28 through 30 June – Paris and home

Today we are to arrive at a B&B about an hour from the Paris airport. I wanted a place where the dogs could relax and get ready for their flight to LAX. I found this place really by accident about a year before our trip; the owners had stopped taking visitors because of health issues. I found them on an old website. But Lisa was very kind and attentive to our needs (she understood how difficult it was to find a dog-friendly place) and said that we would be welcome.

We arrived about 4pm and were greeted by husband, Jack, and their 2 dogs. Jack, a Scotsman, was incredibly welcoming and right away we saw that their garden was perfect for the dogs.

Garden at the B & B
Garden at the B & B

Halley, their black miniature poodle, reminded me of our long-gone Leo. That was a hard thing to remember but also a wonderful thing to remember. She is a beautiful and sweet dog–just like Leo. They also have a white Japanese spitz. The spitz spends her day humping poor Halley. (!) Our dogs seem to get along OK but, as usual, Lucien wants to be top dog.

The Quinn’s house was filled with an unbelievable amount of collectibles and memorabilia. We settled into the top floor suite which was comfortable and lovely with a very nice bathroom. We did need to negotiate the circular staircase and had to carry all the dogs up and down but we all got used to that. The garden was secure and beautiful. Toby took off as soon as we arrived and was not seen for a long time; he LOVED the garden. The Quinns have chickens and all sorts of fruit trees and home-grown vegetables. The garden flowers were beautiful!

We had arranged for dinners each of the 2 nights we were there. We had really delicious meals! There was roast chicken the first night and veal paupiettes the second night. The breakfasts were perfect.

Jack is a really lovely man. He bonded with our little dog, Lucky, and had the sweetest “conversations” with him: “You’re such a wee little lad with a wee little face…” I swear we would have kidnapped Jack if we could. We appreciated his friendliness and warm personality.

The dogs were well rested and ready to go when we were scheduled to fly out of Paris to LAX. Our drive to the airport was not bad at all. Turning in our car was easy. Truly all our concerns about getting the dogs boarded on the flight were silly–it was a cinch!

We arrived at LAX and our Global Entry designations got us through immigration and customs in record time!! We highly recommend that system if you are an international traveler. It costs $100 for 5 years. For us, $100 was worth this one entry back to the US. I was able to get the dogs through customs in no time at all.

Our wonderful neighbor, Wendy, picked us up at LAX. She was a trooper! There were so many vehicles at the pickup area, it was only due to patience and perseverance that she found us.

27 June – Back to Paris part 1

It’s time to head back to Paris. I am nervous about the drive based on our experience traveling from France to Italy. We are going to stop half-way, just across the Swiss border near Geneva. Actually the drive is lovely through the Alps. Even though we have tunnels to traverse, it’s not bad at all. I think we should come back to the Alps region of France because it’s really beautiful. Toby is a pill; what else is new?! I get really tired of his whining. I confess that screaming is my solution to the problem. It works for a bit but then it’s back to the whining. Our dog-sitter says that screaming is like barking to our dogs. If I scream they believe it’s OK to bark.

We approach the mountain: Mont Blanc. The tunnel through Mont Blanc is 6 miles long and costs 48€. I am actually not nervous at all. They stagger the vehicles so that you are able to keep a nice distance between cars. Howard later tells me they are attentive to the vehicle density because there was a terrible accident 15 years ago that killed more than 30 people. So glad to hear that after we’ve gotten through. As we exit the tunnel we have a perfect view of a HUGE, beautiful glacier on the mountain. We should have pulled off the road to view and photograph it!

We stay at an Ibis Hotel just across the Swiss border and it is just fine–less than $100.

View from Ibis Hotel
View from Ibis Hotel

We have microwaved Croque Monsieur sandwiches that are not too bad. But the microwaved molten chocolate cake is incredible. We are able to purchase a nice (expensive) bottle of wine; wish they had a bar for cocktails.

26 June — Lucca

It is our last full day in Italy. We are pretty worn out so we decide to spend the day in nearby Lucca casually seeing the sights we have not yet seen and finding a good place for lunch. We make our way into town thanks to our GPS. The paid parking lot we used before is now “monitored” by men that make us a bit uncomfortable. I see a woman who looks like a local give these men some money as she heads through the gate to the town. I act like I’m a stupid tourist (which I am) and we pay for our time at the parking meter and then just walk towards and through the gate (even though a man tries to stop me). I hope our rental car is OK for the day.

Our first stop is the Basilica San Frediano, the most interesting church we have visited in Lucca. Above the entrance is an incredible, huge 13th century mosaic of the ascension of Jesus. The inside is equally as amazing. There is a huge, sculptured, 12th century baptismal font with 2 glazed terracotta “lunettes” of religious themes hanging on the wall behind it. In a side chapel there is a glass shrine that displays the mummified body of St. Zita who died in 1278. That is something to see! There are several sarcophagus and tombstones marking important people who are buried here. The walls are marked with marble inlay, paintings, polyptychs (divided, painted panels), examples of sgraffito (wall decor technique), frescoes, and trompe l’oeils. We are very happy we stopped here.

We had hoped to visit the botanical garden but it is closed. We decide to visit the Museo Villa Guinigi. This museum has artifacts from the Etruscan times through,

At the Guinigi museum
At the Guinigi museum

I think, the 1800s. It was really interesting! (Although the huge religious paintings representing most recent times were very boring.) It was funny that a young man was required to follow us through the galleries; he spoke excellent English. After the first gallery I said “thank you” as we left and he said “Don’t bother. I will be with you through your tour.” He was very nice and toward the end I ask him if he could recommend a restaurant for Tuscan steak. He recommended (and located on a map for us) a few restaurants that we should consider. He said that Lucca is not the best place for Tuscan steak but he said to look at the posted menu and decide from there.

We found the closest place and after looking at the menu decided to eat there. They had an outside terrace that looked inviting. They did not have spritzes but they had an aperitif of chilled Aperol and it was a great substitute.

The very best, new food item that we had as a first course was panzanella. You have to make this! It is stale bread crumbs that are rejuvenated with oil, herbs, chicken stock, tomatoes and other luscious items, packed in a ring mold and plated beautifully for your enjoyment. Second course was margarita salad. I ask for a pasta course but our server said we would have more than enough to eat. The chef cooked our steak perfectly rare and sliced it nicely. We were FULL but we could not resist dessert: panna cotta. Yum!

The only problem with our lunch was a party of four couples who sat next to us, each with at least 1 child. One couple changed their baby’s diapers right next to the table. Other of the children ran around and /or rolled in the dirt on the asphalt. These people were primarily French (I think one mother was American) and, surprisingly, most French people DO NOT bring their children to restaurants. It did not ruin our lunch but it would have been nicer to not share lunch with these people.

25 June — Lucca

At 7:30am we are awakened by a thunder storm, the likes of which I’ve never heard or seen! Huge lightning! Incredible thunder! I think this cancels our lunch at a restaurant on a nearby mountaintop.

Poor Lucien is frightened by the thunder and lightning which goes on throughout the morning; I give him a tranquilizer. It is raining so hard the visibility is near zero. It’s nice and cool–we were afraid it would get really muggy. Since we have not been to the grocery store since we arrived here we take stock of our meager provisions: 7 bottles of wine (I guess were OK for today!); a couple of loaves of bread that I threw out yesterday (they are still OK in the plastic bags and we have a toaster); lots of pasta (that is a good thing); a tin of tuna in oil and a tin of sardines; a half lemon; an onion; 2 pears; nice olive oil from the grove here; wine vinegar; cheese (but maybe not great cheese; it’s a bit old and beginning to smell like ammonia); a hand-full of good olives; 4 eggs; cooked chicken from 6 days ago (??); one avocado; enough coffee for 3 days (perfect); enough blood orange juice for 2 days (one day short of perfect); and a good amount of butter. There’s dog food but I guess that does not count. So I guess we won’t starve…or get sober.

I do some wash. Last night I was unable to get the washing machine (located in the downstairs bathroom) started. Massimo tells me by email this morning that I need to plug in the washing machine in the little storage room next to the bathroom; the plug passes through the wall. (Not unusual in these very old homes.) So washing is in progress.

The bird calls and songs here are so sweet. In between downpours you can hear the birds. The storm lasts until about 11am. (There are supposed to be thunderstorms and/or rain the next 2 days.)

Nice lunch of oil packed tuna and lots of pasta. Surprisingly, ripe pears and avocados are great together for a salad!!

24 June — Florence

Today we visit Florence! (It is “Firenze” in Italian; I like that name.) We know a few things: It will probably be HOT and one day is hardly enough. Next time we will stay a week.

It’s nice and relaxing to take the train from Lucca to Florence. Nadia tells us the local’s secret: You can buy your tickets at the newspaper stand. She writes out all the info we need to buy the ticket. Wow–that was easy and we’re on the train. The trip is about 1.5 hours. One weird thing that happened: Just before the train is due to arrive, a young woman starts shouting that we are all on the wrong platform; it’s been changed. Fortunately in the short time it takes for all of us to process her information, the train arrives. I wonder if she really thought the platform had changed or if she wanted to witness pandemonium.

It’s a very nice ride through little towns on our way to Florence. The train station is right in the main part of the city. Since we will only be here one day, we decide to buy the “Firenze Card,” a fixed price card that allows the holder to jump the line. Even though the cost of the card is better spread over 3 days, we decide the convenience outweighs the cost. Rick Steve’s, our travel god, says to not buy the card at the train station but walk a fairly short distance to a visitor information office a bit further in town. We easily find the place but it’s closed! We arrive at the place at the same time as 2 English speaking people. They say that today is a holiday of some sort so maybe that’s why the office is closed.

We decide to walk to the closest site we wanted to see hoping we could buy our card there. So off we go to the Academia Gallery to see the incredible Michelangelo’s “David.”

Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo’s David

We cannot believe how long the lines are! I ask the man about the Firenze card but he says they do not sell it. So we are off to the rather little known Bargello Museum. Yes! They have it and there are NO lines.

This Bargello Museum is set in one of the oldest buildings in Florence; it dates back to 1255. This museum is a treasure-trove of incredible sculptures. There are plenty of sculptures that you know by heart. There are several depictions of “David” (of Goliath-slaying fame)

Donatello's David
Donatello’s David

and it is interesting to compare and contrast the great sculptures’ visions of this mythical character. The masters who inhabit the galleries include Donatello and Michelangelo with many other lesser known sculptures by name but you would recognize their pieces. It’s so interesting to see how different artists depict the same theme and it’s not just the “David” depiction. For instance “Bacchus” is depicted by many of the masters here. In retrospect, I think this gallery is the most interesting and I’m glad we spent a good bit of time here.

We are hungry! On our way to the Bargello Museum I see lots of interesting restaurants. I am particularly interested in Cafe Leo (since I can’t forget my sweet poodle, Leo). But we pass up Leo’s place and find our way to “The Yellow Bar.” It is the lively clientele that catches our attention. The joint is really jumpin’! The hostess first shows us the fresh pasta-making operation and then seats us at a bench table in the middle of all the activity.

Our server is fantastic! We tell her we want to taste and share good pasta and good pizza. And that we want to start with a spritz!! She serves us house-made yellow and green tagliatelle with fresh vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, amount others), and “focaccia” (but really a cracker-like pizza crust) topped with anchovies and baked. Once the focaccia is out of the oven, it is topped with fresh mozzarella slices, shaved Parmesan and a “salad” of arugula. For dessert Howard has lime sorbet and I have a waffle “cup” with a bottom layer of chantilly (sweetened whipped cream and crème fraiche) topped with fresh berries (strawberries, blackberries and I think a few blueberries). And of course a carafe of Chianti. We love every bite of our lunch and really enjoyed the “entertainment.”

We visit the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), a gothic cathedral with an incredibly colorful and unique facade (pink, green and white Tuscan marble) and with the first dome (huge and beautiful) built since ancient Roman times; the Duomo museum is closed for renovation so we miss that (but we would not have had time even if we wanted to see it).

Next is the Uffizi Gallery. We must see the incredibly wonderful Botticelli gallery (Birth of Venus). The galleries seem to be never ending and the amount to see is similar to the Louvre in Paris; our time in Florence is running out. As we RUSH back to the train station we get to see Ponte Vecchio, an ancient bridge that even from old times was lined with silver and gold shops.

We should have spent 3 days here minimum; 7 days would have been better. What a beautiful city! We are pretty much exhausted after a day of heat, humidity and crowds and we happily board the train back home. Our treacherous trip back up the mountain is uneventful! I think that luck comes from clean livin’. HA!

We decide that if we were to come back (and we’d like to) we would stay 3-4 nights each (or more) in Florence, Lucca and Siena plus maybe spending time in Cinque Terre.

As much as we love France and the French, Italy and the Italians are a different “planet” and we like it a lot.

23 June — Lucca

Today we explore nearby Lucca, birthplace of our brother-in-law, Andrew Guidi. Nadia, our dog sitter arrives bright and early and in one piece after the drive up the mountain. After proper introductions, it’s clear the dogs are very happy to meet her and we can leave them without worries.

It’s with much trepidation that we set off down the mountain road. We actually are not quite sure how to get back to Lucca! But after safely arriving at the bottom of the mountain, Howard is able to get the GPS going and in no time we are at the gates of Lucca.

The town of Lucca is unique in that the original walls of the city are completely intact. Most small towns tear down all or part of the town walls to make way for new streets and buildings. But Lucca has kept her Renaissance ramparts and the length of the top of the walls has been made into a park. (Medieval ramparts are thin and are made to stop arrows. During the renaissance era cannons were used in warfare so the protective walls are very thick creating a wide, 2.2 mile, circular park on top.) For the most part, only locals can drive and park within the walls of the town. But there is ample parking outside the walls and it’s an easy walk into the town.

Nadia has given us a map and suggestions for the sights to see. We find ourselves strolling on an alleyway that turns out to be THE place to be for retail shopping. The modern stores have antique storefronts; many are in art-deco motifs. There are lots of high-end jewelry stores. I try to not window-shop because I may run in with my credit card!

Even though this part of town is quite shaded, it is a hot day and, about 11am, we look for somewhere to sit down for a drink. We find ourselves in Piazza Anfiteatro. The ancient amphitheater is no longer there but the footprint remains surrounded by old, many-storied buildings. A young lady at one of the restaurants has such a welcoming smile that I forget my shyness about this new country and ask if we can sit down. She speaks very good English and makes us feel right at home.

We have been reading police mystery stories by Donna Leon. (Try her if you like mysteries.) Her fictitious police inspector lives and works in Venice. He and his colleague spend a bit of work time in the cafés drinking an Italian drink called a “spritz.” So, of course, that’s what we order even though we have no idea what we will get.

Waiting for spritzes
Waiting for spritzes

The drinks set in front of us are florescent orange with lots of ice. Now that’s new to us! But it is so refreshing and light–we love it! A spritz is made by first adding a handful of ice to a glass. Then 2 oz. of Aperol, a liqueur made from oranges and “herbs and roots.” It is considered a “bitter” like Campari but it’s hardly a bitter drink. Plus 3 oz. prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. And lastly a splash of soda water. Both the prosecco and the Aperol are about 10-11% alcohol so the drink is not super alcoholic but it is refreshing! We are hooked and ask for it wherever we have a meal. We tell our server how much we appreciate her kindness and, now fortified, we are off to the next sight.

We are frustrated to not be able to communicate in Italian. We are used to being easily able to ask for things in French, we wish we could do the same in Italian. We do notice that many words are close to the same word in French but you add an extra syllable to the end so that it sounds just like the stereotypic Italian. So “bonjour” becomes “bonjour-no.” (That’s a phonetic spelling.) The next stop has a similar pronunciation. We go to Piazza San Michele. In Italian, the last “e” in “Michele” is pronounced again sounding like the Italian we’ve all heard: Mishell-e.

Piazza San Michele has hosted a market since Roman times. It appears that the primary business industry surrounding the piazza is banking and finance. Next to the church we can see that workers are uncovering ancient ruins below the current street level and it’s on display for everyone to see. The piazza is dominated by the San Michele church, built in 795. The most remarkable thing is the facade with its sculptures and marble inlays of different colors. There are approximately 50 arches with sculptured columns. A toy-like archangel Michael sits atop the church and apparently his wings can be mechanically flapped. The inside is not remarkable but there is a unique terracotta madonna.

One more stop before lunch: the cathedral of San Martino. This church is most notable for the “holy face of St Lucca.” According to legend, a wooden crucifix dating to 742 made its way to Lucca (long, involved story). Believers say that the Christ figure on the crucifix can leave the cross and walk. The figure is quite unique and not at all the attractive face of Jesus that is normally portrayed. In September there is a festival to commemorate the crucifix; the figure is dressed in exotic robes and adorned in gold. The crucifix is housed in an elaborate “temple” in one part of the church. The exterior of the cathedral is in some ways similar to San Michele with arches and different colors of marble but there’s no flapping winged archangel.

Boy, are we hungry and hot. Nadia recommended a traditional restaurant called Da Giulio.

da Giulio
da Giulio

It is also recommended in a short, computer-printed travel guide at the house that was apparently written by a couple who love Italy. So off we go!

The place is run/staffed by VERY nice people–we are coming to believe that all Italians are welcoming, friendly and accommodating. The young man who seats us speaks a good bit of English but the 60-something lady who takes our order (I think the owner) speaks no English. Honestly it was a combination of quick glances at the phrase book, hand gestures and smiles that completed our order.

We start, of course, with a spritz! We share an antipasti plate of local meats, little fried bread pieces, and a bunch more delicious stuff that we neglected to note. My next course is Gorgonzola cheese gnocchi–OMG! I love gnocchi and it tastes MUCH teeter in Italy. Howard has bean and faro soup, a very traditional dish of the region. For the main course I have veal stew with olives and tomatoes and Howard has local sausages and white beans. Everything was delicious! There is absolutely no room for dessert but we do enjoy Italian espresso–little teeny, super flavorful cups of delicious coffee.

Nadia has texted us a few times that all is well. I REALLY appreciate that even though I need to turn on the cell data and roaming on my iPhone to receive the text. (Not sure how much that costs us.) Nadia seems completely in control and is ever vigilant for escapes. When we get back she argues that we are paying her too much. Believe me our piece of mind is worth a lot and she inspires great confidence in her abilities to take care of our doggies.

We do stop at the grocery store before we mount our accent but it is closed. Whatever we have at home will be our sustenance until we leave!

22 June — Lucca

Today we relax at our lovely house. I need to recover from the long drive from France and that drive up the mountain! I tell Howard I am NOT driving into town for groceries, so what we have is all we get. Fortunately our host, Masimmo, left us with a great loaf of Italian bread, olive oil from the groves in our front garden, pasta and wine. (Although the wine is long gone by today.) We did bring enough wine and a miss-mash of leftover food and pantry staples so at least we won’t go hungry today.

The weather is gorgeous! It’s warm-hot but the terrace has plenty of places for a shady resting place.

Terrace at Lucca house
Terrace at Lucca house

There is no fencing to corral the dogs so we get busy creating barriers around the terrace. We find a large, heavy, A-frame laundry dryer. Opened up it creates a pretty large barrier. The chaise lounge pads can also be propped up against the plants at the edge of the terrace. Finally we fill I the gaps with some folding chairs. It looks pretty good but not perfect. Before we know it, Lucky is whining and that can only mean one thing: His best friend Toby has escaped.

Toby is not an obedient dog so calling him is futile and we are panicked. We eventually find him more-or-less trapped on one of the grove’s terraces. He fortunately found that he could not go further down the hill but could not get back up from where he came. But Toby is not the only escape artist! Lucien can jump incredibly high and surprises us by staring at us from the other side of the barrier. Each time there is an escape we try to fortify the “ramparts.” It is a constant effort.

Howard fixes great sardine pasta for dinner–yum! (Our motto since arriving on the trip is “always have dried pasta and canned sardines and the pantry and scallops in the freezer.”) A sardine pasta dish seems like a quintessential Italian meal. There are fixings for a nice salad too–pears and avocados are a good match in a green salad. We adjourn to bed to read long before the sun goes down. We want to avoid the evil fairies in the woods.

I email our dog sitter about the treacherous drive up and tell her that if she’s not up to it that’s OK with us. (I’m hoping she backs out so that we can ensconce ourselves here for the duration). No such luck; she is pro at mountain driving, she says.

21 June – To Lucca

Our drive from Servian, France to Lucca, Italy takes 8 hours. I hate to drive over bridges, especially if they are really high. And I hate to drive through tunnels. Approximately 4 hours of this drive is a tunnel then a bridge; a tunnel and a bridge; and they are one right after the other. I’m inclined to say it is high-anxiety for 4 hours but actually I become immune to the stress. But, damn, that is a long trip! (And a return trip is in store for us on Friday!)

When we exit to the toll booth in Lucca, we are greeted by the nicest man who talks to the dogs and is very kind to us. Catherine and Stephen said that the Italians are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Our first impression bears that out.

We are to meet our host, Massimo, at the McDonalds just at the end of the street after the toll booth. I was sure we would not arrive on time but amazingly we are 10 minutes early. I have given him a description of the car and our license plate (which is easy to recognize because it is a red, temporary plate). There is a couple in the parking lot who are clearly looking for someone so I approach them and ask if the man is Massimo. They are amazingly friendly when they tell me “no” but they are waiting for a friend too.

He arrives about 5 minutes late but we are happy that we have been found! Massimo says it is a 15 to 20 minute drive to the house and we take off following him. Reviews on the house say that the drive up the mountain is quite scary; I try not to think of that! On the last mile we climb first on a road that maybe is 1 1/2 lanes wide with some turnouts. The last approximately 1/3 mile is scary beyond belief! It is less than a lane wide with blind curves (there is constant horn honking to warn on-coming drivers to not hit you head-on). Our car has a warning system that blares when you come close to another object. The car’s system warns us several times on that stretch of road (so we are coming too close to objects along the side of the road). There is one particular area where the road is especially narrow around a curve–god help us! (We discover later that going down is easier that going up because of the attention I need to pay to the manual transmitting going up the mountain).

We arrive and Massimo says that I did much, much better than the normal visitor. I say that it’s because we have been driving in the mountains of France but, even though I can drive like a crazy person, it does not mean I like it! I think we will stay here and not leave for the 6 nights we are scheduled!!!

OMG you cannot believe our little bit of Tuscan Heaven here outside of Lucca. The inside is really only big enough for 2 people even though there are 2 bedrooms (upstairs) and 2 baths (one downstairs). The kitchen is antique with a 500 year old, stone sink!

Lucca Kitchen
Lucca Kitchen

There is a wood-burning stove under an old fireplace mantle. Old fashioned dish holders are hung on the walls. The pots and pans are stored in a big, antique wood container that is in the shape of an animal manger with a lid. Massimo says it dates back to 1700!! The building has incredibly interesting stonework. There are screens on the windows–hurray! (Are there mosquitoes?) There is a nice-sized terrace that looks over the olive grove and out to the valley below. We can see Lucca from here and it is a LONG way down the hill.

More than one kind of ant has invaded the dog food on the terrace! So I devise a way to thwart those buggars: I put the dog dish on a plate and fill the plate with water. The water surrounding the food bowl keeps the ants out of the food.

Howard fixes veal chops and fried potatoes for dinner. We have a nice salad too. We stay outside on the deck until dark–and that’s close to 10pm. I see a small flashing light moving around our legs. What the…?? It’s a firefly!!!!!!! We cannot believe it! We look down our hill and see several of them in a little ravine just below us. Wow! Neither one of us have seen fireflies since our childhood. We are mesmerized and stay outside for longer than we thought we would.

Before we turn in I take the dogs out for their “business.” I think I had too much wine because I see a weird ball of light a little ways from us under the tree canopy. Maybe it’s a firefly party. Anyway, I get a little spooked and it’s contagious; Howard is also uneasy. So every night afterward we are careful to lock everything up and set up a booby-trap at the front door. HA! We are nuts!

20 June – Getting ready for Italy

Today is packing day; tomorrow we leave for Italy. Howard packs up the clothes we will NOT be using for the rest of the trip. They are neatly folded together in a “package” at the bottom of the suitcase.

I go to Pezenas to try to hopefully find cork placemats with the same motif that Nancy Frank bought; she wanted a second set. The last time I was at the shop they did not have the “pattern” of cork that she purchased. No luck! But I was able to find a very pretty, and hopefully cool, linen dress to take to Italy. We have been watching the weather there and it will be VERY hot and humid. The young woman at the shop was very nice and spoke very good English; her family spent time in San Francisco. Although when I complained that groceries are so expensive, she did not know the word “groceries.” Probably because she did not do the grocery shopping!

I say goodbye to “Lillie’s dad” next door.

Lily the cat
Lily the cat

(Lillie is the cat we helped rescue at the very beginning of our time here.) He nicely says in French “Until the next time!”

Karima, the local management lady, comes to visit to see what needs repair/attention after we leave. I show her around and discuss the few issues I think she needs to know about including showing her the permanently stained white towels that resulted from the cleanup of Lucky’s vomiting in the middle of the night which we say we would like to replace (she is not concerned in the least). Howard reminds me in English about a couple of things. She asks Howard in French if he speaks French. He immediately says “Oui” indicating he understood and answered her question. She then says in French “Timid, huh?” HA!

 

19 June — “American Lunch”

I make the trip to the village square this morning; it is market day. I buy croissants: 2 for today and more for the next couple of days. They freeze well and it is easy to defrost them and heat them up in a low oven in the morning. I say goodbye to the lady and tell her that I have enjoyed her croissants very much while I have been in Servian.

I then go to the bread bakery to get bread for our lunch today. The bread is so good there. I say goodbye. She says that she and her family (there are the mother, father and 2 sons who run the bakery) have talked about me at home (!) and wondered where I am from. When I tell her I’m from San Diego, California she is amazed that I would leave San Diego and come to Servian. I have experienced that sentiment in speaking with other French people; it is hard to understand how an American would love France. I think the French can imagine why the British make their home in France (the weather is an important component) but they don’t understand why an American would spend their time here. It’s hard to describe with limited language skills why we would come from paradise (Oceanside) to a small town in France. I think it’s hard for me to explain to myself why we have come! I tell the lady that her bread is fantastic and I have enjoyed it very much.

Today we host our farewell “American Lunch.” Marie brings a Muscat Sec wine as an aperitif. For lunch we serve a “composed” Cobb Salad (not a Cobb Salad that has been tossed).

Christine & Marie with "American" lunch
Christine & Marie with “American” lunch

We plate the dressed greens and arrange the other ingredients around the plate: the lardons (not as good as bacon but it’s OK); chopped hard-boiled eggs; Roquefort cheese; chopped chicken; and sliced avocados. It is beautiful and delicious! For dessert we serve an apricot sorbet that is delicious and cookies. We share wines from Domaine Gardiés: the white wine we enjoyed in Collioure, a nice light red and a sweet, amber wine with dessert.

It’s hard to say goodbye! Marie cries a lot. It would be nice for her to visit us. We discussed in my meager French that if she were to come, the airfares are cheaper January through March. She apparently thought I said to come and stay for those 3 months. We’ll deal with that if it happens!!