If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this latest blog post figures to come in at over 50,000. So many interesting things to see that I am going to let the places we visited pretty much speak for themselves. But before all of that, a few comments on our latest rental – which I do not have pictures of. (It was lovely, just not something that cried to be photographed.) We stayed in Châteaurenard, basically a farming community less than 15 minutes from Avignon. It turned out to be the perfect lily pad, allowing us to leap frog from place to place for day trips and adventures. Our VRBO hosts were most gracious; they spoke very little English but wanted to communicate with us so they kept their iPad handy and wrote us messages which were electronically translated. It was so heart warming to see them coming up the steps to our flat with another bit of helpful information. They also treated us to a very nice bottle of locally produced red wine. In terms of lodging, the rental unit was our least expensive yet most spacious: eat-in kitchen with a complete set of appliances, great room with a dining area for 6 people (including a sideboard filled with china), two nice sized bedrooms, a big bathroom, a shaded patio, and even a laundry room. We were minutes from the town center, though the setting felt rural. To add to our pleasure there was an extroverted cat who liked to push the door open to visit us indoors, a hard-of hearing/not very well seeing dog that had to almost bump into us before he knew we were there (he made up for it by making regular rounds of the patio just to check on our whereabouts) and a bunch of chickens that felt no need to move out of the way when we were driving into the parking area. Like I said – rural.
Just lodged for 10 days in a converted sheep barn in Vence, France. Had the joy of some fabulous and disappointment of some not so fabulous meals. We were busy enough, but not so much that we succumbed to full vacation mode, as we balanced outings with restful days and evenings. And then there were the mosquitoes…
“Alex, I’ll take transportation for €44,40”. The question: Why would someone take the Mont Blanc tunnel?
This 11.611 km (7.215 mi) passage links Chamonix, France to Courmayeur, Italy and Italy is where we were headed. Between us stood a section of the Alps. While the scenery was breathtaking, we were pleased that we were able to go through the mountain rather than over it.
The entire travel time that day was eight hours. Much of it on toll roads. Convenient, safe, and a bit pricey. I figure we spent about $150 (US) for the privilege. On nearing Venice we began looking for the Tronchetto Parking Garage recommended by our VRBO hosts. Since cars are not allowed to drive onto the island, we were glad to have input on the best way to navigate this. Safely parked, we made our way to the docks to catch a vaporetto (water bus). Our host was meeting us at one of the stops for a 10-minute walk to our rental. On the way we took 3 turns and crossed 5 bridges and congratulated ourselves on downsizing our luggage for this portion of the journey.
And the vagabond year continues… but before going into details for this portion of the trip it might be helpful if I gave a bit of information on the process we used to make our travel decisions. (Process being a euphemism for seat of our pants). First we considered our kiddos: grandson, his parents (our younger son and his lovely wife) and our older son. It was important to get them in our circuit. Next we put together a “love to” list of places: cities we wanted to experience and those that we have talked about seeing again. That done, we accepted that our ‘love to” list could not even come close to being reasonably doable, so we chopped it up into geographical sections; stringing together as many things on our list as we could. Then we did something really daring – we asked friends for suggestions (relating to our now roughly determined path), and invited them to add what they thought we should strongly consider. Thanks to all who shared so eloquently. (Patty & Jack, Judi, Chad, Emily & Aaron, Lynne, Bradley, Terry & John, Patty B., Kerry, Christine …sorry if I have missed someone; please know that all advice has paid off.) As the suggestions and comments rolled in it was enlightening to hear the strong and diverse feelings people had: Paris – my favorite/been there done that; Venice – magical/what’s the big deal?; London – I can’t wait to go back/nothing exceptional and then there’s the horrible food.
That said, we put France on our list for a number of reasons: I had been, but Bob had not. I have longed to get back to the southern portion of the country and it was, after all, France. Our British Isles cruise put us in somewhat close proximity. And, while the south was my goal, it seemed right to do the stuff that Paris offers – it was convenient and there.
Paris. Our flat was ideally situated: two blocks from a Metro stop, near 3 grocery stores, amidst the usual abundance of cafes and patisseries. We fell into our routine of breakfast in the flat, grabbing something along our outing mid-day and then opting for a quiet evening in house or at something in the neighborhood. Best find was a Cambodian restaurant a few blocks from our flat. Still have no idea what I ordered, but it was delicious.
The day following our visits to The Louvre and Pompidou Centre started out rainy. We postponed our activity until skies cleared after lunch and then headed for the Tuileries and l‘Orangerie. On our way, Bob had his pocket picked while riding the Metro and that influenced our overall mood. Bob was, as can be imagined, frustrated but circumspect. I took no photos, staying more quiet and contained. We did enjoy the Monets and even took a side trip to the National Gallery of Jeu de Paume (ironically, a photographic exhibit space). The current showings were related to the protests of the tortures during the French/Algerian War. In a serendipity, this was the day French President Macron issued an apology for the government’s handling of the Algerian situation. In this case art clearly preceded life.
And so it goes for Paris (refer to earlier comment about buying the book). We are now changing up our transportation mode to Bob’s choice for moving about: him behind the wheel. From our Paris flat we Ubered to the airport and waited in line for almost 2 hours to get our rental car. Heads up: if you are in Charles De Gaulle and looking for lunch/snack/take on the road options, Marks & Spencer beats everything else pricewise and in regards to lines.
And then it is on to Dijon. We had a lovely flat, just blocks from the city center. There was a small grocery near and we were only a 5 minute walk from the heart of the old city.
And whilst in Dijon, a side trip to Beaune and the home to Vueve Ambal. I will admit, I had no idea of what we were getting into when we decided on this day trip. Bob originally found it online and figured I would be on board because it was about wine with bubbles. He was right. We both had a wonderful time: learning about crémant vs champagne. As most know, champagne must be made in the Champagne region of France and using the “champagne method” to be OFFICIALLY champagne. (It’s the appellation distinction thing that I wrote about in my tequila/mescal post when we were in Guanajuato.) Other wineries in regions outside of Champagne can produce sparkling wines (and even use the same or similar methods) but they cannot be called champagne. Thus Crémant de Bourgogne.
Our time in Dijon was over too quickly. We have already begun a new list: places we want to spend more time in during future travels. After all, we still didn’t make it to the gingerbread factory and there are still so many wines waiting to be tasted.
Cheers and good health to all! We have completed our British Isles cruise and I thought a Cornish toast would be a good way to head this latest post. What follows is by no means a comprehensive travelogue of our trip, but it does capture some of the sights and insights along the way.
And on to Paris we go. Looking forward to a bit more sunshine, fewer lines to navigate and as many baguettes and pastries as I can hold.
It has been 17 years (Millennium change/Y2K remember that?) since our last visit…way too long for a city we enjoy. We have made up for lost time by hitting the streets and seeing what’s new and appreciating what we loved about our first encounter with London.
And just a few random sightings from our neighborhood:
Tomorrow it’s off to Notting Hill and the Portobello Market. Next day we leave for British Isles/Ireland/Scotland. Time to turn in our Oyster Cards, make sure we have no extra pounds in our pockets, and attach our luggage tags for the cruise. Cheerio, London! It has been wonderful.
A visual metaphor asking readers of this blog to be on the lookout for some upcoming posts. And, in the literal sense, an empty cupboard that will soon be filled by the people who will be renting our Reno home for the next 12 months.
Backstory: This adventure came about quite unexpectedly when we had a request from a visiting UNR professor to rent our Reno guest house for a year. There were some back and forth negotiations while she waited for her grant to come through but, by the time it did, the guest house was no longer available. We next worked with her to help her find a potential place to rent (considering price, nearness to the university, etc.) but no luck. At about this same time a series of life events brought reminders of how important it is to do the carpe diem thing, and we decided to offer her our home as a rental – if she and her family (husband and 2 children) were okay with they. They were. And that means Bob and I will be hitting the road August 1 for a year of vagabonding, adventuring, and immersing ourselves in a variety of locales.
We have converted my studio into a bedroom for the kiddos; done lots of researching, reading, list making and itinerary planning; culled through closets and cupboards to make our house renter ready; tied up local obligations and duties; and stowed away any remaining personal things we won’t be taking along on our journey.
We will stay in touch – through this blog, text and email. We have suspended postal delivery, so please save those stamps!! NOTE: Beginning August 1 Facebook will not longer send out notices when a new blog entry is posted. (Part of the new Facebook policy regarding third party postings. This is what the 2016 election social media fallout has wrought, for better or worse…) Therefore, if you want to automatically receive notification of new posts you need to sign up for an email message. You can do it on this site using the button in the right-hand column. Just making sure you know of the changes…
As I work on final tasks I have been hearing Willie Nelson in my head; that endearing nasal twang of “On the Road Again”, and I am keeping in mind the following piece of inspiration:
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”
As I contemplated the heading for this post I started to wonder what readers would imagine it contained: a household cleaning task? a recall of some sort of bizarre punishment? an attempt at a horror story? a retreat gone wrong? All interesting guesses, but the fact is that I spent most of the last three days in the basement at Reno City Hall, working wardrobe duties for Bandaloop: a vertical dance company out of Oakland, CA, that was in town to kickoff Artown celebrations.
It was great fun even though the green room and sewing space presented a challenge. I set up my work space using a 1960’s vintage couch (looked very similar to the one in my Moorhead State University dorm lounge circa 1969) and a coffee table. My sewing machine was pretty low to the ground and that meant that getting to the foot pedal required me to sit in a modified easy seated yoga pose. (Maybe that’s more plus than minus…) The overhead lights were low-level florescent tubes and I found myself using the flashlight app on my phone for detailed work. But the company – literally, the dance company – was a delight; easy to work with, appreciative, funny, inclusive.
The original wardrobe call indicated that I would be needed for light sewing repairs and then ironing and steaming of costumes to be worn for the main shows. That role expanded significantly, and I ended up doing some major construction: working on 6 out of 7 of the group’s costumes. One costume was entirely redone; 2 needed major overhauls and repairs; 2 needed new pieces made; 1 was just fitting and adjustments.
Fortunately, there were opportunities to go above ground and appreciate the amazing talents of this fabulous troupe.
Gives new meaning to the phrase, “All in a day’s work.”
What better to do in the spring but take a trip back to the Heartland, in this case Nebraska and Missouri; and along with dear friends and fellow quilters, head out to see what delights the area has to offer? Our host and hostess had a full agenda of activities arranged for us: lunch and a walkabout in a revitalized and historically preserved section of downtown Omaha, car trips to local points of interest around Greenwood and Louisville, dinner at a nearby state park, shopping, and of course quilts, quilts, quilts.
In addition to the Ken Burns quilts there were two other galleries for us to enjoy. Singular Fascination had quilts that were based on the use of repetition, the idea being that each quilt was a reflection of a maker’s habits. Each of the quilts was amazing in their own right – so precise and artistically created. Two of my favorites are shown below. The first is squares; the second triangles. And remember, each of these has been created by hand – piece by piece, row by row.
The final gallery was Eiko Okano’s Delectable World. Okano, a quilt artist from Japan, makes viewing quilts a delicious experience.
But just visiting the museum was only the beginning. In the afternoon we went on a behind the scenes tour and had the opportunity to learn about how the center does its care and conservation of quilts. Many of the objects we viewed do not go on display as they are too fragile to be hung or to be out of a controlled environment.
The maker of the crazy quilt that is shown in the next three photos worked on the quilt top throughout much of her lifetime and the quilt never did get finished. Because of that, we were able to see the back side of her work and admire the way she did her piecing. From looking at it you would never guess that she was using a geometric pattern block as her base.
This quilt is a remarkable example of hand embroidery and quilt overlay stitching. The lighter brown/gold areas are actually metallic thread. We couldn’t use a flash (for obvious reasons) so while the colors are lovely they are not fully realized. Seen with direct light the overall effect is dazzling.
Yes, that outing to Lincoln was extraordinary, but now we were ready from some realtime quilting excitement. The next day we jumped into the car for a field trip to Hamilton, Missouri – home of the Missouri Star Quilt Company (MSQC). This little town has been revitalized by MSQC and is pretty much a quilters paradise; some brochures even call it the Disneyland of Quilting. There are eleven quilt shops on the main street, each with an individual theme. It was hard to know where to start. But rest assured, we each came away with a bag (in some cases bags) full of good stuff. I think I hear my sewing machine calling me…
Going through photos and recalling our Mexico adventure via the rear view mirror helped me realize that I had a mixed assortment of images that never made it into a blog post but were still ones that I would like to share. First off, a curiosity of museums: (BTW – there is no collective noun for a group of museums, but I figured “curiosity” would work).
And while on the topic of museums, we did go Diego Rivera’s home. No photos allowed but that was okay as there were not many things that caught our attention. And why so little about Frieda? It was a good stop – but not great, frankly. On the other hand…
New topic. For those of you who remembered that I said I would post a few photos of our house and were wondering when I would get around to it…here goes: