Friday, June 27, 2014

Mont-de-Marsan; our French Home, or Where are we?

A sweet little town of 30,000 people in the southwest of France; north of Spain, south of Bordeaux. The Atlantic ocean and beach is a 45-minute drive. We've had one memorable weekend there so far.

The important people here are our family members.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to be a Good Tourist

Valentine's first comment as we looked around, a little dazed, a little lost, in Venice, was; "I hate looking like I'm a tourist."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Palazzo Ducale

This was the day we did our "official tourism"; first stop: The Doges Palace, or Palazzo Ducale in Place San Marco Square.

The Palazzo was built for the reigning duke, who was an elected official. His private apartments, as well as administrative space and all of the chambers where the various bodies of government met, were within the palace.The very first Doge of Venice was Doge Angelo Partecipazio

Venice; Favorites

Love the houses on the water:

Monday, June 23, 2014


This was the year for the twelve-year-old trip of my third child, Valentine, the one with the most Italian name, and fittingly, she had her heart set on Venice. To Venice we went. There is nowhere quite like the very place you have dreamed of visiting and are now staying, especially if it happens to be a place like Venezia.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Proof of a Slower Life

This sign struck me today. I was waiting in line with the rest of the people who had either rushed from work or procrastinated until the very last minute before stores closed for the night. I needed a few tomatoes and some yogurt for my solo dinner, and it was 6:55. Yes, grocery stores, along with jewelry stores, clothing stores and newspaper stands, all close at 7 here. And, even in a big ol' Leader Price, a large supermarket next door,they close down for a half day to take inventory, which translates the sign about word for word.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Charles: Down for the Count

French Adventures; the Hopital

Since I am lazily catching up from a lovely trip to Paris and prepping for one to Italy, I have yet to recount the ER room visit and subsequent surgery on day two of life in Mont-de-Marsan

Second day in les Landes; everyone and their brother, and their cousin, is at our house. They have all popped by this afternoon, with children, grandchildren, it is a beautiful day and there are 30 people in my front yard. Despite the fatigue pulling at my eyelids and each and every muscle from traveling for the past five days,  I can handle this. This same family has stocked my cupboards and refrigerator, so I smile and serve juice, mint syrup with water, muscat wine, port, pretzels, crackers. I break out my American candy stash for the kids. 

The only ones who declined to partake were the police officers..

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On Your Marks, Get Set, Chill

...and watch, from my chaise lounge, as my mother-in-law plays cards with the kids, my father-in-law wakes from his nap in his own chaise and takes out the sprinkler for the little ones to run through, and the others read a comic book or leaf through a magazine. This is life in the afternoon in the summertime here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Toujours Paris

A few more snapshots of our brief time in the capital of romance and overnight forming of political parties and protests: (photographic credits and thanks go to Janice Vaillant and Duncan Chenus). Anywhere you see purple, it is a link that will give you, most likely, all or more than all of the info you ever wanted about the monument, neighborhood or statue from Wikipedia, in English.

Notre Dame through the trees

Did I Not Warn You?

Locks of Love are Falling Down

And that bridge filled with padlocks I walked on last week has begun to collapse. Dang.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

French Truths...Delicieux

We had not been in France for 3 hours when it all came crashing back; in the very nicest way; France has perfected life as an art form. Details, time to talk, to eat, to care. Every person we have spent time with this past week has been generous in this way; naturally and not once glancing at their watch or time on their phone. First story:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Paris; More

Someone took 743 photos on my new camera in Paris...maybe my photography-loving son who conned me into letting him hold onto it for me. Here is more of who, what and where; friends, family, food and places in Paris.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Plane, 5 train/metros and 7 million steps later...we arrived at our destination, 7 of us and 6 suitcases. Our lovely aunt and uncle whom we had never met agreed to host our whole family for 3 days. Their car only has two seats, so we gratefully headed to their house on foot and metro.

How we got there:

Scary, super-full metro with suitcases:

Feeling Illiterate and Unsophisticated in Sweden

First leg of journey: Scandinavian Airlines from Chicago to Stockholm. Just after the 4-hour car trip to Chicago, with my kind, indulgent father driving the 7 of us.

Culture shock; a language, or several maybe, that I can neither understand nor speak; not even a word! The Swedish airline stewardesses speak fluent English, and take good care of us. And so many blond heads in a row. Clearly, I am a mere provincial who has barely traveled outside of my comfort zone; English, Romance languages, a tiny bit of German. To my left was a good-natured man from Estonia, who spoke a few words of English; just enough to reassure me that the five noisy kids to his right were not a worry.

Upon arrival at the airport in Stockholm, one quickly separates the Americans from the rest of the Europeans; we are Americans, and they are dressed like chic, sleek and put-together fashion plates and do not look as though they had spent a single minute in flight. Ugh. 

The coolest play space ever was at this airport: Waldorfish-heaven. Here are some photos:

In Ze French Fridge...Gluten-Free Breakfast in France

My choices would be so flippin' fantastic if I could eat bread, croissants, chocolatines...with butter, real butter that tastes like butter, and my father-in-law's homemade jam. 

Up until today, there has been yogurt. Even at the hospital, I finagled my way