Caen to Bayeux

We woke up late this morning and had a wonderful breakfast at a local brasserie. Then, off to the St. Lazare to catch the train to Caen. It took about 2 hours to get to Caen and it was great to see the French countryside. We arrived around 2PM Europe time and rented a car to drive to Bayeux. A twenty minute drive later and we’re here. Lugging the luggage up 4 flights of stairs and we’re at our inn. A very small place in a quaint town, but we like it a lot.

We visited the Bayeux Tapestry first, about a ten minute walk from our inn. It is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long and 50 centimetres (20 in) tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. 

Next, to the Normandy Battle Museum, which was fascinating. We must have spent at least an hour and a half there.

Dinner done and done for the night. Off to the Normandy beaches in the morning. A highlight of the trip for JTB (history buff).

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The French Strike Again (Literally)

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Well, today was a Versailles bummer. Just as I was about to praise the French for their excellent customer service…last night was wonderful in the Latin Quarter. Jim ordered spaghetti bolognese and I got an awesome salad. Then, we went out to this cool and hip bar for an after dinner drink. Jim felt like he wanted a cigarette, so he asked the waitress the closest place to buy a pack. She took it upon herself to walk 5 blocks, in the rain, to buy him some. I thought that that was pretty extraordinary! You wouldn’t find that in the States!

And, today we woke up super early to catch the train to Versailles, about a half an hour outside of Paris. The train ride was delightful and when we arrived, we went immediately to the local farmer’s market to grab some bread, cheese, and wine for a picnic on the grounds. We then picked up our bikes for the bike tour and headed towards the Grand Palace. And then…dum, dum, dum, we arrived at the Grand Palace and the gates were closed. The French decided to go on a strike that day due to (they say) low wages. So, unfortunately we weren’t able to visit Versailles at all today, even the grounds. How can you complain about working 35 hours a week?

We didn’t let that dampen our spirits however. Upon entering Paris again, we headed immediately to Place Blanche (White Square) about a mile from the train station. Those that don’t know, my mom’s bookstore is named “White Square Books” after Place Blanche. We were pretty excited about that.

Then, we took the metro (subway) to Saint Sulpice (recommended by our tour guide at Versailles), which is a district in Paris that many of the tourists don’t frequent. We liked it immediately and grabbed a bier in a local cafe. That lightened our spirits tremendously, so then we decided to walk to Shakespeare and Company, which was originally run by Sylvia Beach. She was the one who decided to publish Ulysses when no one else would. And, she hung out with writers such as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce (among many others).

A trip down Rue de St. Jacques and we’re back at our hotel, enjoying a wonderful bottle of wine purchased in Versailles.

We’re headed out in a little bit for dinner in Saint Sulpice. It’s currently raining here, so we’re waiting for that to clear up, but still enjoying the wine and an open window on the balcony.

No Versailles for today, but we’re looking forward to catching the train to Caen and Bayeaux (Normandy) for tomorrow. I received an e-mail from the rail station that the French rail team will not go on strike tomorrow (so, we’re in the clear). Until then!

 

 

 

9 Miles and Counting

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Yep, you said it, we pretty much covered half of Paris today (sort of). We started out in the Latin Quarter and walked down the River Seine towards the Louvre. Once we arrived, Jim decided that his inner Karate Kid needed to come out (see below pic). Such a photobomber. 

A cool breeze walk down the Champs-Élysées and we found ourselves at the Arc de Triomphe. Cannot believe it’s been less than 100 years since WWII. We had watched a History Channel documentary that showed Hitler marching down the same avenue as the Germans were invading France. See clip here. It’s so interesting to visit a place that was once so war-torn and now to see it with expensive shops and tourists alike.

Another two miles to the Eiffel Tower, but the puppies were starting to bark, so we stopped off for a nice Nicoise salad and tall bier. Jim swore that Al Pacino was sitting next to us. He really did look like him, but he was too nervous to ask him. Lunch was just what the doctor ordered and we were on our way to the Eiffel Tower. An hour waiting in line, but it was definitely worth to see the sights from the top.

Isn’t the River Seine beautiful?

A two mile walk to the metro and we found ourselves back in the Latin Quarter at our hotel. But, we’re not done for the night! Dinner still awaits…can’t wait!

Off to Versailles in the morning.

Our First Day in Paree (or, Paris)

It’s been a long few days and we’ve been up since Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop us from exploring this beautiful city. We arrived around 1:30PM (Paris time) and immediately decided to check into our hotel in the Latin Quarter. Kind of touristy, but they have Notre Dame (see below pics), Le Sorbonne, College of France, and the Luxembourg Gardens.

We were pretty hungry by the time we arrived in the Latin Quarter, so we decided to visit a cozy brasserie on one of the side streets, taking in a tomato caprese salad and a 1664 beer. So yummy! An hour later and we’re touring Notre Dame, lighting candles for loved ones. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fun walk along the river Seine and we’re back near our hotel visiting El Sorbonne. A glass of vin and we’re off to bed. More pics tomorrow I promise. The WiFi in the hotel is super slow, so hopefully it’ll be better in the morning. Off to the Eiffel Tower tomorrow!

Bon Voyage

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In about a week, we’re headed on our next adventure…to France! Neither of us has been to mainland Europe, so we’re really excited to experience another culture and learn some new things along the way. We’ll be flying into Paris, spending a couple of days in the Latin Quarter, then taking a trip via train to Caen to learn more about Normandy, then back to Paris to stay in the Le Marais district.

A few of the things we’ll be looking to visit include: The Mona Lisa at The Louvre, catacombs, the Eiffel Tower, Jim Morrison’s grave, Versailles, Normandy, Place Blanche (my mom’s bookstore is named after this!), and the Moulin Rouge. But, we don’t want to make it so that we don’t get to experience a three-hour long lunch with (but, of course) wine and cheese!

We’re getting super excited for our trip. We hope that you’ll follow along on our journey.

~ Mo and Jim

There’s No Place Like Home

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Scotland is amazing, and as a I sit here, in the hotel bar overlooking Edinburgh Castle, I wonder what it would be like to live abroad, among the Scottish, maybe French or Italian. But, something draws me back home. I miss my family, friends, co-workers, dogs, and most of all home. A holiday is wonderful, but it’s also wonderful to have neighbors who know your history and friends who will invite you over for dinner at the last minute.

A few things I’d like to highlight from the trip:

  • Trying haggis for the first time in Edinburgh
  • Experiencing amazing Scottish castles from more than a few centuries ago
  • Seeing magpie fights in the Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Catching a Scottish rainbow in Isle of Skye
  • Learning about the Scottish history from an amazing tour guide
  • Hiking Ben Nevis in Fort Williams and the convenience of having a tavern at the base of the mountain
  • Drinking a few pints in an 18th century Scottish pub in Oban

All in all, a wonderful week. Highly suggested as a destination for those back home (and those reading this blog).

“Lang may yer lum reek”

And, Happy Easter everyone..

Ben Nevis

We left Inverness this morning a little late due to the long day the morning before. Then, off to Fort William to hike Ben Nevis, currently a snow-capped mountain. We arrived within about two hours and Jim found an off-beaten track somehow and we were off. Ben Nevis is about 4,400 feet high, the highest in the British Isles. The path was extremely well-kept and we loved watching the snow-capped mountains and the sheep from afar. We learned yesterday that the black-headed sheep are Scottish and the white ones are English…interesting. After a few hours I tired, but JTB kept hiking while I waited in our compact car in the parking lot. He eventually climbed the snow-capped mountain, but eventually turned back due to the snow falling and wind bracing.

Around 3:30, we headed towards this very unexpected hostel / backpacker / beer place at the end of the trail where we had a lovely lunch and beer. It was so unexpected and the place was packed.

Then off to Oban (pronounced “Oh Bun”). We hit a lovely Scottish tavern from the 18th century and stayed there for awhile. Right now, we’re sitting in the hotel bar at the Royal Hotel listening to a drummer, accordion player, and bagpiper playing some wonderful Scottish tunes. We’re really going to miss this place.

Unfortunately, my camera is acting up, so I only have the below picture from today…

Fall In Love

with as many things as possible. A great quote from one of my favorite movies Country Strong. Ignore the boozing and sleeping around and get down to the real theme that they were trying to get across: that love and fame can’t always exist in the same world. That’s why I choose to love everything around me and find beauty in life.

It’s not hard to fall in love with this country with the strong brogue, gorgeous kilts, beautiful land, and delectable whisky. We had a wonderful tour guide today to visit the Isle of Skye. We started from Inverness and within a half hour we were visiting the notable Loch Ness on the quest to try and find Nessie. Apparently, she was first spotted in 565 AD and then not until 1933. There is a famous photograph of her (by the way, why is a monster always a “her”?), but they think that she might just be (or was) a large eel. Then, off to Eilan Donan Castle just south of Loch Ness. Just beautiful. A scene for many movies, including Elizabeth. Then, finally on to the Isle of Skye, a spectacular part of the country. All in all, about 300 miles round trip, a 12 hour day, but so worth it and so much to find breathtaking. If you get the chance, check out Danny Macaskill’s video of him professionally riding his bike across the mountains in Isle of Skye. Or, check out Mairi Campbell’s version of Auld Lang Syne (also a Robert Burns poem). It will make your eyes glisten and heart long for something dear.

All in all, a wonderful country and makes you appreciate all that’s beautiful in this world. And, it also makes you appreciate the things or experiences you already have. I realized today how wonderful my husband was when he interrupted my rainbow photograph and decided to replace it with a faux pot o’ gold (see below pic). He just wanted to make a smile and I loved that.

Off The Beaten Path

We hit a major goldmine yesterday morning by hitting Edradour an hour and a half north of Dundee. It was a recommendation from the same shopkeeper in St. Andrews. According to their website: “Dating back to 1825, Edradour, stands alone as the last stronghold of handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery still in production today.” They have a unique process of bringing together barley, spring water and yeast all under one roof, without the use of computers.

And then to Inverness. A romantic walk along the Ness River was in order and JTB told some terrible puns along the way (though I secretly loved it).

Off to Isle of Skye in the morning. Can’t wait…

St. Andrews & Dundee

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About an hour north of Edinburgh are the towns of St. Andrews and Dundee. We drove there with a stick shift, on the left-hand side of the road. A little stressful, but we made it. St. Andrews boasts the world of golf, holding the British Open there every year. If anyone loves golf, it’s definitely the place to be. No personal pictures taken, however here are some photos from Google. We had a wonderful conversation with a local wine shop owner, where he told us the history of the town and what to see in our next stop of Dundee.

Off to Dundee, about 15 miles north of St. Andrews. The wine shop owner mentioned to us that there’s not a ton of cultural happenings in the town, but it was wonderful to walk the University of Dundee and visit the local pubs, having a few Belhavens. We tried to visit a hip restaurant near the university, however after waiting at our table for 15 minutes, we decided to leave, because no service was to be had. About a half mile away, Jim saw a restaurant and said “Gray hair, they know good food”, so we decided to frequent. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’re at that age where we’re more interested in finding good food and great service over finding the new and up and coming thing. A-ok in my book. We also tried an Irn-Bru, often described as “Scotland’s other national drink” (after whisky). It was pretty yummy, kinda tasted like bubble gum.

It’s about 9AM here in Dundee right now and we’re headed on a quest to find Nessie, near Inverness, this morning. Bon voyage!