Monday, November 17, 2014

Our big adventure!

Well, Jesse and I just got back from a wonderful adventure -- and since he didn't think it was wise to post to instagram and Facebook along the way, I used this little blog as a journal of sorts. If you're interested in hearing about our trip to Paris (and the Normandy countryside) and you're not opposed to lots of pictures and random minutiae, you can read our posts from France here! Here are the links in the order I posted them:
Day One -- Hello from Paris!
Day Two -- All the beautiful things…
and…A few quick things…
Day Three -- Another beautiful day in Paris…
Day Four -- An anniversary adventure…
Day Five -- Greetings from Normandy…
Day Six -- Blogging, 1070s style
and -- Guest Post -- A simple oaf (by Jesse!)
Day Seven -- Back in Paris, the view from our room (quick video post)
Day Eight -- Il a été grand, Paris!
(And, for anyone interested -- a bonus post on my boots!)

It's been a wonderful adventure and we're so thankful and blessed to have experienced a completely different part of the world. I love traveling with my very best friend and look forward to more (31 more years, maybe?) of adventure!

Now -- this is a true statement -- there's no place like home!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A bonus post…a word about my boots...

Just had to pop back on for an unsolicited endorsement of my footwear. These boots have been all over France and they have been the most comfortable shoes ever! I'm usually pretty cheap when it comes to shoes, but I'm about to the age where it's important to wear well-made shoes -- and these were worth the price! 

They've tromped through airports, cobblestone streets, metro stations, ancient cathedrals, fields, crunchy leaves, climbed down to Omaha beach and up and down thousands of stairs…(we averaged around six miles a day while here!)

(taking a well-deserved rest on a fluffy rug back at the apartment)

(The Gilly boot by Born. I highly recommend. Nobody asked me to say anything nice about them. I'm just thrilled that my feet have been happy all week).

Il a été grand, Paris!

It's our last night in Paris and you can just put a fourche in us because we are fini! We are cozy and warm in the apartment, looking out on the lights of this neighborhood that has begun to feel like home and admiring the Eiffel Tower one last evening. 

The packing is about to begin and we'll be navigating the metro and train stations to make our flight out of Charles DeGaulle tomorrow! It's going to be a weird day -- we leave Paris at 1:55 p.m. Sunday and somehow land in Monroe at around 8:30 p.m….on Sunday. Long day. But we're ready to be home and see our people!

Today, we squeezed into the world's smallest elevator…

 and squeezed in a few more Paris highlights, starting off with chocolate chaud at Angelina's! 
(Elisabeth, you never steered us wrong. Not one time!)

And, because we trust you, we ordered the Mont Blanc as well. (Have I mentioned that I've basically been off sugar for the five months leading up to this trip? I've made up for it in the past week!)
A nice bonus to cafe' stops are nice bathrooms!

Another thing on our list -- a little shopping (not my thing, believe it or not) and strolling and people-watching on the Champs Elysee -- (much more my thing!) We walked the length of this amazing boulevard, which is being transformed into a Christmas carnival of sorts with booths selling everything under the sun. 

Another item on our list - crepes from a street vendor!
 (Yes, Kevin, we did it!)

Paris is a city of two million people -- and most of them seemed to be on the Champs Elysee today!

Taking a break to watch the world pass by…

Jesse, channeling Mitch Hedberg: "Wearing a backpack is like there's a midget on your back all day, trying to bring you down…"

(He was a really good sport about it, though!)

Hydration is key...

And we triomphed!!!

The Metro system is so cool here, for a lot of reasons, including random things like this:

Merci pour les souvenirs, Paris!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Back in Paris…the view from our room...

Sometimes? At night? The Eiffel Tower? She does this…

(I'll miss this view from our sweet little apartment.)


A simple oaf...

As promised, here's a post from guest blogger Jesse Young.
He's renamed the blog for his post:

Okay -- in order to keep this simple and concise, we'll just talk about the last thousand years.

Thirty-five years ago, my hero and big brother Tony introduced me to Wendell Berry. I read Mr. Berry's description of the French countryside and the French as consummate gardeners -- these skills have provided for their survival as dozens of wars have been fought on their land for a thousand years. I have wanted to see this country since then.

(from Bayeux Tapestry)

This picture, from a "blog post" that dates to the 1070s, shows a turning plow being pulled by a donkey, tilling the beautiful silt loam soils in Normandy. 

Today, a very similar plow, tilling these same Normandy soils, is being pulled by Antoine and his Massey Ferguson with approximately 180 horses under the hood. 

I'm not changing the subject, but French people are nice. 
They are nice, they are patient, they are helpful. 
I feel the need to repeat this several times in this short post. 
Leslie and I were observing Antoine from a distance, when he pulled up, stopped, walked over to us and said, "Bonjour!"

Antoine spoke no English and I speak no French. But we communicated, as semi-literate farm boys have for a thousand years, with grunts, hand gestures and animal sounds. 

Antoine explained to me that these radish/turnip/sugar beet root crops were fed to the dairy cattle.

Antoine offered to let me make a round with him. I declined, but was very grateful. I tipped my John Deere cap to him (to show that we're members of the same fraternity) and said "Au revoir!" 

This encounter left me to conclude that every French farmer is a nice person. 

The French in this region encourage drivers to be careful and please share the road…See? French people are nice!

The field crops we observed while driving around the French countryside were corn...


and forage root crops…(which look like collard greens)

We also saw apple orchards, beef and dairy cattle…

 and sheep…

(my apologies for those crazy Benedictine monks who have been photo bombing sheep and cow portraits for about 900 years)

This picture, taken from the top of Mont St-Michel, the ancient city, gives a view of the modern world, with a sophisticated levee system and large, square fields, just beyond the historic mud flats surrounding the island community.  You can see the rains moving in gently. I observed no irrigation systems in Normandy. The rains are frequent and gentle, allowing a wide variety of fresh produce and field crops to be grown successfully for at least the past 1000 years.

Similar themes here in this beautiful land and our beautiful home include:

Sometimes farmers have to "mud" their corn out...

…and watch out for deer…

The gingko trees are as beautiful in the fall...

...and watch out for those darn farmers. They think they own the road!

Sycamore trees grow tall and majestic…

(I am an oaf. I remembered to remove my hat shortly after this picture was taken.)

And our Lord is honored and worshiped. 

(The lower part of the interior of the Bayeux Cathedral dates to to 1070…
the more "modern" gothic construction was finished in 1550.)

These cathedrals allow a sinner to feel small and we're reminded to always look heavenward.

I like talking to God in a field on our farm. 
And I liked joining the faithful who have talked to God in this place for almost 1000 years.

Blogging, 1070s style...

We woke up this morning to a drizzly rain in Bayeux -- but it was still beautiful! And by the time we ventured out in search of breakfast -- cafe and WARM pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant), the weather was shaping up beautifully!
We walked around this charming historic district, laced with canals, old buildings, shops and cafe's…

…on our way to view the famous Bayeux Tapestries. Now, I know what you're probably thinking, because we thought the same thing -- tapestries? Seriously? But this was one of the coolest things we've seen. The Bayeux Tapestry is a single tapestry around 230 feet long and 20 inches wide depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and featuring a fascinating drama between William the Conquerer and Harold, the conniving would-be king of England. And it was made in the 1070s. Meaning it's 944 years old. And it is spectacular!

(this is just part of the tapestry -- which is actually embroidered, not woven, but it has always been referred to as a "tapestry.")

Over the course of 50 different "scenes," the story is told -- a dying king's choice of William as successor, the deceitful Harold, taking the crown for himself, despite swearing his loyalty to William on two different holy relics!

A battle ensues with boats, horses, soldiers…all told in amazing detail.

Violent war scenes (note the soldiers are wearing chain mail)

Wading into the water from the boat…no pants!

This scene features Mont St. Michel (top).

According to the curators of the tapestry, it was designed to depict the historical events so they could be recounted to the largely illiterate populace. My brilliant husband remarked that the tapestry is the equivalent of an 11th Century blog -- using pictures and descriptive text to share important life events! Ha!

From the museum housing the tapestries, we walked to their original home -- the Bayeux Cathedral, built in 1077 and dedicated in the presence of William the Conquerer, King of England. It predates Paris' famous Notre Dame Cathedral. 

It's hard to describe how the ancient places of worship move us. But they do.

I picked up a prayer guide that included this:

"Almighty and Eternal God,
Give me, I beseech You,
the great gift of inward peace. 
Command the winds and storms of my unruly passions.
Make me forbearing and kind to others that I may avoid quarrels and contentions…"

Ah. And Amen.

We so enjoyed our time in Normandy, driving back to catch the train in Rouen through more beautiful villages and farmland (more on that later, from our guest blogger!)

We did make a quick stop -- on a recommendation from the lovely Becca and Rachel Causey -- at Paul for a sweet treat this afternoon.

We got the beignet au pomme -- you were right, Becca, it was delicious! And I also got a tarte au sucre (we've had my sister's Quebecois version -- which, to be honest, I still prefer! Yours is better, Tracey!)

When we got back to Paris, we decided to just run across the street to the grocery store and get a baguette, some cheese (brie and roquefort -- oh. my.), salami, grapes and apple and just picnic in the apartment. I didn't even take a picture because we just plopped it on the table on top of our maps and things! However, our food blogging has apparently inspired some folks because we got these wonderful pictures from back home:

Our sweet cousin Juanice is hanging out with the still-recovering Mama D this week and she shared the wonderful gourmet fare they enjoyed at Chez Wisner! And the obligatory post-meal espresso shot!

These pictures made our day! Thanks Juanice! We think of home and our people every day! We're having a fantastic trip -- and we carry you all with us every where we go!