Friday, July 09, 2021

Joys and Sorrows

 This week has been full of joys and sorrows. This week alone could mimic a lifetime of ups and downs. 

On Wednesday, we learned that Earl's older brother, Art, had died. We learned  less than a week before that he was sick but they weren't sure what was going on. "You may want to come home," his wife Shelley texted Earl. Then he was out of the hospital. Then back in. Tuesday night they texted. They had a diagnosis - histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that comes from bird or bat droppings. At least they could treat him. 

A family photo from 2006, Art giving his daughter Amy rabbit ears. 

The next morning, we got the call that he had died in the hospital that night. The fungus takes a toll on the heart and his had been weakened by a heart attack in his 40s. We were shocked to lose him and felt helpless, unable to hug his wife or daughter or son. 

At Grace's wedding. Art is in the pink shirt. 

Since I've known him, Art has been a fairly quiet, no-nonsense guy. He says it like it is. He had a lifelong love of Harley Davidson motorcycles and a core group of friends in the U.S. and Canada, which is where he met his wife. Earl has long admired his stoic brother for standing up for his principals. Art worked as an electrician and always did the job right, helping out friends and family when we needed it. He raised two amazing kids who both have advanced degrees. We're stunned that he's gone.

Another sorrow, that pales in comparison, is the loss of our cat Louis. We last saw him Sunday morning. I was preparing to teach so I let him out the balcony doors. He does a kind of parcours to jump from the wall to the post, back to a lower wall and onto the sidewalk. He gets wet cat food every morning and evening, and never misses a meal, so I expected he would be in the garden whenever Earl ventured down and opened the door. Louis's an outdoor cat, but continues to spend a lot of time indoors, coming and going at will. 

Louis came home with scratches on his nose one day. 

After I finished teaching, we got ready to go to the market in Esperaza, and I asked Earl if he'd fed Louis. He said no that Louis hadn't come back. That's not like Louis, so I started to worry. He always come back for food. 

We had dinner with friends Sunday evening and after dinner we went walking around Quillan in search of Louis. We called and clucked. We showed pictures of Louis to French people who shrugged mostly. 

Louis on the perch that Earl created for him. 

I posted on Facebook in Quillan. I paid to have his picture shared on Pet Alert in our region of France. We put up posters around town. The baker's wife took down the poster in the window that warned people to wear masks and replaced it with the poster of missing Louis. 

My friend Sue checked with the vets around town and farther. 

Louis is neutered and chipped. If anyone finds him, they have our phone number. He isn't a rare breed, so I doubt anyone has stolen him. 

Everyone has been incredibly helpful, telling us they might have seen Louis here or there. We always go in search of Louis. We looked in trash cans; we walked the train tracks. We call him when walking in the mountains far from home in hopes of finding him. 

Last night, we were at a town festival when our friend Enzo said he'd seen a cat that looked just like Louis near another friend's house above town. We drove in the dark to the area and called for Louis. Earl walked up the hill; I walked down the hill. A cat came trotting around the corner toward me in the dark. His face was white with gray, just like Louis, but he was long-haired instead of short haired. He came to me and let me pet him. But he wasn't Louis. 

People say don't give up hope. They tell me stories of cats that disappeared and came back a week later, a month later. 

It seems silly to be so sad about a cat, but when it rains, I picture him somewhere outside afraid, maybe hurt, unable to come home. Because I'm sure if he could come home, he would. 

Come home, Louis! 

But this week has been full of joy as well. On Tuesday, we picked up Tucker and his friend Nathan at the Perpignan train station. 

Earl, Tucker and Nathan all wore white shirts on Tuesday. 

They've instantly become part of the Quillan social fabric, watching the semi-finals of the Euro soccer tournament, singing songs with the English and swimming in the pools of young Belgian women with vacation homes here. 

Watching the Italy-Spain game at the Glacier. 

We aren't doing a lot of sightseeing, but as long as they're happy, we're happy. 

Then yesterday Grace, Jack and three of their friends arrived, flying from Dublin to Carcassonne. We needed two cars to pick them all up, and luckily my friend Derrick volunteered to chauffeur some of them back to Quillan. It's so great to have Grace and Jack back in France. I hope it feels like home to them. 

And for us we're thrilled to get to meet some of the friends they've made in Dublin this year during the year of grad school.

Last night our friends Lou and Steve bravely invited all 9 of us to their house for dinner. We made quite a train walking up there carrying wine, more wine, hamburgers and chicken to barbecue, pasta salad and cake. When you bring 9 people for dinner, you have to divide and conquer. 

Our crew without Steve and Lou

After a delicious dinner and much wine, we played a game called Hammerschlagen, which has become a tradition at Steve and Lou's house. It has to do with hitting a nail with one blow each turn and the first person plus the last person to drive their nails into the tree stump lose. It's definitely a dangerous game.

Nathan, in a sweatshirt borrowed from our friend Kris, takes aim. 
Grace takes aim as Tucker watches. 

After dinner, we wandered down to the town square for some music. We didn't stay long because Grace and her friends were tired from getting to the airport at 4 a.m., and then our friend Enzo said he might have seen Louis so we set off to search for him. 

Somehow, we ended up with a picture on the town Facebook page anyway. 

And Saturday, the Tour de France is ending in Quillan. We're all excited to see the caravan, the riders and enjoy the festivities. 

My heart is filled with joy to have two of my kids in town, just getting to hang out with them. But I'm sad for Earl and Art's wife Shelley and his two kids. And, of course, we're sad not to have Louis here to share in the family time.  

Sunday, July 04, 2021

House Update

 In less than a week, we will have nine people staying in our little house in the south of France. Yep, it's going to be close quarters, but we're trying to make sure everything is as comfortable as possible. The only guest from outside France we've had come to stay with us was Tucker who arrived in October 2019 when the house was still a construction area. And Grace and Jack who stayed for five months last year during Covid as we continued to work on the house. 

Now, most of the rooms are not just livable, but comfortable. 

The kitchen has been our favorite room since it was initially finished. We gather here with guests most of the time, the scene of much delicious food and camaraderie. One thing that changes in the kitchen is the artwork as it gets updated based on items we find in France or in the States. 

Our homey kitchen
From the other corner, looking into the living room, with Louis Catorze featured in the center

The living room is getting more comfortable with two leather couches, a bookshelf, and the television attached to the wall now. 

View from beyond the stair case. Louis again!

Our downstairs half bath, that's what we call a bathroom that has a toilet and sink, but no shower or bathtub, is completed. There's no getting around the electrical box in there, but it looks 100 percent better than it did now that it has shiny gray and white tiles on the floor, a corner sink and a niche for decorative items. 

Don't put on too much weight to fit in this toilet!

The tiny sink and the table with hand towels. The electrical box in the way. 

The bedrooms and guest bathroom have been finished for quite awhile, but they both were missing artwork. As we moved art around in the kitchen, we relegated some items to the upstairs bedrooms. We also found some French-type art in the Troc in Carcassonne. One painting reminded me of the book Madeline "In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines...”
The guest bedroom ready for our guests, now with artwork. 

The guest bathroom from the vantage point of the shower!

Looking the opposite direction. That's not Louis rolled up by the shower, that's a rug. 
Our bedroom with French doors that lead to the office

The office where I teach and the French doors that lead out to the terrace. 
The terrace is perfect for breakfast for two. 

With the artwork hung in the bedrooms, Earl spent a few days cleaning the room at the end of the house that we call the cozy room. It ended up with a lot of the construction debris, myriad paint cans, tools, copper pipe, frames for dry wall and one unused radiator. He emptied it out and we plan to put a curtain over the fireplace so the things we're storing inside won't be so obvious.  

The cozy room has a futon, but it also houses our washer, dryer and water heater. 

So two bedrooms and a futon, that's 2, 4, 6 places to sleep, a double mattress on the floor in the office, there's 8 and someone can sleep on the infinitely comfortable couch in the living room. 

The stays only overlap by three nights as Tucker and a friend arrive July 6 and leave July 11. Grace, Jack and friends arrive July 8 and leave in shifts in the coming weeks. But they'll all be here for the Tour de France as it ends in Quillan on July 10. 

I try not to picture people uncomfortable sleeping on mattresses on the floor, but instead think of us gathered in the garden around the table with raucous conversation as we introduce our kids and their friends to our life in France. 

The garden
The gladiolas are blooming in coral, orange, purple and white. 
The wisteria has begun its second bloom

I must remember to breath and enjoy it all. 

Friday, July 02, 2021

A Weekend in Spain

 We journeyed to Roses, Spain along the Mediterranean for a three-day weekend. (That sounds so posh, doesn't it? Just running off to Spain for the weekend.)

A sunrise picture on my run

The trip started as a comedy of errors. We planned to leave around 8:45 a.m. Derrick, Earl and I have all had our vaccinations so we didn't need a Covid test to get back into France after the weekend. Kris, who turned 36 on Friday, hadn't had his vaccinations yet, so he needed a test. However, when he got to the lab at 8 a.m., the lab wasn't starting Covid tests until 9:30. We settled in our garden (we live near the lab) for coffee and tea, and some birthday chocolates for Kris. He  had been scheduled last minute to get his first Covid vaccine (which the British call a jab, and the French call a pique) between 9-9:30. Since the office is south of us, the schedule was perfect to get a Covid test then drive south for the vaccine and continue on to Spain. They considered driving down for the vaccine, then back to Quillan for the test. I contacted our always helpful doctor Cat Harrison and she said Kris could arrive later, so we didn't have to drive back and forth.

I went with Kris to get his Covid test. It's an awful birthday present and he dreaded it so much, but he only needed me to help him fill out his paperwork. Then we were off, stopping in Axat for his vaccine. He came out several minutes later with blood all over the arm of his shirt. None of us could figure out why he bled so much. 

But we put it behind us and drove toward Spain. It's only two hours away from our home in Quillan. We skirted past the big Pyrenees mountains that still have a smidgen of snow on them and crossed into Spain. No one stopped us or asked to see our Covid vaccine proof. 

Our first stop in Roses, along the Mediterranean, was for lunch. We had reservations for 1:30 and were a bit late once we parked and checked into the hotel. Derrick had surprised Kris with some old friends of his father's. Nicole and Dave used to have a place in Roses and Kris remembered vacations there with his father, who died this past year. So when we showed up for lunch, Dave and Nicole were waiting. 

The lunch was a harbinger of the weekend to come, because most of it was spent sitting at a table eating. 

My iPhone put together a video of my pictures, and you can see that food figures prominently. 

We probably spent six hours a day at meals - three hours at lunch, three hours at dinner. 

I did have a swim in the sea, and even though it was the end of June, the water was cold and took my breath when I first dived in. 

We had a brief swim in the pool as well. 

And one of the highlights for me was an early morning run along the shorefront to the jetty and then I returned to the hotel along the beach. 

On the Saturday of our visit, Spain allowed people to take off masks when they are outside. So that was nice, to be able to ramble along the streets without a mask. 

Friends Jo and Matthew traveled to Spain on Saturday and we went to dinner with them that evening before returning to the hotel for some music and dancing. We loved watching the older ladies dancing by themselves or in pairs to the DJ's music. 

We returned home via Cadaqués, which is a village along the Med that looks similar to Greek villages with whitewashed buildings and blue shutters. It's a very quaint place where we enjoyed another lunch, maybe only two hours. 

The bougainvillea growing on the buildings was amazing. 

Although officers were standing along the toll booths, they didn't stop our car and ask for our proof of vaccine. So Kris' covid test went unchecked. He was negative, anyway. 
Having breathed in plenty of sea air, we returned to Quillan. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Anniversary Outings

 On Wednesday, Earl and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. "Celebrated" is a bit of an overblown statement. 

The highlight of the day came in the afternoon, following a few hours of teaching. Jim and Theresa picked us up in their VW Golf with the snazzy red mirrors and we zoomed about 45 minutes south of here to Maury. Well, past Maury and the more heavily visited wineries there to MA, Mas Amiel, another winery, with a difference. 

The winery has jugs, known as dame Jeanne, setting outside in the sun. I'd always thought the sun was bad for wine, but apparently this winery has different theories. We would be the judge of that!

The dame Jeanne wine jugs sitting in the sun.
Vineyards and wine jugs and the hills beyond. 

We wandered in and looked around the showroom before walking up to the counter. Most tasting rooms have wine stewards who speak English, and this one did as well, although he got hung up a few times and we encouraged him to say it in French, thinking we would still understand. They usually ask what kind of wine we like. They serve the wine from weakest to strongest taste, so usually whites and rosés, first, followed by reds. Earl and I are red wine drinkers, but we have been won over by a few rosés lately. 

Post tasting. After each wine, we swish the water in our glass and pour it into the bowl. 

He started us with a mellow rosé. I've found that people frequently want a rosé in the summer, so knew we would buy a bottle for 8,90 euros. Then he moved onto fortified wines. Fortified wines are similar to port, they are mixed with other, stronger alcohol. The fortified white would work well as an aperitif. 

The four of us. 

The fortified red we tasted first, although it had Theresa's favorite label, purple and blue, did not win us over. A 2012 fortified wine was so smooth, but pricey. 

Then we moved on to the oxidized wines, those that sit out in the sun. They were labeled for their age --20 years old, 30 years old, 69 from grapes grown in the late 60s. The 20 tasted good. The 30 tasted like raisins. But the 69, oh, the 69, tasted like heaven in my mouth. 

The wine steward did a good job selling it, pointing out that it's like buying a good bottle of whiskey, you only drink a little and on special occasions. It lasts for years. 

As we were checking out, the steward gave us a gift of a bottle of wine since it was our anniversary. I figured it was a throw-away bottle they kept to hand out free, but Jim found it on the list and pointed out it was a 30 euro bottle of wine. That might not be much to spend on wine in the States, but anything over 10 euros seems expensive when you live in the land of free flowing, inexpensive wine. 

Chairs outside the tasting room. 
Us outside the tasting room

We drove home through the sunshine, admiring the mountains and the endless undulation of trees around us.

The lane leading up to the winery.

 We stopped to harass our friend Steve who we saw along the side of the road preparing for a time trial on his bicycle. It's fun to run into friends miles away from home. 

Then we walked to a nearby restaurant for a simple meal with Jim and Theresa, sitting inside because the weather had taken a turn to the chilly. 

Not a bad way to celebrate living in France and that day 31 years ago we pledged our love in front of our friends and family.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

French Vienoisseries

 One thing that people love about France are the pastries. As Americans, we probably use that word to cover everything from croissants to Napoleons to little fruit tarts. 

Here in France, those breakfast staples like croissants or pain au chocolat are called vienoisseries. It's made using yeast or puff pastry. When we first arrived, we were so grateful for any croissant or pain au raisin, but our tastes have gotten more refined. 

The bakery up the hill has a pain au chocolat (called a chocolatine in this part of France) made in the ancient tradition -- à la ancienne -- and the chocolate is wrapped inside layers and layers of flaky puff pastry. I have a favorite bakery for pain au raisin when I go to the Esperaza market on Sundays. 

But luckily, our local bakery has some vienoisseries that you don't find everywhere. I'm sure I've written about the chausson framboises, a kind of raspberry turnover, that the baker's wife reminds me should be chausson à la framboise. I've never seen them anywhere else. 

Recently, the bakery has started making croissant chocolat. You might think this is the same as a pain au chocolat, but it isn't.

Instead, it is shaped like a croissant. It has chocolate drizzled over the top, and it has melty chocolate in the middle -- totally different from a pain au chocolat. 

Un croissant chocolat for breakfast

I stopped this morning to get a sandwich that Earl and I would share for lunch, and I saw a tray full of croissant chocolat. What could I do? I had to order one. 

The inside has creamy chocolate, unlike the pain au chocolat. 

The woman waiting on me said, "Il n'y en a plus," there aren't any more. I waved my hand toward the tray, and she realized that the baker had refilled the case with a dozen chocolate croissants. 

My lucky day.

Do you have a favorite vienosserie? 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Castle on Every Mountain

 Yesterday evening, I was texting with our son Spencer. He was getting a tire fixed on his day off. He asked how my day was. 

I hiked with some friends, I told him and sent a picture. 

The view from atop Rennes le Chateau

"Is there a castle on top of every hill there?" he asked. 

Well, yes, practically. Or parts of old castles.

Monday was a scorcher here in the south of France, but we had planned a hike from Couiza to Rennes le Chateau. In addition to the hike, we had a mission from Grace, who is using Rennes le Chateau as a case study for her masters thesis. And we had invited our husbands and a few other friends to join us for lunch at the top as well.

We started off about 9:30 in the morning. We thought the hike would take two hours but we had reached Rennes le Chateau by about 10:45. We were sweaty, but the views were worth it. 

Melissa, Sue and I started from Sue's house in Couiza
The flowers were in bloom and the rolling hills and far off mountains looked great from up high.
Walking up to the chateau gave us a new vantage point. 
Some stone stairs at the end

Grace had asked us to search for pentagrams in Rennes le Chateau as part of her masters thesis. She's researching how some tourist places use the occult to draw in visitors. We treated it like a treasure hunt, searching the old buildings, examining the church.

We took a break to have a drink in one of the nearby cafes, sitting under the shade of the trees. I ordered a menthe a l'eau, water with mint syrup added to it. Cool and refreshing. My British friends ordered hot mint tea. I don't get it. My face was still dripping with sweat and I couldn't picture drinking hot tea, but apparently the Brits do. They were delighted with their mint tea. 

Grace texted that her professor suggested we look at the church pews for pentagrams, so we returned to the church. And inside, we found our friends Theresa and Jim who were meeting us for lunch, and Theresa was joining in on the pentagram search. The pews were obviously fairly new and plain wood. No signs of pentagrams.

Melissa had noticed a "storage shed" earlier that had some pews in it so she and Sue went to search there. 

The church is beautiful and quirky. 

No pentagrams, but lots of stars above the altar
This is a picture of the devil holding up the holy water. It's behind glass now because someone destroyed it a few years ago. So I've included an old picture so you can see what it looks like. 
The view all around Rennes le Chateau is beautiful
View again. 

Of course, there's more to Rennes le Chateau than the view. There's a mystery that draws visitors and researchers like Grace. Here's a link to a previous post I wrote about Rennes le Chateau in 2017 on our first visit there. 

After searching the church, the gardens, the tower and the surrounding village for pentagrams without success, we walked to the restaurant where we were meeting the rest of our group. France still has a limit on six people dining together, even outside, so our group of 10 was broken into two tables. We sat men at one table, women at the other, but someday we'll all be able to sit together again. 

The food was good, view beautiful, company outstanding and even the accompanying dogs were well behaved. 

Sunday, June 06, 2021

A Market Bike Ride

 Summer is finally arriving in the south of France, with a gorgeous day today. The sky was so blue; the white clouds, fluffy. So Earl and I rode our bikes to the Esperaza market. It's about 10 kilometers (6 miles) each way. Usually, we saunter around the market, admiring the rotisserie chickens as they drop fat onto the potatoes below, the handmade instruments we're always tempted to buy for the nieces and nephews, or the clumps of rose-colored garlic. 

Today, we simply parked our bikes and parked ourselves at a café, our usual café. The one where the waitress recognizes us and we can chat about whether she accepted a contract for the summer and what other restaurant she might be working in. "It's a young woman's game," she says, but in French, and that's my interpretation of it. 

While Earl ordered coffee, I waited in the ever-growing line at the bakery. I only go to that bakery on Sundays, but they have the best pain au raisin in the area. When I stepped inside, I saw one pain au raisin remaining. Not to worry, Earl prefers a palmier, so if no one took the pain au raisin, I was golden. The man behind me, his red hair knotted into frizzy dreadlocks that reached his elbows, shook the coins in his hand. I felt sure that he was ogling that pain au raisin when he stepped up to the vienoisserie case. When the woman in front of me asked for bread, I felt relief. I hurried to order the pain au raisin and palmier before anyone else could snag them. 

Then back to the café where Earl waited with our coffee. I even made a joke in French to my friend Claudine. She texted me a picture of a croissant and coffee and said the emoji for a pain au raisin doesn't exist. I told her pain au raisins don't exist any more in Esperaza, cause I just ate the last one. I was pretty proud of that, although she is probably too polite to tell me if I said it correctly in French. 

"We need tomatoes," I pointed out as we continued to occupy our table after the pastries were long finished. "We could find someplace to lock up the bikes or you could sit here with the bikes and I'll go get the tomatoes." He agreed to the second option and I walked past the cheese and wine carts, ignoring the scent of the olives black and green from another cart, and I didn't look twice at the jewelry stalls. Straight to the fruits and vegetables where I chose tomatoes that look dark greenish red. 

We rode home as the morning waned and felt slightly proud of adding exercise to our morning market routine. 

On Saturday, we enjoyed dinner at Sue and Steve's in Couiza and it included a walk for Sue and me, plus Elwing, their dog. As we climbed up the road past Montazel, the vista opened up. Sue pointed out Rennes le Chateau across the way, and the craggly top of Bugarach beyond it. I sent a picture to Grace since her master's thesis is focusing on Rennes le Chateau. 

We even came across a scarecrow of sorts that had been erected with the two sights beyond it. Apparently, they both have mysterious followers. 

The week has been busy and filled with the joy of friends, along with the satisfaction of beautiful morning runs. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Isolation and Socialization

We’re not very good at isolation. 
We had every intent to isolate 10 days. Then a friend said the rules say 7 days, but they’re a suggestion. 
We let our friends know we’d be happy to see them in the garden if they felt safe. 
But the weather was rainy and chilly that first day so Lou and Steve brought us dinner, and Derrick and Kris joined us, all of them with their dogs, so 4 dogs and our surly cat roaming around. We ate and played board games until 9 pm when I put away the wine and kicked everyone out. I figured I’d done well to stay awake that long. 
Quillan is preparing for the Tour de France to visit.
On Monday, our friends Sue and Steve came for drinks. Drinks turned into dinner before they raced home to beat the 9 p.m. curfew. 
I suggested that Jo might want to drop by for a glass of blanquette on Tuesday after I finished teaching, and then invited her husband Matthew to join us for dinner as well, so they both arrived and we grilled chicken on the grill and talked late into the evening, including a bit of poetry recitation (thank you, Matthew.)
On Wednesday, the bars and restaurants opened outside in France for the first time since October. Did I have a choice but to meet Derrick early at a café where we had a café crème on the terrace overlooking the river Aude. 
The flowers grow out from the bridge each spring. 
I'd already asked the belly dancing group, which meets outside on the tennis courts, if they would feel safe having me there since we dance outside. Everyone was fine with it. Meanwhile, the husbands of the belly dancers were gathering for a drink at an outdoor bar and asked Earl to come along. 
When we finished learning some Bollywood moves, my friends urged me to join the husbands for a drink too. So, I did, drinking a monaco, beer, lemonade and grenadine, glowing a beautiful red. 
I returned home to work on taxes where my frustration grew, as you can see from my previous post. 
On Thursday, I met Derrick for a coffee again and then a drink later that day, all outside. We talked about dinner, and agree to combine our meals -- I had pork in the crock pot and he made potato salad. We made an attempt at playing Password, but my brain apparently is not over jet lag. Earl and Kris did quite well, so maybe it isn't jet lag. 
After I finished teaching on Friday, we hosted my friend Linda from Frenchless in France and a friend. It's always fun to catch up with friends from far away. 
Friday was fish and chips night. The van parks in Quillan near a local bar, the PMU. The PMU provides the drinks while the van doles out fish and chips which we must order ahead of time. We hadn't seen our American friends Jim and Theresa yet, so were happy to meet with them and walk over to fish and chips. Some red wine, some greasy chips and breaded fish. Earl and I share one order and that is plenty.  
Saturday, technically seven days after we arrived, is another market day, that meant more coffee alongside the river, plus coffee from the van that kept us in take away coffee throughout the lockdown since last October. And finally, our first real meal out in France since October 30th. We returned to Les Platanes, the restaurant we last ate at. 
The nine of us sat at two tables, a limit of six adults is in place even for outdoor tables. I ordered duck and fries, something I haven't eaten since October. We were all so happy to be out for the evening, although we remained aware of the 9 p.m. curfew. The duck was a bit overdone, but the wine flowed and I enjoyed ordering a café gourmande, a mix of desserts and tiny cup of espresso. 
Earl finished his dessert and looked my way. I loaded up the remaining cake, ice cream and chantilly (whipped cream) and sent it his way. 
It was in the midst of this week that Earl began asking when we would have a day off - and day without anything scheduled. Like a race horse in mid-stride, it took me a minute to remember that maybe he didn't feel the urge to catch up with everyone like I did. 
But we'd already committed to an afternoon at Sue and Steve's on Sunday, an afternoon that ended shortly before curfew with way too much cheese and nibbles. 
And on Monday, we planned an outing. We ended up going to the sea in the morning since the weather forecast warned of higher winds in the afternoon. The water was cold, so I satisfied my sea urge by walking in the sand. Earl and Kris went in and they report the water was breathtaking, not in a good way. 
The sparkly sea. 
After being told all the restaurants along the beach were full, it was a bank holiday, which meant no one was at work and many people were at the beach, we drove into Beziers. We'd enjoyed a stop in Bezier four years earlier when searching for a place to live. 
We found a restaurant with outdoor seating. I tried duck again and was much more pleased by the thick magret de canard cooked rare and juicy. I shared only a bit with Derrick and with his dogs, eating the whole thing. 
Yum. Hand cut fries, duck and salad. 
We finished the meal and went walking along the park that stretches through the center of the city, Plateau des poètes. A lovely walk in the sun admiring all the poets who were born in the area. The fountains are impressive. 
A moody sky over the fountain
And finally, today, Earl got his wish. A day without dinner plans. I met my friend Isa for coffee in the square this morning.
Cappuccino with chantilly

 And I might have gone to meet some other friends for a drink after they signed papers on a new house. But other than that, an evening for two stretches in front of us. 
As my British friends might say, We're rubbish at isolating. Luckily, we were vaccinated and tested so felt safe that we weren't spreading Covid. 

Joys and Sorrows

 This week has been full of joys and sorrows. This week alone could mimic a lifetime of ups and downs.  On Wednesday, we learned that Earl&#...