Friday, March 9, 2018

Marching With Pride

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Saturday, June 24 2017

I couldn't believe that our vacation was nearly at an end. Even though the high temperatures had prevented us from doing some of the things we had planned, we had still had a fantastic time. We met with many wonderful people - friends of Desmond's who have become our friends. My only regret was that we had not been able to see Arno, who was away for the duration of our visit. 

I'm never quite ready to leave, but as I packed my suitcase I was anticipating a few more days of vacation.  Showing Janey a bit of Paris was something to look forward to. I was also looking forward to spending more time with Desmond. He and I would be traveling to Florida for a short time, and then on to our home for the greater part of the summer. 

We boarded the train for Paris just before noon. When we arrived, we quickly found a taxi and soon had all of our luggage stuffed into the back. Our driver had some difficulty getting us to our rented apartment because many streets had been closed due to the Pride parade and another event. Traffic was heavy, but we eventually made it. The four of us pulled our luggage into a charming art deco apartment near the Passy Plaza shopping center. 

A welcome to Paris.

Wall decor in the lobby of our apartment building in Paris.
After resting for a few minutes, we all headed out to join the Pride parade. But first, we needed a quick lunch. We stopped at a nearby bakery where we purchased sandwiches and drinks to go, planning to eat them on the train. We were dismayed to learn that the little terminal was closed. After a brisk walk to the metro, we hopped on, only to discover that several stops near the area of the parade were closed due to security reasons. Nevertheless, we were determined to join the parade. After a lengthy walk along the beautiful Rue de Rivoli, we were able to watch a portion of the colorful parade before joining in. Desmond had brought some flags, which we carried or wore as scarves as we marched with the milling throng.  It was an exuberant crowd of thousands with a definite camaraderie and we all chanted as we passed the lovely, historic buildings along our route. Onlookers waved, cheered, and blew kisses. Many of them showered us with confetti as we passed beneath their windows. 

Thousands attend the annual Pride parade.

Proud marchers in Paris, France.
After about an hour, Janey was worn out. The temperature had risen and we were all very warm. We stepped out of the parade and stood on the sidewalk for a while, watching the bright floats pass by and waving our flags at the crowd of colorfully dressed marchers. After a while, we turned and began to make our way up a side street away from the press of people. We were thrilled to see, right in front of us, the diner which we had visited on a previous occasion! Soon, the four of us were slurping thick, creamy milkshakes. What a welcome treat on a hot day.

The Metro was very crowded as we made our back to our lodgings. We relaxed for a bit and then explored a little. We discovered that we were literally steps away from Passy Plaza, where there are numerous shops and a supermarket. We bought coffee, milk, and a few other items. 

That evening, we walked a couple of blocks to a Framboise creperie, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal. The savory gallettes were delicious and for dessert we chose several different crepes. They were all so good that we passed them around so each of us could sample them all. My favorite was the salted caramel, and we also had one made with apples, caramel, hazelnuts, and ice cream, and another crepe which was made with bananas, chocolate, and whipped cream. We lingered at our table on the shady sidewalk where a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower was visible through the trees.

We returned to our AirBnB and began to unpack. The apartment would be quite suitable for a long stay. It had a well equipped kitchen, a living room with a sofa sleeper, a spacious bathroom that had lots of storage and a huge shower. There was a water closet opposite, and a bedroom at the end of the little hallway which had many storage cupboards and a desk in addition to a comfortable bed.It was a great apartment in a perfect location and we settled in happily for the night.

The comfy bedroom at our lodgings in Paris.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Another Last Day

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Friday, June 23 2017

We had a wonderful day. At last the heat had broken! It was beautifully cool with a lovely breeze. I enjoyed one of Desmond's protein smoothies for breakfast. As much as I love pastries, I found that I had much more energy and stamina when I drank one of those shakes. I could always have a French pastry with my afternoon coffee. 

We wandered around town and popped into a few shops. It was so nice to be outside without being bombarded by oppressive heat. We visited the cathedral, and Janey was quite impressed with the awe-inspiring beauty and history of the huge edifice.  

Craig, Des, and Janey approach
 the cathedral of Sainte-Croix

The cathedral is a marvel.
We chose the Korean restaurant, Kogi, for lunch. Craig had never tried their delicious food and he was in for a treat! We all chose the bibimbap, a dish I had eaten there before. It was as good as I remembered. Our appetizer arrived as we waited for the main course. It was a divided tray containing tiny fishes and peanuts, pickled radish, and marinated bits of something I didn't recognize. Janey and I couldn't quite manage the little fishes, but Craig and Des seemed to enjoy them.

An interesting appetizer at Kogi.

A sizzling bowl of bibimbap
 at Kogi in Orleans, France.
After lunch we took our leftovers home and then picked up the baby clothes we had purchased for Chris and Mathilde's newborn, Robin. Baby showers are apparently not a thing in France, so we had chosen lots of adorable little items in several different sizes for the new baby. Robin was asleep when we arrived, but we got to see him. We all chatted quietly for a while but didn't stay too long, as we could tell the new mom was very tired.

That afternoon, we met Chris's parents, Marilyn and Rodney, at Autour de la Terre. They are lovely people and fun to be around. They live in New Zealand and had timed their visit to France to coincide with the birth of their new grandson. They are avid bicyclists and tour all over France on their bikes. 

In the courtyard of Autour de la Terre.
We had eaten such a big lunch that we weren't really very hungry for dinner. We ended up just snacking. But it was our last evening in Orleans for this trip, and we were having a wonderful time. We met another of Desmond's friends at a bar on the Rue de Borgogne. Kozmin is from Romania and was in the process of obtaining his PHD in engineering at the University of Orleans. He was also a student in Desmond's conversational English class. He had a fantastic grasp of the language and loved to kid around. We enjoyed his stories of life in Romania.

Lovely half-timbered buildings
 along Rue de Borgogne.
After saying goodbye to Kozmin, we went to another bar that is one of Desmond's favorites. Rue de Borgogne by this time was very crowded. The bars and restaurants along the street were all bustling and lively with conversation. We managed to find a table at the edge of the street. There was hardly room for a single car to pass. Suddenly, people around us were scraping their chairs back and pushing tables away. I looked up to see a huge fire truck coming slowly toward us. It barely managed to squeeze through on the crowded street. It was literally inches away from my chair!

Janey liked her "tipsy" glass!
At 11:00 we walked the short distance to the cathedral, where we were in for an incredible treat. There was a light show projected onto the outside walls of the huge structure. The theme was historical figures and we watched in awe as bright swirling colors and images appeared before us in a magical display. The effect was enhanced by stirring music that fit the theme perfectly. We were completely transported. It was a dramatic spectacle and one we will never forget!

The light show was an amazing experience.

The images and colors changed
 swiftly along with the music.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Il Fait Chaud!!!

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal Thursday, June 22 2017

We were faced with yet another scorching hot day. Sleep had been difficult the night before, but we did have hopes of the weather cooling down soon. Desmond had some work to do in the morning hours and we had little time to talk. He gulped down a protien shake and was out the door. Craig and I walked across the square to the bakery, where we chose our breakfast pastries. I selected a lovely lemon tart, which was eaten in front of the fan. 

At lunchtime, it was just too hot to consider walking anywhere. We whipped up scrambled eggs for lunch, and served them with fresh fruit and rustic bread. Then it was more sitting in front of the fan, catching up on email and reading for a while.

A dark, rustic bread. Delicious!
Desmond, Craig, and Janey decided that another dip in the Loire would be refreshing, but I chose to walk down to Carrefour to do a bit of grocery shopping. I ambled slowly down the street, grateful for the many shade trees overhanging the sidewalk.

Craig and Janey in the Loire.

As evening approached, we walked into town for drinks. We chose a table outside in the shade of a building on Rue de Borgogne. I enjoyed a refreshing Monaco while Janey gulped iced tea and the others sipped their beer. 

For our evening meal, we decided to go to Au Bureau, as we would have the benefit of air conditioning. Craig and Janey both ordered burgers, but Craig's choice was the more unique. Instead of a bun, the meat was sandwiched between two crisp hash brown patties and topped with a fried egg. Desmond chose a hearty salad that had meat and potatoes in it. I ordered the Welsh, which was essentially a bowl of melted cheese with a hunk of bread and some ham in it. It was accompanied by crisp fries and a salad. By the end of the meal, we were all dipping our fries into the cheese. This seemed to displease our waitress, who soon whisked away the remnants of our meals. 

An interesting burger at Au Bureau, Orleans France.

What a salad!
We strolled home slowly, still making use of our little misting fans. The four of us ended the day with a movie as we sat in front of the fan. 

A peaceful scene on the Loire.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Longest Day; The Hottest Day

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Wednesday, June 21  2017

Who knew it could become so hot in France? We had expected warm temperatures during our June vacation, but nothing like this. It was like being back home in Kansas! It was barely cool when we awoke, so we didn't have the windows open for long. We closed them and secured the shutters against the blazing heat to come. The temperature would climb to almost 100 degrees later that day.

Azur enjoyed a nap under a cool, damp cloth.
We remained indoors for hours, taking time to do some laundry and only going outside to hang the clothes out to dry. They dried quickly in the heat. At lunchtime, we picked up sandwiches from the little shop on the square. In the afternoon, Craig, Des, and Janey went to play in the Loire. That river is known for its dangerously strong currents, but there are a few areas that have sand bars surrounded by shallow water. The three of them splashed and waded for a couple of hours. 

Des and Janey in the Loire

Janey cools off in the Loire.
Later, Jeff came over. We all played a game of You Don't Know Jack. When Jeff suggested that we go out for drinks at Au Bureau and happened to mention that it was air conditioned, we willingly agreed. The lovely coolness was quite welcome. Mathieu met us there when he got off work. He told us there was no air conditioning or fan at his office. We lingered over our drinks and then decided to walk to the nearby restaurant, Le Don Vittorio, for pizza. It was a very nice place with lovely decor. We were thrilled to discover that it also had air conditioning. Janey and I shared a pizza that was topped with fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, mushrooms, and a type of ham called Speck. It was a fun meal.

Des and Jeff at le Don Vittorio, Orleans, France.

Pizza at le don Vittorio in Orleans, France.
June 21 is a day of country-wide music festivals in France. There were concerts in every square and park. Even little Place de la Bascule had its share of bands and street artists. We returned there just in time to hear the steel drum quartet. The artists were busy spray-painting their creations onto huge sheets of black plastic that were hung taut between two posts. One of the local restaurants had placed a grill outside, and the aroma of grilling sausages hung in the air. The bars on the square had a steady stream of customers. It was all very festive. The music lasted until 1:00 AM, so we were able to listen to it long after we went upstairs. It was too hot to sleep, anyway. The temperature had reached 98 degrees.

Music festival on the square.

An artist at the music festival.

More art at the festival.

It felt as if Orleans was on fire
 on the hottest day in France. Ever.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Back to Orléans

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Tuesday, June 20 2017

We woke early so that we would have time to clean the gite before we checked out. After coffee and pastries, we swept the floor, took out the trash, and washed the few dishes we had used. I had a moment of panic when I learned that we would not be able to get a taxi in time to make our train. There wasn't even a bus! I quailed at the thought of dragging suitcases on a gravel road for an hour or so. When our wonderful host realized our dilemma, she very kindly offered to drive us to town. It was an effort for her to remove her children's car seats from her vehicle, but we were very grateful. She received our effusive thanks plus a large tip. What a lifesaver! 

Our good fortune continued when we reached the station and learned that had our train not been delayed we would have missed it. As it was, we had two minutes to spare! Whew!  The trip back to Orleans was uneventful. Craig and Janey had fun using an app on his phone to check the speed of the train. It reached 120 mph.

Janey and Craig at the train station
 in Amboise, France.
Around noon, we walked across the bridge to have lunch at a brasserie near Halles Chatelet. I enjoyed a croque monsieur, which was served with crisp fries and a small green salad. We then wandered over to the bookstore because we knew it was air conditioned. It was fun to browse among the books and gift items. Janey had seen an Anime shop on another street, and really wanted to see it. It wasn't far, so we browsed in there for a while.

On the way home, we made a visit to the ice cream shop. They always have a large variety of interesting flavors. Janey chose lychee rose and cactus flower sorbets. I ordered a scoop of pear sorbet and one of chocolate orange. When Janey said she really didn't care for what she had chosen, I made a swap with her. No problem for me, tasting four flavors of sorbet! 

We went home to cool down and rest. By then, the temperature had reached 95 degrees. We didn't do much but sit in front of the fan. Jenni had been invited over for a barbecue, so we unpacked and cleaned house in short bursts, going back to the fan in between. When Jenni arrived, it was still hot. We had drinks and some tasty bites of boursin wrapped in ham, along with some olives, and chips. It was slightly less hot in courtyard, so we moved everything outside and then fired up the grill. The Toulouse sausages were great and we also grilled some turkey for Janey. We had cold side dishes of tabbouleh, shredded celery root in a mayo dressing, a salmon pasta salad, and a salad of peas and carrots. Jenni is a sweet person, and so much fun to be around. She entertained us with funny stories of her life in Ireland. Craig and I always enjoy meeting any friend of Desmond's. The evening ended with a beautiful sunset.

Enjoying a barbecue.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Segway Through Amboise

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Monday, June 19 2017

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning, but knew that the temperature was expected to rise alarmingly during the day. The night before, it had been difficult to fall asleep. The rooms didn't really cool down until around 2:00 AM, though the one fan did help to move the air a bit. We had little food in the gite because we were unable to shop on Sunday. I found coffee in the cupboard, along with some packets of tea. We made do with the snack foods we had brought from home. We planned to buy pastries as soon as we reached a bakery, so we set off for the center of Amboise where we were to meet our guide for a Segway tour.

Walking into Amboise from the gite.
We found the meeting place, but no bakery. However, there was a small market nearby where Craig was able to grab some cookies and Orangina. We just had time to gulp them down before greeting our guide.

We were soon fitted with helmets and went through a brief training session. Craig, Desmond, and I have lots of experience with Segway, but this was Janey's first ride. She caught on immediately and in no time we were following our guide through the streets of Amboise.
Janey receives Segway instuction.
Our guide told a story of this ancient church.

As we rolled along, our guide gave us a bit of history and told interesting stories about some of the old buildings and churches we passed. We rode along cobbled streets and through picturesque squares. It was simply beautiful.

We were told that this
 is the oldest house in Amboise.
A crowded restaurant in Amboise, France.
Another charming home in Amboise.
A visit to a wine cave was part of our tour, and included wine tasting. When we arrived at the cave, we left our machines parked outside and entered the cave. Janey was surprised to learn that she would be allowed to participate in the wine tasting, though she did switch to grape juice at one point. All of us enjoyed receiving advice and information about the different wines that were offered, and of course we purchased some to take home.

Janey, Craig, and Des in the wine cave.

Des and Craig purchase some wine.
After the tour, we were ready for some real food. We found a bistro that was cool inside, and enjoyed a lunch of pizza, sandwiches, and quiche. I ordered a lemon presse, which was refreshing and oh, so tangy!

Our next stop was Clos Luce. It was crowded and hot, but we enjoyed it tremendously. New displays had been added since our previous visit. Leonardo da Vinci's studio was so intricately recreated that it appeared as if the man himself had just put down his paintbrush and stepped out for a moment.

Leonardo da Vinci's studio at Clos Luce.

Outside, we walked the beautifully landscaped grounds, showing Janey the working inventions that had been created using da Vinci's detailed plans and drawings. It was fascinating and educational. One could easily spend an entire day at Clos Luce.

Janey tries out a da Vinci invention.

A lovely scene at Clos Luce.

Janey tries the helical pump at Clos Luce.
By the time we began our trek back to the gite, the temperature had climbed dramatically, reaching a high of 97 degrees. We walked slowly, carrying our bottles of water and making use of the tiny misting fans I had brought along.

Once home, we couldn't imagine cooking a hot meal. Des and Craig braved the temperature again to walk to the supermarket and returned with food and drinks for a cold supper. We enjoyed chicken rillettes spread upon a fresh baguette, accompanied by fresh fruit, sausage, chips, and other goodies. We wrapped up the evening playing board games.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Father's Day in France

Pages From Jan's Travel Journal: Sunday, June 18 2017

Father's day! It was a lovely morning and Des suggested that we take our breakfast to the nearby Jardin des Plantes. Janey wanted to sleep in, so it was just the three of us. Desmond knew of a bakery that was open on Sunday, and it just happened to be on the way to the garden. We carried our box of pastries through the parc and found some seating beneath a huge weeping fig tree. It was a cool and peaceful place to enjoy our morning treats.

Yes, it was delightful!

A small sculpture at Jardin des plantes, Orleans
After that sweet little breakfast we explored the beautiful gardens. There were many lovely trees and flowers to admire, as well as some amazing dry-stacked stone arches. Herb gardens, fruits and vegetables, a grape arbor, fountains, and ponds all combined to create a special place in which to linger. There was even a maze created out of small hedges.

The dry-stacked stone was impressive.

A soothing picture beneath the fountain.

The guys had to check out the windmill.
We walked slowly home and then finished packing for our little jaunt to Amboise. Janey enjoyed the train ride, and when we arrived at the station in Amboise she discovered a baguette vending machine. Of course, she simply had to try it! We all sampled the baguette and agreed that it was not very good. But then, what can you expect when you buy bread from a machine? Oh, well, it gave us something to nibble on as we waited for a taxi to take us to our gite. And waited. And waited.

Janey bought a baguette from a vending machine.
We did think it was odd that there were no cabs parked in front of the train station, but it wasn't until Des made a few phone calls that we learned very few taxis are available there on a Sunday. At long last a friendly cab driver arrived. He kept up a lively conversation with Desmond, who translated some of his funny stories. My favorite was the one about the viagra-shaped chocolates!

The gite we had rented was on the very edge of Amboise. It was an old vintner's cottage that had been beautifully renovated. That little house was very charming and scrupulously clean. But also very warm. Craig and I had the upstairs bedroom, and there was plenty of room for Janey to sleep on an air bed on the floor.

Our gite in Amboise had a nice kitchen,
though it was too hot to cook.
Our hosts had shown us a path near a small river that would lead us into Amboise. It was time to explore. Had the weather been cooler, the trek into town would have been sheer pleasure. We were walking mostly through the countryside, with the stream on one hand and tilled fields on the other. Colorful poppies bloomed along the path. It was a very warm day and we were grateful for the shaded farm track which led us into Amboise.

Pretty poppies bloom along the stream.
As a special treat for Father's Day, Desmond had made reservations at a Michelin starred restaurant called Le Patio. It was situated along a lovely cobblestone street. The decor inside the restaurant was done in soothing shades of gray, with soft lighting and subtle touches of color everywhere. After we were seated, the waiter brought a carafe of ice water to the table and we wasted no time emptying it! And then our meal began.

Walking toward the restaurant in Amboise.
We started with the house cocktail; a delightful combination of Vouvray and creme de framboise, with a liqueur - soaked cherry at the bottom of the glass. Smoked trout rillettes and toasted baguette slices accompanied our drinks. Next up was a platter of amuse bouche which consisted of small rounds of goat cheese covered with sesame seeds, some tiny puff pastries rolled around pepperoni, and miniature cups of cold tomato soup. Along with all of that was a basket of sliced baguette and lots of fresh butter. We were off to a great start.

Our appetizers arrived, and they were as tasty as they were attractive. I had chosen the cold crab meat with grapefruit, avocado, and radish. It was delicious. Desmond ordered escargot fritters. They smelled fantastic, and when Des offered a taste I did not hesitate. Yum! Janey decided that she couldn't visit France without trying escargot, and it was rather hilarious watching her work up the nerve to taste it.

An interesting appetizer.

Janey laughs as she
works up the nerve to try escargot.
Desmond had ordered a bottle of wine, which we enjoyed with our main course. He and I had selected the lamb shank in a candied thyme sauce, with grilled asparagus. Craig and Janey had chosen a fish dish which was served with a saffron sauce and a vegetable melange of celery root, carrots, and zucchini. By the time we had finished that, we were practically groaning. We declined the cheese board, but knowing was yet to come!

Craig and Des had chosen an interesting dessert of chocolate rice pudding which was garnished with popcorn and drizzled with caramelized Carambar. Janey and I had selected the cake, and it was beautifully decorated with lemon cream, strawberries, and lime zest. By the time we had finished we were actually looking forward to the walk home so that we could work off that decadent food.

How's that for a decadent dessert?

We didn't expect a dessert after dessert!
Imagine our surprise when yet another tray of amuse bouche arrived at the table! Oh, my! Des said he had never heard of a dessert amuse bouche, but there It was. It was all we could do to eat it, though I have to admit those little bites were delightful. We were treated to peanut cake pops,  miniature glasses of chilled watermelon juice, and the most amazing raspberry marshmallows anyone could ever imagine! They were so soft and fluffy that it was difficult to pick one up. At last, our incredible meal had come to a close.

We strolled slowly through Amboise and arrived at the gite tired but happy.

A baguette from a vending machine
 makes a good footrest.