Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thursday August 18

I woke up and took a shower around 9:30 this morning, and put some roller in my hair.  I got dressed in the long dress I had brought from home, and put on my slip on croc sandals.  After an entire day of shopping yesterday, I didn't even wear anything I bought. It was very humid and it was raining. I didn't have an umbrella, and didn't want to buy one and have to haul it around with me.  My airbnb had a bunch of umbrellas, but my hostess was still asleep and I didn't want to ask to borrow one. The restaurant was about 20 minutes outside of town by taxi, and I still had maybe an hour or so to kill before I needed to head out, so I went back to the coffee bar I went to across from the tourist office and got a café au lait and what looked like a wheat or multi grain croissant.  I knew I should eat something before lunch and wine.  I finished that and had another coffee.

It was still raining, but it wasn't the least bit cold.  Most people had a jacket or sweater on and umbrellas but I was walking around in a sleeveless maxi with no umbrella.  I put lipstick on today also, fancy fancy.  The taxi rank was on the other side of the boulevard and about a block down so I just took my time, despite the sprinkling, and made it across the street and to the taxi rank without becoming completely soaked. 

I picked a great time, a lull in taxi demand, about noon and hopped into a cab and we headed out of the city into the gorgeous countryside, full of farms and beautiful trees, all very green- mountains or rolling hills.  We eventually pulled into the restaurant and I got out.  My reservation was at 12:30 and it was around 12:15.  There were lots of cars in a parking lot so I assumed that other people were also early. 

Insert Mugaritz experience.

They called a cab for me, and I headed back into town.  I had decided to go to a restaurant in Orio tomorrow and texted the Chef that Carlos Walther Meade had recommended to find out if I could get a reservation for tomorrow.  He agreed and told me to come anytime between 1:30  and 3:00.  I went into the tourist office to figure out how to get to Orio from the city center, and found that the tram went there twice every hour all day, so it was very simple to do.

I went back to the airbnb for a nap before I headed back out.  I had decided I was going to go out, find something to eat, and stay out for the fireworks. 

Wednesday August 17

This morning I got up around 10 and my hostess offered me a coffee before I left the house.  I decided today I would walk around the city of San Sebastian.  I walked across the street into the old town part of San Sebastian and into the Brexta building which faced the boulevard where the tourist office was.  I had read in some literature that it was actually a shopping center so I thought i'd check it out.  I walked into one ladie's clothing store but didn't find anything I liked.  I was looking for some sort of cool lightweight jacket that I would wear again, or a dressier top  (for the skirt I had brought with me) to wear to Mugaritz, the 2 Michelin starred restaurant I was going to the next day.  I walked across the walkway into another shop that was a local Spanish designer, and tried on a dress and two tops, one a tunic and more casual, and another one that was too small.  The dress was Ok but it was thin material and my few (ha ha) bulges screamed at me, so I eliminated that right away.  I got the tunic top which was on sale for under $40US.  I briefly looked at a couple of other shops, but I really wasn't in a shopping mood, and didn't want to get into that mode just because I was bored.

I took the escalator upstairs and it was full of athletic shoes and clothing, and I had no interest in either so I took the escalator down to the bottom floor - below street level and found a farmer's market sort of place with individual areas for produce, seafood, meat, charcuterie and a lot more.  The fish displays were the most interesting, and some of the vendors had it down to an art, very appealing a beautiful, so I took pics but didn't buy anything since I had no place to keep it - my airbnb was a bedroom and shared bathroom, no kitchen.   There was also what appeared to be a good sized supermarket that obviously served the local community.  I didn't go inside.

I left the building and turned towards the Cathedral, or the hill near Old Town with the statue on it.  I looked for someplace to get something to eat, and found a place that I could actually see from the airbnb that wasn't too horribly crowded and I ordered a couple of pinxtas  that looked interesting, and a glass of white wine.  There was no place to stand inside at the counter, but I did find a table outside to stand at while I ate.  I can't tell you what I ate, because I don't remember, but I did eat it all.  These places, and there are literally several dozen on every street in the Old Town have so many different tapas and most aren't labeled so you just guess.  I am assuming I had some sort of charcuterie with cheese on one, and maybe ham on another, and some sort of layered pie sort of thing with veggies.

After finishing I walked up and down the other streets nearby and then all the way down to the waterfront, and along the beach walk.  There was another shopping sort of mall area on Saint Martin so I headed that way.  Everywhere I walked today seemed to have music of some sort going on, whether live or recorded.  Parts of the waterfront were barricaded off to ready for tonite's fireworks display scheduled for 10:30pm.  The fireworks were part of a competition between various countries and tonite was Ecuador's turn.  I headed towards a big tent where reggae music was blasting and discovered it was not live. There were a few young people hanging out, but not much happening.

I walked on and found another place where there were people of all ages perched on benches and cement platforms overlooking the water, and where another stage of sort was set up, and a young guy was doing a lot of talking and then playing music.  Everywhere in this part of town there were hundreds of locals of all ages sitting around, despite the loudness and the type of music being played.  It was kind of cloudy today, and humid, and it was that time of day between 1-4pm where all the shops were closed so most people were hanging out.

I kept walking and saw the more ritzy waterfront area with immaculately groomed men & women sipping wine and eating on private terraces or upscale hotel restaurants.  I continued cruising up and down the streets, stopping in a beauty supply to buy a small package of Velcro rollers to use in my hair so it might have some shape for my fancy lunch tomorrow.  I started looking for shoes/sandals of some sort also since I had shipped home everything but my sensible jambu mary janes and a pair of slip on croc sandals.  I saw very few that I liked, and that looked like they would be comfortable and cute, and tried on a few pairs unsuccessfully.  I stopped at another coffee place and had a café con leche and a brownie.  I continued going into shops and eventually purchased another embroidered lacy top that came with a black camisole.  This top was a Norwegian designer, and the cost also was only about $40 US on sale.  There were sales in all the shops around.  I eventually found the shopping center on Saint Martin, and there was a large 3 story Zara store, which I had first visited in Madrid at the airport, and now we have them all over the US so it is not such a big deal.  I went into the ground floor which was mobbed, and didn't have anything I found particularly interesting, and I just didn't have the interest or energy to check out the other two floors.

I walked out into a pedestrian street on the other side of the Zara building, and there were lots of designer and higher end chain sorts of stores that you find everywhere in the world- but I was just not into buying stuff.  I found a restaurant with an outdoor street terrace seating area and ordered some lunch. It was probably about 3 or 4 by that time.  I ordered a mixed salad, which I thought was just greens but turned out to be a pretty substantial salad with tuna on top- or some sort of canned fish I believe.  I had also ordered mushroom risotto, and when I saw the size of the salad I knew I had ordered way too much.  For my drink I had a half bottle of the local cider, which is alcoholic and has a vinegary taste but was good with the salad. 

I ate as much as I could of the salad, and about half of the risotto.  Neither plate was bad, but it was just mediocre after the last three weeks of amazing food, and although it was not real expensive, I wish I had just had tapas to tide me over until later.  I walked back to my airbnb to take a little nap, and showed off my purchases to my host and her friend.  She offered me a beer, and we had another one of our little discussions about life in general using google translate.  After a half hour or so I went into my room and hung out for an hour or so, and cooled off.

I headed out again probably about 7pm, and stopped in Constitution square for a drink and to watch some basque entertainment on a big stage.  The square was packed with cafes and people of all ages having a small bite to eat and drinks.  I ordered a drink I saw on another table that was rum and wine and some sort of fruit juice and it was really good.  I hung out for maybe an hour before moving on.  I again followed the sound of music and walked along the waterfront.  I walked near the area where the fireworks were going to be set off, and up the boulevard to the large gazebo stage, where an orchestra was set up.  I hung out on a railing around a green area and listened for a while. 

I stopped into another bar for tapas and had what turned out to be a burget slider, and breaded melted cheese.  I ordered a glass of white wine while I ate at the counter, then ordered a second to go.  I walked back outside and over to the gazebo area to try to sit and wait for the fireworks and finally gave up and went back to the bnb and bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Saturday August 20

Friday August 19

Tuesday August 16

I woke up, got dressed and headed out to find the Orange store to find out why my French sim card wouldn't work.  It was about a 5 minute walk, and because I had downloaded an offline map with GPS it was a breeze to find.  After 15 minutes and a new sim card purchased for one week in spain I was back in business. I headed to the tourist office to find out about how and where I can get to Bilbao this week to go to the Guggenheim Museum.

I had wanted to visit the Guggenheim for years, and it was only an hour and a half away.  I looked through all the brochures on the walls, then went up to a vacant customer service person and she printed out the bus schedules for tomorrow and gave me a great map of San Sebastian which helped me orient myself.  It is really easy to get around once you have a map in your head. 

I went across the street to get a coffee and a couple croissants, by that time it was about 12:30 and I decided I would go today, because the museum stays open until 8:00pm.  I walked for about 15 minutes to the bus station under the main train station and bought a ticket- the first bus that had seats was at 3:10pm, and I bought a return ticket for 8:30pm.  I went into a café at the station and had a beer and a couple of tapas, and bought a small bottle of water.  I left the station and walked back towards the ocean for about 20 minutes, made a left and headed back.  It was still too early so I sat in the park on a bench and people watched for a while.  It was still too early so back for another beer and a seat inside the café, until the bus finally arrived. There were several different bus lines going to Bilbao around the same time, so I found out it was important to look at my ticket to figure out which bus to get on.

I got on the bus and we headed out over mountains and to the city of Bilbao.  It is a gorgeous stately city and I enjoyed looking out the window during my bus ride to the museum.  This was a deluxe bus and they offered us several treats, handed out ear buds and had internet, comfy seats, movies and TV series in Spanish.  I had a man sitting next to me who slept the entire way.  I had a young girl who was texting and watching some princess movie on the other side.  We got to the bus station at Bilbao and I found a taxi quickly.  It was about a $5EU taxi ride to the museum.  What I saw of Bilbao was pretty nice, except the bus station which was pretty old and disgusting.  OK to sit and wait, but I wouldn't eat in the little cafeteria there- and fortunately I was not remotely hungry.  I hopped out and took some photos of the enormous, flower covered cat in front of the museum and of the building itself with is pretty awesome.

I walked down a zillion wide steps to get into the entrance, then waited in a short line to get my ticket and the audio narrative gadget.  There was a sign that asked you to start your tour by watching a video, but I lasted about 3 minutes and decided not to waste my time, but just do it.  I walked first around the ground floor, and saw the Andy Warhol exhibit Shadows.  They even had a room you could take pix with your shadow.  Although the signs said no photos, everyone had their phones out and the guards didn't seem to care.  I went into another area that had a really cool electronic sculpture that took up an entire room and consisted of neon signs like you see on the freeway except vertical with words running up them.  You could walk between the uprights and see it from the back side, and watching people walk through was like watching someone walk into a movie.  You can also see it from a balcony on the 2nd floor.  Really cool, hope I took a picture of the artist's name so I don't have to google it.

I took the elevator up to the 2nd floor and happened upon a large scale (several large rooms ) temporary exhibit by _____________  .  These were for the most part sculptural pieces inside cages, inside structures and used textiles and other materials to express emotions.  One whole room was dedicated to depression and isolation, another room the artists feelings about her parents, and other sculptural pieces that were part of her portfolio.  She was in her mid 90s when she died- and this was a very large exhibition that took up most if not all of the second floor.  I looked down and saw the Richard Serra Sculptures from above.  I had missed these massive metal pieces on the ground floor, so I took the elevator back down stairs.  I wanted to see these before I left, and I was running out of time.  I probably could have spent at least an hour in that room alone, but the clock was ticking. 

I walked through the gift shop and just didn't see anything I couldn't live without, so I used the ladie's room downstairs then walked up the stairs and out the door to the café attached to the museum.  I had a half hour or so before I had to catch a taxi so I had a Spanish ham & cheese sandwich and a glass of Mumm's champagne.

After finishing that I hopped in a cab across the street and went back to the bus station.  Of course I was at least an hour early (i'm always early) so I sat in different places and looked at facebook, and people watched.  Finally the bus came and I got on it, this time sitting in a window seat next to a guy in his 20s who talked on his phone the entire way back.  It poured down rain on our way out of Bilbao but stopped by the time we got back to Donostia. I got off the bus pretty quick, it was a little after 10pm, and headed across the bridge to the city center, following lots of people towards the water and the old part of town where I was staying, and where most of the activities for the festival are taking place.  I walked up and down looking in bars serving the pinxtas (tapas) but just didn't have the energy and the hunger after eating so much earlier, so I went back to the B&B about 10:30.

The hostess knocked on my bedroom door when the fireworks started, and I stood out on her balcony to watch and take photos.  It was quite a spectacle and she has a primo view of the entire city above the rooftops. 

After I went to bed and promised her, and myself that I would stay out, and up for the fireworks tomorrow night.

Monday Aug 15, 2016

I woke up and opened all the window and the skylights in the room.  It was about 8 I believe.  I could tell it was going to be another warm day but it was still cool.  I took a shower and got dressed-  I'm thinking I wore the same clothes from yesterday for the journey to save a clean outfit for arrival.  I had a couple pieces of toast with jam, and coffee, packed up and locked the room.

I made it down the few stairs to the hosts apartment/room and knocked on the door to return the key.  She offered to let me leave my bags outside her door, but I didn't want to have to go up and down those narrow stairs again, so I thanked her and left.  I decided to take the tram back to the train station which only involved finding the stop, buying a ticket, getting on the tram A, getting off and changing to tram C right across from the station. I managed to do this with only a little confusion, and the help of a rasta guy and his girlfriend who were also on the first tram and had lots of bags.

Of course my train was not for several hours so I went across the street to a café and had a breakfast of coffee, muffin, juice and croissant.  I finished that, then went into the ticket office to print out my ticket.  I saw a machine and attempted to use it, but it required I confirm the credit card I used to book it, and it could have been one of 3 or 4 cards I took with me so it wouldn't print.  I asked a guard, and he directed me to the line to buy tickets, which was fortunately very small.  I got to an agent and quickly had a ticket in my hand.

Still about 2-1/2 hrs to go so I went outside and sat for a few minutes, then inside for a few minutes and managed to kill an hour people watching.  Then I went into a café and had a chicken caesar salad and a chocolate mousse with a beer and killed the rest of the time.  The station is undergoing renovation and so it was a little confusing, but I managed to find my train, the car, and my seat.  My seat mate was a woman about my age, but didn't speak English.

Across the aisle was a young woman with a dog who spoke English and was taking the dog named Guzman to stay with her parents while she took off on two major trips.  The dog was darling and I petted it and chatted with her on the trip to Hendaye. They don't allow dogs in trains in Spain, so her parents were picking her up at Hendaye for the trip to Madrid.  There was a young girl who sat on the floor and played with the dog, a basset hound, for the entire trip.  She was darling. The dog kept moving to take up the entire aisle, so the girl had to keep moving him every time someone needed to get through.

Near the end of our journey, she shared a macaron with me from Paris.  We got off the train and I headed into the station and found the ticket machine for the tram to Amara Station in San Sebastian/Donostia.  I walked out of the station and down the street into the tram departure station, and got right on it.  It took us maybe 30 minutes or so to get there with several stops on the way.  The countryside is green and lush like the France I've seen over the past few weeks.

We got to the station in San Sebastian and I walked out the front door that overlooks a park with not a taxi in site.  My French sim card would not work without wifi, so I walked into the park towards a map of the city, and in the direction people were walking.  I had no sense yet of how easy it is to get around here, so I just kept walking finally asking a policeman where to find a taxi rank.  I couldn't even try uber since my phone wouldn't work.  The taxi rank was now right around the corner so I hopped in and in no time we were in front of #16.

A nice man leaving the building with his dog let me in.  I had no way to call or message my host, so I went back outside in the heat and tried to see if the buzzers on the outside would show her name.  No luck.  Finally after a few minutes, she appeared.  She was in #14 and had contacted airbnb and had seen I was heading her way and there was mistake on her listing.  By now I am soaking wet.  We enter her building which is very nice, and go up the elevator to the 4th floor.  I meet her friend and her little dog coconut, and after she explains the keys and such, it is around 8pm and I just go to bed. I am disoriented and better to start fresh in the morning.

Sunday August 14

Woke up this morning about 8, took a shower then packed my bags trying not to wake anyone.  Anne was going to get up early to go to the market with me at 9am for my 8 hour bus journey today to Bordeaux. I went into the kitchen and she came in shortly and started the coffee. Carole appeared a few minutes later and we all left the apartment with Didier still sleeping soundly.

Their apartment is in a great location for me.  There is a market just across the boulevard, a boulangerie a few steps away from that, and my bus departure point, on a Sunday, is literally right across the street since Sunday is street fair day and they can't use the normal departure point.  I bought a chicken baguette sandwich, a small bag of cashews, some sliced cheese, one banana, and a lemon mint water.  We left the market and walked to the petrol station and waited for Carol to come from the boulangerie.  She appeared in a few moments and we headed back across the street.

By this time Didier was up, and while the girls were getting breakfast ready, I got my bags from the bedroom, tidied up, and went back into the kitchen.  We had butter croissants and pain au chocolate.  I love this kind of breakfast with strong coffee.

It was nearing time for my departure so Anne grabbed my heavy bag and charged across the boulevard, with the three of us trailing behind. We took pictures before I got on the bus.  We got my bag into the cargo hold, and I used my e ticket and got a good seat near the window.  The flixbus was very comfortable and I had plenty of leg room. I saw my friends leaving waving at a window - they could not see me inside the bus, but I watched them return home, waving before they entered their building. 

A woman with a big smile sat next to me and plugged her phone into the charging outlet and talked quietly for the first couple of minutes, then dozed.  I glanced out the window as we moved out of Clermont Ferrand and into the journey.  We stopped after an hour for a potty/food break at a large rest area with a petrol station and a café of sorts.  It had a park and a playground.  I didn't know we had to get off the bus, so I was sitting there until the driver indicated I had to get off.

I went outside and found a shady spot next to one of the large cylindrical trash cans and ate half my sandwich and threw the rest away.  I took a short walk to stretch my legs, keeping an eye out for the return of our driver.

The wifi on the bus was decent but faded in and out so I mostly looked at my phone or gazed out the window, or ate some of my snacks.  We stopped several more times and people got off.  At one stop the bus drove into a tiny petrol station and had to maneuver several times to make it into the station without hitting a wall, the tanks, or other cars by only an inch or two. Impressive driving!

We finally got to Bordeaux to a bus station that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, with trash piled up against a wall.  I wasn't sure where to go, only a few people headed out of there, apparently others waiting to be picked up.  I finally asked the driver where the Gare St Jean was and he pointed me in the right direction.  I dragged my luggage to the station and tried to find the left luggage storage place since my stay here was only for the night with an early train to Hendaye.  I had packed my big bag to be stored, and my small bag for the night.  It was 7pm or so, and the left luggage place was closed, so I was stuck with my bag.

I rolled and hauled everything back outside, and decided to take a taxi instead of the tram since I didn't know where I was going.  After a few minutes of confusion, I found a cab who dropped me off near Victor Hugo since the street my airbnb was on is a pedestrian retail street.  I found my way to the airbnb and rang the bell on the blue door.  The host buzzed me in, and told me not to go into the courtyard, but to enter the first door to the right.  When I entered she shouted down from the top floor telling me to come up.  In front of me was a circular stairway that went up 4 or 5 floors with no landings.  To the left of me were the trash cans for these apartments behind the door.  I sighed as a hoisted my suitcase up each few steps until I reached the top floor. 

It was a very hot day, and was also a hot evening.  By the time I got upstairs I was soaking wet.  The host led me up a few more steps to the attic apartment that had a small bedroom with a desk, another room with a small fridge, an electric cooktop, a coffee machine, and another area with a shower and toilet.  There was a skylight that opened in the bedroom, in the small dining room and in the bathroom I think.  Windows overlooked nearby rooftops.  And oh, the ceilings were about 5'8" I'm guessing unless you were standing in the skylight area where I could stand upright. 

The listing didn't indicate the low ceilings but I had seen that on the comments, as well as about the 84 stairs, so I wasn't surprised.  I was leaving fairly early in the morning so I knew I could live with it, although I didn't relish the thought of going down those stairs with my suitcase.  The host was very nice and spoke English, and actually has a sister in Carlsbad living near the lagoon.  She gave me a cool bottle of water and pointed out bread, butter, jam in the fridge, and the coffee machine, and made sure to give me instructions for the air conditioner, which she had turned on when I was at the bottom of the stairs.

After she left I undressed and laid down, trying to cool down.  It was about 8pm at this time, and since I had so many snacks on the trip I wasn't hungry, and couldn't bear the thought of walking down 84 stairs and trying to find some place to eat on a Sunday night, so I went to sleep.  I woke once and turned the AC back on since it was on a timer. The bed was comfortable, and I managed not to bang my head on the ceiling even once, although the tiny closet with the toilet had a light that I nailed a couple times. 

Nite all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Saturday August 13

So we (Anne & I) woke up this morning, and decided to go up to the top of a volcano, the Puy Dome this morning.  We had some coffee and breakfast, and were on the road.  It took about a half hour to get to the parking lot, and it was already filling up.  There is a train/tram that circles the mountain all the way to the top.  It has only been open a year or so, and is a beautiful ride.  Once we got to the top, we got out and took a walk around, watching people take off in hang gliders, and just looking at the amazing views from that vantage point. We stayed up there I think for about 2 hours, then went and got a drink (and I got an ice cream cone).

We took the tram back down to the bottom of the volcano, and then tried to find the car.  Neither of us were paying attention when we parked, and we guessed which row we were in, unsuccessfully. It was pretty hot, and the parking lot was not paved, just had gravel so it was a pain to walk on.  We split up and I couldn't see Anne for some time, so I started walking down the second row (we had started on the 3rd row).  In a few minutes I found it, just as Anne was returning to where she left me on the 3rd row.  So we got out of there, lol.  Anne realized she didn't know her license plate number during this search.

We then headed to Ikea to buy some sheets for Ewan's new bedroom.  We really needed the sheets because Anne's friend Carol was going to be spending the night tonight and there were no sheets for the bed in Mateo's old room.  We managed to make it in and out of there pretty quickly, also adding a box of cookies with chocolate in the middle that reminded me of a cookie I like at home, except this one was a Costco sized box.

We got home and finished off the leftover sausages etc from the night before, and before long Didier got home.  He was really tired, late night with Leonie and the boys and then too much coffee so he couldn't sleep.  He went to take a nap finally and Anne and I both finally decided that was a good idea so we all took short naps.

Carole showed up around 6:30pm and I remembered her from my visit 20 years ago.  We sat around and had apero of wine, cheese, some dip sort of thing, and bread.  Eventually it was time to go to the restaurant for dinner.  Anne had booked a reservation at a Creperie we had eaten at 20 years ago, and she told me she thought they were serving Truffade, the dish I had mentioned I loved back then, and was hoping to find this visit.  We started walking down the central square when Anne realized she had left her phone at home, so Didier went back to get it.  When he didn't reappear, Anne called him and he was taking the tram, so we stopped and waited for him, then continued into an old section of the city where the creperie was located.  We had a seat in the courtyard which was perfect. We all ordered Truffade and had a beer to start, and wine with our meal. It was excellent. 

When we were done, we began walking home and passed an apartment where Didier lived when he and Anne started dating.  They told stories of that time.  We continued the walk home, and went to sleep soon after our return to the apartment.  At least I did.  I left Anne and Carole in the living room, and I think Didier hit the sack before me.


Thursday August 11

This morning we all got up and packed to go to Clermont Ferrand where my friends are living. We had a bite to eat, and then helped Didier fit a desk into his car, and we headed to their apartment in separate cars.  Anne and I stopped by the supermarket and did some shopping for her oldest son Mateo who is moving away from home, in with some friends, today.  I bought some soap for my trip to Bordeaux and San Sebastian, as most of the airbnb's I've stayed in over here do not provide it. 

We got to their apartment and Didier was there.  Mateo and his friends had moved most of the stuff to his new place, but there were still a few things to go.  We loaded up both cars and drove over to the new apartment.  The father of one roommate was helping the kids take stuff way up many stairs, so fortunately Anne and I took off and took a little walk around the neighborhood, stopping at a little café for a beer.  It was pretty hot today.  We came back to Mateo's new place and found our way into the building and up to their apartment.  There were about 16 kids and parents there and they were celebrating their move with champagne and potato chips. 

Eventually we went back to the apartment and had apero of wine and cheese I think. Both their boys came by to get some stuff and hung out for a moment.  Then they took off to go to Mateo's apartment and help get him set up, and help the roommates get settled.  They won't have electricity until Tuesday so they will be using candles tonite.

We hung around the house for a couple of hours, checking social media, we both might have taken a nap, I'm really not sure.  Then it was time for dinner, and we left the apartment and walked a few blocks to a hamburger place where the boys were already waiting.  I had a volcano burger with chorizo and cheese and fried potatoes with cheese sauce and a beer.  After we ate, we all went back to the apartment and Mateo pointed out little graffiti things he had left with a new pen at 3am with one of his friends, including my favorite 3 canards with pictures of 3 ducks.

The boys came in for a few minutes, then went home.  Didier and Anne watched them leave out the window.  Big change for the entire family today.  I think the three of us went to bed pretty early tonite.  That is the problem with trying to go back in time since I didn't take notes. LOL.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wednesday August 10

Awaking this morning, we headed out relatively early after our showers and breakfast of bread, jam, juice and coffee.  We had a reservation for 1:30 at Le Cercle- a Michelin 1 star restaurant 2016 in Bourge. We arrived in the city around 12:30 and found a place to park near the cathedrale after locating Le Cercle which was nearby but not on a retail street. We got out and walked around this beautiful city until it was time to return to the car and head for Le Cercle.  We parked the car and took some pictures of the restaurant from the street, then into the courtyard and through the front door into the restaurant.  We had booked a table on the terrace, and we shortly seated.

The server provided us with menus and we decided on the Le Certcle Goumand at $55 euros each before wine and coffee. We ordered the Chateldoc 1650- mineral water to start.  The server brought out the amuse bouche, /There were 3 items - a cherry tomato with a tomato basil cream inside, a cracker with a fish mousse and I think duck with an eggplant crisp,  I encourage you to click on the link for flickr photos to see the picture for this day.  I am trying to put the photos in album by days to make it easier to match up.

The sommelier came out and suggested that we order a bottle of white wine Quincy Chaumoux - a cave who had just had their 80th anniversary.  Since today we are returning to the country town in Viellenueve we didn't want to drink too much at lunch and be sleepy for the drive.

The menu explains that for each dish we order:  starter.entree.dessert we will also be offered a second recipe dish using similar ingredients. This does not include all of the transitional treats between these three courses.
For starter I had the Beef, Anne the Salmon, and Didier the Foie Gras.  You have to see the pics to see how beautiful the presentation, and the taste of all did not disappoint
Then we were served the second starter which uses similar ingredients to the starter but a different recipe.  You will have to look at the pictures and guess, since these courses are not described on the menu.  Needless to say every bite was awesome.
For our entrees I selected Le cochon fermier, Anne the La Lotte and Didier the Le ris de veau  These are all described on the menu in English.
We all shared bites so that we could taste everything.  We were all in heaven.
Then came the second recipe for the entrée, using similar ingredients. The second course of the entrée was smaller, but just as good.  It was very creative and interesting to do a tasting this way.
Then we selected our desserts, but I will have to describe when I can look at the photos  in flickr and download again onto my phone because it is too difficult without a connection.  So we had 2 desserts each - one of each on the menu, and then the second recipe.  Then we ordered coffee, and had another transitional treat before the coffee arrived with more little sweets to accompany.  I will describe these later.

We eventually left the restaurant after maybe 3 hours or so, and headed on our way back to their country home La Viellenueve.  Didier took a nap in the back seat, and Anne drove.  I nodded off for a while on the ride (it was the wine, I think) and eventually we reached the house and brought our luggage inside as we will stay here for the night.

Tuesday August 9

Waking up this morning in our Chateau near Salbris, as usual I was the first one downstairs because my friends like to sleep in.  I am still getting used to staying up past 9pm when I am with friends and have not ben successful at sleeping past 9:00am except for one day.  That one day, I was really awake but just laid in bed.

So I tidied up my bedroom, and took my luggage downstairs since the bathrooms were downstairs anyway and the  stairs were so steep there was no reason to take anything but the adaptor up there, and maybe my phone.  With my friends we all spent many hours on facebook, and Didier is very good at doing research on the Internet. I took my shower and got dressed after loading up the coffee machine and turning it on so it would be ready when I was dressed.  I think this morning I worked on my blog, but maybe not since we were leaving pretty early for Chateau Chambord. 

Yesterday after we arrived here, and got the tour from the father of our host, Didier and Anne took a walk along the river while I stayed at the chateau. We had already had a full day, and I am over a decade older than these two so I'm taking it easy.

After a breakfast of coffee, juice, bread and cheese, we got in the car, Didier's mini, and headed out to Chateau Chambord.  We wanted to get there early before the crowds.  At 9:30am we arrived at the entrance to the Parc de Chambord.  There were many cyclists, but not many cars this early.  We got to the parking lot, then walked to the ticket/visitors center and purchased two tickets for Didier and I. Anne gets in free because she is a teacher.  We just had to show our tickets on the cell phone, let the guards look in our bags, and then walk to the entrance to the Chateau. Although it was a few minutes early we were able to enter the Chateau and began our explorations with a short film on the history.  They gave us a stamp on the inside of our wrist to show we had paid the entry. This was in a small room just near the entrance to the main building and the main screen was in French, but there were smaller screens in English and many other languages on the side walls so it was easy for me to follow.

After the film we went up the double staircase-  Anne and I on one, and Didier on the other.  It was fun because we learned that this was designed so there could be rendezvous without speaking for guests at the Chateau. We explored the second level and the third, and finally arrived outside on the top level with the beautiful towers. We could not go any higher without an expensive tour.   There were so many rooms, and they were decorated to represent what the rooms and furniture and tools would have looked like back in the day that the chateau was inhabited.  It is a very beautiful place with sweeping staircases, and interesting architecture. 

Both Anne and I wanted to see the kitchen.  In one of the rooms on the first or second floor they had assembled the original oven and it was at least 15 or 20 feet high by maybe 8-10 feed wide.  We found the kitchen area on the ground floor through a hidden door.  It was very cool, and the narratives on cards helped to explain what we are seeing.  Near the end of our visit we saw horse drawn carriages and the interworkings of the large clock.  We left the buildings and stopped at the Chateau café for a coffee, and so that my friends could smoke. 

We returned to the car and headed out looking for a place for lunch on our way to the wine caves.  I said that today I wanted something lighter for lunch, a sandwich or maybe a hamburger.  We found a café with organic beef in Cours-Cheverny and had a lovely lunch.  Me a burger and frites, Anne a salad, and Didier the plate of the day.  We returned to the car and headed out manyt small roads hoping to find a specific vineyard near Blois.

We went down a wrong road but eventually found our way to Domaine de Huards and parked.  There was also two other visitors with children who arrived at the same time.  The owners of this cave had a dalmation so I got my dog fix for a moment on the way in.  We went inside and did a tasting of a few wines, and Didier bought I think 8 bottles.

We went back to our airbnb in the chateau and had our normal aperitif-diner-troie of bread, cheese, cantaloupe, green grapes and wine. It seems to be light very late and we saw the hirondells (swallows) flying in circles in front of the chateau.  Anne and I put bread on the window ledge in hopes of luring them closer so we could take a better picture but they were not fooled.  After finishing our wine we went to bed.

As a final note for today, it is very odd, but here in France I am able to easily smell the wine before tasting, and the smoke of my friends, and others hand-rolled cigarettes does not bother me.  Perhaps in the US our pre-packaged smokes have some horrible chemical included that makes it smell so bad, and also permeates any fabric within miles. I do not know.  I only know that I can taste and smell much better here, despite allergies.  Interesting.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday August 12

I know, I know, I skipped a few days.  I am working backwards in my spare time. 

Waking up in Clermont Ferrand in the apartment of my friends.  It was just the three of us this morning since Mateo moved out into his own apartment yesterday and Ewan spent the night there as well.  I have Ewan's old bedroom (as of yesterday) as my room for a few days until I leave them for Spain on Sunday.

I went into the kitchen and had coffee, bread with jam, and we all spent a while checking our phones lol.  After an hour or so, the boys reappeared, Mateo coming in through the window, and Ewan using the door, the more traditional route.  we all sat around and chatted and checked on our emails and social media.  Mateo sat on the floor and began to draw.

Anne got a phone call from Leonie in Lyon who had cut her hand in the kitchen and had to go to the hospital to get stitches, she thought.  The timing is bad because the two boys, and Leonie are going to Amsterdam on vacation tomorrow so we are hoping it is not too bad.

Anne prepared an early lunch about 1:30 of sausages, rice and zucchini.  We had wine and bread to accompany.  Then the boys departed again to go back to Mateo's new apartment to finish unpacking and prepare for their holiday.  Didier went to the bank to get information about their pending purchase of a new apartment in Clermont Ferrand, now that Mateo is out of the house, and they can live in a smaller place. 

Anne and I laid around, I worked on my blog and she her Instagram.  After a while we walked several blocks to the post office so I could mail all of the clothes I will not need for the rest of my trip back to the US to lighten my load in Spain and the return home late this month.  On the way back we stopped at a wine shop to buy wine for apero with Anne's sister, niece and mother later today.

We got back to the apartment and Didier and the boys were back.  The boys were all packed and ready to go, and at around 4pm Didier and the two boys headed to Leonie's house in Lyon (where I had stayed at the beginning of my visit with them) where they will spend the night, and then Didier will take the three of them to the airport for their vacation in Amsterdam for a week.  They are going to stay at the Bohotel which looks very cool. Mateo is excited about riding bicycles out of the city.

Anne and I once again laid around both of us feeling lazy.  Around 6pm we roused ourselves and prepared to walk over to her twin sisters apartment a few minutes away.  We were going to have apero/diner there with Karine (her sister), Eleny (her niece), and Paulette (their mother). We packed up some charchuterie and wine, and hit the road.  It was not far, and we were soon in the building, up the elevator, and in the apartment.  I had reunited with Karine briefly yesterday, but today I got to meet her beautiful, graceful, happy 7 year old daughter, and their mother. When I found out how old my friends are (47 and 49) I figured out that their mother was probably not a whole lot older than me, and I think she is 72 or 73 (I will be 66 this year) so it was fun to meet her, although she thinks they brought me to her house during my last visit 20 years ago (I do not remember a lot of that visit because I had been on the road for a month before I got to them). 

We had a lovely afternoon chatting and eating and drinking and eventually moved out onto the terrace once the sun was going down.  A neighbor in her building returned home with their four month infant, and we all oooouuu'd and awwwww'd over the cute baby. 

Then it was time to leave, and we walked back to the apartment, and decided to go to bed early.  We were both tired, but I'm not sure it was the best idea since I woke up at 2;30AM and it is now 4- I decided to work on catching up on the blog since I was awake.  I think i'll try to go back to sleep now.  We don't have plans for tomorrow , Didier will be home in the evening, and a friend of Anne's who I also met 20 years ago is coming for the night tonite around 6pm.

What an amazing trip!

Monday August 8

We woke up this morning, had breakfast, packed up the house and headed in the direction of our Chateau near Chambord.  We got on the highway through Montmarault, Saint-Bonnet-de-Four, ZAC Aeroport, and finally reached Bourges.  Didier hade selected several restaurants for lunch, but we found that the one who used to have 1 star but lost it, was closed today.  We parked the car under some trees and walked towards the giant cathedral near a park.  There were lovely flowers and fountains and a statue of a woman with the words Resistance.  Didier took off for the tourist office, and Anne and I walked into the park which had a small carousel, a band pavilion, and some beautiful gardens.  We walked around taking pictures and waiting for Didier to reappear.  I thought it was interesting that the landscape person had used swiss chard in the flower garden.  It looked awesome.

When we saw him coming we walked out of the park and gardens and looked at the details on the Bourges Cathedral which was spectacular.  We noticed that many of the human figures had missing heads, and there was another area of all heads.  We do not understand why, but we speculated. We did not go inside. 

We walked around the cathedral and headed for an area with shops and restaurants.  It is some sort of christian holiday today and also vacation time, so many shops are closed.  The streets and the buildings and the shops are very charming and picturesque.  We are lucky and find a lovely restaurant that is open, and that has a table for us. It is called Le Bourbonnoux.

We went for the 26 euro Menu Saveur and ordered a small bottle of sancerre.
We had an amuse bouche  but oops we were hungry and wolfed it down.  For our starter Didier ordered Bavorois de haricots verts de la firme des 4 sausons. et carpe sauce gaspacho  When it arrived he looked unhappy because it reminded him of something he does not like, but once he tasted it he was happy.  I can't remember what he thought it was, but the picture shows his expression.  (see flickr photo for these days).  Both Anne and I ordered the Crème d'aubergines a l'essuji de chevre pain aux noix et ciboulette. It was A>W>E>S>O>M>E!!!!!  Creamy, crunchy, smooth, spicy yum yum yum .  Eggplant with goat cheese and some other creamy stuff.

Now on to the main course.  Didier had piece de boeuf charolais a la plancha au sel de Guerande / reduction de veau au Menetour safon rouge.  As you can see a good piece of beef with delicious sides. I tasted all the bits in one bite and it was really good. 

Both Anne and I ordered the merfu radi au beurre, sauce a l'estragon et lentils vertes du berry au Colombo.  Anne said it was not merfu but another fish and the sauce was basil.  Regardless, it was very tasty and enjoyable.

The cheese course /fromagee de chevre frais, a ma facon, persil, echalotes, pain de champagne seche was just yummy.  Goat cheese elevated!  Then came the avant dessert sweets.  Green grapes rolled in  sugar.  Little meringues, Press fruit bits. chocolate, little tart bits. I ordered a sorbet on top of a meringue nest with fruit- nectarines, apricots, red grapes, quince, watermelon, strawberries.  Anne had the peach soup which I tasted.  It was beautiful and perfect for the warm day. Didier had a strawberry, Chantilly, item that was good also.  If you haven't looked at the flickr photos- link on left- you are really missing the eye candy.

The chef came out to say hello and then it was time to go.  We walked back down the beautiful street towards the cathedrale and then inside.  This is a spectacular building.  It has to be 5 or 6 stories high and the construction is awe inspiring.  I am not at all religious, but this was a spectacular work of art.  We wandered around then I sat for a moment.  Didier showed me some graffiti on the columns over the ages that still remains.  Anne walked right past me, and then we lost her for a few minutes when she went outside thinking we had exited before her.  We finally all caught up with each other and made our way across the city to the car.

We headed out of Bourges through /Vignoux sous les Aix and wine country soon arriving at Menetou-Salon at the Isabelle et Pierre Clement winery.  Inside we met the daughter of the family and did a tasting of several of their wines.  In speaking with the daughter, she told us she had just been in California, and in fact in Carlsbad (where I live) visiting their wine distributor Henry Corporation.  She was a very smart young lady who had left the family business, studied business at University, then decided wine was where she wanted to be and returned home.  It is a very beautiful tasting room and I believe the home adjacent is their family home.  We bought a few bottles (I think 6) and hit the road again.

We finally arrived at the village of Salbris where our airbnb castle was located.  We passed through the town and down a beautiful tree covered road and turned into a private driveway. we could see the castle through the trees.  I have a video on flicker that shows our approach and the Chateau.  This beautiful home has been rebuilt and torn down several times.  At one time in the past it was owned by Toulouse Lautrec.  It fell into disrepair and was purchased by the Schneider family who had the business Le Cruset. They tore it town and reused some of the materials , even creating a brick factory for the new building.  This was at the end of the 1890s.  The husband died, and the wife continued the construction of the building.  She lived with their 3 children in the left wing of the building and turned the right wing into a hunting lodge with visits from many prominent Parisians of the time. The wife was a socialite and spent part of the year in Paris, then in the south of France, and at the Chateau.  The chateau was sold I think after her death by the children, to the Michelin family (of the tires and restaurant stars) who used it as a summer camp for the children of their employees for many years. 

Our apartment was in the right wing on the 3rd and 4th levels.  It has been modernized inside, but features very high ceilings and windows, a modern kitchen, a toilet, a bath and washing machine, and a big open area for living room and dining room.  The bedrooms are upstairs, a very steep stairway, and in the attic with slanted ceilings. There were two bedrooms, one with two single beds, and another with a double bed. 

The cost was very reasonable, but there is no wifi, and no bathrooms upstairs so at night you had to carefully negotiate those stairs and make your way to the bathroom then back up.  The chateau now has 28 individual owners - many of whom only come here during hunting season. The owner of our apartment is a young travel agent in Paris, and his father also owns an apartment here just off the spectacular entry area with sweeping staircases.  Dad was a private safari guide in Africa for most of his life, and he showed us his apartment with many souvenirs of those days.  You can picture it I think without more description.  He gave us a brief tour when he arrived, and loaned us a bicycle if we wanted to ride.  He walked us around the property, and introduced us to another one of the owners whose daughter and son in law were visiting from Scotland.

We decided not to have dinner and instead settled for some cantaloupe, cheese, bread and wine and then went to bed.  We will be here for 2 nights and tomorrow we visit the Chateau Chambord.


Sunday August 7

I woke up this morning when I heard Camille moving around.  I went downstairs to say goodbye and to wish her a happy holiday camping with her family on an island just off the Atlantic. Didier and Anne were still sleeping, and Camille was having breakfast.  She is going to a private campground originally owned by her family and they go every year. Her parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins.  After saying goodbye I went back up to my bedroom and am trying to catch up with the daily posts I haven't kept up with.  We stay up so late every night so that I don't have the energy to write.

When we were all awake and had breakfast, Anne suggested that she and I go to a small village nearby so we headed out in the car to St. Hilaire la Croix, and historic church in a small village.  It has a small lake in the village next to the church with a statue of a woman (we don't know who but it looks cool.) It is a 12th century church and had many wonderful details.  There was one alcove inside with motion sensitive lighting and so a saint/statue appear when you pass.  There was a really cool tall skinny rustic Jesus above the confessional and a horse drawn hearse.  Oddly enough, right now when I looked at the pictures on my phone, only the Jesus is blurry.  Do you think that is a sign from the heavens.  Uh Oh,  I'm in trouble.

We went into the garden and saw beautiful flowers and some headstones from the late 1800s.  It was a beautiful sunny day. Anne decided to return to La Viellenueve via a small road she didn't know instead of returning the way we came.  We went through charming farm lands and small residential areas and then saw a cool sort of yard with something we wanted so see, so we stopped in the middle of the road and got out to look closer.  It was some sort of sculpture program in progress, in the farmlands.  Unfortunately it was not open, so we could not go inside.  A man who lives nearby waved at us and smiled as he maneuvered his car around our car.  I think it is not the first time someone has stopped this way.

For dinner tonite we go to a traditional restaurant in Lisseuil near La Villenueve.  We had stopped a day or so before to get the menu so they can see if I like the menu.  I am up for anything so we made a reservation.  In this restaurant the portions are huge and the prices are small.  For the starter Didier selected the Tete de veau sauce gribiche which is the head of a calf in sauce.  He likes this and wanted me to taste it.  I am not clear exactly what part of the head it was, but it reminded me visuallty of brains I had tasted many years ago in Sydney, except this was two pieces and much larger. It was obviously brined then cooked, and the taste and texture reminded me of a corned beef I have had.  I ordered the Darne de saumon- fume maison, sur lit de lentilles du Puy.  This was a piece of house smoked salmon with a dish of puy lentils. It was really lovely.  Anne ordered the Salade de gesiers au vinaigre de miel.  This was a salad with duck gizzards and I also tasted and it was great. Tasted of duck instead of gizzards. 

Our main course- I ordered Daube de Salers au vin d-Auvergne.  This is a beef stew made with wine from the Auvergne region.  It is like Boeuf Borguignon.  Excellent, hearty, already full and we haven't had cheese course or dessert..... Didier ordered the Cuisses de Grenouilles  (Frogs Legs).  He was a little disappointed, it was breaded and fried, and he did not think they were as fresh as the ones I had last week in Nantua which were served in a wonderful herby vinaigrette.  Anne ordered the Magret de canard aux airelles-  the duck the duck with red currants.  I love duck, but had planned to order it at a restaurant in Bordeaux which is known for duck.  I tasted both dishes and of course loved the duck.  I had three pieces.  These were served with another plate with grilled tomatoes, diced fried potatoes and green beans.

OK by the time we finished this. We were all very full.  The cheese course at this restaurant includes at least a quarter wheel of several cheeses -  since we have been eating really good cheese / comte for the last week or so, we only tried small pieces.  The goat cheese that is made by their unfriendly neighbors at La Viellevueve for one.  This course took very little time and I did not take a picture.

Anne had been worried, when we walked in, that they would run out of her favorite dessert which was a hot crème brulee with raspberries.  Little did we know that when she asked the owner if there were enough left for us, he went into the kitchen and saved them for our dessert.  It was heavenly.

We went back to the country house and I think we went right to bed but again, I am not sure.  Without the pictures on my phone I wouldn't even know what day it was.  LOL


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Saturday August 6

I awoke, took a shower and went downstairs into the kitchen where Anne was eating breakfast of bread and honey, coffee.  I had some breakfast and went into the living room to check email.  Didier, Anne and Camille had stayed up late last night, and both Didier and Camille had hangovers this morning and did not wish to go with us to the Saturday market in Riom.

So Anne and I headed off in her car through the countryside past fields bursting with sunflowers, corn and wheat fields mowed with the wheat in giant cylinders scattered across the pastures.  We passed through many small villages on our way, all charming with vintage buildings, and little gardens and hanging baskets decorating the streets we travelled on our way to the markets.

We arrived in Riom and found a good parking space.  We crossed the main drag and walked up a small street to pass by the mansion that Didier and Anne had bought several years ago and renovated, then sold.  It was a 4 story building with large windows overlooking the street, and spiral staircases in a tower leading to each floor from an open center courtyard.  We saw many closed shop windows and she explained that the new shopping malls had forced many of these small businesses to close.  I told her the same thing happens in the US.  We turned a corner into a wide pedestrian retail street with banks, restaurants, jewelry stores, boulangeries, charcuteries and more.  Anne stopped to get some cash from an ATM and then we continued to the next corner and turned left into the street fair part of the market selling clothing, inexpensive jewelry, bed linens, lingerie and many more things. We then turned right into the Market area where there were many vendors selling fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, Moroccan  Turkish and Asian hot food, sweets and desserts.  We bought some cheese and also some Turkish bread with fillings for lunch at the country house.  We also bought some cured sausage for our afternoon apero.

Next we went to visit the local mall to an Orange store so I could buy a top up credit for my French phone number.  My original sim card expires on 8/10 so I need to extend through at least the 22nd so I have a working phone and data sms capability until I return home.  We managed to find a plan that is good for a month for 20 euros so I was happy.  I also looked at a protective cover for the phone since I had dropped it yesterday and cracked the current one.  The only one they sold was expensive and although it came with a 2 year replacement warranty they wouldn't ship to the US so I passed- I can still use/see the phone as is.

After we went back to the country home in Villeneuve and Camille and Didier were playing a dice game called yams.  We made a salad from the garden and heated up the Turkish flat breads and had lunch with a glass of wine. After lunch those three all went to take another nap, and I wrote in this blog for a while, then laid on the couch and gazed out the door.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but we were all very lazy. 

About 6pm we got in the car and drove down to a campground a few kilometers away that was on a river near an old bridge.  We got out of the car and took and walk.  It was a beautiful place, and Didier and Anne had lived here with their two young boys on the weekends for two years in a tiny cabin while they were building a custom home.  During the week Anne stayed in her mother's house in Clermont Ferrand with the boys, and Didier stayed in Lyon where he was working during the week. So each weekend they reunited at this place.  It was a beautiful place with an old bridge, a few houses and the cabins for camping.  The banks of the river here were wide and perfect for picnics.  After walking around we went back in the car and back to the house.

We had our afternoon apero of wine cheese and bread, We returned to the house and Anne made a casserole with little potatoes and zucchini from their garden and comte.  We drank more wine, then had the casserole with bread and a lettuce salad from the garden.

We returned to the living room and were waiting for a fireworks show to start in a neighboring village at the end of a day long fete, and it only said in the local paper after dark, and finally it started around 11:30pm and it lasted a long time.  We could see it from the country house at La Villeneuve.  It had several pauses where we thought it was over, and we got ready to go to sleep, and it started again.  Camille was driving to her family the next day and she went to bed before it finished.  I stayed till the end with great effort and then went to bed. 


Friday August 5

I slept well last night.  The bed and the room are very comfortable.  I think I woke up around 7:30am  but I am not sure because too many days have passed since this particular morning.  I took my shower and dressed, and went downstairs for breakfast of bread and jam and coffee.  Our routine has been awake, shower/dress, eat breakfast, take coffee into living room, check email and hang out. 

Today Anne and I drove to a local olive oil manufacturer and retail store Huilerie de Bloit .  It is located in Blot l'Eglise (sp?). We walked around the back room and watched the boy filling the bottles.  The husband and wife are young, I think maybe in their 30s.  They have a young son of maybe 9 or 10 helping to stock the retail shelves.  They make 12 types of olive oil, and also sell local honey, and other local items.  I asked if they could ship some bottles home, as there were small bottles I could give to my friends, but they do not know how, and it is too much of a hassle to do myself, and it would probably be expensive because of the weight. Anne bought some sesame and almond oil and truffle olive oil and local honey.

After we paid, we drove to a small store Alimentation Primeurs that is owned by Madame Georges, an older woman (70s I think) who sells all sorts of perishable and non-perishable food items, and a variety of other items like tools, seeds, cards. Anne explained I was from the USA and she managed to say in English "Have a look" and smiled. The store looks small from the street but it is very deep.  We bought cigarettes, a cantaloupe, some sliced ham. 

We had a nice lunch of ham, cantaloupe, grapes and bread and cheese.  Some comte I think.

We returned to the country house in Vielleneuve and Didier was working in the garden.  I walked around and watched them week and pick some gladiolas for the house. I put some dirty clothes in the laundry and then walked all around the house looking and taking pictures.  A colleague/friend of Anne's who used to teach with her Camille (pronounced Camie) came to visit for two nights on her way to a holiday camp out with her family on her grandparents land near the ocean.

In the late afternoon Didier, Camille and Anne went to someplace to see if they could find mushrooms growing wild.  It was on uneven ground so I decided to stay at the house and rest and work on my blog.  I managed to do quite a good job of catching up that day while they were gone.

We had apero after they returned with wine cheese and bread.  We talked and laughed.  Didier was researching recipes for comte on the internet, and we tried to decide what we wanted for dinner that evening.

At 7:00 pm we all got in the car and went to a water mill "Moulin de Braynant"on the Sioule river.  A local boulanger has a wood burning oven and two days a week at 8:00pm during the summer months he cooks the bread there and has it for people to buy.  The same man has a small restaurant across the street, a kayak rental place, and the boulangerie in a nearby village.  While we waited for the bread to be cooked, we went inside the water mill where the flour for the bread is ground.  It was very interesting to see the process.  After we got our bread we returned to the house.  We bought some good bread for tonite and breakfast, and a couple of baguettes for fondue tonite.

We all went into the kitchen to begin the preparation for the fondue and salad for dinner.  Anne and Camille did most of the work.  We had fun being silly and eating a wonderful comte fondue in the middle of summer - it is usually a winter dish.  It was yummy and melty and the perfect end to the day.  There was nothing left.

 After we talked with more wine, and finally to bed around midnight.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Thursday August 4

This morning began as the others.  I was up first, took my shower and coffee, then repacked my suitcase and bags as we were moving on today, headed for their country home in a small village /place called Villeneuve.  We had our croissant breakfast then headed out of Lyon around 10:45am. Today our first destination was a small village called Malleval - a medieval village on top of a mountain with vineyards.  We were running a little late as we knew that they were closing around noon but we arrived at 11:45 and they were happy to see us and did not rush us at all.  We tried several wines, I'm guessing around 6 although Anne stopped before Didier and I did.  There was a couple there with a private guide from Melbourne Australia so we did chat with them briefly and the man said "Good Day Mate" to me as we left. 

We headed down the hill to a restaurant called Le Reche du Rilat which was attached to what I think was the only lodging in the village.  It was almost one and time for lunch.  We had the pre-fixe lunch and my first course was a garden salad with blue cheese toasts, entrée was chicken breast in a red wine sauce, mashed potatoes with garden veggies (corn, greenbeans) and a dessert of peach pie and a apricot sorbet.  Oh, and wine, yes more wine. We took some time and wandered around the buildings of this beautiful place.

About 4pm we left Malleval and began our journey to La Villeneuve.  It was some distance away, and not long after we reached the floor of the valley it started raining really hard, and that continued for some time, almost until we reached my friend's country home.  We arrived around 7:00pm and they  and chocolate.  We were all pretty tired so I'm thinking I went to bed around 10pm but oops, not sure.

Wednesday, August 3rd

I woke up early this morning and took a shower, and took my coffee into the bedroom.  I need to catch up on my blog, but my eyes are itchy and I am too tired.  I checked email and looked at facebook.  I heard Leonie come in and she brought croissants and little brioche for us, and so Didier and Anne got up and we had breakfast.  I forgot to mention that Leonie and Didier had rearranged the apartment while Anne and I explored yesterday morning, so after Didier put their mattress back in the sofa, we all sat at the dining table and ate.

I think it was around 9:30 or 10:00 when we left the apartment for today's adventure. We left Lyon and travelled through Maillat, St. Martin du Frene, Condamine, Foret de Concise, to Brenod and into a small fromagerie,.  We had headed to this village in search of 3 year old comte.  This Fromagerie was very small and they only sold younger cheese.  We went upstairs and they had display boards with the process of cheese making, and you could look into the factory part.  We could overhear a woman giving a short lecture to some tourists, and she said she preferred younger cheese.  We knew then we were in the wrong place.  We went downstairs and walked out, still trying to get places on a tour of a comte factory so we could see the process step by step.  Anne finally got hold of a woman at another place and she said she had 5 places left on a tour that began within a half hour, I think.  I needed some water so I wandered down the street and into a place with a Bar sign.  I did not see any water bottles for sale so attempted to ask the clerk- who finally understood and waved towards an open door to his right and motioned for me to go that way.  The rest of the store inventory was in the back and I grabbed a bottle of Perrier and a bottle of still water and went back out into the front to find Didier looking for me.  We paid for the water and went back to the car.

We travelled back to Maillat and then to Saint-Martin du Frene to another cheese shop.  The place with the tours had not called us back because there were now no more tickets, so we continued to stop and search for 3 years old comte. We bought some cheese there at ZAC des Pellants and then were back on the road to Nantua to look for more cheese shops.  We went up one street and came back on the other with no success.  We parked the car right by the beautiful lake there, and Didier went into the tourist bureau, while Anne and I had lemonade and coffee sitting alongside this beautiful lake. Eventually we got back in the car and headed away from the village, pulling into a restaurant that the tourist office had recommended.

I can't believe that I did not write down the name of this restaurant because the food, the service, and the ambiance were perfect even though we were the last people they would serve for lunch.  It was just about 2 pm.  We started out with a Jura wine "Cotes du Jura, Vignoble les Roussets Tradition 2012 Badoz".  Our starter appetizer course was cheese with cured sausage and a sweet pickle,  and salmon and cream cheese roulettes.  We ordered 3 main courses, and decided to share them all so we asked for small plates to do so.  The courses included fresh Frog Legs, Chicken Breast with Cream, and quenelles of fish with scalloped potatoes on the side and the ever present wine, which tasted of walnuts.  We all really liked it.  Anne and I finished up with Café Gourmand which is café along with a place of small desserts- in this case a crème brulee, a chou pastry with chocolate mousse inside dipped in dark chocolate.  Some sort of cake, and a strawberry sorbet. It was all outstanding, all of it.

Sleepy, but still on our quest for 3 year old Comte, we headed through Bersallin towards Arbois and Poligny on a tip from a man at the restaurant who thought we might be able to find it in one of those towns.  We pulled into Poligny and saw a very prominent sign that said "Poligny Capital of Comte'  .  I joked that if we did not find the 3 year old cheese we will come back and remove the letters that spelled Capital.  We parked the car and saw a building with a sign 1907 Fromagerie Arnaut, and Comte Juraflore.  We were very excited, our quest appeared to be successful.  We walked in, awaited our turn, only to be told that the last piece of 3 year old comte had been sold 1/2 hour prior.  Didier looked as if he was going to die of disappointment, but recovered and we purchased some 2 year old cheese and headed outside.  We were walking towards the car when we saw another cheese shop across the street called Badoz Fromagerie & Vins du Domaine.  We changed course and were soon walking in the front door. 

They had it.  The wonderful woman proprietor could not have been more helpful.  We also found the exact bottle of wine we had enjoyed so much at lunch, and we purchased the 3 year old comte, two bottles of the walnut white wine, and a rose by the same winery. 

After we finished with shopping we realized it was getting late and we needed to buy bread so Anne walked across the street to a boulangerie and grabbed two loaves of bread.  Soon back on the road headed toward Arbois to find the famous Hirsinger chocolate shop (my friends say in the top 5 in France- Meilleur Ouvrier Chocolate).  We parked up the street in front of several opticians.  I had decided that I was going to pick up some eyeglass frames in France, and we walked into the Vignes Optician and I tried on maybe 25 pairs.  They were all cute, but I wanted a pair that people would say "Where did you get those?"  and I managed to buy two pairs within 20 minutes and the owner gave me a great deal.  "Easy sale" I said.  We were old friends by the time I walked out.  Anne and I joked that he went home to his family and said We can pay our rent for a month or something like that. 

We found the Hirsinger shop and picked a table outside and ordered a lemonade and coffee, then Didier and I went inside to pick some chocolates to taste.  OMG was that a gorgeous place with so many choices.  We finally settled on 3 each of 4 different kinds and went back outside to finish our chocolate tasting.  They were all wonderful, but I forget what they were now.  One was ginger, one was citron (lime) and that is the limit of my memory.  I will ask Anne to see if she remembers.

While I was finishing up my lemonade Didier and Anne went back in and bought a larger box, two or three layers of many types of chocolates.  I can't remember is we cracked it open right away or if we waited until we got back to Leonies apartment later in the day.  As we walked back towards the car, we were looking up alleys and passageways and spotted a gorgeous home at the end of one of them, so we walked up and looked at the house and garden from the gate.  Then it was back to the car, and I knocked on the optician's window and waved goodbye, and we were on the road again. By this time it was almost 7pm and we had another hour or two drive back to Lyon.

We got home and back up the six flights of stairs with out wine, comte, and chocolates. For dinner we decided we would just have break and cheese and wine tasting.  Didier arranged the comte by age and we chatted about our day.  We stopped for a moment and put up the curtains and the curtain rod in Leonie's bedroom, a much easier job today than last night.  We returned to the living area and finished up our wine and cheese dinner, and then went to bed.  Leonie was again sleeping at friends so I got to sleep in a real bed tonite also. 

Whew-  we have not stopped moving and eating and drinking yet and it is the end of day 3 of 14 with my friends.

Tuesday August 2, 2016

This morning I was prepared and had my glasses close by, so after taking a shower and making coffee, I sat down and looked at emails and face book on my phone.  By the time I finished, Leonie was up and out again to buy croissants for breakfast.  By the time she returned Anne & Didier had awoken and we all got ready for the day, ate breakfast and then talked for a while.

Didier was going to stay with Leonie this morning to help her buy curtains for her apartment and get the rod hung on the high windows in the living area and in her bedroom.  Anne and I headed out by foot and walked into the city of Lyon.  We first went to look for an engraver so that Leonie could get a christening gift engraved.  The holidays have begun in France and many places/businesses are closed for at least a month.  The first engraver was closed for the holidays, the second one on the same street was open but was not able to do the job.  Anne called Leonie and she said that we had gone to the wrong ones, so we walked a bit further and found it open.  While waiting at the second place an ambulance arrived and the paramedics were trying to get into a building, but no one was answering the door.  Anne and I talked about what would happen if you were old and had pushed the button on the "I'm fallen and I can't get up" device, but their are no laws in
France that say locks have to be accessible by emergency personnel.  They did eventually get in through a shop next door, but we do not know what happened to the person who needed help.

After the business was taken care of, we found a place to have coffee in the shade.  It was already very hot. We walked across the river bridge and into a passageway.  We made a left turn and went inside a beautiful cathedral and walked around looking at the stained glass windows.  There is a clock that is based on astrology that is supposed to chime at 4pm in the afternoon and figures move like a Swiss clock, so we will try to return.

We left the church and walked around looking for the secret passageways or open doors in the old city that we could explore.  We found several and took pictures.  The last one terminated in an open courtyard and on our way out we visited an art gallery with an open door in the passage way.  We looked in shop windows and then made our way close to the place where Didier will meet us for lunch.  He was delayed so we went back over by the bridge and sat on a bench for a few minutes until he arrived and we walked back to go to lunch. 

The Le Laurencin Bouchons Lyonnais café is small and serves traditional food.  They both ordered the poached egg in red wine sauce (Oeuf meurette) . Since I don't really like eggs that are not omelets or scrambled, I ordered a salad with goat cheese encased in chou pastry (Duo de chevre chaud en salade).  I did taste the wine sauce and it was a hearty sauce with pork in it, and I probably would have been able to hide the egg in the sauce and enjoy it, but maybe not. For my main course I had Saucisson chaud sauce Beaujolais et pommes vapeur (sausage with boiled potatoes). Didier and Anne ordered a special of the day- the lamb.  For dessert Didier ordered fromage blanc a la crème and Anne and I both ordered the Profiteroles au chocolate. And wine. We had a red and a white.  Oh an appetizer of fried pork skin (chiccarones- sp).

After lunch (around 4pm) we took the funicular up the hill to Saint Just-Saint Irenee- Fourviere Cathedral which overlooks the whole of Lyon with breathtaking views.  To our left was the tower they call Le petit Eiffel and my friend thinks it was built/designed by the same architect as the Tour Eiffel. We then went back down the hill and back to the car, then drove back to Leonie's apartment in the old silk weaving factory.

It was time for the afternoon apero, so we shared, once again, wine, cheese, bread, charcuterie.  Then we put up the ladder and helped Didier install the curtain rod in the living room along with the sheers and the curtains- all from Ikea.

Leonie hadn't had much to eat today, so Anne made a casserole of pommes de terre (potatoes, and some of the comte left over, and a salad, and more wine.

I don't know what time it was, probably near midnight, and we all went to sleep.  Tonight Leonie took her friend to the airport, and she was going to stay at their house, so I got to sleep in a real bed in her bedroom which was very comfortable and I slept well. Paris was very hot and humid and Lyon has been the same so it was nice not to have to wear my nightgown to bed since I was in a bedroom with a door.

Good night!

 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Monday August 1

To remind you, it is 8/5 in late afternoon and I am trying to reconstruct the last few days.

I woke up (this I know for sure) on Monday August 1st and decided to update this blog about my day yesterday.  I had taken my computer and my phone out of my shoulder messenger bag last night so I thought I was all set.  This bag was very cool, I bought it a few days before I left at REI with a 20% off coupon.  It was just the right size for my phone, money, some toiletries, and had hidden pocket for my passport etc.  On the front flap itself and on the body of the bag is Velcro strip and clasps .  This makes the bag doubly secure because the Velcro makes a loud noise when you open it. 

It was about 7:30am and my friends were sound asleep, and our hostess, the darling young 32 year old Leonie were still sound asleep.  I did not remember last night to get my glasses out of the bag, so I was unable to retrieve them without ripping open the Velcro and making a loud noise, so I got up, got a cup of coffee, took a shower, and then waited quietly for them to wake up. Leonie was first awake and she ran out to buy croissants for our breakfast. 

After breakfast we got in the car and drove to Quintaine to visit a wine cave.  When we arrived we found it was closed for vacation, so we drove some more finally stopping at Jean Pierre Michel Vineyard.  We went in, and the husband was involved with some customers so he find his wife who joins us for the tasting.  We tasted 3 wines, and then be bought some wine.  We were there an hour or so with the tasting and talking to the wife, and then the husband when he finished with customers.  One of those customers was a local chef, and he overheard us asking where to have lunch and he recommended his restaurant in a nearby village.  The owners of this winery have one section of the vineyard with 140 year old vines.  They are very concerned with making quality wines in small production.  His brother also has nearby vineyard with the same name on label, except this brother is Jean Pierre that we are speaking to.  He tells us his brother is more concerned with quantity than quality, so if we buy the wine, be sure to buy the one with his name. 

We returned to the car and drove to Macon where we had our lunch at the Rendevous des Halles- the restaurant the chef had told us about.  We had a wonderful pavette of beef, some good appetizer that I didn't take a picture of so I can't remember, and a delicious chocolate tarte dessert with Chantilly cream.  and wine of course. 

We returned to the car and drove through beautiful countryside Berze le Chatel, Sologny, and Sainte Cecile on our way to Cluny, a monastery and medieval town that has been restored.  We parked the car and walked around there for perhaps an hour or so, exploring the passageways and looking at the buildings.  Then back in the car to Duboeuf en Beaujolais in Romaneche Thorins.  It had a museum, and a tour but it was too long so we just looked around and went into the wine shop and bought a couple of local wines to taste later.  Returning to the car we headed down the road and stopped at St, Jean d'Ardieres to pick up some charcuterie for dinner, and then we had a Perrier in the terrace before we continued our way back to Leonie's apartment in Lyon to taste the cheese, wine and charcuterie we had bought. I think we went to sleep about midnight.

Sunday July 31

It is now Thursday August 5th at 4:30 in the afternoon. I will try to remember what I have done since I awoke last Sunday morning in Paris through today.  Fortunately I have photos, and can also have my friends Didier & Anne to help me remember. 

So I woke up at around 8:00am on the Sunday, took my shower and tidied up the airbnb in Boulevard Saint Martin.  My metro pass expired yesterday and I had to drag my luggage with me to the Gare du Lyon where I will catch the train to Lyon later today.  I have not yet used uber in  Paris so decided to give it a try.  I opened the app and was given the choice of ride, and I chose "pool" which could be share ride with others heading in the same direction.  I saw that an uber was nearby in a Peugeot and he arrived in no time. 

The driver was very charming, and kept apologizing for not speaking fluent English.  I told him it is I that should be apologizing as I am in France and should be speaking French.  During our drive, we continued trying to communicate and then I thought....I forgot about Google translate app!  I told him about it as I opened my phone app. Using the microphone icon in the app I continued the conversation with him by speaking into my phone. The French Siri that lives in Google Translate spoke my words to him in French, and then listened to his answers or questions in French and French Siri spoke to me in English.  It was very funny and fun.  When he dropped me off, he asked again the name of the app, and he wrote it down.  He jumped out of the car, got my luggage and took it to the curb, and then refused a tip I tried to give him.  No, No he said, is OK.  I told him he was very kind and said good-bye and he replied Bon Journee.  Lovely ride, lovely driver.

I rolled my luggage over to the escalator, and then up into the terminal main level.  I had done research last night and knew that the hold luggage place was under the N tracks, so I tried to find it.  I walked through Terminal 1 and found out how to go downstairs and ended up in the same place the uber had dropped me off, so I went up the escalator again.  I found an information booth and they told me it was in Terminal 3, so across the main terminal I went to a door marked Terminal 2 and 3.  I walked and walked, stopping at a Sephora store in the station to buy some make up remover tissues, and a nail clipper in a pharmacy.  I finally saw a sign that showed Terminal 3 was down stairs and a ramp.  After I rolled down the ramp, I went to the left and saw a starbucks (I am not going to Starbucks in Paris, sorry.  I can get excellent cappucchino or café at any restaurant in Paris.) I returned towards and past the ramp and finally saw a sign and a symbol for left luggage so walked to the other end of the terminal and in the door of the place. 

You place all your luggage and handbag on the xray machine like in TSA at the airport and then you enter a large room with lockers of various sizes.  These machines only accept coins, so I changed a $20 euro bill into coins, and as I started to put my stuff in a large locker, the attendant told me I could fit my bags in a medium size locker (which would save me money), so she led me to the locker, told me to put my things in side, and then insert the coins.  She walked away and I followed her instructions but forgot to turn the latch on  the door, so another attendant, a man said you have to turn the lock.  I did that, inserted the coins $7.50 euros, and the ticket came out showing that locker number. 

I left the place and went back up into terminal one and out the door to the front of the Gare du Lyon.  It was a nice beautiful sunny morning, now about 10:00am and I was hungry. I walked across the plaza in front of the station, and down the stairs to the street.  I saw a restaurant with tables outside right across the street, so I headed across the street at the signal and took a seat facing the station.  The waiter arrived and I asked for a cappucchino and water natural.  In a few minutes he returned with the coffee and the bill.  I told him I wanted to order something else - 2 (deux) croissants and an orange juice (presse-  fresh squeezed).  He headed off to get my breakfast.  While I waited a young girl with a baby walked back and forth in front of the restaurant asking for money.  Another daughter  was also doing the same thing, probably age 9 or 10.  A few people gave her money but most said no.  The waiter returned with my breakfast and I finished it and got a regular coffee.

I wanted to find a pharmacy to buy something, I think emery boards, and walked around the corner and down a retail street heading away from the station.  I found a pharmacy but it was closed.  It is almost noon I thought, why is it closed.  As I headed down a cross street I was still searching for another pharmacy, but I saw only closed businesses.  It finally dawned on me it was Sunday and many businesses are closed on that day.  I made a left turn and headed back towards the station, stopping for one more cup of coffee before crossing back to the other side of the street where the station was. 

I walked into the station and looked for my train information on the arrival/departure boards.  It was now around noon, and my train departs at 13:53 or 1:53pm (they use 24 hour time in /Europe),  It was too early for the terminal and track to be shown, so I looked around and saw a café/bar upstairs and took the escalator up, turning right to the "bar" area since I didn't need to eat.  I sat down and plugged in my phone to charge, and ordered vin blanc (white wine).  I looked at my mail and FB and killed another hour sitting there sipping the wine.

Around 1pm or 13:00, I paid my tab and headed downstairs and back across Terminal 1 through Terminal 2 and down the ramp to Terminal 3 to retrieve my luggage from the locker.  This went very quickly and I headed back up to Terminal 2 to see if there was more information on the arrival /departure board.  Within 10 minutes it was posted, so I headed to the train, looking for 1st class, door 2, seat 71 which was upstairs.  It was actually pretty easy to find the train and the door, and I hoisted my carryon bag onto the luggage rack, and took my seat, which was very comfortable and right near the car entrance.  A man with two young daughters took 3 of 4 seats opposite me.  No one had bought the seat across from me, so I opened the little table and took out my phone to read a kindle book. The man was very careful to keep the girls engaged and quiet.  The train started and I spent my time looking at my phone or  gazing out the window at all the passing villages, farms and roads.  At cows and wheat fields and lots of corn fields. 


After a couple hours we arrived at the station Lyon Part Deux.  I knew there were more than one station in Lyon, as my friends had told me to get off at Lyon Perruche, but it was not clear either on the train, or on the TGV website how I was to get there but there was information on some sort of tram that takes you to the other two stations.  I lugged my heavy carryon downstairs and showed a lady my ticket (a fellow passenger) and asked if I get off, or stay on the train.  She told me to get off.  I didn't trust that she was paying attention, so I saw a conductor and asked him the question and he pointed and said next station and indicated I should get back on the train so I did, but not going upstairs again with my luggage.  I asked if it was OK for me to sit downstairs in an empty seat until we reached the next station and he said OK.

There was an older woman asking the conductors questions and getting help loading her luggage onto the rack. I am not sure what she was saying, but I think she was confused, perhaps she was not from France and could not understand their answers.  I don't know.  She finally sat down in the row behind me, but during the entire ride to the Perruche station she kept getting up, looking at her luggage, examining the tag, looking out the entry door, and then sitting down again.  Since my bag was sitting right to the left of her bag, she was making me very nervous and so I felt like I needed to keep an eye on her so she didn't run off with my bag.

When we reached the station, she offered to let me by, just before we stopped.  I motioned to her to go first but she was hesitant so I hopped off the train and headed into the station.  My friend Anne had texted maybe 10 minutes before that they had arrived at the station from Clermont Ferrand.  I had texted when  I was arriving.

When I got up the escalator it was not clear to me where to go, so I just walked and walked until I found a station exit, but it was obviously a side exit and not the main one.  My friends called me to find out where I was, but I couldn't understand them so I handed my phone to a security guard and asked him to talk to Anne, to find out where they were waiting.  After a few minutes he told me to go to a particular restaurant in the station and they would wait outside.  You have to remember that I had not seen this couple for 20 years, and on FB there are no photos, so I thought I would recognize them , but not positive.  I thanked the guard and headed in the direction he pointed and as I passed a staircase I saw them waving at me, and we reunited.

They took my luggage and we headed down stairs to the car..a mini.  We put the bags in the car and we drove to Leonie's flat on top of the hill in Lyon in a building on the 4th floor that was originally a silk factory.  There was no elevator or lift, so after parking on steep, narrow streets we headed into the building and walked up 6 flights of stairs.  We turned right through a doorway, and then right again into the open door where Leonie lives.  She greeted us with the typical French to cheek kissing welcome, and we went in and sat down. 

I think we had a glass of wine then, but I am not sure.  I should have kept notes at least, but I didn't so I am going to say we drank wine, got cleaned up and decided where to go for dinner.  Leonie wanted to go to a Paul Bocuse Brasserie called L-Est. It was her favorite of the 4 or 5 Brasseries he operates in the city.  We walked down the 6 flights of stairs, then around the corner, and I followed them through hidden passageways in buildings marked by a plaque with a lion on it by doorways.  These passageways I had also seen in Clermont Ferrand twenty years ago, but I had forgotten.  We went down and down the hills eventually arriving at the restaurant. We decided to sit outdoors in a canopy covered patio. 

I was very excited to be eating at a Bocuse Brasserie. At one point I went to the bathroom inside, and had my friends take a picture of me outside the pass from the kitchen.  My dinner that evening was (I will have to look at my pictures and captions as all I remember right now is Baba au Rhum for dessert).  We finished up and headed out taking a scenic route past the Opera and other buildings before taking the metro up to the top of the hill, because I (the oldest one) have hip dysplasia and the hiking up the steep streets, then the 6 flights of stairs was not great for me, so they suggested this alternative.

We returned to Leonie's cute apartment and I am thinking we then had more wine and some cheese and bread.  Again I have to look at my pictures to be sure. It was then around midnight and time to go to sleep.  I was to have a small mattress pad with a cover, while Didier and Anne took the thin mattress from the couch and placed it on the floor on the other side of the sofa.  I was not very organized with my luggage other than brushing my teeth, so I went to bed without looking for something to do when I awoke the next morning when my friends were still asleep.  It was a very hot day and night, and the windows were closed, so I didn't sleep very well that night tossing and turning and listening to Didier snore. LOL