Things I Know Now

Driving in England wasn’t much fun as you rarely can see anything from the car.

The French countryside driving was easy and beautiful most of the time. Staying away from toll roads rarely added much time but made the trip more interesting.

Weather: The weather in France was generally much nicer but then we got that heat wave where temperatures reached 43 degrees.

Can’t depend on the weather any more.

Food: The food options in London were good but outside of London even Cornish Pasties lose their appeal after a while and just how many fries do you want? Hardly ever got frites with any main course in France! Cooked more in England as the restaurant options, once we left big city behind, were either really expensive or not convenient. Meals in France were always good unless we ate too close to a tourist attraction. Strasbourg comes to mind here.

Beverages: Loved being able to have cider in pubs in England. This was rarely an option in France although wine was always a reasonable price for a glass of house wine. Beer was good, according to the beer drinker, everywhere.

Public Transportation: Used the Moovit app in London and Paris. Never really had any problems except when a train went out of service in France when we were going to Versailles. Sometimes we had to get help when many trains came to the same station and we missed a sign or didn’t follow the arrows properly. Going to Charles de Gaulle airport, the transfer from the metro to the train is in the same station as the transfer to the Orly airport and uses the same line indicator- Line B. Luckily we didn’t get on the wrong train and some nice older French lady saw our confusion and escorted us right to the correct platform.

Things That Have Changed:

Bob and I started traveling right after we got married and have only returned to very few places – Paris is one of those places. What’s changed from 35 years ago is that you can no longer take for granted that you will be able to go and visit the tourist attractions when you arrive without preplanning. Now, if you are only going to be somewhere for a couple of days, you need to buy your tickets in advance on-line in order to give yourself the most flexibility of entry time plus other options like guided tours. This happened to us at the Alhambra in Spain nearly 10 years ago. We just assumed we would be able to buy tickets a few days ahead of time but online tickets were all sold out by then and we were too far away to risk trying to buy ‘day of’ tickets at the gate and not being able to get them. So we returned 5 years later and still had trouble but did get in. My advice – once you know your exact dates buy your tickets. Did that last year to see the Lipizzaner horse show in Vienna and finally got tickets!

The same thing applies now to accommodation. When VRBO first started and then AirB&B, you could still get a booking at your destination of choice with very little notice. Now that it’s an excepted kind of accommodation, more and more people use it and book the most reasonably priced places early. So the availability might still be there but it will likely be at a more expensive price. Book early if you’re planning a visit to a popular destination and have a budget limit. Look at Home Exchange, Love Home Swap and others for other options without any money changing hands.

Other Observations about England and France:

The first time I saw this sign – Cats Eyes Removed it gave me a terrible vision in my head until I realized it was talking about the yellow reflectors down the centre line on the road!

I noticed a lot more horses in the fields which made me happy as I love horses and have since I was Horse Crazy as a preteen. Then Bob said “It’s probably because they eat horse meat over here.” Not as big a thing as it used to be but you can still buy it in France although I never saw it in any of the grocery stores or markets we were in. Then I wasn’t looking for it either. Still have trouble wrapping my head around it.

The quality of the busking in Paris was spectacular. These guys are playing in one of the tunnels between stations.

Sometimes there would be someone with a beautiful voice and a microphone singing on the train. All of them put that guy in the Seabus tunnel to shame!

France has a lovely system of awarding a flower designation of one to four flowers 🌸 to any municipality that applies, free of charge. The municipality can then put the number of flowers awarded on the sign with their name at the beginning of the municipal boundaries. The municipality must make itself pretty with municipal flower beds, hanging baskets, as well as private gardens. We saw some towns with roses planted right by the curbs and growing up lamp posts and spilling out of pots everywhere. They get inspected once a year and technically could lose their designated number of flowers- kind of like Michelin stars. Don’t know if it’s actually policed though. It was started when France wanted to attract the tourists. Not sure they still want to, although once you leave Paris, tourism in the countryside is much less.

If you think you want to go hiking in Dartmoor, England, it isn’t like hiking here. There are animal paths and open land. You need to come with real hiking gear, hiking boots for mud, a topographical map and the ability to use one, and a compass, etc. Or you can get a guide. This all should be part of your plan. You can’t just go for a walk on the moors as the weather changes, there are very few landmarks as it is all just open moors, and you could easily be lost in the fog which can come up suddenly. Luckily for us, I just wanted to see the wild horses!

One last thing – It no longer seems to matter where you go, there’s tagging and graffiti.

We are back home now recovering from jet lag and planning where to go next year. One thing I do know. So little time, so many places. Do not put off your travel plans. Go now while you still can!


Musee d’Orsee and Versailles.

For this we have prebooked tickets but there is no timed entry. We get there around 10:30 (suggested) in information because people line up ahead of opening time which is 9:30 and this crowd should be mostly in by then. Have no idea but the line once again snaked across the platform and down the stairs for the security check. Took about 30 minutes but once you’re in it’s a fabulous building- former train station.

From here the impressions and the paintings that came after those featured in the Louvre are here. We weave our way through crowds, once again using our audioguide from our Rick Steves app.

Manet, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and all the others we know and love. It is a beautiful museum and everything is beautifully displayed. We also visited a temporary exhibit of Black people in France and by French artists. Once again, I can’t begin to cover everything. Suffice it to say if this period of artists is of interest to you then, regardless of the crowds, you should go. After several hours, when our feet were tired and we were hungry, it was time to go. Sat on the stairs/bleachers leading down to the Seine where office workers were eating their ” pret emporter” (take away) lunches. Lovely day! Paris “eye” in the background. We walked a few blocks away, passing masses of people lined up to get into the restaurants closest to the Orsee. Found a 4 1/2 star restaurant with no line down a street only a block away from everyone lined up. Had a delicious meal in a cosy restaurant – Rive Cinq – the kind that caters to locals not tourists but they spoke a little English. I had grilled sea bass with crispy skin on a bed of perfect buttery whipped potato with herb butter. Bob had some kind of sausage with the same potatoes but with a light gravy. We had rose, of course, and shared a clafoutis with apricots for dessert. Much lighter than the one we had in Bruges with cherries. From here we walked home again. Down part of the Champs ÉlysĂ©es.

To the Avenue des Invalides with the Golden Dome Church wth Napoleon’s tomb under it.

Pretty sure “all that glitters” is not gold anymore but it was at one time!

We had to clean up the apartment and organize the packing back at the apartment as I’m sure tomorrow will be a long day and fatiguing. After showers and my nap, we walked back to the metro station to buy our tickets for Versailles and the airport. Have to use the metro to get to the train and they are both outside central Paris. Wanted to eliminate morning hassle with it when we were actually doing the traveling. Had an ice cream near our apartment and went back and attempted to finish the two open bottles of wine and the rest of the pate. Didn’t quite accomplish it but maybe tomorrow or we’ll just leave it

Tomorrow we head to Versailles.

Versailles We had timed tickets but it is about an hour away with two different metro lines then the train, so got an early start, for us, after our breakfast at Tribeca. Got to where we should take the train and – no trains – trouble on the line. Nowadays they have people in the stations to help you and some of them speak very good English unlike 35 years ago when no one spoke English and no one would help you. Anyway, back onto the metro to another station for the train. Luckily we had allowed plenty of time because at the end of all that there was also a twenty minute walk to the castle gates! The entrance gives is once again very sparkly!! Security was quick and virtually no line to get in. The Grande Palace is first in the Agenda as other parts don’t open until noon so you have the masses of people shuffling from room to room. The chapel. Most of the tour groups only see the Grande Palace and then are hustled back on their bus and back to their river cruise or whatever.

It’s truly amazing how much wealth French Royalty had! It’s not difficult to understand why the populace rose up against them when it finally happened. This palace had a small beginning as a country Chateau at the beginning of the 17th century and every king added on but most of the opulence dates from Louis XIV.

His Bedroom with “privacy fence”!

His Desk with built in ”Lights”!

His Bed with Privacy fence!!

Her bedroom also with privacy fence!

The famous, grossly expensive hall of mirrors was just that – a hallway to get from one area to another.

Anyway, once you finally get through that building, you can enter the gardens. It is really hard to imagine the vastness of these gardens and the many pools with fountains. Unfortunately, the fountains are only turned once or twice a week and for special occasions (extra charge for that) and even then, not all of them. Many have also disappeared over the years.

From the steps you can see what looks like a long lake in the distance. It is actually in the shape of a cross but you don’t see the side parts until you walk about a kilometre through the park. Also, Louis XIV, whose idea most of this is, had the lake designed to defeat actual perspective so the lake gradually widens in the distance so that it appears to remain the same width further away as close up. This actually makes it look a bit like it is standing up rather than lying down.

From here we gradually work our way around pools and fountains to one of the forested areas which hides one of many hidden snack bars and restaurants. We opt for a quick lunch a baguette sandwich to share with a small bottle of rose wine. Turns out there is a nice clean washroom there too. Next we head about another kilometre to the Grand Trianon where Louis liked to entertain his lovers. This smaller palace is hidden discreetly out of view from the main palace and is also known as the pink palace – hmmm, I wonder why?

Might be smaller but still quite grand.

Louis really did think he was “the Sun king” as this bit of plasterwork on the base of the columns and a lot of other places shows his face with the rays of the sun behind him!!

From here we think we are heading to the Petite Trianon but get turned around, meet some other lost women but eventually back track to where we should be. as you can see – plenty of time here with no one else around! This is Marie Antoinette’s pretty little palace where she could just hang out with her girlfriends!!

We’re about done in now so time to head back. Looking at our map it’s 2.2 km to get back to the train station and no choice but to walk back, then take the train, and two different metro lines. We don’t make it past the bar outside our apartment. They have cider!! And Beer for Bob and some little fried shrimp roll things before eventually getting back for that shower and a nap.

Tonight is our last night but we won’t be going far as we’ve walked nearly 20 kms today. Cafe Tribeca where we have our breakfast every day with plenty of seats available for our Cafe Creme, une tartine, and une jus d’orange is where we decide to go for dinner. It’s very busy here in the evening but the weather is lovely and warm and the people watching is great. I opt for the duck confit with roasted baby potatoes and Bob has escargots and steak tartare one last time and a last carafe of rose. The young people beside us move on and are replaced by two black ladies who we eventually started talking to. American sisters traveling for two weeks in Europe – Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and I don’t know where else! Hectic trip and their friends were shocked to find out how long they were going to be away!! Whew! Can’t imagine trying to work all that in in such a short time.

Anyway, we gave them a few of the little tips about the French way of life that we’ve learned about in the last month. Eventually we got the waitress to bring the bill and although the sun hadn’t set yet, it was after 10:00 pm and we have to get up early. Tomorrow we have to battle rush hour through two metro lines and the train. Early trains that we’ve taken have been jammed to the doors- should be fun!

The Louvre

The first thing I want to say is if you haven’t seen either of these fantastic museums, you should get there soon. On the other hand, don’t expect to just show up and walk in like the museums in London. You need to buy your tickets well in advance to get exactly what you want. Skip the line tickets are sold out well in advance, same with guided tours. At the very least buy your tickets online. They can be downloaded to your phone. The Louvre has time slots for entry if you bought on line. All lines, even these, are long and snake across the huge courtyard with the glass pyramid. Thank goodness the 42 degree weather is over but it was still warm out there. Can’t think who decided it would be good to put a pyramid shaped greenhouse over the entrance to the underground shopping mall which is also the entrance to the Louvre.

This courtyard is massive but this isn’t facing the lines. Finally through all the lines and following Rick Steves guided tour of the Louvre about 1 1/2 hours plus stopping and starting because of masses of people. Okay finally in to see the treasures. The Louvre is huge and there are certain paintings and sculptures that are on every tour so those things are the most difficult to see but as this is former palace, I am more fascinated by the paintings on the ceilings!!

Winged Victory was a bit far away!

Nobody can block your view of the ceiling! We did see a lot of beautiful sculptures. Just a few original Greek ones but most are Roman copies. We have to be grateful that they made copies because mostly that’s all that remains.

The goddess Athena. Can’t really do this place justice in a blog. We had seen Mona on our visit 35 years ago so we skipped that line. After all that we were hungry. Incidentally any tourist attraction has food – restaurants, snack bars etc. Pretty good and not unreasonably priced for where they are but they’re packed!! So walking home through the Tuileries Garden (food there too), we took a break by one of the water features then continued on till we came to a crepe cart. One lemon and sugar for me and one Nutella and banana for Bob.

Back at the apartment it was time for a shower and a nap. A long hot day of standing, shuffling and then walking home. We have been taking the metro to get to our destination but then walking back.

That evening we ate at a restaurant on our street – Rue Cler which is in the guidebooks as a food destination. We ate at Le Petit Cler and had the plat du jour for that day – beef brochette with spicy sauce with tabouli salad and a green salad. Too tired to go clubbing (LOL) and back to our apartment to watch Netflix. New series “Dead to me”. Tomorrow the Musee d’Orsee.

On to Paris

We’re leaving the beautiful countryside behind. That’s in Noyers behind “our” house. Today we will drive to Paris, drop off our bags and then drop off the car and make our way back via the metro. Sounds simple but it means driving in the city.

Wasn’t too bad except for the place we had to drop the car off. Couldn’t find the entrance because there was a car wash there. Circled around 3 times before we finally went in. It was the right place after all. Just had to wait for the cars to go through the car wash before we could drop off the car! Then we got on the metro and headed back to our accommodation for the next several days till we head home.

First thing we need is to do laundry. There’s a washer here but the usual non-meaningful symbols on it. I get it going but then it just keeps on going and going. Finally got it stopped before our clothes turned to rags. Think that will be the last laundry before we go home!

It’s still hot so laundry should dry easily. Went for dinner at a place nearby that had a Michelin Bib or something that makes it very expensive and almost booked out on a Friday night. It also turned out to be very hot inside-no air con.

Next day was a rest day so nothing but touring the neighbourhood and making a plan for the rest of the time here. Really complicated as there are so many things to do and see.

Next day we did Rick Steves walk of old Paris. Took us all over the old city from the bird market to Notre-Dame Cathedral and in to the Latin Quarter and all around. You can’t see from the picture but Notre Dame is covered with scaffolding, undergoing renovation and will be closed for quite a while but there is no evidence of the fire.Wasn’t really interested in climbing up the towers but I know the interior was worth seeing. We have seen the interior of a lot of medieval churches on this trip and that will have to do.

The Hospital (Hotel Dieu) was beautiful and was established in 651 (didn’t look like this back then though) as the oldest hospital in Paris. Saw the narrowest house in Paris. We had lunch in the Latin quarter when we got tired.

We saw the outside of Saint-Chapelle next to the Conciergerie where the prisoners of the revolution whiled away their time waiting to see if they would keep or lose their heads. We eventually crossed back over the river Seine and passed the Museum of the Army where Napoleon’s tomb is under the golden dome.

The Eiffel Tower is in the distance. So much to see and most of it costs money. The museums are free today (first Sunday of the month) but if we had lined up for any of them, we wouldn’t have had time to see the outside of so many places. We did go in and tour the memorial to the French deportees who never returned from their trips to concentration or labour camps during the Second World War. A good audioguide was also free.

So many places, so little time! Tomorrow we have timed tickets for the Louvre. Went once 35 years ago on free Sunday- just walked in. Mind you it was in early April after a ski trip to Davos.

VĂ©zelay, Château de Bazoches and Alesia.

We arrived in VĂ©zelay on a somewhat cloudy day which is OK as it was a little cooler to climb to the top. VĂ©zelay is a very tiny town with a population of just over 300. It is also on a very steep hill so you have to park at the bottom and walk up. Although it was a Wednesday, it seems that this is the day they take off so most of the shops and restaurants were closed. I had anticipated that though and we brought a picnic lunch today. We climbed to the top and found the whole front of the church covered in scaffolding and tarps. We went inside and found another massive church that used to have a castle in front of it.

Bits and pieces of walls from fortifications and the castle still remain. The church itself has an underground crypt that was at one time, a part of a Roman temple. The church itself dates back to the 11th century. Not sure when the castle disappeared. The view was spectacular though. Once again you can understand why it was built there

Nothing else to see so we hiked around the ramparts and then headed back down to our car – yes they had pay parking! Think that’s how they were paying for the update for the church.

Heading to Chateau de Bazoches looking for a picnic place. Never saw a place and it started to spit rain so we ate in the car in the parking lot. Of course as soon as we finished our lunch and headed towards the Château we came to a big picnic area under the trees- would have been perfect!! This Château has been in this family since the 1600’s and is very well kept. It’s origins date back further than that. The once formal gardens are simple now – pathways and lawn but still lovingly tended. The tour of the Château was well laid out with good signs and a big booklet (no reading glasses needed) in whatever language you needed. Château Chastellux-sur-Cure we visited earlier had only a tiny flier in English and tours were given in French only because the current Duke did not want to bore the French tourists who wouldn’t understand English. Anyway, this one had many historical details about the family members and their lineage.

Many of the rooms have been restored to their former glory.

This was a good tour. Worth the money and we forgot to get our discount! The tickets from any tour can be used to reduce the charge at any other Château in Bourgogne.

Returning home we found the church in Noyers finally open.

This is a working church not just for tourists and very big for a town of only 600 but it is obvious that back then churches weren’t built according to how big the community was, they were built to express the might and power of the church. For the first time we see actual pews. This church dates back to 1515. They just had their 500th birthday. I don’t think all the stained glass dates from then as it looks too modern and clean but no one was about to answer our questions and besides no one speaks English here.

Alesia something different.

Alesia will be our last stop in Bourgogne before we head to Paris the next day. Alesia is a small town on a hill. At the top of the hill is the site of a Roman- Gallo town that has been only partially excavated and was believed to be abandoned around 500 AD. Believed to have been built here after Julius Caesar’s last siege with the Gauls who did not want to be conquered.

From here we go down the hill to what may be the site or at least partially of that siege to see the museum and learn the history.

The museum itself is an interesting structure. Inside you can see out but outside you can’t see in. There is a really good audio guide in English!! Basically by 52 BC Julius Caesar had enlarged the Roman Empire in many directions but he hadn’t yet brought the Gauls to there knees. So the story says that one Gaulish chieftain had brought the Gauls together to fight Caesar. This battle went on for about two months here where this museum now sits, theoretically. Eventually Caesar won and he took the leader of the Gauls as a prisoner. There is a lot of history about both their tactics, weapons, clothing, means of defense and a myriad of other details. It was very interesting and took the whole afternoon. They do re-enactments out on the field but only when the children are out of school / starts next week. Hmm which would we rather have? Tons of kids underfoot or re-enactments?

Tomorrow- Paris.

Semur Monday Morning and then the Abbey of Fontenay

Monday morning we drove to Semur. On the way we stopped to take some pictures of the countryside. Driving in France seems to always be picturesque but sometimes more than others. This morning it was beautiful.

This big guy was strutting his stuff nearby. Apparently there is a whole festival devoted to white hens and I guess you need a white rooster for that!!

This town has a medieval wall with some towers that were once part of the fortress wall surrounding the city. One of the towers has a huge crack in it but it’s still standing!

Anyway we walked around and almost all the stores were closed as it is Monday. We found a restaurant on Trip Advisor with 5 stars and great reviews and open on Monday!!! We couldn’t figure out where it was though. We must have backtracked three times till we realized it was outside the wall and down the street. We finally found it only to find they were on one week vacation. Rats!! Back up to the town (now you know how we get so much walking in) and just went into the first place we found that was open. Not much choice. Gotta get in somewhere as there will only be one seating. Turned out we had a very good lunch of three appetizers only. A beautiful heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, carpaccio for me and country pate for Bob and wine, of course. Talked to a a gorgeous Russian woman beside us with her daughter. She was struggling with her French but was fluent in English. We immediately picked up on it and started a conversation. When you are in a situation where no one speaks your language, you talk with the people you meet who do speak English for far longer than you would normally – shop keepers, strangers at the next table, whomever. She and her pre teen daughter were lovely but her table manners were atrocious. Might have lots of money but no etiquette training to match.

After lunch we walked back to our car which was parked in another free lot in the middle of town and headed to the Abbey of Fontenay. This is the cloister area. Really small compared to the inside of the chapel which is massive!

This Abbey dates back to 1118 and is one of the oldest Cistercian abbeys depending on the Cistercian order following the rules of Saint Benedict (6th century) to be completely self sufficient. So quite plain to not distract them. Their property included a large part of this valley where around 200 monks raised their own livestock and farmed the land. They also made their own implements and created an innovative giant forge. The first of it’s kind operated with the help of a water wheel.

Then it was time to head back to Noyers. We walked to our garden – it’s not nearly as hot today- only 32 not 42 degrees! Looking for some herbs but found some baby zucchini instead for our pasta primavera tonight. Stole some oregano from the front of someone’s house and now I can proceed with dinner!There is a huge church here in town but it isn’t open for tourists. Locals must go as they ring the bells for Vespers at 7:00 pm every evening. The bells are just across from our bedroom window and they chime the hour twice 24/7 and then just once in the half hour also 24/7. Believe it or not they don’t really wake us up! Must be something about the pitch because our window is open wide?

Auxerre and the great morrocan lunch then Chablis

Today we head to the market in Auxerre. It isn’t a major market day – that’s on Saturday but we hope to replenish some of our supplies. Another lovely day and nice drive to a bigger city again. Our GPS takes us (only a couple of missed turns and redirections and no swearing) right to what it says is the market. We can see the signs and the parking area but no market. We park the car in another free parking lot and start to walk. Turns out it is under the park! Not a full market – lots of empty tables but still plenty of fruits and veggies and cheeses, fresh meat and bread. So we buy a new kind of cheese and some more fruit. Have to be careful not to buy too much as some days we eat very little at home and we leave on Friday.

We decide to head into town on foot from our parking spot. Only 1 km or so. We are going to check out a nail salon but I’m not hopeful. It is hard to have a conversation on the phone when you don’t understand what they’re saying but in person it is a bit easier. Turns out she is booked right up till Sunday so it doesn’t matter. Looks like it will be Paris for my nails.

We head Dow to the canal to see if there is a “capitainery” here but we can’t find it. Plenty of boats though.

Thinking about another canal cruise in France sooner rather than later, eh? Churches dominate the skyline here but it’s difficult to get far enough away for a decent picture. Over time they build closer and closer to the church and in some cases you can no longer walk the circumference due to other buildings butting in to the church.

Then we head into town to find this Five star restaurant we’ve read about here. Our luck holds (bad luck that is) – they are completely booked up. No reservations = no seats. We start back up to the main square and the only thing we pass has bad reviews except the Moroccan restaurant right across from the place we couldn’t get into!! Back down the street again and they still have space out back on the terrace under the awning. Perfect. We are somewhat leery of Moroccan cuisine as we had very little good food in Morocco as they knew we were tourists! Here we both had salads but Bob’s was actually a hot dish that came with perfectly fluffy cous cous on the side with Harissa sauce and mine was a chicken salad with a tasty dressing. We had pastries for dessert that were a bit stale but I think our hostess felt badly because our coffees were on the house.

After lunch we walked back up through town and returned to our.

Chablis in the afternoon. This is a kind of wine with a limited area of production and probably very little exported so you almost have to drink there or go there and buy a bottle – so we did both. Not much to see in town other than the winery caveaus that were open for free tastings and to sell you a bottle or two. We always feel guilty if we don’t buy anything so the free tasting isn’t really, once you buy a bottle.Plus we can only drink so much so we can’t do this too many times. Once again it’s back to the car in a free lot in the centre of town and time to head back. Tomorrow it’s VĂ©zelay and the Château de Bazoches.

Last Stop Before Paris


Will be our base for seeing the medieval towns in this area. This area is the north part of the Burgundy area but it is way too hot to drink red wine! This area is known for Chablis. A crisp white wine that bears no resemblance to the white wine plonk known as Chablis in California. Maybe we will get to Chablis but there are a lot of towns to see in the area as well as at least one Unesco site – the Abbey of Fontenay.

Avalon – Saturday Market

Saturday markets are generally bigger than weekday markets but when we got to Avalon, the area for the market seemed small until we realized it was inside – a covered market, more like The Saint Lawrence market in Toronto – a permanent market. It was also way more expensive than the market we went to on the outskirts of Strasbourg. We did buy some fancy cheese though and when we left found another whole area of streets with fruits and veggies and bric-a-brac. Found some nice veggies for a dinner salad 🥗. Then we walked back to the car to put everything in it so we wouldn’t be loaded down with our groceries. Time to find somewhere to eat. Couldn’t really find much in the immediate vicinity and it was hot so we stepped into a bar. Beer for Bob and Perrier for me. It costs as much or more than the beer sometimes but they usually bring you something to nibble on too. Chips here. Decided to go shopping for other necessities rather than have lunch. We have discovered the nicest large supermarket is Auchan.

This is the row with sparkling wines. Every bottle is a different wine and there is another row for white and another for red etc. These bottles display the wine with the bottles you take home stored behind the display bottle. Back to our place in Noyers to finish doing laundry. Maybe go for a walk around town later. We have access to a garden here but it isn’t beside or behind our place, it’s a few blocks away. Will check that out later. Turned out to be too hot there too! Noyers entrance gate.

Noyers on Sunday. In France, at least outside of Paris, every restaurant is open for lunch then shuts down after lunch. We have discovered that a lot of shops and some tourist attractions are closed Sunday and Monday so you have to plan carefully. We made a reservation by email (they don’t answer their phones) at the only place in town that has decent reviews including one that supposedly has a Michelin star! This one was just outside the gate to town with a nice interior courtyard. It’s still hot 🥵 but this space was covered with a bit of breeze. Lunch for me was supposed to be trout but they served me salmon with a small green salad, lentil salad and cous cous salad. The salmon was also cold. All of which made sense given the weather. Bob had the Cesar salad – not what you would expect if it was Caesar salad but he enjoyed it. But the highlight of this meal was the Kalouga. Never heard of it but some reviewer said it was the best he’d ever had.

Doesn’t look like much but boy was it good and swimming in creme anglaise. Too bad we had to share!

Château Chastellux-sur-Cure

After lunch we got in the car to go to this Château for a tour. This Chateau has been in the same family for a thousand years. can’t even imagine that kind of family history!! No the whole place is not that old but there are remnants from that long ago. A lot has been more recently reconstructed with American money or dates back to post French Revolution reconstruction.

No pictures inside but this gives you some idea. The view over the valley gives an idea of why it was built here as a defense.

Monday we will head to Semur, another medieval town and after lunch to another Unesco site The Abbey at Fontenay.

Heat Wave continues in Alsace!

Well it is still boiling hot here but the tourism must continue!! Today we are going to drive up in the mountains to the Abbey of Saint Odile. One thing is sure -she was blind and somehow got her sight back but the story varies depending on which publication you read. She established a convent (theoretically) up here at the top of the mountain. It has been an important military spot for over 3000 years. That part is easy to understand. From here you can see all over the valley for miles.

The ruins of a castle way across the valley. This would have been a perfect spot for the Romans to have a fort which is the history as some artifacts indicate. Saint Odile came along in the 8th century. Now it’s a hotel supposedly a retreat for 166€ per night per person with full board! Obviously only a retreat for the rich. Anyway we were hoping for it to be a bit cooler up here but no such luck. A couple of tiny chapels are beautiful inside with mosaics done with a lot of gold as well as other colours.

Although it is hot we decide to hike to the spring of Saint Odile. Supposedly when she stabbed the ground with her staff, water came out and it’s still running!

But now, although the ancient spring is behind bars, the water has been redirected to a pipe but still flows continuously. Anyway it was 1/2 way down this mountain but our car is at the top! So then we had to go back up. We saw a bench on the way down where we thought we would rest on the way up but it was occupied by two women having a picnic! Not only could we not sit – they wanted us to take their picture! Ah well eventually we get back to the car and enjoy being in the air conditioning till we get back. Today we didn’t feel like much lunch as it was so hot and the restaurant at the top was a cafeteria without air conditioning. I decided to make a simple pasta dish with some of our produce and stuffed pasta that I bought yesterday. It was mid afternoon by then so it was dunch and we will just have some small snack with wine later on. Tomorrow is Bob’s birthday and we will go to Strasbourg, heat wave or not.

Strasbourg is as advertised – old and new together but the old town and older buildings are charming.

Over everything though is the Cathedral of Notte Dame. It is in the centre of town and can’t be missed even although there are several churches here.

There is no way you can get far enough away to see the bottom and the top in the picture. We are ready to go inside but apparently our timing is off. Closed for lunch for 1 1/2 hours. We decide to try and find an air conditioned place for lunch. Very difficult but we find a cafe and have a very plain lunch and linger over drinks until the cathedral reopens. We have seen a lot of cathedrals with some beautiful interiors and this is not the most spectacular but the stained glass is very impressive.

So is the pipe organ.!

We left the cathedral and headed to the mainland. Strasbourg city centre is actually an island but the city has long expanded beyond the river and it was way less busy there but still some cafes and parks.

But eventually we had to go back and get our car. Probably have to pay ransom I mean a ridiculous parking fee as we are parked in the centre of town. On the way I found this little square off a side street.

Fountain with seats and big old plane trees. Right in the heart of town but no tourists here. Back at the car – 9€ to get our car out. Still less than Brighton.

Tomorrow will still be hot but we are going to the country for a cooking class and hopefully a nice experience. We booked through Air Band B and it was not expensive! Only 30$ cndn. Each. We will make a traditional Alsatian cake – Kugelhoph and a Tarte FlambĂ© and have lunch with wine or beer. Good deal. We have had cooking classes in a few countries and this is the most reasonable so far!

We drove to Lesseux in the country. No town today but we find the driveway and park under a beautiful flowering orange bush. A child answers the door in her bathing suit. It has been so hot that the French government closed the schools. Lucky parents now have to deal with kids at home unexpectedly and those that will have to go back when the heat wave is over. If they still have exams, they have been postponed right into the summer holidays!

It was hot but there was enough breeze blowing here in the country that it wasn’t too bad. Bob and I learned how to make a the Kugelhoph. It is a yeast based cake/bread raised 3 times with the addition of a lot of butter and eggs and a small amount of sugar and either raisins or chopped chocolate (all done by hand) before the last rising. The first two were done before we arrived as we can’t stay all day!While we waited for that we learned how to make the Alsatian version of pizza – tarte flambe. We made it with a pizza dough base rather than the real tradional way with a very thin sheet of pastry. It has a lot of plain cheese mixed with seasoning and then bacon and more cheese before it sits for a bit and is then baked. Our hostess and her family set out lunch outside in the yard by their fish pond. We ate our food plus other bakery items our instructor had baked for our lunch. (A fabulous cheese cake for dessert). I have the recipe for everything plus that but it’s in French. Her husband and his dad joined us at the picnic tables. Dad just back from his morning cycle of 94 kms (about 10 years younger than us). Cycling is very popular here and the motorists are patient and polite. There are a lot of cycling paths and roads with bike lanes as well. The three kids were lovely but shy even although they have been studying English since they were 3 as well as German and of course French. After lunch we headed out with our cakes. We will give one to our hostess in Obernai and attempt to eat the other one but it will likely go stale as it’s very big for just two of us.

Tomorrow we have a long drive -about 5 hours to our next stop in Noyers in the Bourgogne area.

Alsace for a week

Obernai will be our home base for the next week. We have been traveling now for roughly 4 weeks and we have been staying in most places for 2 nights and a couple of one night only except for London (Did I mention that wasn’t nearly enough?)where we stayed 5 nights. It is time to establish a base and take day trips.

We have a lovely apartment in an old building but it has been nicely renovated with some of the old timbers still maintained. It is in a typical Alsace style building – painted pink with the timber’s exposed on the outside. This isn’t it but you get the idea!

We arrived in Obernai in time to get a table for lunch. Lunch ends here at 2:00 and if you aren’t seated by 1:30, they might turn you away. I had the menu of the day – a salad with sliced sausages on nice tender lettuce and other veg, followed by battered and fried squid rings. The most delicate squid I’d ever had but too much batter. Strawberry Ice cream for dessert with fresh strawberries. It is strawberry season here after all! Bob had a big salad with a couple of big pieces of goat cheese on toast with honey and nuts.

We got our keys and got settled in and then explored the town a bit but the weather turned rainy and we didn’t have our coats so we went back to our apartment. It was now definitely time to do laundry and we have a washer here with detergent pellets. It’s been cold or cool so we have been wearing our warmer clothes since Chagford in England!! Really tired of putting the same thing on every day. We did two loads but as we are using a clothes rack for drying, the third load will have to wait til tomorrow.

Saturday morning and I want to find a market so I can buy some fresh produce. We drive to a suburb of Strasbourg where we finds a huge clothing market with a small corner devoted to fresh produce and it is jammed with people. Muslim women in hijab dragging their wheeled grocery bags make navigating tough but in the end I managed to buy all the produce we can eat in a week for less than 10€. Then we blow the economy by buying a barbecued chicken!

They smelled so good! I should have known better- just like the supermarket ones – it was overdone but it still tasted good! Back st the apartment to eat that chicken with some other goodies from the market.

The weather wasn’t nice but we walked a bit of the ramparts before it started to rain. We explored a bit of the town when it stopped raining and the sun came out.

Another carousel – seems most towns have one.

Beautiful veggie garden outside the wall – view from the ramparts path which goes all around the town’s old centre, where we are staying.

On Sunday the weather had improved so we decided to find the flea market. Turned out to be a short way away but really not that interesting as we weren’t buying anything. Next we want to taste some Alsace wines but it’s a bit of a problem as you can’t drink and drive especially when driving stick in a foreign country so we opt for one place today that’s only 15 minutes away.

When we have tasted 3 or 4 wines and bought another it’s time tor lunch. Sunday lunch is very big in France. Most restaurants in town are open for lunch but not for dinner on Sunday so we can’t miss it. We are directed to a local restaurant that served Alsatian food. Turns out that means a big plate of pork and sausage in sauerkraut with spetzle. After I saw one, I ordered the fish! Bob had veal. Let me just say we will avoid restaurants serving traditional Alsatian food in the future!

More walking around town. Starting to get quite warm with a heat wave this week.

Most stores are closed on Sunday so other than seeing the sites there isn’t much to do in any town in this neighbourhood.

Monday we will go to Colmar. Monday is a day when a lot of restaurants are closed but our main thing to do there is go to the Unter Linden Museum to see the famous polytryptic of the Ascension of Christ. Lots of reminders here about the stories from Sunday school! Lots if artifacts from ancient churches.

And a cave with ancient wine making equipment. This was, of course, after lunch. Today the plat du jour was a rare rib steak with salad, potatoes and a vegetable medley. Much better than traditional Alsatian food! We took the little train around town before lunch to see all the major attractions as it’s now very hot and a lot of walking is out of the question!

Saw some storks on a chimney but that’s pretty far away to see details. Loved the old signs still hanging on Clothing stores and what not.

Tomorrow we will go to Saint Adile. It just keeps getting hotter every day but we still are managing to follow our plan as time will run out no matter what the plan.

We are following the routine of closing the house during the day and opening up when the temperature cools off. That means going to sleep in a hot room and getting up around 3:00 to open the windows but it isn’t really cool then. But it is the best we can do.

Verdun and Nancy

This morning we head out to Nancy in the middle of Lorraine which is a couple of hours of driving with a stop in Verdun to see something of where the WWI battles were fought.

Didn’t actually visit Verdun because the sites are along a road leaving Verdun. This is the entrance to the old town of Verdun. Heading down the road to the memorials, the weather is warm and humid but dreary.

We come to this huge memorial to Maginot (the French minister who built a line of fortifications between the first and second world wars called the Maginot line to defend France against the Germans, whom he predicted would attack France again! Yes but they just went around the line through Belgium!! Reason for the monument – he was from this area. We also went to see a couple of elephant bunkers. These looked like elephants and this one still had the remains of a gun inside from WWI These were only accessible via tunnels from a nearby Fort.

From here we went to the WWI museum. This was an extremely well done various videos explaining what went on in this particular area with video footage, still shots, paintings ( done during and after the war) put together on a backdrop of 3 panels with receding depths helping to give the atmosphere of the fields of mud etc. Can’t really describe it but definitely an excellent exhibit in helping us to get the idea of what it was like, and the thousands who died seemingly for no gain over the long run. Very sad.

From there we visited the village of Fleury which was wiped out during WWI and never rebuilt as the ground is littered with unexploded mines and bombs. There were 9 villages completely destroyed and now uninhabitable with a cratered landscape still visible. At least the sun was out now!

On to Nancy.

Now here is a city I’d never heard about from anyone! We found a travel guide at our re- use it centre from 2003. As mostly the only changes would be cost of attractions, we used it for research. In the book, the former owner had underlined Nancy and as it was on our way, with only a small change of route, to Alsace; we decided to spend a couple of nights there. It is a pretty big city with a population of 54K. The heart of the city has a spectacular square – Place Stanislas. A Polish duke was given this area until he died then it would revert back to the French king. He built some beautiful squares in honour of himself.

Our home for two days was adjacent to this square with a beautiful park on the other side.

There are roses everywhere in France, in front of homes, alongside the road and in parks but this rose garden is in full bloom with many different kinds. There are cafes in the park and a children’s area with rides and animals including a couple of peacocks who wouldn’t open their tales.

Everywhere in the centre of the city is another beautiful square.

And they all have outdoor cafes and restaurants and people sitting around enjoying their drinks.

Our first night we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant in Stanislas Square. What a great place to people watch. Dinner was good too. Bob had the lamb Rahul on pappardelle and I had duck with a mushroom sauce and gnocchi. But we always forget to take a picture of the food when it comes as we are too busy eating it! We remember when it’s half gone!!

The next day we decided to go for coffee but realized after a bad coffee in the old town that we didn’t have any more money on us. So we left the old town and went back to get some then set out to wander around a bit and see the beautiful squares and the pedestrian only streets. Then we decided to go to The Nancy Museum of Art Nouveau. Apparently Nancy was the birthplace of this style of furniture and glass designs. It turned out to be only 4€ to visit this restored mansion. It was quite interesting as there was a downloadable tour of the place to explain the collection and how it came to be in this house with a beautiful formal garden. Well worth it.

Nice bathtub!!

Very curvy furniture and glass decorative pieces showing a connection to nature.

Inlay designs, paintings on the ceiling, lights shaped like flowers.

From this museum we walk back to our flat. Turns out we walked over 10 km that day and then we walked out for dinner as well. This time we picked an eclectic place with good reviews not views!!

Not exactly elegant but the food was delicious. I had a tagliatelle with smoked salmon and scallops in a cream sauce and Bob had tagliatelle also but with pork jocks and a light tomato sauce. Our host took it upon himself to hep me with my French pronunciation. Nice gay guy with some English. Just him in the dining room and his partner doing the cooking but the place was quite small.

On our way there we found the cafe and patisserie block that we looked for and couldn’t find. Too late. We already bought our pastries for breakfast tomorrow and then we leave.

We head to Obernai tomorrow where we will make that our base of operations for the next week in Alsace.