Subscribe: The Francophiles
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
area  avignon  back  car  day  didn  found  hotel  june  kim  lot  made  much  museum  place  room  show  time  town 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: The Francophiles

The Francophiles

The saga of a California woman, lost, on so many levels, in the beautiful "City of Lights" and finding new meaning for "eau de toilette."

Updated: 2015-09-16T21:59:13.306-07:00


Hey I'm back and writing again!!!! Wow!


Please forgive the lengthy delay in finishing up the final days of my grande adventure. I've been wandering around, first to Santa Barbara staying with my brother and sis-in-law; then back to the Bay Area to grab some additional clothing for my road trip to Texas to visit my Aunt Betty, I was there in Granbury for a little over two weeks. I just got back from Texas on Wednesday of this week, spent two nights in Santa Barbara and I'm now at my good friends Kim and George's in Belmont. They are in New York so I'm house and animal sitting at their place until next Sunday. While here today I've been able to fill out and finish quite a few days from the trip, if any of you are out there wanting "closure" so to speak.

Today I filled in, or added photos to the following days: June 9, 13-14; 17-19; 21-28.

Merci. Hope all are well out there in the blogosphere.


P.S. The photo above is from one of my favorite stores in Fredericksburg, Texas, Homestead is the name and great merchandise is what it's all about.

I'm writing again!


In an effort to finish the last days of my trip, today I have filled out June 20, 22, and 23, so check 'em out. I'm writing about June 24 now, so come back and I'll be finished with that day tomorrow, hopefully. While staying with my brother and Chris in Santa Barbara we went to a French Festival here. The photo is of several items, including the Eiffel Tower, made entirely of wine corks, pretty cool.


Sunday, June 28 - The Final Stretch from Chartres to Paris


This morning anxious to see Chartres, I got up fairly early and headed towards the "reason for the season" so to speak, Chartres Cathedral. It was very easy to find my way to downtown (good directional signage) and to the parking lot adjacent to the massive Cathedral. The square where it sits makes it seem so crowded, so much so that due to the Cathedral's size, you can't back up far enough across the plaza to get a shot of the entire structure, it is massive. I had read the night before about a few of the highlights including a stained glass window, the Blue Virgin, created around 1150, so I made sure I looked at that and the enormous spires out front, which are mismatched, one of which was created in the 1140s, and the other is from the sixteenth century, that's the Gothic one (see Wiki link info below). What I read about and forgot to check out was some kind of floor labyrinth from 1205, wow, this place is older than God, so to speak.At first I was reluctant to go inside knowing what time their services were and one was definitely going on at that moment, I waited until I saw others open the enormous doors and wander in. Once inside you are struck by its massive size and spaciousness, the height of the ceiling; and secondly how few people were actually there at the mass or ceremony or whatever it is. My guesstimate is that maybe less than 200 people were there. I roamed all around the interior taking shots of any and everything that wouldn't interfere with services. They had signs in French and English reminding visitors to be respectful and not take photos during the services. Some visitors in the nave were not so respectful, one family decided that letting their toddler run up-and-down the aisles screaming was a nice idea, it was so loud and unruly, and inappropriate, I mean take the kid out of the church, please!To the upper left is the intricately sculpted facade of the chancel screen, and like the Energizer Bunny, it just kept going and going and going, it was really long. I just looked up what a chancel screen is, and here's the answer: In medieval churches, an often openwork wall-like screen separating the choir from the nave and extending upward to the rood beam. Now, don't go asking me what a rood beam is, I just looked that up and that led to something else, which led to something else...The photo to the upper right is of the Sancta Camisia, housed in a glass display and behind wrought iron gates. According to the website sacred destinations (listed below) "According to tradition, Chartres Cathedral has housed the tunic of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia, since 876. The relic was said to have been given to the cathedral by Charlemagne, who received it as a gift during a trip to Jerusalem.. Because of this relic, Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center and the faithful still come from the world over to honor it." quietly stalking around the interior of this glorious structure, listening to the mass, and partaking of the wonderful fragrance of incense wafting in the air, I went back out the massive front doors and shot quite a few exterior shots. This one to the left is of one of the many religious icons with a pigeon gracing his hand, lucky shot! Some of the detailed sculptures including this sundial angel, on the south tower of the west front. Apparently it is a 20th-century reproduction of an original from 1230, which is now in the crypt.The exterior details were equally striking, if I wasn't in a rush to get the car rental back to Charles DeGaulle airport, I do think I would have continued to wander for at least a couple of hours more, it was truly spectacular in its intricacies. Oh and another moment quite memorable here in Chartres was a shop to the right of the cathedral itself, and as its store sign, it just said, Toilettes! When you walked up to it and then in it, it was a souvenir shop, with the usual tacky [...]

Samedi, 27 June - Sarlat to Chartres


After packing, checking out of my room, and taking my bags to my car, I reluctantly left Sarlat, as it was Market Day and OMD it took over a least a third of the town. It was scattered right in front of my little room in the Place de la Liberté, there were booths full of the usual produce suspects; colorfully painted ceramics; tablecloths in the Provence style and colors; booths full of olives; gorgeous breads; whole walnuts; olive oils; honey; cheeses; foie gras, jewelry; clothing and almost anything you could imagine. I also hated leaving Sarlat even though I had done a lot of exploration, but I didn't make it to every niche, and I promise myself to return someday and see even more of that town and the area. I'm not sure if I've written this previously, but I hadn't realized Lascaux was so close to this area. For those of you who have been living in a cave, Lascaux is a cave which was discovered in 1940 by four teenagers which contain some of the most well-known Upper Paleolithic art, estimated to be 16,000 years old. You've probably seen images of horses and bulls but maybe didn't realize where they were from. I had always thought they were along the coast of France and was surprised to see directional road signs with Lascaux 2 on them. Lascaux 2 is an exact replica of the original cave which was opened in 1983, 200 meters away from the original; the original cave was getting damaged from the air conditioning system and the presence of too many visitors. I didn't make much of an effort to see this place or any of the number of caves and grottos in this area, which I definitely regret now, but I'll go back and check them out another time. a quick viewing of the Sarlat Market Day, I started the 4 hour drive back north to Amboise. I still had it stuck in my mind that I wanted to return to that incredible International Garden Show located at that practically non-descript Chateau "Domaine de Chaumont-Sur-Loire" where my camera's juice ran out back on June 9. If you recall from that post I only took two photos that day, much to my dismay.Once I re-entered the show, I started shooting away like crazy, I'll try just to show you the ones that are slightly worth looking at, a lot of the demonstration gardens were sointeresting. First I think I'll post images of the gardens that had really burned a place in my memory. This first shot to the left is of a garden of white flowers; and throughout this space they had blue and red spheres, similar to hair salon dryers, but you were encouraged to stick your head into the globe and see how your visual viewpoint changed. Children and their parents alike were bobbing in-and-out of these colorful pods and laughing their globes off, I mean their heads off. It was quite cute to watch and to do of course. I have the brochures i picked up at this garden show, but they are exclusively in French, so I am unable to tell you the titles of each of these very clever installments.I think my very favorite garden was one which consisted of clothes lines laden with clothes hanging criss-crossed, and then various colored flowers and bushes exactly under which were planted below in matching colors. it was quite a sight and caused quite a bit of laughter and chatter to those enjoying the overall impact of thisclever coloration between clothing and gardens.Another "eye-catching" garden had several chain link fences within the installation comprised predominantly of colored eye glass lenses. Even the signs near each plant were made of eye glass lenses. It was fun to peerthrough the various colored lenses on the fences which enabled the color of the lens material to make a surreal color shift before your eyes.After quickly roaming around the garden show, it was now about 4 pm, so I began to think about whether I could actually make the 2 hour drive on a Saturday evening to Paris, or stop along the way, I passed thru Blois (not too far[...]

Vendredi, 26 June - A Sarlat of fun with a trip to Rocamodour


Come back and we'll talk Medieval, and I'll tell you about my side trip to Rocamodour, (yet another great Beth recommendation, so beautiful), and MORE SARLAT shots, the place where I think I took my best photos of the entire trip.After another morning of exploring my home base and looking for more nooks-and-crannies of Sarlat, I had decided the night before that I wanted to check out Rocamadour, Beth had just shown me about four photos in her Flickr slideshow from her March trip and I knew I had to check it out! It was just a short hour drive, and I went thru a few of the towns I had initially passed thru on my way from Avignon to Sarlat. Several of these towns were quite picturesque, so I knew I wanted to explore them on the return trip. It was surprising to see how few other cars were on the road, but more surprising was number of bicyclists, some of which I might guess were on a pilgrimage to this sacred place. Apparently pilgrims have been coming to Rocamadour for centuries for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Virgin Mary. you arrive at this beautiful location you are at the level of the Chateau, half way down is an area called L'Hospitalet, and at the bottom of the mountain in the valley it's called "La Cité", the road down to the valley is really steep and narrow. After taking quite a few shots from down below I went back up to the Chateau and along the side of the building there was a gate that you could go thru for a 2 euro charge. So that I did. It enabled you to wander up several flights of stairs which puts you pretty much on the top of the Chateau and you are able to look down on the valley from that very high perch. There was even a catwalk which, if you were afraid of heights, this would completely freak you out. I don't consider myself as vertigo-prone, but I have to say my knees did get weak and shaky at one point.They don't let you tour the Chateau, so exploring the roofline is as close as you get to the place. They even have a funicular so if you decide to walk down the steep hill to see the stations of the cross (I think), and then take the funicular back up the mountain. They had a touristy shop area, and a modern tourist bureau near the Chateau as well.On my way back towards Sarlat and my next discovery, I came across this fun little "art installation" for lack of a better description, I had seen this when i first drove into Sarlat and being that this model of Citroen is one of my all-time favorites, so I took a quick shot out of the car's window. I can't really remember what town it was, maybe Gourdon.When i got back to Sarlat, choosing not to explore any other towns or castles, I couldn't help but start roaming again and taking more photos of the beautiful ancient details all over this town. This bigger shot below is of the Place de la Republique, my hotel room is on the second floor above the umbrellas and diners you see on the right hand side.That night, after some late evening exploration, I found a little sidewalk french fast foodish place not too far from my room, where I ordered an "american" hamburger, as they called it. They served the fries on the bun with the meat, it was quite delicious actually. I had gone to the market earlier and found some nice local red wine, and some of my favorite yogurt, the flavor I found that I'd never had before was "White Chocolate with Cointreau!" Yogurt--its not just for breakfast anymore. So incredibly smooth and luscious. As I recall this night I was serenaded by a woman dressed in medieval costume complete with cleaning maid bonnet, and singing Edith Piaf songs. She also had a kind of calliope machine that accompanied her. She really was quite good, and I enjoyed her almost nightly-performances. [...]

Jeudi, 25 June - There's Sarlat to this OLD town and surrounds


Sarlat rocks, I'm so glad Beth told me about it, it's really old, I need to look up some facts to expound upon this brilliant bit of deduction of mine. So picturesque, and I'm in a great(?) location, above a couple of cafés, one of which is owned by the same person who rents out the apartment above. I found it thru Rick Steves, and he was he ever right the rooms are enormous, I "paced" the length of my room from the bathroom to the bedroom where the window balcony is, and it was 35 steps! Really huge 20 foot ceilings too. This shot to the right is a view out my window of the Place de Liberte, a pedestrian zone most of the time except in the middle of the night when it becomes something like a race track on cobblestones. Here's the wiki info I know you're hankering for: as all get out, makes Rue Mouffetard seem like a cemetery. Earplugs not just optional, but mandatory! More later on this town trapped in time, kind of, sort of like taking a time machine back, but i hadn't realized they had Espirit stores then too, hmmm, that spoils the magic a wee bit.After a morning of continued venturing around Sarlat, I got in the car headed to Domme, which came suggested by my friend Margaret, another gorgeous old town. It happened to be Farmer's Market day (see photo of sausages on red and white tablecloth) so it was extremely difficult to find a parking place, but I ended up parking down the hill a wee bit and hiking up thru the gated wall shown here.As usual there was a beautiful church in the town and lots of lovely old houses, gardens, and shops. From a perch high above the Dordogne River you could see canoeists enjoying the peaceful ride down the winding river.I really think the next time I come to this area, hopefully with someone else, I would love to actually rent one of the canoes and take the 2 hour leisurely journey down the Dordogne, what a wonderful diversion. I also like this shot of some fallen petals and flower buds on the streets of Domme. While wandering, you couldn't help but hear the noisy sounds of cicadas in the surrounding trees, they were so loud and spooky sounding. I made a short little movie just to capture the audio of the environment, you'll find it at the very bottom of this page, it's not that interesting a shot visually. Cicada souvenirs are prevalent all over the Provence/Dordogne area, I've been seeing a lot of them in different styles and materials in the various souvenir shops.I continued exploring this beautiful Dordogne area, heading towards villages yet unknown to me, and I came across this amusing site of a walnut museum sprinkled with enormous over-sized walnuts.The next unscheduled beauty stop was in the town of Castlenaud, I explored the adjacent village area, missing out on the museum of medieval war. I'm quite sure it was very interesting but I chose to pass it by (this time anyway). After my brief but lovely visit to Castlenaud I got back into my Nissan Micra and followed some black and white road signs towards the river side town of Le Roque Gageac(?). This picturesque village hugging both the side of a mountain and the Dordogne was a stunning site, just one street running adjacent to the gently flowing river. Truly an amazing gorgeous sight. After this unnamed town I found my way back to Sarlat where I spent another several hours wandering the streets and taking photos of this highly photogenic town. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />[...]

Mercredi, 24 June - Where am i?


After checking out of the Bates Motel, er I mean Hotel Bosquet, I decided I still needed to see Carcassone itself before I ventured to Sarlat. I finally explored the Cité part of the town which wasn't all that far from my hotel, I parked in the adjacent lot to the giant Chateau/Castle/whatever they call it, and walked thru the entry gate towards the little village within the castle walls. It was very interesting, as it was like a medieval Disneyland without the rides, well, just one, the carousel out front. All shorts of shops, hotels, and restaurants surrounding the main castle/chateau, it was wild. Lots of souvenir and clothing shops, most of which were taking advantage of the medieval theme, so there were lots of knights costumes, and one shop keeper was even dressed as a Knights Templar, it was as though this area was trapped in time, but with modern tschotkes, espadrilles, and snowglobes.Once again I didn't go into the Castle as I got there before itsopening time of 10 am, so I walked all around the outer areas taking lots of photos. It's so hard to believe how old this place is, the settlement started around 100 BC! There's even a Best Western Carcassone within the walled cité! Too much, so funny. The church within the walls was surprisingly large and very beautiful with lots of stained glass on several walls, and some absolutely beautiful sculpture. but what I really enjoyed was seeing the sun coming thru the stained glass windows streaming the color down onto the walls, floors, and an ancient bell nearby, it was a gorgeous sliver of colored light. across the street from the Castle there was a cemetery, and guess what, yep, I went in, it was really crowded but very interesting. The most unique thing I saw here were very intricate bead-and-wire pieces in various shapes hanging on some of the gravestones. I don't think the photos in this size will do them justice, but I'll post one anyway. Here's another shot to the left of a very lush gravestone full of enameled signs, plastic flowers and photo of the deceased.From the Carcassonne castle I hit the super highway towards Sarlat, and along the way photographing from the car, the brown and white signs indicating the amazing sites that were nearby off of the freeway, I passed some real interesting looking places, but this was going to be the longest distance between towns, so I wanted to get to my final destination and locate my hotel in a timely fashion.Finding this hotel seemed to be the most difficult, or do I say that everytime? I had picked this place out via Rick Steves, and he mentions that the four rooms this man and his wife rent out are located above their café in Sarlat, without mention of the cafe's name. I had the address, and I found what i thought was the street, parked my car nearby and started looking for the location. I wandered up and down the street, Rue de la Liberté, without luck, and found the tourist bureau where I asked them if they knew the location. Long story short they pointed me in a direction, a Place de la Republique which I eventually found after asking another young man at a pizza parlor, who hadn't heard of it before, so he asked a co-worker.Once i located their café I waltzed in, introduced myself in french, and said I had a reservation. Mr. DaCosta handed me over to his wife, who led me up the stairs to the first floor, as it turns out she spoke NO ENGLISH at all, so we struggled to communicate, but the room was gigantic, just as Rick had said. After she gave me my room key I returned to my car and gathered up my other suitcase, food, and paraphenalia, and re-parked my car in a closer parking lot.Wandering Sarlat was full of beautiful ancient buildings, quirky window displays, and gorgeous old streetways. You really felt you had taken a time machine to this incredible town. I roamed around almost every street, path, and r[...]

Mardi, 23 June - Avignon, Les Baux, Cathedrale d'Images!


Wow, what a day, I started early since I felt the need to return to Avignon to see the Maison Jean Villar museum which had an Edward Gordon Craig marionette exhibit that was closed the last two days I was in Avignon. Crazy to backtrack 2 plus hours, but I hadn't found out about this show until 7:30 pm on Saturday night, and with the place being closed Sundays and Mondays I was outta luck. The drive to Avignon via superhighway was way over two hours long as I had missed the barely marked highway exit, so that was a bummer. When I finally found my way to Avignon, it was about 11:15 am. I parked my car in the now-familiar train station short-term parking lot near the hotel I had stayed at previously and walked to where I thought the museum was located. After wandering a little bit and referring to the Avignon city map, and knowing that I was so close yet so far, I noticed several of those gray Brinks-like trucks parked in front of a building in one of the central squares of the downtown area. I also saw a number of armed men with military-like gear, including helmets and machine guns. I saw some tourists talking with them, so I wandered in between two trucks and VERY FOOLISHLY (I have no idea why my brain had disengaged from good sense at this point) with tourist map in hand asked the guy where this particular Maison Jean Villar was. As I approached he seemed to tense up, and look at me rather seriously, but he was courteous and in very good English said you might want to ask the local police right over there, we're not from around here, and he pointed about six feet away. Another guard much more stern said, please go around the trucks to get to the policemen. I immediately realized the magnitude of my stupidity in approaching a man with a machine gun and felt so ridiculous. The policemen were kind as I asked the same question of them, and after referring to my city map they pointed me in the right direction for the museum.Once I got to the front desk of the museum as I was buying my ticket, the woman at the desk said we close for lunch in 25 minutes, and I said Ok, I would be quick. A few museums in France do close for lunch between 12 and 2 pm, so I thought OMD I've driven ALL this way and I have to rush thru this exhibit. Fortunately the show wasn't very large, and I enjoyed looking at the collection of marionettes this man, Edward Gordon Craig, had accumulated during his lifetime. It was fabulous, of course, as I've said before I do love marionettes, and most of these were very sophisticated and beautifully made. I managed to see everything twice and still leave in time for their 12 pm lunch break, it was quite fascinating to see these unique examples of puppetry. Loved the show.From there I knew I wanted to check out Les Baux des Provence Chateau and Village, having read all about it the night before. Driving towards Les Baux the first thing you see a Chateau-like ruin on a hill and then when you drive into the parking lot, where again, there are lots of tour buses, and so many cars it was hard to find a parking space, but I managed to squeeze into one. At the hilltop there's the Chateau and another shopping village to explore. It was pretty nice, and although I didn't pay the fare to get into the Chateau itself I did enjoy walking around the little tourist town adjacent to it. It was very lovely wandering all around the shops, where the souvenir prices were surprisingly low! The church in the little village was quite lovely as well. There was also a tourist bureau in this little town, so I happened to pick up a brochure about "Cathedrale d'Images" which was located just a mile or so down the road. reviewing the brochure and leaving the parking lot at Les Baux des Provence I definitely decided to go towards the Cathedrale d'Images, Rick Steves had given it a very intriguing description whic[...]

Lundi, 22 June - Avignon, Pont du Gard, Carcassonne


I checked out of my hotel room in Avignon around 10:30 am after first taking my small bags to the car; moving the car a wee bit closer to the train station's short-term parking lot, and going back to the room and getting my second rolling suitcase. After doing so, I went to the front desk and was greeted by a very friendly fellow who asked me how I was and I said "Tres Bien" because that's what I know how to say. He asked if I enjoyed my visit and I said yes even though I hadn't really even seen Avignon yet. I told him where all I'd been and he said I'd missed a fantastic market day yesterday in some particular place, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. He asked where I was going next and I said Carcassonne, so he recommended Pont du Gard (an ancient roman bridge, and I mean ancient-is construction during 38-52 AD ancient enough for you?) and the village of Uzes.He was so friendly, and I told him I did enjoy the poster art in my room and he told me several stories about previous guests who had taken the posters down and turned them to the wall. An Australian tourist and his wife immediately complained about their room and were given another, and when this desk clerk asked if everything was ok, after they had been moved, they said yes, but posted their complaint on Check out the third opinion on this page: wouldn't really recommend this place even though the gentleman was very nice upon check out, and even gave me a full-size bottle of organic french wine to take with me. As I said previously, I didn't think this hotel was welcoming or service-oriented from the initial email, the woman definitely shouldn't be in the 'hospitality industry', she should be in a hospital getting her OCD issues checked out. And one thing I hadn't mentioned about this place in any previous posts, which was definitely the most odd, there's a little white box in the corner of the room over the entry door, and it flashes either yellow or blue. I didn't bother asking what it was about, but I hated to think it was a camera and I liked to wave when it turned blue. I mainly noticed it at night after I'd turned the lights off in the room. If I was completely still in the room, in the dark, no lights, and there was any movement at all, like when I got up to head to the bathroom, the yellow light came on and then it turned blue, it was really rather uncomfortable as though you were being filmed. Call me 'paranoid', and I'll probably turn around.Last night since it was summer solstice, there was a music festival "Avignon Fete de la Musique" in the park adjacent to the Hotel Colbert entrance (where I sneak out my food trash) and the music went on and on until midnight, sounded fun, and if I hadn't already showered and washed my face I might have made the few short steps to explore it. It seemed to be in conjunction with Summer Solstice. I was very tempted to get dressed to check it out, but resting sounded better, not knowing at that point how much longer it would continue.Anyway, back to talking about old Avignon, I spent about an hour and a half looking for the proper access area to view that dang 3/4 built bridge that pretty much has made Avignon famous along with being the Pope's home back in the 1400's, and after climbing up past the Palais de Papes, I found it, fortunately it hadn't blown away, the winds were so strong again it was incredible, every day they seem to get stronger. Just lifting one foot after the other to walk, sometimes the one foot slammed into the other calf, it was astounding, and the wind was whistling like I'd never heard before. It seemed almost dangerous, (gale force?) and the trees all around were squeaking and moaning like crazy, I was imagining the headlines, "American tourist killed [...]

Dimanche, 21 June - Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Orange, Provence, and a bunch of small villages


Today became another driving day, I had my mind set for Chateauneuf-du-Pape, specifically Domaine Moulin Tacussel as that is where the best bottle of wine I've ever tasted was produced. You'll need to return to find out if it was closed or not. Ok, I'll give, it was closed, I was so incredibly disappointed. The blanc Chateauneuf-du-Pape I had a couple/three years ago at Kim and George's dinner party was so amazing, I couldn't wait to try it again and even buy a bottle or two. I walked around the small town and every other door/business was a tasting room, what a fun way to spend a weekend just tasting all these fabulous wines in that glorious setting. This is a surprisingly small town in size, but the "downtown" area I swear is a wine taster's paradise. Each business is either a wine cave for sampling, or a wine store. From there I went north the short distance onto the town of Orange, mainly for friend George who loves orange, if I haven't already mentioned that in a previous post. It was ironic because the first person I saw walking in the town was wearing ORANGE. There's a ancient Roman amphitheatre here, and some other amazing sites including their own mini Arc d'Triomphe (covered in scaffolding and netting) but I blew on by the town, it just wasn't of interest to me to deal with the tourist crowds that day. But a funny thing happened while driving thru Orange, the evening before I bought a ten pack of writable CDs since my rental car has a CD player, I burned some of my favorite music onto six of them for cruising around. Just as "1999" came on by Prince, I was stopped at a stoplight next to the "Hotel des Princes" isn't that a coinky-dinky?After Orange I got onto the freeway and headed in the direction of Aix en Provence, it was Sunday so most everything was closed down and I saw the centre ville with a lovely fountain and lots of people, but it didn't really draw me in surprisingly. So I started driving back towards Avignon via the back roads so I could see rural life in Provence. I was passing thru one town in an attempt to find an old church and happened to be stopped behind a car on a narrow little village street, a number of locals were hanging out in front of a bar there at 2 in the afternoon, and one looked at me and smiled. The mainly toothless man I had mentioned in my tease, so I smiled back, and when the stopped car went on and I passed the group, that same man blew me a kiss. So, since I was safely in a car, and on my way out of town, I was 'brave' and blew him a kiss back, well I watched him in the rearview mirror waving me back for the next several blocks. It was really fun and cute, but I like "my" men to have all their teeth, my one stipulation, I'm picky that way.The next town I passed I noticed a graveyard on the other side of the street, so I turned around in a safe turnout down the road, and look at the field of sunflowers I had to stop and photograph on my way back to the cemetery, acres and acres of sunflowers, it was so gorgeous, and with the sunny, clear, windy day, a very beautiful photo op. And it didn't hurt that I found myself picking several stems of fresh lavender from someone's gravesite, it made the car's interior smell so beautifully fragrant. I don't even know the name of the town right now, (although I think it might have been Celony?) I'll have to look it up on a detailed map, it was such a small town it's not even on the Michelin map I bought for the trip.There were a few other places I stopped on my way back to Avignon, and one place I had already passed on the way into Avignon from Lyon, "Notre Dame de Beauregard", a chapel high atop a hill overlooking the autoroute. I pulled over to find the signs leading up to the church and came to the foot of the hill a steep one car-width dirt and gravel road, I was of course thinking oh this mu[...]

Samedi, 20 June - Avignon, Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Lourmarin


Today I got in the car and started cruising, and if my secret mission was to see beautiful little villages, I certainly succeeded. As Avignon is my base for exploration and also based on recommendations from Beth (my former boss) who had just been in this area in March I decided to check out mainly Bonnieux and Lourmarin. Not wanting to take the superhighway I found the rural road towards the town of Apt which helped lead me to the other places. I had Googled some travel info that morning which was a great help just to get me started on the right path, and surprise, surprise, it worked out for a change!On the way to APT I saw signs for the town of Gordes, I think I had read about it in Rick's book, and I probably would have passed it by if it weren't so darn picturesque seemingly clinging to the side of a hill. Spires and other architectural elements drew me in and I took what I thought might be the road less-traveled, but that was after busloads of tourists had already descended upon the place. There were several parking areas, and I attempted to park in the first large one I saw but it was full, and the attendant said something about there being additional parking at the summit. I headed in that direction, but it was so far away I just drove back the way I came in and luckily a car was pulling out of a parking area with only about ten spaces, so I took advantage of that for sure, it was just steps away from the "center" of town and where shops were just alongside the main road, it was really different since there was little or no sidewalk between the cars passing by and the storefronts.After paying a machine for a parking stub I went the short distance towards the church and wandered in, it was very rugged, as in not slick at all, so charming and picturesque. There was a baptism going on while I, and a few dozen other tourists were in there, and I took several shots of the interior. I've now got my camera completely soundless, when it boots up and when it shoots, so I'm really in mute mode, oh and of course, NO FLASH ever.From there I walked across a little alleyway to a Patisserie and ordered a sandwich, pain au chocolate (duh), another apple turnover (Chausson Pomme) and a coke light for the road. I went into several stores but the prices and selection weren't that interesting so I found my way towards a viewpoint past the church and down a cobblestone hill, which was very difficult to walk, worse than usual, there was no uniformity to the size of the "cobbles" at all. It was a great view and I took a few shots there, and then after probably only about 30-45 minutes I got back in my car and hit the road onto other villages.The drive was just gorgeous, actually not that many cars on the roads, but then when you'd enter these different little towns they would be jam-packed, the restaurants full, and all the parking gonzo. The sky was a beautiful bright blue, with slightly strong winds, with no threat of rain at all. It was fun to see all the vineyards everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, just spectacular.From Gordes I found my way to Roussillon which I'd never heard about before, but it was really an eye-catcher because the hills, sheer cliffs, and the main buildings on the hilltop are all an orangish-red. It really reminded me of Utah with its gorgeous natural reddish earth tones. Apparently Roussillion was the town that produced most of the world's ochre production, which I only knew of from oil paint colors when I was the buyer for a stationery store's art dept, when I was just out of high school. Grumbacher's yellow ochre! Right now I don't know what else it's good for, but I'll find out and let you know soon. I just found this website where the author has some great shots of Rousillon, I'm so sorry I didn't get a chance to explore it further[...]

Vendredi, 19 June - Lyon, St. Etienne, and Avignon


Bonsoir Comrades, I departed my hotel in Lyon this morning around 9:30 am anxious about the retrieval of my car from the parking lot its been stashed in since Wednesday afternoon. The brutal cost was 40.50 euros, le ouch, about $56 dollars. I headed towards Vieux (Old) Lyon to drive to the top of some hill to see the spectacular church that's perched overlooking all of Lyon, but I never found signs, or ways to venture that way. At one point driving in Old Lyon was once again a Disneyland flashback, and if I thought walking on cobblestone was a nightmare driving on it is another experience. I came to this one square in front of St. Something-or-other church and all indications were that this was the right way to go because there didn't appear to be any other exits, so the small white truck that was on my tail, well, I pulled over just to see how he was going to deal with a street exit with a 12 inch in diameter metal post in the middle, good thing I did, it turns out you pull up to it, and the red light turns to flashing yellow when the post goes back into the ground. I never saw that on the Autopia ride at Disneyland. That's all I need to have a post ramming up into my rental car! Oh Mon dieu, that's crazy, who thought of that? Maybe one of the Louis, Louis(eys)???Since my attempts to locate the additional sites of Old Lyon failed, it helped make my decision to go to St. Etienne much easier, I was on the fence about it since it was a little bit out of the way to Avignon. This museum, "The Museum of Arts and Industry" was a place I read about a few years ago in a book about Ribbons, and they mentioned that St. E. was the epicenter of ribbons. Lyon was famous already for silk, so St. E. decided to make a niche in ribbons. I read about it online recently and it's an interesting eclectic accumulation of items, the top floor is Armour; the ground floor is ribbons and fabric making; and the basement is devoted to the history of bicycles.I again really enjoyed how beautifully presented all the materials were, but once again, little or no English, so I didn't learn how these machines work, but they were so involved and large, it was fascinating. I took a ton of photos of drawers and notebooks full of ribbon samples, one wing had the ribbons and the other wing had the weaving machines, so complicated, who thought of that? Why Monsieur Jacquard that's who for one.After leaving the museum and heading out of town, unfortunately I did wander a bit finding my way back to the highway towards Lyon, I needed to go back north towards Lyon in order to head south towards Avignon and Marseilles. While wandering I did find an Auchan gas station which was a station the Farrugias recommended when we were driving back from Giverny. They said they are usually a lot cheaper than other gas stations, and was that ever the truth, about 17 cents per liter cheaper! I managed to fill my tank without any drama or major errors, wow.Once I found my way back towards the toll road I was home free, well not free, it's a toll road and do they ever charge, the trip from St. Etienne to Avignon was 16 euros, and the toll taker short changed me just a bit, guess because I wasn't wearing my french disguise, the scarf, I looked like I was ready to be ripped off, the creep, he had a funny look on his face as he handed me my change. I wonder how many people a day he does that to, he probably drives the newest and biggest Citroen. Anyway, I think the entire trip from Lyon to Avignon is about 230 miles, plus the extra 60 or so going off the road towards St. Etienne.As usual the trickiest part now of my travels is finding the quickest and easiest way to the hotels I've booked into. Since Le Colbert Hotel was recommended by Rick, I was able to refer to the diagram in his b[...]

Jeudi, 18 June - Grabbing Lyon by the tail, of a horse of course


Ok, I'm really wiped out right now, but here's the list of what I saw today1.) Decorative Arts Museum; 2.) Textile Museum with special show of Haute Couture Designer, Franck Sorbier; 3.) Guignon Puppet Museum; 4.) History of Lyon Museum, all in french and in the same building as puppet museum; 5.) Beaux Arts Museum; 6.) Museum of PrintingTOTAL, COMPLETE WIPE OUT!! Oh and a couple of you have asked for a photo of me to 'prove' I'm here, so here's one to the left, I've really been run ragged so I definitely have aged a bit, but here I am in my new rain/sun hat. Obviously I'm not Dorian(a) Gray, with apologies to Oscar Wilde.Ok, so I lied, it took me a couple of days to relive this particular museum-packed day, but I'm back and ready to spill my guts. There were so many museums I wanted to see and I couldn't figure out the best strategy, hit the closest ones first or the farthest away first, so it ended up I walked to the Decorative Arts and Textile Museum (2 museums in one) which was only about six blocks away. Now in hindsight, I probably could have skipped the Decorative Arts museum, because the one in Paris has got to be the best in presentation, quality and content of items. This place didn't have a word of English anywhere so it's kind of hard to enjoy when you're trying to figure out what, where, and whom, in relation to a piece. Oh sure, I can translate a lot more french now than I could a couple of months ago, but there are enormous gaps between what I do understand and what I can't figure out without my official decoder ring. I first got there and bought my ticket, the woman was chatting away in french and when I asked parlez vous anglais, she said yes, and then asked if I wanted to see their special temporary exhibit some haute couture designer Franck Sorbier, for whatever insane reason, (I mean five museums on my list for the day isn't enough?) I said OUI, sure! So I paid the extra ten euros to see that show as well, not knowing it would completely blow my mind. I was so happy I went. His work is phenomenal, so innovative, creative, off the wall, I mean whatever extra curricular chemicals he's taking, give me some. When I paid my money to see the complete three-pack so to speak she handed me a penlight and said I might need it for some of the exhibits. Huh? Como?Was that ever true, some of the textile exhibits were in low light, and hard to read all those french titles for the objects, but when i got to the Sorbier show, did you ever need a flashlight there, they had this dramatic progressive lighting, and at times it was pitch black. And then the lights would gradually come up to reveal the amazing outfits he had designed. Some of the exhibit rooms were based on color, a room full of red, or black, or blue, or white clothing. Some of the fabrics were compressed to conform to a shape, like nothing I'd ever seen before. I really wanted to buy the show catalog but it was all in french and 45 euros, no merci. I know nothing about this man, but adore everything he created, so different and awe-inspiring, I can only hope this show comes to the states, 'cause I would definitely see it again and again, and buy the catalog in english. I found his website the other day it's innovative too, but it seems more like form over function, as you don't really get to see the clothes themselves that much or maybe I just didn't "drill down" far enough.Unfortunately they didn't allow any photography at all in these exhibits and again, lousy postcards, so i only have memories no paper trail to show you. stop was the Guignol museum, Guignol is the main character of a puppet theatre and was " born" in Lyon. I adore pupp[...]

Mercredi, 17 June - From Annecy to Lyon and I'm not lying!


Anyway, back to the morning, I checked out of the Au Faison Dore about 9:30 am, parked my car at the Hotel Dieu parking lot and started wandering around Annecy, it was so sparcely occupied it was a dream. I've gotten so used to Paris and the crowds, and this place is bliss, oh I have to say at one point while trying to locate a perfect parking lot, I was driving thru streets that didn't seem big enough for a car, much less two car widths side-by-side. It made me smile because it was like driving at Disneyland on the Autopia ride when you drive over the little Storybook Village where you go thru the Pinocchio whale's mouth. It really reminded me of that, and I'm so lucky I got my first driver's license at Disneyland and actually still have it,so I can prove it, it's dated 1959. OMD, I've been a licensed driver for fifty years! Autopia was probably my favorite ride when I was a kid, so this morning brought back some great memories. (This first photo is of the Annecy prison, the boat shaped building, cool, huh?) went up and down all the little streets and medium streets, and criss-crossed all around Old Annecy, I was a human corkscrew walking in circles, enjoying being lost because around every turn was a new photo opportunity. I stopped at the "Sandwicherie" around 11:30 and got a "Chicky" sandwich, with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, marinated feta cheese, marinated black olives, balsamic vinegar sauce in foccacia bread. The 'clerk' was really sweet and asked where I was from, when I told him California, he said he loved Americans, and had been to Florida and he was going back in a few months, he'd even like to buy a house there. I told him to come to San Francisco, CA, he probably wouldn't be able to buy a house, but it is a lovely place to visit. He was so very nice.After walking all around, finding all sorts of beautiful nooks-and-crannies and taking about 200 photos in 3-4 hours I hit the road towards Lyon, only an hour and a half or so away. It was pretty easy to find the large "Other Directions" signs and it was fairly effortless to find my way onto the toll road. I ate my sandwich, chips, and Coca Cola Light while driving, and even have a photo for evidence. While taking it I thought be careful Cheri, don't let this become your last sandwich, it's good but it's not THAT good! (sorry should have set the lens to macro for a better, mouth-watering shot).With all these photos I'm taking it's funny to watch all of us amateur photographers staking out our shots, there were times this morning when if only one DOOFUS/DUFUS wasn't just standing/loitering on this bridge or that, I could have gotten some even better shots! At times I waited 15 minutes for a shot, this is hard work, you thought Celebration Weekend was hard??? Oh no, mon amies, this is hard and takes lots of patience.After a beautiful, spectacular, gorgeous morning in Annecy, the Venice of the French Alps, I hit the road to Lyon somewhere about 1 pm and arrived here around 3 pm. But on my way, I did need to purchase my first amount of diesel as my car was half full, I found a gas station on the outskirts of Annecy and pulled in and jumped out of the car ready to fill it up. A woman came out of the station's cashier area with her cellphone affixed to her ear, and probably sizing me up and realizing I was a tourist and maybe even knowing this was likely a rental car, she went to the driver's side, popped the gas door open from underneath the dashboard, and started putting the gazole in. I assumed that it was self service, but was so glad she took over and did the work, so I knew how to function the next time it was necessary. And heaven forbid I interrupt her phone call. I mer[...]

Mardi, 16 June - From Beaune to Annecy, a study in contrasts


Come back and I might be able to tell you in amusing detail about my one night stay in Beaune and the sunny and beautiful drive to Annecy in the French Alps. This place is really worth seeing, the hotel is where Shane and Chris stayed a while back and it's nice, with intelligent front desk clerks, fresh towels, and clean toilet, what a concept. I'll tell you why you really should come and enjoy the beauty of Annecy and which hotel to avoid in Beaune.Let me tell you I couldn't wait to check out of this sleazy hotel, the Hotel de France, remember that! I put my bags in my little car and headed into the "downtown/centre ville" area. It was very quaint and lovely and quiet, and they have tile accents here-and-there on their roofs, around their windows and it's very charming. I was just looking for shots to post and I have to say after seeing Annecy, I'd really rather show you those shots I took later that same day, they are far more interesting. The one of the flowers with fancy bow was in Beaune. I really don't remember much of this drive now except that it was uneventful and beautiful, which was a nice contrast to the CNN news reports of the night before predicting some major storm passing thru England, France, and Germany in the next couple of days. I almost cancelled the trip to Annecy as this same highway takes you past Mont Blanc (which was closed according to freeway signs), Geneva, Switzerland; and onto Venice, Italy. I figured I was really going to have to be doing some climbing, but it was fairly gradual, so not a problem at all, I think this was the day though that the auto toll was 27.40 euros!!!! Holy cow! I didn't want to BUY the highway just use it for a short time. Now I know why they call them TOLL roads, they take a toll on your wallet.Au Faison Dore was the hotel I was looking for, the one where Shane and Chris stayed several years ago, and I had some good info on where it was located, so it wasn't too much of an ordeal to find it. It was to one side of Lake Annecy, not that close to town, unfortunately, but a nice hotel. I had asked when I made my online reservation for a private parking place, not knowing what I was exactly asking for, but the nice woman at the front desk gave me a humongous key ring with what appeared to be a metal sheriff's badge and walked me to the entrance of the hotel to show me where my "garage" was. it was an actual small lock-up garage for 8 euros a night. Let me tell you, if I had to park in that little garage it would either 1. take me so long to maneuver my way into it that it wouldn't be worth it or 2. I would crash my rental car into it far too easily. I asked her if I didn't take the garage where does a hotel guest park and she pointed across the street in another direction, and said over there, and it's free. i said, i hope you don't mind, but I don't think I need that private of a garage. She seemed fine with my new decision. Pheww.After taking my bags up (they had a tiny little elevator!) and getting situated in the room I hit the streets, found a parking garage near centre ville, and headed straight towards the Tourist Info Center. When I got to the front counter, I told the woman I didn't know all that much about Annecy, so what would she recommend for someone who's just staying overnight? She suggested touring the prison which is a historic center in the middle of one of the canals; and a trip to the Annecy Chateau; and a stroll around the Lake itself. I merci'd her and started my exploration. This town should definitely be sponsored by Kodak if they were still selling film, around every single stone corner was a photo op.As I walked around the little village like a curious cat, I found [...]

Lundi 15 June - I'm outta Paris and Bad to the Beaune


I had told Christian yesterday when I saw him perform that I would love to vacate the apt around 11 am and if he wanted to come by I would hand his keys over. He said he would be there, and if not, he'd call. So I woke up that morning knowing that I had to ship "just one more" box to the States, so i could avoid carrying more than just the backpack and rolling suitcase I came with. On Sunday as I mentioned I kind of packed things up and had them in my folding portable suitcase that my aunt Donna gave me about 20 years ago and i've used ON EVERY TRIP since, so handy.Anyway, I walked to the Poste near my Laundromat, The Lav Club, and purchased another Colissimo XL box, wandered back the short distance to the laundromat and used the folding table there to fill up the last of three boxes to myself in Santa Barbara. Good plan I thought that way I wouldn't have to walk all the way downhill and then up hill again to my apt to fill it. So that's what I did, ignoring the woman who was already there at 9:30 am doing her laundry. I went back to the Poste and shipped it off, YAY.Christian showed up around 11:15 and even though I had it in my mind to take a taxi to the Luxembourg Garden metro stop due to the really persistent rain, he assured me that the bus would be so easy. I told him I had done the laundry the day before and was leaving behind an extra towel and food items that I had purchased. He was pleased that I cleaned as much as I did. He then walked me to the bus stop with the offer of lifting my one really heavy bag onto the bus. The minute we got to the bus stop such a short distance from my place the bus was arriving, he lifted the bag onto the bus, showed me where I needed to insert my metro ticket and he assured me that someone would definitely help me with my bag when I got off. Long story short it went pretty much the way he said, there was just a short driving distance to the metro station, and a youngish man asked if I would like help putting my bag down off the bus, I said Merci, you're so nice. Then when I got to the metro station and the escalators only go UP, another gentleman asked if I needed help, but I said no, I was actually doing ok. Two minutes later the proper RER train came, for CDG terminal 2 and I was gone, it went very easily and quickly.It took a much longer, much more complicated time to find where the Budget car rental was in Terminal 2, which is all it said on my confirmation slip. Instead of aimlessly wandering, which I now have down to an art form that only I can appreciate, I went to the very first INFO booth I saw, the gentleman there told me to go upstairs and I could find one of their three booths there. I went upstairs and walked and walked, and saw another INFO booth, so I asked her where to find the closest Budget rental booth, she said it was downstairs between terminals E & F, so I headed in that direction. Fortunately as I found out when I arrived two and a half months ago they do have complimentary rolling metal carts to schlepp your stuff around, so that made the frustration a little bit easier. I did have to ask a third INFO booth, I decided I was going to stop at EVERY INFO booth I saw, just to pass the time, and she told me different information, and by chance I found the Budget rental place. YAY, I checked in and the very pleasant woman who spoke English very well told me I would be getting a car, but maybe not the one I wanted, maybe something bigger. After the Loire Valley gigantor car, I said I'd really like a small car, big mistake, it took about an hour for them to "find one" for me. While waiting I managed to find a food kiosk and bought a sandwich and a pain au[...]

Dimanche, 14 June - Last full day on the Mouffe


I spent the day cleaning the apartment, calling either my Aunt Betty or Aunt Donna, brother Shane, and wife Chris to check in, do laundry (see farewell laundromat shot) AND to finally go and see my landlord and his girlfriend perform on the street. Mind you, i have seen and heard them plenty of times from my apartment window's perch, but I got the sense that Christian was disappointed that I hadn't shown up to see them do their stuff in the time I've been renting from him. Out of guilt, I bought a bouquet of white chrysanthemums to give to him and he seemed pleased but immediately passed them onto his girlfriend. Because of the Brocante/Flea Market taking over most of the nearby streets, (it was quite large) they had moved down the street very close and next to the large fountain at the base of Rue Mouffetard, not their usual venue, but closeby. It was extremely hot that day so everyone listening to he and his group were crowded either under a tented canopy or in the shade of a building nearby. It was fun to see how much fun they were having performing in front of an ever-dwindling crowd. They have portable files, milk-crate-like filled with songs xeroxed for the "crowds" and they sell their cd for 10 euros a piece and a hat is passed around for the performance, no way anyone could make a living doing this, so I don't know how Christian survives actually. I met his girlfriend briefly, she doesn't speak english so that made for a quick bonjour. Christian is really a sweetheart, a very talented accordion player (I never thought I would use talented and accordion in the same sentence ever, but he's really a master) and always smiling and cheerful. I'll definitely look him up again when I next go to Paris, and still need to send him a belated card of thanks.At the end of their "show" I bought one of Christian's cds and then he gave me another one, the same one, to give to friends. I'm sorry to say I didn't get any good photos of Christian as he was at the back with the two women 'singers' taking center stage. I did make several short movies, none of which are academy worthy, but it will give you a flavor, a noisy flavor of the view of the street and the right "pan" where the white van is, is where Christian and his makeshift band are performing. It's so noisy due to the Antique fair and other performers you can't really hear his group, but enjoy anyway. Some of the other movies are too graphic to appreciate, because they give visual evidence that confirms "White french people can't dance." It's far too harmful to share with my 'followers'.At the end of the day I realized I still needed to ship another box back to the U.S. just so I wouldn't have to haul it around, so I got that stuff together ready to take to the poste the next day. No memories here of what I ate for dinner, but you can bet I cleaned out the frig as well as possible, and decided to "gift" Christian some of my special food purchases that I didn't consume during my stay. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />[...]

Samedi, 13 June - Moremartre (sic)


Well, I guess I didn't get enough of this area in the last four or five trips, so I headed back today. Join me later when I explain why I just had to climb the Sacre Coeur stairs one last time; and how I finally found Amelie's restaurant hiding in plain sight. Aaargh!AND, since it's my last weekend on La Mouffe, or Le Mouffe, there's a Brocante (flea market) here on the street and all the surrounding streets! Paradise found!Because I saw places and things yesterday that I wanted to further explore I hit the metro back to Montmartre and headed to the address where "Le Chat Noir" had been located back in the day. The seed of interest about this nightclub had probably first been planted at that fabulous "Toulouse Lautrec and the Montmartre" show at the Legion four years ago or so. I've always enjoyed the large graphic posters with "La Goulue", "Aristide Bruant" and other regular performers here, that artists like Steinlen or Toulouse Lautrec would illustrate. Here's a exhibition link I found for the show when it was at the National Gallery back in 2005, I had gone at least two times while it was at the Legion of Honor in SF, of course I really like this period of graphic art: had already read in Rick Steves that it was now a sandwich/souvenir shop, so there wasn't all that much to see visually, but the excitement for me was just realizing and imagining Toulouse entering this now infamous venue, the photo to the left is another one of the historic wine glass signs you see throughout Paris.Since I'm having to resurrect memories from two months ago, I'm reviewing my photos of each day to stir my mind, and it seems I went back to Sacre Coeur, heck all roads in Montmartre seem to lead to Sacre Coeur, sort of like a moth to a flame. I headed back up the stairs in order to hit the Place Jean Marais once again where I purchased more of the adorable oilcloth shopping bags and unique refrigerator magnets for gifts. This area is just chockablock (sp?) with fantastic souvenirs, I shot a display of small poster graphics you could choose from at a shop in Montmartre, so many beautiful images!I had also enjoyed the Place du Tertre where I had seen the large assemblage of artists the day before, so I went back and shot some spy photos of several of the talented characature artists there. The area is packed with artists, easels, and tourists wanting their faces illustrated and manipulated by all this quick draw talent. You can expect to be approached by several of them while walking past this square who would "love" to draw your face, for money of course.Continuing my explorations I found my way on Rue LePic, the windy, very steep and long street which meanders thru the Montmartre area, I more unique stores with antiques, handmade crafty items, and finally in the midst of all the lower Rue LePic visual clutter I saw it, the Amélie restaurant, Cafe de Deux Moulins. I guess I probably walked past it 2 or 3 times in my previous wanderings, not imagining that it would be on the lower area of the street, I kept visualizing that it was somewhere high up the street on its own, but no, there it was on a corner sardined next to a G20 supermarché, and other souvenir shops. Hooray, I found it! I didn't go closer or even peek into the place, which as I write this, I'm not sure why I wasn't more curious at the time. Oh well, could have been on tourist overload, yeah, that's it, my eyes and brain were burnt out to the max at this point. I staggered back to the nearest metro station, Anvers, I think, and headed towards Rue Mouffetard to have [...]

Vendredi, 12 June - Montmartre with the Schmansens


I'm hoping I'll get the chance to catch up on all the blog entries before I start my road trip in two days. This day we headed over to Montmartre, got off at Pigalle station (another Public Service Announcement to come); headed up to Sacre Coeur; Montmartre Musee; La Moulin Gallette; and dinner down the street. The photo is of the tram/shuttle that goes around Montmartre, very handy for all those hills, Montmartre is the highest point in Paris. this is Kim and George's last day in Paris and they needed to get out of their apt by 10:45 I told them to store their stuff at my place until they left for the airport. They came over around 11:00 am bringing all the food and beverage items they still had left in their apt--cheese, bread, butter, wine, gin, jam, cookies, and tonic water, quite a few of my favorite food groups. It happened to be beautiful outside, but because I spotted a few suspicious clouds that I've learned can turn a gorgeous day to a sprinkle day, we carried our umbrellas. Sure enough, while Kim was buying a croissant just a few doors down from my apt, the spritzels started and we walked in sprinkles until we got to the closest metro station.We had already determined that we were going to hit Montmartre as they'd never been, so we made our trek via a couple of metro lines to Pigalle (Pig Alley) station in the heart (or maybe thighs of Montmartre, pardon). Never having gotten off at Pigalle I had no idea what was in store for us just getting up and out of the metro station, the first clue, and we did notice this, was the elevator right at the first turn of the metro sortie. We continued on the path of the stairs not knowing of course HOW MANY STAIRS THERE WERE. I don't think the stairs at the Arc d'Triomphe or Notre Dame Towers are this numerous, 'followers' I almost didn't make it, it was exhausting. I should have counted, but I'm quite sure climbing the stairs to Sacre Coeur is a lot less, it was painful for me. Kim and George it didn't phase one little bit, they are in shape, and when George has the choice, escalator over stairs, he's TAKING THE STAIRS, I've witnessed it numerous times this past week. Well by the time we got to the top I was huffing and puffing and wishing for either a gin and tonic; or a double gin and tonic, with a gin and tonic chaser. like to think I recovered rather quickly, and we made our way towards Sacre Coeur, I knowing full well that a first trip on the funicular (which runs parallel to the stairs I'd climbed previously a couple of weeks ago) would be in order today (for just the experience of course). Kim and George took the stairs, the funicular which was only one metro ticket, cool. They can accommodate 30 people in each vehicle, and in the time it took to fill the car (there wasn't a line) and wait for the previous car to come back down the hill, K&G were up top waiting for me, probably for a little bit. The three of us climbed the last flight of stairs and made our way into the church, this time there wasn't anyone yelling at tourists entering the church, and we just strolled right in. It is so impressive and what I hadn't realized, Kim read a sign that was in English, it was only started in 1879 or so, one would think it was much older like everything else in Paris. there we continued up the hill to find "Place Jean Marais" which was a thrill for me in particular, since he starred in a lot of movies by Jean Cocteau, including one of my faves, "La Belle et La B[...]

Jeudi, 11 June - All quiet on the French front


Because I'm getting stressed about how to get all these new-found treasures home I spent a good part of the day packing up my purchases and putting them into the Poste. Two Colissimo XL boxes to the USA! Kim and George wanted to do some shopping and possibly go to the Catacombs and the Carnavalet, so I stayed behind to get my act in gear. When you come back to read, don't count on much excitement, ok?Photo of the General from "Monsters vs Aliens" perched high above on a balcony on Rue St. Paul, too cute I thought. Also some fun Polaroid-like graffiti in my travels.While Kim and George went shoe shopping, I stayed behind and first packed and inventoried one Colissimo XL box that I had bought a couple of weeks ago at the Poste, then long story short, the Poste closest to me, well, the one man that was working there didn't speak English, so I headed to the same exact place where I bought the box in the first place, near 'my' laundromat, fifteen minutes up a slight hill. The woman who assisted me was very kind and accomomdating to my Franglish and sent the box off without a hitch, and I was lucky it turns out, unlike what "Rick" said, these boxes do have a weight limit and it is a little over 15 pounds or 7 kilos. My box came in at 6.25 kgs. Yay! Because I still had more treasures, pamphlets, dvds, and stuff I purchased another one just to be safe, they're expensive, but it's worth not having to haul it around my last two weeks on the road.I walked the 15 minutes back to my apt, loaded up another Colissimo XL box, and inventoried and filled out the documents for this box and went straight back to the same poste, the same woman, I exclaimed "Bonjour encore!" she smiled and seemed surprised, but assisted me again, and luckily this one came in under weight too. Double yay. Once I completed this mission, and having packed the drawing pad, sharpener, and colored pencil set I bought several weeks ago, and hadn't used, I decided to go back to the BHV and return it all. I found the proper return station and that went fine as well. After that, I walked around the Marais, and found a couple of cool shops with some of the exact paper ephemera I'd been buying at Vanves Flea Market over the weeks. I strolled around a couple of hours and went home to relax, awaiting Kim's text about getting together for dinner at their place.She said to come on over around 7:30 i think, so I went over there, a neighbor let me in their security door, and I awaited while they walked back from, it turns out, Rue Mouffetard, where they purchased some bread, butter, ravioli (two kinds--legumes and olive) and some pesto sauce. I only waited five minutes at the most outside in their beautiful apt courtyard and once they arrived we had wine, gin and tonics, mimolette (bright orange cheese, quite good), a fresh baguette and butter. Dinner was delicious, the ravioli and pesto sauce was so good. Here's a shot of them being surprised as they rounded the corner to their apt.Once dinner was finished, it must have been around 10 pm, we decided to take a walk behind Notre Dame to Berthillon for ice cream for dessert. While crossing the bridge onto Ile St. Louis, we spotted quite a few party boats, some of the people had name tags and the people were really dressed up. We also stopped to take a photo of Tour L'Argent where our friend Stephanie spent her 40th birthday, and her now husband, Jim treated she and her girlfriend to dinner there, Kim told me that Stephanie said they "escort" you to the bathroom, whoa.The Berthillon line at that hour was only about [...]

Mercredi, 10 June - Gallerie d'Evolution, Marmatton Monet Museum, Crepe dinner with a crowd


Back in Paris for continued sightseeing at the wonderful Gallerie d'Evolution in the Jardin des Plantes; Marmatton Monet Musée; crepes with a group of nine others near my apartment, deliciously fun. I walked over to Kim and George's this morning around 11 and we headed just down the street from their apt to the Jardin des Plantes where the Galerie d'Evolution is located. Once again, I wasn't sure what to expect, and once again, I'm not disappointed at all in the presentation and content of this beautiful, informative museum. It is full of wonderful displays showing the progression of the species on the planet earth. On the second floor they have the grand gallery with all these taxidermed animals "parading" in the center of the floor. Its appearance made for dozens of photo opps, it was so striking. I have to say I took shots of them from every floor above them.The insect displays were gorgeous as well, and I tried to get a lot of closeups of the butterflies and moths, it was hard to stop actually.The ground floor was about fish, the second floor about mammals, and since I already mailed home the info I got from the place I can't really elaborate on all the floors that we saw and experienced. It's definitely worth seeing, adults and children will absolutely enjoy this place. There was one room adjacent to the main large area that was dedicated to extinct and endangered animals, it was very dark and somber in that library like room, very impactful.Next stop, the Marmottan Monet Museum, I hadn't been before, so this was going to be a treat for all of us. The rain had now arrived so we were strolling with our umbrellastowards the Marmottan when we stopped for lunch at a little tea/restaurant place not far from the museum. I had some kind of thin little chicken curry panini, Kim and George had a cheese and tomato sandwiches, and George had what turned out to be his best hot chocolate of the entire trip, apparently this was a research study.Walking thru a park towards the Marmottan there was quite a police presence around, but we went in and again, it's one of those places that doesn't let you photograph, bummer. George opted this time to get the audio device, so he kept Kim and I informed of the specifics of certain pieces of art and sculpture, etc., it was fantastic. It's a lovely old house turned into a museum, quite well appointed, and full of gorgeous works of art of all kinds, including porcelain, sculpture, and in several rooms there were special contemporary exhibits mainly of photography, which was interesting. On the bottom floor, George decided he knew why the police were around as there was one wall with a Monet missing. We all laughed, and it probably wasn't the truth, but apparently the previous day some woman had stolen some Picasso drawings from the Picasso museum! After that museum, we split up and they went shopping and I went home to rest knowing that we were getting together for dinner with Mathieu's family, his brother's girlfriend, Rachel, who was just returning from Cameroon after two years in the Peace Corps there. She also had invited some other friends who she hadn't seen for a while, a couple even came down by TGV train from Belgium to be with her on her one and only night in Paris, on her way back to Thomas in Long Beach, CA. We had gotten to meet Rachel the day after Gustavo died, as she and Thomas were around, and she had even come to Celebration Weekend two years ago before she left on HER amazing adventure. It was really funny and sweet when SHE said to [...]

Mardi, 9 June - Amboise, Chenonceau, Clos Luce, Int'l Garden Show


Day two of our Loire Valley adventure, come back to learn which Chateau was my favorite, see photos of where Leonardo Da Vinci lived in France, "imagine" images of the most amazing garden show I've ever seen. I've only seen the SF Garden show and this one, so that's not saying a whole lot, but this one makes that one look like a vacant lot.Oh, and the bad photography mojo continues, learn why you should always charge both camera batteries the night before a day of glorious chateuxing! I will definitely be returning within the next couple of weeks to the International Garden Show since my camera was out of juice while I was there. Very creative, unique, and complex installations there. I did return on June 27 so check out the photos when I finish writing about that day!This morning at our B & B in Amboise we met in the main house (where my room was located) and had breakfast which consisted of croissants, butter, hot tea or hot chocolate, and orange juice. The innkeeper was smiling fortunately, as I still was concerned about the mix-up ofthe night before, where they had acidentally locked me out of the main house thinking I was already in bed. I apologized again and she pretty much said no problem in her broken but fairly good English. After we paid our bill, in cash as she had originally requested, we packed the car with what each of us brought for our two-day side trip to the Loire Valley, I took a few good bye shots of this picturesque location, oh and the shot of the laced window to the left is of "my room." I now recall that morning as I came out of my room in order to go to the bathroom, I saw the son of the innkeeper, a little 9-year old boy in the reflection of the armoire's mirror in the hallway where my little compound included a w.c. room, and then a shower/bath room, which actually were the son's but when guests stay inside the house, he is NOT to use either room. It seems he was in the hallway getting his clothes out to go to school. I was a little taken aback at first when I first saw him, but without turning around, and looking at me via the mirror's reflection, he said "bonjour" very matter of factly, and went on about his business. He was just darling with a cute little pudding bowl haircut, so sweet.Within a few minutes, we made our way to our first Chateau of the day, Chenonceau, which is approximately 20 minutes away from Amboise. Along the way we would see water towers which George and I came to joke that they were lower-end Chateaux. You had to be there, it was hilarious. Chenonceau was so beautiful, I think it was my favorite in hindsight, of all the ones we saw. It was beautifully and fully staged, filled with gorgeous tapestries, paintings, sculpture, art, massive flower arrangements (real) and furniture. Most of the other places we toured were sparcely decorated, so this place was a real treat, kind of like an 11th century Sunset Idea House without all the signage! Oh, last but not least, how the place straddled the "Cher" river, it was magnificent, a true feast for the eyes and camera lens.As a visual person, I was busy running around documenting via digital camera all the sights that were so gorgeous, and Kim was great about reading aloud to George and I all the incredible history of the place. Its history had something to do with Francis the first of France, and both his wife (Catherine de Medici) and his mistress (Diane de Poitiers), and one of the gardens belonged to the mistress and the other to the wife, and then they[...]

Lundi, 8 June - Loire Valley-little or no photos today


Follow "us" as we explore how the kings, queens and mistresses of France lived. Join us in Chambord, Cheverny, and Amboise. Experience with me my first driving experience here in the heart of France, the Loire Valley. Learn what it feels like to trash a complete day's worth of photos (438) with a click of a button! Thrilling.This Monday morning we decided to meet up at the Censier-Daubenton metro station the one inbetween both of our apts, 'my' main metro station, at 8:30 am in order to start our adventure to the Loire Valley. We made our way to the Gare Montparnasse where Kim had pre-arranged to pick up the car for our drive out to the countryside of Loire. Since it was morning commute time the second line we had to jump on at Place d'Italie was jammed, in fact George who had a good sized rolling suitcase and backpack couldn't get in, so he had to catch the next train as it came we found out later. Kim told him, as she and I pulled away in the jammed car, which stop he needed to get off. While I got on the car, the backpack's strap I was wearing lodged into the doors when they closed, so I couldn't turn, or take it off to get it out of the way of other passengers, nice. Once the next stop came I was able to slightly get out of the way and take my backpack off. Once we got to Gare Montparnasse, we waited to see if we could spot George on subsequent trains and fortunately we did, because he hadn't heard what Kim said about which stop to get off at. Pheww. He said he was just watching for us on the platform.Anyway we got out of the Metro area and started looking for signs to the Train station itself and where the rental car booths are. After asking someone who worked there where "Hall Pasteur" was we made our way quickly to the "National" car location. Because Kim had made the reservation in my name since her neighbor Stephanie remembered that Costco (to which I'm a member) had great car rental pricing, my brother had sent the Costco card (that I didn't bring with me of course, there's no Costco's here) to Kim's house and then she brought it with her. To continue, Kim and I were going to do the driving since it was a manual/stick shift, but when we found out how much more a second driver was I said I would do all the driving. I decided if I can drive in Ireland I can probably drive here. It would be great practice for my upcoming driving trip, so that was fine with me. it took a while to get signed in, and I found out later because I first presented him with my debit card they have to run a quick "credit" check, now I know to just use a "real" credit card to save time, and in order to have the car insurance feature of your credit card activated you need to use that card from the very beginning. Good to know, huh?This train station is enormous, and the agent directed us to where the cars are parked at a Le Meridien hotel across the wide street next to Gare Montparnasse. When we arrived at the elevator to go down, we needed to go four levels lower than ground level to locate the car, well the elevator wasn't working and if it wasn't for two frenchmen, one of whom spoke english telling us that we'd have to walk down those flights of stairs, we might not have found the staircase so easily. Anyway, long story short and long time passing, we found the Citroen C5 a rather large navy blue 4-door sedan in space 45. It was pretty big and luxurious, and it came to be that it had GPS which was a real lifesaver, even if we didn't figure out (un[...]

Dimanche, 7 June - Bastille Market, Tuileries, Orangerie


Tune in later when I reveal what Kim and George thought of the Bastille Market, Tuileries, and the Orangerie. Come back and read if we really did see the Obama motorcade coming thru the Champs-Elysees!The photo, right, is in the Tuileries, I'd seen it a week or two before, but this time I got closer, and it just 'cracked' me up. If you don't like it, you can kiss my stone cold derriere, d'acord (ok)? ;-)It's a week later and I barely remember the details of how the day went, so forgive me if this post isn't as long-winded as ALL the others. I met K&G at their apartment and we took the metro to the Bastille stop walking towards the market itself where all the crowds were as usual. We explored the fruit, vegetable, dairy, meat stands complete with whole chickens and turkeys complete with heads and necks; I almost became a spontaneous vegetarian right then and there, it was gross. Kim would try to warn George not to look, but his morbid curiosity always seemed to get the best of him and he would always be checking them out. K&G considered buying some produce since it ALL looks so good, they did end up buying a escargot pastry for Kim for breakfast, and some cherries. It took a while but I did find the "famous" scarf vendor and bought another 3 scarves at his amazing prices. Oh, and at a pastry booth I bought a couple of delicious cheesey bread sticks and pain au chocolate.We decided to start walking towards the Tuileries, the big park next to the Louvre, Kim hadn't been there before so we strolled in that direction along Rue di Rivoli where all the souvenir shops are. In one shop Kim found a present for her brother, I found two Paris t-shirts, which has been a tough search, most are absolutely hideous, and could someone tell me what Marilyn Monroe has to do with anything in Paris?As I recall now, it was kind of overcast when we arrived at the Tuileries and we just sort of walked around, finding a pond where you could rent little toy boats, it was pretty cute to see the children playing with them. We headed to The Orangerie Museum, as it was the first Sunday of the month which means FREE day. The line didn't look that long so we took our place there, and within oh, 20 minutes we were in the museum. Except Kim happened to have a finished Coca Cola can in the side pocket of her backpack and they made her throw it away OUTSIDE. So she had to leave, stand in line and come in again, lame-o, no trash receptacles in the museum apparently. We explored the Monet Water Lilly rooms which I'd been to a couple of weeks ago, they are really quite a site to see, and they really enjoyed them. We speed viewed the gallery downstairs with the Renoirs, Cezannes, Pisarros, Picassos, you know the usual suspects. Then we went to the gallery to see that Didier Pagquinon's temporary exhibit that I loved so much and he's the guy I got to talk to previously. They seemed to like his work as well. We left the museum, sat down out in front and ate one of the cheese bread sticks and two of the pain au chocolates for a snack. While sitting there facing the southern? entrance of the Champs-Elysses, we saw a few large SUV's with bright flashing lights on them, kind of a small motorcade, I think one of us said something about Obama being in town, but it wasn't until I was watching the news that night that I saw the same vehicles in the same colors as the one we saw. We did see them, at least I read later that Michelle took the g[...]

Samedi, 6 June - Cruising with company


Today Kim, George, and I wandered to the Maubert Open-Air Market, Paul Bakery on St. Germain; the Sewer Tour of Paris; lunch at a little cafe on Dominque; The Invalides exterior area; and made our way to the Farrugias for dinner in Montrouge. It was a full and fun day, stay tuned, hope to write more soon. Oh, but here's a shot of me on the tour.I met up with the Schmansens at their place around 10 am, and unfortunately it was raining steadily, but not really heavily, so we took the metro from Jussieu to Mabillon; and then upon arrival I realized we had gone two stops too far, (I got my Mabillon mixed up with my Maubert) so we had to backtrack in the rain towards the Maubert market which really isn't that far from Jussieu, oops, my bad, get used to it. I felt terrible that we had to trounce around in the rain, but the good news is we did find a Paul Bakery and Kim treated to almond croissants, and our beverage of choice. We sat upstairs watching the passing crowds with their umbrellas.Then we found the Maubert Open-Air, Open-Wet market. At one booth a vendor had us take a sniff at some herb melange, which smelled absolutely beautiful, Kim bought one pack of that-- it's seasoning for soups, salads, whatever. We eventually located the scarf vendor I discovered just last Saturday, these scarves are so gorgeous, a nice mix of colors and patterns, and as I said last week they have a wonderful texture. I bought four and Kim did buy one in a blue and lavender mix, that goes beautifully with her lovely blue eyeballs. As I kept snatching them up, the vendor kept putting more out on display to which I said, "Arrete" (sp) Stop. (i think) He smiled and seemed to know I had a problem.We took the metro to the Sewer tour which is right along the Seine by the Alma bridge, you take a narrow spiral staircase down to where the tour starts, and there was a brochure with english and on some of the signs, I thought it was far more interesting than I imagined and very fortunately a lot less obnoxious smelling too. Although in a couple of places I felt as if I was above ground on some of the more fragrant streets of Paris. It's definitely worth seeing, the french do, and present, everything so well. I took this photo of the Schmansens and I do hope they don't mind my showing you the image they will likely use on this year's Christmas card. Act surprised when you open it, ok?Next as we walked towards the Invalides, Napoleon's tomb part of town, we found a restaurant to grab a bite, and we came across that store "The Real McCoy" that sells American food, including Dr. Pepper that I've been wanting to locate. Oh, I didn't mention earlier but I bought a 10 euro recharge pin number for my French cell phone at the Poste office that morning, and I couldn't get it to take since you really need to know a lot of French in order to accomplish this minor act. Kim and George suggested going to another Poste office and ask for their help, but I chose to ask the clerk at "The Real McCoy", an English woman who's first day it was on the job. I know I'm silly, and Kim will definitely attest to this, but I bought a few items just so I felt ok asking for her help.After I made my purchases and my American credit card wouldn't work, Kim loaned me the cash, since I was out of Euros, and then I asked for the clerk's phone help. She said she always had trouble doing that herself, but if we went to the restaurant part of thei[...]