I have always enjoyed traveling, even if it meant sleeping in a tent when I was younger. I prefer hotels and cruise cabins now, but the motivation is the same...an adventure waiting to happen. Sometimes you will find me traveling with my husband and/or family. Sometimes I will travel alone, and sometimes I will travel with friends. I hope you find it entertaining to keep up to date with me as I explore the world around me. Warning...I like to take pictures of food so don't read if you're hungry. More adventures await...see ya soon...Amy.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

France: Last Morning in Paris

We are leaving to go home this afternoon so we only have a morning to see what we haven't seen and purchase anything we have left to purchase. Unfortunately it was raining this morning so we had to pull out the umbrellas. We walked to the Seine to catch the metro so we could see more around our hotel. We walked across the Pont des Arts bridge which is the original love locks bridge. Apparently the weight of the locks was damaging the pedestrian bridge so all of the locks have been removed and the panels replaced with ugly painted panels. They are supposed to replace the panels with plexiglass. What is amazing to me are the locks still locked onto anything that could be found along the bridge and the ends of the bridge. Our locks are on the "other" lock bridge and who knows how long they will be allowed to stay. Some of the panels on that bridge have already been replaced with plexiglass. Anyway the station we were going to use is under renovation so we walked along the Louvre to find another one. We also slipped into the courtyard of the Louvre so Hallie could see the glass pyramid inside. We traveled by Metro to the Champs Elysee so we could walk down to the Arc du Triomphe. We hoped the rain would stop so we could climb the stairs for the view, but that didn't happen. After seeing the Arc du Triomphe, we went back to the hotel to finish our packing and check out of the hotel. We still had some time before our transfer picked us up so we stored our bags at the hotel and walked down the street to find a crepery. We found a wonderful little place with delicious crepes and decaf coffee (deca cafe creme) for a great snack before heading to the airport. I slipped into Laduree at the last minute for some macarons to take home and then we were off to the airport. Our travel home was uneventful, thank goodness, and we had a wonderful trip!

Friday, September 11, 2015

France: Third Day in Paris

Today was our latest day yet to get a start on the morning. We ate breakfast at 9! With such a late night last night, we felt like we needed a little more sleeping time. We ate breakfast at the hotel again and then set out for Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris and has a waiting list to get in! It was crazy how crowded together the grave sites are. We used the Rick Steves guide to the cemetery to tour it. We could have spent hours getting lost in it, but this guide took us to a few popular graves with stories about the occupants. Some of the graves we visited were Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Jim Morrison from The Doors, and Chopin. We also spent some time at the WWII memorials to the Jews at the concentration camps. By the time we finished the tour, it was time for lunch so we ate at a local place nearby. We have found that none of our lunches have been quick but I think I remember that from past trips. The French apparently like to have leisurely lunches. It probably helps with the digestion. After lunch we took the metro to see "Hallie's bridge", aka Pont Alexandre III. She has a photo of this bridge as the background on her computer and has always wanted to stand in the spot where the picture was taken. We were able to find that spot and she is now content. At this point, Danny and Noah separated from us to go to Les Invalides to tour the French Military museum. Hallie and I went back to Galleries Lafayette to do a little shopping and then to City Pharma, the BIG pharmacy here to do some discount pharmacy beauty product shopping. This was a highlight of my trip as I get to refill all the wonderful products I use at home that are 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. I also picked up a new perfume by Sisley while at Galleries Lafayette. After shopping we came back to the hotel and rested before dinner at Relais de l'entrecote. It is still a favorite with it's steak, frites and special sauce. After dinner we made a few last minute grocery purchases and then we went to Trocadero to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle. It was a magical moment. So tomorrow we will fly back home but not until after lunch. In the morning we hope to get to Arc du Triomphe to see that landmark. So until tomorrow...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

France: Second day in Paris

We slept a little bit later this morning, but still made it down to breakfast at 8:15. This hotel had a delicious breakfast with cooked to order eggs which was a nice treat. We had a lot to see today and were able to see all of it, with time to spare before meeting Vincent for dinner. We went to the Eiffel Tower and then to Galleries Lafayette. We went to the roof of Galleries Lafayette to see the view of the city. We bought our Pierre Herme macarons there as well. We ate lunch at a nearby brasserie, Le Marquie. I enjoy french onion soup and eat it everywhere I can while I am here. This was not my favorite as it was very salty and not very much cheese, but I was hungry and ate every last bit of it. We ate a couple of macarons and then rode the metro to Ile St. Louis for our real dessert, Berthillon ice cream. Bertillon serves little tiny scoops so we each got two scoops. I had chocolat and salted caramel, Danny had passion fruit sorbet and chocolat, Noah had salted caramel and honey nougat, and Hallie had chocolat and hazelnut. They were all so very good. Tres bien!! We walked over to the Pont de l’Archeveche to see if our love lock was still there and to let Noah and Hallie secure theirs. We had seen a report that locks had been taken off of the bridge and that glass panels had replaced sections. To our surprise, our lock, the lock of our friends the Bristers and also Ben and Ashley’s lock was still there!! Hallie and Noah were able to hook their lock to Ben and Ashley’s since ours was buried underneath. They then kissed each other and threw their key into the Seine. There have got to be a million keys down there! From there we walked to Saint Chapelle which was at the top of Hallie's list of things to do in Paris. She studied about it in her French history class. The last time I was there, the glass was under restoration and now it is complete. The windows are stunning. While we were in line for security, Danny met a man whose father also served in WWII. They shared stories about their fathers which helped to pas the time. This man was in France touring some of the places his father had fought in as well as having a vacation with his family. After this we came back to the hotel to rest before dinner. Hallie and I had one chocolate shop left to visit and found it easily. We had dinner at Vincent and Sophie's with their children except for Axelle. Laurene and Benjamin also joined us again. Apolline prepared our meal for us of Chicken with olives and roasted potatoes. It was very delicious. For an appetizer before dinner, Augustin made stuffed mushrooms with goat cheese. Danny said they were delicious too. Albane made chocolate chip cookies for our dessert to accompany the pastries Sophie purchased. Everything was wonderful.  All of Sophie's children enjoy cooking and have been cooking at a young age. I think this is fantastic! Hallie didn't feel well during dinner but we gave her some medicine and after awhile she was able to rejoin us. Vincent drove us home so we could see some of the city lights. It was after midnight when we arrived at the hotel but we didn't mind as we were enjoying our time with family. We enjoyed it so much we forgot to take any pictures!!!! We will sleep a little later in the morning before we begin our last full day in Paris. Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

France: First Day in Paris

Once again, we had a very early morning. Our train was departing at 8:30 but Danny had to bring the rental car back to the rental car company. In order to do this, he would need to drop us at the train station, enlist the help of Marie-Francoise to meet him at the rental car place and to take him back to the train station. We have done this so many times that it has become a routine! We needed an early breakfast and decided to purchase something at the patisserie to eat on the train. We asked what time they opened and they said 7:00 a.m. so we were at the door at 7:00 a.m. but they were not open. After several minutes, Hallie realized that the sticker that stated their hours also stated that they were closed on Wednesday and today is Wednesday. So back to the hotel we went to quickly eat from their breakfast buffet. Marie-Noelle stayed at the train station with us and visited while Danny took care of the rental car with Marie-Francoise. Our train arrived on time and everyone except me napped on the two hour train ride to Paris. We rode the metro from the train station to the metro stop that is a couple of blocks from our hotel. There is a lot of construction in the station and we had to use our metro ticket several times as we moved within the station. We also had to show our tickets to exit the station. This is very odd for us but we think it has something to do with the construction. We checked into the hotel and were delighted that our rooms were ready. After taking a few minutes to settle in, we went across the street to Laduree and made our first purchase...macarons!! We committed not to eat them until after lunch and we kept our promise. Lunch was across the street from Laduree at Le Pre Aux Clercs. We enjoyed our meal, especially those who got anything with goat cheese. After lunch we hit the streets of Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter. We bought french cheese and chocolate and we wandered in and out of stores. We saw Dali's sundial on a building in Saint Germain and also Saint Severin and Saint Sulpice churches. We also found the oldest tree in Paris! After walking all afternoon, we came back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and wait for Vincent to pick us up. We ate supper at Au Pere Louis which is located across the street from Axelle's school. Joining us tonight were Vincent, Sophie, Axelle, Laurene and Benjamin. Laurene and Benjamin are expecting a baby in February and we couldn't be more thrilled! Our dinner was delicious, especially the deconstructed Lemon Tart that I had for dessert. We said goodbye after dinner and are back to the hotel at midnight. We will get a little later start in the morning to compensate, but we still have a lot to see and do tomorrow. So until tomorrow....

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

France: Mont St. Michel, the American Cemetery and family time

This morning we woke early because we had a lot to fit in today and wanted plenty of time to enjoy the day. We ate a delicious breakfast here at the hotel and then drove an hour and a half to Mont St Michel. Mont St Michel is one of France’s most recognizable landmarks and is also a World Heritage Site. It is a commune located on an island that is completely surrounded by water at high tide and stands alone during low tide. When we went there in 2004, we were able to drive right up to it. Today you have to park at a designated area several kilometers away and ride a shuttle to it. This is the description from Wikipedia, "The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey, and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen's and farmers' housing.” Currently 45-50 people actually reside year round on the island. There are lots and lots of steps circling upwards as you climb all the way up to the abbey. We spent a couple of hours there touring the structures and then bought a delicious lunch from a vendor to take away and picnic in the car. We then drove to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. This is located just outside of Bayeux. We watched a film in the visitor’s center that gave some insight into 5 of the soldiers that died during the invasion of Normandy. There are 9,387 soldiers buried there and the names of 1,557 missing in action that are engraved on a wall. It is such a sobering site and the movie only made the people more real. It is so easy to be “removed” from the horror and pain of war when you are not directly fighting in it or have loved ones fighting in it. Seeing the thousands of crosses makes me so proud of the servicemen who died fighting to liberate Europe. We were able to walk down on Omaha Beach as well. We were not able to the last time we were here as it was restricted. After our visit to the cemetery we went back to Bayeux and found a local Patisserie for a snack. We ate supper tonight with our family from Bayeux…Tonton Jean, Marie-Noelle, Marie-Francoise, Marie-Helene, Albert, Noami, and Alice! We ate at L’angle Saint Laurent, a restaurant right around the corner from our hotel. It was delicious!! I think the only thing I did not like was the Foie Gras but that is no surprise to me. We had a choice of Veal or Bass so for me it was the Veal. We also had cheese and I chose a cheese from Normandy and not the Munster! I did eat some of the cheese even though they are usually “barnyardy” tasting to me. This one was mildly so. My dessert was Fontainebleau Strawberries which was strawberries with a a mildly sweetened cream. It might have even been cream fraiche, I’m not sure. It was very good and not very sweet. Hallie did not want the strawberries or pears on the menu, and the hostess gave her a special dessert of three scoops of chocolate ice cream. Had I known that she would get special treatment, I might have rejected the original desserts as well. We were all pleased with our meal, but most importantly we were pleased to share the meal with our family. It amazes me how fast the children grow! Naomi is 18 years old and moving on Thursday to Belgium where she won a lottery to study genetics. Alice is 13 and will now be home alone with her parents. Marie-Francoise cares for the elderly in their homes, much like our home health care. Marie-Noelle is retired. We learned that Albert enjoys fishing for Bass, much like my father. It was an enjoyable evening and I am so glad that we could make it all work out. Tomorrow we leave early for Paris where we will stay for 3 nights. Maybe we will unpack a little, we shall see. Until tomorrow….

Monday, September 7, 2015

France: Arrival in Bayeux

It was another early morning for us so that we could eat a good breakfast before traveling by car to Le Mans and then to Bayeux. Other than construction on the autoroute (interstate) which required some rerouting, our travel was uneventful. We even enjoyed the alternate route as we had to exit the autoroute and drive through little towns on our way to reconnect with the autoroute. We decided that we had the best of both worlds in our driving experience today. We arrived in Le Mans at lunch time and picked up Marie-Noelle. We ate lunch at the Novotel and had a very nice meal. Hallie, Noah and I ate Magret de Canard (duck breast) which was good but Hallie's Pepper sauce was better than the Bearnaise that Noah and I ordered for this dish. Danny ate a club sandwich. We took Marie-Noelle back to her home to collect her cell phone and then we drove on to Bayeux. We arrived in Bayeux in time to visit with both of Danny's aunts. Tata Renee is staying at a nursing home that is within walking distance of our hotel so Marie-Francoise met us at the hotel and walked with us to visit. Tata Renee no longer knows us and has also had a stroke so we did not expect much of a response from her. We were pleased that she opened her eyes and looked at us since she was asleep when we arrived. We had a short visit and walked back to the hotel to drive to where Tata mimi and Tonton Jean live. They have recently sold their family home after moving into an assisted living facility. The facility is very clean and they are well cared for. Tonton Jean greeted us with a giant smile and laugh. He is 92 years old! We were surprised at his age as he appears younger than that. Tata Mimi does not know us anymore and is very quiet but she looked at us intently as if trying to figure out who we were. Marie-Francoise showed us the wedding pictures of Marie-Noelle's son Fabrice to his wife Anna. Marie-Noelle also has a new grandson named Lucien whose parents are Fabrice and Anna. He is a real cutie! After our visit, we returned to the hotel and took a walk to see the beautiful Cathedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux. I have been there several times and never tire of seeing it's stunning green domed top! There was a service in progress inside so we were quiet as we moved around and looked. This Cathedral was a favorite of Tata Renee and I always think of her looking out of her window at it when I see it. We ate supper at Le Garde Manger, located around the corner from the hotel, and enjoyed our meal. Danny ate Camembert with Calvados and Chicken with a cream sauce. I also had the Chicken and the French Onion Soup. Noah ate French Onion Soup and Tagliatelle Carbonara. Hallie had a Caesar salad with a very very strong anchovie dressing. None of us could eat it as the dressing was so strong and fishy. She also had buckwheat pancakes with camembert and andouille sausage that she said was delicious.  She had apple tart for dessert, Noah had creme brulee and Danny and I had Moelleux au chocolat. Tomorrow we have another early day and I'm afraid they will probably all be early as we try to fit in our plans. So far we are managing pretty well with that plan. Until tomorrow....

Sunday, September 6, 2015

France: A day in Limoges

We all had a very restful sleep last night. We had a full day scheduled and had an early breakfast here in the hotel. Cathy collected us at 8:30 a.m. to go to Oradour sur Glaine. It is a small village town that was massacred during WWII by the Germans. There was no reason other than to send a message of what could happen if they were met with resistance while in France. The German army came in, separated the men from the women and children and then received orders to kill everyone. The men were shot and the women and children were placed in the church and the church was set on fire. A couple of men escaped with their lives, but only one woman. The entire village was burned to the ground. Today, there is a memorial museum that was very interesting and the village is standing as a memorial to those who were lost. The village was rebuilt nearby but it is very difficult for the inhabitants as the reminder of what happened is very close. When the people were killed and then burned, most of the bones were swept together in a pile to be buried. Because of this, the bones were unable to be identified and have been buried all together in a mass memorial grave in the cemetery. It is very, very sad to go there but something that needs to be remembered. We left Oradour sur Glaine and drove to Christophe and Patricia's house for lunch. We were greeted with Champagne and appetizers. Patricia served us tuna on bread, canteloupe, and pistachios. Christophe is a connoisseur of wine and always has the best selections. The Champagne we were served is probably my favorite champagne that I have ever had. I made sure to take a picture of the label in case I needed to try and find it in the U.S.. We visited and caught up on everyone's news. We are so surprised that Martin and Marion have grown up so much. Martin is 16 and taking his driver's education course. He cannot get a license until 18 but can drive with his parents. He would like to major in Agriculture one day. Marion is 14 and a budding artist. She would like to use her talents to study Architecture. For lunch we had Coquilles Saint Jacques which is Scallops with a leek and lemon sauce, Veal with a cream sauce, and Haricot Vert (green beans). Everything was fantastic! With that we were served a white wine with the scallops and a red wine with the veal. The cheese course was next. The cheeses were goat and sheep cheese which I am not fond of but Danny, Noah, and Hallie found several that they liked. I don't remember which wine was served with the cheese but it was good. The last course was dessert and what a treat! Marion made Moelleux au chocolat in tiny portions which looked like brownie bites but were little moist pieces of yumminess! She shared her recipe with me which is written in french so I will need a little interpretation! They also had a variety platter of sweets which were delicious but we all agreed that Marion's chocolate cakes were the best! Oh, and Christophe served a very good Sauterne wine with dessert that was also very good. After lunch we drove with Tonton Michel to visit with Tata Francois. She is in a nursing home facility because of problems with her health and memory.  She still has her beautiful smile and she remembered who we were. She seemed genuinely happy to see us and we enjoyed our time with her. We then drove to Cathy's house where she had prepared some light refreshments for us. We were joined by Christophe and his family for more visiting. We sat outside of Cathy's new house as the weather has been cool and clear. For dinner, we went to Tonton Michel's house where he prepared one of his "specialties". It was a very well seasoned ground meat dish served in tomatoes and all of it was roasted in the oven. He served it with rice and it was so delicious! I believe I will ask Cathy if he will share the recipe! Christophe shared two more wines with us and I can honestly say that everything he poured for us was wonderful. The cheese course that followed dinner contained very strong cheeses from around the different regions of France. Danny and Noah enjoyed tasting the different ones, but Hallie and I did not have the fromage. Tonton Michel knows that I like chocolat and he purchased a cake with 3 different chocolate mousse layers. I know I keep saying that everything was delicious but everything truly was delicious! We have enjoyed seeing and visiting with our French family. They are so special to us and a beautiful reminder of Danny's mother, Marguerite. We are also delighted that they practice their English with us as we do not know very much French. They do a really great job and when in doubt we have the dictionary and Google translate. So tomorrow we will leave our Limoges family and travel to Bayeux. We will stop in Le Mans along the way and pick up cousin Marie Noelle. So until tomorrow...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

France: First Stop...Limoges

Danny and I decided years ago that we wanted to be sure that at some point, our children were able to go to France and meet their french cousins (and aunts and uncles). Danny’s aunts are in bad health and won’t remember our kids but we are certain that our kids will remember the visit. We had the privilege of taking Ben and his wife Ashley three years ago and today we began another adventure with Hallie and her husband Noah. I can honestly say that this is the first time that I have had an uneventful and completely on time Delta Airlines experience so yay Delta! We arrived in Paris around 6:30 this morning and had an unusually long time to wait in customs. Our luggage was within the first 5-10 bags off the airplane. Again, yay Delta! We got a taxi big enough for four by standing in the taxi line outside of the airport. It moved very quickly. I just don’t trust the “taxi hawkers” parked and pleading as you go to get your bags. We drove straight to the train station and with 30 minutes to spare we were able to get our first french pain au chocolat of the trip in a bag to go before we moved quickly onto the train. The train travel from Paris to Limoges took about 3.5 hours and was also uneventful and on time! We were met at the train station by our cousins Cathy and Christophe. Cathy gathered Danny and Noah and took them to the airport to rent our car that we will use when we go to Bayeux. Christophe took Hallie and me to the hotel where we had hoped to check in early but our rooms were not ready. Hallie and I left our bags at the front desk and went immediately to Monoprix to have a look around. As I’ve mentioned before, Monoprix is like our version of a super Target only a good bit smaller. There is a little bit of everything except for housewares. At least this Monoprix did not have housewares. Hallie has a passion for KitKats made in the UK and Danny and I always try to find them for her when we travel overseas. She insisted on buying the first package she saw just in case she couldn’t find any more. They really do have a different tasting chocolate than the ones at home. The M&M’s are different too and in this case, I prefer the ones at home to the darker tasting chocolate of the ones here.  Hallie and I went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and wait for Danny and Noah to come back from the rental car place. Danny is driving a Ford diesel manual transmission mini van for us. Noah remarked that you just won’t find that combination in the States. At least in France they drive on the correct side of the road. We left the hotel with the men to begin wandering the city and doing our best to stay awake. After many years of doing this, Danny and I know that the worst thing you can do to help with jet lag is to give in and take a nap. We stay up and out in the sunshine for as much of the day as we can and then when we go to sleep at a decent hour, we take a melatonin to help reset our system and sleep away. We found my favorite chocolate shop here, Buissierie and looked for the “creepy baby faces” that we saw last year. We visited the Cathedral Saint Elienne today as well. We had to wait awhile to go in because of a wedding ceremony but it was really cool to see a lovely french bride and her new husband outside the church later. So basically we just walked and walked and walked until it was time for dinner. We revisited Le Chalet, a place we have been to a couple of times and it did not disappoint. We all agreed that Noah’s dish of Veal Cordon Bleu took the prize for the best tasting even though we all liked our dishes very much. Danny got Duck Confit, I had an EntrecĂ´te Steak, and Hallie had Magret de Canard (duck breast). Hallie won the prize for the best dessert and also the funniest dessert. She ordered Chocolate Mousse and was presented with a giant bowl with a giant spoon that a couple of people had already been served from! Noah had Tarte Tatin, Danny had Creme Caramel and I had Profiteroles. I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard so I will leave you for now. Tomorrow we spend the day with our family. We are very excited. Until then…..