Return to Nantes 2012 (From the Archives)

In my last post, I talked about how Melinda, Chloe, Ella, and I spent 13 months in France beginning in July of 2010. These 13 months got dubbed the “French Sabbatical” as Melinda and I were granted paid time off from our jobs during that time.

From our “bonus” night in Iceland after missing our connecting flight to Paris.
Not surprisingly, while we there we grew quite fond of living in France, especially living in the city of Nantes. I’m not quite sure how to describe this, but living as we did in Nantes, as well as traveling to various destinations in France and once to Italy, felt completely ours. It was different than anything done by other members of our family and carved out a super-special context in our lives that the four of us will forever share.

Melinda and I would go on regular walks while the girls were at school and it was on one of these walks that we talked about taking a month off from work each summer to return to Nantes.

We spent our first week in Pornichet where it was unfortunately quite rainy and cool.
We starting seeing this as a focal point for the next phase in our lives, one that would ultimately settle with us living in Nantes and Seattle for maybe 6 months each year. At first, though, because of work and other responsibilities, this would need to be a single month in the summer when school wasn’t in session.

So in 2012 we put the plan into action. Our good friends in Nantes, the Boudeaus (who were responsible for us choosing Nantes in the first place) and the Bertails (who lived around the corner from us during the sabbatical and had become among our closest friends), were only too pleased to help us. And it was Christine Bertail who found a place for the four of us to live for the month of July, 2012. A colleague of hers and his family would be in Spain that month so it worked out for us to rent his house.

This is more like it. Summer in Nantes!
As I had done during the sabbatical year, I decided I would post to my blog on a daily basis while we were there. Truth be told, I had kept doing this once we had returned to Seattle in August, 2011. All of these posts can be found here by using the “Monthly Archive” pull-down menu below and selecting one of the months. Still, the idea of returning to France in 2012 and not posting daily seemed sacrilegious in some way.

So here was are in 2022, nearly ten years after our “Return to Nantes.” It’s hard to believe that much time has flown by. Because of the pandemic and other reasons, it’s been five years since we’ve been back but we do have plans to go this summer! And, yes, we did return in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. I’ll be focusing on each of those trips in future “From the Archives” posts.

For now, I invite you to explore our trip in 2012 using the “France 2012” tag.

Manon / Travel Recap

I’m pleased to present the best part of France we brought home with us yesterday, Ms. Manon Boudeau. And this is saying something, especially when you consider that Melinda, Chloe, and Ella all bought dresses in France for a wedding we’re attending on Saturday, and that I brought home a can of duck confit!

Yes, that’s right. Manon is better than French clothing and French food.

Our travel day yesterday was, by and large, uneventful, other than it took 23 hours to get from the front door of the house we stayed at in Nantes to the front door of our home in Seattle. That’s a marathon of travel. At one point, with about 2 hours left in our final flight, Melinda had a look of distress, so desperate was she for sleep. We teased about it today, commenting that everything would have been fine if she would have just been allowed to go home, get some sleep, and come back to finish the last two hours of the flight later.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the travel day was a young boy on the Nantes to Paris train whose behavior was, in a word, challenging. At one point, he grabbed my glasses right off of my face!

Travel Day

For our return trip home travel day I’ve chosen this photo, taken in the Reykjavik, Iceland airport at about midnight back when June 29th became June 30 (note, the sun was still up). That was in the midst of our traveling challenges that started when our plane wasn’t ready in Seattle, thus causing us to miss our flight from Reykjavik to Paris, thus causing us to miss our train from Paris to Nantes, thus causing us to *lose* 24 hours in France.

No, no, I’m not bitter. These things happen. As do other uncontrollable things like the weather turning certain plans on their heads.

But what absolutely could not be bothered is the time spent with the Bertail and Boudeau families in Nantes. It really doesn’t matter to me what happened with the weather or initially frustrating travel delays. All I wanted on this trip was time in Nantes with my family, and oodles of time with the Bertails and the Boudeaus.

In other words, I got it all!

Do the Math

It’s just past 6pm in Nantes as I start this blog post, meaning our train to Paris leaves in 12 hours. We have a layover in Paris of a few hours before flying to Iceland, and then a short layover in Iceland (knock on wood) before flying to Seattle. If all goes as scheduled, we’ll be touching down at SeaTac in about 33 hours.

Go ahead, do the math.

The time, as you can imagine, has flown by (go ahead, do the math), but I will admit to a little glimmer of anxiousness to get home. We brought home some of our sabbatical last year in the form of Romain who stayed with us in Seattle for a month. This year we are bringing home some of our vacation in the form of Manon, Romain’s sister. She’ll be with us for a week, and then Frédérique and Laurent are joining us at home on August 6th.

That means that our French vacation is being extended to Seattle!!

For now, though, as in RIGHT now, it’s cleaning and packing, packing and cleaning. Just why is Ella smiling?

Errand the Side of Safety

That’s how Melinda & I have spent a good chunk of the day today, running errands. Among the many we completed include washing the car we’ve had use of since moving in to our Nantes house. The family who rented us their home tossed in at no charge the use of their car. Having a car has given us a whole new perspective of the city. It really is interesting how different things are when you know all you have to do is hop in a car and go instead of timing things to public transportation.

Anyway, a new experience we had in Nantes today involved filling the car with gas and figuring out how to use the car wash at the gas station. That’s Melinda studying how the driver in front of us did it. Unlike at home, you actually get out of your car while the machine washes it (note the driver just under Melinda’s glasses).

That may not sound that exciting, but, hey, the whole experience really was interesting. And if you can find the experience of getting a car washed interesting, you’ll never get bored. That’s my story. Well, that and bad puns.

Not Just Another Dorky Self-Portrait

Okay, so maybe it IS just another dorky self-portrait. What are you going to do about it? Sue me? Fly to Nantes and challenge me to a fight? Complain? Well, as my father used to say, “The Complaint Department isn’t open.”

In all my life I have never located the Complaint Department, let alone heard that it was ever open. On a similar subject, I’ve never tasted ends meat, either, even though I’m from Nebraska. I figured it was some kind of end cut on the cow. So it never really made sense to me when my mom would say, “I don’t know how we can make ends meat.” Did we make it or eat it?

But I digress.

Today’s photo, I took yesterday. And it’s important because I’m standing on the finish line at the Nantes racetrack, taking a picture of my reflection in the photo finish mirror. That’s the grandstand of the racetrack in the reflection behind me. I’m smiling because well, the Complaint Department has had no reason to be open, as far as I’m concerned, and if ends meat tastes anything like confit de canard, it’s got to be good.

Now if I can only fit some of that ends meat in my suitcase.

10 Hours in France (or Christine in a Box)

It’s late as I’m writing this, past midnight in Nantes. We got home just a few minutes earlier, after leaving our house right around 2pm. That’s 10 hours away. What did we do for these 10 hours?

First, we dropped Chloe & Ella at the Boudeau’s where they got in an afternoon of sunning and swimming with Manon and two of her friends. Melinda and I went to the Bertail’s where Christine was busy building dressers from Ikea. Melinda joined in to help (see today’s photo). Bernard was working on electrical issues in another area of the house so I kept out of the way by finishing “The Hunger Games” and then going for a walk.

We returned, Melinda & I, to the Boudeau’s for a swim and a delicious dinner of mussels and potatoes, among other things (Frédérique is quite the chef). After dinner, just before 11pm, Laurent & I went for a swim, after which my family finally ventured home.

I’m not sure about you, but let me just say that’s a fine way for me to spend 10 hours in France.

Don’t Let My Furrowed Brow Put You Off

Really, I was just looking into the sun when I took this self-portrait today at about 3pm. I was again in one of my favorite Nantes spots (and today, at 80+ degrees, you’d be right calling it a “hot” spot), the Jardin des Plantes de Nantes. The park is about a 5 minute walk from our house and it is a delightful place to read. So with Melinda off to Christine’s to help with their remodel, and with Chloe sunning herself just outside our door, and with Ella content to read in the cool comfort of the house, I took myself to the park.

If you are interested in what I’m reading, it’s “The Hunger Games.” And if you’re further interested, I’m reading it on a Kindle, the eBook reader from Amazon. I bought a Kindle just before leaving for France and am quite taken by it, somewhat surprisingly. It’s so lightweight and functional that I may be converting to becoming less of a book reader and more of an eBook reader.

Maybe you now have a furrowed brow?

What We Imagined

It’s taken most of the vacation, but the last few days have been EXACTLY what we imagined when we were considering our return to France for this month. There would be lots of sunshine and time by the water, both the pool at the Boudeau’s and the Pornichet beach.

We got a Sunday night barbeque and pool party with the entire Boudeau family on Sunday night, and we got 80 degree weather and a day on the beach at Pornichet today.

To those two things I can say, “Check and double check.”

You know, it’s funny to think about what you anticipate happening when returning to somewhere or something special, and what actually happens. I’ll likely be writing more about that later, either before we leave (next Monday) or once we’re back in Seattle. There is a lot to consider.

To illustrate a post titled “What We Imagined,” I grabbed this photo from way back on the 1st of July, taken right after we arrived in Pornichet. We got a couple of hours on the beach that afternoon, the only time that whole week that it wasn’t raining or threatening to rain.

Parc de La Noé Mitrie

Nantes has great parks as you can learn by looking here. And in the glorious weather we had today, I got to experience two of them.

First, Melinda & I went for a morning walk that ended at the Jardin des Plants de Nantes, one of my favorite places in the city and one I’ve often referenced. There is a small café in the park and after buying some French pastries in a nearby bakery, Melinda & I enjoyed them in the café with a morning drink (coffee for Melinda, tea for me).

Then late this afternoon, as I was walking back by myself from the Paridis shopping center, I stopped to enjoy the Parc de La Noé Mitrie where I took today’s photo. It was a long walk home, about 45 minutes, and the park was near the end, not far from our house. Part of what makes it attractive are the happy kid voices, splashing in the wading pools on a summer day.

That’s good stuff if you’re me.