Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Quick Visit to Paris

I love traveling to Paris. It always fills me with joy — all the beauty and the history! 
Lights on the water


The sky was much darker than shows in this picture. The lights reflecting on the water looked like an impressionist painting. 
This was the last picture I took on Friday. 
What came before? 
A new perspective
From here you can’t see the ruined parts of Notre Dame. 
An archway along the river

We walked along the Seine. 

A shot of Pont du Carrousel

The views are always beautiful. 

Here we are at Place du Carrousel

I was trying to capture the light of the setting sun that shone on our faces.  

The sun behind the pyramid at the Louvre.
They didn't have water in all of the fountains by the entrance to the Louvre

A gap in the trees showed the Eiffel Tower and the Seine



Finally the lights came up on The Eiffel Tower. 

Mostly we’re feeling safe as we travel. We occasionally see someone without a mask but not often. We haven’t eaten inside any restaurants. 
We’ll scope out how big the crowd is for the Tour de France before we decide what to do. We hope to be able to see the riders on Sunday as they finish. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

A Kind Friend and A Lovely Morning

 This morning, I sat on a mat in my neighbors' front garden. The sun tried to pierce through a leafy green tree and a slight breeze blew to cool us as Stella led me in meditation and yoga. 

A view from my run

It might not be for everyone, but the morning had been pretty perfect. It started with a 4-mile run, then a shower before I joined Stella for yoga. She lives in Copenhagen and I have only met her twice when she travels to France to the house next door to us. 

The Aude (L'Aude) is a lovely setting for running and meditating. 

Stella might think she is an unassuming, polite Danish person, but she is a force to be reckoned with. As soon as we met, she told me I needed to do yoga with her. I have dabbled in yoga, but it has never been my thing. I love running. I grudgingly carved out some time to do yoga with her in July but it became a habit that I enjoyed, but only when Stella is in town. 

Stella reminds me a bit of Phoebe from Friends. She lives life with gusto. During the 14th of July celebration downtown, Grace and I were dancing to the band and we had just wondered where Stella was when she "slid" into the crowd and joined us. Her dancing was exuberant and with abandon, like Phoebe's running. 


Stella is in it for the joy. 

I've learned a lot from her. 

I do feel my own kind of joy when I'm running (not like Phoebe!). But I've learned to find the peace in sitting on a yoga mat and feeling the breath move through my body. I'm not anxious about the time any more, and I know that is a luxury because my schedule is flexible (unlike my body when I'm doing yoga). 

So many times, when Stella isn't around though, I ask myself, "What would Stella do?" and my first answer is "Eat some cheese," but the second answer is "Take the time to be curious and to embrace life." So more and more, that's what I'm doing. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Wandering on Two Wheels

So many days, I'm delighted to view the scenery around me here in southwestern France.
Today, Earl and I took a bike ride.
My bike has been out of commission for a few weeks while we waited on a new part, but the part arrived and I was safely ensconced on a seat that did not sink as I rode it.

A flat road with the mountains in the background. 
We rode to Couiza, three towns over, and stopped for a coffee before heading back to Quillan. 
I ordered a cappuccino which comes with whipped cream, a rarity in our part of France. 

Earl trying to steal my whipped cream
Earl had ordered my coffee while I walked to the bakery across the road to get pastries. When the waitress came out, she asked who got the cappuccino. 
"Moi, bien sur!" I said. 
And she replied, "Mais bien sur, une gourmande!" 
Yes, the reason I wanted a cappuccino is because I'm a gourmet, not just because I'm addicted to sweetness. 
The day was glorious and the 14-mile (26 kilometre) ride was just about right, although we need to work up to longer rides. I'm still having knee pain after my fall last month, so I'll have to increase my distance riding if I can't run. 
This is one of the buildings we pass on our ride. 

Vine-covered building

I love watching the leaves change color as the nights get chilly. 
Every town we ride through has an old church with a spire jutting into the sky. 
Church tower in Couiza

I took a picture of the church tower in Couiza on a different, less sunny day, juxtaposed with the palm trees, which just seems weird in our part of the world, but there are palm trees all over this area. 


In Esperaza, we can see the church tower rising above the river

 I hope your days are filled with sunshine and beauty whether your sitting, walking or riding your bike. 

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Travels Near My French Home

In the States, if you live near a state line you might nip across from Cincinnati to Kentucky or a short trip from Northern Ohio up to Michigan? 

We do that here in France but travel to another country instead of another state. Two days this week, I ventured into Spain (safely masked throughout) -- once for a dentist appointment and once for curiosity. 

The dentist appointment was in Girona, Spain, and my friend Claudine came along because she couldn't believe I was going 2 hours to visit the dentist. Why did I go to the dentist in Spain? He is English so language would be simple. He was highly recommended as gentle by people who told horror stories about dentists who don't use local anesthetic. 

Girona from the basilica with cotton candy clouds. 

Girona is farther inland than Barcelona, but still a bastion of Catalonian independence. We saw Catalonian flags everywhere. 

Catalonian flag hanging from a building


The city is beautiful. The buildings are painted a variety of deep colors along the river. I don't think the river is always this muddy, but we had a big rain the day before we visited Spain, so perhaps they had the same rain that muddied the river. 

Rich colors rather than the pastel seen often near the Mediterranean


The city has a basilica, a cathedral and an art museum. We didn't get inside any of those, but we did take time for a coffee and pastry before my dentist appointment and a lovely lunch afterward. 

The staircase reminded me a bit of "The Typewriter" in Rome

According to the dentist, we're going to get to know each other pretty well. I go back in two weeks for a root canal, so I'll have plenty of chances to explore Girona more. 

The next day, Earl and I went exploring with our friends Jim and Theresa. We always have fun, even if the exploration is a bust, but this one wasn't. 

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A friend claimed this was the quickest route to Spain from our home in Quillan. It's a circuitous route through some ski towns to Puigcerda, Spain. Lots of high-end shops in Puigcerda, including a Sunglass Hut.

We had an interesting lunch, because we were limited in our choices by seeking the sun, so we discounted any of the cafes still in the shade. By the end of our lunch, we were scooting under the nearby umbrella to avoid the strong sunshine. I had an omelette with potatoes on bread. Basically an omelette sandwich, but I pulled it apart and ate the omelette part. It was obviously part of a casserole and had been warmed up, but wasn't warm throughout.

We planned to get ice cream after our lunch, but in Spain, shops close about 2 for lunch, including the ice cream shop we had spotted earlier. 

A view from the town hall. Apparently horses are important in the town. Nice view. 


The town was charming, but very touristic. There were lots of French tourists there, and definitely more people around than we saw in Girona the day before. 

Jim and Theresa with some road signs on a quaint street. 
The obligatory ancient tower in Puigcerda. 
A charmingly painted building

On the way up to Puigcerda, we stopped for coffee in a ski village that felt like a traditional Alpine stop, but since we were in the Pyrenees, I guess it was Pyrenean. 

Formigueres in the Pyrenees. 

The bell tower had obviously been redone, but for some reason it reminded me of the Alamo. The coffee had lots of foam on top, and we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine. 

I hope you're having some adventures, whether at home or safely on the road. 



Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tour de France Inspiration

Our view from the couch today. 

Usually, the Tour de France begins in the heat of summer with the riders attacking the roads of France in July. This year though, the Tour was delayed until today and will run through September 20th. 

Two years ago, we tried to watch a stage of the tour in Carcassonne but failed after our B&B had bedbugs. 


A few days later, we got to watch a stage of the Tour as it came through the mountains near our home in Quillan.



Last  year, we were in the States for the summer so we enjoyed watching the TV coverage early in the mornings and commenting on places that we had visited. 

We've watched the Tour for years, enthralled by the beauty of the country that became our home. Every year we get caught up in the drama, rooting for bicyclists that we had never heard of before and suddenly we're invested in them. 

Often we end up making spontaneous decisions while caught up in the Tour, like a bike trip through Provence 19 years ago. And already, as the first stage is blurring past us on the television, we hastily booked a hotel in Paris for the end of the Tour.

For years we have wanted to be standing on the Champs-Élysées watching the cyclists whiz past on the last day of the race and then to see the winner receive his yellow winner's jersey. 

This seemed like the perfect opportunity. There aren't many tourists in Paris. The number of tourists in France always goes down in September, but now, with Covid-19, Americans and Asians are banned. Brits are facing a two-week quarantine when they return home so they aren't here. The crowds should definitely be smaller along the Champs-Élysées.  

Also, the race is in September instead of July, so the sun shouldn't be too piercing as we stand along the road for hours. 

We will have to be careful, of course, and wear a mask. But I'm picturing wandering through the Musee d'Orsay without crowds or taking an early morning run in Jardins du Luxembourg without hordes of people. 

My heart rate increases just imagining walking the streets of Paris again. I love it every time.


 I'm happy to take you all along with me. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Sightings in the Wild

One of my friends from Ohio delights me with her messages.
When she sees my boys out on the street or at a soccer game, she'll take a picture and send it to me.
The most recent one was Tucker on a bike ride. He stopped for a photo and to greet Leah.
Keeping good social distancing
Of course, I text with my sons throughout each week and we Facetime every few weeks, but there's something thrilling about getting a glimpse of their lives while I'm so far away.
Spencer and his girlfriend Kaitlin have moved in together. Leah documented them on a walk with their Starbucks cups.
Spotted on a walk
Sometimes she sees our old house and takes a picture of it. 


It's nice to know that you're thinking of us Leah! And we do miss our friends and family in Grandview Heights. 

Before Coronavirus, Leah was likely to run into Tucker at a Columbus Crew game.
Digging those sunglasses, Leah. 

On a chillier day with Tucker on the right side of the picture and his friend Tyler
So if you see my boys in the "wilds" of Columbus, snap a picture and send it. Or, starting next month, if you spot Grace and Jack in the depths of Dublin, send it. 
The hardest thing about moving to France is leaving family behind, and the pictures make it a wee bit easier. 

Monday, August 03, 2020

France Book Tours: Marie Antoinette's World


As someone who loved France enough to move here from the United States, I'm always excited to see new books about French history. And the final queen of France, Marie Antoinette, always has plenty of fodder.
I've read books by Will Bashor before and definitely enjoyed the roller coaster of books like Marie Antoinette's Head, which documented the rise of the hairdresser who created the magnificent hair styles of the queen and her entourage. Here's an excerpt from my review from February 2014:
The story is entertaining and educational. I really enjoyed seeing sketches of all the outrageous hairstyles created by Léonard and learning about the court intrigue. My favorite was the one that looked like a ship sculpted into the woman's hair.
You can see my entire review here
And then scroll down to learn about Bashor's latest book, Marie Antoinette's World. I'm sure you'll be immersed in intrigue and shocked by what you learn.

Will BASHOR

on tour July 20-August 14 with Marie Antoinette's World    

Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles

[history/biographical nonfiction] Release date:
June 15, 2020 Postponed due to Covid-19: July 30, 2020 at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages

SYNOPSIS

This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases. Will Bashor reveals the intrigue and debauchery of the Bourbon kings from Louis XIII to Louis XV, which were closely intertwined with the expansion of Versailles from a simple hunting lodge to a luxurious and intricately ordered palace. It soon became a retreat for scandalous conspiracies and rendezvous—all hidden from the public eye. When Marie Antoinette arrived, she was quickly drawn into a true viper’s nest, encouraged by her imprudent entourage. Bashor shows that her often thoughtless, fantasy-driven, and notorious antics were inevitable given her family history and the alluring influences that surrounded her. Marie Antoinette’s frivolous and flamboyant lifestyle prompted a torrent of scathing pamphlets, and Bashor scrutinizes the queen’s world to discover what was false, what was possible, and what, although shocking, was most probably true. Readers will be fascinated by this glimpse behind the decorative screens to learn the secret language of the queen’s fan and explore the dark passageways and staircases of endless intrigue at Versailles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Bashor picture Will Bashor is the author of the award-winning Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution and Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie. He holds a doctorate in international studies from the American Graduate School in Paris and is professor of global issues at Franklin University. He lives in Barcelona, Spain. Visit his website, or connect with him here:
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A Quick Visit to Paris

I love traveling to Paris. It always fills me with joy — all the beauty and the history!  Lights on the water The sky was much darker than s...