Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Leaving the Perigord for Salers, in the Auvergne

Morning in Domme:

Major gate into Domme, the Porte de Tours:

 

 

Around thirty five years ago, when our son was young, we visited this part of France, and spent a lot of time in the caves, and also at Castlenaud, a castle near Beynac with an impressive medieval war machines and weapons museum. It was July, and hot, and there were other visitors, but not a lot. Castlenaud was wired for sound, and the music was wonderful. I went to the ticket person and asked what the music was. It was Monteverdi, Un Concert Spirituel.  Once back in Germany, I searched until I found it. It’s one of my favorite CDs to this day. I learned a little more about Monteverdi, that he was sort of the Jimi Hendrix of his day, mixing human voices in ways they had never been mixed before.

 

Here is a close up of one section. It is mountainous. The roads are tiny!

 

On our way to Les Eyzies, and Castlenaud, on that trip, we spent the night in Salers. I knew nothing of Salers other than that the town was roofed in slate; it was a poor area, but rich in slate.

We had stayed at a hotel called Hotel Les Remparts, which had a fairly simple menu with steaks from local cows; many of these same cows were in the valley below the hotel, busy munching and making the milk which goes into the famous Cantal cheese.

As the three of us walked through Salers after dinner, we came to a church entry where the door was open, and maybe five to seven people were in a candle lit entry hallway singing old sacred music – sounded a lot like Monteverdi, with wonderful echoes bouncing around off the old stone wall. It was magical. Even our ten year old son was spellbound.

It was a little bit of a drive from Domme, three hours, but I really wanted to visit that hotel once again.

 

Once again, Google took us on some very strange roads until my husband begged me to use the map and stick to the main roads. Honestly, he was right. We had been on some mountain roads, one lane, with French drivers going must faster than we were comfortable. And here’s the thing. The French used to be crazy drivers, with terrible wrecks, and now, we can hardly believe it, but there has been a huge cultural shift and the French are law-abiding, safe drivers. We knew on these narrow, single-lane roads, with no protection from steep drop-offs, that WE were the problem, and I agreed with my husband, and we kept to the larger roads.

French bikers along the route:

(very careful, well-behaved bikers)

Even so, it took us longer that we had hoped, or maybe it seemed longer.

At one point, I remember AdventureMan pulling over and saying “Take that picture! It may be the only sun we see all day!” and he was right, it was drizzly and very dreary, and it colored our impression of the drive.

Our first sighting of one of the slate roofs. Can you see why I love them? Look how lovingly they have been cut to have a curved bottom. I try to imagine how to cut slate so that the thicknesses are so much alike.

We are getting near to Salers, but we are tired and we need to stop. We stop in St. Martins, at a hotel and they tell us no, they don’t serve until dinner but that is a really good little Bistro just off the main road to Salers, and to stop there. We do, at Le P’tit Bistrot. The place is packed, but the waitress likes us. “You are American?” she asks, with a big smile. Some customers are leaving and she puts us at that table, and cleans it off.

“I’ll check with the chef to see what is left,” she tells us, and hurries to the kitchen. Coming back, she points to the daily special and tells us we are in luck, that there is still a little left. It is turkey. We are hungry. Fine with us.

This stuffed tomato was wonderful! Tasty, and artistically done. Simple salad, good local bread.

I apologize. We really were hungry. It’s a good thing my husband reminded me I had not taken a photo. The turkey was perfect, moist and fork-tender, with a home made gravy. Even the rice has flavor. So simple, and so good.

AdventureMan had french fries (actually, pommes frites) with his, and said they were hot and fresh.

The rain had not let up as we left (pardon the splotch on my lens) St. Martin’s.

And we arrive at the Hotel Les Remparts in Salers – still raining.

As we checked in, we could hear cow bells. When we got to our room, we opened the windows and the cow bells were so loud, I thought maybe it was a recording. No, then we spotted the cows, and as they munched the grass and raised their heads, the tinkle was incessant, in a good way. I loved the sound of those bells.

Salers is wonderful for walking, even though today it is a little dreary, and the cobblestones are slick. Salers is a little isolated, tourist season is over, and it is October 31st, which we think of as Hallowe’en, and it is in France, too, but it is also the night before All Hallows Day, which is a French national holiday, in the solemn religious sense of the word holiday. Almost everything will be closed.

Just before dark, the sun lights up the clouds and we have a little brightness:

You can dimly see the cows.

There is a little white cat in the bottom right of this photo, as some hotel guests’ window saying “please, please, can I come in?”

What I had originally been photographing was this roof, all planted with greenery and herbs, but the cat distracted me 🙂

I love the way the French will find a way to grow a garden in the tiniest spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dinner that night was disappointing. I had thought that pate’ cepes would be some kind of pate’ made out of mushrooms, but AdventureMan rightly guessed it would be pork with mushrooms, more pork than mushrooms. My main dish was pork, so much like barbecued pork that I might have been back in Pensacola, and it was accompanied by their famous truffade, which was a heavy potato and cantal cheese dish, so heavy and glue-y I couldn’t eat it. For dessert I ordered the pear torte, which turned out to be a little bit of pear on top of a custard. My bad, I ordered these things, but I didn’t have to eat them, so I didn’t.

When I was young, and we would dine in France and Germany, my father would say we had to eat things or we would hurt the chef’s feelings. I love being a grown up. I don’t have to eat it if I don’t want to, LOL.

January 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Food, France | , , | Leave a comment

Domme: One of the Best Days in the Dordogne

That title is misleading. We had so many best days, but later in this post you will learn why this one sticks out in my memories. Some days of the trip are cloudy, like “which day did we do this?” Other memories come out crystal clear.

(I just spent an hour of my life learning about Google’s Activity record – holy smokes! – and how, if I had had my location tracker turned on, I might have been able to provide you with the hilariously indirect routes we ended up on getting from place to place in the Dordogne. I am tempted. I don’t live a life with anything I need to hide. And yet, the thought of being TRACKED and a record being kept makes me uneasy.)

 

So arriving in Dome is kind of Wizard-of-Oz-y.  It’s a very old city, built on a high hill, and streets are old and narrow. It’s sort of like those labyrinth puzzles you used to do as a kid when you needed to get from here to there. In this case, we totally depended on the Google lady, who said “turn right here” or “go 100 feet, turn left and then immediately right at the next street.” Getting from the entry gate, at the bottom of the hill, to L’Esplanade, at the top of the hill, was an exercise in indirection and circularity.

We got to the top.  We could see our hotel.  We  had read about the parking, that there was no parking at the hotel and if you were very lucky, there might be parking on the street. There was not a single parking spot on the street. Even this late in the season, there were many tourists, and tourist buses, and some had drivers parked in no-parking places, with the engine on, ready to go and circle the city if the police came.

We decided to park in the pay lot, which had a lot of spaces. The night before, we had prepared our carry-bags with enough clothes for dinner and the next day, so we didn’t have to carry in our bags. It took us about 15 minutes to figure out the instructions. We put in the maximum in coins – I think 5 Euro, and that would take us to seven PM, when if we saw a parking space, we would move the car, and if we didn’t, we would put more money into the machine.

When we walked in, we received a very cordial and friendly greeting; the receptionist was Dutch and spoke English wonderfully. She told us that at seven, the parking machines are no longer monitored, and we are safe until ten the next morning, so that was a relief. She showed us to our room. You can see our room in the photo of L’Esplanade from the path, above; it is the corner room, one story up, and has a balcony.

The room was gorgeous. Maybe not quite so spacious as our room(s) at Domaine de la Vitrolle, but very spacious for France, and beautiful. And just wait until you see the view. My heart sang. I wanted to stay on that balcony and just soak in that view.

 

 

 

 

We can see all the way to La Roque-Gageac!

Beautiful Perigord farmlands . . .

Day is fleeting, and AdventureMan wants to explore, and rightly so. We are only in Domme for this one night. It was hard for me to leave that balcony; the view just sang to my heart.

Domme is walkable, and beautiful. There is something else about Domme – there are cats, lots of cats, and there are dishes out, hidden under benches, or visible on a step up to a house, or at the side of a doorway into a church. I imagine the cats keep the rats away, but it is lovely to see them repaid so generously and lovingly. The cats all looked very well fed.

Here is another church built in the same style as that of the church we saw in Audrix. I’m going to have to find out about this architecture. Domme is an old Templar town; I am wondering if this style is an indication of a Templar population?

 

 

Look at this barrel roof! Is that not beautiful?

 

A view of the church from the market square. We attended the market the next morning, but it was very small, and there is only so much hand-made soap I can buy!

The above photo was taken from in front of a very cool bookstore, which even had a large English section. They had thousands of books in all genres, all languages, and new and used books all together. It was a little bit of heaven, right there on the main square.

 

 

 

Actually, I lost my husband. He went into the bookstore, I took photos. I went into the bookstore, he wasn’t there! I tried to call him, and it did not go through. I knew if I went back to the hotel, we would eventually fine one another, but I kept looking, and we were both on the main square, just in different places. I too this photo in front of the wonderful book store.

 

 

Beautiful city coat-of-arms, no?

This was a wonderful place for us. We found this building, with these arched windows (which I love) and my husband found a plaque telling us it was the former mint, the man who struck the coinage for the area. As we went around the corner, looking in the window, AdventureMan said (very brave man!) “I think we need to go in there.” I had not been paying a lot of attention, I was looking in a window where the you could see the jeweler’s studio, with works in progress, which was fascinating. My husband was right, there were some beautiful pieces. I tend to buy jewelry in places just like this, where you can find original pieces, and, well, jewelry and silk scarves transport well. 😉

Inside, we met the jeweler’s son. As I picked out some pieces, my husband and him started a conversation, and as it got more interesting, I joined in. He talked about his family coming to Domme to seek new opportunities and new markets, and how wonderfully it had worked out for them.

I found the lovely chain-mail inspired neck;ace below in the tip of my stocking on Christmas morning 🙂

We talked about all kinds of social issues in France, and economic issues. We were all very cordial. At one point, Julien paused and then asked us, very haltingly, “You seem to be such nice people. How could you have elected a President like Trump?” We grimaced; it is a question Europeans ask us a lot. How could a country with the values we claim to share elect a man with no moral compass? He was horrified at what is happening in our country, and sad at our descent into corruption.

It was a hard conversation, and we all hung in there. At the end, we all hugged, and hoped for a better, more peaceful, less greedy world in the months and years to come. Sometimes the hardest conversations are those most worth having.

 

Meanwhile, back at L’Esplanade, we were eager to see what dinner would have to offer. L’Esplanade is well known for excellent cuisine, and we had reserved for dinner back when we made our hotel reservation. The dining room is lovely.

 

We think the settings are beautiful. There is a room where you can go have cocktails if the dining room is crowded and you have to wait, but tonight we only share the dining room with four other parties.

We order from the fixed menus. Our first course comes, a celery veloute’. It is a cream of celery soup, you can see it in the center of that great big black plate with a little recess in the center for the soup.

 

This was my main course, a little trout steak, decorated with a . . .potato chip. The little cubes of sweet potato were delicious.

AdventureMan had duck, again, decorated with a potato chip. He said the taste of the duck was exquisite.

His dessert was “Fig Three Ways” or maybe five, we couldn’t figure it out.

I loved my dessert, the raspberry sorbet part. It was decorated with passion fruit.

At the end of the meal, we were served this perfect little cookies.

This was another very quiet, very dark night of great sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast in what I would call the garden room, and the owner’s family were all there, too, eating breakfast on their way to school, work, etc. It was really fun just being able to see them all eat, converse, be a normal family eating their breakfast together in the hotel. I loved it.

January 3, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, France, Geography / Maps, History, Interconnected, Political Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , | Leave a comment

Bordeaux and The Aquitaine Museum

 

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

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

He was wearing athletic shoes. All the men were.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

There are relatively contemporary displays with some posters I love

 

 

 

While graceful, imagine actually bathing in such attire.

I love this poster, so graphic.

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

 

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

Viking Forseti: Bourg, One of our Favorite Stops

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

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

This delivery man hammed it up a little for me 🙂

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

This looks like a cat man to me.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

What cat doesn’t love “attention?” 🙂

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Viking Forseti: Dawn Cruise to Cadillac

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Sunrise from our bedroom window.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Today is Sauternes.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 


 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Nina George: Little French Bistro (aka Little Breton Bistro)

 

I haven’t been reviewing books so much recently. I run a local book club, we meet once a month, and this year, we chose some really HARD books. This book, The Little French Bistro, is not one of the books my book club read. It is not a hard book.

It is a great, quick airplane read, or a beach read. It is a book you can read and pass along to the person sitting next to you, because you won’t need to go back and re-read any of it.

I am pre-disposed to like any book that has France, French, or Paris in the title, or bistro, or book shop. I read another book by this author called The Little French Bookshop, in which the main character ends up taking his bookshop – on a barge – down a series of rivers, through locks and small French towns, to the south of France. I really enjoyed that book, and have thought of it often.

This book I just found annoying. I wanted to tell the main character, Marianna, to “man up,”, grow-a-pair, take responsibility for your own life! She lived in misery for forty something years with a man who treated her like an accessory, like a domestic, like a convenience, without respect, without . . . . respect.

Marianne gets sadder and sadder, goes to Paris on a trip with her churlish husband, and decides to commit suicide, but fails in her attempt.

She escapes the hospital in which she is about to be evaluated for mental stability, and heads to Brittany.

I’m not liking her very much so far, but I am hesitant to blame a victim. And I am annoyed; how did this sad sack get the gumption to go, and how did she happen to have cash on her, when her purse went into the river with her when she jumped off the Pont Neuf?

Her motivation? She wants to die in Brittany, and things the sea will do the job. She ends up in the sea several times.

Long story short, she finds work she enjoys and is good at. She learns a little French, she makes friends. She gets a make-over and buys some new clothes. She finds a lover, a French artist, who loves and adores her, and she blooms under his loving attention.

Sigh.

It’s a very romantic idea, and it makes me tired. I’ve met so many divorced people, men and women, who are still looking for that partner who will love and adore them. Some of them wish they had stayed with their marriage; some were smart to leave. Relationships are hard work. It may be all magical, as George implies, at the beginning, but as the relationship grows and enriches, deepens, you have to learn to accept another, warts and all. You can’t do that unless you can accept yourself . . . warts and all.

I object to the premise that you find a wonderful new lover and a new life begins. My experience tells me that you really need to be happy with yourself, first, and that wonderful love will follow . . . or not. If you are happy with yourself, and you are creating a life you love living, that may be as good as life can be. If you don’t find a way to be happy with yourself, if you don’t know who you are, every relationship ends the same way. God willing, we grow, we change, we learn more about ourselves, who we are, our relationship to the universe, and our purpose, and how to fulfill it.

There are some interesting characters, interesting situations and a lovely community life in The Little French Bistro. My frustration with the book is that it had more potential than it demonstrated.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Books, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Sea Disembarcation

Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.

We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.

We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.

As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.

We depart as the sun rises:

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Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:

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You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.

There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.

I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.

There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.

This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.

This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.

Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Heroes: “With Your Bare Hands”

I started this Monday with a great big smile. American Heroes! Our three young men, off to explore Amsterdam and Paris, and without giving it a second thought they tackle an armed man who has already shot and injured one passenger and intends to kill as many more as he can? They disarm him, and they tie him up, and deliver him, relatively unharmed, to the authorities.

They don’t behead him. They don’t beat him once they have him subdued. They don’t treat him with gratuitous cruelty. No. They turn him over to the authorities. One hero seeks out the Frenchman who has been shot and plugs his throat wounds with his own fingers to staunch the flow of blood until he can be treated by medical professionals.

And I love what French President says to these khaki and polo-shirt clad All-Americans (from The Guardian):

“Awarding them the Légion d’honneur, Hollande said: ‘The whole world admires your sangfroid. With your bare hands, unarmed, you were able to overcome a heavily armed individual, resolved to do anything.’

Hollande praised the soldiers, saying: “In France you behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men. You put your life in danger to defend the idea of freedom.”

Referring to the bravery of Sadler and Norman, he said they did not have military training and had “doubtless never seen a Kalashnikov in their life”. He added: “They stood up and fought, they refused to give in to fear or terrorism.”

Leaving the ceremony, Norman told TV crews: “I just did what I had to do.”

That’s exactly what true heroes say 🙂

I smile, too, seeing these young men being presented their medals with everyone else in dress uniforms and suits, and they are in their polos and Khakis; polos provided, I am guessing, by the US Embassy, with French and US flags intertwined.

I imagine they are going to have a wild time in France, and I can imagine they won’t be able to buy their own wine or meals. It all makes me smile.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, News, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment