifts, they could see that the gifts did not have the intended results.

They later learned that the gifts were all wrong – the home made chocolate cake implied that the hostess wouldn’t have a dessert of that quality, the chrysanthemums are a flower used on graves in that part of France, and the wine implied their hosts did not know how to choose a wine. Fortunately, the hosts were not insulted, and over time, explained the local customs. They looked at the gifts with their hearts, and perceived that the intentions were for good. The two couples are fast friends to this day.

How often we’ve been in that position, and how easy it is to offend, when you don’t know what the customs and traditions are! We are so thankful for all the tolerance we have received, being welcomed as ignorant strangers into strange lands, welcomed into homes where we might unwittingly insult our hosts and hostesses. Thank God for their kind, forgiving hearts, and for their willingness to patiently educate us into the ways of their countries.

 


 

 

Back in Cadillac, we look for a good restaurant. Part of the reason we are on this trip is because we miss French food.

 

 

L’Entree Jardin is recommended by Viking, which says “Owner and chef Didier Bergey and his wife Helene Bergey welcome you to their little haven foreign of Cadillac’s finest gastronomic experiences. Centrally located in the heart of town, this quaint restaurant offers traditional regional cuisine with a modern flair – all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The delicious, tastefully plated dishes are served in a cozy setting. . . . Address 27 Avenue du Pont, 34410 Cadillac. ”

 

We did not have reservations, but they had one table left. They were very kind, very patient with my French. There was one other small group from the ship also eating there; we had to ask them about tipping as we knew the US practice of 20%+ is not the practice in France, but we didn’t know what a proper tip would be. They gave us their opinion, which seemed low. We opted for somewhere in-between.

Our guide to the Domaine de Rayne had eaten there on the previous Sunday, and told us about the scallops and little pumpkins, which we ordered for the first course. This was my favorite part of the meal. I love scallops. I love pumpkin. What a fabulous combination.

 

We both ordered fish; I had tuna and my husband had Maigre, which we looked up and it came back a fish called Croaker (U.S.) We found it later in the markets of Liborne and Bordeaux. I believe this is my husband’s main course; I think I ate mine without remembering to take a picture.

 

The desserts were all about the presentation. They were wrapped in caccoons of caramelized sugar strands. My husband had a Tarte Tatin (an apple pie that is cooked upside down)

I had a chocolate ganache with a raspberry coulis – delicious. We were both very happy with our first totally French meal in France. I saw that because although we are in France, all the people working on the Forseti are from somewhere else, not France. The cruise director, Jorge, is from Portugal, others are from Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria – from anywhere but France. No one speaks French on board!

 

After lunch, we take a walk around Cadillac. Here, in the old tower, is a chart of where the river has risen during winter and spring storms. We have the same kinds of charts in Pensacola, thanks to hurricanes and water surges, so we understand, but this one measures over centuries. We are greatly impressed.

 

 

I am a total sucker for old walls and watch towers. You will see a lot of different walls and towers from this trip 🙂

 

 

This is the Chateau de Cadillac, home to the Dukes of Epernon:

We were just strolling along feeling pretty good when we saw a Viking tour group doing a walking tour, but sort of hurrying. One of the group said to another “we have to be back by 3:45 because the ship is leaving to go back to Bordeaux” and we noticed a lot of different people sort of scurrying in the direction of the ship. So we scurried, too, and made it back. What we do not want is the walk of shame, the whole ship waiting and watching for the last ones to board.

 

From our balcony, we enjoy the sunny skies on the way back.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Museum of Wine in Bordeaux, just northwest of where the ship is docked.

 

We had a lovely experience at dinner. We preferred to eat at the Aquavit Terrace, where they have TWO tables for two people, the only two person tables on the ship (there may be more when the outside terrace is open, but it is not warm enough in November). The tables were all taken. It is a more casual restaurant, few tables, very popular.

 

The head waiter, Anton, put us at a nearby table in the lounge, and made sure we had a good dinner. After the fabulous lunch we had, all I wanted was soup and the appetizer crab cakes. Anton made sure I got a huge bowl of soup and two crab cakes, so it was more like a full dinner. They were all so caring, and didn’t want to see us under eat. My husband had salad and scallops, which were also supposed to be an appetizer, but the portion was very generous. Anton was chastised for allowing us to eat in the lounge, but he stood his ground and we were very grateful to him for his kindness, wanting to make sure we had a good dinner and were happy.

 

We go on cruises, but we are introverts. We pay more for a cabin because we know we will spend a lot of time in the cabin, so it is good if it has a balcony and some space. It makes us happy. We usually prefer to eat by ourselves; we’ve been married for 46 years and we have good conversations. The Forseti is not equipped for room service.

We DO like other people, but until we’ve met someone we choose to eat with, we eat alone. On this cruise, we actually found people we liked eating with, and one group we actually adored, but that will come.

After our quiet dinner, we left the Forseti and walked into Bordeaux, just a short distance. We had a lot of fun just walking around, and then it started sprinkling, so we walked back. We were able to stay up until 10 this night, our second night in Bordeaux, so we feel pretty good.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Local Lore, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treasures in Heaven

Matthew 6:19-24

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Today’s Lectionary Readings contain this reading which has personal resonance from a time when we returned to the United States for a mere ten months, an interlude between time in the Middle East and time in Germany.

 

While we were living in the Middle East, Tunisia (you could argue that is Africa, not the Middle East, and I would respond “it is both”) and Jordan, we often heard from family members and friends how afraid they were for us, with all the violence in the Middle East. Yes, we were robbed a couple times in the Middle East, but I mostly felt safe. When we were robbed, it was by people who were desperately poor. That they stole was stuff that could be converted to cash to feed their families. I didn’t fear personal violence, except, of course, for terrorism, of being targeted randomly, as an American.

 

It was when we moved to Fort Leavenworth that I found myself awakening at night when I would hear things and nudge AdventureMan and say “I hear something!”  He was always patient with me, getting up, grabbing a baseball bat and checking (so brave!) only to come back and say “there was nothing, all is well.”

 

Mostly, I worried about the carpets. We had acquired an addiction, a love of woven and flat woven carpets. We bought regularly in Damascus, where Iranians departing after the overthrow of the Shah were selling them to raise enough money to establish residence elsewhere. Each piece was unique, and lovely, except for one. AdventureMan was so careful about the carpets that he didn’t want to put one in the dining room, so I bought one that was beautiful but not special and said “this is MY carpet, and it is for the dining room.”

 

I still love this carpet; I love it in spite of the 5″ by 5″ repair which was carefully concealed by magic marker ink and only showed up years later when we had the carpet cleaned. It’s a Mashad, not so finely woven, but still beautiful and unique, and it is perfect under the dining room table except we don’t even use our dining room table but rarely; the dining room is now our study hall and home work room. The carpet below is not my carpet, it is like my carpet but not my carpet. It represents my carpet 🙂

 

 

But I worried about thieves coming and stealing our beautiful carpets, until this scripture appeared one Sunday morning in the Fort Leavenworth chapel and my ears were open to its relevance to me.

 

Especially the part about thieves. And moths. Could it be any more pointed, any more aimed directly at me and at my worries?

 

I started sleeping a lot better.

 

As much as we love them, they are only carpets, only things in the greater scheme of things. We find that in the summer time, we don’t even keep them on the floors, we have them stacked in closets, or on chairs, so that the cool tile floors can be cleaned without picking them up all the time. So much for earthly treasures.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, ExPat Life, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

Not Normal

We’ve been in the nineties almost every day of August and September. September is always the hardest month for me, because I am so ready for Fall, and temperatures continue hot – like normally, in the eighties. Not cool, but not ninety, either.

 

Even the heat lovers are ready for the break. I know that usually around October 4th, a short cool spell Normally comes. The morning air is cool and welcoming. It usually only lasts one day, maybe only one morning before the heat comes back in, but oh, I wait for that day. That day, I do my major Christmas shopping. Army wife, old habits die hard. We used to have to have our gifts bought, wrapped and sent from Germany early enough to guarantee they would arrive before Christmas. The feel of the early morning cool air gives me energy; I feel I can accomplish anything!

Living in Germany so many years on a military income, we spread out the Christmas shopping all year long, and finished up at the annual Christmas Bazaar in Rammstein – no matter where we were stationed, the Ramstein Bazaar was not to be missed. Two – sometimes three – full hangers of vendors selling the specialities and luxuries of Europe . . . Italian gloves, Middle Eastern marquetry boxes, crystal chandeliers, Nuremberg angels, paintings, exquisite Christmas ornaments and decorations, furniture, Loden coats, hand carved wooden plaques and toys, French and English china, French and German crystal, luxuries of all kinds.

 

Christmas is a lot simpler now, we have all moved toward greater simplicity and sharing more of what we have with those who are in need. We have what we need, and we are so thankful.

 

Right now, I would be very thankful for a break in the temperatures.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | Leave a comment