Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

MomFest in New Orleans

Didn’t we just have a fest in New Orleans? On Saturday, AdventureMan and I were having chargrilled oysters at The Original Oyster House, our favorite seafood place along the Spanish Fort causeway going into Mobile.

As usual, we were having a discussion about words. I had decided that Saturday would be the beginning of Mother’s Day, and as we were meeting up with our son on Sunday, and heading to New Orleans for Monday and Tuesday, it would end up being a four day celebration. AdventureMan wondered what a four day celebration would be called. I suggested a four day weekend, and he said, no, MomQuad. I didn’t like the sound of that, so I announced, definitively, that we would call it the MomFest, which had a less legalistic and more celebratory flavor.

Sunday, too, was lovely, having time with our son where we could hear about his life and his adventures in prosecution. His accused was very sure he would not be convicted – “If they have no face, they have no case!” but our son, by his careful and painstaking work, proved him very wrong.

And Monday we headed to New Orleans, hitting the road around 0830 for an anticipated 1130 arrival.

Oops. Not so fast. Just out of Mobile we ran into massive thunderclouds and shocking bolts of lightning, and torrents of rain rushing up from the gigantic wheels of the trucks who drove hell-bent-for-leather to get their cargos in on time in spite of the weather.

The storm was easing up as we crossed the causeway into New Orleans, and by the time we got to Magazine Street, it had stopped raining and the sun began to peep out.

We love the variety available on Magazine street, and we haven’t had Ethiopian food for weeks :-).

Yes! Cafe Abyssinia, here we come again, a family tradition when we hit New Orleans just in time for lunch. Our waiter this time was delightful, a man from Chicago, related to the restaurant owner, who has actually been back to visit family in Ethiopia. He had great stories to tell about his family there, how they love hearing about America, and how they made him feel so welcome, and a part of a much bigger family.

Samson at Cafe Abyssinia

Then on to Zito’s and to Enrique’s to pick up items we had left to be fixed, polished or mended. Always a good reason to come back. We had a good visit, then headed to Creole Creamery on our way to The Parkview. Usually when it comes to ice cream flavors, AdventureMan and I go our separate ways, maybe sharing small bites with one another, but this time we both landed on the same flavor: Bittersweet Chocolate Torte. It was divine. We had to eat it sitting out in our car, as no one is allowed to sit inside and even the numbers who can come in are limited, but we were lucky. When we went back the next day, there was a long line of people outside, waiting for their turn to go inside.

I did look at VRBO for this trip, but it’s just an overnight, and oh, we love The Parkview. We love the parking, we love the park, we love the proximity to the zoo, and we love that you can catch the streetcar going in either direction just outside the front door, on St. Charles.

We had a different room this time, and I didn’t think I was going to love it, but we did. It was on the main floor, near check in and the breakfast room, but because of COVID, and in spite of the fact the hotel was fully booked, it was not noisy, the bed was huge with a good mattress and linens, and we had plenty of space.

So this was our bed. AdventureMan noticed it had a face on it, which after he described where it was, I could see it. But I also saw a heart, which he did not, and another stylized face high above, on the crown over the bed.

Can you see the face? The heart?
This is the face I saw on the top of the bed

We had dinner again at Superior Seafoods; we split the grilled oysters, each had a salad, and AdventureMan had grilled shrimp, while once again, I exercised poor judgement and had the rich and satisfying BBQ Shrimp. We had a 45 minute wait to get in – New Orleans high schools, Loyola and Tulane are having graduations, and the place is a madhouse – but we had a delightful conversation with a young couple, she was just finishing graduate school and the two of them were on a quest to eat as many oysters as possible before leaving New Orleans for Nashville.

When I say I exercised bad judgement, it is not a reflection on the food. The food was marvelous. I am diabetic and I have no reason on earth to eat injera (Ethiopian pancake-bread) for lunch, really creamy ice cream at midday, and grilled buttery oysters and buttery BBQ shrimp for dinner. It was very foolish of me. Oh well, every now and then I allow myself a little bad judgement.

When we hit the road the next morning, the heavens opened and torrents of rain followed bolts of lightning. Traffic was a little lighter heading east. Our sweet and caring daughter-in-law texted us to fill our tanks before leaving Mississippi, as on top of the pipeline hack for ransom, a major Pensacola gas distributor had failed an EPA requirement and many Pensacola gas stations were dry. Even as far back as Biloxi, gas stations had cars lined up. We did manage to fill the tank, and we turned off the air conditioning for the rest of the drive. The situation seems to be easing in Pensacola, but there is such a fear of a gas shortage that people are panic buying.

So today’s conversation was the difference between a buccaneer and a pirate. Do you know the difference? For a fascinating glimpse into early American history, you can read this lengthy and clear explanation here.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Chocolate, Cultural, Eating Out, Health Issues, Hotels, New Orleans, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

FamilyFest in New Orleans

Time goes on and we have heard rumors that New Orleans is actually safer than Pensacola. The family needs some time together, just to be, and we love to travel together.

To be as safe as we can be, we choose to rent a place through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) and there is a large selection. We want to share space, and we also want this family of introverts to have space to escape one another, too. We found a beautiful place on Napoleon Avenue, close to several places we love, great walking, even a bakery, La Boulangerie, with fresh croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast.

We have a tradition of starting at the Cafe Abyssinia – Pensacola doesn’t have any Ethiopian food, which we love for it’s flavor and healthiness. We order the Vegetarian platter, and add Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew.

Cafe Abyssinia Vegetarian Platter plus Doro Wat

Then to the zoo. We hit paydirt, we don’t know why but the zoo is nearly empty. We have a Krewe membership, but we still had to make reservations. Totally worth it.

One of the reasons we normally stay at The Parkview is they have the most fabulous playground in the world. This time, it was a real thrill. All the houses in the neighborhood had signs in their yards saying “Thank You Drew” for the Saint’s retiring quarterback who created this wonderul playground and lives in this neighborhood.

It isn’t just a swing-set, it is also public art 🙂

The Yoga Moms do outdoor yoga near this glorious old oak

“We’re staying in a mansion!” our beautiful, imaginative grand-daughter exclaimed as she entered our rental. It was less costly and more space than spending three nights in two rooms at The Parkview.

Dining room

Kitchen

Entry with stained glass
King bedroom
Walk in closet in King master bath
Huge sleeping porch BR with 2 Queen beds
Queen suite also has bathroom
We found we really needed the washer and dryer
Queen Suite Bath with laundry, Jacuzzi tub and separate walk in shower

Part of the fun was walking to places where we could order out to eat. Magazine street has so many good restaurants; the first night was Japanese, the next day was mid-day wood oven pizza from New York Pizza. We ate it too fast to get a good picture. It was delicious!

Our favorite meal of the trip, on one of our all time favorite New Orleans restaurants, Superior Seafood, within walking distance on Saint Charles. What is not to love? It is here, long ago, that we introduced our grandchildren to grilled oysters, fish sandwiches, and profiteroles!

Sunday Brunch, so they have live music
A lot of people go just for the oysters and the bread
A socially distanced group was having a birthday party

We ordered two dozen grilled oysters to share among the six of us. They are so rich, but they went fast. Too fast to photograph!

My entree, BBQ Shrimp. Fussy and messy but oh, so good!
Our grandson’s Catfish Sandwich, huge, and he ate it all!
Our granddaughter had the “kid’s” fish portion, also huge. Don’t you love that the catsup comes in a silver sauce server?

One of the highlights of the trip came at the time our waitress asked if we wanted dessert. When five of us ordered profiteroles, she exclaimed “Five?” She seemed so shocked! We assured her we wanted five portions (and a slice of carrot cake for one of the party) and she brought five, two profiterole each, SO good. They provide a bittersweet hot chocolate sauce in a silver server which you can pour over the profiteroles.

The next morning we all scrambled to strip our beds and pile all the sheets and towels in near the washer and dryer, make sure we left the kitchen as we found it, dishes washed, garbages emptied. It was a small price to pay for such a spacious and lovely location.

And the reward was breakfast at the new Two Chicks location, closer to the French Quarter hotels. We fortunately got there early, before the line formed outside to get a table!

I love to leave New Orleans with a taste of morning crepes in my mouth 🙂

We had picked up some items we had left to be polished and plated over a year ago. There they sat, with my name on them, but one of the pieces I was sure wasn’t mine. It is a bath box, and I was sure it was copper. When I picked it up, it wasn’t copper at all, it was sparkling brass. Zito’s Polishing and Plating does a fabulous job making our pieces from the Middle East look great again. Another stop was Enrique’s, to have some of our carpets mended.

So it wasn’t all walking and eating, we also had business to take care of, things we can’t get done in Pensacola.

On the way home, we saw a billboard nearing Mobile for Dick Russel’s, and we thought we would give it a try. We had to wait a half an hour, socially distanced and masked, although many of the people had noses out or a mask just hanging off an ear as they waited outside. The people waiting kept telling us we would love the BBQ.

The biscuits were fresh, and really good
BBQ Turkey, beans and cole slaw
Pulled pork, onion rings and greens

The truth is, we will never go back. BBQ is personal, and we were both horrified by the sauce, which others raved about. It tasted mostly like catsup to us. Sauce, in our humble opinion, makes the BBQ. This did not thrill our hearts.

All in all, however, a great family trip, our first outing as a family for over a year.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Music, New Orleans, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | 1 Comment

Settling In to Apalachicola

Prior to Hurricane Michael, Apalachicola had a long history as home to some of the most delicious oysters in the world. Mountains of oyster shells like this were iconic Apalachicola scenes.

Apalachicola is a great little town for walking. There is a downtown with cute shops, there is a grocery store, there are several good restaurants, and lots of parking. We check in to our hotel, we take a long walk, we decide to eat early. Yes, another restaurant, but it is early and nearly empty. We find another isolated table.

The focus is definitely on drinks.

The food was OK.

We left as more people started coming in.

You can rent these houseboats for an Apalachicola stay right on the water.

I am losing the light when we come across a large pick-up full over the brim with duck decoys. The next morning, I could hear shots going off all over the estuary as hunters brought down the migrating ducks.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

“Do You Want to Reserve for Friday night?”

I was so excited. We are headed out, our first trip since February when we took our grandchildren back to New Orleans, as we so often did until March and the advent of COVID. We’ve sold our big house, are comfortably settled in our smaller house, and I am SO ready to resume a more normal life.

I had just finished telling AdventureMan about a restaurant in a hotel we have visited several times, but we’ve never stayed in nor eaten in. The menu looks fabulous! (The Franklin in the Gibson Inn, Apalachicola). He looked at me over his reader glasses, lovingly – and sadly.

“”So do you think everyone will be masked and socially distanced?” he asked me.

“Oh,” I responded. Deflated. Sometimes, for a short while, I can totally forget the new reality of masks and social distancing, and not eating in restaurants.

We decided that as we will be staying in a lovely place with condo conveniences, we can order out. It won’t be the same, but the food will be good, we can store our leftovers in a refrigerator, and we can be safe.

Sigh.

I’m still excited. Apalachicola is beautiful, and the hotel where we stay (The Water Street Hotel) is right on the estuary. There are screened balconies where, even in this chilly weather, we can sit out and watch the heron, and fishing birds, and watch the boats stream by. We can head out to St. Marks, famous for the large flights of migratory birds at this time of the year.

It will be cold. It will also be beautiful, and it will be relatively deserted, safe from those globs of corona virus floating around where human beings breathe. We can walk to our hearts content. I can take pictures.

We like birds. We are enthralled with their beauty. It gives me a happy jolt every time I see, from my little house, a pelican, or a stork, or an eagle, or a red shouldered hawk. No, we are not birders. We like birders, but cannot begin to generate their endless enthusiasm and capability for detailed observation. We just sit back and enjoy the moment.

Apalachicola is a very old Florida town, once famous for it’s timber, and once famous for it’s oysters. The recent hurricane activity has wiped out the tasty Apalachicola oysters, at least for the next few years, and has greatly wiped out the economy of Apalachicola. We look forward to lifting that economy, as best we can, with our visit, and we encourage you to do the same.

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

Tofino and the Heebie Jeebies

Today I woke up with the heebie jeebies, an unexplained restless anxiety with no cause that I am aware of. It happens; it happens sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep and this was one of those mornings when I woke up just before four a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, and sometimes it happens when some kind of atmospheric pressure shift takes place, and that has happened, too.

No more clear cool sunny days, the air is heavy with moisture and the clouds hang low over Pensacola.

As I read the news, CNN had an article about Tofino: Canada’s Bohemian Backwater and I thought “Isn’t that where AdventureMan and I went when we spent a couple weeks on Vancouver Island?” I checked this blog, and to my utter delight, came across several entries on our stay in Ucluelet, where we stayed when we visited Tofino.

(Sea Star at Terrace Beach Resort; Ucluelet)

I read through the entries. It was like taking a little escape all over again. My vapors lifted. I headed to the kitchen to start a big pot of baked beans and get started on my busy day. I don’t shop often these days, but I needed a birthday card and Target was stocked, better than I have seen it for a long time, with clothing in colors, designs and sizes that are perfect for my grandchildren. Woooo hoooo, such an inauspicious beginning and such a great turnaround to my day, thanks to “Bohemian” Tofino.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Hotels, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Cahors to Bordeaux, Preparing to Fly

Today is quick and easy, two and a half hours on easy (boring) main roads, but the billboards are interesting and different from those in the US.

I take one photo on the way:

We find our hotel, another Best Western, the nearest hotel to the airport. We already repacked our suitcase in the roomy Cahors hotel, so we are not concerned when the room is really, really small.

We talk with the desk clerk, an Australian, and we ask her about one restaurant. “Don’t eat there!” she tells us, “it’s awful.” We are very grateful for her honesty. She asks what we want to eat.

“We don’t want any more fois gras or duck,” I tell her, “we’ve eaten too much rich food! How do the French do it?”

She laughed and told us the French only eat fois gras on very special occasions, like Christmas Eve, or at a christening of a baby, or a very special birthday, and then, only is very small quantities, not the slabs we have been served.

That makes sense. I can’t imagine eating these rich foods day in and day out; it would make me sick. Literally, I can’t process a lot of fat.

She suggests Il Ristorante, not too far, and I have seen it on the map so I plug it into my phone and off we go.

It is exactly what we are looking for, and we even found a parking place.

Great bread.

 

A mixed crowd, mostly young and hip, many of whom looked like very trendy Americans, only thinner. It’s like they wore American-ish styles, but made them chic.

I had a lovely salad, and we split a pizza. It was delicious.

We were in a typical sort of strip mall with an Office Depot and other stores. This was a gift store, but looked just like places in the US, with cheap made-in-China goods.


We went to the Carrefour to look around, we and all the thousands of Bordelaise on holiday who went shopping. We did find a parking place, but only spent about a half hour in the store, as it was very crowded with serious shoppers, many buying groceries.

There was a Carrefour gas station, so we went to fill up. AdventureMan tried several times, but he would only get so far and then nothing would happen. He asked for my help and the same thing happened to me, and we couldn’t understand why. He walked over and asked if we could pay cash, and the guy said yes, but we couldn’t find a pump that would operate that way, and no one was eager to explain things to us so we left, and found a normal little gas station, and filled up, and the price wasn’t bad.

We had received notification from Air France to be at the airport three hours before our flight was due to depart. We decided to make it two hours; that early in the day there aren’t such crowds, but we did have some anxiety about the car turn in, so we took a quick drive to the airport, found the Hertz check in and a very kind man who had just taken care of the last customer walked us through the process. We were greatly relieved. (If you read the reviews for Hertz in Bordeaux, you will see why we were concerned. Most of those dire reviews are a few years old, and things seem to have improved, although . . . .)

We had an early dinner at an almost-fast-food place called Courtepaille. It was a place with a large and varied menu, but specialized in grilled steaks, which we did not want.

All the pears you can find in France:

Butternut soup

 

AdventureMan had a salad:


 

So we go back to our hotel, comfortable and feeling calm about our early departure, and my husband’s phone starts ringing, and it is our credit card company and they are very concerned about some charges coming in from Carrefour. It seems someone might have been trying to use our card, and there was a hold of 224 Euros. Something rang a bell, because a hold is not a charge, and we figured out that every time we tried to charge the gas at Carrefour, it put a hold on our funds, but since we did not get any gas, there was no charge, just a hold.

Something like that, but different had happened earlier in the trip. Our credit card company – a different one – denied a 500 Euro charge from Hertz. I immediately thought of the car rental, and thought it was a hold for that, but this was not the right card, we had told him to put the hold on our travel card. Our bank said that this charge happened a lot in Bordeaux, so that they were always suspicious when they saw Hertz, because there was some kind of scam going on that happened with people renting from Hertz. They had denied the claim, so there was no problem. When we went to the Hertz office at the airport, he looked at our paperwork and at his records and said we were all in order, good to go. We never had another fraudulent charge, and the Carrefour hold also went away when no charge was ever made.

When things like that happen in a foreign country, it makes you feel so vulnerable! It’s bad enough in your own country where you are fluent in the language, but also fluent in how things are done. There are things we know that we don’t even know we know, and those cultural things give us confidence. On foreign territory, it’s like everything can go south in a heartbeat, and you are missing some tools for fixing the problem.

It’s good for us to face those challenges. They help us grow. They help us think differently. And they are also really scary sometimes when you’re going through them. We also find that, even though those phone calls are disturbing, we are very glad our credit card companies are so vigilant and know us so well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 9.34.24 AM.png

Somehow I have already deleted the photos from the next morning. AdventureMan dropped me and the bags off at the airport and left to drop off the car. The airport was very dark, and there were people inside sleeping! The lights were still on very dim! It took AdventureMan about half an hour before he caught up with me, but there was still no movement. We could figure out where Air France was, and there were big signs telling you to check in early or be left behind – but there was no one there from any of the airlines.

People kept gathering. There was a large flight for Paris, full of school groups, full of church groups, but no one to check us in. Even at five, an hour before our international flight, there was no one there. Around 5:15 Air France people started strolling in. We got checked in for our flight, and then – waited in a holding pen kind of place. Security didn’t open until 5:30. So much for getting to the airport 3 hours early. 2 hours was too early!

Our flight out of Amsterdam was a KLM Dreamliner. I had never flown on one before, and now I don’t want to fly on anything else. It is SO quiet.

All the seats in the business class cabin went totally flat, and made no sound when you adjusted them. There was an additional shoulder belt for take-off and landing. Their meal service is called something like Whatever You Want When You Want It, which meant anything on the menu was available at any time, so there was no crew blocking the aisles serving, they just brought you a tray of whatever you wanted – when you wanted it. It was the most peaceful flight I have ever taken.

All kinds of space for storage, all kinds of receptacles for charging electronics and something I just loved – windows you could dim or lighten by pressing a button, no shutters. You could choose how bright or dim you wanted it to be. Great way to end a great trip.

January 4, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Air France, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, France, fraud, Geography / Maps, Hotels, KLM, Road Trips, Safety, Scams, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Salers to Cahors, France

 

When we got up, it was drizzling again. We went down for breakfast . . . it reminded me of being at camp. I know I sound grumpy, so first-world, but I am telling you exactly how I felt. I did not feel like a treasured guest. There was a limited breakfast buffet. There was a coffee machine. (Am I in France?? A coffee MACHINE??) Some milk cartons, yoghurt, small fruit plates are available in the small refrigerator. And there is a boil-it-yourself egg boiling machine where you put the egg in and set a timer so you will know when it is done, except that we didn’t know what the numbers meant, it wasn’t like a real timer.

Grumble grumble grumble, it’s rainy and we are getting toward the end of the trip. I’m not so bright and shiny anymore.

We had breakfast. There were croissants, French croissants, with little packets of butter and jam. Aargh.

We strolled around Salers once again. I would like to tell you that I was a good sport, but I only pretended, and at the first drops of drizzle, I said “enough.” We packed up, checked out and headed towards Cahors. It’s another 2 1/2 hour day, only this time we are taking main roads.

Shortly past St. Martins we saw a Carrefour, and it is on our side of the street. We know a lucky break when we see it. Today is November 1st, most filling stations are very closed, and here is one open. There is a line, but it is open, and the prices good. We send thanks in our hearts to the limo driver who gave us such good advice.

We are sticking to the major roads, which we finally figured out are A roads, which are also often toll roads, and D roads with larger numbers, like D2 and D13. It’s the D1304 (just a made up example) that lead us onto narrow scary roads.

We are also so impressed with French drivers. No one is speeding, no one is honking. It’s almost like being in an alternate universe.

(This is the day, that, after we got home, we were notified by Hertz that we had received a speeding ticket and would be contacted by French authorities for payment. If I read the notice correctly, it appeared to be about 24 Euro. We’ve never received a notification, or a bill, or at least not yet. But we also never saw the camera. AdventureMan says at one time he knew he was driving too fast and slowed down, but now we understand better why the French have become such good, polite drivers. There are cameras everywhere.)

We make the drive quickly, and while the day brightens occasionally, we also have frequent showers, and never a blue sky. Sticking to the main highway is boring. We leave the slate roof country, and enter back into beautiful castle country.

Google takes us directly to our hotel, the Best Western Plus Divina Cahors, and we even find parking nearby. We think there might be paid parking under the hotel, but we don’t know, and don’t bother yet with the bags.

Why did I choose this hotel? It had a great location. I love a view. It was an easy walk into historical Cahors. It seemed to have parking. And breakfast. Best Westerns generally have reliably good breakfasts.

As it turned out there was paid parking under the hotel, but also a great free parking lot just outside the hotel, so my husband brought the car to the front door, we grabbed all our bags, I waited while he parked and came back and we dragged the bags a short distance to the elevator.

When we got to our room, we were totally wowed. It is clean, modern (not normally my thing, but I loved the way this was done) and even on a dismal day, the room seemed bright and welcoming. The desk clerk was very helpful, and gave us the name of a place to eat, just blocks away.

 

 

 

I just wish I had taken a photo or two of the bathroom. The shower had four shower heads. The towels were very thick, fluffy and plentiful. There were thick terry robes for both of us. These small luxuries make me feel happy.

These are the towers on a bridge outside our window. You might think that sky looks a little blue, but it is just shades of gray.

We take our umbrellas and walk to downtown Cahors, where we find the Brasserie d’Isa. It is full of laughing people, people greeting one another, people sipping wine and eating good food. We love the place.

 

I order a salade d’autonne, which has pears and blue cheese, walnuts and walnut oil and is light and delicious.

 

AdventureMan has an omelet aux fines herbes, with pommes frites, and he, too, is delighted. When we first got to France, we were eating all the time, and we are so happy to be eating lighter once again.

Well, lighter means you can have dessert, doesn’t it? I have a very light cafe’ gourmand, with tiny tastes of all kinds of things, which I divide with my husband. Very light, wouldn’t you say?

 

It’s still raining, and we haven’t seen anything of Cahors. I tell AdventureMan we really have to just walk down this street to the Cathedral, and then we can go back to the hotel. The rain gets heavier, even two umbrellas isn’t enough, our clothes are getting soaked, but we get to the cathedral, I take a photo and we head back. No, it is closed, so we don’t go in. It’s All Saints Day, a holiday, the church is closed.

It is a church on the pilgrimage route, however. AdventureMan, with his sharp eyes, spots the telltale scallop shell on the street we find to go back to the hotel. It’s raining hard. We don’t even window show, we just scurry back to the hotel.

 

The next morning there really is a little bit of blue sky over the bridge.

 

 

January 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Food, France, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Breakfast at Domaine de la Vitrolle

It would have been a false economy to skip breakfast at the Domaine de la Vitrolle. Yes, you can grab a cup of coffee at a local supermarket, and a croissant, and go your way for very little, but you miss the whole joy of a really good petit dejeuner.

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I like people, I get along with people, but oh, I am such an introvert. I crave quiet time, and I love privacy. I treasure privacy.

For me, this hotel stay was restorative. All that socializing on the Viking Forseti! All that chatting and cordiality! Yes, I can do it. It takes its toll.

We have the dining room all to ourselves, and the table is beautiful and the food is beautiful. Look at this beautiful bread.  It tastes good, too!

 

See the apple juice at our plates? Pressed from apples grown on the domaine, where you can smell apples from the minute you drive in. They also have fields of grapes, and their own vintner, I understand. You can buy their juice and cider at the little store at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

See the little plate of meats, and the separate little plate of cheeses? Lovely! Little pots of jam. Little pats of unsalted butter. Fruits. Over on a side table you can choose from cereals, and make some toast.

 

Croissants and pain au chocolat arrive in their own basket, still warm.

For me, this is what I love the most. Coffee and warm milk, served in separate pitchers. I love it that I can pour in a lot of milk and it doesn’t damage the heat of the coffee. I hate tepid coffee; but who serves warm milk anymore? Domaine de la Vitrolle won my heart with their coffee service.

We also got a bit of solid gold information before we headed out for the day. The manager tells us “there are three supermarkets in LeBugue, just turn right when you get to the bridge and they will be on your right.”

We are on the road for several days, and we like to have snacks with us, and to be able to eat local treats from the area. The supermarket format is also easy for us – mostly, a supermarket is a supermarket wherever you go, and you find what you want, go to a counter and pay for it.  This Intermarche turned out to be one of our favorite places. We went first thing in the morning, and then we went back late in the afternoon and picked up food for dinner, so we wouldn’t have to go out.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You go all the way to France and you don’t want to go out for dinner? This is why I love traveling with my husband; we share some of the same oddities. We love travel, we love seeing what is available for people to buy, we love eating lunch out, but by the end of the day – we’re ready to settle in. We don’t want to wait until seven for restaurants to open, and then spend almost two hours eating a meal that is heavier than we want to eat.

We can pick up salads, pate, sandwiches, pastries, pieces of pie, macaroons with chocolate, tangerines . . . little napkins, forks, knives – it’s all so easy. We get to pick our own meals and amounts, and then, we have time to make notes at night, or read, or look at the map for the next day’s adventures, or even take a lovely hot relaxed bath in a huge bathtub. The making notes is critical; there is so much detail we forget, and when I can write some of it down, it makes for fun later on, reliving moments we had forgotten.

At the Intermarche, we also found something really fun – a Lego advent calendar for our grandchildren. It took a little doing, as there was no price on it and we had to track it down, but we are so delighted to have found it. My husband found some amazing macaroons with dark chocolate bottoms; we had one a day and they lasted the entire trip, oh how we enjoyed them! I found Prunes from Agen, famous prunes, fat and juicy, and I brought them back and used them in my Christmas fruit cakes. People were so kind and so helpful. It would not surprise me if we go back for another visit.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Blogging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dordogne, Bruno and the Domaine de La Vitrolle outside Limeuil

Close to six we drive down the long apple-scented drive to arrive at the Domaine de la Vitrolle, where several episodes in the Bruno, Chief of Police series take place. This beautiful location is not outrageously prices, and we are staying for three nights, to be able to fully enjoy this area.

(I didn’t take the above photo; it is from their website.)

The lady waiting for us tells us all about the hotel, and that we are the only guests for the first night. Actually, later there were guests, but they were staying in a different part of the hotel. We were staying on the second floor, next to the tower. It was a delightful room. From our bathroom (which was huge) window, we could smell the apples on the trees. With our breakfast, we had apple juice/cider which was pressed from these apples. Heaven.

Our room was really two rooms, a bedroom and a sitting room. After our little suite on the Viking Forseti, this felt like such luxury!

I LOVED this bathroom!

The hotel was very elegant, and also very welcoming.

 

The sitting room where we had best access to wi-fi:

Below, our table in the dining room:

Don’t you love this fireplace?

 

 

Andre Malraux had a French resistance headquarters here, at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

 

This is the drive into Domaine de la Vitrolle, lined with fruit trees.

We go into the village of Limeuil, looking for dinner but also loving the ancient streets, all quiet except for the ghosts and goblins coming from the castle at the top of the hill where a Halloween party is just finishing up.

 

It is a beautiful little place, wonderful for walking.

It is Sunday night in rural France, off-season in the Dordogne, and there is no place to eat in Limeuil, as beautiful as it is. We turn to our friend, Bruno, Chief of Police (and author Martin Walker) who tells us that nearby, in LeBugue, there is an Italian restaurant, Da Francesco, which serves good Italian food at reasonable prices.

Tired. Hungry. We head for LeBugue. We see several other promising restaurants, including a Middle Eastern restaurant, all closed, but not only is Da Francesco open, there is a parking place, just across from the Police Station, just steps from the restaurant. AdventureMan orders a large salad, and I ask for hot soup, my throat is a little sore, probably allergies, it happens. The soup is wonderful, nourishing and tasty, and my husband’s salad is so huge he can’t eat it all. Our bill was small. We like the Dordogne. Great food at reasonable prices, our kind of place.

It is only minutes back to our rooms at Domaine de la Vitrolle. We are almost asleep before our heads hit the pillows, and we sleep wonderfully. It is amazingly quiet, so quiet.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hotels, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment