Views from Abroad

Day 1
I am so excited! I have never taken such a trip. More than two weeks? Inconceivable!
(Yes, The Princess Bride! My adventure might be more tame. We'll see.)
The first step? Out my front door.
On my list, birthday gifts. Carin's - check!
Day 2
Did I sleep on the flight? Not hardly. But I saw three full movies (Joy, The Lady in the Van and a French film called Ange et Gabrielle), part of two others (Room and Daddy's Home) and REALLY tried to sleep for a couple of hours. So my first impressions in the Netherlands included, "Did I do something wrong? Everyone isn't going the same way I am. Maybe there aren't toilets near the gates, but that seems odd. I must have missed them. Do I really want to go through here? No one else is here, but I think it's the right way." And, "That was too easy. I must have done something wrong." Then I left the airport.
So there I am, feeling like a clod when Jan picks me up at the airport. I'm moving slow and she's already said it's not a good place to stop but it'll work if we're quick. Good to see her, but I wish I were more pulled together. On the drive to the house, I did see a couple old-fashioned windmills though most of them looked like the ones I see when I drive Interstate 5 between L.A. and the Bay Area. The modern ones seemed to be the only ones working. But I'm sure that's too limited a sample area.
As we hung out and talked, further impressions included: "Gee, it's really taking me awhile to figure out how to say this." and "I wonder when I'm going to crash. I know I'm tired and punchy, but I'm too alert."
Thankfully not driving myself through Berkebroeklaan, Den Haag was interesting. The paths we took were so indirect. I suppose I hadn't thought about the reality of going from point A to point B, say home to elementary school pick-up, where there are extensive canals. But there also were points where things were set up to make it one lane, total not in each direction, so people had to take turns. I think I'm glad I won't be driving here.
As for the evening, watching Jan and Troy play soccer was really a blast. I probably didn't show it because I was starting to fade fast, but that was great. Later I finally saw "Harry Potter and the Scorcerer's Stone." Guess what. All of those people who said they did a good job with capturing the book were right.
Now I've once again been off on my sleep pattern, but maybe I'll be close to the time zone pattern tomorrow?
Day 3
Gee, when was Day 3? I've lost track. What time I've had for this got stuck on quotation marks! And, believe it or not, I've had things to do.
Ah! Saturday.
Saturday started with a Dutch breakfast and then, as with so many places in this world, kids playing soccer/football. What were the differences? Well, Marisa would like the fact that these club fields have changing rooms assigned for each team playing as well as their field assignments. And it may have just been this coach, but she had no parents trying to change her decisions as she made them and she moved the kids in and out as well as between positions quite a bit. I thought it was a really good game for those 8 year olds.
But the afternoon was the big treat of the day for me. We rode bikes into Delft where I played tourist in some of the shops, looked at some buildings, had a very Dutch dinner and rode home again. I think I want a cruiser! It was fun on that upright bike and it seemed to fit more comfortably than mine has been doing lately.
Well, I'm off to do things now and I haven't gotten to yesterday. Oh well.
Day 4
Sunday, April 24 was all about the water.
We went to Delta Works and I learned a great deal about how The Netherlands stays a-un-float (my own cute expression for dry). A great deal of time, money and ingenuity has gone into water management here, with some help from the folks in Venice. I haven't seen the movie "The Perfect Storm" before, but I want to see it now. That sounds like a more simple event than the 1953 storm, dike failures and floods in The Netherlands.
Delta Works is at Neeltje Jans, an artificial island created to help with water management. It was created to facilitate the dam building across the Oosterschelde, a tidal basin of what was once called the Schelde river.
There are barriers that stay open unless there are flooding conditions.
These were in a semi-circle out from the barrier/bridge. On the announcement, they mentioned a barrier for boats to stay away, but I think they also seemed to have sensors for some of the calculations about current conditions. That's my guess anyway.
Day 5 - Monday, April 25
Elizabeth's birthday, though I was too distracted to focus on it. I know the date, but the day was different. I went to Amsterdam.
I also went to museums. Only two, but wow.
Have I mentioned that it's been like a harsh California winter days? By this time I'd been in hail twice already. When I got to the museum square, I came to the Van Gogh Museum first so I thought I'd start there. But the line was outside and the attendant said it would take two hours in that line. It wasn't hailing at the moment, but raining and blowing. The attendant also told me, nice girl that she was, they have free Wifi I could access near the building and there were still tickets available for a couple of hours later. That worked out quite well, other than the odd looks I got trying to use the web on my phone from as close to the building as I could get.
When I got to the Rijksmuseum, there were two lines: for those with tickets and those without. Here I was actually glad I didn't have tickets as the line moved under the arches and then into the building faster. But the weather was not that important. I was just glad I timed it well for the conditions.
I know that after 4 hours of museums, I am overwhelmed. But I couldn't help it. The problem is when I tried to talk to Jan about what I'd seen and enjoyed, I didn't do a very good job. Even now, more has come back to me, but not all I would like. I started at the top of the Rijksmuseum, with the Dutch Masters. I think it helped that I'd been in Holland for a few days and seen it go from dark to light within minutes several times. It's striking. I thought the weather changed quickly in Michigan, and those in Holland, Michigan said theirs changed even faster (being closer to Lake Michigan), but this is faster than anything I've known before. One glance from across the room at a painting I can't name and I was awed at the depiction of light flowing into the room. I'll have to look up that painting because it was impressive. However, the finale for me on that floor was probably the more common impression: The Nightwatch by Rembrandt.
I also loved the library at the Rijksmuseum and the information sheets the museum supplied added to that enjoyment. If I were an art historian, I would definitely find a way to study there. Another American was in the room with me at one point and he said,"They're just working on computers, not using the library." It wasn't true. Sure, all of the researchers had laptops they were using as well as reference materials and they may have had their laptops front and center, but they were surrounded by reference materials.
I wandered a bit through the second floor as well, but by this time the Rijksmuseum was packed and my entrance time for the Van Gogh was close. I saw other beautiful paintings that I'm not remembering at the moment, but I quite enjoyed them. Still masters of light in a way that I hope to recognize from now as Dutch, but much more modern.
Jan had been very intent that I should go to the Van Gogh museum. I&#ve liked his body of work and I was interested, especially since he also spent so much time in Provence and I thought it would be nice to focus on his work again before going, but I was inclined to skip it if it meant less than a couple of hours roaming around Amsterdam. Within 10 minutes of being in the Van Gogh Museum, I understood why she'd insisted. The ground floor had many of his self-portraits and noted he worked them to study techniques. These were such powerful images. I felt I was looking into his soul, an impression only enhance by knowing his history with mental illness.
As I worked my way up the museum and through the trajectory of his life, I was fascinated but also beginning to recognize I couldn't absorb much more without a break. But how could I take a break? It was right in front of me and SO compelling.
When I finished, I really wanted to share the joy I'd felt from his work. They had me primed for the gift shops. There was one scene with sailboats imparted a sense of fun. And then, for sale, there was a bouncing ball that foamed and tossed the two sailboats about as you bounced it. I couldn't put it back. I tried. And it's for me.
By the time I left museum square, it was early evening. I wanted to see more of Amsterdam, but I felt like it was late to start exploring the city. Still, I had more to see so off I went. I took a tram, wander some, had an Indonesian dinner that was really good for around 10 Euros, saw the outside of the Anne Frank house (that line was still too long for me though the family who owned the restaurant said it would be much better at that hour). I also went to the Tulip Museum store, not the displays, and was reminded of Moma for some reason. I'm sure she would have liked it; I just can't put my finger on why she came to mind. I didn't make in on the canals and wondered if I should had back to Amsterdam on Tuesday, but it was time to head back. I was starting to want off my feet and out of the cold.
Keeping up with Susan?
Day 6 - Tuesday, April 26
My last full day in The Netherlands came SO quickly. I considered going into Amsterdam again (Jan's place in Ypenberg, if I spelled that correctly, is between Delft and Den Haag) but I really wanted to see the Escher in Het Paleis. So I got a ride from Jan to the tram and headed out to get my ticket to France and then see Escher, or what he left behind for us to see.
I was not efficient in my travels, but I was always interested. Is So Young reading this? Look what I saw when I took the wrong tram from Den Haag Holland Spoor:
When I was getting back on the tram going in the right direction, I ended up waiting with a guy in a Dodgers cap. So much for worrying about my Red Cross bottle marking me as a tourist. (This was followed in the evening by a man where a Michigan cap. I didn't see many caps, nor many American caps, but these two were part of my day.) That was part of my detour to by my ticket at Den Haag Holland Spoor rather than Den Haag Centraal Station since that was where it seemed I would depart and I thought it would be good to see the station so I wasn't as nervous in the morning. But they don't sell the tickets at Holland Spoor. When I got to Centraal and asked the ticket agent about the 4 minutes to transfer at Rotterdam, she suggested I just leave from Centraal instead. Who knew that was an option? It was just good to have the ticket finally purchased.
Now it was on to Escher. I took the tram suggested at the information booth at Centrale, but I wasn't clear when I got to the stop. So I tried one because it had been awhile even though it looked much more like a typical downtown area than the historic district I was expecting. I was going to visit Mauritshuis, too, though my personal focus was Escher.
I dropped into a department store just to look around and saw some amusing T-shirts. I was tempted to buy one and realized I could just take a picture. So I did.
There was a nice bookstore around the corner, those are hard to resist. Then I went on into the international relations area of Den Haag. It had a very different feel. Turn a corner, and things changed. I didn't end up at Mauritshuis at all. It was time to get to Escher if I didn't want to be rushed. Jan was out of her class and was going to try to join me. I had started through the Escher in Het Paleis when I realized I was hungry. Not long after, Jan arrived without time for the museum, but time for a bite. So we got sandwiches and then I went back. I LOVED Escher in Het Paleis. Once again, primed for a gift shop. Anyone I can send to Escher in He Paleis, I will. Of course, I suppose Escher isn't for everyone.
Then I headed home. I was hungry. I wasn't the most direct, but that was where I was going. When I got there, after walking over a canal, past a cow and a sheep, I got to have leftovers from all of the great dishes Jan had been making while I was there. We still had some of my three favorites: cabbage and peas, red beans, and cauliflower with creme fresh and cheese.
It was great to see Jan and get to meet Troy.
Day 7 - Wednesday, April 27
I don't know why I keep expecting this to be harder than it is. I'm on the train to Lisieux to see Boynton and Kathy. And all of the trains have been straightforward and so easy to find I feel like I must have missed something. But no. It's been fine. I was going to take the Metro between the two train stations in Paris, but I didn't want to go underground before seeing something of the city, and there was a bus saying it went to Gare Saint-Lazare. So I stayed above ground. I just asked the conductors when we get to Lisieux because it isn't on my ticket, but I know that. It was silly! Why don't I accept I know what I'm doing?
I am really enjoying the train through the French countryside, even if it is more cloudy than I would prefer. Such beautiful rolling hills, classic villages and mature farms. I'm so glad I came.
I'm tipsy and heading to bed and I still can't believe I'm really here. So what's it like here? Lisieux is much larger than I would have expected for a town whose name I didn't know until this week. But that's just where the train arrives, not where they live. The countryside has such abundant rolling hills. They aren't large sweeping things, but small direct hills and valleys. I'm staying in a converted barn, across a stream from a dairy farm whose cows can be heard outside my door. There are rough beams in my ceiling, I have a heated towel rack, and yes, Jessica, there is a Britta. ;-)
Day 8 - Thursday, April 28
Spring has arrived in Normandy! I woke to the sound of birds singing nearby and cows mooing in the distance. I was so comfortable, I kept falling back to sleep. But then the sun came right in the windows.
Uncle Boynton and I went to Le Havre and Honfluer today. As far as I'm concerned, we were in sync and just had fun exploring together. Of course, it was all new for me, but I think we both were just taking it as it came.
We started by going to the Musee Malraux in Le Havre, and it was a bit of a trick getting there. We'd made a turn that seemed correct but wasn't labeled the way our directions indicated. After a bit, it finally showed we were in the correct place by having the route number we expected. That was when the traffic came to a dead stop. No one was moving, unless you count the people getting out of their vehicles to try to get a view of what was happening up ahead. Luckily, that was just after an exit so we got off and had to wing it.
It may not have been much of an issue, but this is not a land where roads are set on a grid to be easily followed. So we started our museum visit with an air of adventure and being minor conquering heroes.
When we got to the museum, they were running an exhibit of Eugene Boudin. I may have seen some of his work somewhere, I do like impressionists, but I didn't know him. Now I'm a fan. His studies of sea and sky capture the weather and mood so well. I really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the apparatus to listen to matching sounds and music with each piece during a segment of the exhibition. I wonder how often they will do that sort of thing.
After the museum, we went back to Honfleur for crepes (or rather galettes and then a crepe to split, buckwheat for savory after all) and to see the town a bit. It was just so charming. The church was beautiful. I can see how it may have been ship builders who constructed it, but my big amazement was how preserved it all was, that and the clock tower, when made of wood. Oh, and I have to try to remember the name of the straw and plant roofs. And I forgot to mention the mistletoe. I noticed balls of vegetation high up in some trees that otherwise were bare. They stood out the way squirrels' nests do on a bare tree, but they were green, closer to the trunk and there were so many more in each tree than squirrels would make. Uncle Boynton told me it's mistletoe. Kissing under that would be a far cry from the snippets we put up during the holiday season, let me tell you. I would feel like a Druid.
We got home in time for me to have a great nap, though I have no idea how I could want to sleep after such a good night. Then we were off to dinner in the shopping village with Kathy. What a great meal!
Day 9 - Friday, April 29
It's a colder and rainy, or maybe just rainy so it seems colder. We went out for a nice lunch, but I'm just enjoying being with family and relaxing. I wrote two postcards for the first time. And I've worked on my plan for the rest of the trip more. I have a sense of what trains to take, what days to do where. I think my plan is now in place, though I need to check with the transfer people from the tour before I buy my tickets because the first connection may be tight.
I think I got a good glimpse of life in Normandy for Uncle Boynton, Kathy and Jackson. The big project on the cider press is starting soon and workers came to get ready to start, poor Jackson was limping, I wanted Calvados in addition to working on my trip plans, Kathy had a riding lesson, and we all, including Jackson, went out for lunch. Jackson was a big hit at the creperie. I enjoyed the place yesterday, but at this one the actual crepe and galette were better, not just good fillings. And the cidre was also a few steps above. Before the end of the day, I had a ride in the Deux Chevaux and was the catcher on Team Pasta. I'm not sure which was more fun. And the pasta! Truffle infused fresh pasta with a truffle cream sauce. I had seconds.
Day 10 - Saturday, April 30
Unfortunately, today I leave Normandy. But the good news is I have an afternoon and evening in Paris before I get my train to Marseilles in the morning. Another good thing is it wasn't raining as much (though still overcast) so we could enjoy the Samedi market in Lisieux. We went for cafe with Uncle Boynton's ami Jean who was quite charming. We have plans to exchange visits. He'll come in February since summer in the valley may be too hot. It was a nondescript little place, but it was the best cafe au lait I think I've ever had. Of course, since I'm not a coffee drinker, that may mean it was weaker than usual! Mais pour moi, parfait.
I hope as I go back to this travel journal to reflect on the trip I can recapture how much I enjoyed these days in Normandy. I enjoyed talking and sharing with Boynton and Kathy, and I had fun getting to know the people who fill their world, from the fish guy when we were buying salmon within an hour of getting off the train through the visit with Jean just before I got on the next one. So many nice people who clearly care for and respect Boynton and Kathy. What a good life.
Paris. Wandering. Getting cards. Stamps. Writing cards. More exploring. Just being in Paris.
Day 11 - Sunday, May 1
It's May! Can you believe it? And I'm turning into a coffee drinker. Needing a fast breakfast, I had cafe croissant. That's espresso. And I liked it! Oh, and Mark, next door at the liquor store there was Junipero Gin. They didn't seem to carry the rye, but still. It's in Paris. It should be everywhere now.
On the way back to the hotel, I had an experience with pigeons that surprised me, but makes me think that's why they show up in images of Paris so often. There was a group of them flying almost in formation, swooping down the narrow street over my head. When I looked again, there were more on the trim of the building where they started. Some flew back and another set flew over. Quite a spectacle. And then there's the fact that they were near the statue that had distracted me into missing my turn the night before. That amused me this morning. Last night I'd wondered if I shouldn't trust my sense of direction so much. What a relief that I can. I like that about me.
So much more happened on Sunday. The view from the train moved from urban Paris to rural flat to rural hills. The homes were not the half timbered of Normandy but stone. Still the sense of everything having been in place for generations continued. Then it seemed I hadn't looked out the window for maybe half an hour and the terrain had changed. It was no longer lush and green but more red and dry. Provence.
Getting to the airport from the train and finding the gate for the meeting with the tour was fairly simple. Two women came to the baggage collection area for the flight I was told to meet with a luggage cart and a sign. I'd put on my badge so when I went to join them, I was immediately recognized. Well, maybe I was recognized because one of them was our local guide and she was looking for me and knew my name. (You know, this texting world has changed my inclinations for punctuation. I find myself ready to use exclamations far more than is reasonable. The words should generally convey the attitude.) The van ride to Domaine Capelongue was nice. It was also one of those pauses where you wait for the big stuff to start, but good conversation in the van was a start in liking my traveling companions.
Meeting everyone else ( only three or four in the van so seven more to meet), seeing more of the property and having dinner all involved so many impressions I'm still not sure about unpacking them. The place is more stylized and formal than I expected. I suppose that is true of the food as well. The food is truly amazing. But I have to say that while a cube shaped box is intriguing as a toilet, I don't really seek intrigue when I want to use the toilet. I may have to get a picture of that. I don't see it on the website at all. Yes, I take all the great pictures. Cube toilets, not Troy and Jan or Boynton and Kathy or even Jackson alone or in company.
Day 12 - Monday, May 2
Our first day of the program began with an amazing serve yourself and come as it suits you breakfast followed by time in the kitchen. Wow. Cyril was so amazing. And he showed us how to make some of the fabulous food from Sunday dinner. There will be pictures of this. I took a few, but I think my companions are getting far more and probably better ones than I am. I didn't take any pictures in the kitchen. So I will get mine from the group site the tour will facilitate. But could I really forget what I saw?
I have so many more impressions from Monday, but the day was too full to have time for writing, especially since I realized I really needed to get my train tickets set. And now I want to get going. Writing about breakfast and the kitchen might have motivated me somewhat.
So more on Monday ... After the cooking lesson, we toured the garden, still with Cyril. I've been thinking about my garden and wondering what Larry is thinking the whole trip. But the closer the climate is to that at home, the more I'm thinking about it. At least I think that's what it is. I really just know that I'm even more excited about my forthcoming garden now. Maybe it was all the food growing on the grounds around here, not just in formal plots but as landscape elements. And I'd love to have the plan in time to show Will. So after lunch and before the lecture, I went out into the garden at the Bastide and wandered. So gorgeous and so many elements I would enjoy.
Linda's lecture on the Romans followed. Did I ever know that Provence was named to reflect it's relationship with the Roman Empire, not Paris? If I did, I'd forgotten. And I didn't know they had a colonization plan. It makes sense, but I only remember hearing of the Romans wanting to get back to their families, not retirement communities established within the empire, for instance in the provinces (such as Nimes).
So that was the end of the formal program for the day, but most of us stayed together and went into Bonnieux,the town down the hill. Not only does this area have olive and almond trees that are solid producers, there are lilacs! Does this mean I could have lilacs in Encino if I watered them enough? Would it be worth the water if I could? The first group split off to walk back up when it was time for them to get to dinner and the rest of us had dinner in town. I'd been ridiculous in that I'd had my wallet in my pocket during the day and when I took it out, instead of putting it in my purse, I threw it in my suitcase. Guess where it was when I went to town. Yep.
Don't worry, I still managed to spend far more than what it cost for the dinner I wanted. I had been eating so much rich food that I really didn't need a bite, but I had a slice of vegetable tart. And the other spending? I bought a new hair toy that was more than four times the cost of dinner since my hair is currently longer than it has been for more than a decade.
Day 13 - Tuesday, May 3
Another very full day. We were out from 10 a.m. until just before dinner. We went to a fortress town, Gordes, for market day and lunch. Then we went on to Pont du Gard to actually see a solid example of what the Romans built in Provence.
I almost bought many things in the market, but I think I bought the right things in the end. There were purses that tempted me, bottle caps and various food items. There were nice table linens and I need a new everyday tablecloth for the dining room. But when things were nice but not really right, it might have taken me a bit to do it, but I walked away.
Looking back on this morning, I see it differently. I always knew there was more to it than what I wrote because I didn't get much down. These days in Provence were so busy I didn't have time to keep up with my thoughts. So here I am writing more and adding other thoughts as I revise my opinions. My biggest impression is that market was SO exciting. I had planned to have lunch with the group in the restaurant, but there was so much to see that even if the group ate on the patio at the restaurant, it was too confined for me. I wanted to explore as long as I could. But the first impressions of Gordes were from the road across the way. There's an overlook where we stopped to take pictures. I felt we were a real group there for the first time. We had picture of all of us. And as time went on in Provence, I saw postcards of Gordes and was always reminded of that moment since most of the postcards were from that same point, just like the one I added above. I should have realized all of these little towns would have great postcards given how much I've heard about Provence over the years.
When we got to the market, I didn't know which way to go. I was so taken with all of the food and the crafts. I got Susan locally made soap, selecting from the individual bars. He had beautiful sets already put together, but I wanted to smell the bars and make sure they were ones that I thought she would like. The other things I got were olives. I got a fairly big supply, but I wasn't traveling home for quite awhile. And they were really good. But I wasn't really thinking about how strong the flavor was and how I wanted to try many different things. I'm still thinking about those bottle caps, too, though I think they carry them on Amazon. And really, did I need anymore stuff to carry home? As it was, I had too much to carry before long.
The best things, though, were getting to a post office for the first time and having a picnic lunch. At the post office, I verified that the first stamps I bought from the tabac in Paris were European and wouldn't work for post cards to the states. Then I got ones that would work and mailed those postcards I'd written so far. After that business was done, I went wandering a bit more and went back to the stall selling potatoes Provencal. That was my lunch. Water from my bottle and overcooked potatoes (I realized they at their best when the market was at its peak, but I still liked them).
Pont du Garde was another thing altogether. I wasn't Hadrian's wall, but I kept thinking about Grandbass. My admiration for the Romans has never been so high. I knew my teachers had a bias for the Greeks and generally considered the Romans plunderers, with the possible exception of Bearden who covered the Romans while I was out with mono, but there were many points I didn't know. Sad fact: they had lead pipes for the water pipes to their homes.
I know there is more to say. It was a fun day with good people. But it's midnight and tomorrow starts even earlier than before, and goes later. Fingers crossed for tomorrow (as if there were really a bad way to enjoy this, tired won't be enough to stop it).
Day 14 - Wednesday, May 4
Our day started with our final lessons in the kitchen - bread formation and souffle. Cyril and Jean were great. I'm inspired to go back to bread baking again. As for the souffle, I liked it but I'm more partial to the flavor of the one I've made before but I'm excited about the techniques I learned. And since that was Cyril's primary objective, giving us basic skills to apply to those flavors we want, what a success. Inspiration cannot be underestimated. And that was just the morning.
Linda's lecture on Van Gogh was a bit hard to take. It was quite interesting and informative, but I'd had such an emotional response to the Van Gogh museum and felt such a strong certainty he suffered with mental illness, it was hard for me to hear speculation about what he was expressing, feeling or whether he hurt himself or not.
After our picnic lunch, with the bread we formed, we were off to Avignon where we met our local guide, Natalie. We toured the Pont d'Avignon and the Palais des Papes. I finally truly understood the song that had been stuck in my head since I stopped at Avignon on the train. I could hum it and I remembered where it said d'Avignon, but not what it meant or what the other words were, even when Marie-Neige sang it to me. The palace is truly spectacular. I may say more later, but once again, so busy it's hard to find time to write.
Day 15 - Thursday, May 5
Tonight we have the evening free so I've been focused on getting myself set for the next few days, laundry and personal time to recharge. This week has been so intense that I won't remember all that happened if I don't make a better record soon. I haven't been certain that I like an on-line travel journal, but since this isn't handwritten I can go back and add to earlier days. The sun is setting and it's after 9. We'll see how far I get, but I am now committed to more complete information organized by when it happened, rather than what I can get down at a given moment. I'm also going back to add photos at times. Today I hope to add a good picture of mistletoe even though that was something from further north.
We left first thing for Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Van Gogh stayed at the Saint-Paul Mental Hospital for a year. We parked at Roman ruins just across the street. They were pretty fabulous and then we walked to the institution. It was so beautiful and tranquil. But the grounds were so modified to honor Van Gogh that it was hard to believe they still have patients. There was a wall beside the path we took with rush fencing at the top of it and sounds of people on the other side. I hope their area was as beautiful as the grounds we saw, but I doubt it. Someone would probably compulsively pick flowers. And the voices may well have been patients talking aloud to themselves. Since I don't really speak French, being within hearing of the patients was melancholy, but not disturbing. Listening to talk of Van Gogh without an understanding of a manic episode was more than I could handle. I walked away, blocked my ears and walked away some more. I couldn't listen again. In fact, this time I started to cry and had to go off by myself at first. I started hearing the talk and was reminded of what episodes felt like. Yet when I moved off, the grounds reminded me of the place in Connecticut and my mood deepened. Actually, these grounds were SO much more attractive. But Moma wasn't happy there; she preferred the awful place back in Michigan. Still, I wished I could have given her the beautiful and tranquil life the tourist view implied. My group was still discussing how it couldn't be possible for Van Gogh to be mentally ill since he produced so much beautiful art so quickly. Clearly none of them have had personal exposure to a manic episode, or anyone who has is also keeping their mouth shut.
Our second stop was Les Baux, which means the cliffs. There at the top of rocky outcroppings were a fort and church carved into the cliffs. We had a traditional Provencal lunch - Aioli. In this context, it means salted cod with vegetables served with aioli and eaten rather as a mix. Then we explored the town of Les Baux, including a church and a chapel. In Provence, Protestant churches are called temples (but these were destroyed by the Catholics so it was just ruins) and only Catholic churches are called eglise. Chapels, on the other hand, are private spaces. Perhaps that's true everywhere and I just didn't notice.
We walked down from Les Baux to the limestone quarry which has been turned into an attraction. It has been wired for light and sound and they put on spectacular shows. I can say that because I saw most of two. The primary show of the moment is on Chagall, Chagall, songes d'une nuit d'été. But there was a shorter piece focused on Alice in Wonderland, too, Au pays d'Alice, hommage à Lewis Carroll. I saw Alice in its entirety; Chagall was running when we entered and when I left. I don't think I saw all of it because I never matched what I first saw with what I saw later, but I found the images quite disorienting at first. The images are projected onto the floor and walls and they move. When we walked it, the floor images were turning and, I think, rising. So when I moved on and found the outside portion with the cafe and the showing room for Jean Cocteau's film, The Testament of Orpheus, I went on that way to explore a bit before returning to Chagall.
When I returned, Chagall was about to end. But I was thrilled, because I'd actually gone in search of Alice's World and it was about to start in the main space? Oh the clocks. And a dark garden, like in Betsy's Big Adventure, with lollipops and tulips intermingled. The roses turned from white to red. The deck of cards shuffled past. Oh, it started with white bunnies. Not quite as formal as the white rabbit. And I think the Cheshire cat was the last bit, with the smile winking out for a finale if I remember correctly.
My favorite bits with Chagall were the true summer images. Much of it didn't seem like summer to me but since it's named for the summer, I think I'm not alone in finding that pretty special. There were images of plenty with Ella and Louis singing Summertime. It really got me in the mood. Perhaps it was getting a bit of English when it was unexpected so that it felt like it was more personal, as Linda suggested, but I think for me it was just so much more lighthearted than much of his work. The mood continued and changed with the next song. I just had to dance. I was actually surprised that most people stood still. Ah, what was that song? I'll have to ask the others and fill it in later.
When we got back to the bus, there was another bus blocking us in. When that bus finally moved, the cars just kept streaming past with no chance for Olivier to get us out. Finally, Marie-Neige jumped out and blocked traffic for us. We thought we were on our way, but no. The bus that had blocked us was now trapped and we had to back out and take a road that wasn't supposed to be used by buses. There was no stopping Marie-Neige. Yet we were still back late.
That was all a full day, but we weren't done yet. Thankfully, our next event was back at Domaine Capelongue. Guillaume gave us a private wine tasting. And they fed us, too. We are spoiled with the food at Domaine Capelongue.
And now we're back to my quiet night of resetting things for the next bit.
Day 16 - Friday, May 6
Friday morning, we were to meet the chef and go into the cedar forest to gather herbs. It was our earliest morning yet. It really wasn't that early. The issue was that I had woken early. The Mistral was strong and early. Around 5 a.m., I was dreaming about starting a fire. When I woke up, my room was full of smoke. I'm pretty sure the Mistral blew down the chimney in the restaurant that shared a wall with my room and there must be a crack. Last night, I'd planned not to have a full dinner but just snack on the potatoes I had from lunch Tuesday and the olives I'd bought. I generally did, but when we got back after our day out, I went into my room and smelled smoked meat. It was very compelling and I wasn't sure I'd stick to the plan. But then they gave us more food at the wine tasting and I went back to my plan. I certainly didn't need more. But we were leaving around 9 and I'd been up until midnight with one thing and another. So I tried to get back to sleep. That got me into the atrium for breakfast with only a few minutes before we were to leave. I felt a bit wrong footed most of the day.
Herb picking was great. Edouard was in great form and really showed us some fabulous flavors. Olivier said no one in Provence would by herbs de Provence, they just go pick them. The wild thyme was great. It makes me want to stress mine more, give it less water and maybe plant between stones. The Luberon is all edge, as Larry would say, the transition from Provencal to Alpine. Then we dropped Edouard at a cross roads and we were off to Lourmarin for the market.
The market was so much bigger at Lourmarin than in Gordes. It was also down instead of up. Rather than being at the top of a hill or mountain, we drove down into the town and then the market was located under the trees and along tight streets in and out of the shade rather than wider spaces in the sun. I was quite taken with the market. As we walked through on our way to the restaurant, I was intrigued by many booths. Frank was just ahead of me and I was the last of us. Marie-Neige was setting quite a pace. It really made me wonder if time was short. But after working my way through the market, I found I had time to explore more of it even after I'd hit enough of it to feel satisfied. Of course, at lunch I learned of several interesting things I'd missed.
Lunch was at Edouard Loubet's first restaurant. There was Luberon wine with our various courses. We started with tapenade and little rounds of baguette. We didn't get a menu from this meal so I can't describe it right now. But I think we had fish. I know I found the food consistent with Domaine de Capelongue. I know it was enough I could have used a nap after lunch. Olivier was in great form for the day. We had to go to him from the restaurant which was just fine. But it brought the challenges that Olivier and Marie-Neige faced the day before. Did I mention the crazy driving on Thursday at Les Baux? Well, this was just a very slight hiccup. But after that, we were happy to go to him rather than getting the bus blocked in.
When we got back on the bus, Arie asked me where we were headed at that point. I said I didn't know and then remembered how I put the schedule into iCal for planning and sharing. But was it right? According to my PDA, we were going to cliffs and quarries. Wasn't that the day before? And yet it said Roussillon instead of Les Baux.
Roussillon was different and yet cliffs and quarries. Ocher. Such gorgeous color. Why paint a house when you have such great color to just mix into stucco or whatever they do that's like stucco.
Back at Domaine de Capelongue we had our final dinner at the place. Gerry was not pleased. The service was very slow. He also said the food wasn't very good, but I think it was probably more that we'd been saturated with those flavors. Edouard Loubet's style of cooking is intense, but we'd been eating it most of the time for six days. Conversation also lagged at our table. It was Shirley, Joann and Bill, Gerry and Laurie, and me. When we talked politics, it was lively but too intense. When we tried to avoid politics, it was silence. Maybe it was the silence that got Laurie to share an e-mail from her sister, but she was probably going to anyway. I will have to find a way to reach her to get it. Or maybe I could look it up. It was about the kinds of people who read various papers around the U.S.
Day 17 - Saturday, May 7
Saturday was our last full day together. This was our day for Cezanne. We went to Aix-en-Provence to meet up with Jill Steenhuis. I'd imagined we were exploring Aix-en-Provence and I'd have time to get to the train station, that Cezanne was a theme of the day, but not the sole focus. After living through it, I feel it was the day for Cezanne and Jill, as his greatest fan, was our tour guide to his life.
Jill joined us on the bus and we tried to have a bathroom break after our drive. There was no public restroom at the stop where she met us, so we went off in search of someplace. Jill had the mike and was telling us her life story and giving directions. Even though I think personal background is often helpful, Jill put me off pretty quickly. As an artist, her focus on herself and her view is probably helpful, but in comparison with Marie-Neige, she just doesn't think of others. Jean-Philippe had to maneuver the bus with short notice. Marie-Neige asked at a gas station but they said no. So we went to a cafe and ordered to cover the use of the facilities. I used them, but went across the way to do a bit of Tai Chi practice. Then we were off to the place where Cezanne had his studio for 30 or 40 years.
Jill is a huge fan of Cezanne. She told us about herself most of the day. I couldn't say what she said first. I know she told us her mother had died when she was young, but it wasn't until later she told us it was a suicide. Jill was the oldest of three girls. She came from a family of privilege in Atlanta and attended Sweet Briar. When she turned 16, she was hoping her father was going to give her a car and instead he gave her Cezanne by way of a picture book and an enthusiastic endorsement. She never looked back. She's been a fan since and Cezanne became a touch stone between her and her father. She majored in art and signed up for a six-week course in Aix in the 80s and never moved away. On her second day there, she met her husband who is now a sculptor, as is one of their three sons, though not the one we met at the lunch her husband made for us.
She knows details of Cezanne's life and is excited about walking in his footsteps, following his path. She took studio space from the same family Cezanne did, from the man who refused to sell to Cezanne when he came into his inheritance. So she was able to take us to the property, though the studio is still being used by others so we just toured the grounds. This is the place where he did most of his work. The studio open to the public was only his for the last four years of his life. He rented the other space for decades.
Jill and her husband seem to have built a great life. Their three sons are grown, the youngest in college. They have a horse and a new puppy. Their home is beautiful with studios for each of the parents, it wasn't clear where the son who sculpts works but I would imagine in his father's studio as there was no sign of him in his mother's. Twice a year Jill, and her son as well at least this last trip, tour the United States giving shows of their work and making connections. At their home, we were one of three tour groups she mentioned coming through and she clearly likes having an audience and a mic to tell her story. She also mentioned teaching painting in her studio and the fact that her freezer can hold multiple palettes so she and her students can use them better than if they were left in the air. Jill's studio was designed by her husband for her and modeled after the studio Cezanne bought at the end of his life.
As a final moment, we went by the estate that Cezanne's father had owned. Jill left as she had arrived, disappearing into the town as she had appeared. I didn't go with the group down to the father's house. The trees were just too compelling. There was a long drive at the front of the house lined in trees that must have been more than 100 feet tall each. There was enough wind that they had that sound that almost sounds like the sea. It reminded me of Traverse City. I remember really hearing that sound and noticing it for the first time at The Timbers. So I just sat and enjoyed it and watched people go by.
Our final farewell dinner was in Bonnieux. Jerry announced that he and Laurie weren't going to do this sort of trip again, the activity level was more than they enjoyed. I'm glad they decided that after our trip. I really enjoyed getting to know them. Pam handed around a selection of very nice ink pens with contact information for Frank and her. I think we began moving back into being strangers. It felt less convivial to me, but I think as the plans for life beyond the moment became more real, everyone pulled back some. It was a surprise for me. I enjoyed the group so much. I wonder if there were tensions I didn't recognize. There were some very different people in the group, yet I found everyone really intelligent and interesting. And there, finally, is the word I was trying to remember for a conversation with someone from the group, I'm pretty sure it was Pam. I say "in tress ting" while others say "in ter est ing" and it still manages to surprise me a bit. Saying good-bye was also a bit of a surprise. I felt a bit off, I think I may have been more affectionate than was appropriate. As I went back to my room to pack, that was my conclusion. And thus ends the time at Domaine Capelongue.
Day 18 - Sunday, May 8
Sunday was quite a day. I was set to leave with Marie-Neige, Bill and Joann, almost the crew from when I arrived. My train ticket was second class from Marseille, but as it was a changeable ticket, Marie-Neige thought we should just go ahead to Avignon. She was taking Bill and Joann on to Paris for the extension, just to do a hand-off and head home, and they were all taking the TGV. The TGV had also been sold out by the time I got my ticket. So I was second class on the TER, which meant a slower train and no assigned seat. It also meant a different train station in Avignon. But it was close enough they just added me to the group departure anyway. At the TGV station, our driver and I went in with them and Marie-Neige took over getting my ticket exchanged and we got all three tickets printed so I wouldn't have to worry about that later. Everything seemed to go swimmingly.
I got to use that beautiful old train station across the street from the walled city. But the train was 15 minutes delayed. There were several bike travelers, a man who seemed to be traveling alone with his gear in a trailer and a family of four where the father was pulling the preschooler and the mother and teenaged daughter each had quite full panniers. All kinds of people were catching the Sunday train north.
Not having any assigned place, I wasn't sure where to get on the train. I took a chance and it was interesting. Bad, maybe? There didn't seem to be any seats where I got on but maneuvering my bag off and on again at one of the stops didn't seem like a good idea either. There were stairs up and down on my right into first class. And then some stairs to a quite small second class area. I just stayed in the vestibule with the others mostly standing. There were two seats, but they were taken.
So I stood on the train from Avignon to Lyon for four hours. And I hadn't filled my water bottle. And there was no way to get to the toilet as the vestibule got more and more full. At one point I foolishly thought I was letting someone by, but they just took the good handholds so I ended up in the middle with my two bags and someone else's suitcase piled on top of my big one, with my tote on top of that. I almost fell twice. But I think I certainly was getting the experience of traveling like a native in France! On the other hand, I'd also planned to write some of this and use Wifi on the train to make plans for the rest of the trip. That didn't happen at all.
When I got to Lyon, I had looked at maps and knew which direction I wanted to go from the station, but I wasn't sure which direction I was looking. So I went out of the station one way and then the other. Still not clear, but I saw an Ibis hotel and Marie-Neige had wanted me to make a reservation for Ibis while on the train. I sat down outside the station to see if I could find a station Wifi as I'd found in other stations. Nope. (I wonder if Marie-Neige gets so much mothering out with her crazy tourists that she's relaxed with her girls or if the tourists are just the warm-up.) I went to the other side of the station and there was a plaza with a guy playing good blues. That was fun. Then I walked over to the Ibis, but it seemed too stale. I just wasn't sure I wanted to be there. And the second night would have been 20 euros more because it was a weeknight. I just couldn't do it. So I followed signs for the postal and mailed some cards. Then I wandered, didn't find another hotel, went to a park and watched Sunday afternoon develop, wrote more cards and mailed them on the way back to the station area to find another hotel or maybe a cab.
I did find another hotel with a good price, but they were sold out. The hotel next door to them were not but they were really expensive. And I really didn't want to stay too far from the places I wanted to explore. So I asked the clerk who spoke English well if it would be difficult to navigate back to the train station on a weekday morning with my luggage. She said no, so I decided to give it a try to stay in the downtown area and take the metro. I'm so glad I did.
There were some pushy guys in the station trying to sell tickets directly, to get people to buy from them instead of the vending machines. I was sharp with them and then they let me alone. I took the Metro, once again enjoying music, a selection of bluesy jazz or jazzy blues, to the Hotel du Ville stop and walked a couple of blocks, trying the first hotel I came across. Now this place was definitely not Marie-Neige approved. It wasn't near the train station, though only 6 stops with a transfer from it. And it was old and odd. But there were places nearby I'd like to be and it seemed quite active. After some time gathering energy in my room, I went in search of dinner and eventually headed back toward my hotel since the places closer seemed livelier than those a bit further away. When I was half a block from my hotel, I heard a couple of Americans discussing where they'd eaten so I thought I'd ask for advice.
Della and Mark are from a couple of hours north of Houston and we had a nice steak dinner together. It was a dinner for three so that worked out. And Della was willing to split the eclair with me, though Mark had to help because it was huge. It was nice to have someone I could talk to with less effort. That was the part that made the group helpful. My French doesn't hold up well for anything interesting. Or at least not often. Boynton's friends would joke, but not really others. But communication with the waiter was a bit of a challenge at times. Still, a very nice evening and two new friends.
Day 19 - Monday, May 9
Every morning I've done stretches to try and keep my plantar fasciitis at bay. Except yesterday. Yesterday since I was packing after a week in the same place, I really had packing to do. So I got dressed first. And that threw me off. I only remembered I hadn't stretched when I headed to the atrium at Capelongue. As I walked over, I wondered when I'd fit it in. I prefer to do it in privacy. Tai Chi is recognized, but not Qigong or especially T-Tapp. But those are the routines that I think have kept my foot from slowing me down much. I'm even more confident that's true because it's worse today. But I have had a couple of days when it took more in the morning to get it loose so perhaps I'm wrong.
This morning, I have a plan. I'm recharging my laptop. The Wifi is out, perhaps they changed the password. But either way it's after 9 and I'm still in my pajamas for the first time since Jan's. I'll stretch and get dressed. I want to check in with the boss downstairs and find out if the password has changed. If it just doesn't work, I plan to change hotels. I do like having access when I'm winding down. It helps get this updated and gives me a chance to check the news and touch base with people a bit. Yes, Wifi is possible at a cafe. But when I'm out exploring, do I want to carry the laptop? I think it's obvious I don't want to return to the hotel to pick up the laptop before getting a bite or a drink. So working on that plan. And hopefully the rest of the day will work to plan, too.
As I set off south to the tourism office to check into the Cite Card de Lyon or whatever it's called, I was asked by two different workers to sign petitions. Should I go back to AAA and tell the second guy? It was so annoying to have him trying to make me uncomfortable about traveling this way. I wish I could have banished his voice from my memory altogether rather than coming and being more nervous than I would have been had he not been recommended to me. But I think I should go see Eric. He was sweet and so excited for me.
I also did some window shopping on the way down and really expected to go back shopping again. I was also intending to focus on mailing the box right away, going back to the hotel to get everything. But once I had the card, I realized I didn't want to waste time when I'd like to see more and would rather have to keep hauling too much than miss out. So I went over to Vieux Lyon and tried to find the funicular. I missed it and instead wandered around the old town a bit, and then climbed the hill to the top to see the Basilica of Notre Dame de something. I enjoyed the walk up through the grounds. The views were fabulous. Then when I got to the top, it was gorgeous. Yes, I think Our Lady of the Angels is beautiful in it's modern way. This was something different. SO much effort into every bit of the place. Gothic, I think. I took so many pictures it surprised me. I'm really not much of a photographer. I think it was something about being in Lyon and having to show the other Lyons our town when I get home.
After the basilica, I went to the Roman ruins. Della and Mark had they weren't really like ruins you see elsewhere so I didn't quite know what to expect. I was actually thrilled. They weren't in their original state, that's true, but they were setting up for a show. Now that would be cool. To have ruins and use them for current performances. They'd told me they used them, but I thought that meant they'd modified the structures quite a bit so it was hard to tell what the ruins had been. Well, it wasn't quite that. They were running lighting and a smooth stage for performing on top of the original amphitheater stage. But there were boxes and tiers of stones for sitting that were probably just as they had been. This was mortared construction, not dry, but still pretty neat. Look at me, sounding like I know something! And maybe I do. Linda and Marie-Neige know their stuff.
Now here's where it got dicey. I couldn't tell from my tourist map if there really was a stop for the funicular near the bottom of the amphitheater or not. I was near the top and I could see there was one further up the hill. I wasn't wanting to go down and back up, so I decided to just go up. It had started to rain and I wanted to get out of the wet and get a ride. Whoops! You mean the tourist map that only has vague shapes isn't the best way to find a particular stop? Go figure. It's wet, I find a four star hotel at the top of the hill and luckily its address so I get a better sense of where I am. But I'm not near the funicular stop. About this time, I realize a toilet would be in order. All is quiet on the streets where I am. No pedestrians. No commercial enterprises (other than the hotel, but I thought to find something a bit better for my damp, bedraggled state). Finally I see a map near a bus stop. Okay, I think I know where I should go. Getting more critical. Finally after about four blocks, I see a commercial area, though it looks like just about everything is closed. Do I go right or left? Which way will get me a toilet sooner? I went right and found a cafe. Unfortunately, feeling nervous made it harder for me to deal with French and there was someone in there. I must have just missed him going in, and I probably harassed trying to make sure someone was in there. I tried the door and assumed someone was in there, but as I danced around outside, the hostess-waitress asked me why I was waiting. So I tried again. Then when it seemed like it had been awhile, I knocked. Once I was straight, I had a cafe and wrote some cards. The post office was just across the way. Time to get on with exploring!
I went in search of the funicular station and realized part of why I was having a hard time. It was inside a building. I was expecting and looking for Angel's Flight. This was another thing altogether. Oh, and the wait! I had to wait 4 minutes. Why am I mentioning that? Well, since I arrived in Lyon and started taking the metro, either a train was at the station or it was a wait of only 1 or 2 minutes. Not too crowded, either. But back to the funicular. There was a stop below the ruins, halfway back to the Vieux Lyon stop. And the funicular had no views. It was basically in a tunnel that had an opening in the ceiling near each stop. I felt like I was going into a subway station when I entered the station at the top of the hill. It turns out that I'd missed it on the way in because I went outside the station. When they showed an arrow around to the right, I thought it was going outside, but a hard right inside the station after taking the escalator up from the subway puts you on the funicular platform. Just as well I climbed. Those stairs had beautiful views and funny graffiti.
It was still raining and seemed to be getting worse so I thought the boat tour or the museum would be good. Melany from the tourist office suggested arriving an hour ahead of the cruise. I only had a few minutes left before the last cruise of the day for the tour I thought I would prefer and I decided it was worth a chance. Once again, Lyon transportation worked perfectly for me. I got my ticket and walked down to immediately be in a moving line boarding the boat. I took the history tour. They announce it in French and English, in that order, so I had a chance to try to understand twice. Our guide's accent was stronger on some things than others so it was just as well I'd tried to understand the French first a couple of times. Antonine du Sainte-Exuperie was from Lyon. Charlemagne never wanted to leave. I can see why. Of course, he was also on the tiny island in the middle of the Saone. That was probably a safer place for him than many. And it was clearly a city. A defensible place with a community must have ben a real advantage.
On the way to the cruise, I'd stopped off a couple of times. When I was leaving the square after getting the metro back to the downtown area, I saw a confectionary offering the specialities of Lyon. What's a girl named Lyon to do? And I needed water. After having my bottle empty on Sunday, I don't want that to happen again. Even when I was running around Provence with the tour and Marie-Neige was babysitting us, I still brought my own water. Why didn't I take those 3 minutes before leaving Domaine de Capelongue? It was an extra treat when I went into the market for the water. They had the toothpaste I'd tried in Normandy and liked so much. Probably a goofy souvenir, but I know I'll really enjoy it. I think I've really gotten myself things I'll enjoy. So after the cruise, being weighed down with my purchases, it was time to hit the hotel. The hotel was also near the museum so I went that way. But once back at the room, I was hit by the bug to ship a box again. It was probably just that I'd pulled out all the stuff I could send and had it sitting on the window ledge. Oh, and the fact that the guy at the post office near the cafe suggested getting a bigger box from a clothing store and I was passing them on the way back. The XL box from La Poste didnt' seem like it would hold the book from Eduoard Loubet and that was wrapped in pretty tissue paper. So I'm walking back, thinking of asking at a clothing store if they seem casual enough. Before I got the nerve up to ask in a clothing store, there was a store just stocking up for the first time with hundreds of empty boxes. They let me have one. So then I'm going back to my room with this huge box. I knew that one was too big, but as I said to the woman, better too large than too small.
I'm really glad I asked the hotel guy about the closest post office. When he checked the yellow pages (on-line) he told me of one much closer than I'd found on the web looking for La Poste. And at the post office, now having reassessed the book with the memory of the XL box in my head, I thought it would fit on an angle. Well, it did, but it isn't prettily wrapped anymore. I ripped it in two places and possibly more as the box was finally closed. It was one of those cool boxes like Uncle Boynton used to send me my burgundy purse when we lived on Leisure Drive. At first I had too much weight. I still hadn't fit everything in, but it was at 9 kg and the box was a fixed price for up to 7 kg. And then I had to write up the customs slip in French. Let's call it Franglish. I do hope the box doesn't get lost or refused because of a dumb mistake.
By this time, the museum was closed. So I went back to my room and dropped off all the stuff that didn't fit in the box, getting ready to repack before going to bed. I also checked the address for the bouchon I'd chosen from the guide book (Lonely Planet) with the area suggested by the woman from the confectionary. She, by the way, said I speak French very well. I may, but I don't know what I'm saying or what anyone is saying to me. Sylvie would be so proud. At least I do feel like it's okay I was given a pass on my competency exam. I wasn't so sure before.
The bouchon was due to open at 7, but I puttered enough that I didn't leave until a bit after 7, getting there at almost half past. They said they really didn't have room, but I must have looked forlorn. The waitress told me they could take me if I'd be done in just an hour. Fine by me. Eating alone is faster. So as long as they gave me the food fairly quickly, I could do the same in dispatching it. But I really wanted to have the classic meal Lyonnais. Boy was it good. To start, there were three salads: one of red cabbage and pork, one with carrots and herring, and one with green lentils which I believe was in mayonnaise with cumin. All were very good. Next, there was an amuse bouche of cauliflower, tomato and parsley. For my plate, I had fish in a crayfish sauce. The fish was actually a fish mousse. It was really tasty and not heavy at all. So far, so good. Then came the cheese course. There was fromage blanc with celery, pepper and herbs that was quite wonderful and a brie that felt too heavy so I hardly tasted. And for dessert, an orange soup - almond liqueur over orange slices with a small cookie. Such a wonderful meal.
Who knows if I could say I succeeded in my plan. But I had a great day. I'm really enjoying being in Lyon. I leave in the morning. If I have time, I may get breakfast if I'm hungry. But otherwise, I'm basically finished as I'm now back in my room getting ready for bed and packing up again. I wish I were packing less. I sent a box today, but I still have more books than I should. I'm such a nut. I could not come without books. I needed stuff to read. And I have enjoyed my reading, but there's more I don't really have time to read. I need to write this down before I forget. I want to send postcards. I so enjoy getting them that I want to share the joy I get from them since I have the chance. And then there's the need to make more travel arrangements. I just bought my ticket to Copenhagen, but I need to get one to England and finalize getting to Jeannette.
Day 20 - Tuesday, May 10
Je suis en le train de Lyon a Nancy. That's lacking accents and likely using the wrong prepositions anyway if not some wrong words, but I think you get the idea. I do think people get the idea. I know I don't know how to speak French, but I'm getting by and that's a good thing. It's kind of crazy to me that the train stations work the way they do. It may be a security measure at this point, but the track for the train wasn't announced until after 9:45 for a train set to leave at 9:54 with a 5 minute delay so 9:59. It was probably 9:50, yet I got my ticket stamped, got to the platform, found the area where my car was expected to align with the platform and even had a enough time to do a tiny bit of stretching as I once again threw myself off by planning to stretch after the shower.
The guys at the Hotel Iris were very nice. They were helpful and seemed to even enjoy it when I wanted help. Without the weekday guy, I wouldn't have gotten my stuff mailed. And the weekend guy carried my bag of bricks up to my room for me. Today, the guy carried it the rest of the way down when he saw me on the stairs. I just couldn't ask. It's such a load, even without the 6.5 kilos I sent home. On the way to the train station, I started worrying that I'd sent the book with my ticket in it. I knew I hadn't, but just travel worries. I'm still not trusting myself as I should. I also wondered if I was really supposed to depart from le Gare Part-Diex, even though I remembered checking that on the ticket when I got it and when I was trying to figure out where to stay in Lyon.
Day 21 - Wednesday, May 11
I didn't do much today. I had lunch without having breakfast first, caught the train for Paris, had my phone stolen around 3 and tried to figure out how to respond and what the best plan would be for communications for the rest of the trip. I finally made it to the Apple store, but only 20 to 30 minutes before they closed. And the stupid part is I'm pretty sure I was telling myself internally that I was looking like a mark when the guys I think took it came up to me and I still talked to them without tightening my awareness on my stuff. That was outside the train station. I was so tired I just stood there staring at the map, trying to figure out how to get to the hotel. I finally woke up enough to get myself on the Metro, but then when I wanted to check something on my phone, it was gone. I went back. I tried lost and found. But iPhones are popular items in Paris. There's a brisk market in stolen ones, evidently. By the time I looked for it all over and talked to the various offices, I just wanted to go and took a cab. My cab driver was quite sympathetic and called getting no answer, but he offered to keep trying to call and I gave him my e-mail.
That's almost it for today, but I should mention my sister letting me fuss at her about this until I felt better, the cab driver e-mailing to say it was a theft, not a loss, a walk to Notre Dame and a very nice dinner in a brasserie with cheesy pate a choux, an arugula salad, mashed potatoes and ratatouille. Not a bad day really. I walked along the Seine and saw scenes I've always wanted to see. Oh, and I went to Shakespeare & Co. and bought a book. Now about tomorrow ... a new phone? the interior of Notre Dame? Versailles? Tomorrow will tell.
Day 22 - Thursday, May 12
What a day! This was not the day I would have expected at all, but I had fun. I slept in. It was so nice. Okay, I went back to sleep after waking early. But I slept well. Then I decided to go quickly to get my phone. It wasn't that quickly since I didn't have the directions down, I stopped to listen to the four violins, two cellos, bass and viola that were performing in the Metro. I also ran into a woman wearing the same dress in a different color. That was fun. I told her I considered that color, but she just looked confused until I pulled at my dress. Then she and her friend laughed.
When I got to the store, I found my guy from the day before was there and seemed to be wrapping up his work so I stood by for a minute or two, and voila. I'd decided what to do so that was pretty quick. Then I did set up with a young woman who is considering visiting Los Angeles this summer and we had a lively conversation. She was helping a table full of people but by the end it was me, an Italian theoretical physicist and an Asian student. They were all great and we all conversed in English. TV shows, comparing cities, transitioning to smart phones - good fun.
My next plan was to do laundry. I might have made it a day or two more, but there was a laundromat two doors down from the hotel so it seemed like fate. And I knew I'd feel better once things were clean again. So I started the laundry, got some lunch, worked on postcards, got new audio books from the library, bought stamps and mailed the postcards. I've managed to lose both most of my photos and my postcard list. But I think I decided I was done with postcards. So that was all good. Plus, working out how to use the machines was funny, too. Sometimes I'm so silly.
It had been raining and continued, but I wanted to go wander. So I did.
I didn't do anything in particular but wander and eventually eat dinner. In my wandering I saw a couple from Atlanta lock their lock onto the bridge, the Pont du whatever. As I left the bridge, I saw an intense police action. They were lined up along the bottom of the bridge with riot shields and everything. I thought I wouldn't be able to leave, but it wasn't a problem. They let people pass. There were more police across the street so at first I thought there was a threat against the Musee D'Orsy. But as I went west, I saw the people. Mostly young people. Lots of pot smoking. Mostly in black. Some sitting in rows, others gather in circles listening to someone expound. More police on the other side and then the Metro stop was closed. Is that why?
As I walked to the next subway stop, I saw a woman eating some gorgeous green beans so I decided to have dinner there. She recommended the salmon as well so that's what I had: salmon, green beans, an amuse bouch veggie vinaigrette, and then dessert, a fabulous fruit salad. It was really fabulous. And a good end to the day. Time to pack for Copenhagen.
Day 23 - Friday, May 13, Susan's Birthday
Have I ever been so far away from Susan on her birthday? Well, since I was born. Though does it make much of a difference? More than 200 miles is probably about the same, no matter how far. Well, I'm flying today. And really, it's So much less fun than the train. I have to be here early. I can't bring myself water, or at least not through security. And my bra set off the metal detector in security so I had to be patted down. That hasn't happened in years. I stopped avoiding underwire on flights years ago and never have had a problem. But things have been rather dangerous in France recently. I guess this is the outcome. I would be interested to know if it's been this way for awhile or if it is new with the events of the last year. It certainly wasn't like going through customs in Amsterdam.
The other issue today is an overweight bag. Actually, given the tickets cost so much less than my other options and the times were what I wanted, I suppose it's fine. But I really have to do fewer stops when I travel. Or keep it to train or car, something where it's not such an issue. But travel makes you question things. One of the things I'm realizing is that I like words and relationships with people. Casual interactions are fine, but I like getting to know people. I had a blast at the Apple Store. I even had fun with the woman in the Horny Toad dress, since that was a personal contact. I want personal interactions. They can come in various ways, but that's the difference between enjoying myself or feeling isolated.
Then I got to Copenhagen. Things were just nice, up until and other than realizing I had no good way to reach William. The airport makes sense. First off, I got a bite. There were all of these paleo options. Too bad I'd already sent all my postcards. I'll have to tell Dee and Chris later. Good food. And fresh vegetables! That was a treat at this point. Then I'm in the airport trying to find my bag, the route out of the airport and transportation to the hotel. It was all so well labelled and laid out. SO smooth. Mind you, I did have a hiccup when I got off the Metro. I didn't remember the full directions, only going south and not enough west until I'd gone a few blocks. But if there hadn't been cobblestones, I don't know if I would have noticed. It was fun seeing a bit of the city. But I do like moving around without all my luggage much more than with it. It's not bad. So I've walked about 4 or 5 miles at least with all my stuff between all of these stops. I'm just ready to be done with that. And the packing and unpacking. I have too much to fit in easily so I have to pull things out and then fully repack each stop, even when it's only a night and I'm only needing toiletries, pajamas and a change of clothes. So that's my traveller's fatigue.
Now to more pleasure. I got a very beautiful corner room at Ibsens Hotel. Such luxury is shocking. And it feels very self-indulgent even though I'm pretty sure it wasn't much more than any of the other options open to me. And they're funny. There's a sign under the bed. And then there's the Do Not Disturb sign. I just knew I was in the right place.
When I my various electronic attempts to reach William paid off, I was happy. In a beautiful place, feeling incredibly welcome and three days in this wonderful place. Not a rush. Will had made reservations about 4 blocks away. When I walked over, I went over the lake on a bridge full of people drinking. Friday evening in beautiful weather. But I learned from Betina and Will it's like the first spring day in Ann Arbor. Everyone has to go outside and celebrate. Only drinking on the streets is possible rather than just hanging out of windows. So I get to dinner and look around, missing them although they were in the room I scanned, but William came to fetch me. And as I sat down across from him, I was struck by how much Josef looks like him. I've thought of Josef as looking like Dad, but he has Rawlings, too, clearly. Anyway, that was a great dinner, food and especially the conversation. It was so nice having a real chance to get to know these two.
Day 24 - Saturday, May 14
Yes, William, I slept like a baby in my big, fluffy bed. And woke to like filling the room gradually, doing qigong, for once with enough room to really focus on movement not on avoiding hitting things, as sunlight began to stream directly in on me. Then I went downstairs and had a wonderful Danish breakfast. I suppose there were actual pastries that Americans used as influence for the Danish and I should try them one of these few days, but today I had a smoothie of rasberries (I think, I couldn't see the berry descriptor in English), currants and apple, porridge and black bread with homemade rhubarb jam. Then I couldn't resist adding a rhubarb juice and a cup of coffee. And I'm off to explore. The hotel rents bikes! Won't Carin and Pam be jealous, especially Carin! Biking around Copenhagen. Here we go.
Guess what? I was wrong about the Danish. There is one that looks much more like a Danish, not that I saw one, that is called the Baker's Bad Eye. Can you believe it? I learned that in Tivoli Gardens. I first went to the botanical garden and saw some beautiful displays, though not the rows of perennials. I'd expected them to be more developed than the annuals given the time of year. But boy was I wrong. The perennial plot was scraggy but the other parts of the garden looked so beautiful and lush. But all too quickly, given how large and lush the place was, it was time to go meet William and Betina at Tivoli.
Okay, so Copenhagen isn't my city and I don't know how long it takes to get places, but it was really annoying to be late again. Friday night for dinner, I was late. Not terribly either time, but still. This time, I kept getting myself on the wrong side of a pond that meandered. At first, I just couldn't stop when I thought I'd be a bit early. There was this hill of sorts I really wanted to climb. As I came down, it looked like there was a short way out and I headed that way. Then I hit the pond. I thought it was perhaps to separate ponds because there was a path that looked like it was going straight for the gate. Rather than going back, I thought this would be faster. But no. So once again I was late.
We wandered the park, once they found me. I had the idea that we were meeting at a restaurant across from Tivoli and I thought I had the address. But there was really no way William would have selected the restaurant with the address I had, once I finally found that address. That wasn't the plan. The plan was to have lunch inside Tivoli Gardens. And what a place. I had the herring plate. Three different styles of herring, one creamed, one curried, and the third pickled, I believe. They were all good and distinctly flavored though you wouldn't think so. As for my bathroom survey, it was a nice one with the extra touch of a quote in the bathroom. I think that's a first for me. "Dare to err and to dream." - Fredrick Schiller
After lunch, we wandered through the park and Betina and I introduced William to Pippi Longstocking. Then we got on our bikes and went to tour the city a bit. After a bit, we went to the harbor and then the New Harbor, which is quite old touristy and cute. At this point, Betina split off to head home and William took me on to the Little Mermaid. We'd had a nice leisurely afternoon, but that meant when we tried to go to the Danish History Museum, it was just closing. This time William pealed off and I want to be a Borgen fan, riding around the home of the parliament. It really didn't fit together the way I'd built it in my mind, but it was nice to see. It was both more grand and smaller than I'd imagined. Then I went on to the Carlsberg endowed art museum we'd passed on our tour. I can't say I was terribly impressed with the Danish art, but I loved the building and I found the focus on the Greeks in the early 1900s interesting. So much of the world had that big moment, but not really Grandbass. She was all about Hadrian, not the Greeks.
I did a bit more wandering around and went back to the hotel. That was a very productive hour - I heard from Jeannette and the Tai Chi people. Yes, Tai Chi people. When I'd asked Loren about who had classes, he told me to check Master Tung's website. The French listings were difficult and I hadn't had enough time in one place to pursue it by the time I'd worked out Wifi and such. But I had three days in Copenhagen so Friday while I was trying to contact William, or at least when I was waiting, hoping to hear from him, I wrote to the Tai Chi webmaster for the Master Tung adherents in Denmark. He was way out of town but told me he'd try a few people for me and I had a class for Sunday. So nice. Almost my usual time, even. Oh, and a ride. I know I accomplished something else, too, but I don't remember.
Betina and William gave me a lovely dinner, though the salad dressing was only good, nothing special. It was so nice to have such fresh food. Meat, cheese and bread to start and then salmon, asparagus, potatoes and salad for dinner, and not skimpy on the vegetables. Then for dessert, a classic Danish dish. Buttermilk, berries and cookie.
Day 25 - Sunday, May 15
My Sunday morning began with getting ready for Tai Chi, just like normal, but oh so different. Jesper had offered to pick me up for Tai Chi. So I ate my breakfast and let the front desk know where I was. While I ate that great breakfast, I was reading Little Man, What Now? to try to finish it before giving it to William. For my second run at the buffet, I decided to try the yogurt, tea, and a hearty grain roll with homemade preserves. I liked all of it, but for flavor, the rhubarb on the yogurt blew me away. For interest,it was the tea set up. There were little paper cones with two holes at the top and tiny bamboo skewers about 12 cm long. The skewer goes through two holes at the top of the filter after you put the tea in it. Then you balance it at the top of your glass and pour on the hot water. Ta da. As it got close to 10, I wasn't focusing as well as I watched for Jesper and, as expected, there appeared a man in a gi. I had wanted to bring mine, but I'm glad I didn't. That would have meant lugging even more weight around.
Off we went to class. It was amazing. Jesper had already told me in our e-mail conversation that the class was outside. That didn't prepare me for the actual venue. Since it was rainy, we went to a piece of a covered walkway in the corner of a walled garden. I'm not going to try to put this place into words. Or perhaps I should say I'm only going to try to supplement the pictures I took since I have them. The class itself was amazing, too. It measured up to the venue for me. I learned some focus on breathing, practiced of the start of family set extensively and may have even picked up some push hands.
After class, I was hungry and needed to clean up. By the time I got ahold of William, he was already eating so I got a bike and went over to the Indian restaurant a block away. When I was finishing, William came to join me and we went off to the Danish Design Museum. Maybe it was just because I was heading to Yorkshire next, but it reminded me of the Shaws. The museum had many interesting items and some interesting displays, but in general it wasn't fully curated in my opinion. But that may be that I'm too accustomed to more curated exhibits. The Getty often feels too curated to me, with assumptions added to factual presentations.
After the museum, we went by the hotel on the way back to Betina and William's to make dinner. We planned to get groceries, but the first place where we planned to shop was closed so we ended up at a small Middle Eastern place. They had bags of herbs and I asked William if they'd had Kookoo Sabzee. William was interested so we got some herbs (they only had dried ones and the Kookoo was particularly dull so I got Gormeh Sabzee instead) and then asked the shopkeeper about labneh and zaresh. The shopkeeper was really tickled we were asking for these things and planning to make Kookoo Sabzee, white folks like us.
When we got to the apartment, Betina had starting putting things together for the new closet. We unpacked the groceries and I got started on the Kookoo Sabzee. This was my first time cooking in almost a month. What an idea! As I made the Kookoo, I used up the two eggs and then thought it might be too dry so William went to get more. Unfortunately, the stores were closed so we just went with the two eggs. It wasn't bad. Not great, a bit burnt, but not bad. William's curry was great. I love getting cooking ideas. This trip has been great for that, and surprisingly, I think my biggest influences are family, not the two-star Michelin chef. By the time we were done, it was getting late. Conversation was great, but they had the closet shifting first thing in the morning and I had to get the Charles Albert book read since I wanted to finish it before leaving it for William.
Yet, when I got back to the hotel, I didn't spend time reading. I worked on this and perhaps that was when I corrupted the centering. And I got my train tickets for getting to Malton. That took awhile. But eventually I was packed and in bed, exhausted.
Day 26 - Monday, May 16
I once again enjoyed the breakfast buffet, this time revisiting my favorites of the previous days and then adding the poppyseed, puff pastry, butter roll. It was so good that I got another for my pocket to eat later, and as the day unfolded, I was very glad I had.
I left the hotel at about 8:30 and Gunny picked me up at Malton at 4:35 GMT, or 5:35 in Copenhagen. So the day was a travel day and not much else. I had spent almost all my Kronner. I had a bit to get some breakfast, but not much. And I had no way to refill my water bottle so I planned to get some in England, when it would make sense to get some new currency. But when I got to Manchester and through customs and border control, it didn't seem like I had much time and I had to get my train tickets. So I didn't take the time, and regretted it. When I got into Manchester Piccadilly, there really weren't services and I was thirsty. That was three hours before I expected to get into Malton. And I was thirsty for those three hours. Quite annoying. I can't say I arrived at Starfitts at my best.
Gunny carried my bag up to the room assigned to me and then left us to start our visit. Christopher was already on his trip so it was just me and Jeannette. it was just after 5 so we couldn't get me on their insurance policy until the morning. What did we have for dinner? I remember telling Jeannette that I didn't feel hungry but would probably feel starved once I smelled something. Was that when I first had the mushroom soup? Thinking back can cloud things. Nope, that was the next day for lunch.
Dinner Monday with Jeannette was Yogurt Chicken from the Thermomix. What, you may ask, is a Thermomix? Well, Jeannette and Ben defend it ferociously. I say I have a Vitamix and Ben comes back at me with, "Does that weigh your food as you add it? Can you steam with it?" I think he might have said something else, too, but I don't remember. It was a few questions quickly that I had to answer with a No. Evidently, he's been having this discussion with a female friend. The female friend? I think so, but I'm not sure.
The Yogurt Chicken is a curry dish. I learned more about the Theromix later, so I'll talk about that later. Jeannette told me she was serving curried chicken with rice and spinach. But we had to go get the spinach and that turned into a full tour of the garden. We picked spinach, we pulled some dead bits for the burn pile (or so I thought, they ended up in the kitchen compost). Jeannette said she hadn't made it in a long time, but the yogurt chicken was one of her standby dishes. And she told me the Thermomix is a great tool, but conversation zigged and zagged all over the place. We talked all evening without stop.
Day 27 - Tuesday, May 17
Our big plans for Tuesday were to get connected with the insurance guy at 9 a.m. so I'd be able to drive the car with coverage. But when the morning came, and Jeannette made some great porridge with yogurt, blueberries and agave, we talked about maybe going for a walk with Jessica and when called, Jessica was ready to go quickly so I rushed through my morning routine and off we went to find the bluebells. I'm not sure where we went, but the bluebells were everywhere in the woods and meadows heading up the hills. It was so beautiful. Dappled sunlight, bluebells stretching off in all directions, tall, soft grass, and Amber, the cockapoo, flushing a pheasant. Just wonderful.
When we got back to the house, Margena had made a mushroom soup for us in the Thermomix. (Noticing a theme here with the food? I sure was.) It was great. Fresh mushroom flavor. I think it actually may have surpassed the Square Four mushroom soup in my preferences, and it's much more accessible. This one has a recipe that I can use! We also had the bread a friend bought that wasn't the right bread. But we made toast and it was nice with the soup anyway. By then it was getting late, so we set off to Whitby.
Whitby is on the shore. We went to see the abbey and have fish and chips by the sea. But the more significant part may have been the drive. This was my first time driving and we drove across the moors to get there. It was beautiful, though I didn't feel I could look around as much as I would have had I been a passenger. There were more opportunities than you might think and not for the reasons one might imagine. There were sheep. Lots of sheep. And more partridges. Many more sheep than partridges. And they were near the road, wandering around, possibly crossing. A pair of partridges did cross the road, though I don't know why. There were also steep grades. 17% is steep, right? Well, there was at least one over 21%. And I haven't yet mentioned the twists and turns. There were dozens of those. I don't think I'm exaggerating at all. Dozens. Some of the steep grades were at the same time as the turns. At one point, when I saw a sign for a switchback and there was no grade and it was relatively loose, I found myself looking for the difficult part. I'd come to see the signs as for something more difficult. But don't think that means it was easy as pie. Jeannette was stressed and I didn't want to mess up. William had told me he and James went on vacation to the Virgin Islands and they consistently tried to drive on the right. I had to keep reminding myself at turns and as traffic was coming, but I stayed on the left.
I looked it up. Check out the Rosedale Chimney. I drove that on my first day driving from the right on the left-hand side of the road.
But before we got to Whitby, an alarm sounded with a warning about the tires. We drove on a bit then stopped and couldn't see a big problem so we drove on and found a petrol station in Whitby. The pressure gauge was not a style I knew so by the time I read the instructions and figured out how to get a pressure reading, I'd probably added a bunch of air. Then I didn't believe the reading because it was 50 psi. How could that be when we'd gotten a low pressure alarm? Was it a different tire (make that tyre)? Jeannette flagged down another driver and he said the reading was correct. It was 50 psi. So we took out air (go Red Cross!) and then got readings on the other tyres. They were all fine. But the warning was still on the screen. Just then, Ben called.
The timing couldn't have been better. We weren't sure what to do and were concerned about going on without getting more attention for the car, but Ben told us it was a frequently recurring signal that did not appear to have any relationship with the state of the tires. So we went on. And I understood how we got to 50 psi. If there hadn't been a problem with the tires to begin with, the pressure would have gone up quickly when I added air.
We parked at the top of the cliff north of the town. My plantar fasciitis was worse that morning plus driving had been hard on it when the girls were visiting LA from Michigan so I wanted to be careful. We'd already hiked that morning, but I also didn't want to tell Jeannette about it or about how it hurt with driving. So we had a walk along the cliff, down into the town, around the harbor, over the bridge and up the cliff on the other side to the abbey. On the way, we checked into restaurants we might want to visit for our fish and chips dinner and Jeannette introduced me to Whitby Jet, a black stone that has been carved into jewelry pieces for more than a hundred years. We found some old pieces as well as seeing what was in the various shops along the way. We didn't get into the abbey itself as they stopped letting people in a half hour before it closed and we'd missed it with our wandering up, but I didn't mind. Marching up there quickly might have been hard on my foot. The views were beautiful and the abbey was a romantic ruin from where we stood. Visiting so many places had me somewhat overloaded with impressions of historical sites by the time I got to Yorkshire so I think I was more inclined to like family time and the hike in the bluebells. I enjoyed seeing everything, but I wasn't energized to go see them as much.
Jeanette wasn't satisfied with our fish and chips dinners, but the fish was good and having the traditional sides was fun for me, even if they weren't as good as they might have been. We also were in a restaurant right on the sea to watch the water and the light as the sun began to edge down. After we finished our meals, we headed down a bit more to the actual shore and walked along the beach for awhile. I didn't find any jet, but I did pick up a bit of shale and what I think is a nice, round quartz. Then we climbed up from the beach, all the way to the top of the cliff and along we went to the car.
The various times we'd talked about food and cooking, Jeannette mentioned several things she got at “Little's.” On the way in, just across from the petrol station where we put air in the tyre, she'd shown me a Lidl. So we stopped in to see if they had ingredients for the granola I typically make. We didn't find wheat germ or desiccated coconut. But I found some Omega-3 fish oil, enough to take my usual dose and finish my trip. We home on the busier roads, avoiding the twists and turns and inclines so it was smooth and we got home just as it was getting dark. Thankfully.
Day 28 - Wednesday, May 18
The morning started with keep-fit for Jeannette in Beadlam. I wasn't paying that much attention on the way there because I planned to just hang around for the the hour. And I did. I went over to the Indian restaurant to peruse the menu and see if the offerings were any different than those I know. Well, they were. Most of the dishes I order were listed on one line that called them old fashioned. Then I wandered some more. I saw decorations for the Tour de Yorkshire, though I didn't know it at the time. In general, it was a moment for imagining a life much different from my own. And just as I felt I was done, I looked at the time and it was five minutes before Jeannette's session was due to end.
We had plans to all get together at Jessica and Gunny's for dinner. It was market day in Kirkby so off we went. I've really enjoyed seeing all sorts of markets. This was my first view of a village in Yorkshire, at least since 1975, and the market had its own flavor. At the produce stand, we found watermelons waiting for Gordon. Across from the bakery, the antiques were quite compelling so we went in and explored a bit. So many beautiful things, including some replicas they have started to carry to add more goods at lower cost. When we made it across the street to the bakery, it was lunch time and we had it there. I went to fetch the watermelons and put them in the car in case the produce stand was closing, but they said they'd be there for another hour. A good thing since I hadn't taken any money with me and I'd forgotten we were getting potatoes as well as the watermelons. After I had the last serving of soup, with the intended bread in roll form, we were attracted by the clock shop. But we eventually made it back to the produce stand before they were completely gone. Though by the time we got home it was around 3.
The other shopping plan for the day was to visit a shop selling very good bras run by a friend of Jessica. I had been interested as I was in the market for good bras, but did we really have time? Jeannette really wanted to go so off we went. And when we got there and I told her my size, the first bra I tried on was so comfortable that I may have given up Wacoal, after years of wearing them almost exclusively. Then I tried on the second one and it was also comfortable and looked so good. Such a nice and rare thing$ After those two bras, they didn't have more in my size, at least not bras. By then, Jeannette had picked out other things for me to try on. I wasn't enthused. My suitcase had been difficult to pack for ages. Did I have more room? But I tried on the tops and, boy did they look flattering. I couldn't resist. I ended up getting four new tops, plus both of the bras.
Ben arrived shortly after we got back. I changed into one of my new tops and then he gave us a ride. I didn't think we'd want to stay long after our long day Tuesday and a full day so far, but the plan was to walk home not get a ride with Ben. When we got the house, the older boys were at a Hootenanny at their school and young Ben was in trouble, Jessica was cooking. It smelled fabulous and the open plan of the house was beautiful. It almost felt like we were outside even while we were in the main room or at the dining room table. Jessica gave us a great dinner. I don't know how much little Ben liked it, but it was great for the adults. We had talked about having chicken on Tuesday before we decided it was going to be so late we should have dinner in Whitby. So Jessica talked about fish. We had asparagus, couscous and salmon. That sounds straightforward and familiar, but it was so tasty. Thank you, Jessica? And thanks for the ride home, Gunny.
Day 29 - Thursday, May 19
I thought we'd have a cooking day. I love learning family recipes and we'd been going fast and hard. By the time we left Wednesday night, we were in charge of getting Ben and George from their schools &$40;Silas had a school event for the evening) to bring them to dinner at Ben's in York. Ben was giving us dinner and putting us up for the night so we could explore York in the morning. Ben and Gunny had a meeting somewhere that was a drive and would meet us at Ben's. Jessica and Amber had a dog training session that was not to be missed since they were already missing a session with the upcoming family vacation.
We went to the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton le Hole. The buildings were very interesting, showing typical homes from different time periods and describing how things evolved, changes like animals in the house and animals in separate dwellings. But the most fascinating part, as Jeannette predicted, was the Harrison Collection, objects collected and donated by two brothers. This museum was developed after Jeannette and Chris got married, maybe a mile from where Chris' mother lived and where they lived with her the first year of their marriage. So Jeannette has seen the museum grow from a concept to its current state. They are still developing many points and may never stop. These two brothers were interested in how people lived and collected objects they liked. One collection was fire starters. There were tinder boxes of all sorts, candle holders, all sorts. The object that had the most impact on me was a beautifully carved piece of ivory that was to be tied under a woman's skirt, filled with honey, I think, to trap and kill fleas. Can you imagine? That was a luxury item. Other people just had fleas. Lucky ones had their own personal flea catchers they could wear on their persons.
In the afternoon, we set off to pick up Ben and George from school and drive into York. Ben's school was in Beadlam, and like school pick-up everywhere, so many people were fetching kids that the area was full. We drove close to the school and then Jeannette went to get Ben while I watched groups of children leaving with various configurations of kids and adults. It's fun seeing all those typical things in other places. Then we drove off to get George. Jeannette continued to give me directions and before long, Ben started giving directions first. He knew the way. Cute, smart kid.
When we got to George's school, it was a bit before dismissal time, but we were going to try to meet Chris at a crossroads before heading to York since he wasn't coming with us. It was starting to rain and we ran into the headmaster who recognized "tertiary Gunn" and offered to get George for us while we waited in the front building. While Jeannette and Ben went to find a toilet, I waited in the reception with a mother who brought a tooth extracted from her horse to show the kids.
We had a fun tea at a little place on the way with good coffee. I saw biscuit tins that would have made a good lamp, but I was worried about space in my suitcase by then. Plus, I wanted to taste them first. So I thought I'd keep my eyes open. It was nice to have a visit with Chris. I think all four of us enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, we were driving to York during rush hour so it took awhile. But when we got there, Ben guided us into the house and the boys rushed around talking about features like the wine cellar, though they thought it was for beer. They didn't tell me about the tub filling from the ceiling so I missed that point. When Jeannette mentioned it the next day, I was in leaving mode and forgot to go check it out. In any event, we weren't there long when Ben and Gunny arrived, very please with their meeting. It seems it was a VR manufacturing environment where configurations can be tested.
This family knows good food. Ben made us a meal he'd made earlier in the week from his meal plan, one of those that delivers ingredients and a recipe ready to go. It was really good. Pork over apples, carrots and celery, I believe. I know I really liked it and that it was pork over chopped vegetables and fruit. I learned later that a Thermomix was used to prepared all that chopped food. I've taken to long to get my thoughts down to be able to describe it as well as I would like, much like the dinner on Wednesday.
Gunny and the boys left right after dinner and the three of us watched some clips that we'd talked about at dinner, talked a bit more and headed to bed ourselves. Ben's place is really amazing, attractive and comfortable. Part of the amazing is seeing what he made of what he originally bought. I mean wow. Another thing that impresses me about the Shaws in general. Jessica and Gunny had their place built. I don't know if I could have faced that and if I had I imagine it would have been much more typical than what they decided for themselves.
Day 30 - Friday, May 20
Jeannette, Ben and I walked from his place through the park and over to a commercial area nearby and had breakfast at the Italian restaurant. We were evidently ordering the English breakfast and I didn't recognize the fact because it was described in Italian. I swear it said calzone. But no. Standard English breakfast and the other two realized it from the description.
After breakfast, we walked on down to the wall, stopping first at the train station for my tickets for the next day. We went around a bit, walked some of the wall, and headed for the York Minster. While I toured the Minster, Jeannette ran errands. What a huge and magnificent structure. They were also setting up for a theatrical production whose props were lying around the front area, so I focused more on the back, sides, and the lower level. So many beautifully crafted details, but I found the lower level particularly compelling. It felt mysterious. It contained the remnants of the structure there before the Minster, mosaic floor and columns of different types.
After the Minster, we did a spot of shopping as well as having a cup of tea at Betty's. We went to a boutique where I got my linen poncho and on to Marks & Spencer for a bit of a spree. Mission accomplished we headed to Kirkby to wish Jessica a happy birthday before Jeanette and Chris were off to dinner with friends. I lagged at Jessica and Gunny's a bit, but they were getting ready for their dinner out, too, so off I went for my pub dinner.
I can't recommend my pub dinner for food, but I can for experience. I ended up having a fun dinner with another solo diner. He told me a bit about the brewery that produced the beer I was drinking, after explaining the style in the area was to develop a foam head, not to minimize it, and I once again learned of a career path I never would have imagined possible. He was primarily employed to evaluate the level and cost of damage to stone work. I also managed to drive to and from the pub without a guide other than a map. I did leave the pub without another drink before it got dark though. Driving without a guide in the dark was not something I wanted to try, even for experience points.
Day 31 - Saturday, May 21
My last full day of the trip had arrived. And with it, not much time for more. Jeannette and I went back to Bella di Notte to get VAT documentation and then she showed me around Helmsley. We got some treats to try for lunch as well as ingredients for making the mushroom soup in the Thermomix. I was in charge of making the soup, under supervision, but operating the controls to get more of a sense of what it does than I would have been able to get otherwise. After lunch, it was basically time to go. Chris drove us over to Malton to the train station and helped me get my bag up on the train. I'm so glad I got to visit with them.
The plan in London was to meet up with Alexa at her apartment about 8. That's when she thought she would get back. So I set up waiting at what I thought was in front of her building, but I couldn't find the number. Then I did a second try and realized I hadn't been in the right place. But what do you know, Alexa had beat me there! I wouldn't have known but she came up to check if I had arrived. I thought of calling out for her or going down the stairs to the door under the stairs, but I wasn't sure if that door was really used so I just pushed the buzzer button. It turns out the buzzer doesn't have any impact on her apartment. And she does use that door. I was just too lazy to carry my bag down those stairs and was uncertain about leaving it on the street while going down there because I wasn't feeling energetic.
Alexa had made reservations for us at an Indian restaurant nearby. She's vegan now and has been for a few years. That's where she'd gone, to a festival for vegans in Bristol. We had a good dinner, with yogurt on the side for me when the dishes we chose weren't vegan. We also had a good dinner as far as the conversation went. She's at such an exciting time in life. I'm very happy to offer unnecessary opinions so the poor girl probably felt pestered.
Day 32 - Sunday, May 22
Alexa was a good sport and had picked out a place for breakfast as well, but unfortunately, it seems London sleeps in on Sundays. The place with the great brunch menu didn't open until 10. That was when the boxing class Alexa was trying was scheduled to start. She may not need much time to get there, but negative transportation time really wasn't an option. So we got breakfast. It wasn't great food, but the company was all I could ask.
We parted ways as the Tube station and off I went to Heathrow. I got there in plenty of time to deal with VAT and explore a bit. I got a fruitcake to share with So Young and Rachel. After all, in three days, I'd be at the office with them, right? Then I got on the flight, picking up a couple of free newspapers on the way to plane, but I spent the flight watching movies instead: The Hateful Eight, Ricki and the Flash, The Revenant, and Bridge of Spies. I think there may have been one more, but right now I don't remember what it was or even if there was another.
So that was the trip, though effects linger. My cellphone is still giving me grief weeks later and I've only just completed the basic outline with much more detail I know I skipped when things were busy but I was actually writing it down. Soon I hope to flesh this out and add photos, but also to focus more on other writing in a more consistent way. But it's nice to have notes to help in remembering. A great trip. A trip of a lifetime.