It's funny that I have traveled throughout Europe, snapping photos of
delicious meals, breathtaking landscapes, and castles built stone by stone by
medieval peoples, yet I never felt guilty about flaunting it on my blog.
Florence as the sun sets
Maybe I pictured you enjoying the journey with me.
But since I've been in Florida, the guilt has set in. How can I share
pictures of my newly polished toes hanging over the edge of the very blue pool
as the frogs and alligators croak in the nearby pond.
Dare I post a picture of the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico as the
breeze whips up the waves, and we retreat to a balcony overlooking the water
while we dine on grouper sandwiches and key lime pie?
Sunset from Passe-a-grille beach over the Gulf of Mexico
One bite gone
As the weather has turned cold for most of my friends in the north, I'm
beset by guilt that I'm living in a place where the weather is practically
perfect. Sure, I've complained to my running friends about the humidity and
I've carried a sweat towel with me to wipe the salty drops before they reach my
eyes, but November and December are pretty perfect weather-wise in Florida. The
temperature has settled in the 70s, sometimes 80s. The sun has shone as we
lazed by the pool. Earl has taken a dip nearly every day, and I joined him
quite often, especially when I returned sweating from a run.
Not since the days right after college have I spent so much time living
with my parents, and unlike those rebellious days of my early 20s, it's pretty
sweet to have four adults living in a house. We take turns cooking and doing
the dishes. We choose a cleaning day and run vacuums over the floors of the
two-story house. We gather in the game room each night as the sun sets to play
We celebrated Thanksgiving, just the four of us. I got to be here for Mom's
81st birthday the following week, gathering at Red Lobster for daiquiris bigger
than my head. Then two weeks later, we feted Dad as he turned 82. I can't
remember the last time I got to be with my parents for their actual birthdays.
And after Dad's surgeries and his sessions in the hyperbaric chamber (oxygen)
and seven months without playing golf, his foot is finally healing. We've been
working on his stamina, increasing his steps daily, coercing him into playing
bean bag in the backyard. He and Earl started putting and chipping at the golf
course across the street and even ventured out to play 15 holes. He's not
taking it too fast, continuing to heal, so he can play golf when my brother
arrives after Christmas.
This sojourn in Florida, daily time spent with my parents, basking in the
sun, makes me feel guilty. Tomorrow, I'll head to Ohio where the cold weather
awaits me, and I won't be lording it over anyone as I settle under gray skies,
but I'll be surrounded by friends and family, so that might make up for the
First, let me say that all went well with my father's surgery and he is recovering.
We went to Florida first, to be with my dad, and three days after his surgery, we drove up to Ohio to spend time with our kids and untangle paperwork that winds itself around 20-something year-olds throughout the year.
The night before we left for Ohio, I kissed my dad goodnight, knowing we would leave in the dark of the morning while everyone else was still asleep, and he said, "It means the world to me that you were here for my procedure."
So I guess that's that. Sometimes just being here is enough.
And the good news came yesterday that he can be finished with his IV antibiotic treatment because the infection in his foot is gone. It won't be long now before Dad is floating in the pool -- allowed to get his foot wet -- or on the golf course across the street putting yellow balls into that little cup.
After we got home from France, the first thing I wanted to do is a juice cleanse. I'd really been indulging in delicious and decadent French foods for nearly 10 months, and the light in my parents' guest bathroom made me look a bit yellow, like maybe my liver was going, but Earl assures me it is just the light.
But before I juiced, I wanted to revisit, two things that I missed in the States -- my Starbucks mocha and an everything bagel with cream cheese. Luckily, we combined these two by sitting outside at Starbucks with a Panera nearby.
The white mocha was so sickeningly sweet that I nearly couldn't drink it. The everything bagel was just okay. And I think that's the way things happen. You imagine them, even crave them, and once you take that first bite, that first sip, well the dream of it was so much better than the actuality.
And I think the same may be true for how much our kids longed to have us home.
Not our kids -- but Earl's nieces kids playing in the leave. Always happy to visit with them
How long does it take for adult children to have enough of their parents after they've been out of the country for a year? About five days seems to have done it.
Unfortunately, for them, we're still here eight days later, trying to get a few more pieces of paperwork untangled.
A family dinner to celebrate our return and Spencer's 25th birthday.
That's Grace's boyfriend Jack on the right, the rest are ours
The first few days after we arrived in Ohio, we were the hottest ticket in town. We passed out French chocolate. We took them to dinner. We shared stories. We met them for lunch as they raced over from work.
By Friday night, we had a family game night and pizza. How did we have a game night when we have no home, you may ask? Through the kindness of our very generous friends Deb and Greg who have taken us in to their home, letting us treat it as our own as the kids come and go.
That night, I had to teach at 8 p.m., but I imagined the games and the conversation would continue when I went upstairs to teach. We made it to about 7:45 before everyone wandered off to their own plans.
Tucker headed to New York for the weekend to watch the Columbus Crew SC in a playoff soccer game.
Tucker and friends at an earlier soccer game -- picture thanks to my friend Leah who snaps pictures of the kids whenever she sees them around town and then sends them to me
Grace was managing a play that pitted various Shakespearean characters in fights and had she began working on it at 9 a.m. Saturday and it lasted until the play ended that night. Spencer hung out with us until after the OSU football game, about 4 p.m.
I cleared my schedule on Sunday, after a morning walk with friends, so I could spend the day with Grace. She had an audition, and the day turned into 6:30 p.m. when she and Jack joined us for soup and some rounds of euchre. Our place in the pecking order had fallen into natural order.
A cold, beautiful morning for a walk around Antrim Lake
On Monday, we didn't even try to get together with them, and everyone seemed ready to move on with their regular lives. I walked with Sheila, one of the things I've really missed doing since we went away. We seem to accomplish so much therapy when we walk and sip coffee.
Tucker kept in touch as he drove home from New York, and Grace talked about Christmas plans by text, but really, they're over us.
And it's nice to know that as much as they wish we were here, they really only need us as a safety net, when they want to see us. Some of my guilt about leaving them is relieved.
We'll drive back to Florida in the next couple of days and spend more time with my parents. We'll see the kids again for Christmas, and I'll leave my mixed feelings behind when we fly back to France in January.
They're grown ups. It's nice to have parents around, but they don't need us -- most of the time.
I was in Paris for a few days meeting my husband who flew to the States for a brief hiatus. I couldn't wait to see him again but his flight didn't arrive until the evening so I was in Paris alone for the day.
What to do?
There are some things we haven't done that I wanted to visit, but I wanted to wait for Earl so we could see them together. So I decided to visit Les Ateliers des Lumieres in Paris.
You may recall that we visited a similar exhibit in Provence back in April and I wrote about it here. I loved the exhibit in Provence of the Spanish masters and 60s pop art.
In Paris, the main exhibit is Gustave Klimt.
I walked in during the middle of the show, assaulted by walls full of flowers, bathed in the colorful light.
Unlike the cavern in Provence, this show is presented in a warehouse, so there are doors and scaffolding. An article I read says this is a former factory.
Apparently, during the summer, the lines were out the door and around the block. Now, at the beginning of September, I waited less than five minutes before being directed to one of the ticket windows for a 14.50 euro ticket.
I love the colors here.
You may be saying, Gustave Klimt, now which one was he? This is the painting he's most famous for. Here it's projected on a wall, and the wall next to it, and next to it...
The whole room could be transformed into a cathedral. And the floor was amazing too.
Sometimes children would skip from flower to flower on the floor, or people would stand in the center of a spinning circle. It was definitely interactive art.
A mirrored room, with floor and walls of mirrors reflected the paintings over and over. I laid down on the floor to watch it for awhile.
I stood against one wall and took a picture of the artwork projected on me too.
Truthfully, the still pictures are amazing, but nothing can compare to the movement. The exhibition finds the action in the paintings and adds it before moving on to more details. I can't think that the artist would be upset at the changes made to his/her artwork, instead, I have to think artists would be thrilled to have so many people immersed in it.
So I had to include a few minutes of video from my Youtube page.
This first video shows the opening of the Klimt exhibit.
This is a clip from the middle of the exhibit.
The photos alone don't do it justice. There's nothing like standing in the middle of the colors and the movement.
You'll find L'Atelier des Lumieres at 38 rue Saint Maur 75 011 Paris
Fellow author and France lover, Suzie Tullett, is preparing for her latest book, French Escape, to be released.
So she allowed me to do a guest blog explaining how I had escaped to France. You'll find my guest blog here with a picture of me twirling around in the darkened streets of our village.
Take a look at Suzie's blog and consider leaving a comment and ordering some of her novels.
You'll find her at Suzie Tullett
Her novel The French Escape will be released September 20
I once had a writing colleague tell me that there's no such thing as "writer's block;" it's just a lazy person's way to avoid writing.
I'd like to say that my life in France has been too happy to write much, but I've had plenty of sad times or doldrums, and that still hasn't sent me to the keyboard.
Perhaps I could claim that I've been too busy living my life to write, but I've read nearly 300 pages of a novel and watched two movies this weekend, time that I could have spent writing.
So apparently, not writing is a choice for me now.
I have another novel finished, waiting for editing, and a novel that I'm so excited about, but it's only half written. Guess I'm not that excited about it.
If I followed a schedule, sitting down to write every morning, I know I'd be caught up in the characters again and finish it in no time.
Discipline. I knew I was missing something.
I have to admit that I've been slacking big time at advertising my novels for the last year or so.
In an effort to get them out there, I had some photos made that incorporate the book cover into pictures, along with a blurb of a review.
I love the way he found a picture that use the same colors and foliage.
The Summer of France is about (surprise) a woman who runs away from her life in Ohio to run her Uncle's B&B in Aix en Provence. Could a crackly phone call from France save Fia Randolph’s jobless and family troubles? That’s what she hopes when her Uncle Martin asks Fia, her husband, and teenage twins to move to Provence and take over his bed and breakfast. She pictures long picturesque walks carrying crusty baguettes and bonding with the kids. But Fia didn’t bargain on being pulled into Uncle Martin’s World War II secret that wrenches her family further apart.
This picture definitely feels like a dive down a forest trail, this one is my only novel set in the United States, so far.
How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes an escape from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. Friends Jess and Andi figure life hiking the Appalachian trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives.
This photo might be my favorite, the way the book cover is slotted along the top of the building, like a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower between different sides of the building.
I See London I See France is about another woman running away. When her husband of a dozen years walks out in a huff, Caroline Randolph walks out too – to Europe, with her kids after impulsively selling her minivan for travel money. Tired of being the perfect wife, she escapes to rediscover herself, and possibly rekindle the unrequited love of a Frenchman from her college days. While shepherding her kids from London to Scotland then Paris to Provence, she finds herself at a crossroads. Does she choose love, or lust, in the arms of a European man, or should she try again with the father of her children and the man she truly loved, once?
And, of course, my latest novel set in Paris needs a picture from Paris. I love the Metro sign in the foreground.
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris, all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.
If you haven't read my novels, I'd appreciate the support. Just click and download to your Kindle.
And if you don't have a Kindle, they're free to download on your computer or your phone. I love reading on my phone because if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep, I don't have to turn a light on, I just pick up my phone and get lost in a story (with the screen on black and the print white to reduce ambient light).
There's no other explanation than the fact that my nose is a magnet.
It attracts things like frisbees, roads, toddlers' knees and toy cabinet lids.
This morning, I opened the lid of a wooden chest filled with games. I was looking for a die, you know, one of a pair of dice. I needed it for a lesson I am teaching this afternoon.
I could have held the lid up with one hand and pulled games out with the other, but the thing on top was a heavy wooden box with a checkerboard on top. I knew the wooden box would hold chess and checkers pieces, but I couldn't lift it up with one hand.
I tested the lid of the chest. It seemed like it would stay open, like those chests with the safety latches.
So I let go of the lid and grabbed the chess box with both hands.
You can guess what happened.
But instead of hitting me on the head, for some reason (my nose is a magnet) it hit a glancing blow to my nose, leaving a cut that oozed blood and the beginning of a bump.
I went for the freezer immediately to ice the bump.
Thirty years ago or so, I had a bump on my nose. It was a family thing, the Kincer bump.
But that first incident with the Frisbee and two nose surgeries later removed the Kincer bump.
Since then, I've had an aquiline nose, in spite of a knee to the nose by Tucker when he was a toddler. My fault for blowing a raspberry on his belly.
In spite of a fall while running, where my nose met the asphalt. Stitches to my knee and another surgery to straighten out my nose.
The doctor carefully reconnected the bones and no harm done. I was still wearing the bandage when the first copies of my book arrived.
Just a month ago I taught my first VIPkid class and I got a bloody nose throughout.
Perhaps my nose is in mutiny, planning to take over or make a break from my body. Perhaps it has had enough.
I don't think it's broken this time. Hopefully, just a bump that will heal and disappear, but, as the doctors have pointed out, only time will tell.
Anyone who knows me realizes that I avoid cruelty. I can't stand to watch it or read it. I just don't watch television shows or movies or even read books where people are cruel for no reason.
But that doesn't mean that I stick my head in the sand to avoid the world at large. Yes, I would rather only focus on the positive in the world, but I have to be aware of the news and things that go on to help avoid those same events from happening again.
That's why I agreed to visit Oradour-sur-Glane in the Limousin region of France.
Earl has written a blog post in more depth about the history and I'll direct you there for that, but I wanted to share with you some of my experience.
Our friends Norman and Caroline shared with us a booklet about the town so we could be prepared.
During World War II, on June 10, 1944, German SS soldiers appeared one day out of the blue and killed every person they could find. They shot the men before setting on fire the buildings where they'd shot them. And they locked all of the women and children into the church before setting off an explosion and then burning it.
642 people massacred. Only one woman escaped the church alive by jumping from a 9-foot window. The Germans shot her as she made a break for it, but she lived, hidden among the rows of peas growing in the garden.
It is too horrible to imagine.
And the people of the village, those who somehow lived, or those who were gone to work that day, never rebuilt the village. They built another village nearby so the burnt out village where so many died stands today as a testament to the atrocity of the Nazis.
As we drove toward the village, about an hour and a half from our housesit in Chateaneuf-sur-Charente, I noticed that I was yawning, big yawns. I'd slept okay the night before, so felt like my body was just reacting to the scene I would soon face.
Parking is free and we entered the memorial building, which is underground. It crosses below a road and then visitor climb up to see the destroyed village. Anyone entering or exiting must go through the memorial.
View as we walked toward the memorial
This placard reminds us to "Remember" what happened here.
The Nazis burnt the whole town in hopes of hiding their atrocity.
No one knows for sure why killed everyone in the village. Some say there was another village called Oradour where some resistance fighters were working. Apparently, this occupied village had never had trouble with the Nazis there. They all appeared when they were called to the square, except one eight-year-old boy who had lived in Lorraine, France and knew what the Germans were capable of, so he ran and hid in the garden of the school rather than walking to the village square. He survived. The only child in the village left alive at the end of the massacre.
The flames in the church were so hot that they melted the bell which crashed to the floor below.
The church, where the women and children died, was of course a central point for visitors. Even though the roof is gone and it stands open to the air, the charred smell remains. A memorial to World War I soldiers is built into one wall, the residents never imagining that their village would sacrifice even more in the second World War than they did in the first, right there beneath the plaque.
Earl pointed out the number of sewing machines in the burnt-out houses. What a normal household
item to see in so many French homes from that time, never to be used again.
The men were taken to different buildings and shot. Each building where men were shot had a placard.
This one also has a notice that six men escaped.
Apparently, the men who escaped, fell to the ground feigning that they had been shot and did not move as the Germans continued to shoot anyone who moved or moaned. Then when the place was set fire, they hid and about a dozen or more men managed to survive the massacre.
Like visiting a concentration camp, it takes your breath away to see the signs of such hideous cruelty.
We must be aware of it so we can say never again.
Wildflowers grow here, in the midst of the destruction.
And it doesn't have to be big cruelty, it can start with something as simple as pulling a toddler out of his mother's arms when they arrive at our borders. Separating them as a warning to people not to seek help from the United States, a country that was built on immigrants.
"Immigrants, we get the job done!" from Hamilton in a line by Alexander Hamilton (an immigrant) and Marquis de Lafayette (also an immigrant at the time).
We can't allow even these easily overlooked cruelties to snowball to the point where it is not a big deal to lock the doors of a church and set it on fire, shooting machine guns at anyone who tries to escape as women and children burn to death.
Author KSR Burns lured in readers with her novel The Paris Effect and the story continues in this sequel Paris Ever After, which hits the markets on May 1.
The book covers are magical and the story inside the sequel lives up to the magnetism of the cover.
The main character, Amy, left her husband in Arizona months before after he learned she had jetted off to Paris, a surprise trip, totally unlike her. But after her best friend died, she needed something to jump start her life. She thought she'd be home before her husband returned from his business trip but he discovered her secret trip. When he refused to talk with her about reconciling, she returned to Paris where she attempts to start a new life.
Amy is a bit naive and trusts people she truly shouldn't. It puts me on edge throughout the novel. She ends up living with a woman who had previously drugged her to keep her in Paris. She starts working with a guy who put her in danger climbing through the sewers of Paris. She takes risk that are not normal for a cautious woman like herself.
On her 30th birthday, her new Parisian life is set shaking when she spies her estranged husband checking into a Paris hotel, and her landlord's missing daughter shows up, taking over the room that Amy had lived in. Whatever she thought was settled, suddenly is not.
She has to figure out what her husband wants in Paris and where she will live if she chooses to stay.
Throughout the novel, the vivid background of Paris is a character of its own, along with the luscious meals that Amy shares with friends and frenemies.
This is a fast read that immerses the reader in the midst of French life, rooting for Amy to make good choices, whether that means staying in Paris or returning to her husband.
We've been in England since Sunday, and I owe you a post about the fun and foibles we've encountered, but right now, I have to write about Hamilton.
Before we even arrived in England, I had searched for tickets to Hamilton in London, thinking maybe it wouldn't be quite as popular as it was at home in New York and Chicago. Wrong.
Grace found tickets for us for nearly $400. That was too much. We planned to enter the daily lottery to see if we could get some cheap seats, but otherwise resigned ourselves to not seeing Hamilton.
But we did have tickets to see Wicked on Thursday evening.
After a nice hike with the dogs in the snow and piercing wind, we walked the mile to the train station and prepared for our 30-minute ride to London. Some trains had been cancelled that day and people kept talking about the bad weather. I understand that it's bad for England, but the temperature was in the 20s (Fahrenheit) and not even an inch of snow had fallen, so for Ohio, this wouldn't be bad.
It got me thinking. I didn't know if Hamilton had a matinee, but I suggested that when we got off at Victoria Station, we head over to Hamilton to see if the show had a matinee that day and if any tickets were available because of cancelled trains or people who didn't want to brave the weather.
I took this picture after the show, which is why it's getting dark.
As we walked toward the marquee a little after 1 p.m., we saw some official theater people. One very jolly man stopped to explain to us how to get in line (queue) for the "returns." Returns are tickets that other people bring back to the theater and then the theater helps them sell the tickets for face value.
He sent us into the wind to wait by the security guard. There were 4 people waiting when we arrived. Apparently, the line is usually much longer.
The poor security guard, his eyes and nose were dripping as he stood in the cold.
So Earl and I joined the line; I went to fetch us coffee. When I came back, two people had already gotten in to the show, and only two people remained in front of us, maybe a mother and daughter from Sweden. Behind us was an American woman who snagged a single ticket a few minutes later. As the clock ticked to 1:45, the ticket rep came out with a young man who had two tickets that were 79.50 pounds each. "Really, very good seats," the ticket rep said.
The Swedes in front of us decided that was too pricey and Earl snatched them up for us. That was a lot of money, but much less than the prices Grace had originally found. So we paid our cash and walked into the warm theater.
What did I know about Hamilton, other than the fact that everyone wanted to see it?
Well, I'd listened to the music with Grace. I knew some of the history, of course. And I knew that the roles were played by people of color, only King George III being played by a white man.
We had a glass of wine standing in the lobby before finding our seats in the "Dress Circle" section. Perfect.
I had chills the minute the show started, and tears pooled at the edge of my eyes, splashing over.
Why? Why did this show move me so much.
The music and the actors were inspiring. I loved seeing this struggle to create our country.
Here's a line from one of the songs that made me tear up:
"Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening..."
And here's a two-minute clip of the London show with the very same actors we saw performing.
So what made this show so emotional for me was seeing the actors, from all different cultures, portray our founding fathers and revolutionary fighters. I couldn't help but think how much stronger our own country would be if we had treated all people equally from the beginning.
The man who played George Washington really inspired me. We could have had a black George Washington 200 years ago if not for slavery and deciding that some people had more worth than others based on their skin color.
In the musical, again and again, they called Hamilton an immigrant. I imagine most people were immigrants in the late 1700s, but I got the point. Immigrants made our country stronger.
As Hamilton met the Marquis de Lafayette, along with the lesser-known revolutionaries John Laurens and Hercules Mulligan, the four of them bonded and sang a song about "The Story of Tonight," with the lyrics especially moving, "Raise your glass to the four of us, tomorrow there'll be more of us..." And then, I pictured the students from Parkland High School, fighting like revolutionaries to be heard, fighting to stop the massacre of students in school. They started out with just a few and their cause is growing. You can find the song and lyrics on Youtube here.
Of course, the song "My Shot" inspired similar feelings as I watched the revolutionaries deciding to fight and at the end they implore, "Rise up! When you're living on your knees, you rise up. Tell you brother that he's gotta rise up. Tell you sister that she's gotta rise up"
All of it feels like it could be applied to today.
I wanted to rush back home to the States and jump into the risings that are going on now.
I wanted Hamilton to transport everyone of those Florida students to their audience to sing for them and inspire them. I wanted my children to watch the show and be galvanized to make a difference in the world.
If you have a chance, go to your favorite music app, or youtube and listen to some of the songs. It won't be the same as seeing the show, and no one can explain how basic and deep the feelings are that this show stirs up, but it's a start.
Drained from all the emotions of Hamilton, we stumbled out of the theater into the cold of London again. We didn't go far, just to a nearby brasserie called The Shakespeare across from Victoria Station to eat before we attended Wicked.
It's a wonderful, inspiring musical, but it didn't stand a chance after Hamilton. I actually drifted off a few times during the song Gravity, which is the highlight at the end of the first act.
I found myself dismissively thinking about white people dancing and singing. But then I made myself listen.
Me and Earl in the cold in front of the theater.
At the end of the musical the words pierced me, "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
My day on Thursday, definitely changed me for good, and for the better, too.
Earl has started a blog if you want a different perspective of our life in France.
So far, he has written about our decision to move to France and about his attempt to watch the Super Bowl.
Earlier today, he mentioned that he had no comments yet.
I did explain that in order to get people to comment on his blog, he would probably need to visit other blogs and comment on them, but if you're curious, take a look at Earl's blog: Dispatches from France.
Thanks to all my new readers who are coming along to watch the fun-- or carnage -- of my adventure of moving to France. If you haven't read my novels, I hope you'll consider downloading on Kindle. Through Sunday, my first novel, The Summer of France, is only 99 cents. I'd appreciate if you'd give it a try and leave a review. Click on the book and it will take you to Amazon.
This is only for the U.S. edition. I'll have to figure out how to include the UK edition and let you know when it is reduced.
On to our Friday exploits:
Friday morning the rains had stopped and the sun began to shine in some Biblical Genesis way.
After being stranded on Thursday, we were determined to get out of our isolated island on Friday. First, we took the dogs for a walk, exploring the roads that would lead us to civilization.
The current was fast across the road in one direction, but not too deep. In the other direction, I handed Earl the dog leash so he could hold both dogs while I walked through the deepest section. It didn't top my boots, which come to my knee, so we knew that even though the water looked deep, we could ford that stream.
We decided to go to Bordeaux, which is about an hour and half away. We were missing cafe life and pictured sitting in a square with the sun beaming on our faces. After we showered and readied the dogs for their time in the house alone, I pulled up my weather app.
It predicted heavy rain in Bourdeaux! How was that possible when the sun had forced us to don sunglasses?
Can you see the mistake I made when I searched for the weather in Bordeaux? I misspelled it and got a Bourdeaux somewhere else in France -- 400 miles away. But we didn't catch the mistake before we ditched our trip to Bordeaux. We needed to stay in the sunshine.
We decided to drive to Jarnac instead because it had a market going on and it's less than half an hour drive. Plus it has a Cognac house there -- Courvoisier. Our host served us some cognac the night we arrived. I think it must be an acquired taste. I had only a sip and felt the burning through my throat. Although, perhaps I should try it as a cold cure when I'm not drinking pastis.
I plowed ahead through the shin-deep water with our Citroen C3 and safely arrived on drier ground. Earl and I shared a fist bump at making our escape from the flooded island.
Driving is when I get my most French practice because the GPS is in French. À la fin de la route, tournez à gauche, she'll say (at the end of the road, turn left), allez toute droite (go straight ahead) or dirigez à droite (veer to the right). Living in the country definitely curtails my French practice. Sometimes we share "bonjours" with the men fishing along the long or other residents walking along the country road. For the most part though, we're isolated with our English speaking.
We made it to Jarnac and speedily found a parking spot at city hall. The sign warned only 90 minutes of parking, but the hours were from 9-12 and from 2:30-6. Luckily, we parked at 11, so we had until 3 to move the car. Thank goodness parking wasn't enforced during the requisite French lunch hour.
Inside city hall, we asked for the location of the market, le marché, which wasn't apparent. In the summer, the markets fill up the "centre ville" but in the winter, this market is inside. The man directed us down the hill and to the left (more French directions). We walked into "les halles" where we were immediately assaulted with the pungent odor of fish. Once our eyes stopped watering, we saw fruits, vegetables, a coffee bar, meats, cheeses, bread and pastries.
We loaded up on baguettes, some croissants for breakfast the next day, two types of cheese and some luscious red tomatoes. Once we returned the bag to the car, we still had some time to kill. We decided to walk around Jarnac and read the lunch menus in preparation for our next big event -- lunch.
The Courvoisier Chateau, which means castle, but apparently when you make alcohol the house is called a chateau, too, stands along the river, so parts of the riverwalk were underwater here. They give tours from May through September, but during the winter months, you have to reserve ahead of time. We might look into a tour of a cognac maker in the next few weeks just to see the process.
Through the window, we could see the barrels of cognac. I wonder if these are actually filled since the light and heat from the sun might affect how the alcohol ages. I guess I'd have to take a tour to find out.
Jarnac didn't have a lot of open restaurants to choose from, but we ended up at l'Alambic. We usually try to choose a restaurant that has a menu of the day. Frequently, we end up paying between 10 Euro and 13 Euro for a three course meal if we go with the menu of the day. This restaurant had several things on its "menu" that I didn't recognize, so we ordered individual entrees. A goat cheese and honey salad for both of us.
You can see the goat cheese on toast, along with slices of oranges and pears. After our lunch, we stopped at the pharmacy for more Fervex. I'm feeling better, but my cold may have mutated into a sinus infection. I've promised myself if I'm not feeling really well on Monday then I'll find a doctor. But this Fervex helps relieve the symptoms beautifully. When we got home, we took the dogs for a long walk, Earl still carrying short Jeff through the deep parts. We waded along the road and noticed some swans paddling toward us. They were amazing. If the fields hadn't flooded, we wouldn't have captured this magical swam moment.
I took several shots of the swans and I wondered as I watched them if they might not have been mistaken for the Loch Ness monster as they dipped their heads in the water in search of food. They are huge.
Another pair of swans flew in and landed as I tried to capture their flight.
As we walked on wading through the rushing water, we came to a church in Angeac-Charente. The sun was setting just behind it and the clouds looked ominous.
Our hosts had told us about this church, but when we read the sign on the door, it looks like they aren't having mass here during the winter. The local mass is at 6:30 on Saturday in another nearby village. Walking home, having actually reached my 14,500-step goal for the day, I felt thankful for the flood which brought me the swans and the magical sky, and grateful for a day of good meals and wet dogs. A day in France living my dream, cold or no cold.