Monday, July 24, 2017

Home again, home again.

We started our journey home on Saturday. We sadly left Baulay in the rain. And as Benny said "Tears from above because we are leaving today".

I will honestly say that leaving France always makes me sad. It is a place I love and would love to see more of it. It is not that I am not sad leaving other places, because I am. But perhaps because it is so far away that I think this may be my last time here? I certainly hope not.

Our Saturday was spent packing and loading up the car and driving. When I planned this trip, I thought let's drive on Saturday to a village we have never been to near the airport. Spend some time exploring and then have a lazy morning, drive to the airport and be off. I think it was a good plan, except for the driving part. Traffic was terrible and it took us a bit longer than anticipated to reach Senlis. A small village that is one of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France (one of the most beautiful villages in France). A distinction given to about 155 villages in France - I'm not sure who makes these choices. I would be hard pressed to limit this list. It seems like every village I go to is the most beautiful.

Senlis center is full of small windy cobblestone streets, the buildings are all pale colors mostly yellows and whites with some timber thrown in here and there. They have lights that hang off the sides of the buildings and I am sure they are lovely at night. There are lots of cafe's and bars in this little town and of course being near the end of July all the stores "soldes" were now 50% off.

It seems like we were always hitting places after lunch was finished and before dinner is served, so we wondered around and followed the church spire to the cathedral of Senlis. This place was started in 1153! I know all my readers are smart and can do math, but that it is 864 years! For nearly a thousand years a place of worship has stood on this site. The cathedral was built on the site of an older place. It has changed many times over the course of those years and I am sure the people of 1153 would not recognize it today. It has had a fire, been ransacked during the revolution and classified as an historic monument. It is still the church for the village. Perhaps it will stand for another thousand years.

We stopped at a little cafe on one of the little cobblestone streets and had a drink and some olives. While sitting there we watched a young man park and Audi. You might think we were really bored, but not so. He pulled up, backed into a small opening in a building barely wider than the car and we were quite impressed.

We wandered a bit more and then it was finally dinner time. Now one might think that we could not possibly eat another thing after the meal we had the night before, but one would be wrong. We found a place called Table Italienne, reviews on line were good so off we went. We found it without any trouble, well there were a couple of wrong turns, but when are there not? We came in and Upstate told the woman behind the bar that we were there for dinner and then we waited. We waited while five or six women just were kind of standing around. As we started getting a little anxious at the wait, wondering why because there was only one other table occupied in the place, a young man came flying in from the back. Phone at his ear, blue suede shoes on his feet and I am assuming keeper of the table gate. He seemed to be the only one that could seat people and he did seat us. We had a nice little table in a covered area that seemed it could be opened up to the sky. Upstate and I ordered pastas and my beloved and the Girl shared a pizza. It was really good. Not the good of the night before, but different really good. The bread was good here as well, how do the French do such good bread? As we were finishing our dinner it started to rain and we are pretty sure it hailed a bit. Perhaps not the quite tears of Baulay but the ugly hard tears of being even closer to leaving.

We stayed at an Ibis hotel. The Ibis chain is all over Europe. They are budget hotels. So if you choose to stay at one expect smaller rooms then you are used too, one towel per person and not a lot of amenities, but they did have a nice soap in the shower and checkout is noon. Also, we had a great breakfast here. The yogurt was fantastic!

Now I mentioned the lovely cathedral in Senlis, well the non catholic's had a little area in the hotel where they hold Sunday services, we could hear them singing as we waited to check out. Not sure it will be there in a thousand years.

Finally, we checked out and headed for the airport and the rental car return. Here in America most major airports have gone to the off site car rental mega temple. All rental places, giant garages, buses that take you to and from the airport. Recently on a trip to San Diego, I think the bus ride to the rental place was as long as the flight. Not at CDG. No. The car rental places are right smack dab outside the terminals and there are a few terminals so make sure you got the correct area or you will have a long journey to your terminal.

We drove down into a pit between two terminals and found the Enterprise area. We pulled in and a nice young woman, who I will quickly decide I don't like, takes our paper work and starts going over the car. Upstate and my beloved get all the luggage out of the car and onto carts.

This is a tip - use a damn cart when ever you can. It makes your life so much easier. You are welcome.

So she goes over the car and says "there is a tiny crack in the windshield" 

Really? Yes, really.

So she and I go into the little booth and she writes up the damage report. Truthfully, I am glad she did not look at the bottom of the car - all that new road we drove on. She says "they will send you an invoice for the damage". I ask any idea about how much? Oh yes, I can't even type here the amount she said to me.  

Then she asks "how was your experience picking up the car in Paris?" And off I went. She just smiled and handed me the invoice.

So we take our baggage laden luggage carts and start the trek to Terminal 2E - Air France and home.

First stop is at a print your own boarding pass and luggage tags. While my beloved and I could print what we needed cause we had no stops, Upstate and the Girl could not get past Detroit - how sad for them - so they had an extra stop at information and we went directly to check in our luggage.  

Sky Priority is a good thing, you get special lines and I am not ashamed to admit I like it. We got our luggage checked in and then started the wait for Upstate and the Girl. We waited and waited and then had to leave to get to our gate. So this is where we parted ways with Upstate and the Girl, in fact Upstate broke up with us by text. We were headed for different terminals and flights home.

Our flight was delayed a bit so we had a lot of time to sit around wait. We were serenaded by some boys choir. They sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight and the best part was the little girl behind us singing it in French.  

Finally we boarded and off we went. An uneventful flight and home again we are. Then we get to customs and there is a little issue. The woman that had been sitting next to me starts screaming "what??? What??? You left it on the plane? That was your responsibility." She was yelling at the man she was traveling with. Apparently he had left the ipad with all their pictures on the plane. She was crying and I was thinking if that ipad has ALL your pictures from all your life and that is the only place you have them then you are stupid. Stop yelling at the man and go to the AirFrance counter and ask them to check out the plane. Geez.  

Now on to plan the next trip!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Soap, Food and a Selfie

Today was another quite day, in fact I did not even get up to go to get bread with Patrick today. He said he waited five minutes for me and realized I was a no show. We had gotten back to Baulay around 1:00 am and I slept until I heard the bell ring. Every morning at 8:00 Patrick rings the bell in the bell tower. I thought it was to mark the start of the day. But today I found out two things about the bell:  

1) Nobody else has heard it. I mean, my beloved said what bell? The Girl said what are you talking about? Bell?? Upstate was perplexed.

2) The bell ringing is for Benny. To tell her it is time to rise and shine and that her breakfast is ready.

I am beginning to think that Patrick does not sleep.

We decided to do a little shopping today, so back in Azay le Rideau. We went into a store where I purchased a bag ten years ago that I carry to this day every time I go on a trip. They still had the pattern and so I bought a smaller bag for stuff that will go into the bigger bag. If I keep this up in 150 years I will have every shape and size bag in this pattern.

We went for soap products. Upstate wanted some lavender soap and while you can buy this in the states, it is just not the same. The products here just smell so much better, not as manufactured. The scents are more natural. Anyway, the soap shop was so colorful and full of well, soap. Bars, small rounds, big rounds, they lined the walls and hung from the ceiling. I wish I had taken a picture, but I did not. Not sure what I was not thinking. We picked up a few bars. The woman at the counter apologized to me for her poor English. My feelings about that are, I should be apologizing for my poor French. I am in your country after all.

One would think that after coming here so many times, I would speak French quite a bit better than I do. I think I should work on that.

Then we came back and took naps and prepared for dinner. Dinner tonight was at the Auberge XII in the village. Benny had made the reservations and let them know that we were vegetarians. Nice...

We all get more dressed up than we have been and head over for our 7:30 reservation.

We walk in and the Maitre D asks if we have a reservation. I say yes, under the name Bernard. He says "oh, the vegetarians". I think oh dear, is this a bad sign?

He asks if we want inside or out. We choose out and are seated on a lovely patio. He sits us and asks if we would like wine. We explain that my beloved likes sweet wine and Upstate would like a rose, something local.

He brings back two wines and the sweet one is a winner. The rose seems to be alright as well. A good start.

Then he holds up the menu and says, since you are vegetarians you will not be needing the menu? Are eggs and fish alright, he asks? I say, no we do not need the menu, we will trust whatever you do. Yes to the egg and fish as long as it is a white fish.

And man, did they do.

In addition to the MD you have two nice young men waiting on you. One that reminds of us of Lyle Lovett - his hair. And a second that must be an MD in training - is there a school for this or is it on the job training. Then you have two young ladies that clear and deliver some of the food. We can see the kitchen and the chef thru a glass cutout in the wall. I think there were at least four people plus the chef in there making stuff.

So our first course was four different things in little dishes. One was a cold soup of some kind with a little tiny round ball of cantaloupe in it. One was a tiny tomato that had been peeled and rolled in sesame seeds. One was a little leek salad and one was a carrot sorbet. I can't even tell you which was best because they were all fantastic. Now sadly Upstate needs to be careful with the seed thing due to diverticulitis and The Girl reminded her to be careful, because they had a long plane ride to take in the next couple of days. So good for me because I got her tomato!

The next course was a small dish of a pepper salad. Small, really small.

The third course was the best thing I have ever eaten in my life! A soup of some kind that had paper thin carrots cut into little flower shapes, artichoke hearts and a ravioli filled with some kind of cheese. I think that was what was in it. It does not really matter what is was, I would have gone back into the kitchen and fought my way to the pot and eaten the entire pot of it! It was so good that we used our bread - did I mention that the Lyle Lovett look alike brought over a big basket of bread? Fig bread or sesame bread or just white bread. Yeah, just white bread that had a hard crust and broke open like an egg and was soft and chewy inside. Yeah....bread. We used it to soak all the extra goodness that you could not get with your spoon. I thought I might never brush my teeth again, it was that good.

The next course, fish. Cooked to perfection on a bed of tomatoes and peppers diced up really tiny sitting in an olive sauce. The bread was again used to soak up all that sauce. 

Then came the cheese course. Lyle brought out a wheeled table that had seen better days, the cart had a big flat basket on top filled with at least twenty different kinds of cheese. Stinky cheese, goat, sheep, gooey cheese, African cheese, blue cheese. In other words, Cheese Heaven. We all picked a few and most of them were winners. The African cheese I picked tasted like nuts. It was yummy. Imagine a little bit of cheese on a little bit of fig bread. Oh yeah with some fig compote, my god who thinks of these things cause I want to worship at their feet.

Dessert was a fruit crumble of some type with rhubarb and blueberries, we think. With a pistachio ice cream on top that was a little taste of perfection. It came on little dishes that had these cute little covers.

So we were done and we were stuffed.

But no, we were not done. Lyle put some new plates on our table and said a surprise! A surprise? Can I eat one more thing?  

We see the two young ladies lighting what looks like birthday cakes of some kind. Upstate and I look at each other and think cool, for us? But no, they went right by us to another table. We were joking wouldn't it be funny if they were bringing them to the wrong table? Well they were not. We did not get anything with candles in it. What we got were four little dishes again filled with delightfulness. One was a little tiny blueberry muffin thingy, then a mint and chocolate pudding thing, a cream brûlée that had fall spices in it and my favorite, a strawberry sorbet, that was so cold and smooth.

Then we were done. Really done. So done I thought they were going to have to roll me out of there.  

I'm not going to talk about the guy on the patio that smoked because he really did not spoil it as much as his wife that wore so much perfume it made your eyes water. Or the family at a table behind us that the young girl would not eat anything but the bread. Or the family that came in with at least three children under 4, why would you bring them to a place like this? And I am not going to talk about the table in the corner with the woman who looked angry and was with a very very young man that got our candle lit dessert.  Our about how when I got up to use the ladies room I kicked a table that had glasses and wine one it and was afraid it was going to crash to the floor, but did not. 

We came back to Baulay and went over to Patrick and Benny's to report on our dinner and thank them for arranging it. We chatted a few minutes about how great it was. As we were leaving the artist friends were just arriving home from a long day of house hunting. They think they have been successful and have found a home! Yeah. They showed us a picture and it looks lovely. And yes, I am jealous.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lights, Cameras and Cousin Love

 Oh my. Today started very early. Music Man and Photo Girl are leaving and needed a ride to Tours to the train station. Their train is scheduled to leave at 7:45 am and that meant a 6:30 departure for them, Upstate and I. While talking to our hosts about this the evening before, Benny said "oh no, they should leave from Druye, the next village over. They can catch the train to Tours, change at Saint Pierre Des Corps and then right to CDG. It is very easy, I did this for 17 years to Paris. There is no need to drive into Tours. We will ask Patrick to take them. He is up at that time."

Patrick, Upstate, MM & PG and I all piled into the car at 6:30 and headed to the next village. We got to the village and the little shop that sells tickets to the train was not open yet. We waited for the train to come, Patrick explained what they needed to do, the train pulled up at exactly the time specified on the schedule, they jumped on and their trip home begins. I think they were both ready to get home. Upstate got updates of their journey and seems they were both picked out at CDG for more extensive searches and Music Man was the last on the person on the plane much to Photo Girls relief. Last I heard they are home safe and sound and going to weekend music festival. Ah to to be young.

Near the train station is the place where all that wheat that is being harvested is brought.  A big mountain of wheat, you are only seeing part of it in the picture.  I am telling you there are a lot of very happy birds that live in this neck of the woods.

Upstate, Patrick and I continued on to get our daily fresh baguettes. I am not sure what I will do for the few weeks after we return home and there is no fresh baguette waiting for me or actually taking a daily trip to the traditional baker in town and being the only ones around on a quite morning. It is one of my favorite times of the day. Patrick showed us the map of the area in the Plaza Calder, which for some strange reason is missing it's Calder sculpture. I was surprised to actually see Baulay on this map. Now everyone will know how to find it.  

Then back to Baulay to plan the day. And today's day was a quite restful one. My beloved was having a bit of stomach issue, so she slept most of the day away. And The Girl, well she is a teenager and can sleep, sleep, sleep. So, Upstate and I spent the day reading and relaxing, something I could get very used to and Upstate said she was just not used to having this luxury of time.  

At some point Patrick took his tractor out and harvested some of the freshly mown hay left over in the wheat fields for his garden - it keeps down the weeds.

I must say a few words about our hosts and not just because I know that Benny is following this blog, but because they must be said. Patrick and Benny are the kind of people you want to host you on your travels. They are as involved as you want them to be, they know everything about this area, they are welcoming and they live a life in a beautiful place that they enjoy sharing with others. I am a lucky girl to have crossed paths with them so many years ago and been invited to this magical place and been blessed to be able to return. I hope to return many more times.

So as the day goes on we decide to take a trip to Blois (pronounced Blah) this evening for the light show at the Chateau. We pile into the car - actually now that we are down to four there is plenty of room for all of us - and head out.

Yesterday I told you about the detour at Azay le Rideau, well the road work has moved down the road to our little road. We drive out our little windy road and get ready to take a left at the end of it. Sadly the road is blocked, we can't take a left - oh no! So we must go right.

I have say that having GPS in the car is wonderful. I used to the think that people that could not read a map and relied on GPS should not be let out of the house alone. But the GPS is now my new best friend.   

The nice lady inside the GPS rerouted us - we are following her directions on a newly paved road (I don't even want to think what the bottom of the car looks like) we continue and are preparing to take a right turn in a few kilometers. Now at this point there are two or three cars behind us, so we feel confident it is alright to be on this road, then...

In front of us, with no place to turn off, the road is blocked by cones and a sign that we cannot read. Not because it is in French, but because it is for traffic coming the other way? I felt like I should be in a cartoon, you know where you look one way and then the other and can't go either way and your eyes bulge out of your head.

We stop the car and I get out and do what must be done. I move the cones so we can pass. The woman driving the car behind us smiles, shrugs her shoulders and gives me a thumbs up. Well, on we go. We follow our re-routed instructions and boom we are on the A10 and on our way.

Some background on Blois, because I know you, my faithful readers demand it.  

Let's start with Joan of Arc. In 1429 she came from Chinon to Blois to be blessed before taking her army to push the English out of Orleans. The siege of Orleans lasted only nine days, but imagine these being hurled at your for nine days. I'd give in after a couple of hours.

I don't know how old she was, but again they let her do all the dirty work then burned her at the stake. And truthfully being declared a saint a few hundred years later would not have been worth it in my book. Let Charles fight his own battles. I have said that if Joan stopped at every church they say she stopped in she would have never made it Orleans, but who am I to argue with her travel blog - which is a statue in every town, village and church in the Loire.

This chateau has 564 rooms. Each room has a fireplace. There are 100 bedrooms and 75 staircases. It has got some really creepy water down spouts. I have tried to find info on them, but have been unable to find anything. They look like people in absolute agony.

I try to imagine the number of people it must have taken to keep a place like this going. Maybe some of the down spouts are people that worked here, because going up and down all the stairs would have made me cry out in agony.

As the sun began to set and lights started to come on the pathways were transformed and people started gathering in the courtyard of the Chateau to await the light show. 

I am going to skip a lot of years and get to 1588 and Henry III, the son of Catherine De Medici. During the Estates-General convention here during that year Henry III assured his cousin, the Duke of Guise, that he loved him and trusted no one in France more, then the next morning had him assassinated by a bunch of guys with knives. Then he had the Duke's brother, the Cardinal of Guise bumped off the following day.  

Catherine died in this chateau about a dozen years later. In tonight's light show they portrayed her as a person that only wanted the Catholics and Protestants to get along. But, you can't be behind the St. Bartholomew's day massacre and cry about how people don't like you.

The light show brought us thru many years in the life the Blois Chateau and luckily in 1841 t was declared a historic monument! Thanks King Louis-Philippe and to Felix Durban the architect who lead the restoration.  

The show started at 10:30 and lasted a bit more than an hour. Now we had our hour drive back to Sache. Let me say here that my beloved did a great job of getting us back. The roads here, even the highways are DARK. There are no street lights and the stars don't give you enough light to drive by. We made it back were very glad to see the sign for Baulay at the end of the drive.

We staggered in an fell into dreamland where I am sure we all dreamed in in techno color tonight.

As a side note, I normally write this blog in the morning after the day I am talking about. I write and then I look back at the pictures I took during the day to decide which to include in the blog. While looking at them, I realize, oh I left that out or should I blog about that? Then I go back a revise a little. Right before I left I downloaded the newest version of the blogging software I use and it was having issues, my posts were disappearing, so I started writing them in another app and copying them to the blog, I am much happier and you are getting a lot more info. Lucky you and a way less frustrated me.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chandeliers, Sache, Chinon and a detour

Today was a much cooler day.  Started today with an outing with Benny to the Furniture man. Just Upstate and I took a little ride to a place that I am not sure I can even describe. At first glance you are saying "what is all the junk" then after a few minutes you are saying "what can I find here". A man has been going to estate sales and buying things for many years. He has everything you could imagine from dishes to paintings. While these pictures look like big piles that one would have no way of knowing what was where, I can guarantee you that the Furniture man knows exactly where everything is. I was in chandelier heaven, if I only had a bigger suitcase. I am saying right here that if I ever do get a charming little house in the Loire, I will be getting much of the stuff in it right here. While we peeked in the barns and did venture in a little bit, I did feel that if you touched the wrong thing it would all come tumbling on your head. So leave the picking to the professional.  

Now back to the cottage and wake all the others and off to the Chateau de Sache. This chateau's claim to fame is that the famous author Honore de Balzac spent time there writing. It seems he would head there when things go too tough in Paris. You know, like your creditors were knocking at your door. The owner of the chateau was Jean de Margonne. Who just happened to be the lover of Balzac's mother and father of his half brother and also made his fortune making cheesecloth. So I guess if you need a place to stay, this might be a place you could go. He sounded like an interesting house guest. He would entertain all by reading his works to them, going to bed after supper and sleeping for a few hours, then get up and write all night sustained by large amounts of coffee. In one room were many statues of Balzac, some by famed artist Rodin, none of them show a very attractive man. I'm thinking Monsieur Balzac had to have something else going for him than his looks. Hmm, maybe it was that whole writing thing?

While exploring the dining room Music Man noticed a stand with a hat on it. The sign invited you to try it on, just please put it back where you found it. So, when in Rome... and don't think about how many other people have put that hat on their heads.

We tried to get into the church in the main plaza in Sache, but it was closed. When I approached the front door I noticed many bouquets of flowers wrapped in clear plastic at the door. I tried the door and it was locked so we could not visit. I watched an old man get out of his car and carry a bouquet to the church door. I watched him as he slowly approached using his cane. I stopped to watch him go down the stairs, thinking if he fell I could be there to help him get up. Pay it forward. But no, he took his time and made it down safely.

On on way to our next destination Photo girl said oh I wonder where that road goes. It was a small road between two sunflower fields. So my beloved turned the car around to find out. We all wondered where does it go? Well the answer is it stops in the middle of a field about 50 feet past the first curve in the road. So my beloved pulls at 50 point turn with the little beeping sound of you are too close to something sound coming form the car for an extended period of time and we continue on our way.

We head over to Chinon, you know, the place where Joan of Arc started causing trouble.

Chinon is a midievil town with a big fort above it. It is on the banks of the Vienna River and you can look out over the slate rooftops for a view not seen in many places.

I don't know about you, but I get pretty confused when it comes to the kings of England and France. Chinon was developed under Henry II, who was crowned King of England in 1154. Henry took the castle from his brother Geoffrey after he had rebelled a second time. On his death the castle went to his eldest living son with Eleanor of Aquitaine - Richard the Lionheart. Richard had it from 1189 to 1199 when he died. This does not mean he spent much time there, it seems that The Lionheart spent most of his time on Crusades and basically pissing off, holding for ransom and fighting everyone around him. I find it interesting that his heart was buried at Rouen, his entrails in Chalus and the rest of him in Anjou. I do wonder why they split him up that way.

Richard's mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine. He died in her arms and is buried (well, part of him) next to her at the foot of his father's tomb. And some people wonder about his sexuality.

Anyway, back to Chinon which had a siege of it's own to deal with. In 1205 Philip II of France captured Chinon after a battle of many months. Imagine being stuck in the fortress for months while people threw big giant rocks at you, dug under your walls and just generally harassed you the entire time. Eventually Philip got everyone under control and the fortress and town has been under French control ever since.

This is the place where Philip IV (The Fair) imprisoned the last grand master of the Templar and a few others from this order. Philip The Fair was not called that because he was a fair and just ruler. He was pretty. He imprisoned the Templars because they were rich and he did not want to pay back the money he owed them. Oh yeah, he owed the Jews of this area a bit of money as well, so he kicked them out of France.

Again, back to Chinon. In 1429 along came a little girl name Joan. She picked the future Charles VII out of a crowd and was responsible for breaking the siege of Orleans which lead to him being crowned king. We all know how they thanked her. Burned her at the stake after letting her do all the dirty work.

We decided that tonight we would have dinner at Baulay, so another trip to the grocery store in Azay le Rideau was in order. We shopped and got back in the car for our ride home and zip, zip stop! The road is closed for repair, we drove up just as the worker was putting up the cones and signs. Oh, no.  

He walked over and looked into our car and we said Sache??? He said, well I don't know what he said, but what I heard was - go back to Azay le Rideau and take a left and another left, you will be fine.

OK, so back we go. We go left at the round about and left again and end up in a very nice campground. Where my beloved said "how do we get out of here" there was gate on the outgoing, but not the incoming. So being the resourceful person she is she went out the in. The man standing at the entrance looked perplexed.  

So we backtrack to the center of town and we did start down a one way street going the wrong way. So we backed up a bit while a woman in a blue and white off the shoulder checked blouse watched us with a "what the fuck" look on her face. We pulled into a parking area and used our devices to re-route ourselves and made it back in time for a nice dinner cooked by Upstate.

I may have mentioned wheat harvesting is going on. Well they were harvesting the fields around us until after 11 last night. They worked until the last little ray of light faded. They work very hard. I have been told that one of the brothers is retiring, so who knows what will happen around here in the next few years.

There used to be many small farms around here like Baulay. They all had a cow or two, maybe a horse, they farmed their lands. Now they buy their milk at the store, drive something with more than one horsepower and rent their land for planting. It makes me sad that someday this area may not look like this anymore. I do realize that things change, but does everything have to change?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Biking the French countryside

So... have you ever wondered what it would be like to rent a bike in the country side of France? Imagine it, biking from chateau to chateau. Stopping along the way to take pictures of the lovely countryside. The slight breeze blowing your hair back for that perfect picture of you, a bike, a baguette in the basket, a chateau in the background. Yes, it all sounds so picturesque, so wonderful, so full of shit!

This is what really happens.

You drive to the village of Azay le Rideau to the bike rental shop. You talk to the man about the ride (with a French accent) oh, it is not far to Villandry. Round trip about 25 kilometers. Once you get past this first hill it is all flat, all the way. OK then, that does not sound bad.

We walk up the hill with our little bikes with saddle bags not baskets and it does flatten out. We ride the bike path for a little bit and it goes right thru a wheat field, that when not being HARVESTED I am sure was quite lovely. So onward we go. A rather large grasshopper decided to fly right down my shirt. So imagine trying to stay on the bike and get a grasshopper out of your bra. Yeah...

Then we bike some more thru a little forest which was cool and pretty. I watch Photo Girl try to take a selfie and marvel at her long arms and skillful bike riding.

We pass a beautiful Hotel and Tea Room and cross over some railroad tracks. Next to the railroad tracks is a very nice house and The Girl says wow that is a really cute house. I reply (because I could still speak at this time) yeah until the train comes thru your backyard.

And we continue to peddle and we hit a down hill and then I remember a mantra from hiking - for every downhill there is an uphill waiting for you - and yup there it is. There are some beautiful cows in a field off to the left which I use as an excuse to stop and take a picture and walk UP the hill.

There is a man with a truck and a trailer and I seriously think if he is going in the direction we are, I might just pay him to throw this bike and my ass into the trailer and take me with them. But alas they head back in the direction we have come from and in retrospect I should have paid him to take me back.

So we peddle some more and some more and see a sign for where we are going. All the signs are in kilometers but I know that 10 KM is not around the corner.

At some point we missed the bike path trail and end up on a road leading into Villandry. A road with traffic going fast, but what is a girl to do? Just go. Luckily there is a good down hill, really good, too good. We are going faster and faster and faster when a damn truck pulls out in front of my beloved and I and in my head I scream and wonder you couldn't wait?

We (my beloved and I) catch up to the rest of crew at the Villandry commune line and we peddle over to the chateau area. We opt for lunch before touring. We were hot and hungry. Then over to the chateau.

My beloved and I toured the gardens 

while Upstate and the crew went into the chateau and the gardens. We regrouped after a while and started the ride back.

It started UPHILL with a detour. My beloved and I brought up the rear and as we are walking our bikes uphill a couple passes us saying "electric" and pointing at their bikes. Damn them! Why didn't we think of that? And up we went and up and up. So we finally get to a point where we can ride and off we go. We tell the rest to go ahead, because not only am I a slow hiker I am a slow biker. We biked and we walked. We biked and we walked. We biked and we fell (well I fell over at one point) we biked and we sat. We caught up with Upstate and Crew waiting for us under the shade of a tree.  

They continued on and we sat for a bit longer. Then pushed on walking, biking, walking biking.

We came to a little town and we stopped our bikes and my beloved went to get water. Sadly the little store was closed. I was sitting on the curb in the shade looking pretty bad I am assuming. A young woman pulled her car into her driveway and then came back out and asked if we wanted some water. We gladly said yes and she invited us into her home. Inside was a woman I assume was her mother (neither of them spoke English and our brains were now mush and could speak nothing) they gave us water, told us the temperature and I'm sure wondered if these two old broads were out of their minds. We stayed for a few minutes and then pushed on.

We continued our biking walking biking and walking. At one point I considered throwing my bike down on the side of the road and my body down next to it and crying. But I did not. My beloved kept saying you can do this. We can do this. Come on.  

We continued on and suddenly from around a corner came an ambulance and I thought yeah... they have come for me. But, no. I guess someone else needed them more.  

A few minutes after the ambulance rolled by our friend that offered water and the shade of her home to us pulled up. She had called a friend with a larger car and they came looking for us. We must have looked really bad. I can just imagine the conversation - please come and help me look for these two old ladies on bikes going to Azay le Rideau. I think they might die on the way and I can't stand the guilt if I don't help them.

So being the good wife that she is, my beloved said - take her. I will continue to ride. Truth be told, I did not put up much of a fight. In fact she peddled off and I stood there as these two young women figured out how to get my bike into the car. And off we went.  

My beloved made much better time without me and we passed her not too far from town. Yes, we did stop and make sure she was ok and gave her the rest of my water. Then I waved goodbye.

We got to the rental place and the girls got my bike out of the car and I offered them some money. They would not have it! They said no, no, no. We would only wish that if we were in this position someone would help us. So, pay it forward people. I'm going to be doing that for a while.

I sat and waited. I looked at my phone and it was dead. Then I thought, I have my beloveds pack and I know that she carries extra power in there. I was able to charge my phone enough to find Upstate and crew (yes, please bring me water) and get a phone call from my beloved asking how to get to the bike shop.

Music man went up the corner and looked for her. Came back and went up a second time. I picked my ass up off the step I was sitting on and went up as well. We looked around and could not spot her. After a few minutes we spotted her yellow shirt (for a minute a Tour de France joke ran thru my mind, but it never made it out of my mouth). She had come down the wrong street and was a bit mixed up. Lack of water? Too much sun?? Did I mention we did this in 95+ degrees? Yeah...

We all piled into the car and went off in search of Aloe for the sunburn and more water. We finally made it back to our sanctuary and headed for showers and something to eat.

Photo girl and The Girl made us a nice little spread and we all ate, drank and went to bed.

And I guess I woke up not dead this morning because I am writing this.

Monday, Monday - a Tisket a Tasket

Today started with a sweet ride in Patrick's BMW Z3 convertible to get to town early to get baguettes for the crew. He likes to go early in the morning to get some fresh air. I will say, being driven in a sports car on the little windy roads is a bit different than driving them in a sedan filled with other people. I liked it. He also took me by a barn that is for sale not far from here. We stopped and looked, but it was too close to the road to consider. Sad.

Then later we went to Villaines-les-Rochers which is a town that is famous for its baskets. As we pulled up to the cooperative and got out of the car the sign changed from Overt to Ferme! We tried not to take it personally. We took a walk thru the village and ended up at Vannerie Romani Art. This was a studio run by a woman and her husband that make baskets and serve drinks on their lovely tree covered deck. They have a facebook page and webpage - check them out.

Catherine took a liking to Music Man (name de blog for Upstates son) and at one point I think she thought he spoke fluent French. She spoke to him really fast, I understood about every third word. He did really well and does not seem to be self conscious of speaking. Unlike me. If someone speaks to me very slowly, I can understand. And it my head I am speaking fluent French, it just won't come out of my mouth. It is very sad.

She talked to us about the coop where they make many items in willow. Baskets, trays, etc. She had worked there for 28 years making the same rectangular tray every day, until she just could not take it any more. She and her husband struck out on their own, which is very unusual in France. From what she said working there was almost slavery, they pay them by the piece and you have to make a certain number of pieces every day. They are not paid much and the owner of the coop was a very difficult demanding man to work for. It was his way or the highway, she and her husband took the highway.

We did go into the coop, I mean we had come all this way... I am happy to say we did not purchase anything and that I will never purchase another basket from China. It is a dying art form in France and that seems a shame to me. Catherine was teaching a woman to make baskets today. While the student was interested in making contemporary baskets it was explained to me that she needs to learn to make traditional baskets first. Because you cannot make new baskets without knowing the old ways. Catherine also was the first woman to get a certificate in rattan furniture. She was restoring a couple of chairs in an also dying art form. Her husband won "best basket maker in France" at some point. It was interesting to watch him work, we treat baskets gently and think we will break them. He was whacking the one he was working on with a tool that looked like a flattened hammer, so I think dropping one won't do much damage. Unless they come from China, then they will probably shatter.

We also saw groups of Boy Scouts, sweaty boys in shorts and hats with maps. We think they must be on some kind of a test, you know get to this point or get kicked out of the scouts. Who wants a scout around that 1) can't read a map and 2) can't find his way out of paper bag. Isn't that what scouting is all about?

Then it was off to the highlight of our day, lunch. We went back to Azay la Rideau to catch a bite. Alas it was too late to manger, so we gave it up and headed to the CarreFore, the big grocery store in town. We came across a pizza place in the plaza where the grocery store was and decided pizza for lunch. It was a good idea to eat before we went into the grocery store, since we were all pretty hungry and might have purchased far more than we needed for the next few days. So trying to order pizza in a place where the guy is not French. He was Greek and said he spoke French, but from what I could tell not very well. Well, I thought I ordered one large margarita pizza. My beloved said, I think he thinks we want two pizza's. No, I said one. Yes, but I think he is making two. Music man ordered two pizzas, one with meat and one cheese. Well, we ended up with four pizza's at our table. That is a lot of pizza. Photo girl did not like the look of the meat on the pizza and I think the fact that Music Man had an upset tummy a little later might have proved her right.

Now, off to the grocery store. This is a full service grocery store! They have everything you could ever want. From playing cards to badly needed sandals for Photo Girl. She had only brought one pair of shoes on her travels and while she said they were comfortable for most occasions, she needed a break from them. So there she was standing in the grocery store with a pair of sandals. Imagine my surprise when I saw that. So we gathered groceries and as we all wondered around we ended up with three of the same cheese, two of which went back, while we like cheese - to much of a good thing can back you up - if you know what I mean.

We took our groceries and our left over pizza and headed back to our little slice of the Loire. As we are standing in the cottage a woman comes up to the door with a large beautiful bouquet of flowers. She stopped at the Dutch door and said (in a french accent) there is Beth Hogan?

Yes. I signed for them and we all waited for Upstate to come downstairs. She came down and was very surprised to see that Minnesota Man had sent her flowers for their 24th wedding anniversary. How lovely. Our first thought was how the hell did he pull this off? We are out in the middle of nowhere. Really? Did he find someone that speaks French and call a local florist? Did he do it all over the internet? Did he contact Patrick and Benny? Well, he found them on the internet. He had to contact two because the first one backed out. The second one probably had better flowers anyway. I learned later that the florist had contacted Benny to find out where to come. It was really a special moment. I guess love will find you no matter where you go.

We were invited over to Patrick & Benny's for wine and whatever. We all went over and were introduced to some artist friends of Patrick and Benny's that have returned to France from Columbia. They are house hunting and I am a little jealous.  

As we are sitting there talking about their art, it comes out that he does erotic art. What? What? He brought out a bag of these little boxes that looked like beach cabanas. Very nicely made and painted. There are little levers on the side or back of the box that would move what was inside. Let me just say inside the box were little cut outs of people that were naked and having sex. One of them had two men and a woman and both men had the face of the guy from 50 Shades of Grey. Um, lets just say the workmanship was great!

So now we are back in our Baulay and it is 9:45 at night and still light out. While it seems wrong to go to bed and waste this daylight, I have another early date with Patrick to get our morning drive to get bread, so off to bed I go.

Sunday in the Country

Today was our first full day here in the Loire. We are outside of a little tiny town called Sache. The closest "big" village is Azay le Rideau. The farm we are staying at straddles the line of both the commune of Sache and Azay le Rideau.

This is what I know about Baulay. It has been here since at least 1750! It has a well that is 250 meters deep and is totally lined with the white limestone that everything around here seems to be made of. I have been trying to imagine digging a well that deep and lining it with stones all the way down. The water can be found at about 80 meters all year long. It is the deepest well in the commune.

The little house we are staying in (Baulette) is actually made from the stones of the original farmhouse that sat on this land. Our hosts Patrick and Benny built it. The converted barn (Baulay) is also for rent and is spectacular. Patrick and Benny live in a newly constructed building made from the stones of a hospital (I think) that Patrick recycled when they tore the hospital down. On my first visit here there was just a big pile of stone in the yard. On my second visit there was a home. The bedroom in this house is a room with windows that look out all around the property. There is actually an interior window that looks out thru the house and out to the courtyard. Patrick told me that he did it that way so that when they are old they can lay in bed and still look out at the property.

There are gardens, a pond with some freakishly big carp in it, flowers, fruit trees, lavender. We are surrounded by wheat fields at this visit, which they have started to harvest. On my first visit I was surrounded by sunflowers, I have been know to say that I felt like I was in the middle of a van gough painting.

Today we visited the town of Azay le Rideau, 

which of course, has a chateau of the same name. It has a long history, of course. The original castle was built in the 12th century. It had been occupied and burnt to the ground. It was left in ruins until the early 1500's. Two kings of France have slept under its roof. Let me tell you about the roof. Recent renovations have exposed part of the attic and you can see the structure that holds up the chateau.  

The workmanship. The size of the timbers used. They don't make them like that anymore. Timbers from the 16th century and they seem as new as if they were cut a week ago. The current chateau was was the brain child of Gilles Berthelot, the mayor of Tours and treasurer-general of the Kings finances. This job required him to travel a lot, so the rebuilding of the chateau fell to his wife, Philippe Lesbahy. The chateau is said to be very feminine and I would think this is why. Now, being the Kings treasurer was probably a hard job and after seeing what a grand place Gilles had built, the king became a little suspicious of where Gilles was getting this money from. His cousin, Jacques de Beaune (the chief minister in charge of royal finances) had recently been executed due to problems with the Kings money and Gilles took off to parts unknown. Sadly for Philippe the chateau was taken by the King and given to someone else. Gilles died a couple of years later and I don't know what happened to poor homeless Philippe.

On the doors of the chateau was a sign that Upstate and I belong here.

We wandered the town. They have a lovely little church and of course candles were lit.

There was a show of art work from a cartoon character that I don't know anything about. The street were decorated with characters from the cartoon and it made the village very festive.

We had a late lunch in the village. The waiter was very nice. We sat under the awning and he suggested we move to a table on the other side of the street where it was cooler. It was the right choice! He was very flirtey with the Girl and the Photo Girl (girlfriend of the son of Upstate).  

We had our first vegetarian burger here in France. It was weird, not sure what it was made of, but it was tasty and the frites were yummy.

Then we piled back back in the car and headed back to Baulay. I was shocked when we got back and it was nearly 6:00 pm. It just is so light out that you lose track of the time. At nearly 10:00 pm it was still light enough outside that I had to force myself to go to bed since I had a 7:30 am date with Patrick to go to the village to get bread.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Baulay - Sache, France

And this is where my love affair with French barns and the countryside began:

This is the property of my friends Patrick and Benny Bernard.  I met them 20 years ago (how the hell did that happen) when I rented a Paris apartment from them and was invited for a weekend at their home outside the tiny little town called Sache in the Loire Valley.

They rent out their barn and the little farm house across the courtyard and I have returned here over the years.  It refreashes after the hustle and bustle of Paris.

I have been told that there is a barn for sale (needing renovation) nearby.  My beloved may be going to tour one old barn.

I am happy to be here and happy to share it with new people.

Fucked up Fuck Fest!

Well this was a travel day. It seemed pretty easy, pack up and leave the apartment. Leave Upstate and the Girl on a bench with the baggage and my beloved and I jump on the metro and get the rental car from the nearby train station and swing back around and get Upstate, the Girl and said baggage and head off the the Loire! Sounds easy, yes?

Well, first I want you to imagine getting the baggage and ourselves down from the apartment using and elevator about the size of the average coffee table turned on its end. So, your suitcase, you carryon bag and your ass in the elevator hoping you have not exceeded the weight limit. Because even if you have walked nearly eight miles every day for the last week, you have eaten all that bread....

So we get down to the street and I am the last one out. Everyone has nicely placed their luggage next to the bench outside, the wrong bench. So I had to make them move do a bench further down the street to be closer to where we could park the car. My beloved and I set off for the metro with the thought we should be back in 45 minutes or so! Great! We get to the train station and find the rental car company where we are told - imagine this with a French accent: We are sorry, but we do not have a car for you. We have been trying to reach you, but your voicemail is full. We will not have a car for you until at least 5 pm this evening.

Quel surprise!

What? What? What phone number have you been calling? My phone has not rung - as I look at it and discover that the ringer is on silent - but still no calls - whew!

We (again with a French accent - because it makes it funnier) have been calling 485 -

Wait, that is our home number (this time in a frustrated American accent), where did you get that number from. All our paper work has this cell phone number.

Oh, well. This is the number we have in the system, we do not know why we do not have this number on your paper work. Can you give it to me now so that we can call you later today when we have a car available?

Wait, you mean there is not a car anywhere for us. We booked over a month ago. What are we supposed to do? We left two of our party back by our apartment with all our luggage waiting for us to pick them up?

Now a lovely woman joins the party - Well (French accent) you can get them an uber and bring them here and we will pay for the uber and store your luggage for you until a car is here. I am sorry, but many people just did not return their cars. If I had a bigger car I would give it to you for free, but I do not. I have called all over Paris and there are just no cars. We will call you when one comes in.

Two not happy girls we are at this point. But, I don't want to scream and shout because then we might never get a car. So the plan becomes, there are many other rental places here, lets try some of them. Let's just say it was a very busy day in the Paris rental car business and the only car we were offered from a couple of very nice agents at Avis was a lovely BMW for the low low price of $2600 bucks for the time we need it. While we went above our pay grade on the Paris apartment we just could not bring ourselves to spend that on a car.


I arrange for an uber to pick up Upstate and the Girl and the luggage to bring them over to the rental place so that they could store our luggage while we did what? I pick a van, because there is a lot of luggage. I watch it on the uber app, like little ants crawling across the screen, then the phone call from the driver that does not speak English and I cannot even begin to formulate the words in French for:

They are 87 Boulevard Beaumarchais. On the street waiting for you. You can't miss them they are a woman and a young girl with LOTS of luggage. No, not 86, 87! Look across the street you see them. I hear him talking to other people, another person gets on the phone and I try to explain to her. Meanwhile the Girl is on the bench waving at the uber guy who is not paying attention. I go upstairs to the rental place and have the nice woman get on the phone. The uber driver has by this time seen them and has pulled a u-turn and finally gotten to the correct location. A few minutes later they pull up in front of the rental place and we extract all the baggage and take it upstairs. Yes, up stairs. Stairs. Stairs and more stairs. We pile it all into the rental places back room to sit until they have a car for us. As we are leaving I think of the stinky cheese that is in one of those bags and I am secretly happy.

We wander over to the train station, sit to eat, decide that place is to expensive, wonder to another with no resolution to the eating issue, but we had by this time resolved the bathroom search issue. So, we go back to the building with the rental car place and sit at a nice little pizza place across the hall from the rental place. We proceeded to eat some really good pizza. The people that ran it were from Italy so you don't know whether to say merci or Grazie. It can get very confusing. We sat next to this nice couple for Marseille, he was very talkative and she was in a wheelchair. I can truly say that Paris is a town that I would not want to be in a wheelchair in. Not that I would want to be in a wheelchair period, but I am not sure the French have heard of ADA compliant. Anyway, they had taken a three hour train ride to be in town to celebrate one of their son's birthday. They would be returning to Marseille as soon as possible, they do not like the city of lights. Upstate had a nice conversation with them, while the Girl watched the rental place. She watched people come in and leave, she saw people come in and seem to get a car, she saw people waiting. At about 3 I went over to check things out and surprise they had someone return a car. A car has been returned. A car with a big trunk, we are cleaning it now. Come and lets do the contract and get you going. Yeah, I guess a three hour delay is better than a five or longer delay. Yes??

So we grab our baggage and head down to the garage with a guy I'll call John Luke. We get 4 floors below ground and wait while they get our car ready. Finally we are able to fit all the bags into the truck, with the exception of a couple of bags (one with the stinky cheese) and off we go. Yeah!!!

We navigate thru Paris onto the A3, then onto the A6b and we are on our way!!! About 30 miles outside of Paris I get a call. You need to come back, you have forgotten the keys to the car. What?? We are driving along?? Seriously, we have to turn around and go back into Paris to retrieve the keys that "I" forgot? How about the retrieve the keys you had in your pocket and forgot to give to us? I guess we would have been fine until we turned the car off. Damn.... So back to Paris where we got caught up in a game of Groundhog Day trying to get back to the rental place using an exit that was closed, but the map app kept taking us back to it. Finally my beloved pulled over and used a different app - mumbling about why would we use the iPhone app, use the google app it is better - OK maybe it is because it directed us differently and we finally arrived at the rental place. I ran up (ok I walked quickly) hoping they were still there because nobody was picking up the damn phone. They were. They gave me the key and walked down with me to make sure it was the right key. Success. Back in the car. Back on the A3 to the AB6 to the A10 and at 6:02 we were back in business.

We made it to Patrick and Benny's without too much more drama except we really did regret at this point not leaving that stinky cheese hidden in the rental place somewhere.

We said our hello's and unpacked the car and then Uptown and I and our hostess Benny headed into Tours to retrieve Uptown's son (the Musician) and his girlfriend (the Photographer) who had been traveling all day and were joining us for a couple of days. It took a while to find them, train station - bus station - they are the same thing, right? No, but we got them and piled them into the car and I think they were happy to have a soft bed to fall into after being on the road for a looooonnnngggg day.

So we are all here. We are all safe and I am still regretting not leaving that stinky cheese tucked into a dark place in the rental car office.

Churches, Helicopters and Fireworks!!

Today started early. We we up and out before 8 this morning with the hopes of beating the crowd to get into St. Chapelle. Well, we beat the crowd. In fact I would say that Bastille day is the the day to go someplace in Paris. It seems that most people were going to the parade. We skipped that and opted for St. Chapelle instead. For those of you new to Paris, St. Chapelle is in the middle of the Palace of Justice. I think I was here three or four times before I found it. They tend to have much better signage now.

St. Chapelle was built by Louis IX, he was a bit of a kook and a religious zealot. He paid dearly for relics. He got the crown of thorns (wink) and a piece of the true cross and a bridge in Brooklyn. The crown and cross are currently across the street in Notre Dame in the vault. But Louis did build this beautiful place for his collection. The windows tell the story of the Bible in stained glass. When I first saw it, I thought wow what a great king. You know, people being unable to read and all... Yeah, those people never saw the inside of this place unless they worked on it or maybe cleaned the floors. The windows reach up to the sky and it was almost empty for the first few minutes we were there. You could sit in the chairs provided and just look up at the glass. Beautiful. Even more beautiful than the woman in the linen pants with no panties that was being photographed by her man in all kinds of poses in the church. Weird. Here I am in St. Chapelle, giving the peace sign and hoping you notice I have no bra on under my t-shirt. Lovely.

We left St. Chapelle happy. Every time I go there I feel like I have never been before. I see something new. I learn something new.  

We crossed the street and had a petit dejeuner. Yummy! A little fuel for the next church. St. Severin. Now this is a neighborhood church. It has been a neighborhood church for somewhere around 800 years! Maybe not this exact building, it has only been around for about 600 years in one form or another, but a church for the neighborhood all those years. How the neighborhood has changed, no doubt. But people still come and pray and are part of this community. While I doubt that God is real, I do not doubt that the people that have been coming to this spot for hundreds of years have a faith in something. A belief that in this building they are closer to something and I do believe it gives them hope. Hope for what I don't know, but is is theirs and they have kept this building alive for a long time buy putting their asses into those little tiny chairs and giving it up to something. I might not agree with them, but I believe they can believe.

Then we were off to yet one more church. St. Germaine des Pres. This is really an Abbey and it is even older than St. Chapelle. Originally on the outskirts of Paris, I cannot imagine a more central spot. Well, except for that star in the plaza in front of Notre Dame, which is the official center of Paris.

St. Germaine is old, really old. And in constant renovation to keep it from falling down. Yet is it is also a neighborhood church. Used every day, kept alive by the faith of people.

Then onto the Metro and home for a few hours until... the fireworks!

After a nice nap - I see a pattern here. We were off once more to the metro and to stake a spot to watch the fireworks. Now, I will admit the best place to watch the fireworks is at the Champ de Mars, you and a million of your best friends, and I won't do that again. So we will settle for a spot on the river between Pont des Arts and the Pont Neuf. And while you might miss some of the lower fireworks, it is still a spectacular display.

We parked our asses on a wall and waited and waited and waited. We got there about three hours before the show was to start. Why? Because it gets crowded and well, because.

We had a little picnic put together by Upstate and it was really nice. Imagine, sitting on the bank of the Seine waiting for a firework show and having dinner. It does not get much better than that!

As the time grew near the crowd grew around us. I am going to complain about the smoking one more time. It seems that every young person in Paris smokes. I don't get it. I never will. Don't they know that they are not going to stay young and pretty by smoking those butts. OK, you might stay skinny by smoking, but that will only get you a thin corpse. Then not only do they smoke, they just toss the butts into the river. What is wrong with them? OK, rant over.

So the fireworks get closer and the crowd gets closer. Suddenly we were surrounded. A group of young men, one with really nice hair and another that tried really hard to play the guitar and sing. As I said to Upstates daughter, everybody has got to start somewhere... But I do wish he had started a bit further down the quay from us.

We ended our night by a walk to the Latin Quarter and an ice cream. I am not going to feel bad about ice cream on vacation, I am just not. I'll wait till I get home.

We jumped on the metro and came back to La Musique for one last night. We leave tomorrow for the Loire. Currently I am sitting in bed typing this and wondering where to stay for the next visit to this place that has my heart.

Oh and just because I mentioned helicopters

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Digicodes, The Louvre and Heidi the Guidie

I am going to start today's entry by saying "fuck" some of my entries are gone again. So, I am writing this somewhere else and will copy to my blog in hopes of not losing another entry. Wish me luck.

As I walked this morning I looked at all the doors on all the streets. Each of them has what I call a digi code thing. I am not sure of the official name of them, but this is what they look like.

I am not sure if other countries have these, but they are all over Paris. It used to be that when you rented an apartment here you were given the code to open the doors attached to these little boxes. Sometimes there was just one code. Sometimes you had a code on the street door and another on the door further inside the building. I would normally write this code on a piece of paper in my wallet and by the end of my stay I may have memorized it. Well now we have a little fob to open the doors, which makes life just a bit easier. Of course, we still have a key to get into our apartment, but perhaps that to will change some day?

Today we headed to the Louvre. Us and about a million other tourist decided today would be a great day to see Winged Victory and her friend Mona. I have been here many times and I can honestly say I have never seen it this crowded. Yes, it is a big week here, but I have been here this week before I swear there are more people here than ever. And most of them have no concept of personal space or how to say excuse me.  

My first trip to Paris I did the 45 minute tour of the Louvre. Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, the Venus and an urn. In and out.

On another trip, I spent 7 entire days in the Louvre. I purchased a book with the collection in it and saw every single thing in that book. I spent one entire day looking at French Sculpture, I was the only one in that gallery and I am sure the guards were watching me and wondering what I was finding so fascinating.

Today was not enjoyable for the most part. We did wonder into the African art area and it was calm and not many people.  

Then we came home and took a nap. Yup a nap. All of us for a few hours because we were going out to participate in a three hour "dark side" tour of Paris. We were met at the Citi metro station by our guide, Heidi. She was a lovely woman from London that moved to Paris a few years ago for an adventure and now works as a tour guide. She works for the company we hired tonight and has her own company and does tours about the women of Paris. If we had time....

Her website is 

Check her out and if you are ever in Paris, tell her I sent you. And, her logo is really great.

We started near St. Chappell and walked for three hours. We walked past the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette spent her final years.

 We walked thru Place Dauphine where elephant was served during a siege with the Prussians.  An elegant little square that you can enjoy if you don't think about that.

We then walked to the Pont Neuf one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris and the first to be built of stone and without housing on it. There is a little grass triangle down below the Pont Neuf known as the Le Square du Vert-Galant, which Heidi tells us was the place Henry the 4th was likely to take his lady friends to do whatever it is Kings and lady friends do. I know it as the place where the last grand master of the Knights Templar was burned at the stake after years of torture, because he would not give up the Templars or their fortune. Long live Jacque d'Moley.

Then it was over to the area right before the Pont Des Arts bridge where we learned about a young girl that was found dead in the river. Nobody knew who she was, but her death mask became a face we are all familiar with. If you have every taken CPR training, she is the face of the dummy.

Then over to the Louvre, which was now nicely empty. We learned about the palace.

We walked the same route as Marie did on her way to lose her head.

We ended up at the Cemetery of the Innocents, you know the largest cemetery in Paris, when there were cemeteries in Pairs, the place that started it all in the catacombs.

We ended our. Night in front of the oldest pest removal service in Paris. And lets just say they may need to work a little closer to home.

We learned about so much on this tour and it was fun as well as educational. Of course we were the best group and after watching a man with a really bad knee and another that needed to be replaced hobble on his cane across the streets of Paris, my feet did not hurt as bad.

So then off for home and another day tomorrow.