Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Pont du Gard

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

As this post is published, we're flying home from France.
Le sigh.
But we had a fabulous time and can't complain about an 18-day vacation.
While we were in France, we visited the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct. We had just been in the village Uzes where the water ran across the aqueduct to the more southern town of Nimes.
The sun came out at just the right time.

We have never gone to the top of the aqueduct, but apparently you can take a tour and go to the top level. I did take a picture of these stone steps that lead up to it.
Although the steps look ancient, they were built in the 1800s. You can see where they are worn away in the middle.
 Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave you link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Perfect Breakfast

I don't mean to sound like a whiner. I mean who goes to France and complains about things? But this morning I finally got a perfect French breakfast. That is to say a kind of breakfast that I always hope for when I'm in France.
We've been staying in Airbnb's, so we were responsible for our own breakfast. I resorted to using coffee bags like teabags, or, horror of horrors, Nescafé instant coffee. It was not the pitcher of coffee accompanied by a small pitcher of steamed milk that I had dreamed of.
We checked into a hotel in Paris yesterday and they said we could have the breakfast buffet for €16 each or breakfast in our room for €10 each. I ordered the €10 breakfast for each of us and this morning at 8 AM A man knocked at the door with the tray and set it on the bed. Voilà!
There on the tray with the silver pitcher of coffee and a small white ceramic pitcher of steamed milk. Heaven! 
That's not to mention the plate with the little croissant, little chocolate croissant and a little escargot -- which is what they call these little pastries that are circular with raisins in them. We also had part of a baguette and three types of jam to choose from, along with packets of butter just the perfect temperature to spread on bread
Now I feel complete. On to the Musées D'Orsay today. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Church Mystery

We continue our meandering vacation, driving to markets, hiking, eating.
Our Airbnb host is rather appalled at our lack of plans to visit touristy sights. She suggested we visit a famous church/town near here called Rennes-le-chateau.
Her husband even brought by a book that he had bought in French but ended up unable to read -- they're Australian.
The book is about a priest who was assigned to Rennes-le-chateau in the late 1800s. When he got there, the church was a mess, falling apart, and he had no money to fix it. He received a donation from a countess and began to make repairs. Suddenly, he was buying land and having stone masons build gardens and a tour.
The rumor is that he found treasure under the church. Other people have tried to find it, but the real treasure now that they earn is in the tourists coming to visit. I haven't checked out this website, but it claims to have lots of links if you're interested in the mystery.
Apparently, some of these stories were used in the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

This is a tile that was found at the church, allegedly face down so  no one knew it was there. I can definitely see a connection to the Crusades here. 
Whether there's a hidden treasure from the Visigoths, Celts, Romans or the Knight Templars, the grounds look pretty amazing now.

This is a tower that the priest built and used as a library. It's a little sketchy that he built all these opulent buildings for himself, in my opinion. Of course, the church wasn't using money that judiciously in the past anyway, so maybe it didn't matter that he didn't share. 

Here's a view of the countryside. 

Me, in front of the tower. 

Here's the inside of the church. I love when churches use that cobalt blue for the sky with stars painted on. The church has a bizarre statue of the devil stooped over with a basin for holy water on his shoulders. Just last month, a Muslim woman is charged with vandalizing it -- she broke the head off. 

Here's how it looked when we saw it Thursday. 

Here's how it looked in a picture about the news story, before it was vandalized. 
Had you heard about this place? I hadn't.
We're off to Paris to spend a few days before heading back home. Thanks for reading and commenting. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Morning

So many things to blog about but I don't want to spend my vacation blogging, so I thought I'd share a few pictures before we continue our exploring.
I'm usually an early riser, but I've been lollygagging a bit -- it is vacation.
We're on a 6-hour time difference from home.
Apparently Grace was still awake at midnight and she texted me, assuming I'd be up at 6. I was awake, planning to get up to see the sunrise this morning -- I've missed it every other morning.
So after her text, I took a few pictures.

And then a few minutes later as the color continued to spread.

It has been confusing to me how the sun can rise in the east behind the mountains and set in the west behind the mountains, but a hike today affirmed that this little village is nestled with mountains all around.

This is a panorama photo on my iPhone. It goes about 180 degrees around the path that we were walking this morning, but I could have continued to take the picture all the way around to show the mountains surround us.
We walked for an hour this morning, about three miles.
And then I ran back to the apartment -- uphill, while Earl went to the boulangerie for our breakfast.
I haven't run much here because I have found flat areas to run. I don't mind running uphill, although I'm not in shape for it, but running downhill is a killer on me.
As we decide where we want to live in the future, I'm torn.
I love walking in the mountains, the views, the feeling of the mountains embracing me to their bosom, swaddling me.
But I wonder if my running years will be limited with so many downhills.
What do you think running friends?
No matter what I did or didn't do to my knees this morning, I got a lovely pastry for breakfast when my husband returned from the bakery.
I usually go for a chocolate croissant or a plain croissant, but he knows that I've been obsessed with cafe eclairs, so he got one for me for breakfast.
Hope you're having a lovely day too.
We're off to another market.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Carcassonne

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
So, I'm in France now -- no longer just dreaming of France, I'm actually living it, although today, I'm exhausted with 27,000 steps on my Fitbit -- that's 11.5 miles.
We started Mother's Day with a hike in the Pyrenèes -- a six-mile walk into the mountains.

Then we had time to grab lunch and take a shower before meeting a blogging friend, Taste of France, and her husband in Carcassonne. They have two gorgeous 17th century apartments in the heart of Carcassonne on Airbnb, so if you're looking for a place to stay, I can highly recommend them.
Now, I had no idea that the city of Carcassonne and the huge fort and castle on the hill were two separate place but within walking distance of each other.
Our GPS wouldn't pick up the square where we planned to meet, so Earl and I just followed the signs to La Cité.

Wow. Doesn't it take your breath away?
Then we walked down into Carcassonne to meet my blogging friend.
The day had threatened rain, but it turned out to be quite warm. We sat in a beautiful square, where apparently the market is held on market days.
Then we checked out some places in the old city. If I got part of the story straight, Carcassonne was partially built by King Louis IX after the Cathars were thrown out of La Cité during the 12th century crusades. The people had no place to go so a city across the river was born.
Next we walked up to the fortress.

It reminded me a lot of Mont St. Michel. The medieval fort and castle is filled with touristy shops but hasn't become Disneyfied. Every step inside reminds you that ancient people lived there and made their home there.
It's all pretty amazing.
And then on the way back to our B&B, we had to stop the car for goats! What? 

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave you link below and visit each other's blogs to share your love for France.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mountain Microclimate

Yesterday we left our outpost in Mireval, the place from which we had traveled all around Herault, France (that's a region of l'Occitanie) and moved farther southwest.
On the way, we decided to visit a village listed in the "charming village" posts, called Roquebrun.
We thought it was on the way, but truly, we had to drive into the mountains, then back out the same way to get there.
I thought it was charming and would love to live there, but I have to be honest that it was a little isolated.

The village was totally surprising because it is in the mountains, but palm trees and orange trees and cactus grow on the sides of the cliffs.
I read about the microclimate on Wikipedia, and even though the village is in the Massif Central mountains, it is surrounded on three sides by mountains to block the wind, and it also gets heat from the dormant volcano to help the warm-weather plants grow.

Flowering cactus in the mountains! We also saw orange trees.

Apparently, the city is sometimes called "Le Petit Nice" because it overlooks a river and the drive along the mountains is similar to the drive above the Mediterranean Sea.

There's an ancient tower there. We climbed up to see it, but it was closed from 12-2:30 for lunch.
The town was beautiful, but isolated.
There would be plenty of outdoor hiking and biking, but not too many cultural activities.
We visited on a market day, of course. And there was a mobile barber offering haircuts.

Too cute.
The city had a couple of restaurants and we sat outside in the sunshine. Unfortunately, Earl chose a meal that included veal kidneys He ate it like a trooper.

My starter was so delicious. A melon cut artistically into thin strips and shaped into a flower, along with the ubiquitous salad and vinaigrette plus a piece of ham. My main course was duck, which was a bit dry, but it wasn't veal kidney mixed with mushrooms, so there's that!

Here's a selfie of us up high above the river Orb. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

French Eccentricities

This story starts last Saturday, with a trip to the wine tasting room here in Mireval.
We saw the signs as we drove in and knew that the winery sold muscat, a specialty of the region. It's a very sweet white wine that is used as an aperitif here.
We visited the Domaine La Capelle on Saturday and tasted the 2015 bottle of muscat.

Then, the tiny French woman who spoke no English, gave us a sip of the 1995 bottle of this thick golden liquid.
To me, it was a  bit strong, almost musty, but to Earl, it set off something in his taste buds.
We didn't buy it that day, but Earl continued to dream of it.
She told us the bottle was 58 Euros. That seems like a lot, but really, not that much more than gel manicure.

Yesterday, it rained, and I had gone for an early run in the rain along country roads that seemed a little sketchy.
After I got back to the room, the muscle pain along my right shoulder blade had returned, kind of like a stiff neck where you turn using your whole body rather than turning your neck and shoulders. I was also having twinges of pain in my throat and left ear. I decided it was a good day to relax.
So the final full day here, we stayed in the room catching up on some work that I needed to do while Earl worked on his novel.
In the middle of the afternoon, he decided to get his special bottle of wine.
The vintner was within walking distance, so he pulled on his raincoat and headed out.
"You're sure you can do it alone?" I asked. I didn't really want to go with him, but since I spoke French, I might have been helpful.
He waved me off, getting more secure in his ability to communicate with French people. He'd been out to buy breakfast each morning and even began stopping at the bar across the street to bring me coffee -- coffee to go in France is quite a rarity.
He asked whether I thought she would take credit cards since we hadn't replenished the cash we brought over. I figured she would since so few businesses operate in cash only.
I continued to grade papers and respond to email until a loud bang, followed by "Shit!" rang from the hallway.
I thought Earl had tripped coming up the stairs.
We are on the second floor, which the French call the premiere etage, the first floor. They count the ground floor and then the first floor. As I got up to open the door, he came in holding his head.
He had run into the closed door at the end of the hall with full force, banging with the bone just over his eyebrow. It started to bleed and a knot began to form.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I didn't turn the hall light on and I ran into the door," he said.
That's something else to know about France. The hallways are always long and dark with no outside light coming in. There are usually lights at the beginning or ends of hallways, but the lights are on a time. You press it then move as quickly as possible to your door or the stairs.
In this B&B, there was a door on the first floor (ground floor) which gave some light. The light for the upstairs hallway is at the bottom of the stairs. He didn't think he needed the hallway light so he came up in the dark.
 "Sit down," I insisted.
"No, the lady is waiting. I have to go get some cash."
I wanted him to press a tissue against his wound to staunch the blood and then hold something cold against it to prevent a large bump.
He requested a bandage, which I placed over his eyebrow.
Then I looked up whether there were banks in this tiny town. The post office has an ATM. So he headed off again.
When I texted Grace, she was appalled that I let him go out alone after a bump to the head, but he couldn't stand the thought of the old French lady waiting for him to return with his cash.
And, in spite of the difficulties, he returned with his special bottle of muscat in hand.

The Pont du Gard

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog . Share with the rest of us yo...