2023 Autumn in France

Dark Caves to Bright Lights

Our autumn in France started with a few days in Marseille.  We went under the sea to mysterious caves.  Actually we took a tour at Cosquer, a replica of the caves discovered by Henri Cosquer in 1985, 37 meters beneath sea level in the Mediterranean Sea along the Calanques.  This is an area between Marseille and Cassis with rocky inlets and towering limestone cliffs.  At the base of these cliffs Cosquer found connecting caves with walls covered with handprints, engravings, tools and drawings of bisons, horses, penquins and other animals from approximately 30,000 years ago. The caves have been authenticated, and because of the rising sea they may no longer be available to enter.  By using 3D maps they have been replicated for us to learn about life at that time.

The 35-minute exploration tour begins by entering a submersible to descend (by elevator) to the caves.  We are provided with an audio guide while seated on exploratory vehicles which describes in each cave the artifacts on the walls lighted as we proceed through the caves.  The building consists of three levels, the under the sea for the tour and the above two levels for learning about the life of that period.  There are life sized stuffed animals, digital and audiovisual diagrams showing the water levels then and now reflecting the climate changes, and the means of transportation that were used. There is also a restaurant and a store for purchasing memorabilia.


The next day we stayed above ground and visited the Marseille Soap Museum.  The soaps are made with 72% olive oil.  The current location was once a King’s arsenal.  You will discover by representations, photographs and diagrams of the original making of soap.  There is also a workshop with a demonstration of the steps and machines used. The original soap was pure with no added scents.  The same as what Cleopatra was using, the color of olive oil.  Unappealing for today’s tourist market, but the original green is still available Afterwards you can actually make your own bar of soap.  Then go to the smelling station and test your sense of smell and see if you tell if the soap contains lavender, roses, lilac, vermilion, etc.  Next door is a store for purchasing your favorite soaps and other related items.

This autumn we decided to extend our stay in our village L’Isle sur la Sorgue until mid-December to enjoy some of the Christmas festivities and customs.  November 24 is the opening date of the Christmas market, set up at the Public Garden along the canal.  The market consists of about 20 “chalets” some displaying the artisans’ handicrafts, and other chalets for purchasing refreshments including hot soups, cheeses, burgers, oysters, and of course hot and cold drinks.  We bought a cone full of freshly roasted chestnuts – YUM! A tall tree is made out of sparkling blue and clear triangles topped with a glittering snowflake-like star and can even be seen from across the canal.  There is also a chalet where children can meet and have a photo with Père Noel (Santa).  In the center is a handmade replica of the village.  The santons (little saints) are small painted figurines that represent the likeness of the gardener, carpenter, baker, farmer, butcher and good friends, and are represented throughout the Provençal village scene.

As the weather was getting colder we were welcomed to order a glass of vin chaud (hot wine) in many of the bistros as we strolled around taking photos of the beautifully decorated store fronts.  Also, there were bright lights strung overhead on the streets and even strung across the canal. At the esplanade Robert Vasse there is a lighted archway to view the canal lights and next to it is a brightly colored mailbox for the children to deposit their letters to Père Noel.

On December 9 (first Saturday of December) the Fête de Lumiere (festival of lights) occurs.  There are band parades roving though the village with batucada (a percussive type of Samba music that is fast paced and repetitive, and noisy!) and other styles of music.  Following along with the bands are stilt walkers dressed like angels. And finally there is a light show illuminating the sky.

We departed two days later but were glad we stayed and enjoyed all the en‘lightening’ activities.

2022 Spring in Europe – MARSEILLE, FRANCE


When flying into Spain we were required to fill out a health form which is also accepted in other Europe countries.  So, when we flew to Marseille France, we were not required to present any more documentation.  It was a pleasant taxi ride to the center of Marseille even during rush hour.  We stayed at Hotel Carré Vieux Port, one block from the harbor.  We headed out and stopped at a sidewalk bar for a glass of Pastis and then we knew we were in Province.  That was followed by a wonderful pizza enjoyed with a wonderful French red wine.

The next day we walked to the oldest district, Panier Quarter on the north side of the harbor.  Le Panier consists of hilly streets that provide great photos for the vistas looking down through the stairways to the lower level of the port and across the harbor to Notre Dame de la Garde.  It is an area home to artists whose works are displayed on the sidewalk walls with bright street art. We also photographed Vielle Charité, a former almshouse, hospital, barracks, now housing various museums. Church Accuelle has a bell tower which announced to us it was lunchtime. Down at the harbor we stopped at Cuisine du Beurre for some fresh oysters and mussels.  The original owner was a well-known actor with memorabilia of his life during those days displayed inside on the second floor.  Next, we headed to the south side along the Quai de Rive Neuve to Fort Saint Nicholas hoping for a great view of Marseille harbor, but it was closed for renovation.  Just a little further up hill is Palais du Pharo which had the same view of the harbor and the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, also a good view of Cathedrale de la Major on the south side that we had missed.  We walked some miles that hot day! There is always available nearby an outside café with a nice cold rosé.


Rue Canebière is the most famous street in Marseille.  We walked along the street looking for Maison Empereur, the oldest hardware store in France, which has everything you might need from the very old to the new. We were now in the district of Noailles, an area of narrow streets and alleys with a daily market selling North African fabrics, baskets, cookware, etc.  The restaurants were selling kebabs, flatbreads, couscous, and teas of that heritage.  We had no agenda so just kept walking and enjoying the sights and smells.  We passed the Palais des Artes and Couer Julien, a restful park with a fountain, a nice place to cool off on this hot day. After lunch we strolled along the Old Port of the harbor.  There is a pavilion creating a sheltered area for events.  The pavilion is a mirrored roof structure where pedestrians walking underneath can look up and see their reflection. It is strange to see yourself like that.  We also took a ride on Le Petit Train which took us around the harbor up to the top of a hill to Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica. From here you have a panoramic view of the city of Marseille, the islands and the sea.  It is dedicated to the sailors and fishermen, with many ship sculptures and paintings inside.


2022 Spring in Europe – L’ISLE SUR LA SORGUE


It’s time to take the train to L‘Isle sur la Sorge, but before going to the train station we walked to the harbor and watched the fishermen who have just arrived setting up and selling their catch of the day.  This is the best way to get fresh seafood for your table at home.

It is nice to be in our own apartment and to go around seeing people we met last year.  Our friend Tracy drove her car down from her home in Brittany (12.5 hours) for a visit with plans for us to venture out and visit the nearby villages. Roussillon is one of many “Most Beautiful Villages” especially known for the Ochre, a yellow to red soil which was used for dyeing fabrics and seen in the walls of the buildings.  This town is quite colorful and home to many artists and their galleries.  As you ascend the winding roads enjoy the panoramic views and the colors of the village. You can even see the white capped Mont Ventoux in the far distance. There are also restaurants having panoramic views while enjoying delightful lunches.

That afternoon we visited Goult another village perched on a hill.  This village also has winding streets and tree lined squares surrounded by cafés.  We didn’t have time to visit the churches, but we will return to this village another time.  We drove up a very narrow street to the Jerusalem Moulin (Mill) and photographed the surrounding areas with again awesome panoramic views.  Driving back to L’Isle sur la Sorgue we passed bright red-orange fields of poppies and purple irises growing alongside the roads.  It was a beautiful Provence springtime day!

Our next journey was passing around Avignon towards Nimes and Uzes.  We were on our way to visit the Pont du Gard Aqueduct.  This aqueduct has been listed as a UNESCO SITE.  The aqueduct was originally built in the first century to overcome the obstacle of the flooding of the Gardon River in order to bring water from the Uzes to Nimes, a Roman colony. We visited the museum nearby which traces the construction by using artifacts, exhibitions, and films.  There is also a restaurant attached.  Walking towards the aqueduct we passed a thousand-year-old tree, still thriving!  It is the highest known aqueduct in the Roman world. Standing on it you realize the marvel of the construction.  There are three levels with 6 arches on the first, 11 arches o the second level and on top there are 35 arches.  It has been written that it is the most visited ancient monument in France. We were glad we visited.


Our next day’s journey was in search of  the Abbaye de St. Hilaire, so we followed directions towards La Coste.  Ending up on a rutted dirt road that seemed to be a dead end we turned around and decided to visit Bonnieux instead, another one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.   Bonnieux is an impressive hilltop village.  We walked up winding roads and up old stone stairways until we came upon a lovely restaurant, Le St. Andre.  We were just in time for a leisurely lunch.  With our energy replenished we walked up further to the old town, passing some beautiful homes.  The old church “Vielle Eglise” is at the top.  From there we photographed the panoramic vistas of La Coste, Mont Ventoux and the surrounding vineyards.  It was worth the climb.  Returning down the cobbled road we saw a wine store named Le Wine Club displaying in the window a bottle of a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Seeing that beckoned us to rest inside with a lovely glass of this fabulous wine.


Ménerbes became the next day’s destination. This is another one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.  Ménerbes has attracted many artists and writers.  Peter Mayle lived here and after he wrote “A Year in Provence” the village attracted many visitors. Ménerbes is also perched on a hilltop with commanding views. Being later in the afternoon there were few people around.  We strolled the roads of this charming village admiring the beautiful homes, the old ancient walls of protection and the picturesque scenes below the ramparts. Leaving we noticed another sign for the Abbaye and decided to return another time for that visit.

We have been curious to find the source of the Sorgue River that encircles L’Isle Sur la Sorgue and the canals throughout our island.  So, we drove to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. Vaucluse is translated from the Latin phrase Vallis Clausa which means closed valley. The source is the largest spring in France.  Jacques Cousteau dove it down to 80 meters in 1957.  There were other attempts to reach the bottom and finally in 1985 a robot reached the depth of 308 meters.  After passing under an aqueduct we arrived in time for lunch, as usual, and enjoyed another delicious meal at Fontaine des Glaces situated on the river.  Then we had the energy to walk toward the spring.  On the way we were hoping to stop into Le Musée d’Histoire, a museum dedicated to World II and telling the story of what life was like in Vaucluse during the occupation and the activity of the Resistance here.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  We kept walking along observing the river streaming over the rocks to our right.  When we reached the end Frank climbed down for a clearer view.  On the way back we visited the Paper Mill and were shown how paper used to be manufactured in Vaucluse. At one time there were 7 paper mills here all powered by water wheels.  We continued back to the center of the village enjoying the tranquility. Near to the Saint-Marie-Saint-Véran Church we noticed a statue of Saint Veranus.  Legend has it that he defeated the dragon that terrified the people by wrapping it in chains and dragging it away. We are looking forward to return to visit the museum of the Resistance and another museum called Le Musée Du Monde Souterrain.  This museum exhibits the abysm, the underground river and cave paintings.  This ended our wonderful adventures with Tracy.

We enjoyed our few weeks staying in our apartment and going out each day to discover more of our island.  Last time while we were here we didn’t visit any museums so that was on our list.  We visited Musée du Jouet et de la Poupée Ancienne, a museum of Antique Toys and Dolls dating from 1880-1920. It is a private collection created by Madame Huguette Jeanselme.  Some were even animated when wound up such as the carousel.  We are saving the Compredon Centre d’Art for next year now that we have found its location.  There are also a lot of music events that take place there.   We had been introduced to a couple who have an apartment across the road.  We also connected with friends we met last time.  Another day we walked up to Musee La Filaventure – Brun de Vian-Tiran.  This is a specialty museum showing the history of the weaving industry, especially the Brun de Vian-Tiran brand products.  There is a store in front with these beautiful woolen products.


To discover L’Isle sur Sorge from a different perspective we took La Petit Train.  During the 35–40-minute tour through the streets we learned about the cultural and industrial heritage of this village. Halfway, the train stopped at a beautiful area at the end of le Partage des eaux to enjoy the scenery. We had previously walked up this passage watching children during a kayak lesson, but only went partway and were glad we finally reached the end to see the restaurant Le Pescador and the park on the river.

2022 Spring in Europe – STRASBOURG, FRANCE


It was now time for us to continue on our spring vacation to the next destination.  We took the local train to Avignon where we would then continue on to Strasbourg.  Avignon is always a good place to spend a night.  After a great dinner and a good night’s sleep we were ready the next morning to continue.  To get to Strasbourg we took the TVG to Lyon airport.  The NH Hotel is located across from the terminals and because Lyon, being the gastronomic capital of France, it was imperative we have lunch there and it did not disappoint us.  That afternoon we flew to Strasbourg in the northeast part of France on the border of Germany called Alsace.

Strasbourg over the years has changed ownership between Germany and France now a part of France .  You can see the German influence in the architecture with the half-timbered houses and in the food, such as pretzels.  Also, all the street names are in French with the German name just underneath.  We stayed at the Tandem Hotel, an eco-friendly boutique hotel across from the train station.  The location was ideal.  It was a 5-minute walk to the trains and a 10-minute walk to the center of Strasbourg.  There were wonderful restaurants nearby.  The hotel has a bar with bio-dynamic wines and a delicious breakfast.  You can also rent bicycles at the hotel.

We were ready to explore Strasbourg after reading the literature on the sights of the city and using the map from the hotel.  The historic center of Strasbourg is known as the Grande Ȋle (Large Island) as it is surrounded by the canal of the River Ill.  We crossed the canal and entered the Grande Ȋle.  Our first stop was to visit St. Pierre le Vieux.  It is both a Protestant and Catholic church built in the 12th century, showing renaissance paintings and scenes of the life of St. Peter.  We continued on until we came to a large plaza, called Place Kléber, the central square of Strasbourg.  It is a large open square surrounded by stores and the length of one side is the L’Aubette.  This was built in the 18th century, destroyed in 1870 and rebuilt in 1926, designed by three avant-garde artists. The lower floor is a modern art museum.  It once housed soldiers and there is a statue in the center of honoring General Jean-Baptiste Kléber and contains his remains. Our next stop was at Place Gutenberg.  In the center is a statue of Johannes Gutenberg with engravings of the history of the printing press around the base.  Also in the square is a pretty carousel.

We were headed then to Strasbourg Cathedral.  We passed an alley that beckoned us with the sight of an interesting church.  We came across a small square dominated by Eglise du Temple Neuf. Originally a Dominican church built in the 13th century it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 20th century.  It was quite impressive but also closed.  We backtracked and walked to the Strasbourg Cathedral and plaza.  Originally it was designated Our Lady of Strasbourg and can be seen from anywhere in the city.  Frank was quite impressed by the solid bronze doors.  Also towards the back is an astronomical clock.  The cathedral was finished being built in 1439 on top of an ancient Roman sanctuary. It began as Catholic and switched to Protestant and then back to Catholic, therefore there is a variety of  Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The cathedral dominates the square. There are also many surrounding outside cafés. The Tourist Office is also in the square where you can purchase tickets for museums, the Batorama boat ride and the Mini Train Tour. Opposite we saw the Palais Rohan.  This palace was built in the 18th century and now houses three museums.  It started to rain and so we skipped this visit in search of a café to wait for the rain to pass.


We had one more area to visit and that was Petite France.  There are four canals here, some with locks. As we strolled along the canals, we watched the Batorama tourist boats pass through the locks. The half-timbered buildings along the canals were picturesque.  We stopped for lunch in Tanner’s Quarter. It is called the Tanner’s quarter because in the 16th century it housed tanners and millers.  After lunch we strolled along the canals sightseeing and shopping, then stopped at one of the many peaceful outside cafés along the canal to enjoy the surroundings. The entrance to the city was guarded by four towers connected by covered bridges over the River Ill.  We walked over to the Vauban Dam and climbed the stairs for a panoramic view.  It was a relaxing afternoon in Petit France.  That night we ate dinner at Le Schnockelock for the Alsace specialty done the old-fashioned way, choucroute ( a dish prepared with sauerkraut, sausages, other meats and often potatoes), and savored with a glass of Riesling.  The restaurant had that old-fashioned ambiance. The food was delicious, and everyone seated next to us agreed that it was too much food, but we all had some good laughs about it.


2022 Spring in Europe – COLMAR, FRANCE


Colmar is a fairy tale town just a short train ride from Strasbourg.  Next morning we rode the train and then walked a short distance to the center of town.  It was definitely a fairy tale town with timber-framed brightly colored buildings with a canal that runs through the center of town.  It has been said that it was the inspiration for the movie “Beauty and the Beast”.  We stopped in at the Visitor Center and took a map with a walking tour to follow.  One of the houses is decorated for the season, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas.  Another  house we passed by had watering cans hanging from the windows and most houses have bright colored flower boxes.  We passed by Saint Martin Collegiate Church constructed in the 13th century and covered with red and gold stones.  There are many museums in Colmar. We passed a courtyard that had a statue in front, this was the entrance to the museum dedicated to Frederic-August Bartholdi. He was the creator of the Statue of Liberty.  Further on was the Pfister House with its octagonal turret and wrap-around balcony.  Around each corner we discovered another “District”.  The “Tanner’s District” had buildings of the tanner’s houses with roofs that had several hooks used to dry hides.  The “Fishmonger’s District” along the Lauch River had the half-timbered houses of the boatmen and fishermen who put their traps in the river.  Following the Rue de la Poissonniere we reached “Little Venice”. Here the houses are painted in pink, yellow and blue. Winemakers, gardeners and boatmen lived here and transported their goods to town in flat-bottomed boats, similar to gondolas.  There are boat tours if you want to ride in one.  The Covered Market is on the other side of the river in a brick building where traders sell fresh quality foods. It was time for a late lunch, and we enjoyed a wonderful German beef stew at Wistub La Petite Venise.  From there we wandered along more meandering streets back to the train station. We almost missed the Schwendi fountain, designed by Bartholdi in 1898. It is very small and easy to miss. Lazare de Schwendi was a general under Maximilian II from 1564-1568 fighting the Turks in Hungary from where he would have brought the grape variety from Tokay. The statue was destroyed in 1940 and then rebuilt after the war.

The Alsatian Wine Route is located between the Vosges Mountains in France and the Black Forest in Germany.  It starts at Strasbourg and ends at Milhouse not far from Colmar, 170 km long with 70 wine growing villages with 51 Grand Crus. We took a full day tour from Viator.com which left in front of the Visitor Center in Strasbourg. Pauline was our guide driving her van and we were accompanied by a lovely couple from Bombay, India. As we were heading south Pauline explained the location of the wine route, it’s micro-climate producing great wines, mostly white wines with an occasional Pinot Noir, farming of vegetables, especially cabbage for Alsace Choucroute, and berries.  Our first stop was near Barr in Heiligenstein at the Klipfel Winery.  Here we got an initiation of the wines of Alsace.  The wines take on the name of the grape not the vineyard.  There are seven white varieties: Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Klevener.  Their wines consist  of Alsace Grand Crus and Crémants. Inside the Family House is the tasting room with a large wooden table set up for tasting with pretzels.  Also, there was a huge old wine press.  Our next visit was in Andlau to a biodynamic vineyard.  Here we were entertained by the wine maker.  He showed us his organic method of growing his vines.  He is lovingly called a “hippy and mad scientist” and we enjoyed his enthusiasm and tasting his wines.  He produces 3 Grand Crus, but also many types, including apple juice and a wine similar to grappa. Pauline drove through many small villages, such as Itterswiller where there is a flower competition seen throughout the town.  Further on she pointed out sighting a red heart or a bottle on the roof signified a home where a single woman or man lived, an earlier era dating app?  She also went on to explain that if a woman left a sugar cube on the windowsill and the stork took it during the night that meant she was going to have a baby.  We were on our way to Ribeauville to stop for lunch.  Alsace has both French and German influences in the foods and she suggested we might want to try Tarte Flambée (Flammekueche), similar to a flat bread pizza but with a layer of crème fraiche instead of a red sauce.  Frank and I wandered the village and stopped in at Le Giesberg a quaint little restaurant and ordered Tarte Flambée followed by apple strudel for dessert.   Walking back to our van we spotted a stork’s nest on top of one of the building’s roofs. The stork is a symbol seen throughout Alsace. Our third and last winery of the day was in Zellenberg at Jean Huttard winery.  This is a family that is committed to sustainable environment and ecological viticulture.  It was a more modern setting. Our wine tour was greatly enjoyed having visited three distinctly different wineries each with different presentations and seeing all the villages along the route. And especially learning about the wine route from our host Pauline with her little local stories about the area.


L’isle sur la Sorgue 2021


In year 2020 we rented a Provençale apartment in the historic center of L’Isle sur la Sorgue for the month of May, only to learn that it was now being sold. After some thought we reached out to the owner and her real estate broker and began the process of purchasing this apartment. However, along came COVID-19 and France went into lockdown. So, we were unable to stay there. We continued anyway with the purchase and became owners in July 2020. After many lockdowns, travel restrictions and changing our flights four times we arrived on September 29, 2021. This Provençale apartment was everything we were expecting.

We landed in Marseille late afternoon and without our luggage we were smiling. Our property manager scheduled her driver to meet us and drive us north to the village which took about one hour. After opening the doors and seeing a potted plant of white roses on the table and a refrigerator with food and a bottle of rosé we couldn’t have been happier. However, we were hungry, and we didn’t have to walk very far when we discovered L’Alcyone, a lovely restaurant with outside seating by candlelight. It was our first of many delicious meals. Three days later our luggage arrived at 9:30 p.m.!

The old town of L’Isle sur la Sorgue is actually an island surrounded by the Sorgue River and canals throughout the village. The river is lined with many cafes and restaurants to enjoy lunch, dinner and people watching. Also, on the river and on the canals throughout the village are many operating waterwheels which once were the source for silk, wool, and paper manufacturing. Throughout winding roads, you will find small gift shops, art galleries and museums.


Each day we walk along different roads exploring a new site. We would also include time to stop for the Plat du Jour, the specialty meal of the day. Cocktail hour was time for people and dog watching. Eventually we returned to the same couple of spots the choices dependent on the weather. And the special people that worked there. One place was Café de France located in the center of the village across the Collegiale Notre Dame des Anges, a beautiful baroque style church. There we chatted with Tristan, Frank and others. Another one is Grand Café de la Sorgue, along the riverside. There we had fun with Marion and Lauriane and a few others. That was our time to relax with a Pastis or a glass of Rosé and at Grand Café we were always supplied with small bowls of cacahuetes (peanuts) – Thanks girls!

Each Sunday and Thursday throughout the town we would stop to buy fresh foods whether it be saucissons (sausages), fruits and vegetables, fish, cheeses or even barbequed chicken and paella. The Sunday market is well known for all that food plus clothing, flowers and especially antiques. On the other side if the river are outside stalls set up along with the arcade buildings. We strolled in and out of all of these buying a few small items and paintings to hang above our couch. There is also a twice-annual International Antiques Fair and Flea Market with over 500 vendors with about 50,000 visitors. We decided we needed a chair for our bedroom. And we found just what we wanted, a Louis XV style bedroom chair. Of course, that meant it was time for bargaining. Even with limited command of the French language Joanne had success!


That was one way to deliver the chair back to our apartment!

One of our earlier strolls was across the riverbank to Parc Gautier. It was a beautiful park for picnic with a skate park petanque court and children’s playground. In the middle was the Gautier chateau, donated to the city, hosting many festivities. The Public Park is also beautiful.

We stopped in the Tourist Office and got information about bus and train schedules and a pamphlet for getting our train tickets online which we used successfully. To familiar ourselves with the train station (Gare) we walked there which was a 10-minute walk. We also explored the surroundings and found a very nice restaurant. Le Terminus, a fitting name being across from the Gare. It was cozy and mostly patronized by locals. It became one of our favorite restaurants.

We still had tickets to fly to Bordeaux, which we had originally scheduled. So, on October 15 we flew into Bordeaux and took a taxi to the center of the city to stay at Brit Hotel des Grands Hommes. The hotel manager did not speak English, but he managed to understand that we wanted a nice restaurant to eat at. So, he beckoned to us to follow as we left the hotel unattended, and he led us down the street around the corner to a Bistro Montesquieu where we then sipped on a nice glass of red Bordeaux on the outdoor terrace until the restaurant opened for serving dinner. Their specialty of the day was Boeuf Bourguignon, and Frank ordered that. The meal was delicious but was not prepared the way we had ever seen in recipes. It was not a stew but a nice cut of beef on top of rice with a nice brown sauce. Joanne’s chicken dish was fabulous. And of course, that meant a bottle of a red Bordeaux wine was needed for a wonderful dinner to start off our tour of the city of Bordeaux.

The hotel lobby had a map with a UNESCO Heritage Tour of 15 places to see that we decided to follow on foot. Our first stop was in front of the Grand-Theatre, an impressive architectural masterpiece built in 1780 with columns supporting a portico with twelve stone statues (nine muses accompanied by Minerva, Venus, Juno). It is an opera house located on the Place de la Comedie.

We continued walking to a tree-lined esplanade called Quinconces with two columns at the Riverside celebrating commerce and seafaring. At the other end is the Monument aux Girondins. This is a tall monument as a tribute to the inhabitants of Gironde lost during the FrenchRevolution, and on top stands the statue of Liberty Breaking its Chains. There are bronze
fountains at the bottom.

It borders the Garonne River and so we strolled along the Quays which include green spaces, boutiques, cafes and play areas for children. We stopped at the Place de la Bourse which is Bordeaux’s opening onto the River Garonne. It is a city square comparable to Versailles. It is also called Stock Market Building as it was the place where trade prices were set in the 18th century. In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Three Graces. Of course, we found a small square just pass the Place du Parlement and stopped for lunch in the square facing Eglise Saint Pierre. This square and the streets surrounding it make up Bordeaux’s old town. It is always time to sit outside and enjoy a plate of chacuterie and quiche with a glass of white Bordeaux wine. Walking a little further we stopped at Porte Cailhau to cool off with more great Bordeaux white wine. This Porte or Gate is the former defensive gate dedicated to King Charles VII, who won the Battle of Fornovo (Italy). Frank walked into the gate and climbed the stairs to the top for the view. When we returned to our hotel, we decided to pay a visit for a night cap at Bistro Montesquieu with a wonderful red Bordeaux..

The next day we continued past Quinconces along Rue Notre Dame into the Chartrons area. We stopped in at the Musée du Vin et du Négoce. And took the self-directed tour in the former dwelling of a wine merchant which included walking through vaulted cellars. This is the area where many worked in the wine industry. We viewed a collection of past and current objects and documents tracing the wine trade to the present day. At the end of the tour there is a instructional area set up to taste and to learn the difference between the wines, the 1855 classification system and what makes Bordeaux wines so special. On our way back we stopped at Oncle (Uncle in French) Bob’s for lunch which had an Asian influence. Asian food goes really well with Bordeaux Rosé wines. With only one more day here and there was still so much to see we decided to extend our visit for an extra day.

Today we headed in the opposite direction. We passed through Porte Dijeaux, the gateway into the city from the west. We had no set agenda and just strolled along sightseeing. We passed the Hotel de Ville, the Musée ds Beaux Arts and passed Cathédrale Saint-André & Tour Pay-Berland. This Gothic style cathedral hosted two royal marriages, that of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future king Louis VII and that of Anne of Austria and Louis XII. The Pey Berland tower is a bell tower built in the 15th century separately from the cathedral. The Royal Door, constructed in the 13th century is decorated with remarkable sculptures. With all that walking one gets thirsty and hungry. We stopped across from the Theatre and split a croque monsieur, which is a big grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and listened to some lovely classical music piped in from the theatre. Up the street we found a very nice place for a glass of wine and some chacuterie called Bar à Vin which completed our day.


Our last day in Bordeaux we headed in the direction of the subbase. It was a hot day, so we stopped early for a nice light lunch at Le Mirroir. We realized that subbase was quite further than we thought, so when we saw Molly Malone’s we thought it would be a good idea to have a Guinness and Irish Coffee to keep us going. We then decided that we would save this adventure for another visit and headed back to Bar à Vin for one more plate of chacuterie and wonderful Bordeaux wine.

The only train to Avignon was the city train that took us down to the Mediterranean and back north to the station in Avignon. It was a 6.5-hour train ride that went by quickly. We enjoyed the changes in the countryside, seeing the sea, reading and having something to eat. Our reservations were at Hotel L’Horloge (the clock) in the center of the old part of the city. It helped coming into our room and seeing a nice bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape awaiting us. That primed us for exploring our surroundings, listening to the accordion playing, people singing and just watching the night life in the square.

Avignon is a walled in city. We walked out through the wall to the Rhone River in search of Pont D’Avignon, also known as Saint Bénezet Bridge. It is well known because of the children’s song “Sur la Pont D’Avignon” and is also a UNESCO Heritage site. The story is that a young shepherd from Ardeche named Bénezet heard a voice telling him to go to Avignon and build this bridge, which was completed in 1185 and was the only connection between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the flood waters washed out the bridge many times and after being rebuilt many times it was abandoned in the 17th century with only 4 out of 22 arches remaining. Tourists are allowed to walk on the bridge, for a small fee.

After a lovely lunch we visited the Palais des Papes. This Gothic Palace was completed in the 14th century, and it is the biggest one in all of Europe with 20 rooms. We took the self-guided tour through many rooms highlighting the historical events that took place, the paintings of Italian artists and the popes’ private chambers.

Leaving there and heading back to our hotel we first stopped at Restaurant 46 Bar a Vin and enjoyed sharing escargot, cheeses, fresh bread and a nice bottle of Province rosé.

The next day Frank wanted to buy some supplies to make minor repairs to our apartment. Mr. Bricolage, a DIY hardware store, had just want he wanted. In the square, Place Pie, we saw a vegetal wall covered building. This is Les Halles, the covered market with 40 vendors, that is open every day from 6:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This is where everyone, including restaurant chefs, come to buy their exceptional produce, specialty foods, eat oysters and stop at the bars. What fun and what great wine for 2 euros a glass! Next to our hotel was Brasserie Lou Mistrau, a wonderful restaurant where we dined twice, even had French Onion Soup, one of Joanne’s favorites. Our last day in Avignon we just wandered around streets we hadn’t seen and came across a vendor who was roasting chestnuts for sale at the intersection. We bought a small bag and they did not last too long, YUM!

It was time to return to L’Isle to our apartment. The train ride lasted 24 minutes and cost 7 euros for both of us, you can’t beat that deal. It was market day and just about closing time but time enough time to buy a nice round of camembert. That was going to be part of our lunches at home and snacks. We usually ate out once a day, usually lunch. One of our stops was at Crok Isle which was a roadside stand that sold lunches for takeout such as quiches and a hot dog! It was a long hotdog stuffed in a baguette, toasted with cheese of course. While walking we always find a new place we should try. Troc Café is very small with a few outside tables, but they serve the best fish and chips, omelets and moules frites (mussels, French fries). Of course, we frequented Café de France since we enjoy speaking and joking with the staff, and we were given a diner’s punch card. When we have a return trip, we will have to get our free meal. On one walk Joanne noticed the Plat du Jour was Lapin. Frank’s Polish grandmother would make a rabbit dish that he has never been able to find anywhere. This was it and it was made by the chef who was from Poland!! Le Bellevue became another one of our favorite dining spots. Jerome spoke some English so that was a help. And, if you have a sweet tooth for some good chocolate there is a chocolatier around the corner from us. You can watch as the chocolates are being made. There are a variety of handmade chocolates, so it is difficult to decide what to choose and that also the salesgirls with make nice boxes of whatever you want making nice gifts for friends.

There are two small grocery stores that we frequented for buying wine, breakfast food and whatever Joanne decided she wanted to cook. One day she saw green lentils and so it was going to be lentil soup for dinner. She has never seen green lentils in the stores in St. Thomas and the soup recipe always recommends using green lentil. It was worth buying. We also discovered that nobody ever heard of meatloaf. The ground beef had absolutely no fat, so Joanne improvised and broke up some sausages and added to the mixture. It was delicious. Improvising was the key word when cooking without all the ingredients one is accustomed to having close by. Another time Frank thought he was getting a deal on a package of cheese called Raclette. Joanne looked it up on the internet and discovered a recipe she just had to try. Raclette is a cheese you melt, often used in fondue. The recipe needed an oven, oops! How to use it, all being in symbols and Celsius! With that challenge overcome she made a recipe she found that is melted cheese scraped over boiled potatoes, topped with prosciutto served with water cress and serve alongside with olives and gherkins. It was as tasty as it was pretty to look at.

We began to think it would be nice to have a bigger piece of furniture to put our television on with all the cables and remotes on a separate shelf. Also, it would be nice to have a couple of closed storage doors below. So, on one of our walks we made a stop at a woodworker’s shop. Frederic didn’t speak any English, so this was a challenge. Eventually Joanne drew what we wanted for him and with some limited French we managed to settle on the type of wood, keys, etc. We then waited for an email with his estimate. In the meantime, Frank is doing touch up on some cracks in the walls in the apartment which needed paint to cover it. So we found the route to Mr. Bricolage in our village and off we went. It was about a mile away. Frank also needed to replace the plug on the Hoover (vacuum cleaner). After those items were purchased, we walked a little further on looking for the location of a car rental facility. On the way back we stopped at Pyramide and ordered an Italienne pizza. It had pesto on it and it was the best pizza. Continuing on we stopped at a Boulangerie and bought a round loaf of bread which the salesgirl sliced for us. We will definitely go back there. It is the flour that makes the difference. A short video of the cultivation of the wheat in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue used for the baguette flour will be produced soon. Visit the trailer @: https://youtu.be/MJoJs3QWOcU

One day when we were walking around the village, we followed a map from the Tourist Information Center showing the location of the remaining 15 out of 66 waterwheels. We still have a couple more to locate. One of the waterwheels was on the end of the Canal Arquet. It was cold and the Arquet Bar was just waiting for us to warm up. Another time when we were walking toward the Le Bassin we discovered an architectural dig in process. The workers were hard at work in the mud. We went by there are few days later and it had dried up and looked very different.   On almost all our walks as we are strolling along the riverbank, we are watching the ducks, either swimming, diving for food or sunning themselves on the concrete levees. Since the street number of our apartment is 13 we made a game to see if we could count 13 ducks in each section, not easy. And one day we watched a dog on a leash jump in. The dog enjoyed swimming around, but the owners had a bit of a time trying to get the dog out. That was when we walked away before the dog shook off the water, a smart move on our part. The public park is peaceful and with benches for resting and lots of chestnuts on the ground. At one end of the park is a restaurant called O & R (Olive et Raisin). It is a boutique selling exceptional products of the local artisans, i.e. tapenades, charcuterie, fine cheeses, olives, olive oils, artisanal beers, cookies and it provides baskets for picnics. There are menus for two people to share not only for a picnic but also to enjoy there. We liked to order and sit at a table by the window watching the ducks in the water.

Halloween is a holiday never before celebrated in L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Paper pumpkins were attached high up in the trees, bollards were wrapped in black and orange, inside the back of the church children lined up to see the monster that stole all the candy, mocko jumbies were dressed up in scary costumes and even jumping rope, jugglers were performing their skills and the restaurants and bars were waiting for the children to give them some candy. We don’t think the children understood what “trick or treat” meant, they were just having a lot of fun.


Another day we took a walk to the cemetery. The tombstones were big and decorated with real flowers but also attached were porcelain flowers. Many people were bringing baskets of flowers since Armistice Day was that week. We walked back for the 30-minute ceremony on November 11. There were speeches by elders and also by students. Then students brought up baskets of flowers to be placed at the memorial honoring all those that lost their lives in the wars. A small chorus of young children sang as the band played and it ended with the singing of the Marseillaise. Frank wore his combat aircrew wings on his blazer.

It was the third Thursday of November, the day that Beaujolais Nouveau is released. At lunch we asked where we might find a glass but we were not having any luck, so we headed back to our apartment and on the way just before leaving the waterfront there was a bottle of it on the table outside of Chez Ju, a restaurant we hadn’t tried. We met Margot, who worked there, and she told us her mother lived in Martinique. Most people in France don’t know where the U.S. Virgin Islands are located but she did. She had also lived in Tennessee for many years so spoke fluent English. Beaujolais Nouveau it was!

Our friends, Robert and Joanie who live in St. Thomas, took the train from Paris and came to stay in our village to visit with us for a couple of days before we left. Our property manager helped with finding for them one of her apartments that she also manages. They loved the apartment. It was fun meeting both at the train station, lunch at Terminus and then walking through the streets to their apartment. We met the next day at the Sunday Market and wandered all around the vendors’ stalls. It was Frank’s birthday, so we met up later at Chez Ju for a wonderful meal, followed by a drink at Café de la Sorgue and at Bar L’Arquet. It was wonderful seeing Robert and Joanie and sharing with them our village with the waterwheels and the ducks. The Christmas lights in the streets and across the river had been installed. The next night, our last night in L’Isle, we were drinking our last glass of rose with Marion at Café de la Sorgue when they came in to let us know the lights in the town were turned on. It felt like they were turned on just for us

Elayne Murphy is our property manager. She was always ready to assist us with what we needed, such as a new name plate for our door, taking us to stores to look for the television stand, the Super U for super grocery shopping, and ordering us a new Nespresso coffee maker and blender. She also arranged for our 5G internet to be installed. The sign in number was much too long for guests to use so she arranged for Chris to come over to change that to something simpler using 13 Ducks in the password and to set it up for French speaking guest to watch French TV.

When we got the email with the estimate from Frederic, woodworker, it was astronomical, so we went online to find something suitable and for a tenth of the price. We were frequently back and forth to her apartment and this time it was so that she could place the order. We were leaving in a week, and it was delivered in just 5 days, two days before we left. We also have a beautiful armoire and decided we wanted to lock one side so that we could leave some of our personal belongings in it. Elayne managed to get the key man to come over to remove the old lock which no longer had a key, put in locks on our new television table doors and add an extra lock on our door for our use only.

We feel very fortunate to have Elayne working with us. The first week we were there she invited us to a lovely restaurant at one of the Antique buildings. Another time she invited us over for a typical French meal, with all the various courses and wine. One evening she invited a couple that had been living in the States to cocktail hour so we could meet them and hopefully get together in the future. They bought an apartment near to us three years ago and never left. They have made many friends and are willing to introduce us to them.

There are many museums in the village that we did not have time to visit. There is still more for us to see when we return.

We hope to return soon and reconnect with so many people that made living there an enjoyable experience. To those “À Bientot!”


You can view our little pied-a-terre by going on VRBO and putting in reference number 1938031 or 1938031 at the link below.



La Ciotat & Brittany France

May 25-June 8, 2019

Frank and I flew into Marseille Airport and headed off to our apartment in La Ciotat in Provence on the Mediterranean. Entering our apartment, we knew we were going to enjoy our two week stay. Michelle, the resident on the first floor, was delightful and we had many chats and laughs together during our two weeks. But now we are hungry and in search for a bite to eat. While exploring the many narrow streets we stopped at Plaza Carnot to watch a fashion show with moms and daughters wearing the outfits from a store in this plaza. We took a table at La Palette and enjoyed the Planche du Sud, a chacuterie platter. After eating we stopped in at Hemingway’s and the girls fixed us a customized chacuterie platter and sold us bottle of Bandol Rose to sip along with it later on back in our apartment.

Since we had not stopped for groceries, the next day we were in search of a Patisserie for breakfast. We found Maison Lêvêque just up the street. We sat at a little table and were served our choices of vanilla éclair and pain chocolate (chocolate croissant) along with a great cup of coffee. This became our go to place for breakfast every other day.

Joanne with Madame

Yes, we are back in France and back in Provence. We weren’t sure where in France we wanted to go this year. We had been on the east side of Provence, Marseilles and the surrounding well- known villages such as Nimes, Arles, Aix en Provence, on the northern part from Avignon to Gordes across the gorges and back down to Nice. The part of Provence we overlooked was the villages on the Mediterranean between St. Tropez and Marseilles. Since 2007 I have been reading a blog three times a week called “French Word a Day”, written by Kristin Espinesse.

She has also written four books which I have purchased. She writes wonderful stories about living in France, after leaving Arizona, marrying her French husband and bringing up her son and daughter. They are stories of her everyday life, it’s ups and downs, but always with a positive slant. I felt like I knew them personally and then she wrote that they were moving to La Ciotat, one of the towns we had overlooked on the Mediterranean coast. That was the deciding factor and I hoped to be able to meet her. And we did. Kristin met us at L’Indiana, a beachside restaurant, close to where she is living, and we spent over an hour chatting about our lives. I brought along one of her books and she graciously autographed it for me.

Kristin & Joanne – Book: FIRST FRENCH ESSAIS Venturing into Writing, Marriage & France
In this book, as in all her other books and blogs, she slips in French words with the translations at the end. The book cover partially shows one of the precious friends she has made. In a year’s time he shared with her his knowledge of the plants of Provence. There is a special chapter at the end explaining how that friendship developed.

Yesterday was the Sunday market and a good time to buy some fresh produce. I bought some beautiful leeks and then at the marche (grocery store) purchased what else we needed to make vichyssoise; our first home made meal in the apartment, which I put in the refrigerator for our evening meal. Later that day we strolled along the Vieux Port and stopped to enjoy an outside lunch of andouillette, a Classique omelet and a pichet (carafe) of cold rosé. We also stopped into a cinema to see what was playing and if it would fit into our schedule. We decided each day we would eat our lunch (Plat du Jour) in town, and of course, that always included a pichet of cold rosé (2 glasses each), typical cost for two was $32 USD. Our evening meal we ate at home.

We loved walking around all the winding streets and discovering a variety of stores, restaurants while noticing the architecture of the buildings. We loved seeing these cans filled with flowering plants.



At cocktail time we discovered a little bar/restaurant called L’appart Café around the corner from our apartment. After going there most evenings we felt like we made some friends, especially with the owner, Laurent, on the right.

“I prefer to drink with my friends than to drink with moderation” (Translation of below

Across the street is a walkway to the Cinema. The architecture is like that used on the Eiffel Tower.

After a delicious lunch of lamb chops and chicken with mushrooms at a Bar Tabac named La Petite Mousse we wandered around the quay, noting the Church, Église Notre-Dame de-l’Assomption, on the left side of the harbor with the museum at the end. When the Museum opened, we spent some time inside with the ancient history of La Ciotat on display. The boats in the photo are called pointus. The shipyard caters to mega yachts and that is on the right side of the harbor.

Church and Naval Museum in the distance.

Right side of harbor with shipyard in the distance. for more images: https://www.laciotat-shipyards.com/fr/

Musée Ciotaden after several wines.
The next day we planned a visit to Parc du Mugel, so we needed picnic food and found what we wanted at our patisserie along with some Compte cheese, olives, bottle of rosé and bottles of water. Off we trotted but quickly slowed down as we continued going uphill. Once there, WHEW! we followed a trail to a fountain which seemed a good place for our picnic. Then we hiked up to the top to the dome for a good view.

The following link will show more pictures and description of this pretty park in the Calanques.

The next day an Uber driver named Christophe drove us in his black Mercedes along the scenic Route de Cretes to Cassis. We stopped to view the awesome maritime cliffs of the Calanques. We stopped for coffee on the beach and then strolled around the village.

It is a beautiful village! We ate a delicious pizza at La Girandole enjoyed with a bottle of Cassis white wine from the Bodin Vineyard, as recommended by Kristin’s husband. It was market day with very busy vendors.

More pics of the area:
Flowers for Sale at the Market
Sunday was another market day and on our way there we stopped at Eden Theatre. This is the world’s oldest operating movie theater where the Lumière Brothers screened L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat in 1895. It showed a steam train pulling into the station at La Ciotat. It was so realistic that it has been said that some viewers were so scared that they ran out of the hall.
“Eden” World’s First Movie Theatre
On Set – WHEW! Just missed me. A little further on we stopped at the Chapelle des Pénitents Bleus. The beautiful chapel was built in 1626. Inside were many photographs from local artists.

Chapelle des Pénitents Bleus
Today was less windy so we took a fifteen-minute bateau ride to Lile Verte, this is part of the Calanque national park. We hiked up the trail to the top to Fort Saint-Pierre. This is the highest point of the island and taken over and strengthened by the Germans in World War II. It was later heavily bombed, and you can see the craters in the ground and some of the remains of the buildings. Also, from these trails you can see the Cap d’Aigle (Eagle’s beak) opposite in the national park.

Back at the Vieux Port we stopped to refresh with a glass of wine at Le Bar Crystal. We struck up a conversation with the bartender/sommelier whose name was Vino. He looked familiar to us and we then learned he once bartended in St. Martin in the Caribbean back in the earlier years. We would fly there frequently in those earlier years and stay at a little place next door to L’Amandier where he was working. All three of us had a lot of a laughs as we recalled some of the same places we visited and some of the same characters in St. Martin that we knew.

Frank Vino Joanne
The next day we strolled around the town. It was market day in our neighborhood, which was disassembled by noon. We ate lunch at L’appart Café. After lunch we walked to Grand Plage walking along the park-like promenade Voie Douce, tracing the old railroad, allowing passage of the village. On the way back to our apartment we stopped to listen to some local musicians in the plaza in front of our patisserie and the cinema.

Another interesting stop that day was the Cemetery. The tombs had photos of the deceased encased in glass.

Wednesday, we walked back to L’Indiana to visit again with Kristin Espinesse. We wanted to see her again and let he know we really enjoyed La Ciotat. We promised we would keep in touch.
On our way back to our apartment we were in amazed to see that the trash collectors were young females. Just imagine this ever happening in St. Thomas!

Our last day in La Ciotat we revisited some of our familiar places: breakfast at Maison Lêvêque, lunch at Le Petite Mousse, wine at Le Bar Crystal to see Vino who told us where to buy a bottle of Condrieu (my favorite white wine), visit L’appart café to see Laurent, the restaurant was closed but we knew he would be across the street at Cercle de la Renaissance bar with other friends.

Frank and Tracy
The next day was Sunday and Tracy drove us to Concorneau, a seaside resort village. There we walked across the bridge connecting the mainland to the walled in town. We entered the Musée de la Pêche, a museum where we learned about the history of the fishing industry in this village. A tuna cannery was started here. At one time it was the arsenal and it also served as barracks. We also learned about the fishing techniques, shipbuilding, navigation and rescue operations. We boarded the M/V Hémérica, a fishing trawler in use until 1981. We wandered along the narrow streets with many shops and restaurants where we stopped for lunch at a creperie. Afterwards we walked along the wall to get a good view of the mainland. Tracy also drove along the seashore or our way back to La Chaland. We walked on the bridge over the canal. Click on the following link to learn more about this village and see some nice photos.

Joanne and Tracy
View of Concarneau mainland from walled in village

Monday Tracy drove us to the village of Huelgoat (pronounced Wellgwat). The village square is
surrounded by shops and restaurants. We couldn’t resist stopping in at a patisserie for a delicious pastry. Further on is a watermill and which leads into trails among moss covered boulders along the stream. There is even a one called Trembling Boulder and supposedly if your find the right spot you can make it tremble. It started to rain so we headed back into town and stopped at Creperie Des Myrtilles, a nice cozy spot for lunch. See more in the following link, and the following photos of Huelgoat boulders with Tracy and Frank.

Our next village we visited was Playben well known for the church Eglise St. Germain. The church was surrounded with scaffolding so we could not go inside. It is also well known for the elaborately carved Calvary in front of the church. It depicts the story of Easter.

The Calvary
This was our last night with Tracy. The next day she drove us back to Brest where we had rented a lovely room at Abalys Hotel. After checking in we all went to a restaurant on the next corner called Relais D’Alsace. We ate a wonderful meal of hake and chicken, Plat du Jour specials, and Frank had his favorite, Magret Canard (duck breast). With a Badoit Rouge (special water), a pichet of rosé, two coffees the meal for three of us came to USD $56.40. It was the best meal we had eaten, and the restaurant was elegant.

Nearby was the office of tourism. It was suggested that we stop to see Les Ateliers des Capucins. This place was once the naval dockyard where the ships were manufactured and repaired. It has since closed and restored as a cultural place. Inside are displays of some of the machinery that was used in the manufacturing of ships, parquet flooring for dancing, a media library and restaurants. You can also access it by cable car across the Penfeld River. We chose to walk the distance by strolling down the Rue de Siam, the commercial thoroughfare and walking across the vertical-lift bridge over the River.

We bought tickets for vising the Naval Museum. Retracing our steps, we stopped to visit the Tanguy Tower. It had just closed for lunch, so we looked for a restaurant nearby. Just below the Tower was a restaurant called L’abordage at the docks. It surely was a bar/restaurant for the pirates of years gone by; In fact, it probably still is. Once seated we were shown an assortment of salads buffet style. We tried everything and thought that was the meal of the day. However, we were then presented a plate of pork in onion sauce with small roasted potatoes. On the table was already a carafe of red wine and were told to help ourselves. That wasn’t all, because we were then offered our choice of chocolate cream parfait or chocolate mousse cake. The tower was still not ready to re-open, so we ordered another carafe of wine. All of that for the two of us came to 37.5 €!

Frank and Joanne at L’abordage Bar and Restaurante
Tour Tanguy is a museum of old Brest shown using dioramas and photos. The first floor has exhibits of major events and the second floor shows the streets and people in the area called Quartier de Recouvrance, just as it was in the past. This used to be a run-down district of families of fishermen and naval dockyard workers.

Across the river is the Naval Museum. You can see if from the Tour Tanguy. We had purchased tickets to tour this museum but when we got there it was closed, because it was Wednesday. We were refunded the purchase. This was a great disappointment for Frank.

On our way back to our hotel we walked along the promenade named Cours Dajot. It was built on a cliff and is nearly 500 meters long bordered with elm trees. From there you can view the commercial port. Along the walk we came across the American Monument, also known as the Rose Tower, commemorating the reception of the Americans in World War I.
After our big lunch we settled for just some snacks at a bar close to our hotel. In this photo you can see Frank with a locally made beer and wild boar sausage. That was just perfect for him.
Frank, beer and wild boar sausage

Tracy’s House:
Joanne preparing the potatoes and leeks for vichyssoise
In 1910 the game of boules was developed in the town of La Ciotat. It is a type of lawn bowling also called pétanque. We walked pass many people playing this game and Frank was invited to play.


Attached is the photo where Frank not only played but won.

Lyon and Rhone-Alpes Condrieu Celebration

Some 40 years ago Joanne was at a weekly wine tasting and discovered the wine “Condrieu”.  At that time it cost $30 USD but for her it was the best white wine she had ever sipped.  For some 40 years it remained her favorite white wine.  So, for her 70th birthday she celebrated by traveling to Condrieu to sip more of her favorite wine.  Condrieu is in the Rhone Valley in east central France.  Lyon is the one of the largest cities in France and is located in the Rhone-Alpes region. It is located between the Soane and Rhone Rivers.  In 2018 Lyon will be named the Gastronomic Capital of France.  We were looking not only for good Rhone Valley wines but also a gastronomic experience.

Lyon is divided into Vieux Lyon, the old city center, on the River Saone and the newer current city center on the peninsula (Presqu’ile) at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers.  We had reservations in Vieux Lyon.  This area has a long and interesting history as it was the center of trading during the Renaissance ages and many of the buildings were constructed during the 16th century.

We flew into St. Exupéry Airport in Lyon and called an Uber driver who took us to Place du Change in Vieux Lyon. After sending a text message to Vincent at Mon Hotel Particuliere we were met by Sam and taken to our apartment on 20 Rue Juiverie, next to the famous watchmaker, Philippe Carry at L’Horloger de Saint Paul.  The apartment was on the fifth floor reached by passing through a beautiful entrance, through another door and up the elevator. It was a completely modernized apartment with full kitchen and even a washing machine.  And we felt quite secure with all the safety checks and the lock on our door. See the entrance, the locks on the door and the outside entrance, next door to the watchmaker.


Sam gave us a map and explained about places to visit and where to dine.  As it was time for an early evening meal we walked the cobbled streets until we found Le Rocambole, recommended by Sam.  It was located on Quai Romain Rolland.  We enjoyed a meal of moules (mussels) and a cheese plate with mercellin cheese complemented by a lovely Rosé.  We continued to stroll along the narrow streets and stopped to buy some food and wine for our apartment.  We were surprised how inexpensive it was.  As it had been a long day of travel we went to bed early.

The next morning Sam had told us that there would be a market day on both sides of the Saone River.  So we headed out early to cross the bridge Pont de la Feuillée. We first visited some of the tables on our side of the river and then crossed over to the other side.  We browsed many tables selling books and there was interesting book store across the street with murals of books up the four floors of the outside wall.

Find Frank?

We explored some of the streets in the neighborhood until we came to the Place des Terreaux, the main square of Lyon with the City Hall.  There was a big fountain installed on the terrace, but it was covered up for renovation.  We stopped in a patisserie and bought an éclair and croissant for our walk back.  After resting for a while, we stopped for a three course delicious lunch for two at La Chimere with a bottle of rosé for a total of 57 €. Then we walked to the Place Saint-Jean and stopped in front of the Saint Jean Cathedral to listen to some musicians. We were headed out to take the funicular up to Notre Dame but our plans changed and we crossed the Pont Bonaparte to Place Bellacour.  It is the third largest square in France.  Up further past this square was another square with an enormous sculpture of a tree of flowers.

On the way back to our place we stopped for a refreshment and then back to our grocery store for something light to eat.

$20.00 for all this!!

Monday, we went back to the metro stop at Saint Jean and rode the Funicular up to Fourviere.  Here we visited the Basilica of Notre-Dame.  There is another basilica underneath reached by a door on the right side in the middle of the church.  It has often been referred to as the upside-down elephant. Because of the four towers on the top basilica represent the legs of an elephant.  Outside you get a stunning view of Vieux Lyon.  Down the road we also visited the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre built in the second century. See the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_NotreDame_de_Fourvière  That afternoon we were scheduled to take a boat cruise which departs from the other side of the Saone on the Quai de Celestins.  We walked up the street from there and stopped at Le Bouchon Lustre.  Our waitress. Laura, just graduated from college in Marseilles and has an upcoming position as a translator in Bristol, England.  This is a bouchon, a family-run business specializing in Lyonnaise food. That means there are plenty of meats, salads, cheeses and desserts.  We ordered the plat du jour for each and a bottle of rosé for 33 € total !!

Our river cruise took us upriver to the Ile Barbe passing Vieux Lyon with view of the Basilique de Fourviere, L’Homme de la roche, and Fort Saint-Jean and back. We had a good time speaking with some of the people with a mix of Spanish and French.  We headed back towards our apartment walking the streets of Presqu’ile.  After crossing the bridge Pont de la Feuillee we stopped into an English bar. The bar was tended by English females which provided a lot of laughing and joking around.


The next day we planned on spending two hours with a Lyon Greeter that we had reserved before leaving home.  Lyon Greeters are volunteers that live in Lyon. We met her at the Tourism Office in Bellecour Plaza.  Her name was Michelle Rivot and she asked what we hadn’t seen yet.  We told her we have read about the traboules but hadn’t seen any. A traboule is a narrow passageway that connects two streets by crossing inside a block of houses.  That was fascinating and we could see how helpful it was for the Resistance during the wars.  She also brought us to Soierie Saint-Georges, a silk weaving workshop.  It is the last active one in Vieux Lyon.  There are others in Croix Rousse District which we were not going to have time to visit.  I did purchase two scarfs.

For more information and pictures click on the following link: https://www.yelp.com/biz/soieriesaintgeorgeslyon

From there we walked along Rue St. Jean over to the Quai and stopped for an ice cream cone.  The outside temperature that day was 90+F.(32C.). degrees.  We continued across the Pont de la Veuillee and walked along the river to reach the Tete d’Or Park.  Michelle showed us to the rose, (not to be confused with Rosé) garden and then she was off on a bicycle to another meeting.  She has also lived in Australia and her English was very good so she liked the opportunity to use it.  The park covers 117 hectares consisting of many paths around the central lake.  There is also a zoo and a botanical garden.  We continued to walk around the lake and stopped at a small restaurant for a glass of rosé to cool down.  From there we called for Uber to take us to Les Halles Lyon also now known as Halles Paul Bocuse.  This is Lyon’s famous indoor food market with 59 markets including bars, restaurants, chocolates, meats, cheeses, pastries and more.  This is named after Lyon’s son and famous Chef Paul Bocuse.  It even sells the famous white Bresse chickens and they are sold with the heads and feathers attached. See this site and then click on The Park: http://www.loisirsparcdelatetedor.com/en/

That evening we dined on canard (duck) for Frank and cod for Joanne.  A perfect ending to our stay in Lyon.

A bouchon is a type of restaurant found serving traditional Lyonnaise dishes such as andouillettes sausages, roast pork, chicken fricassee, St-Marcellin, a creamy and slightly tangy cow’s-milk.

The next morning, we called on Uber and got the same driver as yesterday.  He had a difficult time finding Hertz rental at Gare de Parrache as it was underground where the GPS doesn’t work.  We finally had to walk down the ramp where you would return the car. Then off we headed to the Southern Rhone in our new Citroen. Of course, if you are going to use a GPS you should remember to turn on the sound or you might travel a lot further than needed until realization hits you.  After half an hour Joanne said, “Why isn’t she talking?” Then we turned on the volume and retraced our route. We stopped at a pizza restaurant that made delicious pizza and we were able to watch it being made. Since the owner of Wine Passion Panoramic would not be available to let us in until she returned from work, we first found it and then returned to the village of Charvanay and walked around.  We found a Tabac that also had a bar with draft beer, called Bar Tabac Presse du Centre, and stopped there to cool off and quench our thirst.  The weather was hot in the 90’s.  We met Herve Bossy and continued to visit with him each afternoon.  A glass of wine was 1 euro and a biere was 1.3 euros.  There was another bar in town at the center called Bar Les Halles, but we preferred our friend Herve and his daughter.

For more information on the town Charvanay click on the link below and especially scroll down to the pictures.


Wine Passion Panoramic was a perfect name for this chambre d’hote.  It was at the top of a hill overlooking the town below and the surrounding vineyards. Visit the following website: http://www.winepassionpanoramic.webself.net/  We met Veronique but never Yvan as he was in the south of France working on another place they have.

That first night we had difficulty finding a restaurant as restaurants are closed on Wednesdays. We finally stopped into a gas station with a bar and restaurant, Relais St. Michel.  We ate a wonderful steak and fries with great wine.  We stopped at the bar after dinner and mingled with the local people from the village.  We enjoyed the wandering through the village.

Where is everyone?

Thursday, we visited the winery Vignobles Versier and had a nice tasting in the cellar with Maxime Verzier.  We purchased a bottle of Viognier & St. Joseph for 13.5 € and La MadoveBohème for 10€.  Condrieu is a wine made from the Viognier grape. From there we headed for our next winery, Montez du Monteillet and enjoyed our tasting with Julie. Of course, we are drinking Condrieu.

Frank: “Sorry, It was 95 outside!”

Visit our first winery at the following link and see the pictures of the second winery  http://en.condrieucoterotie.com/vignoblesverzier1.html

That same day we stopped at Relais du Pilat for a delightful and relaxing lunch of the plât du jour and a pichet of wine for 31.5€ again for both of us.  Our big meal of the day was always lunch.  We bought snacks of cheeses, a baguette, and fruits for the evenings.


Friday, we drove to Malleval, an attractive village in the Park naturel region of Pilat.  We drove a winding road to a village of stone buildings with a rail station and a stream.  The highest point was the church commanding a panoramic view of the area.  We tried to find the grenier à sel, the salt store but what we found was a deserted building for sale, a disappointment. In the photo beloe I am asking directions to the grenier.

The “only” person, to whom to ask directions, with my increasing French language skills?1!

For a nice picture of this village see the following site: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.pilatpatrimoines.fr/Communes/Malleval.html%3Fsubmited%3D1%253B&prev=search

We had a another delicious lunch this time at Le Péché du Pilat, probably our favorite lunch.  We ate the plât du jour with a pichet of vin pays and a glass of Syrah on the shady terrace.

The link will show pictures of this restaurant.


From there we drove on to Pelussin but was disappointed with that village.  I think we missed the Quartier de Virieu, which was the most interesting section, but we did not find it.  Shortly after we arrived back at Chavanay and stopped to see our friend Herve and his friends.

Our last day we first stopped to mail a package and post card at the post office.  It was exceptionally inexpensive.  Then we drove to the town of Condrieu.  On the way we passed many hillside vineyards with the names of the wine négociants (wine merchants who assemble the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name) such as E. Guigal, Paul Jaboulet and in such large stone signs.


We strolled through the town looking for a lunch restaurant. We stopped in a corner bar for a glass of wine and asked directions.  The restaurant recommended was closed, so we continued walking.  We stopped at the tourist office and was given the same name so we found our way back to the car and headed back to Chavanay.  We noticed the sign for Beau Rivage and turned in there.  This is a well known resort on the Rhone River and an exclusive restaurant.  We were seated to a four course lunch with white table cloths, various waiters, silver and crystal.  This was my birthday meal with Condrieu wine and it was worth the price of 108€.  Of course, on our way back we stopped to see Herve but it was his day off so his daughter ran it during the day and his wife at night.  Once we returned home we sent a postcard thanking them.

See the link for Beau Rivage:


The next morning we were off to Exupery Airport Lyon.  We had reservations for Hotel Forum which we realized was too far from the airport.  The girl at the Hertz counter got us reservations at NH Hotels in the airport which was a great choice and very first class for an airport hotel and she canceled our other reservation.   That was a very smart move as we had no boarding passes and would have to be at our gate at 5:15 a.m.  We had a delightful lunch at the hotel and then wandered around the airport so we would know where to go in the morning.  Pizza was our final meal in the airport.

Our trip home was uneventful.  We flew into Madrid and that airport was very easy to navigate.  Then we flew into Miami which was nice as we had our global entry card.  We arrived in St. Thomas at 8:30 p.m.

All in all, the trip was a great and uncomplicated endeavor to pull off. The driving on the country’s “D” routes was much less nerve wracking than say our “1200 miles powered by Guinness” Ireland trip of a couple years back.

It would have been nice to have a little more time to allow for hiking some trails but hopefully that future plan will not be too far off from now.

We may also mention how well Uber worked for us. St Thomas doesn’t allow Uber because of the strong Taxi Association and they don’t take credit cards. Modernization in St Thomas?? Ha! Their arrival time was usually inside a couple of minutes or so and very inexpensive compared to a taxi.

We carried our own GPS “Michelle” and we would highly recommend doing so if you are renting a car. Although the cars in Europe for the most part come equipped with one, we already had ours programed and did not have to figure out a system foreign to us.

We hope you enjoyed the journey!

Joanne and Frank



The Lot – 2014 France Travel

The Lot – 2014 France Travel • May 18, 2014 – June 1, 2014

Saturday May 18 we finished packing up the house in preparation for the bathroom and kitchen renovations. That night we stayed at Island View Guest House and had a wonderful dinner. Sunday morning we left St. Thomas behind and landed in Miami for a short layover giving us enough time to have a glass of wine with a light lunch. Since we had a four hour layover in Boston we decided to walk to terminal E which was a half mile on the inside to Air France.

It was a very cramped uncomfortable flight. Luckily since we were taking a domestic flight to Toulouse we did not have to suffer through the long lines at customs. It was a pleasant flight and we enjoyed seeing the countryside from the air. After renting our car from Hertz we drove to Valroufie to Maison Les Fraysses which is in the area called the Lot department of France. The directions from Booking.com took us right to our B&B. Since it had been 28 hours after leaving St. Thomas we were ready for a home cooked dinner. And it was wonderful. It was four courses consisting of fois gras, followed by white asparagus with Belgium version of mousseline sauce. By that time I was full but then came the main course of duck. The Malbec du Lot was a perfect match. The dessert was lemon custard with strawberries, which was thankfully put into the guest refrigerator to be eaten the next day.

When we arrived we were told that we had chosen the family room but since there were no other guests that week Yvette and Paul suggested that we might like the room below with its own private entrance and terrace. We took it. Everything had just been restored a few months earlier. And around the other side was an eat-in kitchen for guests only. It had everything you could want and we could have roasted a turkey if we felt like it.

Every morning Joanne would dial into work on the computer for an hour to answer emails and help with instructions as to what needed to be done. Then breakfast began at 8:00 a.m., not something to be missed. There were meats, fois gras, a variety of cheeses, fresh fruits, granola, and yogurt and of course, fresh that morning from the bakery, croissants and French bread. There were a variety of local jams and butter. The fresh squeezed orange juice came from Spanish oranges. With a couple cups of coffee we were set to plan our day. Paul and Yvette were very helpful in suggesting places to see and things to do. They even leant us their GPS and set it in English. That turned out to be very helpful and a lot of fun as we were led down small country roads past grazing sheep. In fact we had such fun going the way of the GPS route that we named it Annie. If she told us to take a left and we took the wrong turn she would tell us to turn around if there was not alternate route. However, she usually found an alternate route that took us past villages that most people never see.

Tuesday May 20 was our first venture. We drove into the town of Cahors. Lunch is only between noon and 2:00 p.m. and so since it was 1:30 we hurriedly found a restaurant that served the plat du jour, a large pork chop and winter squash with a bottle of rose. We had a visitor’s map of the city and located a lot of the secret gardens (28 in all). At Lafayette Plaza we took a picture of a monument to those who died defending the nation from 1870-1871. It was a curious statue of a soldier partially lying on his side with his arm outstretched holding a sword. After that we stopped at DeGaulle Plaza and visited the Resistance and Liberation Museum. We found the Post Office where we used the ATM which does not charge large fees. We reached the river where the Valentre Bridge crossed over the Lot River. During the endless wars with the British this bridge was fortified with three towers. There is a legend that states the architect sold his soul in return for Old Nick to bring him all the materials he needed. When the bridge was almost completed (taking 70 years from 1308-1378) he tricked the devil by asking him to bring him some water in a sieve. The devil got his revenge by pulling out a stone and no matter how many times it was replaced it would be gone by morning. The men who restored the bridge in 1879 added the little devil high up on the middle tower with his fingertips trapped forever between the stones. It was not easy but we found the devil. That deserved a glass of wine. Across the street from the bridge was a small restaurant and the owner was quite pleased to pour us a glass of wine. And that cost $.75 (in Euros about $1.00) per glass. We continued to walk back through the center of the city through Gambretta Plaza over the Amphitheater. Gambretta helped found the Third Republic in the 1870s and fought for fair elections and free universal educations. Cahors is a university town and also capital of The Lot. Finding a nice wine store, we purchased a nice bottle of Malbec and the owner suggested the best little place to buy a baguette sandwich. That made for a delightful small dinner back at our place.

Wednesday May 21 we headed east to the town of Figeac. This is the journey that took us through all the country roads. At one time the road being only meant for one car each car ended up having to drive part way up the side to get by. We stopped at the visitor center and got a map of the town with “keys” on the buildings for identification. Since it was starting to rain we popped into a delightful little restaurant. Joanne had moussaka and Frank had Quercynoise salad. Of course a pichet of rose went perfectly well with both meals and the French bread. That lunch was just long enough for the rain to pass by. We strolled up and down the winding roads admiring the architecture which was very much like in Tuscany. We visited Musee Champollion,a tribute to Jean-Francois Champollion who deciphered the Rosetta Stone. It is a four storied building dedicated to his life and works with a piece of the Rosetta stone and a section on the history of writing with artifacts from all over the world. There was also a museum of propellers but that was closed. We did some grocery shopping and stopped for a Pastis. On the way back we stopped at an out of the way restaurant and bar. Frank refreshed with a beer and of course I had a glass of wine. We even heard some English from a few Brits in there doing the same thing.

Yesterday Paul made reservations for us to visit Gouffre de Padirac, a chasm with an underground river. Viewed from above we see a huge opening in the earth forming the entrance to the underground caverns.
There are elevators that take you down 103 meters, however we missed the second two and walked down the metal stairs. From there we took a boat ride on the subterranean river. There are thirty boats and each boat carries 11 passengers and a guide (in French). We glide slowly over a distance of 500 meters beneath the high walls and arches. We notice some ferns growing here and there. There are some snails but they are totally blind and their colors make them invisible to our eyes. We then reach the Lake of Rain, and fortunately for us it was not heavily raining.

When the boat stops we walk along a path noticing the enormous stalagmites. Further on we come to an area with a lower ceiling but the river widens and the pools form dams from calcite deposits. We then retrace our steps by walking up a staircase until we reach a small lake in the Great Dome chamber, whose impressive ceiling rises up 94 meters above the level of the river. The scalloped edges of the lake are formed by falling drops of water laden with calcium carbonate. We continue up the path passing enormous stalactites and stalagmites on all sides. Footbridges bring us back to the level of the underground river and we are ferried back to the elevators. This time we took all of them up. Being lunch time we stopped at Les Visiteurs Restaurant and enjoyed duck confit and salad with, of course, a pichet of rose. From there we drove to Rocamadour. We visited the caves with drawing of hands, horses and elk on the walls. Rocamadour is a nearly vertical village built into the cliffside. It includes seven churches and chapels. We just walked around at the top and enjoyed the view. It was getting late so we had Annie (GPS) take us back.


We enjoyed a lovely Friday morning breakfast with Yvette and Paul. Then we took Annie and headed east to the picturesque village of Saint­ Cirq-Lapopie. It rises up a limestone cliff-face. We parked below and walked up to the village through the winding narrow roads. We passed half-timbered buildings, along narrow cobblestone passageways and up to the fortified Church at the top. There were many small restaurants to choose from and we walked up stairs to L’Oustal. That was probably Joanne’s favorite meal, a delicious trout. And they served our pichet of rose in an ice bag. It was a pretty pink plastic container with a handle and filled partially with ice in which the wine rested. The wine stayed cold and it did not drip. We wandered around the village and Joanne bought a blue hat. On the way back down to our, car we stopped in a little place for a hot chocolate.

We continued on to Chateau de Cenevieres. Paul had told us about the 94 year old gentleman, Mr. Guy de Braquilanges, who owns the castle. He opened the door after we rang the bell and “exuberantly” welcomed us in.
In fact Frank thought that he might have been left outside. Mr. Guy de Braquilanges pointed out the courtyard and explained the Renaissance architecture. This chateau is also built above a cliff. More tourists arrived and we were welcomed to join the tour. One of the most interesting rooms was the Cabinet d’Alchemie, painted with pictures of gods and mythological heroes, such as Artemis, Orpheus, Atlas, Achilles, and Hercules. We also saw the torture chamber and next to that a secret Protestant chapel. We spoke with his son who will continue to run this chateau. Not only do they give tours but also host events and dress in the fashion of the century. This chateau has been in the family since 1793. We left and stopped in St. Gery for a glass of wine on our way back.

Today is Saturday and we thought that since we have been visiting sites to the east we would go west through the vineyards famous for Malbec wines. Our first stop was at Chateau de Mercues overlooking the Lot Valley. We walked around the gardens and took in the fabulous view. Then we entered the winery and was given a tour in English. We tasted some delicious wines both white and red and of course bought a bottle.

Joanne also found her wine Ice Bag and bought one as a present for a close friend who enjoys white wine. We stopped at the Danish Prince winery at Chateau de Cayx but they were closed since it was lunch time so we stopped nearby in Luzech and ate an enjoyable lunch of steak pomme trites. We continued along the river and drove up to Balaye for a panoramic view of the Lot vignerons. We had been driving along the Lot River on the south side of the river stopping at various wineries but they were all closed on the weekend so we headed back on the north side of the river. We stopped in the lovely town of Puy l’Eveque where we passed an old train tunnel. It was now a store selling wines. We had fun trying to communicate with an elderly lady who spoke no English. We finally figured it out after a lot of laughs that if we had our own jug she could have filled it up like at a gas station. She gave us a tasting glass of Malbec and then sold us that bottle at a discounted amount. It was 6.70 Euros and she sold it to us for 5.00 Euros. We stopped in Cahors at Cocoon, near one of the secret gardens, and relaxed with a glass of pastis. It was getting cool and near the time when they start cooking so we moved inside for a pichet of vin rouge and an appetizer. A young man arrived and sat at the piano next to our table and started playing old Elton John music. It was then time to head back to our home.

Sunday we let Annie take us to Pech Merle. “In the lower third of France is a southern Latin culture called langue d’oc or occitan. Pech is the French writing of the occitan word pueg which means: a hill.” The Pech Merle cave is a large cave with wall drawings of animals, such as horses, bison and mammoths dating back possibly 20,000 years. The red color was iron oxide and the black was manganese oxide. There were also footprints of a young lad going in different directions, a stenciled hand print in red, a dotted horse and cave pearls. The water falls from an opening in the ceiling during heavy rainfalls. This intermittent waterfall carries with it sand and gravels. When these are trapped in small cavities in the pool, they are coated with calcite while they are polished by the action of the running water. The tours consist of no more than twenty visitors at a time. We are guided through seven halls where the lights are turned on and off as we enter and exit each area. We got there a little bit early and so bought a light lunch at the concession stand. After the tour we visited the museum.


Since it was still early we decided to continue in this easterly direction along the Cele river. There was a crazy museum that we had to stop at. The owner collects junk and makes some very bizarre objects from them. We stopped at the lovely village of Marcilhac-sur- Cele and walked past the ruins of the Abbey which was built in the 10th century and thrived until the Hundred Years War in 1356. We also strolled up and down the narrow roads. Seeing a restaurant called Bar Restaurant Des Tourists we had to stop in at the outdoor cafe. We sipped on a nice rose and asked the owner if she knew the name of the flowers on our table, they looked like large blue bells. It wasn’t that important but she asked everyone around what it
could be. One lady spoke English and she was possibly the daughter, but it was never identified. Annie led us home and we ate a light meal in the guest kitchen.

Monday morning was cold and rainy. We decided to head southwest and set Annie to take us to Castlenau Montratier. In the central plaza we found a couple of restaurants and stopped in at Le Bardouquet. Frank tried the Grimbergen Red beer which was red and tasted like there might have been a little red wine mixed in. For the wine with dinner we selected Hautmontlong which was a delightful white wine and it went very nicely with my hake and even with Frank’s lamb chops. When we left the restaurant it had stopped raining so we walked up to the church that had domes instead of spires. On the way home we stopped in at Cahors where our new Belgian tour director acquaintance was every afternoon. We had fun looking up the Virgin Islands on the internet. Paul and Yvette asked if we would like to have dinner at Les Maison Fraysses that evening. There was a couple from Montreal arriving and thought we might all have an enjoyable meal together. And we did.

Tuesday we drove again west along the Lot River. We stopped for lunch at Puy l’Eveque. Frank ate ham and lentil stew and I ate a zucchini quiche and of course our pichet of rose complimented both meals. After we finished our meal we walked up to the central plaza. It had been market day but all the stalls were being taken down so we just roamed around the village. After wandering up and down this hilly village we drove on to visit Chateau de Bonaquil. This chateau was a fortified castle built in the 13th century on a steep rocky promontory. Berenger de Roquefeuil (1448-1530) spent thirty years equipping it with a barbican (thick walled main entrance), several towers, a chicane (passage and trap between terrace and tower), seven drawbridges, a casemate (long underground corridor), cannon ports and caponiere (defense work) with loopholes which provided a more incisive defense than the moats. The castle was altered again in the second half of the 18th century by Marguerite de Fumel. She created an esplanade, got rid of the drawbridges and fitted out the lord’s apartments according to the style of the times. She died just before the French Revolution. Then a law of 1793 ordered the leveling of the dwellings down to the heights of the main buildings and the dismantlement of the towers.

The place was ransacked and left to ruin. We spent about an hour walking through the barbican, the main entrance, with a map showing us the pigeon house, the lower courtyard, the bakery, the spiral vault, the long underground corridor, the great tower, the kitchens, the Great Hall and other rooms and terraces. There was a little bar and restaurant located on our way back down to the car and so we stopped in for wine for Joanne and a Leffe beer for Frank.
We slowly drove back stopping to walk around the towns of Frayssinet-de­ galat and Thedirac. It was like these towns were deserted, lovely but we never saw any people. Once again we stopped in Cahors at Vin Bar for a glass of wine. We purchased a bottle of Malbec and a sandwich to take back to our place for a light meal in our guest kitchen.

On Wednesday we had enjoyable company for breakfast, friends of Paul and Yvette from Belgium. They were going biking along the vineyards and we decided to head southeast. We stopped in Aujols where we discovered the lavoirs around a pond. These were slanting v-shaped stone structures where each woman would stand on the higher end facing each other so they could converse while scrubbing the clothes. The next stop was in Laburgade where we came across a field with about ten stone wells very close to each other. Each one had a stone cover and a door with a lock on it. We stopped in Lalbenque for lunch at Le Bistronome and ate a fabulous veal stew with carrots and of course a pichet of rose.


Next we visited Phosphatiere du Cloup D’Aural. There was a farmer who had better crops than his neighbors. It was discovered that his farm was built over caves of phosphate. The caves were then mined. We took a guided tour past the area where the mines were set up with the rail tracks for transporting the phosphate. We descended into the caves and noted the tropical flora and fossil bones. We continued east until we reached Limogne-en-Quercy where we took a rest at a cafe in the center of town and sipped on a Pastis. Since it was getting late we headed back to Cahors to buy a bottle of Malbec and a sandwich for our picnic at home.

Today we headed out of The Lot northwest to Dordogne. Still in The Lot we stopped at Gourdon, a pleasant little village set on a hill that can be seen from miles around. It was Ascension Day and people were just leaving St. Pierre’s Church. We wandered through some of the narrow streets with medieval houses and shops below the church and then stopped for a glass of Malbec before continuing. The bathroom was down a set of rickety wooden stairs in a dirt floored basement! It was very clean however.

Crossing into the Dordogne department we stopped at Sarlat-la-Caneda and got lucky with finding a place to park on one of the side streets. Being a holiday there was a big exposition in the central plaza with wandering musicians. There were very many restaurants to choose from and we found one with an empty table outside. Joanne had a yummy fish and Frank had duck confit and of course a pichet of wine and each dinner was only 11Euros which included the wine. We finally met some Americans at the table next to us. They were from New Jersey. We joined the crowds and walked down the Rue de la Republic through the center admiring all the fresh foods, meats, cheeses, fois gras, nuts, etc.

We did not have time to do any sightseeing of this beautiful town, so we found our car and headed back over the Dordogne River and stopped at the village of Domme. The town is a bastide (fortified town laid out according to law) with honey colored stone and brown roof tiled buildings high up on a hill with fortified walls and gateways into the town. We were again lucky with finding a parking place and then walked up the hill and the stairs into the main square. We stopped at Bar le Medieval and Frank had a beer and of course Joanne had a glass of rose while watching the tourist train and many motorcycles passing through. We walked up the main street, found a wine shop and bought a bottle of Chateau Court-Les-Muts 2011. At the top of the town is a park area with a panoramic view of the Dordogne Valley. We stopped at Cahors to have a drink with the Belgian tour guide and to purchase some cheese at Les Halles.

Being our last day at Maison Les Fraysses we took it easy. After breakfast we strolled around the neighborhood streets. We made ourselves a picnic lunch with our bottle of white wine, our Pyrenee Vache cheese and fresh bread on our terrace under the open umbrella. It was a very enjoyable warm sunny day. At 5:30 we drove into Cahors. We met the Belgian tour guide in Bar du Centre, stopped at the bar where the young men are always playing cards for a wine and then went to our favorite bar/restaurant Vin Bar D’Ousil. Joanne ordered coq au vin and Frank ordered canard with cepes. They were both delicious and were complimented by a bottle of Cahors Malbec.

Today is Saturday and we are leaving our new friends Yvette and Paul and driving to Toulouse. Some buildings in the city reminded us of the buildings in Paris but otherwise it was not a pretty city. The Saint Sernin Basilica was majestic, an impressive sight. We walked around a little and stopped in at Taverna Bavaroise for lunch. We each ordered the plat du jour of fish, rose and coffee with dessert for a total of 29.20 Euros. Toulouse is a very confusing town to navigate. The airport is called Bagnac but there is also a town called Bagnac and the directions did not say whether we were headed to the airport or not but we finally found it.

What we did not find was a gas station so we brought the car back nearly empty. We had reservations at Radisson Blu and it was in walking distance. After a brief rest we went to the bar and had some white wine for Joanne and draft beer for Frank and ordered some appetizers and went to bed early.
Sunday morning we awoke at 3:00 a.m. and took a shuttle to the airport for a 6:00 a.m. flight to Amsterdam on KLM. Schiphol airport was very confusing. There was no sign to tell you what gate we needed to get to. We finally found an information booth to help us. Inside our terminal the airport is like a big shopping mall. And it was crowded. We finally found an Irish pub for a beer and a Bloody Mary while waiting to board. We took Delta to Boston. That was the most pleasant flight. The food and drinks were good and the seats were comfortable. We arrived in Boston at 12:30.


Paul and Yvette Geerts-Baeten Maison Les Fraysses
Les Fraysses Constans 46090 Valroufie