Thursday, July 12, 2012

Castles and parting thoughts

It was raining in Paris, and we were wet. In the last few days we drove from Provence to Paris, and we were tired. And wet.

We stayed in a 17th-century manor house only to be served American cheese (not Wisconsin cheddar, but Kraft singles)! I don't know If this was a statement, but it made us want to leave. That and the lack of soap, towels, and toilet paper.

We drove from there to 2 chateaux-the Renaissance confection of Chambord, and the Medievally furnished Langeais, with its 10th-century keep. Zoe was so excited that she pretended to be a dragon who had a a steady job defending castles.

And today, we somehow turned a 3-hour drive from the Loire valley to Paris into an all-day ordeal.

We finally arrived at our last Paris apartment soaked. But this miserable weather reminded me of the first few times I'd been to Paris, and how cold and inhospitable it seemed at times, especially in the rain. No wonder I ha fallen I love with green, warm Amsterdam for life 20 years ago!

We decided that the miserable rain was a good note to leave on though. We were ready to go home. Everyone reading this blog: you can be sure that we miss you.

Having climbed to the 6th floor, we found the apartment to be so cozy, with an amazing view of Canal St. Martin and Sacre Coeur. We got food from the supermarket next door ans settled in for the night to enjoy the well-earned romance.

And that seems to be the best place to leave you all...or rather to return...

Monday, July 9, 2012

The long and winding road

You know how some days start out sucking but end up amazing?

Steve slept too late, and Zoe ate too little, and my cool morning walk to the neighboring village through the vineyards turned into a mid-day ordeal that ended in the middle due to intolerable heat and whining.

But 2 pm brought a wine tasting and a tour of the cellar right below us

Then, since most businesses in our village were closed Mondays, we drove to the neighboring town-Vaison la Romaine. Though the mission had just been to feed a child who had refused to eat all day, it turned into one of the highlights of the trip.

The town clings to the side of the Montmirail mountains, with terraces winding high above the river and the Roman bridge.

After feeding Zoe in the most beautiful creperie in the world (see view), we explored the heights of the medieval town during the late afternoon.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Carcassonne and Arles

This post will be short on words but long on images.

Yesterday, we visited Carcassonne, a 12th-century castle that was besieged during the Cathar crusade. We visited the towers and walked the ramparts. This is what toy castles would like if blown up life size. If I had a band, I would totally call it Murder Hole. Sadly, I turned into my mother by panicking any time Zoe approached a precipice. Too uncool to have a band now, I guess.

Today, we visited Arles, where Van Gogh painted over 300 paintings in a year. I was here twenty years ago, and remember windy squares right out of his paintings. The mission of rediscovering the past failed, however. We did not fun the same areas. Maybe they were inside me. Zoe said she remembered them from "when she was made of stars," ie, before she was born.

The Roman amphitheater was quite cool, though.

Friday, July 6, 2012


That is where we are. Specifically, a little village in the Cotes du Rhone region called Sablet. We are in an apartment above a wine cellar. Our hostess makes wine. The kitchen is the exact same colors as our kitchen at home.

The windows overlook tiny winding streets with tile roofs. Apricots fall swollen with ripeness from the tree next door. Zoe tries to pick them up as specimens. The view out the other windows, facing away from town, is vineyards and mountains. They recede into green mist like backgrounds in Renaissance paintings.

We have been exploring hilltop villages. Both yesterday and today, we drove perilous roads that spiraled along mountains, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. Steve loved doing the driving, Zoe was entertained, and I took no pictures because I spent my time holding the Oh Shit handles on the car.

When we got home, I cooked a fish we bought at a weekly market that featured spiraled shells and creatures still glistening from the sea.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

We'll always have Paris...

A delay in posting, but Paris has been exhausting! It seemed like a poor welcome by the city when Steve couldn't get through a malfunctioning Metro turnstile. He got stuck, then ended up rescuing a young lady whose whole body was similarly trapped. Then poor Stevie schlepped our suitcase up and down several staircases. No escalators here. I remember doing this in my teens all by myself. But we are not in our teens now. My phone was not working, and I forgot how to use the phone card. We went in the wrong direction toward our apartment.

Anyway, after all that, we settled into a well located apartment with a strange smell. To focus on the positive, we are staying in Montmartre, and it is very working class with no tourists in sight. Everyone is friendly, and I am delighted that everyone speaks French to me.

It's been 10 years since I was last in Paris, and I notice that there's more Africans around, which gives the city a hipper, worldlier feel.

Pictures to follow, but we have visited a museum of evolution that was beautifully staged but contained no edifying information. It made us appreciate the field museum so much more!

We also visited my favorite church, St. Chappelle, with the best stained glass in Europe--a bubble of multicolored light. We took a boat tour down the Seine and tried to visit the Eiffel tower, which Zoe is obsessed with, only to discover that the line was too long to accommodate her bedtime.

Tomorrow we blow this stinky apartment (we suspect moldy rags) and head to Provence! See you there.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Amsterdam city center

After 2 nights in de Pijp, we have moved to a more central location. It is above a cafe, with huge windows overlooking a canal. It is a little loud, but living by the Loyola students has prepared all of us for drunken tomfoolery. Once again we rented bikes and have been zooming everywhere, including the Miffy store. Miffy is a bunny, and she is Hello Kitty's predecessor and moral superior. She's also sued the pants off Hello Kitty for copyright infringement.

Also, thanks to Jani Hegarty, we discovered Nemo, the children's science museum. The building is shaped like a ship and designed by the architect of Centre Pompidou. Its roof has a great view of the city, with water steps children love. Zoe and I played chess on a huge chess set. Unfortunately, we also observed the explosion of a house boat from that height and watched as the whole city mobilized a response. We were told that no one was killed.