Monday, September 26, 2022

Au Revoir

Wishing for a grand-daughter!



 Tomorrow I fly home. What a trip filled with magic, and so much kindness and caring not only from friends but from random strangers!  Vacation magic Melanie and I call it. As an example, I am sitting sipping coffee at a cafe on the square at Monflanquin. I am explaining to my friend Diana that I am considering going to Paris for Chanukah since Daniel will still be there. Diana does not seem to understand the word Chanukah. Okay, so it is not French. I repeat Chanukah five times rather loudly. Diana finally gets it. A few minutes later a woman approaches me. She says she wants to  wish me Shana Tovah,  Happy Jewish New Year which is actually this week. I look at her with bewilderment. She must have overheard me yelling Chanukah five times. It turns out this lovely woman is from Israel. We speak Hebrew a little bit. She wishes  me a new year filled with good  health and good energy. How did she come to to visit Monflanquin? The old fashion way. She read about it in a guide book. What are the chances?

In Paris, we experienced the good fortune of attending one of the city's oldest and exquisite orthodox Jewish synagogues.  The men sit downstairs and women above in the balcony. It is a rare privilege to visit a synagogue anywhere in France due to high security.  I did see one in an organized tour of the Marais, but this is my first time to attend services.   I stood the entire time because my view was totally blocked while sitting down. So different from the congregation where I belong at home.

Am I ready to go home?  Always a mixed bag of emotions. I feel so alive in France and fortunate to own a home in the gorgeous French countryside.  But my non vacation life resides in Portland where I enjoy fun and meaningful  activities.  Plus next month, I volunteered to help my sister babysit three of her grandchildren under three years of age while the parents go to Paris. The above picture features vibrant children's clothing from the French clothing line Jacardi!  Ok, universe. How about a bit more magic?

Love this town!

Saint- Cirq-la Popie
Daniel and I  took off for a day trip to Saint-Cirq-la-Popie.  It  definitely earns its reputation as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Perched high in the Dordogne, it is somewhat of a steep climb to get into the village. We gape at the amazingly big camping cars attempting to find parking.  I feel grateful my little car fits everywhere and handles so well in  tight turning situations. In the village, we explore all the charming nooks and crannies. We bumble into a lovely restaurant which fortunately offers an assiette vegetarienne for Daniel and exquisite lamb chops for me. I can't seem to resist lamp chops. When they are on the menu, they call to me, and I respond by ordering them. 

Our next stop is Peche-Merle which is the site of original cave paintings. If you are ever in the area, I recommend you stop here to take the guided tour. Who knows how much longer we will be allowed to visit this grotte.  The well known Lascaux cave can only be viewed in reproduction.

On the way home, I feel the need to eat lunch. Unfortunately it is past 2 P.M. , and all the restaurants are closed now until dinner time, 7:30 P.M. in France. We manage to find a bar serving sandwiches.  I order a chicken sandwich with lettuce. Did it also come with hard boiled eggs? Honestly, I don't remember. I do remember that it is the worst sandwich I have ever eaten in France.

Earlier in the day, we made an unplanned stop at the lively Cahors market. Golden apricot colored plums, figs, melon, and an abundance of  varied tapenade. The tapenade vendor enjoys giving out samples of each kind. We eagerly take each one and eat with gusto. Of course, we must buy at least one tapenade. I choose the classic which I use as a salad topping for the next few days. Heaven!

Fantastic views!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Trip Update

 My travel companion Melanie and I  enjoyed Paris heart and soul. We love the energy of the city, the architecture,  the liveliness, and of course the food.  We spent each day doing whatever we wanted. Melanie invited me on a chocolate crawl with her friends Parish and Josh.  What a wonderful experience! We went to three chocolatiers and made a stop at La Duree, the famous macaron boutique.  At each stop along the way, I would buy  just one chocolate. The sales people treated me graciously and respectfully as if I were buying much more. At la Duree, my one pistachio macaron almost merited a bow.


At lunch, salads to compensate for all the sugar, I met Simone, an 18 month French bull dog. She sat at the counter. I kid you not. Simone belongs to the restaurant owner with whom I discussed dogs in general and Simone in particular. What a well behaved dog! I told her about my Maggy who just turned 13.  She responded by saying  "C'est honorable."  Yes, senior dogs  do deserve respect.

Speaking of respect,  the universe seems to be taking care of me on this trip. Could it be my age? My demeanor? Whatever it is, I really appreciate the kindness and helpfulness of everyone I encountered. My room at my hotel in Brussels even came with a two chairs and a little table on a balcony.

Brussels:  Easy to get to from Paris; hard to find our hotel.  We asked so many people for directions including the tourist center. Nobody gave us accurate directions. Finally we realized that there exists two hotels with the same name. Curses!  We spent over two hours wandering around downtown Brussels. My luggage which somehow kept getting heavier and heavier  contributed  quite negatively to this experience.  It took at least two hours, longer than the train ride from Paris to Brussels to find our hotel.  After we got settled, we did not feel like doing much.  We explored the centre ville, totally pedestrian friendly, and collapsed back at our hotel. Melanie did not feel like going out to dinner.  I got hungry and decided to go out alone like a big girl. I chose the nearest pub which served small plates. The waiter thought my order of an omelette with the world's  longest piece of bread would be too much. He suggested seeing how I felt afterwards. I could always order more. Again, I felt taken care of.  My raspberry beer made the meal a hit. And the waiter was correct. The omelette satisfied my hunger.

The next evening we dined with my Portland friend Carolyn who lives in Brussels with her husband and two darling daughters.  What a magical evening!  We feasted on some specialities of the Liegeois region. Chloe age 8 taught us a new word.  "Quoit"  a clever combination of the French word Quoi and the English word What.  I enjoyed reading a book in French  and another in English. Little Emily age 5 put her head on my shoulder. Bliss.

The next morning we left for Monflanquin in south western France. The journey  went  smoothly.  Tim picked up my car from the garage and picked us up in Villeneuve-sur lot.  Only the weather is not cooperating. Yesterday it was 98 degrees, and we have no air conditioning in our house. Nobody does. I do have a dorky free standing sort of air conditioner which will be used tonight.  We hope the weather will start to cool off soon.

Below are some photo highlights  of the trip as of today:

L a duree macaron boutique

Cafe Creme, croissant, and travel journal. Heaven!

Raspberry Beer

World's longest piece of bread

My wonderful travel partner Melanie

Amazingly wonderful vegan Belgium waffle

Charming Brussels architecture

Unusual and delicious malt bread from our bakery in Monflanquin

Dog among onions in the market

Lebanese salad . It 's 98 degrees but we always enjoy lunch.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Paris !!!

 Here I am at the Hotel du Parc where I have stayed for over 20 years.  Don't know the whole story yet, but the owners have changed. The hotel has been entirely renovated. It feels more modern, clean, and comfortable. As always, the Hotel du Parc boasts some of the biggest bathrooms in Paris.  I love it.

The flights went smoothly although we experienced a two hour delay in San Francisco. I did not mind too much because I got the opportunity to meet some interesting people. On the 10 hour marathon flight from San Francisco to Paris, I watched the latest Downton Abbey movie. The ending left me in tears, but it was well done.  Afterwards, I listened to a podcast in the hope that it would help me sleep as audio books tend to do that for me, but no. So I watched a French movie called Amour. It is one of the most depressing stories about aging, failing health, love, and devotion. I enjoyed hearing the French. It served as a good language review before arriving in Paris. I did manage to doze a little during the film, but don't think I missed much.

I treated myself to a taxi to get into Paris.  It cost 58 euros which is the regulated fare from Charles de Gaulle Airport.  The ride was well worth it. Along the way, we passed the Arc de Triomphe, la Place de la Concorde, and the Eiffel Tower.  My back was spared by avoiding shlepping my luggage on the train. An added bonus was the experience of driving in heavy Parisian traffic. My driver lost it a few times, but managed to get me to my destination safely,

Right now, I am relaxing in my renovated hotel room while waiting for my friend and  travel partner Melanie to get here. We are planning to eat the best crepes as we are in the Breton quarter of Paris. I am desperately trying hard not to fall asleep and may need to take a walk soon.

Check out the wall paper in my room. What do you think?



Sunday, September 4, 2022

Bon Voyage!

 Bonjour!

I am at the airport waiting for my flight to San Francisco connecting to Paris.  My friend Melanie will meet me at Hotel du Parc in Paris where I have stayed for over 20 years. I am curious to find out if the original owners kept the hotel after a difficult financial struggle due to the pandemic. The hotel looks to have been remodeled since my last visit when I was literally the only guest in 2021.

I was moved this morning by the warmth and support of so many lovely friends and my dear sister who sent Bon Voyage texts.  The intense  summer heat echoed the intensity  of the summer for me personally. I am relieved that fall is on its way, and I can finally return to France. Melanie and I are doing Paris, Brussels, and Monflanquin.  My heart is filed with joy not only because of the trip but because our son Daniel is working in Paris for six months maybe more.  I prayed for this for him, did a soul collage  intention card , and lit many candles. Of course, I plan to see him in Paris. He may even come to Monflanquin for a visit.

Our travel plans fell into place so easily for this trip.  I giggled last night after reading an email from my dear friend Mado. She plans to leave a shopping bag full of eggs, 2 heads of garlic, onions, and tomatoes on  my window sill. And did I need anything else? This is Monflanquin!

And this is a lovely picture of the Dahlia Festival  in Canby, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

From the Say It In French Spring Update Newsletter

What are we doing in Amsterdam?

Bonjour les étudiants et les étudiantes,

First, I'd like to share my most recent  travel experience. Bill and I
did a quick two week visit to Monflanquin in April. Our son Michael, the
master renovator, and his brilliant wife, Erin joined us for about a
week, in which they worked like demons and renovated our kitchen. We can
now enjoy a full size instead of a dorm size fridge and additional
convenient counter space. Bill assisted Michael and Erin. I took on the
job of Support and Communications Department. Michael and Erin met every
building obstacle with unwavering optimism. I cheered them on, offered
sustenance, and French language assistance.

We left the village on Saturday April 23, took the train from Bergerac
to Bordeaux, and then the bus to our airport hotel from the Bordeaux
train station. I was already exhausted. Once settled in, Bill checked
his email. Our flight from Bordeaux to Amsterdam, the first leg of our
trip was cancelled without explanation and without rebooking. I finally
managed to find a toll free number for Air France. One hour later, I was
connected to an agent. The first available flight out of Bordeaux to
Amsterdam was Monday. We would then proceed to Seattle and Portland as
planned. This meant retaking our Covid tests.  We grudgingly accepted
our fate. We ate dinner at Au Comptoir, the only restaurant open near
our hotel. Au Comptoir, turned out to be a very popular English pub.
Almost all the dishes come with fries. I ordered a panche,my new
favorite drink, half beer, half lemonade. The next day, we felt lost.
With our Covid tests scheduled for early afternoon, we had just enough
time to sit in the breakfast room and discuss possible sight seeing
options. Not only was it Sunday, but it was election day in France.
Going anywhere meant a long shlep on the bus into the city so shlep we
did. People kept offering us seats on the bus. Do we look that old? The
only seats I wanted were in an airplane.
We decided to walk along the quais and track down the Miroir des Eaux,
the Water Miroir, a not to be missed Bordeaux sightseeing highlight. 
Maybe the Miroir des Eaux does not really function on Sunday on an
election day in France because it reminded us with disappointment of a
big Portland puddle. At least the adorable French toddlers found it
amusing. We shlepped back to our hotel and another dinner at Au
Comptoir. Our server seemed delighted to see us again. After consuming
more fries, we returned to our room  ready to fly out the next day.
Again, I felt very uneasy because were  unable to check in online. But
the next morning all proceeded smoothly until once seated in the plane
came the announcement that our flight to Amsterdam would be delayed over
an hour. What did this mean for us? We would miss our connection to
Seattle.

Apparently, we were not the only passengers with missed connections.
Judging from the incredibly long line for the transfer service desk,
hundreds of people fell prey to the same predicament. Due to all the
cancelled flights the day before, the back up proved to be significant.
We waited in the transfer line at least five hours. I made friends with
two women from Scotland ahead of us. Greta threatened to burn her
fashion boots. She wore them to look classy in Paris not to run through
the Amsterdam airport in a mad and hopeless  attempt to make her
connection. The people waiting in line worked hard all afternoon to keep
up their spirits. KLM distributed sandwiches and water. I bought
emergency chocolate covered almonds and offered them to those close to
us in line. I kept thinking about Michael and Erin's unwavering
optimism. Then at 6 P.M. KLM announced that there would be no more
flights that day. We would be getting an email rescheduling our booking.
I felt lost AGAIN. I doubted we would ever receive that email. In a
panic, I called my sister to ask her help in rebooking. Our airport
internet kept cutting in and out. Beth did a great job. She re booked us
with the help of an agent online, but before I could even breathe a sigh
of relief, that booking disappeared. KLM finally sent us an email with
re booked flights for the next day. It was now 10 P.M. We needed to get
a hotel, the cost of which would possibly be reimbursed. Our Covid tests
would hopefully remain valid.

I felt that same feeling of unease. Would we ever get home? I had always
hoped to visit Amsterdam, but not this way. The rest of this story
involves a lot more shlepping and waiting three hours to get through
airport security the next day. We managed to make our tight connection
from JFK to PDX. The silver lining of a delay in Amsterdam -a lovely one
hour canal tour. I definitely want to return to Amsterdam under
different circumstances. The plane ride back was uneventful until right
before landing when a little girl feeling sick did not quite make it to
the bathroom and managed instead to throw up on me. Somehow this seemed
like a fitting end to this stressful journey. Will I travel again soon? 
Hopefully this summer, but with more of Michael and Erin's unwavering
optimism.

Spring classes: I will be offering private French lessons in person and
on Zoom. Want to improve pronunciation, master French verb tenses, or
prepare for a trip to France? I would be happy to help you meet your
goals with confidence. Tuition for private lessons is $50 per hour and
can be shared for up to three people. Please feel free to email me with
questions or contact me at 503 314 4695.

Thank you as always for your support. Vous êtes formidable!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Birthday Bread


 For the first time ever, I celebrated my birthday in Monflanquin, France.  It happened to be market day. I did not know what to expect because last year, we all wore masks in the market and tried to remain 6 feet apart. Upon entering the market, things looked more normal.  No masks required and people standing around chatting and laughing. I approached my favorite produce vendor and immediately ran into Jean-Maurice. Jean-Maurice is an antiques dealer and a dear friend of a friend.  He often sits opposite me at my friend Mado's table during those long Sunday lunches. If I were to assign him a role, it would be that of French literary and language critic. He also really likes to laugh which serves to soften his critiques.  I appreciate Jean-Maurice and learn much from his observations. He is also the only person in our social circle who smokes reminiscent of another time not so long ago when all French  conversations at the table were draped in a pungent nicotine haze. Jean-Maurice however thoughtfully smokes outside.  Among the seasonal broccoli and cauliflower, Jean-Maurice and I do a quick catch up. I mention it is my birthday mostly because it is, and I somehow feel the need to mark the day.  He tells me his plans to attend several antiques fairs.  I bid him farewell.  My market basket overflows with the fixings for salad and roasted vegetables.  It feels unusually heavy to me, and rather than pursue the rest of my grocery list, I return home to unload the produce and start anew.  Back at the market, I hear someone call my name. It is Jean-Maurice offering me a pretty pink  geranium plant for my birthday. How thoughtful! "C'est normal." he tells me.  I place the birthday plant in my market basket and continue on. At the organic grocery store, I purchase a leek and some free range eggs.  Something possesses me to tell Aurelie, the shop owner, that it is my birthday.  She offers me the gorgeous bread pictured above. It is made with ancient grains. To my surprise,  the bread when sliced  feels fluffy and soft. So nice! Do I return to the market to tell other vendors it's my birthday? Tempting, but no.