Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.

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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

Bordeaux: City of Many Discoveries

We’ve had a full morning, and head for the hotel, and then to see if we can find the restaurant our guide recommended when we were on our walking tour. It met all our favorite criteria – it is recommended and frequented by citizens of Bordeaux, it features Bordeaux specialties, and it is unpretentious. We love this kind of place.

We had a very short walk, and we are very hungry. We find the sign and board for the restaurant, and then the hilarity begins. We can’t find the door.

 

We find an entrance, and are greeted and seated quickly. When we look at the menu, and look at the clientele, it doesn’t feel right.

It’s not the same menu we saw posted at La Table Bordelaise. The manager can see we are puzzled, and he assures us we are in the right place. I asked about a particular dish, and he then agreed we were meant to be next door. I think he knew all along we were looking for the other restaurant, but this was the Bordelaise GRILL, and he graciously consented to let us go.

We were embarrassed, of course, but relieved. I don’t want to waste my calories, or my Euros, on a meal I don’t want. I will pay the price of a little embarrassment to be in the right restaurant.

So we go next door, and are happy to be seated in a very crowded restaurant. What I like is that there is a wide variety of ages, from twenty-somethings, to couples older than we are.

We order, maigret de canard (duck) for my husband, who for years has said “I only eat duck in France” and a fish for me. I was delighted to see the lady next to me, very French, had ordered the same thing. I was horrified to see how elegantly, delicately and thoroughly she was able to eviscerate the fish, top and bottom, while I struggled, leaving a lot of the fish on the plate. It was delicious, topped with almonds, and crispy skin with soft flesh. It’s not like I could take the excess with me, so I relished what I could get off the bones, and had no regrets for the rest.

 

 

Somehow, I deleted the photo for my husband’s duck, but he remembers it was wonderful.

 

For me, this was the truly wonderful part. One of the desserts was pear ice cream. When it came, with the clear cold liquid in the tiny glass accompanying it, I knew it had to be a pear liquor. AdventureMan asked if I was going to drink it. I am diabetic. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol anymore.

“Yes,” I said, and poured it all on. There are times in life when you should be cautious, and there are times when you just need to throw caution to the wind. It was worth it. Every bite. The pear ice cream was very lovely, a sorbet, very pear-y, and the liquor was worth every second of my life I might have lost because I savored it all. Some things just make life more worth living.

 

My husband had the creme brûlée, below, which was actually not half eaten when it came to the table, but somehow I got so absorbed in my pear ice that I was late in taking a photo of his creme brûlée, which he determined was excellent.

 

Sated, and a little exhausted (big night when we farewelled the ship, big day at the market and the Aquitaine Museum) so we took the short walk back to the Grande Hotel Francaise and rested for an hour.

There are other years when we would have kept pushing, so much to see in Bordeaux. We’ve had to learn that for us, resting now and then when we need it is worth it, so we can build up our energy once again, and enjoy the rest of the day.

While resting, we heard chanting, and loud singing. Yellow jacketed strikers, making their protest in the nearby street. There were maybe fifty people, and mostly people not striking were just going on their normal course, not fazed by the protestors.

The tram lines in Bordeaux are wonderful, and new. We can get on steps away from our hotel, and go in any direction. We each have a Bordeaux City Pass, takes us on all the tram lines, bus lines and gets us in free to most of the places we want to go. We bought ours at the tourist office while we were on our walking tour. It doesn’t start until the first time you use it, and then it is good for 24 hours. You may be able to buy City Passes for longer, I don’t know. You can also buy tram cards which allow you to travel without cash for a certain amount of time, which varies depending on the card you buy.

We have a plan. We want to take the B line all the way to the end in both directions, and then maybe switch to the A or C lines. Riding the trams is fun, and you get to see parts of town that a tourist doesn’t see otherwise. I also got to see wonderful signs.

 

“You think your act is anonymous – but we see you!”

“A wandering/mischievous hand, one foot in prison!”

There is a mighty effort to confront sexism in France – who’d have thought, fifty years ago, this was even possible? We’ve seen some radical changes in the French culture. Women seem so much more independent and confident.

We ride the B tram all the way north and then back, but there are running signs inside the tram telling us the tram will stop running at 1830 because of the marathon. This is a BIG deal, streets closing for the runners, trams shutting down, it is amazing and wonderful to have so much support for a marathon. We remember when fitness in France was mostly limited to the military; now we see the French, male and female, embracing fitness with a vengeance. C’est merveilleuse!

We exit at St. Andre, which had been closed earlier in the day. I am a great fan of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was married in this church – at age 13. It sounds awful, but girls from noble families expected to be married at an early age, and Eleanor was an extraordinary girl who eventually married two kings, France and England. She was aggressive and confident.

Being able to go into St. Andre’s is a thrill, and a bigger thrill at twilight, when people are quiet and respectful, and you can soak in some of the character of this church and the long history it has survived.

 

 

 

This is my favorite photo from the church:

 

There is a lot of marathon excitement going on outside St. Andre’s. It looks like some kind of staging area or some kind of water stop, or check-point, so we decide to find a place to eat and just watch the goings ons. We find the Ristorante Palazzo, salads, pizza and open air seating. It may be the end of October, but the temperatures during the day are hitting 70 F. and the night is still balmy. Every restaurant that can has seating outside tonight, so the Bordelaise can enjoy one of the last nights of dining al fresco before serious winter sets in.

 

 

Marathon set up

Fire trucks and emergency vehicles show up – and leave. Nothing much has happened in terms of the marathon, so we idle our way back to our hotel, just enjoying the lovely night. We had no idea that the French had adopted Hallowe’en, but evidence is everywhere.

 

I’ve always loved French clothing for children.

 

Outdoor dining everywhere! We could stay in Bordeaux happily for weeks.

AdventureMan spotted the scallop shell indicating this was part of the pilgrimage route to San Diego Compostela. It was fun

 

Porte Dijeaux takes us back to the Saracen times in Spain, with their bands of dark and light on their arches:


 

Our hotel, Best Western Le Grand Hotel Francais, in the very heart of Bordeaux on a very quiet street, easy walk to theatre, opera and restaurants, close to tram lines.

We had just finished brushing our teeth and were getting ready for bed when we got an unexpected thrill – the Bordeaux Midnight Marathon was running right by our hotel :-). Every single runner was cheered – we love that kind of spirit.

 

It went on for a long time. Longer than we stayed to photograph. We had a big day coming up and needed to get a good night’s sleep, which we did.

There were so many stores in Bordeaux, full of interesting things to buy, some very lovely, but I just didn’t feel the need to buy anything. We went into Galleries Lafayette, where I often used to buy clothes, but all the clothes were Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger – things we can get in the USA! My preferred souvenirs are silk scarves and jewelry, clothing if I find something special that I will really wear. Other than that, we invest in experience and good food and wine, and comfortable hotels. I’m just so glad I don’t have to carry film anymore, although I do still carry a camera for better shots. We want to come back and spend more time in Bordeaux and the surrounding areas.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, Faith, Food, France, Halloween, Hotels, Political Issues, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grown-Up Holiday Interlude

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

 

 

 

 

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

Quiches-by-the-slice

Fabulous old grains breads

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

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

A thin sweet crust, a sweet sort of cream meringue, truly a fabulous cloud 🙂

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

Glacier National Park: Traveler’s Rest

So we are having this perfect day, this glorious day. Mountains, sun, lakes, Spring, bear, isn’t this a grand life?

Well, like every life, it has its moments. We find a perfectly average place to eat; it really looks promising and then everything we order is like pulled out of the freezer kind of stuff, not awful, just not what we would ever choose if we had known. In East Glacier, however, the season has not really started yet and a lot of places just haven’t opened yet.

Then, we are ready to get settled. I know where we will be staying is near Saint Mary, and I have directions. We keep following the directions, but it isn’t working. I call the B&B and tell her I am at the gas station by the gift shop and she gives me more directions, and we follow them and something is just not right.

AdventureMan is getting frustrated, I am feeling stressed and incompetent, so I call again, and somehow, this time, we discover that I am in the wrong place, about 30 minutes from the right place, which is East Glacier Village, or just outside.

Whew. Crisis averted. We get back on the road and shortly we see where we need to be.

 

These are some of the nicest cabins I have ever seen. They feel spacious on the inside, and are beautifully done. You can see East Glacier Village and the train depot from our porch. And the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We go into East Glacier Village to pick up some milk for our cereal in the morning, and we see the Two Medicine Grill, which seems to have fresh pie. We can’t resist fresh pie.

 

As we are leaving, I point out to AdventureMan the Railway Depot across the street. He said no it wasn’t. I was stunned. Sometimes this happens, and he is very adamant, and so sure that I doubt myself, but not this time. And then . . . then he did it. He said “Do you have a minute?” I held my breath so I wouldn’t laugh out loud. “Sure,” I said agreeably. So he turned the car around and zipped up and pulled into the terminal. “THIS is not the Depot!” he crowed. (Looking right at the sign that said Train Depot.) I just looked at him in amazement, and laughing, until he looked again and then he started laughing too. It was one of the best moments of the trip, and we howled with laughter all the way back to the cabin, where we sat on our balcony, looking out at the mountains, and ate our pies.

He had peach. I had cherry.

 

 

 

 

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Hotels, Humor, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Glacier National Park: Many Glacier

We have to take the long way around to get up to the Many Glacier entrance, back through East Glacier Village to Browning, then up to Saint Mary, but no problem, because we’ve rented a cabin in the Saint Mary area. Going through Browning, we see tee-pees, just alongside the road:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ride is just gorgeous, but it is not a great road. It isn’t a terrible road, but it is not paved, and from time to time there are serious potholes. There isn’t a lot of traffic, so we are not inconvenienced, it’s just we haven’t been on a road like this since maybe Africa.

 

Along the way, we see something we haven’t seen before, a Mama Black Bear but with only one cub. The cub looks older, maybe one year old, and life must be easier for the Mama than if she were trying to feed two cubs.

It was just us and one other couple. This was heaven.

 

 

Now I want to show you how the same scene looked in Hayden Valley, in Yellowstone:

It’s horrible. This was the Mama Bear and her two cubs trying to feed while people are scrambling to get their attention and photograph them.

Bear watching on the way to Many Glacier was relaxed – for her and for us.

 

Many Glacier Lodge

 

 

 

We want to come back and stay here. (Many Glacier Lodge is not open until around Mid-June) What joy, to wake up in the morning to all this beauty.

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

From West Glacier National Park to Glacier Park Lodge the Long Way

We have yet to drive the complete Going-to-the-Sun road, and we know it just isn’t in the cards this trip, even with the heat wave (temperatures are in the 80’s F.) it just makes avalanches less predictable. The road is closed.

So we have to go around, and the going around is beautiful. The map below is from Google Maps.

 

From East Glacier Park Village, we will be able to take Two Medicine Road. In the old days, this WAS the road into the park, and it is beautiful. (Don’t worry, I intend to balance all this navigation with a lot of photos.)

Map into Many Glacier and Road-to-the-Sun from East Entrance at St. Mary:

 

What is very cool is that these maps are free, online, at My Yellowstone Park.

You know we have a preference for having the road all to ourself, so an early departure – not too early, like 7:00 a.m. – gets us what we want. Google Maps tells us it will only take an hour and 19 minutes, but we are big on the experience, and we stop often, and it takes us a little longer.

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing we see coming into East Glacier Park Village is a gorgeous lodge, the Glacier Park Lodge. When I tried to book it, it said it would not be open when we visited and it wasn’t open, but . . . the people working to get it open were very kind, and a ranger showed us through the beautiful old hotel. It has huge timbers holding up the lobby, and a beautiful skylight in the roof so it all feels bright and airy and open. This place is gorgeous.

 

 

This hotel is one of the classic lodges, built to bring visitors to see these amazing sights in a time when there were no super highways, but there were trains. Just across from the hotel is the AmTrak stop.

 

 

 

 

 

There is a large golf course, many activities, a famous dining room, and best of all, it is located at the entrance to Two Medicine.

 

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment