Into the Alps

We headed out Friday morning for a town called Chambéry. It is about 4 hours southeast of us and in the heart of the French Alps. For those of you who are fans of the Olympics, it is an hour north of Grenoble (1968) and an hour and a half west of Albertville (1992). Once we arrived, we did as we always do and wandered the town. For some reason there is a giant fountain of elephants in the main square. I will leave it to you to investigate why.

On Saturday morning, we went for a stroll in the market and then headed out for our day’s main activity, a “leisurely” 11.5km (7.2 mile) hike that we found on AllTrails called Circuit of the Bridges. It was in a small village called Saint-Jean-d’Arvey about 10km away. I neglected to notice that it was also 335m (1,000ft) higher than Chambéry.  For those of you who do not know me, I am very skittish when it comes to heights. Driving up and down mountain roads is at best difficult and at worst has me wanting to curl up in the back seat and whimper – even when driving. So the ride up to the trailhead was a little unnerving, but we made it.

The trail started at 600m (2,000ft) and was easy to find, but AllTrails states that the elevation gain is 450m (1,500 feet) which is well within our limits; afterall, we climbed Toubkal in Morocco, which was 16km and 2,500m (8,000ft) in elevation gain – just to the base camp. However, that was 4 years ago, and we had not been sedentary for 18 months due to the pandemic. I found the hike quite difficult. It started by dropping 250m to a single span wooden bridge over a deep ravine. (Oh yeah! Walking across a wooden bridge with a terrible fear of heights! ) I took a deep breath and pressed on. (He’s very brave.) I even stopped for Sue (who has no fear of anything and is a hiking machine) to take a photo of me – I am attempting to smile.

From that point it was an all-uphill hike to about 700 meters (2,300 ft). We had a picnic lunch along the trail and then climbed up and down the ravines.  We made a detour of about 1.5km when we followed an incorrect sign on the path. (Oops! It said Thoiry, but we didn’t notice it also said “the long way.”) The village of Thoiry is about halfway through the hike. We had hiked almost 8km (5 miles) and I was done. Sue graciously agreed to cut short the hike and we took a couple of short cuts and ended back at our car in Saint-Jean-d’Arvey after about 12km (7.5 miles), a bit longer than the original hike length. I still don’t understand how we cut the hike in half and took a shortcut, but still hiked longer than the original long route. Faulty GPS, faulty AllTrails, faulty us? Over the entire walk we saw perhaps 10 people, so it was just us, our cameras and our thoughts. Enough words…Here are photos

Sunday we decided to go to Grenoble to look around. We started by visiting the Resistance Museum. It was very well done (and free, but they did not have a “Viva la Resistance t-shirt — disappointing) and we spent about an hour in it. Afterwards we wandered into the old part of town and were terribly disappointed. Nothing was open (ach, dimanche!) and we just didn’t see anything of any interest. We walked back to the car and headed home.

Google says it is a 4-hour drive on the highway; we drove to Lyon on the highway, stopped for some lunch on the highway and made the grand decision that we were in no hurry to get home. Steven neglects to mention that we took the highway hoping that the rest stops were open since there was no other way to get food on Sunday. We told Google to find us a way home without the highways and off we went on a scenic tour of France. Boy do the French love roundabouts (des rond points). We hit one every kilometer or so. After a few hours we decided to head to a medieval city called Beaune that one of our friends said was pretty (also it is the wine capital of Burgundy). By the time we got there, it was about 7pm and we once again had a wander. (Restaurants were open. Viva la tourisme!) The place was packed with tourists and after about 45 minutes we had enough.

Once back in the car, we decided to go back on the highway and covered the last 130km in about 90 minutes. It was nearly 9pm by the time we got home. A long but very fun day.

A very Burgundy weekend

This was our first weekend in Clamecy. Like so many of our weekends we crammed it full of things to do and see.

We started the weekend with a quiet Friday night. A light dinner and then we attempted to improve our French by watching Independence Day in French. News flash…It is a terrible movie even if you can’t understand the dialog (which we couldn’t) and even if they dubbed everyone’s voices with people who didn’t really sound very much like them. (I didn’t know Will Smith could speak French!) Anyway, we also used the time to plan next weekend’s activities, which we will talk about next week!

Saturday morning we went to market (which is about 20 feet from our front door), to look around and pick up a few things. I bought olives and Sue bought some very interesting looking mushrooms – which I do not believe are poisonous as we ate them for lunch and as of this moment (18:00), I have not started to vomit or hallucinate. (They were chanterelles or girolles here.)

After our quick shop, we headed out to a very nice little hilltop village called Vézelay. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has an abbey that I believe was started sometime in the 13th Century. The town was very nice, but a bit touristy (even in the off-season). We parked in the municipal parking and there were about 10 Porsche 911s and while we were waiting to pay, their owners arrived and they all drove off in a pack (I know that a group of crows is a murder and a group of wolves is a pack…Is a group of Porsche’s called a Pretender of Porsches, or perhaps a Poseur of Porsches? Anyway – there were a bunch of them there and then they drove off).

We wandered the town, Sue took many photos of the town and the countryside. We bought a couple of quiches at one of the boulangeries and had a picnic lunch. Once we were done we headed off to do some wine tasting…It is Burgundy (well, actually, it is Bourgogne) you know! We stopped at four or five different places, but only one was open. We had a few tastes, bought a few bottles and were on our way.

Along the way, we stumbled upon a village called Saint Père. There was a winery there, but it was unfortunately closed when we arrived. However, there was a gorgeous old church in this tiny village. The construction started in 1240 and completed around 1455.  While the abbey of Vézelay is much larger and more physically impressive, the beauty and accessibility of the church in Saint Père made it more interesting to me.

Heading back to the car we saw a historic marker signed that said Les Fontaines Salées. We were in no hurry, so we figured we would drive over to it, not bothering to translate what Les Fontaines Salées meant. It was only a couple of kilometers, so what did we have to lose? Boy are we glad we did. It is an archeological museum dedicated to the prehistoric and Roman period salt water springs and baths. It was fabulous. They had a museum explaining the history; sure it was in French, but we had the time to read and translate the important stuff. Then we could wander among the ruins and soak up the history. (Also, there were frogs in the water.)

When we finished, we took a long route back to the AirBnB and had dinner. Our friend Suzanne told us about a restaurant called La Guinguette in a nearby village that was having a DJ playing Afro-Carribean music with a drummer. We picked her up and headed over. The night was warm, the beer was cold (at least mine was – the ladies had wine) and the music was great. The video is Sue dancing with the owner (who our friend knows).

All in all a great day.

Sunday we lounged about most of the morning, went for a small wander in Clamecy and then headed for the D’arcy Grottos with Suzanne (who took us through the backroads where we got to see some beautiful scenery and more cute French villages). There are a series of caves that have stalagmites, stalactites and prehistoric cave paintings. (I believe that they are the second oldest cave paintings in France.) We drove through the countryside, taking a long, windy way to get there, but the trip was well worth it. Only one of the caves is open to the public, but it is very impressive, and the paintings are somewhat unreal.

After the visiting the cave, we wandered along the River Cure for an hour or so and then headed back to the AirBnB.

Another great weekend, this one without dead person bingo (although we did see at least two cemeteries). 😉

Our last weekend in Paris

Thursday night we decided to go out to dinner. We were celebrating Sue’s brilliant (89%) score on her petit test – I have always known she is brilliant. (I hardly call a B+ brilliant, but considering that my French consisted of “je ne sais pas” and “pardon, no parle pas français,” I am proud. Also, I would highly recommend the Alliance Francaise if you have the need for French lessons.) We went to a Lebanese place around the corner called Al-Dar. It is always interesting to us the similarities and the differences when eating the same type of food in different countries. One thing we have both noticed in all the food we have been eating is that it is much more mild than the American versions (also, everything here has viande, mostly jambon). At Al-Dar, we saw many things that we knew from the U.S., but lots of things that we did not know. We both ordered some of each. The food was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Friday night we went out for a drink at the Sir Winston Churchill pub, mostly we thought it was funny to go to a “real” English pub in Paris. It is about a ten minute walk and a block from the Arc de Triomphe. We had a great time, they had many varieties of gin & tonics, and all that we tried, we like. However, it isn’t a real English pub. To start with, they had no British beer! But we sat outside and watched Paris go by. There is something wonderful about just sitting, having a drink, talking and watching the evening unfold.

Notre-Dame

Today, Saturday, we decided to take it easy…At least that was our intention when we woke up. However, we don’t do lounging very well, so by 10 a.m., I was restless and we put on our walking shoes and headed out. Sue wanted to visit a mall near her school to see what the stores looked like away from the tourist crowd and we promised a friend of ours that we would go to Nespresso to buy metal stirrers that she had found here before, but could not find in the States. We hopped on the Metro, looked in the mall (it was pitiful and depressing – many closed stores and not much interesting stuff) and then looked for a Nespresso store. We found a store, but they didn’t have what we wanted and the very nice salesperon (who spoke English to us, despite Sue trying to explain coffee stirrer in French) suggested that we go to their flagship store near the Opera. We consulted Google and found that it was “only” about a 40-minute walk, and since we had nothing else to do, off we went.

When we arrived, after some fumbling attempts to explain what we wanted, we were directed to the lower level, only to find that they did not have them. Apparently they no longer sell them. Oh well. (I can’t decide whether the masks make communication difficult or it is simply that my French is TERRIBLE!)

Sue’s crepe

We exited the store and realized that it was only noon, so we still had lots of time. We decided to head to the Latin Quarter, just to look around. We took the Metro to Châtelet walked across Île de la Cité, gazed at Notre-Dame (the damage was not really visible from our point of view) and then into the Latin Quarter. By now it was lunchtime so we headed for a creperie called La Petite Bouclerie. We had a nice leisurely lunch, the food was great (and also our first French food) and relaxed. Once we were ready we headed out to wander the Latin Quarter.

The door to Restaurant Shu

Wander is exactly what we did. At each street corner we more or less randomly decided which way to go and just kept walking. Looking at the shops, finding little parks, and people watching. We found a Japanese restaurant called Restaurant Shu with a tiny door (for comparison, I am a towering 1.75m or 5’8″) on some random street. It was a grand time.

Along about 3 p.m. we decided that it was time to head on home. We had a quick look at the map, realized that it was “only” a 50-minute walk, so off we went.  4.5km later, we were home.

A long day of doing nothing but walking 10km. (I call it exploring and drinking in the sites and sounds of Paris.)

Tomorrow we are going to Hôtel de la Marine and the Pantheon.

Dead Person Bingo, Pt. 3

Another weekend, another time to go all Sixth Sense and play one more game of Dead Person Bingo, this time at Montmatre Cemetary. I must admit, that I am a little worried that people who don’t know us think we have a whole death thing going. But I can assure you we don’t, the Paris cemeteries are peaceful, beautiful and right in the middle of the city and so they are oases of calm in the middle of the city madness. Sue finds tons of interesting things to photograph and at some level it reminds us that we are only here so long, so we need to enjoy ourselves.

Friday night, we decided to try a Vietnamese restaurant called Dong Phat. It was about a 25-minute walk, but it was a beautiful evening so we strolled over there. We sat outside and had a really nice meal. Outdoor dining in Paris is so nice. Towards the end of dinner, we started talking to a couple at the next table. They spoke a reasaonable amount of English and were very patient with us as we tried speak in French. They were so kind and we talked for an hour or so. So kind, in fact, that they emailed us this morning to say they were happy to help with anything. BTW, Steven says he is not great at social stuff, but he is the one who started the conversation. It reminded me that I keep meaning to mention a book that I read called “Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe” by Mary K. Jensen. It is a great little book about traveling and life. I highly recommend it.

On Saturday morning, we decided to walk from our apartment to Sacré-Cœur, about 5.5km,  and stop a few places along the way. We walked up Rue Victor Hugo, passed the Arc De Triomphe and along Avenue Hoche, which led us right into Parc Monceau. One of our friends from Chicago recommend the parc by telling us that it has the “most beautiful public bathrooms in the world.” What she meant was that the bathrooms were housed in a really great building, but we will get to that. The park itself is fabulous; it isn’t very large, but holds lots of interesting features, including a somewhat odd installation related to the smurfs. The bathrooms are housed in a Pantheon-style domed building, which is very nice to look at, but the bathrooms themselves were awful. Just an FYI.

Once we exited the park ,we just wandering in the general direction of Montmatre. One of the things I love about walking the streets of Paris is that so many of the boulevards have a walking path/mini-park in the middle of them. It makes strolling them so pleasant and at some point we got to walk through a farmer’s market, which was fairly large even though it is August.

As mentioned at the start of the post, we went to Montmatre Cemetery. One of the interesting things about it, is that Rue Caulaincourt runs right over the cemetery, so some of the crypts are right under the road and reach right up into the girders.  We once again played dead person bingo, finding Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, Léon Foucault, François Truffaut, Jeanne Moreau, Vaslav Nijinsky and despite some resistance,  André-Marie Ampère – sorry couldn’t pass up that joke.

We continued our walk up to Sacré-Cœur, the highest point in Paris at the not-very-high 122m. It is mostly a very gentle uphill, but near the end it gets a bit steep. We found this installation, which, according to Atlas Obscura, is a reference to the book “Le Passe-Muraille”. The area around the basilica is tourist central and we fought through the August crowds and headed for the overlooks so that Sue could get some photos. Once she had her fill, we headed down the steps and away from the crowds.

We were getting hungry, so after about 15 minutes we looked at Google maps and found an interesting looking Japanese bento box place. We picked up a couple of meals and sat outside and enjoyed the delicious food. Once we were refreshed, we headed home. We figured we walked about 12-13km (7-8 miles).

We had a quiet dinner of salad, cheese and a fresh baguette and once the sun went down at about 9:30 we went for an evening stroll. We had no particular plan for the walk but at some point turned left and had this view. (Boy, it really stinks being in Paris!):

I am not sure what the white dot on the left is…could it be Aliens? 😉

Dead Person Bingo – Part 2

It is 8 p.m. and we just walked in after a long, fun day of wandering.  It is still very light outside and if we had the stamina, we could be out wandering for a few more hours before it gets dark. But we are old, so we ran out of gas.

We were going to keep a promise to our uncle and pick up a little book for my aunt. The book is entitled “Vendredi ou la vie sauvage” which roughly translates to “Friday or the wild life” and is available at a bookstore called “Librairie philosophie VRIN” which is near the Luxembourg Gardens. The second part of our day was going to be visiting a neighborhood called Canal St. Martin. It is supposed to be a cool neighborhood set around the Canal St. Martin (hence the name) with nice cafes and shops. It seemed like an ideal place to wander.

We had coffee and breakfast of pain au chocolat from our neighborhood boulangerie. It is called A-la-Petite-Marquise and we go there almost every day for our baguette and every once in a while, a fabulous desert or two. Today was our first time trying the pain au chocolat and we were not disappointed.

With our bellies happy (perhaps – our tongues happy and our bellies full) we hit the Metro and headed for the Luxembourg Gardens. We had a nice wander in the park for an hour or so and then went to the bookstore. Despite their website saying they were open, we were disappointed to find that they were not. Sorry Aunt Marcella, but we promise we will head back next week – when the sign on the door says that they will be open – and pick it up. We headed back through the park for a late addition to our schedule, the Montparnasse Cemetery to honor my no doubt now disappointed aunt by visiting the grave of Jean-Paul Satre. We left the gardens and walked right into another park called the Garden of the Great Explorers, which was dedicated to Marco Polo. It is a cute little park that had a great fountain in it. We navigated to the cemetery, where they have quite kindly buried Satre and Simone De Beauvoir right near the entrance to help idiots like us find them easily. We play a bit more dead people bingo by finding Susan Sontag and Charles Beaudelaire and then were done with finding dead people (at least for today).

We headed out of the cemetery and worked our way back up to the Luxembourg Gardens to find our spot for lunch. If you remember in our previous post we discussed the falafel from L’as du Fallafel. Well, one of our trusty readers (@ banjaloupe) sent us a comment about an odd French fast food called tacos. No, they are not Mexican-style handhelds; these are an altogether French-type of hot sandwich. He referenced an article in the New Yorker which we read and instantly recognized a takeout place called O’Tacos that we had seen in our wanderings. We found another one right near the Luxembourg Gardens and were determined to get lunch there. It was well worth the walk! Any place that puts French fries inside the sandwich gets an A+ from us. With a little help from a very patient cashier we managed to place our order and sat outside and enjoyed ourselves to no end. Thank you @Banjaloupe. Your suggestion was absolutely delicious and no doubt was really bad for us.

We wandered back into the gardens to have the required sit on the green chairs and allow our mildly distended stomachs to digest. It was at this point Sue said to me, in the way she does…”You know, I feel like we should visit Victor Hugo’s house, since we are staying on Place Victor Hugo.” Now a normal person might have said, “Why? He didn’t know that they named the place after him, he was dead” or “Why? It is just his house, it isn’t like we are going to visit his grave and say thanks for having such a nice little place named after him.” But nope, the only thing that came to my mind when she said that was: “OK, that seems fun.” So off we went. Back onto the Metro to Place des Vosages and into the line for his house.

A quick side trip to once again mention that we have not been able to get a carte sanitaire (the European Covid vaccination card), but once again, Sue’s smile(another sign of Steven’s delusions. These people can’t see my smile – I’m wearing a mask!) and my mildly confused look convinced the card-checker that the American card was real and they let us in. We have used it over and over and have yet to have a problem.

Anyway, once they looked at our cards, we began to wander through the house. It is sightly confusing because, while he lived there, all the rooms are reconstructions that are grouped into the three portions of his life (pre-exile, exile and post-exile). It was interesting, but I did not feel it was worth doing. All in, it was disappointing (and pretty hot. It’s the second day in Paris that it felt like summer. It was about 26 degrees C. We’re trying to think like natives.).

Street Art & Graffiti in Canal St. Martin

While we were in the Luxembourg Gardens, Sue made another suggestion that once we were done with the Victor Hugo’s house we should head straight to Canal St. Martin as it was nearby, and while it is really an evening place, it was unlikely we would head back out if we went home first. (She was so right about that!) We jumped back onto the Metro and headed straight there. We walked along the canal and were a bit alarmed that there didn’t seem to be much there. Happily, we spied a side street that had some cafés and then the whole neighborhood opened up before us. It is a cute little place, and we enjoyed the wander. It seemed like a really nice place to visit with friends for drinks and dinner. But it was too early for dinner and the place hadn’t really started to come to life. We wandered for a bit more and then decided to head home.

Once again onto the Metro and 30 minutes later we were at our stop (Victor Hugo – of course). Rather than going home we went to our “local”, for a couple of drinks sitting outside on the sidewalk watching the comings and goings on the Place Victor Hugo. It is a place called Maison Sauvage – which brings us nicely back to the start of our wanderings – looking for Aunt Marcella’s book.

All in just another glorious day in a glorious city.

Fountain in the Garden of the Great Explorers

Dead Person Bingo (plus Dali and Gaudi)

Today was our first day of wandering around the city. We were here last weekend, but we were still getting adjusted and settling in. Today, we were in full venture out and see things mode.

On Friday night, the weather looked like rain all day and so we decided to postpone planning until Saturday morning and see what the weather actually was. When we woke up, the forecast was for partly sunny and cool, but little chance of rain until late in the day. Perfect wandering weather.

We walked over the farmers market and picked up our fruit and vegetables for the week and then headed home to plan our outing.

We decided that our destination would be the 11th Arrondissement which is a hipper area than where we are staying. The metro stop is right next to Père LaChaise, which is a cemetery that has many famous people buried in it. It was about a 40-minute ride from our nearest Metro stop (which is 2 minutes from the zpartment).  Before we left we found that there was an immersive Dali & Gaudi exhibition at the culture space called Atelier des Lumieres. We booked 2 tickets for 14:30 and headed out.

Our walk

When we arrived, Sue wanted to wander in the cemetery, take some photos and see if we could find Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde’s graves. There are maps at each of the entrances and with the help of our trusted google Maps app, we headed off to look for their graves. It didn’t take 10 minutes before we started to feel a little bit of rain, and then within another couple of minutes it was raining pretty hard. Sue had a coat, but I was in short sleeves. We looked at each other and thought, nope this isn’t going to work, so we headed for the nearest exit and found a café for a cup of coffee and a re-think.

The rain quickly ended and we decided to look for a store to buy a couple of umbrellas just in case. In a couple of blocks we found the perfect store; a little hole in the wall that sold everything from umbrellas and flip flops to kitchenware. We picked up our umbrellas and headed off to see what we could find. We walked up Boulevard de Ménilmontant, turned left onto Rue Oberkampf and left again on Avenue de la République, which this being Paris, took us right back to where we had started on Boulevard de Ménilmontant.  A perfect triangle; it seems all streets in Paris operate on a triangle system. It rained on and off during the walk, but we had our trusty little umbrellas and so we were not bothered.

While we were on Rue Obrekampf, we found a nice little Chinese restaurant and went in for lunch. They were kind enough to give us dual-language menus, unfortunately the languages were French and Chinese (I realize that there are multiple Chinese languages and I have idea which one it was, so let’s leave it at Chinese. I’m betting it was Mandarin). We managed to find two dishes that looked interesting, and we ordered them. Sue (who knows how to say, “Je suis végétarien”) had what we would call tofu in chili sauce and I had beef with cumin, Both were delicious and while to portions did not look big, we were totally stuffed by the end of the meal.

One thing that I have not mentioned up until now is that the French government is now requiring all people entering restaurants, concerts, museums and large social events to produce a government-issued vaccine card. The rule went into effect on August 1st, but up until now we had not really given much thought to it. No restaurant has asked us for one, and have mostly been sitting outside at cafés. However, the Atelier des Lumieres website specifically stated we would need one to get into the Dali/Gaudi show. Along the way we had asked a number of pharmacies (who can issue them) whether they would accept a U.S. vaccine card as proof and then issue us a French one. They all have said they did not know and it seems as if the rules for that are not in place. We decided to go to the show a bit early and present our vaccine cards and see what happened. The women checking the cards took one look at them and said they were fine. So we were all good. We will continue to try and acquire a French one, but for now we are not having any issue.

The Dali/Gaudi show was great. It was a series of three video/light/music shows (Gaudi, one developed by local artists and then Dali). We sat on the floor for Gaudi but made our way up to a balcony for the other two. That was a much better choice as we had clear sight lines and better perspective. We enjoyed ourselves immensely (and immersively). It is the modern version of the planetarium laser light show, complete with Pink Floyd music. For reals.

Oscar Wilde’s final resting place. It is surrounded by glass

At the end of the show, we emerged to find the sun shining and so we walked back to the Père Lachaise Cemeter and started to play find the famous dead person. It was sunny and mild out so we wandered around and despite a few challenges found all three (Morrison, Piaf and Wilde – Bingo!). Once we had completed the Bingo card we headed for the exit grabbed the metro home.

A long but very enjoyable day.

Settling In

We have started to settle into our new place. We spent most of Thursday unpacking and getting set up. We met Sue’s friend Suzanne (the one from Burgundy) for lunch as she had come up to Paris for the day. We walked about 8km (5ish miles) from the apartment to the restaurant, ate lunch wandered a bit more and then took the Metro back. One of the Metro lines near us (the #6) is undergoing some repairs and is closed, so we had to exit at a station that was about a 10 minute walk. We could have taken a bus, but at the time that seemed a bit daunting to me. We will try the buses another day.

Everything is a huge adventure especially having to interact with people. We are desperately trying to speak French and the Parisians have been patient and helpful. It seems like most people speak at least some English and they will switch back and forth for us. It must be pretty funny to hear us butcher French, have the reply come back in reasonably good English, and then we reply once again in butchered French (although a couple of times Sue has mistakenly answered in Spanish which make the whole interaction even funnier). We are wrapping our heads around prices, especially for things priced in kilos. We keep looking at prices and think 15 Euros for a kilo that is a fortune … only to realize that we would pay $7.99 a pound at home. It seems like things are more expensive here, but we expected and budgeted for that.

Saturday morning we walked to a farmer’s market about 15 minutes away and loaded up on fresh produce and some Middle Eastern food (there were a few Lebanese vendors and it seemed like a nice treat). After lunch we strapped our walking shoes back on and headed for a Monoprix, which is sort of a small department store. We needed some toiletries and other minor bits and bobs. It was about a 20 minute walk and the weather is beautiful, mid-70s and sunny.

The evil espresso maker
Our coffee savior

We have had one challenge – as there always is. The apartment has an espresso machine that clearly hates Sue. No matter how carefully she follows the directions (even watching a couple YouTube videos), it proceeds to leak coffee out the sides and put a bunch of grounds in the bottom of our cups. We surrendered and picked up a French press to satisfy our need for coffee. While we were out, we asked one of the shop attendants for the name of a store that might sell them. She kindly gave us the name Darty and we wandered off to find one. We now have the ability to make coffee.

Our final outing was to the grocery store to pick up a few more things; pasta for dinner, rice, more coffee and wine. All in all a successful, but exhausting day.

Steven forgot to mention that we got trapped in the grocery store because we didn’t know we had to scan our receipt after doing the self checkout. So many little things to learn.

Moving out

We are on our way, sort of. On Tuesday, Sue finished packing up the house and we packed our stuff in the car and drove up to my son’s (and his wife’s and daughter’s) house which is about 30 minutes. All the boxes were packed and labeled, our clothes sorted in the appropriate suitcases and our carry-on stuff in the carry-on bags.

Our entire life condensed into one 10 x 30 storage locker

Thursday morning the movers arrived not quite bright and early (they were about 45 minutes late), but they moved quickly and efficiently to take all our stuff and put it in the truck. Sue stayed behind and gave the house a final clean while I accompanied the movers to the storage locker. Due to some scheduling difficulties, they lost one of their crew members and so I appointed myself chief elevator operator and rolled the handtrucks, carts and dolly’s onto the elevator, took them up a flight then rolled them off. The real movers did all the hard work of taking everything off the truck and packing it into the locker. We were quite lucky with the weather as it was relatively cool (low 80s) and nice and dry. It was all done and dusted after only 5 hours and I met Sue back at Josh, Liz & Hannah’s.

My son, ever the wise child decided that he needed to provide us some rules for traveling abroad on our own. After giving careful consideration to our itinerary and the way Sue and I behave, Josh locked our eyes with his dreaded, “this is important” stare, cleared this throat and said: “Dad, just don’t do anything that will get you arrested.” He then thought for a second and said. “Actually, don’t do anything where you think to yourself, ‘If someone sees me doing this, could I get arrested.’ You don’t want to spend any time in a French prison.” I looked up from my book “Instructions for how to steal from the French Central Bank” and said. “Huh? Me? What do you mean?” 😉

Sometimes we wonder what Josh thinks we get up to…

Today I set up a laptop in Josh’s house which should serve as our remote desktop site so that we can stream Netflix, MLB, Amazon, etc. from a US IP address while we are away. I am a bit worried that there might be a lag between the video and sound, but if there is we will deal with it then. Steven always needs something to worry about. Let it always be something this small.

We have also been dealing with some last minute technical issues. While packing the house, Sue misplaced her headphones and so we needed to get her a replacement set. She selected a pair of Jabra 85ts (at Steven’s recommendation). At just about the same time, my headphones, a pair of Jabra 75ts started to misbehave. The sound kept dropping from the right earbud. I contacted Jabra and they offered a replacement. I dutifully returned the broken pair and anxiously waited for the replacement. On Wednesday, I heard from them the replacement would not ship before we left so I ordered a pair of the Bose QuietComfort ear buds. They were scheduled to arrive on the same day. Wednesday came and went – no headphones; Thursday, same thing. On Friday, I cancelled the order and went to a store and bought a pair. When I got them home, Sue tried them and loved them. So, we returned her 85ts (which she was having trouble keeping in her ears – apparently my ears are not earbud-shaped) and bought another pair of the Bose. Last night after we arrived home from dinner, what was on the front step? My replacement Jabras! Oh well, guess I have a spare pair of headphones.  

We headed to Judie’s on Tuesday to have a few days with my sister, her family and my mother. We will spend a bit of time getting our cars ready for storage (disconnecting the batteries, treating the gas, etc.) and then putting them away for a few months. (Anyone want to buy a low-mileage but slightly dinged up 2010 Prius? It has a sunroof and leather seats!) We also need to do a bit of last minute organizing of our suitcases. We want some toiletries and a change of clothes in our carry-ons for when arrive in Paris – on Wednesday!

The home stretch

We are into the home stretch and somewhat surprisingly, we are thinking that the packing is nearly done. We are down to just a few kitchen things that we still need, our linens and a few clothes that are all going into the suitcases. We have decided to finish packing by Tuesday the 20th, and are then spending the 20th-24th at our granddaughter’s house (oh yeah, with her parents too). The movers are coming on the 22nd, so we will just swing back to the house on that morning and supervise. We figure we will return on the 23rd and do a final clean and that will be it for our time in Edgewater, MD. It was a good place to land for COVID, but it’s not going to be a home base for us.

Some boxes and stuff (we have a lot of stuff but not as much as before).

We are packing for four different locations all at once. Paris, our first stop in August, should be nice and warm so we will need summery clothes. We go to Burgundy in September and Nice in Oct./Nov., so it should be cooler (highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s, which means we will need sightly warmer clothes. When we return, we fly directly to Chicago which will be cold (highs in the 40s lows in the 30s) as it is the end of November when we are there. From there it’s back to Baltimore, which will be warmer than Chicago (highs in the 50s lows in the 40s). All this on one suitcase each, which is proving a little bit of a challenge. Just pointing out that my suitcase is lighter than his by at least 5 pounds.

We made a small concession to the space issue and packed a box of winterish clothes which we are sending to our friend in Chicago. She will store it until we arrive. Hopefully, the ride from the airport to her place won’t be too terrible as we really won’t have much in the way of warm clothes.

More boxes and stuff, plus a suitcase that isn’t packed for France, Fes or Chicago.

We also decided that we would put together a suitcase of things that we thought we might want but couldn’t fit. We are going to leave that in one of cars and when we return from France, we will swap out anything we are tired of/didn’t use/don’t need any more for our trip to Morocco (highs in 60s lows in the 40s) and wherever we decide for the couple of months after Morocco (right now Italy and Amsterdam are the leading candidates).

All the other clothes are going into boxes and are destined for the storage unit.

We have been watching with interest the changes to the COVID rules in France, and it now appears we will need a card from a doctor or pharmacist that shows we have been vaccinated. The reading we have done seems to show that our CDC vaccine card should provide us with the documentation that we will need to get the French card, but as with all of these fast changing regulations, we are going to just figure it out as we go if we need to. We think the worst case scenario is that we have to get a PCR test before they issue us the card. My uncle (who speaks French) has kindly provided us with the phrase we will need to ask the pharmacist for the card (or at least I think that is what he sent…he does have an excellent sense of humor, so for all I know his phrase says something like “I am an ugly American and your country sucks, I don’t need no stinking medical card”, perhaps I should run his phrase through Google translate 😉)

As you can imagine, we are getting very excited and are counting down the days.

Seeing Family

Happy July 4th to all our American readers.

As Sue said in the last post, we wrapped up our eating fest in Chicago and headed down to Houston to visit Sue’s middle brother. Our three-hour flight to Houston took us a couple of hours longer than expected because we sat on the runway in Chicago waiting for American Airlines to get updated paperwork into the pilot’s hands for some cargo that was in the hold. (Number 1 worst airline, according to me.) We taxied out the runway, sat for an hour, then taxied back to the gate, waited, got the paperwork and then headed south after a two-hour delay. The joys of travel. Once in Houston, Brian (Sue’s brother) met us at the airport and we headed to his house for a fun-filled weekend visiting with him, his wife Chelsey and our adorable niece (Lexi) and nephew (Ethan aka Jett).

On Saturday, Sue, Brian, Jett (and a friend of Jetty’s which meant the entire trip became a gigglefest, so cute) and I took a quick ride over to Austin for a baseball tournament (afternoon temps in low 100s Fahrenheit – high 30s in Celsius because Sue and I are trying to get used to the using Celsius). It is about a three-hour ride, and along the way we stopped at a perfect bit of Americana. It is a glorified–and I mean really glorified gas station and convenience store called Buc-ee’s.

It is enormous, something like 100 gas pumps and a store that sells everything from coffee to all types of travel food (including home made BBQ sandwiches) to kitschy Americana to a store’s worth of Buc-ee branded clothes (including Buc-ee bathing suits!) and things like portable ice machines, tents and meat smokers. It is fabulous. Only in America and only in Texas would there be a convenience store so large that it takes 5 minutes to walk the length of it. I LOVED IT! When we arrived at the ball field we found out that Jett’s game was delayed by an hour or so. We settled in to sweat and wait, but Brian was kind enough to lend us his (Chelsey’s) SUV for the afternoon and we went into Austin. More accurately we headed to a couple of breweries in South Austin. We visited St. Elmo Brewing Company and Vacancy Brewing Company. Both are recently opened in a very cool little area that has breweries, wineries, (a sake brewer? OK) and a distillery along with a bunch of hip businesses like design and marketing companies. They both were very good and we had a great afternoon out.

We stopped for dinner at an excellent little Thai restaurant called Ros Niyom Thai in Round Rock, where our hotel was. Sue ordered her food hot, and the waiter said that she could have it one, two or three in heat, where three was the hottest. Sue ordered three, I ordered two. The food came and it was great, just the right amount of heat for both of us. After we were done the waiter asked how it was and Sue said perfect. He then said that hers was level 2. That their food is medium, hot and Damn Hot and even he couldn’t eat the damn hot.

On Sunday morning we watched another of Jett’s baseball games (9 a.m. temp 34C) and then headed back to Houston for one more day with the family.

Our flight home was uneventful. We flew Spirit airlines, booked the upgraded seats and checked our luggage. (Spirit better than American? Who knew?) The entire process was a little less smooth than other airlines, you had to check in at the airport first, the line to check our bags was a bit long, the boarding was a little more chaotic than usual, nothing–not even water is free on the flight. But, all in, the seats were comfortable, the flight was on time, and our luggage came out fairly quickly, so it was not a bad flight. I’d rather that that a two-hour incompetence delay and a bag of pretzels.

Once home, Sue went into packing monster mode and has packed up much of the house and arranged for our movers. I mostly did work and spent about 6 hours in a dentist’s chair getting three same day crowns. Yes, I have terrible teeth.

For the July Fourth weekend, we made our last real road trip. We went to my sister’s house (about 2 hours away near Harrisburg, PA). Much of my side of the family was there, including my sister (well it was her house), my brother-in-law Mario (it’s also his house), all four of their adult kids, my mother, my son Josh, my daughter-in-law Liz and Hannah, the most amazing granddaughter any grandparents could hope for. For July 4th my sister had a BBQ and invited another dozen or so people including our brother-in-law Karl and his wife Helen. It was wonderful to see them as it has been about 2 years. I had never met them and they are wonderful. They don’t live far from us so maybe if/when we get back we will see them again. The temp was about 30 C, so, of course, Mario lit a fire in the fire pit at about 2 p.m. and kept it going all night as the temps dipped into the high 20s (yes, Celsius again). As always, they had enough food to keep a small army fed for a month, so most of it was gone by the end of the evening. Mario, Karl and my nephew Michael put on a small firework display and everyone survived with all their fingers. An excellent day was had by all.

Monday we returned home to our partially packed house, and prepared for the week ahead. So much to do, so many things still to be organized and what seems like so little time.