Monday, April 4, 2016
Well, this is the second time I have written this blog, but I will do it just for you. Now I am typing it on my phone, but we will see how it goes. We are not able to post photos now (goodness knows why. Computers are stupid). So..... Unfortunately, we are suspending blogging after this post until we get home on Sunday. Sorry. I promise I will update when we get back with appropriate pictures, but aim spending most of the day blogging and not out there in Paris. So. Sorry! We will keep those of you on Facebook updated because that miraculously seems to work.
On Friday at 11:00 Martin Lambert picked us up in Avignon and brought us to his beautiful home in Vaison la Romaine. Martin (and his wife Patricia) are the grandparents of Vicky Agromeyer who was a foreign exchange student at Maquoketa Valley High School last year. Through Doug and Sarah Tuetken we became friends of Vicky and consequently her parents and grandfather, Martin when they came for high school graduation. Long story short, we hit it off and Martin invited us to visit he and his wife Patricia's home when we were in france. So we did.
They have a home on the outside of town slightly that is on a hillside overlooking the town, the castle and the mountains. Beautiful!
Vaison la Romaine is a small town (6,000 pop) in the Valcluse region of Provence. Beautiful!!!! and the home of some very interesting and well preserved Roman and medieval ruins. You know us and ruins! We are all over them. It was a cloudy cool Friday when Martin picked us up, which made he and Patricia sad but we had a great time anyway.
Martin had prepared a lovely lunch of grilled fish, appetizers, veggies, and apple tart when we got there. and wine....of course, wine. After sleeping off the wine we set off to see some of the town. There are two distinct sites, the upper town which is medieval (11th cent) and the Roman ruins in the flat part which date back from the 1st century. There is a section that was a shopping street from Roman times, a very posh 5,000 sq. meter home, and the roman arena which seats 6,000.
There is also a great museum for displaying discoveries of everyday life, like oil lamps, dishes,
mosaic tile floors, building tools etc. Very interesting and one of the clearest and most well preserved sites we have been to, including Italy.
After a lovely fire in the fireplace and a game of chess, we slept.
Next morning we were up and ready to go see more ruins. Martin had fixed a lovely chicken curry dish for lunch and then Jerry and he explored the upper medieval town. You really need to be a mountain goat for this part, as the town was built for defensive purposes at about a 30% grade. It certainly defended against me. I did not try to invade.
Sunday we got up to a lovely breakfast and then packed our trusty suitcases again. Martin and Patricia took us back to Avignon to catch the TVG to Paris. The TVG is the bullet train and goes about 180 mph when it is really going. Amazing! 400 miles in a little over 2 hours.
When we arrived at Gard Lyon (Paris train station on the south side of the city) we noticed a hightend security everywhere. We jumped into a cab and had a frustratingly slow drive across town because of a marathon being run in the city. But we made it!
We are staying our last week here in Donald Drapeau's apartment near the Arc du Triomphe. We have been here several times before, and each time feel like we are home. We went out for a quick supper on the corner and then to bed. Nice to be here again.
Well, now you are caught up. Our visit to Vaison was an unexpected highlight thanks to Martin and Patricia. They are both so gracious, we loved sharing their home and little town with them. Looks like we will have to come back.
This week is hang out in Paris week and then home on Sunday. I will try to post a couple more times, but I am missing my laptop on which to do it. Doing a blog on my phone is frustrating to say the least. Thanks for following! A bientot (that means see you soon).
Friday, April 1, 2016
Good morning. Yesterday was our last day in Avignon. We love this little town. Not a lot to do, good restaurants, and a nice apartment. Perfect rest up place for the 4th week of vacation.
Wednesday we met our good friend Laurence Brun for drinks and dinner. The last blog explains how we met her, so I won't go into that. But since we met her we feel like she is such a good friend.
She arrived right on time at a little cafe/brasserie on the main square, Le Cid. Unremarkable place, but centrally located we had wine (and coke) and caught up a bit.
We walked back to a restaurant called LeCaveaux du theatre, which incidentally was right across the street from Fou de Fafa where we ate last night. Nice inside, small as all French restaurants are, and pleasant waiter. Food was good, really good but really visiting with Laurence was the best. Food pictures coming up!
Foie gras with onion jam to start
Laurence had Beef.
Jerry had fish.
I had the Easter bunny--rabbit
Desserts were chocolate and strawberries.
Thursday our intention was to take the bus out to the Pont du Gard, which is the largest Roman aquaduct still standing. We had seen it in 2013 and Jerry thought it would be fun to go again. Well on further study the bus schedule said there was only one returning bus and that was 5 hours from when we would get there. Too Long To Look At A Bridge ! So we didn't go.
It was a beautiful day so decided on lunch out today and cook at home at night. Jerry had a ceasar salad and I a Croix monseuir. We bought some wine to take to Martin and Patricia's.
We've turned the keys over to the landlord and are sitting at a café waiting for Martin to pick us up. I'll blog from Paris about the weekend. Au revoir!
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Sitting here with all the French doors and windows open on a beautiful spring day. The high school kids are laughing and chatting on their way home from school, they sound like American kids, but are speaking French. So fun to be in another culture.
Easter was quiet around our place, a rainy cool day, I didn't feel very well, we walked a couple of times but really didn't do much. Jerry had gone to the market in the morning and got pasta and cheese but we ended up not even fixing that. Just a rest up day.
Monday we were back in action. Beautiful day. Walked to the Pope's Palace here in Avignon. In the 13th century, Rome was in chaos and a French pope decided to move the Vatican to Avignon. He, and 7 more popes, built this city with a beautiful palace and all the fancy medieval buildings around here, including the one we are living in now. Anyway, here are some pictures of the walk and the views from there.
Spring break for a lot of people so there are more people than average here.
Pont (bridge) Saint`Benezet. Famous bridge that the King would not rebuild his side when it was damaged. Home of the famous French Song.
We sat out for a wine, then came back and I slept and read. Jerry took another walkabout and came back with bread and strawberry tarts.
Tuesday morning we had a plan. We got up early, 8AM, and got ready to take a day trip to Nimes 27 miles away. 2000 years ago, Nimes was an important stop on the Roman Trading road, Via Domitian. The Pont du Gard aqueduct was built to provide fresh water to the city from the Eure springs. Today it is a town of about 150,000 (small by French standards) and really quite an attractive tourism spot.
The train station is conveniently located about 6 blocks from the apartment. We could tell it was going to be warm, we didn't want a lot of stuff to carry all day. I took a purse and light Tshirt jacket and Jerry had his purple sweater and the irrepressible puffer coat (which I am burning when we get home from this trip because I am so sick of it.) Round trip for the 2 of us was 34 Euros and took about 25 minutes.
Nimes has much ancient Roman architecture: A Roman amphitheater and a lovely Roman temple. So Mr. History and I went to see what the Romans did and how they did it.
The amphitheater is beautifully conserved. It was constructed during the first century AD but is still in use for concerts and local bullfights. Of course, not the size of the Colleseum in Rome, it is much better preserved, and can seat 25,000. (Rome seated 50,000) even now. Of course, since it is still in use, safety concerns dictate that they use modern steps, and some railings, thus spoiling the effect of what it looked like back in the first century.
A short walk down a leafy street was the Maison Carree, a first century temple and the only one of its kind in the world that is preserved in its original state. Inside they show a film which shows the history of Niems and why Rome was so good to it.
One of the interesting things about Nimes has nothing to do with the Romans. Many of you are wearing jeans while reading this, and serge de Nimes which is "denim" was created in Nimes (de'nim) in the 17th century. Exported to Genoa Italy, they were sewn into sturdy pants (Genes). They were exported to the U.S in the late 19th century. So now you know. Who says this blog is just about food?
We walked down a pleasant street and had lunch. Very ordinary crepes (terrible as a matter of fact) then came back on the train. From apartment to Nimes and back to the apartment took 6 hours. I love train travel. No parking!!!
Came back and rested, Jerry did some calling, I started this blog. Then at 7:30 we went out for a splendid dinner at Fou de Fafa which is the #1 rated restaurant on Trip Advisor in Avignon out of 533. We had tried to come to it the last time we were here; no room. This time we made a reservation.
Very small place ---9 tables. They stagger the reservations so there are only 2 tables ordering at the same time because the owner is the only cook. His wife is the front of the house and is charming, flawless French but from England, so it was fun to visit with her. They have been in Avignon 13 years.
The food was good!!! Here come the food photos!!!
Entree (appetizer) Salmon Tartar (raw and chopped up) with honey and soy and ginger. Delightful!
Mostly though it was the friendly atmosphere there provided by Antonia the chef's wife and co owner. No rush, no hurry. The table was ours for the night if we wanted it.
Came home and did some Norwex business with a new recruit and then went to bed.
Today we meet a friend we met through Deb and Jon Luhrs' daughter Andrea, when we were here in 2013 and again in 2014. Laurence Brun. She was Andrea's French tutor when she was here working for a music company, and in 2014 she took us to various lovely places in Provence, but also became a good friend. We had lunch at her home with she and her husband Robert. Lovely couple. Anyway, we meet Laurence tonight on the square for dinner and catching up. Looking forward to it!!!
Thanks for following and for the good health wishes. I am feeling much better and ready to finish this trip off with a bang! Ciao
Sunday, March 27, 2016
HBonjour from our favorite place on earth. Avignon France. True Provence. We arrived by TVG the fast train on Friday afternoon from Nice. We had 2nd class tickets, which normally is just fine. The 2nd class cars are attached to the 1st class and get to the station at the same time. Except this time we had a boy's soccer team traveling to a match. 20 or more 15 yr old boys and 4 coaches who were 20 or so. Noisey!!!!!! Oh well. Then Jerry had a woman who sat next to him with a dog. Who liked to ride on the seat with her. Not the best train ride.
But when we did arrive we jumped in a taxi and came to #5 Rue du Crucifix, which is a building that used to house monks or someone in the 13th century and now has been converted to flats. It really is lovely. Very modern with a loft and a large stone terrace with comfy furniture. One of the nicest places we have rented. (I know I always say that but this time it is true). Here are some pictures.
After unpacking, we set off to see our favorite place again. This is a medieval town (in the old part where we are) so there are not a lot of straight streets. As a matter of fact there are NO straight streets. While we have been here twice before this is a new neighborhood for us, so exploring we went. I am reminded of the poem that my Grandpa Dygert used to tell me: "The streets were so crooked and the lanes were so narrow, that he had to carry his wife home in a wheelbarrow". It's like that.
We looked at some restaurants for dinner and went to the Carefour (supermarket) for supplies. Toasting bread, 6 eggs (that's how they come and never refrigerated), orange juice, coffee, mayo, tuna, cheese and meat for salads, spinach, which turned out to be something else, and milk for caffe at lait. I tried to find sweet pickles for tuna salad but apparently the French don't do sweet pickles at all, so I settled for capers and olives. Came back and unloaded, and I took a nap.
One of the hazards of traveling like we do, for extended periods of time is that one of you inevitably gets sick. My diverticulosis often kicks up while we travel, and this trip is no exception. It is more nuisance than anything because I carry antibiotics with me to cure it, but it makes me tired. So this week will be more laid back than usual because I am at about half speed. Irritating!
After some research on trip advisor and Google we found about 20 nearby restaurants that would do nicely for dinner. We had no reservations, and no phone to make any anyway, so we set out about 8PM to see what we could find in the neighborhood. First place, full, second place full, third place had a table for 2!!!. The place was called L'epice (Peace) and Love, and it is a one man show. The owner/waitress/cook is a 57 year old Earth Mother, who has posters all over the walls with symbols of the 60's. Twiggy, Beatles, Ban the bomb, etc. She only has about 6 hand written menus with what she has cooked that afternoon. So when you come in you have to wait for other people to order first, then whe gives you the menu and explains it all. But surprisingly, the food was Good. She flitted from one table to the next telling people what they should order etc. changing languages flawlessly. We had a GREAT bottle of Grand Cru Cotes du Rhone for 18.00. Jerry had baked chicken, I had fish, we split a dessert $48.00. Fun place and made us feel at home. Next to us were a couple from London. He is retired, she is an I.T. to train Lawyers how to use software (I sympathized with her having to work with lawyers). They encouraged us to take a day trip to Niems and we think we will.
We came back to our little home and slept and slept.
The next morning after a cafe au lait and tea we went to the indoor market here called Les Halles. On the map it is not far, and trusting Mr. Geography we set off. JERRY GOT LOST!!!!! I mean totally lost, lost like Jean gets lost! We wandered and turned and he got more frustrated. I took out my map and found where we were and then a local man took pity on us and gave us directions. We had completely passed the market and gone to the otherside of town. HA. It made my day because Jerry is always telling me that I can't possibly be lost, and I always am.
Enough maritial wars. We eventually did get to the market and couldn't resist a "few" photos. You know me and food, and each vendor has made their food look more beautiful than the rest.
Scallops in their shells
Live lobsters and crabs
Beef lung, stomach and other disgusting thing s that the French Love!
Sea urchins ready to eat
We remember from last time we were here there is a cooking demonstration by a local famous chef at 11AM so we cued up to watch. These chefs are like movie stars to the French and today Jerome Blanchet from Crillon le Brave Hotel was there to demonstrate cooking : "Noix de Saint Jacques pique a la citronella, etuvee d'endive a l'orange et huile d'olive foisonnee au yuzu'. I know, right? Haven't you always wanted to know how to cook that?
The demonstration was in French, but I was armed with the recipe, in French, and a front row standing spot, which with the French is hard to hold onto, because they don't like being behind anyone, especially anyone as big as me. But I held my ground. This guy was young, and had his young sous Chef with him who was even younger.
First they chopped the endive and sauted it in butter and added orange juice.
Then they made the foisonnée sauce with eggs, oil, yuzu (which I think is like lemon) and shallots. It made a thick mayonnaise sauce, but WAY better. Like a thick lemony hollandaise.
Then he speared each Scallop (SaintJacques) with a spear of lemongrass,
Of course, then he made enough for everyone to taste , with wine! Delish!
So at the market we bought a whole roast chicken, fingerling potatoes, green beans for our supper. Olive tapanade and pate for appetizer. French baguette, Brie and Minnouette cheese andchocolate eclairs because we are in France and we can.
Eating out of the market a couple of days a week makes being like a local so much more real, plus saves money, and.....I get sick of restaurants every night. (Not really but I get sick of Jerry whining about money), so with this great market, we will eat in several nights. Many things are already prepared and all you need to do is warm them up. Like this duck breast scallop with morel mushrooms and cream. How can that be bad?
Saturday was a beautiful 70 degree day with little wind, so after washing a load of clothes and hanging them to dry, we went off on a trip to find wine bars (I know, it's a dirty job). We found a sunny spot and had our first kir then went on to the big square and had another apperitf.
Walked back in the sunshine and sat on our terrace with some bread and pate and Brie. Then I took a nap.
It is definitely spring here. Flowers and trees are leafing out.
Today is Easter Sunday and the church bells have been ringing and ringing. It is raining a bit this morning. The ideal time to get this caught up. I hope you are enjoying our travels, we certainly are, but half the fun is writing this blog for you. A Bientot!