Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Dordogne: Lost in Space, Font de Gaume and L’Augerie Base

That night, at Domaine de la Vitrolle, in the middle of the night I heard a bumping sound and my husband was not in bed. I said “Is that you?” and my husband’s voice came back saying “I’m lost! I don’t know where I am!” It was SO dark in our room that somehow, he had missed the bed and was off wandering in the sitting part of the suite and couldn’t orient himself.

It was dark, and it was quiet. I turned on a little flashlight, and he laughed at how disorienting it was to be in a strange space and not to know which way to turn.

The next morning, I was awake early (we sleep so well when it is dark, and quiet) so I took a bath in the great big tub and watched the day dawn through the stained glass windows of the bathroom. I had the windows open, and could hear the birds awake, and some tractor off in the hills head up to harvest the last of the grapes. It was so peaceful, and so lovely.

First, I need to tell you how very kind all the French people have been to us. We are often asked if we are not afraid the French will be rude to us, and I think maybe once or twice in the many years we have traveled in France, maybe someone has been having a bad day or was rude, but nothing I can remember. Mostly, we are delighted by how very helpful the French are with us.

Many times, I am taken for French. People stop me on the street and ask for directions, and I laugh and tell them (in French) that I am a tourist, and an American, and they just laugh.

On this trip, information is gold. The limo driver who took us to the train station told us to gas our car at the Intermarche or Carrefour, not at the regular gas stations, because the gas stations charge a lot more. We listened! He was right! The hotel manager at Domaine de la Vitrolle told us about the super markets, so we didn’t have to eat every meal out, especially at night when we would have to eat late. What luxury, to eat French foods in our own room, at our own pace, and as lightly as we chose!

Martin Walker/Bruno, Chief of Police particularly mentioned Font de Gaume in Les Eyzies, one of the very rare opportunities to see original cave art, which moves me greatly, and is a priority for me. But Font de Gaumes only allows a few people in every day, under strict conditions, so our breath, body temperature and sweat won’t impact on the fragile cave art.

I try to reserve tickets online, but it says it is not possible, so we are up, have breakfast and out the door by nine to be sure we are first in line and get to see Font de Gaume. Sadly, what I didn’t know was that we would have to leave our cameras outside, you can’t even take them in.

We get to Les Eyzies, and Font de Gaume way before it even opens, but we are far from the first ones there. They have benches with seat numbers on them, and we are close to the very end, like 48 and 49.

While we waited – and this line was just a line to get a number to buy your tickets, I saw this frieze over a door on a house across the street:

We got a number, and were told that there was only one English speaking tour and it was at 11:00, in 45 minutes. Or there was another one late in the afternoon. We chose the 11:00 tickets, thankful just to be able to get in.

At around 10:30 they said we could walk up to where we would meet our guide. We walked up and there was a group, but the guide said “This is a French group, you are in the next group!” and she was right – she already had 18 people.

In our group, it was interesting, there were only six real English speaking people, two from Australia, two others from the US, and us, and the rest were all other-languages – Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, etc. but people who could speak some English and who didn’t want to wait until later in the day to take the tour. We all had a really good time.

Here is a map of the cavern we will enter and the sights we will see:

 

The setting is spectacular. These mountains and hills and caves are thousands of years old.

And here we are, me with my bright shining face because we are going into Font de Gaume. I will share with you a secret – I am mildly claustrophobic, but I know how to keep it sort of under control. But I was glad to have this photo in my camera – all cameras had to be left in a special locked space – in case there was some kind of disaster, and they needed to be able to identify those trapped in / destroyed by a collapse in / etc. the cave. Drama drama drama I was glad what might be our last photo showed us smiling and happy.

We had a superb guide. She spent a lot of time showing us detail. She had a great group, we asked a lot of questions, and the more we asked, the more detail she gave us. It just kept spiraling, and we were all really serious and awed by what we were seeing. I could have stayed forever, and I just wish I had been able to take a photo for you, but we were in almost total dark, only the guide had a little (infrared?) (Ultraviolet?) (both?) flashlight with which she could show us the drawings. As we would go through some sections, she could turn on very dim lights, and she had to warn us constantly to watch our heads for outcroppings of rock.

Visiting Font de Gaumes was a thrill. I wish the same thrill for you. Here are a couple images, not my own, I found on the internet:

 

 

There are many bison, some deer, wolf, horses and mammoths.

Our wonderful guide is showing us the primitive kinds of pigments used to do the drawings in the caves, colors from stones, chalk, ashes, some mixed with liquid, some made into powder and blown onto the wall – and it must have been almost pitch dark. Imagine . . . .

 

In one of Martin Walker’s books, Bruno and his friends gather for a wedding feast at L’Augerie Basse, a restaurant built into a cave in the side of a mountain. You have a short hike to get there, but oh, what fun. (I want you to see where L’Augerie Basse is, and where it is in relation to Les Eyzies and Le Bugue)

 

 

Once again, people were very kind. Most of the people in the restaurant were working people, or locals. There was a constant hum of arrival and greeting, departure and farewells. Many people didn’t even look at the menu.

The restroom was not actually in the restaurant, but across the walkway, and I think it was all just bathrooms, not male or female except that some had urinals, but I think you could use either. I didn’t ask, it was all very clean and mostly I wanted to wash my hands. My husband excused himself and before I had a chance to tell him where the bathrooms were (it was not obvious) he left . . . and was gone a long time. He had trouble finding them.

Here is what I ordered:

Here is what my husband ordered:

Mine was pretty much the same, except I had one duck confit, and salad.

Best of all, I found a wine Martin Walker / Bruno Chief of Police recommended, a very local wine I wanted to try. I loved it! Pecharmant:

This was (another one of) the most memorable meals of our trip.

We had a wonderful lunch, and we needed to pack, but neither of us were ready to face that task quite yet. So I said “why don’t we go see St. Alvere, the truffle town? It is just on the other side of Limeuil?” and AdventureMan, always up for an exploration, agreed.

Did I mention the day our marriage survived a two and a half hour drive that ended up taking a whole day? Getting to St. Alvere was like that. I was navigating with Google, and we got on the tiniest, most remote roads. It took a long time to get to there. I never saw a truffle, but it was a gorgeous day, and a beautiful town, and indications that it, too, was on the pilgrimage route to San Diego Compostela.

On our way, we passed farm after farm filled with geese!

 

Thousands of geese!

The little road of the Pilgrims, above, in St. Alvere.

 

 

 

 

 

Now it was my husband’s turn to make a request. He had been very uneasy about our tires; there was a symbol on our dashboard that implied our tires needed more air, and as we were making a longer drive tomorrow, he wanted to add air, and put gas in the car. We headed back to Le Bugue, to the Intermarche, where we knew there was a gas station, and a place where you can clean cars.

We gassed up the car, and then found the car cleaning place. There was a man busy cleaning his car, vacuuming it, and we waited until he was finished and then asked if he knew where there was a machine which added air to tires.

He looked at us as if we were crazy. “It is right here,” he said, pointing to the machine with which he had been vacuuming.

These are the things that try men’s souls. It is not intuitive. Jeton means “token” but does it also mean coin? How does psi translate in French, how will we know how much air to add? We are consulting the car manual, the side of the driver’s door, the machine . . . eventually, we were able to add enough air, without adding too much air.

It is amazing what a major relief accomplishing this simple task gave us. We felt mighty! We had prevailed! We had conquered!

We celebrated with French tartes, little pies, peach for my husband and raspberry for me. AdventureMan discovered the Lego set we bought the day before is now HALF PRICE and he is hopping mad. I speak French, but I do not have the language skill set or the energy, at this point, to try to explain we want a refund. It is late in the day. I convince him to just . . . let it go. 🙂

It is a beautiful afternoon, almost the end of October and we are in short sleeves. We head back to Limeuil to take some shots of the Vezere river joining the Dordogne.

 

 

We drove across the Dordogne to take a picture of Limeuil from the other side:

Thank you, Martin Walker, and Bruno, Chief of Police, for intriguing us to visit this gloriously vivid and picturesque locale, with so much to do and to see. Below is the Vezere River joining the Dordogne River.

 

 

 

January 2, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Food, France, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, History, iPhone, Language, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bordeaux to Limeuil: “And We are Still Married”

The morning after the race, the major streets in Bordeaux are deserted. AdventureMan and I discovered an ATM just around the corner, and we don’t know how it’s going to work. You’d think we would be jaded by now – we know how to use ATMs in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Germany, etc. but we have also learned NEVER to take anything for granted. We give ourselves plenty of time. Going slowly and carefully, following the instructions to the letter, we get the funds we need. We’ve also learned never to count on using a credit card, and always to have back up cash.

Just because we love mustard, especially French mustard.

Just down the street, St. Andrews Cathedral.

Again, just because I love this mosaic tile in our hotel, it’s kind of a WOW for me.

Another thrill, I discover that I can make phone calls with my iPhone. I had checked, and was told I could. I know I was able to in Germany last year at the Christmas markets, but again, I never take anything for granted, things change, different countries have different systems, and for me, when I get technology to work, it is something like magic to me. YOU may think it is rational and normal, but I see a million varying factors that can cause the rational to go off track. I danced for joy when I was able to schedule a pick-up by the same limo service that dropped us off.

It was a bit extravagant, but we hate what we call “the bag drag.” The limo picked us up, put our luggage in the trunk and took us directly to Gare Sainte Jean, where he let us off at the front entrance. This is where you catch the train to Paris, or, in our case, where you pick up your rental car.

“So where is Hertz?” my husband asks me, since I made the reservation and double checked to be sure we would have a car just days before we left.

“Ummm . .. here. Here, in the Gare Ste. Jean,” I responded. We are standing there, with our roly bags and our carry bags, and there are no car rental sites in sight. Worse, there are no signs. I ask a couple people, and they don’t know.

We see a sign saying something about “voitures” and head in that direction. As we pass a McDonalds, AdventureMan goes in to ask, and a sweet, delightful little 16 year old comes out to help us. She is truly an angel, practicing her careful English, and so happy to be able to help us. “You are American?” she asks, and when we say “yes” she is all smiles.

“It is in Halle 3,” she tells us. You follow this corridor until you get to Halle 3, then you go downstairs, it is downstairs in Halle 3.”

Halle 3 feels like a mile away. It is a colossal bag drag. The walk goes on and on. Grumble grumble, if I had known, I would have had the driver let us off at Halle 3, and I grumble because it’s my fault. I’m the one who sets these things up, I’m the one who didn’t check where the car rentals might be, grumble grumble, yes, I am hard on myself as I drag my bag.

We have some good luck when we get to the rental place, the man in front of us is finishing up and heading for his car and we are next. It’s going to be more bag drag; we have to go from Halle 3 out these doors, down this sidewalk to the parking garage, then up to the 6th floor. Grumble grumble.

We get there and we love the car, a little silver SUV and not unlike our Rav4s, much of the operating system is analagous. There are a few little things . . . but we take our time, try to figure things out before we leave.

Every marriage has its pressure points. For us, here is where the rubber hits the road. We have to get out on the road. My husband, who does not speak much French, has to get us from the garage to the road. I am navigator, reading my phone and road maps, my job is to help him make the right turns.

It is a disaster. We miss the right exits and have to go back, just to get out of Bordeaux. We end up going the wrong way on the right road, and it takes us miles (kilometres) before we can turn around and go the right way.

We lose about an hour, but it is no big deal because our drive for the day is only about two and a half hours, and we plan to stop here and there and wander, as we do.

Within about twenty minutes, AdventureMan says “isn’t there is smaller road we can take? This isn’t very interesting,” and I agree, we like smaller, more picturesque roads. So i set a course for Eymet, where there is a Sunday market we’d heard about, and follow Google instructions.

One thing catches me by surprise. It is Sunday morning, and there are large groups of bikers. Not the motorcycle kind, these are bicyclists, all in fashionable athletic wear and expensive shoes on sporty bikes, and the groups look like clubs, out for a Sunday ride. I’ve never seen that before, and I love it.

Sigh. Google takes us on some weird paths. Sometimes I am not so sure Google understands French. We are on some very rural roads, not that interesting. It takes us more than two hours to get to Monsegur, where we decide to stop because we are really hungry, and I love the name Monsegur.

 

This is not the exact route we took. Google kept telling us to take some really small roads. Monsegur (means “safe hill”) is along the route before Eymet.

We turn off to Monsegur to find a place to eat. It is old, very old, and quiet. My husband is tired, and hungry. I am feeling responsible, because we are sort of lost, and not making good time.

 

We walk around the market square, and we see a couple places that do not look inviting. Then we see two elderly women, well dressed, heading to a place around the corner. We follow them. They head directly into Auberge La Piece de Boeuf.

They slow just enough for me to ask them “Is this a good place to eat?” They are more than polite, they are cordial and gracious, and tell me, slowly so I can understand clearly, that this is the only place in town with really good food, and we must try it.

We are not really meat eaters, although we are not not-meat-eaters, but . . . when in France. There are other things on the menu, but everyone in the restaurant is eating beef, and when you are in a restaurant whose name is A Piece of Beef, it is probably a good idea to eat the specialty of the house. We play by different rules in different cultures.

We are charmed by the interior. And we are delighted when they have a place for us, in a back corner where we can see almost the whole restaurant, what everyone is eating. Within ten minutes, the last table is taken, and we are glad we got there when we did, as we watch people being turned away.

The owner is very gracious. He helps AdventureMan find something he wants to eat. The entree, or starter, is a salad with a very tasty, salty beef. I totally loved it, and actually, it was enough for an entire meal for me. It was really delicious.

 

And then came my main course – beef. It was a lovely little filet, wrapped in bacon, and I was able to eat about a third of it. I couldn’t eat the potatoes, but I think there were green beans I ate before taking the photo. The meat was fork-tender.

AdventureMan had a different cut of steak, and he ate about half. It was just too much food for us. You are going to have a hard time believing this, because it is unthinkable, but . . . we couldn’t even eat dessert, even though it was included. The meat, the meal, was so rich and so filling, we couldn’t. Also, we were drinking some very fine local wine, a Graves, and we knew we had miles to go before settling in.

I saw the little French ladies who had advised us to eat there as I headed to the ladies room. They greeted me, and I asked them, “can you eat all this food?” because they were eating the same menu we were. They said “yes” but that if you can’t eat it, you can ask for a “boîte” (box) which shocked me; I have never seen French people take home uneaten food, it was once considered uncultured. But now, these refined ladies were telling me I could take it home, and that it would be a pity to waste such fine beef.

 

 

They are so proud of their locally sourced beef that they keep a large poster of the farmer and his cows in the restaurant. When I was a child, almost all food in France was local, but now France is as modernized as other countries, and “locally-sourced” is a marketing tool.

 

We needed to walk off a little of our meal and wine before we started driving again, and Monsegur was a really great place, very quiet, to walk. This is the market square – you will see a lot of market squares in my photos; you’ve already seen Libourne.

I think the above church is Notre Dame de Monsegur, but some of the churches and their interiors start to blur. Some are distinct in my mind, some are less so.

 

 

 

There is another Monsegur, I think farther south, which was an old Cathar stronghold, and where the Cathars were cruelly wiped out as France claimed the southern regions of France for the crown.

 

This is Rue de Soleil, street of the sun, which I thought funny because it is barely three feet wide and would get very little sun if you wanted to grow a little rose bush or something. It also struck me that my friends with the last name Soule’ may actually be Soleils.

So we finally left Monsegur, and in very short time found Eymat.


 

This is the old city square in Eymat; I can just imagine people riding up on their horses and letting them drink from the communal fountain, hitching them to posts around the square. Probably on market day, there were carts and peddlers.

 

I suspect these old timbered houses are sort of fire-traps, but they do give atmosphere to the old villages.

 

There was a beautiful old mill, a working mill, on the river in Eymat.

 

 

An old (castle?) enclosure in Eymat, with a Donjon – Dungeon!

 

 

 

 

Love this door, which is only maybe five feet high. But I love that now I know those nail studs are there to destroy the axe that tries to destroy the door.

I’ve apologized to my husband that what was supposed to be a sort, easy drive has turned out to be longer and more complicated, and he laughed. He put his arm around me and said “And we’re still married.”  LOL, I suppose there is something to be said for surviving challenges for all these years together.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Food, France, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Great Adventure: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks Trip Map

This is an overview of the Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks great adventure 🙂

 

Before we even checked in to our hotel in Bozeman, we hit the Walmart. I had broken a part of my sunglasses, and the Walmart had an optical shop, where a very kind optician wouldn’t even charge me for fixing them. At the same time my glasses were being fixed (just a little screw) we picked up “car food.” Everyone has their own ideas of what that might mean, but for us it meant peanut butter and crackers, apples, little oranges, wasabi peas, roasted peanuts, chocolate, ice cube gum, Ghost Pepper Rice Chex mis, and some bottled water which we refilled from the faucets in our room. Wyoming and Montana water was really cold and delicious. We also picked up a few paper plates for microwaving. We had brought plastic utensils with us.

I learned several things about myself this trip; I can’t begin to assign levels of importance. I learned that while I am fit, and can still hike and travel well, I am comparatively more fit in Florida than I am in Wyoming and Glacier National Parks. There, I am about average. There are a lot of women my age still hiking and moving comfortably.

I learned I can hike in my sandals, and I much prefer it. I know we are supposed to wear closed toe shoes while hiking, but they make my feet . . . tired. Unfree. I have great sandals, and I hike in them. My feet didn’t get cold, even hiking in freezing temperatures. If I really needed to, I could wear socks with my sandals. My feet don’t like being confined 🙂

I learned that the lighting in my house is low, and that I have more wrinkles than I thought I had. I’m not sure how much I care. When I am out hiking, I don’t care at all, it is only when I am walking into a social situation that I even think about it.

I learned that AdventureMan is still my favorite travel partner; he is almost always game for anything I suggest, he doesn’t mind stopping and watching animals for a long time, he likes to eat really good food, and he is mostly patient with me when I make a navigational mistake. When we get to someplace, he almost always appreciates the research that went into making this a really cool stop. Occasionally, when the hotel or experience is not what I would have hoped, he is philosophical about it, and so it matters little. He comes up with some good suggestions, like the Rocky Mountain Museum, and going back to a very expensive restaurant we loved. I like everything optimal. It doesn’t always happen, and I am a pragmatist, I know everything can’t always be optimal.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Road Trips, Travel, Values | | Leave a comment

Return to Rudesheim: Christmas Markets Along the Rhine

After spending the night on board the Grace, we head out the next morning, not by boat, but by bus, for Rudesheim.

Rudesheim, as I was in high school in Germany, and later as a military wife, was a place we avoided for one simple reason. We were residents, and Rudesheim was full of tourists. Occasionally, when we had house guests who wanted to visit a quaint town, we might take them to Rudesheim, or to Bingen, across the river, but rarely – there are so many wonderful, less visited villages with fabulous wines we could visit. When we lived in Wiesbaden, we were up and down the Rhine all the time.

Now, we are relaxed and decide to just sink into the tourist role. We are also not bus tour people, but the buses are due to the historic low water levels on the Rhine. You can’t fault a cruise company for the water levels in the river after an unusually dry summer and fall. While we had some drizzle, even some small sprinkles, we never saw a heavy rain, even during this trip.

Driving along, we were shocked by what we saw:

This is what is left of the mighty Rhine near the Lorelei.


 

Arriving in Rudesheim, I took a quick shot across the river to Bingen, where we have visited many times, drinking wonderful Rhine wines, back in the day when we drank a lot of German wines :-). Now, I wish I could go visit Bingen for the honor of Hildegard of Bingen, a great musician of the church.

 

We started out in Rudesheim at the Music Museum, a collection from all over Europe of mechanical music machines gathered carefully together. What a magnificent obsession! The collector would hear a rumor of a machine, and travel to Prague, or to some small village in Germany, or wherever the rumor took him, buying old, broken machines at a good price, freighting them back to his home, restoring and repairing them until they were back in prime condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the music museum, it was time for lunch. We have to give Tauck Tours a lot of credit. Most tourist companies contract for a “good enough” meal, and when we heard “a typical German meal” we had thought we might go off on our own, as we often do, but the idea of lunch at The Rudisheim Schloss (Castle) intrigued us. We were glad we chose to join the group; the meal was done well, starting with a carrot soup and a good traditional German salad, then a schnitzel made with good meat, accompanied by potatoes (I think) and bottles of very nice wine. At each place was also a cup, a gift of the house, in which we could have infinite refills of the Christmas gluewein, spiced wine, all day long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We aren’t used to eating so heavily, so we skipped dessert (a gorgeous apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce) and headed for the funicular which would take us up to the Denkmal, a memorial built to honor the German dead from (a war?) (wars in general?) They gave us warm blankets to keep us warm in the little bucket we rode up in. It took about ten minutes.

Views from the flying bucket, down into Rudesheim:

 

View up the hill to the Denkmal – sorry for the flat cloudy sky.

 

We bought a few small Christmas gifts to bring back, and the shop owner asked us if we had come on a ship, and we explained “yes” – and “no.”  They were concerned with the low levels, that it would affect the crowds that normally come to the famous Christmas markets.  Fortunately, just as our trip was ending in Basel, the heavens opened, the rains fell, and the waters rose to their normal levels – and more.


 

 

In the shop below, the Poste, I found a map of the Rhine River all the way from its beginning in the mountains in Switzerland all the way to its outlet near Amsterdam. I hid it from AdventureMan, knowing it would fit in his stocking. When it came time to wrap, I couldn’t find it and figured I had already wrapped it, but it didn’t show up. It was only months later I thought to check my suitcase, and there it was. It was fun for him to get it, even so late, and he is still having fun with it.

So after wandering around, we decide to go back to the Rudisheimer Schloss and have some kaffee und kuchen, and the waitress tells us “it’s happy hour” for the desserts. She brings us this one lovely Cherry waffle, and oh, it is so yummy, we share it happily. The whipped cream is tinted green, and has pistachios sprinkled on it. We eat it all.

Then, she cheerfully puts another at our place. It would be rude, and wasteful, not to eat it, don’t you think?

We just laughed. We don’t often eat dessert, and we’ve more than walked it off already. It was totally yummy, even the second time around.

This is one of my favorite pictures. The sun is starting to set, it’s getting time to meet up with the bus taking us back to the ship, and the locals are gathering to drink a cup of gluewein and swap news. It feels like a village again.

 

 


When you take a tour, there are just things you don’t know until they happen. This time, as we leave, we board a ferry which takes us across to Bingen. Maybe Google Earth has told them that the autobahn on the Bingen side can get us back to Koln faster than the one on the Rudesheim side, down which we came in the morning.

 

I loved ending my day this way. On a darkened, quiet bus full of happy tourists who had experienced a very good day, this little Seattle girl saw this on the way back to the ship:

I was an early Amazon addict; it was just so handy. I remember the first year I was a member, they sent us all Amazon.com coffee mugs. Just once. It never happened again. I treasured that mug, until it went the way of all mugs . . .

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Accidental Early Adaptor

iPhoneXR

Yesterday was a stressful day. It happens every now and then. The last one was when Ragnar-the-street-cat ate the cord to the foot pedal on my Pfaff and I had to get it fixed. While I was in the store, I bought a new Bernina (the price was right and it was the machine I had always wanted, very quiet.) The problem with new technology is that you have to learn new ways of doing things. The old ways don’t work. It stretches you and it stresses you.

AdventureMan has been after me to update my iPhone. We are about to travel again, and he wants us to be accessible. He is right; it is my turn to upgrade. I’ve had my iPhone since 2011, and it works wonderfully. I am happy. It does everything I need it to do . . . except it doesn’t work overseas.

I’ve dragged my feet. To me, a phone is a tool and the tool I have does everything I want it to do, including . . . making me not too accessible. But (audible sigh) I know he is right. What if there is an emergency and they need to contact us?

I am also skeptical. When we upgraded AdventureMan’s phone, we went on the Viking Ocean Cruises Wake of the Vikings trip (which was awesome) and his new phone didn’t work, didn’t get texts, didn’t get phone calls, while my old phone occasionally got texts (I believe it was a Wi-Fi thing for me).

But I also know that AdventureMan is wise; things happen. We often take off from the group, and if our connection changes, if the shuttle back to the ship changes departure time and we are not on it, it causes all kinds of complications.

So Thursday night, AdventureMan said “Our travel time is getting close, and what are you going to do about your phone?”

He is a smart man. He knows how to ask me in an open-mannered way so I don’t go all defensive and nasty because I am feeling cornered and inconvenienced and wary of having to master a new technology when I have a lot of other things going on right now.

“I’m going to do it tomorrow,” I tell him. He is satisfied. He knows that when I say I will do something, he can count on me to do it. I didn’t sleep well; I was full of dread.

So I am working at my computer when AdventureMan gets up and says “So when are you going?” and I know that the day has a limited number of hours and some of them are already committed and I really need to do this, so I do.

When I arrive at the store, the door says the store opens at 10:00, but it is 9:30 and the door is unlocked and people are waiting inside for customers, and tell me to come in, it is a special sale day. I get a really great guy, Mark, and tell him what I need. 

He was astonished. “You’re not here for the NEW iPhoneXR?” he asks, like he cannot believe what he is hearing. I tell him what I need, and he says “You need the new iPhoneXR.” He tells me all the things it will do, and then starts showing me how it will work. I tell him what I need is a phone that will work in these countries, and he shows me two ways it can work, both of which I feel comfortable I can do.

And the phone is beautiful. And handy. Within five minutes, I have said “yes” to the phone, have picked out chargers and phone case and protectors, and he is transferring all my phone stuff from the Cloud to my new phone. Of all the things that delight me, at the time, one is that I found a sturdy pink phone case that sparkles; my granddaughter will love it and think I am very cool. It makes me laugh; I am not a woman who would ever have carried a pink sparkly phone in my professional life.

The phone “recognizes” me. I no longer have to put in a code, but I have a back up code for when I need it, like I guess if I’ve been on a four day binge and it doesn’t recognize me, or . . . if I’ve been on an all night flight, which can have the same physical impact as a four day binge (those of you who know me know I am totally joking about the four day binge; I barely drink a whole glass of wine now.)

What I love, having played with it for a day, is that it is so easy. My eyes are really good, except for reading, and the screen of this phone is large and the writing is very readable. There are Tips! They tell me all the things I can do, whether I want to do them or not. There is Siri, whom I don’t intend to use, but I set it up because you never know, I might. 

(Big internal debate – who? whom? Siri is not a real person, but I would say “I don’t intend to use her” which means “whom” but who even uses “whom” anymore?)

So I just tried Siri, “Siri, open Google Maps and take me to Cologne, Germany?” and it took a couple steps, but . . . it’s a miracle! It worked!

“Siri, what is the water level of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany?” (Blah blah blah blah “take a look!”) and the German website, one among many that she found, showed the water level in Koln to be . . . 74 cm. Hmmm. Not really enough to float a ship.

Our trip no longer shows on the company website. We have heard nothing. I am guessing they are both praying for an extended rain and scurrying to arrange alternatives should the water levels not rise high enough to float the boat along some of the narrower passages of the Rhine, which is experiencing historical lows following one of the driest, hottest summers ever in Europe.

AdventureMan and I avoid bus travel like a plague. It is too restricting on people who like to move, it is claustrophobic and not-private. On the other hand, you see a lot more on the road, and since we are really going because we miss the winter in France and Germany, on a bus (or two) we will have more actual time on the ground, eating winter food, wearing our winter clothes, more time to walk, God willing.

And . . . I have a new iPhoneXR, and I actually love it.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, iPhone, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Technical Issue, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: A Short Day in L’Anse Aux Meadows

 

We have a wake-up call for six o’clock; we are on the first tender headed into L’anse Aux Meadows and we are excited. Who wouldn’t be; just look at this gorgeous morning sky to greet us. I’m good with drama if it is a morning or evening sky.

We wait a long time to get clearance; there is one other boat in town, and it is the National Geographic Explorer. Canadian Customs officials have to go through our paperwork and interview a select few face-to-face. Our 0700 departure is more like 0830.

 

No rain, so we are thankful, because rain is predicted. We are hoping it will hold off until we have visited the L’anse Aux Meadows Viking Site. Or is it a Native American Camp? For many long years it was believed to be Native American, but a team of archaeologists did a re-look and determined it may well have been an early Norse settlement.

The people in L’anse Aux Meadows go all out to make this interesting for their visitors. They dress in Viking costume to welcome us, and the site we visit has people who are “in character” telling us about their challenging lives in the early settlement, which only lasted maybe ten years.

Below is the woman who organized the buses:

 

 


A beautiful statue of the Vikings reaching the new world:

Statue detail of the ship:

 

There are a series of rooms built together, covered with sod. At one end is an outbuilding with a lathe. This may be someone’s imagination rather than something they really found, like they may have found evidence of an out-building and someone thought “oh it might have been a place where people worked wood, which Vikings did, a lot.”

 

These character actors really enjoy playing their roles. They were a hardy lot, and they work hard.

Decoration on entry to middle of houses:

Outside view of houses:

To the far end of the connected rooms is a multiple bedroom, with kinds of clothing they might have worn. The beds are small, the mattresses thin. It would appear this might be where a family might live, or a father keep his unmarried daughters, as it looks like the next room, much larger, is more of a lodge room where unattached men might sleep along the side of rooms or on the floor near the fire.

 

 

 

More clothing, and cooking tools. Sigh. I am guessing mostly women did the cooking, and that those are women’s clothes, and the corner where they speculate women might have worked preparing meals.

I love the room at the far end. I bet some old woman lived there, some old woman who loved fabrics and colors and textures, who would shear the sheep and clean and comb the wool, card the wool and make it into yarn, or thin threads that could be woven into serviceable clothing.

 

And I am speculating that old woman slept in this chaste little bed among all the supplies for spinning and weaving the wool into yarn and fabrics to clothe the inhabitants. Maybe she even made warm blankets 🙂

Outside the far end of the long house, with an opening for smoke to escape, and light to come in.

This was a forge. What it seems they might have made there was nails, using the most primitive tools and techniques.

We walked back to the center, where we were told to catch the bus, but we are told no, go to this bus-gathering place. Our meet-up seems to have been scheduled about the same time as the National Geographic Explorer meet-up, as their buses are there and . . . ours are not. It is starting to rain.

We wait a long time, and then our bus comes, to take us to another stop, a sort of re-creation of someone’s idea what things may have been like. AdventureMan and I look at each other. He is really tired. He wants to go back to the ship. When the others get off, we stay on, and one other couple asks if the bus can take us to the ship. More and more people figure out that this bus might be going back to the ship, and hop on.

It is really raining now. A tender has just arrived, and a lot of people get off, more people than I would have thought possible. We get on. I learn that a tender can hold a total of 234 people. We head back to the ship. On our way to the elevator, we ask the spa lady if the spa pool is open and she says “YES!” We run upstairs and take off all our clothes and jump into our swim clothes and head down to the hot pool. There is no one else there, just us, rolling around, warming our chilled bodies in the relaxing hot pool and the “ya-kut-zee.” We have a quick lunch, AdventureMan sacks out, and the ship is making rumbles like we are leaving L’anse aux Meadows any minute now. Life is sweet, or as the Captain ends all of his daily announcements from the bridge – All is Well.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Weather, Women's Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Wadi

A lovely quiet Saturday morning; the cats let me sleep in a little bit, I rise relaxed and happy to feed them and to read The Lectionary before my day gets fully underway.

The Old Testament story is David and Goliath.

 

1 Samuel 17:31-49

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, ‘Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’33Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’ 34But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.’ 37David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’

38 Saul clothed David with his armour; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.’ So David removed them. 40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.’ 45But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.46This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

 

So it’s an interesting story, and, as it turns out, plausible. When we lived in Tunis and in Amman, we often saw young men with slings, and they were amazingly proficient.

What caught my eye in this reading was that David picked up five smooth stones from the wadi, and that one work brought back so many associations. We often camped, in Tunis, and in Jordan, and from time to time we set up camp in a wadi. It always made me nervous, thinking that a sudden, unexpected, unseasonal, and, frankly, totally unlikely storm could come along and wash us to a tragic death. That kind of timidity came with motherhood, and an understanding of how little control I had as a mother, protecting children from all the possible ways children can be injured, sometimes fatally. Lucky for me (she says wryly) she was always outvoted by the testosterone in the family, and the dearth of likely camping spots.

In Tunisia, the Tunisia before Tunisia became developed, we would drive around to old ruins, Roman, pre-Roman, ancient ruins, and camp. There were no toilets, no showers. We had a Volkswagon bus. From time to time when nature called, I would turn to AdventureMan and say “I need a wadi.”

He knew what I meant. He would find a bridge over a wadi in a seemingly deserted place, and I would jump out, pee quickly, and run for the bus. I always wore a wrap skirt or a jean skirt, so much quicker.

“Why the hurry?” you might ask.

We learned, from the very beginning, that no matter how deserted a place might appear, that within two minutes of stopping curious children would begin to show up. Mostly they were just interested that something different was happening, sometimes they wanted “bonbon.” We always  carried a package of hard candy; anything else would melt in the heat, in these days before Volkswagen buses had air conditioning.

 

As for showering – we didn’t. At least most of the time, we didn’t. One time, one December, just after Christmas, there was a desert festival in Douz, and we went on a week-long camping trip. We camped in an oasis / field just outside of Douz, and right next to the Bedouin campers, who would come to sit with us around the campfire. During the day, there were parades of camels, and at night, huge bonfires and poetry contests.

The desert nights were cold, so bitterly cold I’ve never been colder, not even in Alaska. I zipped two sleeping bags together and had my son in mine with me; the cold was so intense it robbed the heat right out of our bodies, and I could protect him with mine. AdventureMan said it was the only time in his life that he considered peeing in his sleeping bag rather than leaving it’s small protection to walk outside the camp (he braved the walk!)

When the festival ended, we drove across the Chott al Jerid, a great salt flat, huge and empty, and then up into the mountains. I think we headed to Al Mitlawi, and from there, followed a crude map to a waterfall, near which we camped. On New Year’s Eve day, we got up early and headed to the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves, for a shower. It’s one of the most amazing memories I have, showering under that waterfall in a dry and arid part of the world. It was so early, and so remote, no children showed up. 🙂

Update: As I am reading the news, I see that in May the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Tunisia, specifically the southeastern and mountainous parts, because of terrorism.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

Herbsaint

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Moab to Tropic, Bryce Canyon And a Wonder-Filled Detour through Capitol Reefs

We are still on Pensacola time, so early rising is a piece-of-cake. Quick breakfast, quick departure. We had looked at the options the night before, we could go directly to Zion via fast roads, or take a southern route which would take considerably longer. AdventureMan had looked at the map and suggested a third route, which took longer, but not so long as the southern route, and took us through a place I have never even heard of, Capitol Reefs.

We’ve lived in so many wonderful places, and, because AdventureMan’s job was always so demanding, I took care of trip-planning, finding places to stay, creating routes to travel and choosing sights to see. This way is so much better, AdventureMan has the leisure to look at the maps, and he has good instincts. This day was another best day of the trip.  🙂

(Yes, I know, technically, they can’t all be best days. Toward the end we had some more boring days, but each day brought wonders and joys, and this is one of those best days, honest.)

One thing we never want is to find ourselves miles from a gas station in a remote location. As we are filling our tank, leaving Moab, I see one of our contemporaries loading up for his own adventure. This is what I love about Moab, you are free to pursue your own adventure.

If you are thinking about taking this trip, or a trip like it, you need to know that our phones had no service much of the time. Fortunately, we had maps and are good at reading them, mostly. It is really important to have some kind of back up when you are in remote locations. If you rely on your phone, and there is no service, you will have a harder time.

The scenery, even along the major highways, can be distractingly spectacular. This is, I believe, along I-70, which we take for a short time to get to the scenic road we want to be on to get to Capitol Reefs.

What we didn’t realize was that the greenery near the cliffs in Capitol Reefs indicated a river. I discovered it as I was making a pit-stop. I was headed to a private spot when all of a sudden, I realized I was not alone. By a stroke of luck, I had my camera in my hand. I whispered to the Mule Deer that I meant them no harm, and they calmly grazed as I took a couple photos.

Can you see why I am considering this another of the best days? I love happy surprises, and this day is full of happy surprises, even a few flakes of short-lived snow.

Good thing we stopped where we did. Just another quarter of a mile down the road is a major stop, with a beautiful walkway, so people can view Petroglyphs!

So, can you see the petroglyphs? I bet your eyes are getting better at it. You learn to look a little higher than you would think.

There are so many places where petroglyphs have been lost to natural breaking off and erosion.

 

This is a piece that has broken off, but remnants of the original petroglyphs remain.

This is the beautiful walkway they built.

This is the sign. It is a little obscured, but we are always thankful for good signage.

I want you to know how very brave I was. I was about to lean on the railing to steady a shot when AdventureMan said “You’ll want to look before you do that,” and when I did, I saw a thousand creeping caterpillars. They were falling out of the trees, and covered the walkway. I made AdventureMan check my hair, and my hoodie, then I covered my hair completely; I looked like a total dork. Back in the car, I made him check me again, to make sure I wasn’t carrying an unwelcome guest with me. But no matter how much I was creeped out, it didn’t stop me from taking these photos 🙂

“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be thankful in it!”

Shortly after finding a gas station, and looking for a restaurant that was open and might serve more than hamburgers and beer, we found the Capitol Reefs Cafe and Restaurant, which suited us perfectly. It had a unique gift store – I found the only petroglyph soap, black with etched petroglyphs – of the entire trip, perfect for a three year old, or even in the tip of AdventureMan’s Christmas stocking. Alas, there was only one, and I gave it to the three year old.

Look at that! Cloth napkins, and in a beautiful local textile.

AdventureMan had a fabulous corn chowder, and these Shrimp Tostadas.

I had a smoked trout salad, the only one I have ever had in my life. It was unique, and wonderful.

At Larb Hollow overlook, you could see for miles, maybe hundreds of miles. We could see Lake Powell. In the highlands, it was still very cold, and we had occasional flakes of snow.

This stop was hilarious. We thought it was some kind of big deal but it was a very little deal. It reminded us very much of Germany, with a rural forest feel, a walk around a large lake, people with those walking picks that give me the shivers – “No! Don’t point that pick at me!”

We stopped at a rock shop, where I bought a T-shirt I loved. He said it was last year’s color, and gave me a great discount, but it was a much more subtle color, a desert deep rose color, and it has a 70’s peace sign in gold, so elaborate that you don’t necessarily even see what it is. I love it. Then I went to take a photo of these cows, which AdventureMan thought was hilarious. “You’d be surprised how many people stop to take photos of those cows,” the owner of The Rock Shop told him.

Arriving in Tropic, we are assigned to this cabin. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, we loved this cabin the best. It was a lot of fun, spacious, clean, very private, great beds, and the least expensive place we stayed. This was the Bryce Canyon Inn, in Tropic, which also has a coffee shop and a pizza restaurant in the same complex.

We took a short rest, then headed out to do a reconnaissance of Bryce Canyon, finding one of the major sights on our way. I think it was called Mossy Grotto, or something like that. Honestly, they give names to all these hikes, and while the hikes are great, I can’t remember the exact names. These are all late in the day, some times the sunlight is perfect and some times it has already disappeared due to landscape features. We needed a good hike after spending so much of the day with our only exercise getting in and out of the car.


This is one of the features, and I couldn’t really figure out why. I think in winter it has huge icicles hanging from it. It is moist and water weeps from it. I think it is the mossy grotto.

It looks like these rocks are kissing 🙂

 

We headed back to Tropic around dinner time, ate at the pizza restaurant. AdventureMan did the smart thing, he ordered a pizza. I saw halibut and chips on the menu and the Alaska-girl instincts kicked in, oh, halibut and chips! I got two small heavily breaded pre-frozen little lumps of fish, tasteless, what a waste of halibut. 😦  Learned – re-learned a lesson: if you’re in a pizza restaurant, order pizza.

We slept wonderfully in this cabin 🙂 Every day so far exceeds 10,000 steps 🙂

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Faith, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment