The going from Base Comeau, Quebec had been slow to Labrador City, Labrador and did not change on the way to Goose Bay, Labrador. (1,115 km or 692 miles) Potholes, washboard, and muddy roads combined with workers and stop signs and red/green lights constantly caused us to stop or slow down. Patience was becoming a thing of the past, which resulted in pulling over around 2:00pm at a rest stop which had nature walk to Hamilton Falls. Continue reading
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The GPS had been set to avoid highways and toll roads and what a journey that made from Bishop, CA to Pacific City, OR. I drove through four seasons in two days: snow in the Sierra Nevadas and the road to Lassen Volcanic Park had a CLOSED sign due to snow; spring wind & summer’s driving rain in southern Oregon; sat on a bench in the sun on a bench in Coos Bay, Oregon. Continue reading
Au revoir, France…..
I saw leaves turn yellow and carpet the orchards’ ground, trees pruned and left to wait out the cold winter months, and greenhouses filled with lettuce slowly emptying to provide greens for the village markets this winter. My village status changed from tourist to inhabitant when the grocery store clerk asked me when I was going to get my discount card -“vous économiserez de l’argent, madame” (save money, madame). When the bus drivers greeted me with “St. Remy, madame?” or “Avignon, madame?”, a comfort level settled over me like that first cup of morning coffee. The dog stopped barking at me every morning, the horses followed me in hopes of a treat as I walked thru the pasture, I navigated the streets with confidence, saw progress in winterizing the orchards’ trees, and the days began to flow one into another with living life’s routine. Eventually, the museums, historical sites and other tourist attractions became a non-entity in life, day-to-day living seeped in, and before I knew it, Rognonas was my home. I have lived here for three months now, and it has given me a window into life in France.
I rode the bus, recently, to the market in St. Remy. Again, I marveled at the passengers and bus driver’s patience when we stopped for 3-5 minutes in the middle of the road behind a taxi driver asking directions from a passing pedestrian. Amidst hand gesticulations from taxi driver and pedestrian looking at the village map, the bus driver sorted out her change while we all waited for the taxi to move along. The minutes inched by and, eventually, the taxi continued on down the street.. This 5 minute photo summed up my experience with village life in Provence. Live your days with good food & wine, enjoy friends, remembert the stores close from 12 – 2 or so for lunch, purchase fresh vegetables, cheese and meat at village markets, fill your wine container from the local distributor once a week, ride bicycles at a leisurely pace through town, have patience with people, and listen to the church bells. ….I learned about “the life” that happens around the grocery store check-out line. Some stores have check out lines for elderly people and if you are in that line, “seniors” can go in front of you at any time. Or, there is the person who searches for the checkbook, then the pen, positions the check just-so, writes a check, asks 6 different times the correct amount, chats about the grandkids, forgets something so the check is COMPLETELY re-written – while everyone in line looks out the window with acceptance written on their faces. There isn’t a lot a person can do, so, accept the delay, and save the energy for something that really warrants it.
…. Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. Finding a parking place, people rushing, cars honking – city life with the typical pressures were felt – but there still was that underlying sense of “let’s stop for un café“.
….Canadian and British ex-pats who opened holiday rentals, B&B’s, small shops; or, they moved here to retire or have a second home. Why? The pace is slower, beautiful country and new experiences to enjoy. I will never forget when I said “goodbye” to the owners of this gite as they were leaving for a 2 week vacation in December. I asked “Where will you be tonite?” “Oh, it will take us around 4 hours to get to Switzerland!” That statement gave living in Europe a new perspective! I would still be driving in New Mexico after 4 hours.
I arrived in France on September 25, 2010 in Marseilles with some apprehension because a possible language barrier. Most people have been incredibly patient with my questions, asked what state and city I am from, helpful with directions, chatted with me occasionally at cafés, practiced their English, appreciated my attempt at French – especially in the smaller villages where life is slow. World affair discussions happened and we left the table with differing opinions but a smile on the face. Job shortages, bureaucracy, taxes, estate tax, visa, citizenship, social, and immigration problems -same thing we speak about in the states.
The off-season prices have made living in Provence for 3 months an affordable experience. The high season runs from April 1 thru mid October. I looked up the tourist statistics for Provence and for 2009:
– an important traffic network owning 2 500 kms of motorway (A7, A8, A54)– Mediterranean TGV (high-speed train) accounts more than 14 million of tourists at the departures and arrivals of the stations’ region
Important airports :
– Nice Côte d’Azur owns the 2nd french airport with more than 10.3 millions of passengers,
– Marseille welcomes around 6.8 millions of passengers,
– Toulon/hyères : around 641 000 passengers, and
– Avignon : 82 000 passengers
– Marseille welcomes more than 2 millions of passengers
– Nice : 1.3 million, and
– Toulon : more than 1 million passengers
sitting at an outdoor café at 10:00am drinking a coffee with pain du chocolat and wearing a sleeveless top – which I did not get to do – this time! So, as with everything, there are the upsides and downsides.
Huge thanks to the gite owners, Kerrin and Keryn Webster(K1 & K2) of Mas Sainte Antoine(see sidebar for website)for their unbelievable hospitality and welcoming me into their world for the last three months.
Seems unbelievable to me that I left Taos, New Mexico 7 months ago. Time has flown by and every moment has been precious. On vacation, sometimes we think the world will stand still for us. My 10-year-old bulldog, Abigail, passed on, computer was stolen, son’s house was scorched by the Boulder Fire, riots in Egypt — life goes on without regard to geographical location. I just got a bit of a reprieve not being in the direct line of life’s events at home. Those events reinforced the old adage of “enjoy every moment” – we don’t know what the next minute will bring.
The world is inexhaustible so it leaves that gate open to wonder. (Tim Cahill)
A new train ride awaits me in a few days. I am leaving Avignon for Nice, and then, on to Genoa, Italy.
Take good care, me
THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO ABIGAIL
July 2000 – January 2010
“THANKS FOR ALL THE SMILES YOU BROUGHT TO SO MANY FACES!”
I left Marseilles on October 17th, took the high-speed train to Paris, then a bus to the Montparnasse Train Station, and boarded the train for Flers, Normandy. From 7:30am until 3:30pm on that day, the following happened: I met a Venezuelan lady who showed me the way to the proper bus stop in Paris; I left my computer bag containing my passport, all ID, credit cards and some cash on the bus; I sat at the bus stop waiting for bus to come around again, and explained my plight in FRENCH(!!) to a Muslim woman who took me to the ONLY BUS KIOSK that was open(strike was on) and she pounded on the door until someone answered and there was my bag was with everything in tact(angels were watching over me on THAT one); the bus driver saw me and stopped the bus to make sure I got my bag; I got my roller bag stuck in the turnstile at the train station bathroom(one has to pay to use the restroom there) and held up many angry women for 5 minutes while the restroom employee had to disassemble the turnstile to get the handle thing off (don’t even ask how that happened because I have NO friggin’ clue); I boarded the train, and entered the wrong car but same seat number but nobody checked tickets since everyone was on strike and I hoped to hell there was at least a driver on the train; and I arrived in Flers, Normandy scared to even move for fear what might happen next.
A smile lit my face when I spotted the small woman with a yellow rain jacket and her little collie on a leash standing on the train platform waiting for me. Jenny, my workawayer.com host and her dog, Tasha, greeted me and we set off to her home in a little hamlet outside of Flers. We passed stone houses built from the stones cleared from the fields, little villages, small country roads, cattle and sheep — all very picture postcard-sque on our 30 minute drive to her house.
Jenny had a knee replacement a few months ago and had difficulty doing all the daily chores involved with home maintenance and attached GITE (pronounced G(soft g) -EETE). (A gite is a holiday rental unit.) Workawayer.com provides an avenue for people traveling to connect with in-country locals and work for them in exchange for room and board. We connected via this website and there I was in a house with 3 Shetland ponies, 8 cats, 1 dog, English garden, and an amazing little English woman!
She lived in Bosnia during the war in the ’90’s working to provide educational programs to children unable to get to school because of sniper fire. Additionally, she CEO’d for the organization that instituted the DNA matching program for mass grave victims and their families, worked at the foreign correspondent desk for a newspaper in England, taught at university in Bosnia, and now has retired in France. Her house is a veritable library touching on all aspects of history regarding people, politics and countries throughout the world.
During the last 2 weeks, I picked acorns off the ground so the three Shetland ponies wouldn’t colic, picked up “pony poo” from the pastures, stocked the fireplace with wood, pulled grass from the gravel to keep things neat & tidy, cleaned the house, washed dishes,
learned to deal with cats(no choice on that since there are eight), moved hay from trailer to hay barn, and helped in whatever seemed necessary at the time.
Tasha and I went for daily walks in the forests on trails that were shared with equestrians, bikers, hikers and the occasional hunter. I had to walk every day because the food that came out of this little kitchen with two feet of counter space was AMAZING.
Whom ever said English food was bland did not visit this house.
Jenny’s neighbor stopped by one day, and her pig, Dexter, started to follow her as she left their dairy farm. We are talking a pet pig(!). She was able to get the pig to turn around and follow her back to the pen by slapping her thigh to get the pig’s attention and continued walk to the pen w/pig following, close the gate, and give the appropriate reward of food to an animal that must weigh at least 500 pounds.
Some of Jenny’s friends I met had renovated old stone barns and houses, spoke various levels of French, had French residency cards to qualify for French health care and gite rentals to bring in extra income, and all had their own stories. I went to a French dog school with Tasha, visited local markets with fan-tab-u-lous homemade sausage and cheese that was over the friggin’ top(!!), and went to an “agricultural store” that sold everything from espresso machines and specialty wine to tractor discs and hay. I feel like I lived on a reality TV show comprised of three components: “All Creatures Great and Small” / “Days of Our Lives” / and a modern version of ex-pat Masterpiece Theatre!!
To sum up my experience w/living w/the Brits, I can only do it by the following imagined conversation:
Henry: Hm-m, seems to be a bit of a blaze there. Robert: Yes, there does, doesn’t there. Wonder what’s that about?
Henry: Not sure, hm-m, but it does seem to be growing, don’t you think? Robert: Yes, quite. Seems a shame, though, doesn’t it, to see those lovely vines, just turning the most brilliant shade of red, lose their color like that. Do you suppose we should call the fire department?
(meanwhile fire has engulfed the entire town…..)
Henry: Well yes, I suppose so, but do you have your phone? Not sure where my mo-bile is. (“Probably damn burning, Henry.” … says Lisa…”Will you PLEASE get on with it!) Robert: I have mine. “Hmm yes, there seems to be a bit of a problem here at Cornish Lane. The houses are burning. No, not sure. Quite a mess really, terribly difficult to breathe. Yes I suppose something should be done. Hm-m-m, oh that would be brilliant. Hm-m. Well right then, cheerio, b-ye.”
Omaha Beach was hugely emotional for me when coming face to face to thousands of white crosses commemorating American soldiers. The American Visitor Center is very well done, but sadly enough, the visitor is greeted at the entrance by the standard security apparatus to thwart the ever-present anti-American feelings exprssed by some people. The French DDAY Center, with no security gates, gave thanks to all the other countries involved with the DDay invasion, England, Canada, Australia, Poland, New Zealand, etc. and opened my eyes to the amazing feat of DDAY.
I have come away with these thoughts…
…live my life to the fullest
…….wherever my friends & family are – that is home
………….be open to all, leave my own culture at the doorstep
…………………..and don’t own a pet pig, he’ll never leave you.
On that note, I am off to Paris for a night, then on to Narbonne for a week in the Languedoc region before I occupy a gite and spend 3 months living in Provence.
Survival tips for navigating the streets in Marseille. These notes may be applicable to other cities, however, given my brief time in a metropolis setting, I do not feel qualified to make such a generalization — so — this only applies to Marseille:
- Navigating streets – Have a goal in mind, whether the goal is 10 feet or 100 feet – focus and walk. Retract shoulder to allow others to pass by, no need for eye contact.
- Navigating less traveled “rue’s”(streets) – Keep above in mind, however, to glance down frequently, because dog excrement is prevalent and owners DO NOT remove waste from public areas AT ALL.
- Street lights – May be ignored, but do so with great diligence. Electric trains are very quiet, so they are unsuspecting missiles……………………..splat.
- Shop hours – Totally dependent upon the owner or shopkeeper of the day, w/the exception of larger endeavors. Typically, shops are open from 10:00 – 2:00 & 4:00 – 7:00pm, give or take 30 minutes or hours.
On the home stretch for the French lessons. Brief scene(no accents in text because it is a too much of a hassle to insert them).
Teacher: “Ecoutes bien(listen well)(Lisa thinks: I AM) “Tu-u”
Lisa: ” Too-ooooo!”
Teacher: “Alors(common word that means “OK” basically). Make your tongue like a boat, purse your lips with an O and soften TOO-OO – to –TU.” (Lisa thinks “s**t” – but smiles) says “OK.”
Lisa: Minutes pass while trying to figure out how to make tongue into a boat (rowboat or Q.E. F*&^&G II , BUT purses lips into an O and rowboat at the same time. Teacher looking on with an expression of “oh, you poor idiot”. But, finally, out comes “TU-oo”. Oops, Lisa knows she is in trouble.
Teacher: “Alors, Lisa.” (Ah-ha – patience level is leaving, first name is added to correction!) “Encore (again)……..Tu-u. ”
Lisa: Patience level is g-o-n-e – and thinks, I will say it if you can say LISA and not LIZA! After 1 minute of tongue forming a small rowboat sorta, lips pursed in a “ROUND O”, not “OVAL O, LIZA” (oh-h-h-h yeah THAT makes all the difference) — out comes “TU”
Church bell rings, fingers unclench, legs uncross & Lisa expects deserving praise and gets….
Teacher: “Repetez — Tu as une voiture.”
Lisa: That’s IT? After all that, just “repeat after me..”….!@#…. OK, no praise, just move along, accept people the way they are, this is not America where we praise people for EVERYTHING.. move on, move on, move on = “Tu as une voiture.”
…..and so it goes…4 hours a day for a total of 10 days…but, I can survive in France, understand most things if spoken slowllllly, read most things w/a basic understanding, and buy pasteries from the shops. WHEW!
The public sector workers in France are on a major strike. I am learning that strikes in France are so common that nobody pays much attention to them. Workers take vacation days, bands play in the street, professional JUGGLERS(!!) provide entertainment, some private sector employees go on vacation, and store sales go up. Flares are lit by the strikers to provide various colors of smoke for a more emphatic demonstration. It is a party! Take a look at my photos in The Album which I took from my balcony. It was a massive party on the street below. People went about their day — just w/out public transportation! Banks and the post office were open. I think the only people who weren’t working were the drivers of public transport which also translates to no garbage pick up.
I did not think it was that big of a deal, until today. The garbage is starting to pile up on the streets and alleys. Most of the food stores are small little stands with fresh veggies and fruit, so you can well imagine the odor that is starting to emanate when one is walking down the streets with 6 and 7 story buildings on either side, holding in the smell. Oh, and let’s not forget the slime on the streets from all the mini compost piles. Navigating the streets is a challenge.
Train and bus tickets are only being sold for that day only and for only the few trains that are running. This has resulted in higher gas prices, rental car agencies are sold out, and tourism has stopped. So it goes….
Prior to the above, I took a 45 minute train ride to Arles(of Van Gogh fame), pop. 14,000, a great little town, albeit lots of tourists. (FYI for future reference: Rick Steve’s Guides have taken over from Lonely Planet Guides. Michelin Green Guide is great for driving tours/hotel recommendations and place descriptions.) Lots of Roman ruins pulled out of the Rhone – one forgets that the Romans were here in 1 a.d.(I guess +/- a few years!!)..anyway, ruins in the center of town, trendy shops, Rhone River goes thru the town, and calm and friendly people. I rented a car, drove to the Camargue and finally saw the white horses of the Camargue marsh region that I have known about since the 80’s. A movie was made about these horses, “The White Mane (1953).
Easy driving, and I never thought I would thank Taos for putting in the roundabouts, but I did, because they were everywhere. Definitely helped in the navigation factor of how to get on, off and not keep going around in circles! Saw lots of little towns, and renewed my faith that not all of Provence is inundated with tourists.
I am on my way to Flers, Normandy this Sunday, October 17, that is, if the train is running. I signed up with WORKAWAYERS.COM, a UK website. On this site, people whom need help with various things, advertise, and, provide accommodations and food for the workers. If an ad interests you, send an email and go from there – basically, a modern-day indentured servant!
I did respond to one ad and received a positive response. My hostess had a knee replacement 8 weeks ago, and still needs some help on her little farm feeding her Shetland ponies, goats, chickens, and winterizing her garden. WIFI and my own apt. is provided, so, I will be there for a couple of weeks. She is a retired English woman who has lived in Normandy off and on for years, and my final correspondence from her was this:
“I will be in yellow plastic raincoat with a hood, and my dog will be with me. We will be on the station platform waiting for you. ”
Arrived in Oporto on 9/10 at 3:00pm after a 3 hours train ride from Lisbon. Trains are clean, well maintained, connections to just about everywhere in Portugal, easy to manuever, meals served(1st class), cocktails, espresso, comfortable seats, pull out tray for lunch and laptops – definitely the way to travel.
On-line apt rental — went from the 17th century renovated nunnery turned hotel, in Lisbon, to an 18th century renovated old house turned oh-so-trendy weekly apt. rental w/ Pottery Barn type furniture and the most hideous purple glittery rug(think bordello, make that cheap bordello) to add contrast to the white – I suppose — windows overlooking the River Duoro and non-stop traffic below. Close to the city center – it was all good. Itty-bitty cafe 2 doors down, with fresh grilled fish & seafood salad(owner was born in Oporto, but lived in France most of his life, so “I know how to cook”…..) and he was right. Bicyclists everywhere, men fishing in the river all day long, darker that Lisbon – smoke soot on the buildings, windy tiny cobblestone streets on hills, people at cafes 24/7, accordion player and his wife with a tambourine on the riverwalk, people of all nationalities sip espresso, beers or Vino Verde(light white wine), tourist river boats movingg up and down the Douro River, grandmothers w/socks and open sandals and their grandkids in the parks, cafes on both sides of river, and the bars open at 10:00am. All of Portugal seems to open at 10:00am — the bakeries open earlier — but not a lot of activity before then. Blue and white tile are the facade de rigour for the old buildings. New buildings are slowly taking their place in the architectural scheme. For the past six mornings, I walked up the hills(no need for Taos Spa here) and pass women hanging their clothes to dry on the balconies, men starting their card games, the stalwart tourist ready to be the first on the “Hop On and Hop Off” See Portugal bus, and eventually find my way to the cafe with the best custard and apple filled pastry and coffee, to start my morning. Did “Hop On and Hop Off” City Tour bus(wish I had the franchise for THAT) and saw the sights, ate dinner at various places with the solo traveler’s greeting by waiters, “Oh, just one?” with disappointment highly visible on their faces knowing the tip would be small since dinner was for one only. “Deal with it…” I think, “..and “yes, I will take that table by the window with the really nice view” I say. Fish soup w/rice – fabulous! The occasional conversation w/another solo traveler – usually English or French traveler. Every store sells some type of wine or Port(hence the name PORTO) and was told a little known fact — “the third most spoken language in the world is Portuguese?” Believe that? I did not, but nodded and said “oh, ok..huh.” After being in Goa, India, a couple of years ago, I realize no matter what the time, what the century, we bring what we know to where we settle. The Portuguese were in Goa from the 17th century on and built the same stone houses with tile floors that I see here. Great old mansions still line some streets in Porto, competing with the high-rise weekly vacations-lets.
Tourism is the money generator for the economy and Portugal is catering to it big time. The phrase “American consumerism” is interchangeable w/European consumerism — world consumerism – basically. Difference is that here, instead of the MALL, one has the shop that sells JUST the Marc Blanc pens, or the Philippe Patek(sp?) watches or the $2000 handbags. And shoes, both sexes love their shoes – never seen so many shoe stores in my life. Food and drink are the primary socializing tools — the best coffee I have had in ages. Bangladeshi immigrants have lots of shops here — wonder why they settled here? Why does one go to No. Portugal — see the country, tour the wine country, see the rivers and experience a “rural Portugal”…
Left this am(9/18) on the train at 9:40am — arrived in Faro, So. Portugal at 5:21amtake good care,