Quick update for French posts

If you’ve been following my trip to France (yes, I’m home now, darn it!), you’ll have seen some errors and broken links. I think I fixed all of that, and they should be a more enjoyable read. And now that I’ve gotten back into blogging, maybe you’ll see some Bethel posts. Note the “maybe”! Bethel is just a bit of let down after the excitement of visiting France. But I am already planning another trip to Ireland, tentatively April 2017.

Last day in France

First, here’s a couple videos from yesterday’s train ride:

This one has some agricultural stuff:

And one more:

NOW: My last morning in Paris… I spent quite a bit of time debating whether to go to an embroidery story via taxi or just walk to the art store I saw last night. Finally decided to walk through the Luxemborg gardens and go to the art store, when I discovered that the embroidery store didn’t carry DMC thread. A slender reason, but I was also conscious of the need to get on the airplane to head home. 

Here’s the day’s photos: https://goo.gl/photos/2BYDEqCJAnvJ22wq6

So I bought some cool pens and a coloring book to keep me occupied on the way home. I had a couple items that wouldn’t make it through security if I carried my rolly bag with me, so opted to check it. I’d reserved a shuttle for the ride to the airport, which was uneventful. Getting to the gate was a little stressful though.

Orly, the airport I left from, was pretty confusing. Lots of stores and the airline desk wasn’t immediately apparent. I finally had to find the information desk and get directions. Even with those, I still wandered around for awhile before finally spotting British Airways. Once checked in, I went through security quickly and discovered I had way too much time to spend waiting to get on the plane. And I should have eaten lunch before going through security. Whatever! Lol!

Reflection:

What a wonderful trip! I thoroughly enjoyed France. The people I spoke with were friendly and helpful, and it didn’t seem to matter that I couldn’t speak much French. I think my accent for the words I did know improved, and if I were to learn French, I would want to do that in France to get the accent right. We had amazingly good weather; I was expecting rain and possibly a bit of snow, but it was very warm for the most part. I did wear my jacket most of the time-it was winter after all-but rarely my sweater and jacket. Never did wear a hat and/or scarf, and only once wore my gloves.

It was fascinating to walk just about anywhere and come across beautiful buildings that were obviously important in some way. I didn’t always figure out what that was, but loved seeing them. I did have a translation app on my iPad, but totally forgot about it. One of my favorite things to do was find a cafe, sit down and order something to eat and drink, read a book on my iPad and people watch. So relaxing! And never any pressure to get going or order something else. 

I highly recommend a trip to France!

Avignon, January 3

Avignon is a beautiful town along the Rhone River in southeastern France. The old part of Avignon is walled, but this wall is quite different from the one in St. Malo. It’s very narrow and there are no borders along the walkway, so I was very glad they didn’t let the tourists walk on the wall. I could just see myself gawking at something and taking a misstep and falling off… There is a lovely path alongside the wall though, so I took a couple of hours and walked around the town. 

Today’s photos: https://goo.gl/photos/2kFe2TnJLvB2xGDR9

I didn’t walk across the Pont St. Benezet; it’s an ancient bridge, built and rebuilt several times. Between people destroying it and the Rhone knocking it over, the town finally gave up on rebuilding it. Some ways past the bridge is a high bluff; of course I had to get to the top! 

At the top you can see forever… Or at least a very long ways! You could see Fort St. Andre across the river. I didn’t visit the fort, but it was a fascinating view from the bluff. The river itself is very peaceful; there was no boat traffic when I was on the bluff, but since it’s winter, I’m guessing the tourist boats are all packed away for the season. I was on the bluff again later in the day; there’s a beautiful public garden up there. One of the bits is a grotto; you can walk up these rock stairs and get to a viewing area that gives you a wide angle sight surrounding Avignon.

You can also see Mont Blanc. I talked to a German guy and his son, and he told me the white peak is actually sand, not snow. I couldn’t find a webpage to confirm this however, so either I misremembered the name or… Who knows what! 

The rest of the walk back to the hotel was uneventful; no more stunning vistas or unfinished bridges. I was supposed to have gotten a bus ticket to Isle Sur La Sorques, a large antique/flea market but I didn’t organize that before leaving for France and it was too late by the time I got to the tourist office. The bus was gone and the market would close by noon. So I just wandered around Avignon. I couldn’t even force myself into any museums, though I think I should have visited the Palais des Papes. But it was a beautiful sunny warm day, so why spend it inside?

I walked up to the botanical gardens, the Jardin du Rocher des Doms, instead and wandered around there for a couple of hours. Nothing too special, but it was nice to be wandering through trees and bushes, a duck pond, a couple of children’s playgrounds, a large patio with a view of suburban Avignon… Just relaxing and quiet. 

The afternoon was more of the same, just wandering around, taking the occasional photo, and I spent a little time reading at a cafe and enjoying a glass of wine. I spent some time at the hotel later too, repacking and organizing the suitecase for the return to Paris and my last day in France. Sad to be going home, but I’m looking forward to seeing my girls, the Boston Terriers Becky and Babe.

Train from St. Malo to Avignon – January 2, 2016

This will be a short post-it was a day long train ride from St. Malo to Avignon. I took some movies, ate lunch and was bored… 

This one is Voves, Center Region:

This one got deleted from my iPhone before I wrote down exactly where we were:

St. Malo, New Year’s Day

St. Malo, New Year’s Eve

Roxanne sent pictures of my darling girls at about 2 a.m., and shortly after that, thanks a to a text from Orange, the company I used to activate my cell phone in France, I discovered I was nearly out of cellphone coverage. So the plan for the morning was to find the Orange store-I had a street name, but no number. I headed off in the right direction and trudged through more St. Malo suburbs. I passed two towers, one seemed to be of fairly recent vintage, while the other was much older. I have no idea what they were for, but they were very cool!

Today’s photos: https://goo.gl/photos/eoaJKRyxhsyxjCes7

I found the street I needed, and it seemed like it might be the right one… I passed a small shopping area and then on the other side of the street was a huge shopping mall. I figured someone could help me figure out where the Orange store was. Lo and behold! It was in the mall!! So awesome!

My mistake yesterday was in not adding to my data plan. So I got that fixed and I now have a month of cell coverage for 20 euros. Much cheaper than the 35 euros I was charged the previous day. I was really glad I pointed to the map app on my phone, before we finished figuring out what I needed. Minutes in France means just that-phone call minutes. I didn’t know I needed a data plan; I’d forgotten that from my initial setup. 

After the cell phone was taken care of, I had fun exploring the huge Fred Meyers-like store and the shopping mall. My goodness these people eat a LOT of yogurt! One whole case/store aisle of nothing but yogurt. The grocery store is much like any store in the U.S.; different brand names and everything is in French (duh!); there is a real butcher that will cut exactly what you want (and pre-packaged meat too), and the bakery has those beautiful French sweets and baguettes. Some pre-packaged cheese, some that has to be cut and weighed. Smaller fresh fruit and veg area. 

I took the bus part way back to old St. Malo; I wanted to walk the wall of the ancient town. I passed the ferry terminal on the way. Would have been fun to take the ferry, if I’d known about it, but would have had to be a fast turnaround trip. 

I only saw pleasure boats in the harbor; all sailboats, not that I paid a lot of attention. Coast guard cutters too. On my way to the Orange store I passed a 3 masted schooner too. I took a photo of it, but it needs some photoshopping before I can share it. 

 (Well, my WordPress app isn’t letting me edit the photo, so will have to add one later)


 I finally entered old St Malo, absolutely crammed with tourists, so I skipped the wall walk and just wandered around. Narrow cobblestone streets, tall buildings… how did people live that way? All crammed together… Maybe that was only true during a siege though, because there was nowhere to grow vegetables and I still wonder where they kept the horses and other livestock. 

I wandered down the beach-yes, beach combing! I brought some shells home. The beach is long and very flat during low tide, but at high tide it comes very close to the sea wall that protects St. Malo from the ocean. My feet were wet all day; on leaving the hotel in the morning I walked up the beach and got caught by a wave before I could get up the steps. Oops!!

Last day at Bayeux, December 30, 2015

It’s long past time to get back to my journal. My last day at Bayeux was an exciting morning of: laundry! And recharging my cell phone! Errands… Always with the errands. Doing laundry was actually fun, because it was an exercise in learning how to use a French self-serve laundromat. No attendant, just machines. And wow, this is a way better way to do laundry! There is only one place to put your money, and you need to have your clothes in the washer with the soap ready before putting your money in. Same goes for the dryer. So I started an empty washer and an empty dryer before I figured that out. They’re all numbered, so you put your stuff in, pay the money and choose your washer or dryer. Even the soap is paid for at the one “money spot”. Much better for the owner since all the money goes somewhere behind the wall-makes it really hard to jimmy the coin thing open!
  
Today’s photos: https://goo.gl/photos/553uXKgM4o2ELhhP7

Getting the cell phone charged wasn’t a big deal, except that it was just 12:00 noon and chances were the store wouldn’t be open during the lunch hour (& a half, or two hours). No big deal except we were leaving at 2:30 and I wouldn’t have time to charge the phone and get to the train station if they were closed til 1:30 or 2. But, I lucked out and got 117 minutes. Which later turned out to be a mistake. Oops. 

A short train ride to Rennes, and then a longer one to St. Malo. It was dark by the time we got to St. Malo, but I walked anyway, through the ‘burbs. I was not convinced I was going in the right direction til I got to the sea wall and saw the ocean. I walked down the street, past the hotel… Turned around and found it, and discovered that Mary had arrived only ten minutes before me. Dumped gear and ate, and had to run across the sand before heading upstairs to bed. 

Here’s a couple videos of the train ride:

http://youtu.be/6RqjbSiLCFw and http://youtu.be/duO1Hyhf-jo

December 29, 2015, walking in Bayeux  

This will be a short post… After a late start, I spent the day walking around Bayeux, literally. I started off at the center of town where our hotel is, and walked out to the Musee Memorial Bataille de Normandy. From the moment I stepped onto the museum grounds until a good 15 minutes after I left, I was enveloped in an overwhelming sadness. I know Hitler had to be stopped. I know there were some very good reasons to fight, but all I could think of was the incredible loss of life. The many lives destroyed, one way or another, by war. What a waste. 

Today’s photos: http://goo.gl/photos/9gYqFN6jobxnLwLU8

 

Musee Memorial Bataille de Normandy

This is a wonderful museum; it didn’t focus on death, but on the incredible job people did to survive and to win against Hitler.

 
I walked along part of the ring road, built in 3 weeks by the British Army, to speed troop movements through the area. Bayeux was the first city to have a ring road. The streets in Bayeux, like so many European towns, are very narrow and tanks couldn’t get through. I could read and absorb very little from the Battle of Normandy Museum, but one thing that I did enjoy was the caterpillar tractor; it looked like a beat up D-8. I imagine it was used to help build the ring road, also called the bypass. 

I probably walked about half of the ring road. This is a much newer part of town. Very modern buildings and much larger stores. I went into E.Leclerc, the French version of Fred Meyers, and it carries many of the same products that I saw in the small stores in the center of town-the pastries and breads, similar cuts of meat for example, as well as all the things you would find in a mega-grocery store at home in the U.S. 

The path and road were so nice. The bike path is marked with lanes for each direction and the walking path is separate from the bike lane. The trees and lawn along this particular road were well maintained; it looked like someone must rake and clean up daily. I don’t know if all the roads are so clean, but it was a nice change from the garbage strewn roads in the U.S. 

  

I stopped at a small sandwich shop for lunch. They also sold bread and pastries. The counter girl and I had fun communicating; she was a hoot. Very helpful and I had a tasty lunch for 6.5 euros. So, this wasn’t so exciting of a day. I saw ordinary France, a little bit of the way people live. I like Bayeux, but it’s very small, about 13,000 people. The Battle of Normandy museum and the Bayeux tapestry are the big draws. If you don’t have a car, you can take a tour bus to the beaches, and there’s lots of that kind of thing to do-not something that interested me though. I’m looking forward to going to St. Malo, and the beach, tomorrow!

December 28, Bayeux Tapestry and Bayeux

I spent the day wandering around Bayeux, and saw the Bayeux tapestry, Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux, Musee Baron Gerard (local art and history museum) and lots of beautiful old homes and streets. 

Here are today’s photos: http://goo.gl/photos/58fXdG7ezpTSoU1n9

There are several water mills around the town; I found two of them. They powered mills for grinding flour and oil seeds, There were various craft industries located along the river, such as dyers and tanners. Laundries too were situated along the river. 

 

One of the water mills in Bayeux

One of the water mills in Bayeux

 
Bayeux is pretty tourist oriented. Lots of little boutique stores (luckily not many crappy tourist souvenir stores, or maybe I have just missed them so far?), with clothing being the main item for sale. I saw a couple of hat stores, but none of the fascinators that I saw in Ireland. Nothing wild or crazy :-). I found three embroidery stores, none of which were open. One is for sure closed for the holidays; one is open by appointment in the winter; and the last one simply wasn’t open-no sign saying when or if it would be opened. The one closed for the holidays (Conservatoire de la Dentelle de Bayeux) is the one I want to see of course; I saw a display at the Bayeux tapestry museum and there was some embroidery thread that I wanted to look at. 

 

Bayeux patisserie

A small patisserie, where I had an amazing pastry

 
The Bayeux tapestry is the whole reason for the trip, at least for Mary. I’m just along for the ride :-). But I dutifully trudged off to see the tapestry museum, and I am so glad I did. What an amazing piece of history! I would love to meet one of the embroiderers, but I rather suspect I am not alone in that wish. The origins of the tapestry are mysterious and unclear; no one is even sure exactly where it was made. I was surprised to learn that it is not a true tapestry; it’s actually free hand embroidery. There are 4 stitches used in the tapestry, Bayeux stitch (satin stitch/couching combination), stem stitch and outline stitch, chain stitch, and split stitch. I knew wool thread was used for the stitching, which made me think it was needlepoint, but I learned that tapestries are woven not stitched, so I was wrong altogether. So it’s a good thing I came to Bayeux, isn’t it!

At the museum, each visitor gets a hand held speaker that tells you about the tapestry as you walk along. The tapestry is 70 meters long and it takes 20 or so minutes to see the entire thing. It is such a brief, biased history, but you get the high points even if the monologue doesn’t go into detail. It must have taken hundreds of hours of stitching; I wonder how many actually worked on the embroidery? Much of the story is guesswork; the scenes and symbolism weren’t recorded in a written format. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but not if you don’t know what an icon symbolises or exactly who is being portrayed. An intriguing blend of fact and fiction; what a mystery story!

I walked through the Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux, a beautiful cathedral. Serene and quiet, a wonderful respite from the streets of Bayeux. Not that Bayeux is too crazy! But almost no one was there, and I loved the peaceful reverence.

 

Catedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux

The beautiful cathedral in Bayeux

 
I also visited the local art and history museum, Musee Baron Gerard. This was a very brief history of the Bayeux area. The signage was in French and English, so I read the ones I was interested in. You start in the ancient times and progress, as you walk through the museum, to quite recent history. I particularly enjoyed the fiber arts of course; a dress, several examples of Bayeux and Chantilly lace (bobbin lace), and an amusing picture of two fishwives arguing. I didn’t use a flash to take the picture, so my image is very blurry. The room with the lace is set up as though it is the lacemaker’s studio; it was fascinating to see the threads and bobbins and other pieces of the craft.

  

Bayeux is a fascinating little town; narrow one-way streets, stone buildings. I got occasional little peeks into the courtyards where people park their cars (is that where the horses used to be kept?). Lots and lots of hotels and bed and breakfasts; I’m so glad I’m not driving around try to find my hotel; some of them have very tiny signs. Which is nice for me as a walker, but not so great if you’re driving. So many restaurants too; so far all the food in France has been delicious! I am going to have to find a french cookbook, as well as learn to make the french bread. Yum!!

December 27, to Bayeux!

I went on a search for breakfast while Mary woke up and got dressed, but apparently Paris belongs to the Crack O’Nooner club on Sunday. So I came back and we packed up in preparation to leave for Bayeux. I was madly searching for the train ticket that Mary left on the counter for me. And after I got all packed up, looked through my stuff two or three times, Mary found it on the shelf where she kept her stuff. Who knows how it got there, but apparently the travel angel is looking after me. And after all that, no one even checked our train tickets!

Oops, I think I published this post long before it was finished!

Here are today’s photos: https://goo.gl/photos/58fXdG7ezpTSoU1n9

We had oodles of time before we had to vacate our room, so I went off to the Jardin des Plantes, a huge botanical garden and zoo just a short walk from the hotel. It’s the wrong time of year to visit a garden, most everything is dormant and leafless. There were a few violas flowering-they’d obviously been planted maybe a couple of weeks ago, and there were poppies flowering too. A couple of gardens were closed due to the season, which was disappointing. I was particularly looking forward to the alpine garden and it seems odd to me that it was closed. Alpine means cold and snowy to me, but cie la vie! There were several plants sheltered with a transparent cover, so apparently not all alpine plants are cold hardy. The grape vine area and a small wild looking wooded area were also closed. That seemed obvious to me, since grapes are dormant and there’s nothing to see, beyond trellised sticks. 

 

French botanical garden

Jardin des Plantes map

 
 
Alpine garden at Jardin des Plantes

Alpine garden, perhaps high desert?

 I walked up to the small labyrinth, with a tiny pergola at the top, hoping to get a view of the gardens, but there were too many trees. This is one of the few hills I’ve seen in Paris, just a short little stroll up to the top. I’m not sure what the hedge was; it was an evergreen of some sort. It looked like spruce needles but the needles are very soft and pliable. The gardens are laid out very formally. One area had small water gardens surrounded by several loops of paths. The center area is a large lawn, with long rows of the poppies and violas down the center of the lawns and paths down each side and in between the lawns. Huge chestnut (I think that’s what they are) trees line the lawns on either side, trimmed so that when the leaves are out, they make a boxed roof. My photos turned out kind of dark; it is earlyish, but I need to change some settings so the photos come out better. 

 

Jardin des Plantes

The lawns with flower beds in the center of the garden

 
There is also a zoo, but I didn’t visit that. I would have loved to go through the buildings, but I knew I didn’t have time to do even one of them justice. There were two huge greenhouses too, but you needed a ticket to go through them. I really could have have spent all day there, and the hour and a half I did spend was just long enough to get a taste of the gardens. Each of the buildings-the Grand Gallery & Children’s Museum, the Gallery of Geology & Mineralogy , the Botanical Gallery and Gallery of Comparative Anatomy and Paleoentology are each easily a U.S. city block long. And the history of the place… I passed a commemorative stone on the way up to the labyrinth, for the premier director, Jean-Marie ne a Montbard, 1716-1799. I am guessing that’s the first director, so the botanical garden has possibly been in existence for something like 300 years. 

We had to check out of the room by noon (12:00 a.m., according to the brochure; we had a laugh over that), so I went back around 11:30 to do a last check and finish zipping up my suitcase. I felt a bit like a bag lady, since I had a camera and my purse strapped over my shoulders, my day pack under my jacket, and carrying a shopping bag with my suitcase. And I was the one that cautioned Mary not to bring too much stuff! She had just her purse and her one suitcase. I justified my bag lady-ness by claiming it was all my Christmas shopping. Which was mostly kinda true. 

We went down and checked out of the room, and I had the hotel call us a cab to take us to the train station. Mary & I got in a small snit because I did that, and she flagged down a cab just as the one the hotel had called pulled up. She was angry because for the hotel to call a cab costs an extra 4 euros (& she’d just spent almost 800 euros on the room, so why was 4 euros such a big deal?), so I said I’d pay for the cab ride. I just didn’t see that 4 euros was anything to quibble over; just to get in the cab is 3 euros (so we started off by owing the cabbie 7 euros). Anyway, we got to Gare St. Lazare in one piece. 

This is certainly a different experience than I had in ’78! Holeee cow! Clean, bright, well-lit, and none of that hole in the floor, garbage-encrusted-toilet business. The middle and bottom floors had upscale shops and nice restaurants of various types. The top floor, where we caught the train, had a Burger King and a Starbucks, as well as some small grab-and-go restaurants, plus an information office and the ticket office. I wish I could remember exactly what station I was at in ’78; I’d love to see what it looks like now. 

Mary was ready for some breakfast so she did that while I checked out the station. Turned out that we wouldn’t find out what track we were leaving from until 15-20 minutes before we leave. And this really showed up our different traveling styles. I was okay with that, mostly. It would have been nice to have a little bit more advance knowledge, but 15 minutes is plently of time to get from the message board to the train. Mary, on the other hand, wanted to wait and see what the board would look like after the track was announced; she is much more of a planner than I am.

 

Gare St. Lazare

What a beautiful train station!

 
So, I left her to watch the board, and went to look for some lunch. I spied an easy exit from the station, and on my way out saw a train store! I couldn’t believe my luck! Unfortunately it was closed on Sundays, so I hope I have time to come back on my way home. I found a nice quiet place across the street and had the most excellent salad. Thin, thin smoked salmon over lettuce with baby shrimp, a quartered tomato, and small slices of a proscuitto-like ham, with a light dressing. It was so delicious!

I still had about an hour before the train left, so wandered around the second level in search of dessert. I didn’t find that, but I did find Pylones, a gift shop with all this fun stuff. I bought a pair of glasses (12 euros, about $13.20 , much cheaper than the $20 I usually spend in the U.S.) and a hard eyeglass case that I can use for my embroidery scissors and needles. I have this really boring dark green one, that works great but it’s sooo boring.

  
I found Mary up by the train tracks, as I expected. People started surging towards a track, so I asked a group of three police officers for help and they kindly told me which track to go to. We found our car and piled on; not easy to do with the suitcases. I had hoped we would be able to leave them in a baggage area, but I misunderstood the ticket seller. We had to heave them over our heads on a rack above the seats. This was the same as in Poland, so I wasn’t surprised. Next time I am not going to be a bag lady!

It was about a two hour ride to Bayeux, and we got there after dark, about 6 p.m. A young Spanish woman we met on the train walked to the hotel with us; so nice of her to be our guide. It was about a half mile, so by the tiime we got there, Mary was just exhausted. She went straight to bed, and I went off to get her some onion soup. I found some right away, so brought it back and then went off to find my own dinner. I also hoped to stop at an internet cafe, but it was closed for the holidays. I’ll try the other one tomorrow and if that’s closed, then maybe there will be one in St. Malo. 

I walked past the Bayeux tapestry museum, so that will be easy to find tomorrow. I also walked by this small water mill; I couldn’t find any signage, so I am hoping that tomorrow will shed more light on that. And there are some cute giftshops to explore tomorrow too.