A Journey to Nantes

Those of you who are paying close attention will notice that yesterday’s and today’s posts have the same title, but yesterday’s is inside quotation marks. Why? Because yesterday I was referring to the art installation in Nantes by that name. And today I’m referring to Melinda’s, Chloe’s, Ella’s and my installation in Nantes this summer.

Today’s photo is meant to illustrate our installation. It was the first picture I took upon our arrival, and it was taken in the Nantes airport. That’s Melinda clad in the orange striped sweater on one side of a glass partition, and Christine & Bérnard on the other. Melinda and Christine are talking via cell phone. As tired as I was when we arrived, I got a huge kick out of seeing them communicate like this. I remember thinking it was like some kind of specialized zoo exhibit in which patrons can communicate with the animals. I still haven’t figured out which side of the glass is for patrons and which side is for the exhibited animals.

Of course, part of what makes this picture so special is the “A Journey to Nantes” sticker/poster in the frame. At that time, I had no idea what it was so decided it was meant for us (I think that makes Christine & Bérnard part of the animal exhibit).

“A Journey to Nantes”

In French, it’s actually called Le voyage à Nantes and its English subtitle is “The City Turned Upside Down by Art.” It’s a pretty spectacular thing, in fact, and it’s taking place in Nantes this summer. It’s described as a 5 mile long urban trail in the city and you can walk it by following a pink line painted on the sidewalk that takes you to various art installations. There are something like 40 of them. Wow!

My favorite so far and the most dramatic, as you can see in today’s photo, is this one. I took the picture last night in the neighborhood known as Le Bouffay where Melinda and I had gone for dinner. As we walked around on an incredible Friday night in Nantes, among sidewalk cafés and restaurants (trying to choose one), we stopped to look at this exhibit. Right in the middle of the La Place du Bouffay is this installation, a partial apartment facade hung some 30 feet in the air. That’s Melinda looking up at it, wondering as everyone does, how did the artist make this work.

We are guessing the room is made of some lightweight material and the ladder base is extraordinarily heavy. Your guess?

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Two years ago today I celebrated my mom’s birthday by posting a picture of a sign we saw next to the pool at the place we were staying in Pornichet. I got such a big kick out of the way the English was written, and knew the editor inside my mom would appreciate it.

So today I post another sign in honor of my mom’s birthday (dare I say it’s #79?). This one attracted my attention because of the French writing, specifically the date. So bold, so attention-grabbing, “Vendredi 20 juillet.” That’s today. My mom’s birthday.

Happy birthday, mom. If you swing on over to Nantes we can go grab a glass of wine at Le Chavallais and enjoy a jazz trio. Not a bad way to spend one’s birthday, I think.

A Pleasant Day

So Melinda left early this morning for Paris, a long-planned day trip with Christine, thus leaving the girls and me to fend for ourselves today. Chloe had already set up a babysitting gig for the afternoon with Luce & Zacharie, so I rode with her to their house in our old neighborhood. You see, we have a public transportation pass that’s good for 24 hours for 4 people so if I didn’t want it in Chloe’s possession all afternoon, I had to ride with her.

Anyway, after dropping off Chloe, I went back to the house and hung out with Ella, and then she and I went to pick up Chloe. The three of us then went into the center of town where the girls got gelatto, as you can see in this photo. They then went shopping at Galeries Lafayette, while I wandered around taking pictures. We met back up at 8pm and went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant.

Not a bad day, eh? I’ll meet Melinda at the train station shortly and then Bérnard & Christine will come back to our place for a little drink. That’s called a nightcap, right?

A Day of Summer!

That’s right, we had a day of summer, finally. For the Celsius-impaired, we broke the 70 degree mark in Nantes with blue, blue skies and lots of sun. It was a perfect occasion to accept Romain’s invitation to join him poolside in his backyard. He is back from his vacation and was kind enough to include us in his plans to lounge by the pool.

We accepted gratefully and greedily.

Today’s photo is actually one I took last night. As the clouds broke in Nantes at about 6pm and the sun came out, we were treated to a dazzling evening. We had the Boudeaus over for dinner and even opened up the “French” doors in our living room. I took a step out onto the narrow balcony and snapped this self-portrait.

Starting with last evening and continuing now for over 24 hours, this is the kind of weather we anticipated having this month. Will it last?

Update on the Babysitter Americaine IV

It’s been a long time since we had a posting on this topic, meaning it’s long overdue. But before continuing, I recommend you get caught up on the past installments of this serial:

Good. Now that you’re caught up, we can continue.

Yesterday Chloe received a text from Penny, the mother of Zacharie and Luce, the children Chloe took care of regularly while we were on sabbatical. Penny knew we were in town and was hoping to surprise the kids with a visit from Chloe. So we drove straight to their house from attending Nicole’s services in Bressuire. As we got closer to Nantes, Chloe commented that she was a combination of anxious/nervous. “What if the kids don’t really remember me?” she asked.

As you can tell from the photo, they had absolutely no idea who Chloe was. It was a grand surprise, and a contrast in emotions on a very emotional day.

Chloe will even be babysitting the kids on Thursday afternoon, meaning it is possible to go home again.

That Which Brings Us Honor

What brings a person honor?

Typical answers to that question have to do with how we behave. But we can also be honored by being in the presence of that part of humanity that is pure and simple and true, our natural authenticity. Immersed in it, we are honored.

Today, my family was honored by the Boudeau family.

The Boudeaus invited us to attend Nicole’s, Laurent’s mother’s, memorial service. It took place in l’église Notre Dame de Breissure, about 60 minutes from Nantes. We were invited to be present for the casket being lowered into the ground. After that, we were invited to join the extended Boudeau family to share food, fellowship, and conversation. Through their actions, words, and gestures, every member of the Boudeau family treated my family with kindness, courtesy and empathy.

Today I hope to acknowledge the enormity of the gift given to us by the Boudeau family through this simple blog post, one that includes a picture of Michel, Nicole’s husband and Laurent’s father, with my family.

Inside Our House

First, let me say again that the house we are living in this summer is very different from the one in which we lived during the sabbatical. I’m not saying one is better than the other. Just that the contrast is striking.

Truth be told, this house is much more like what you might first imagine when picturing an urban French house. It’s pretty much in the heart of the city, on a narrow street. You access it through a gate on the street and then find the *front* door in the back. There is no front entryway like we are accustomed to in the US.

Inside has two narrow wood staircases, the first connecting the entry door to the main living area in which you find the living & dining rooms and the kitchen. Another staircase leads you to the top level where there are two kids’ rooms and an office. Back down at the entry level is the master bedroom and a bathroom, in which you’ll find the washer/dryer.

Today’s photo was taken on the upper staircase, shooting back down into the living area. I included in the photo my hand in order to *personalize* the photo.

le 14 juillet

This is our third Bastille Day in Nantes. How about that?! Two years ago, as Nantes newbies, we celebrated by going for a long walk, trying to see the fireworks from our apartment, and Skyping with people back in Seattle. Last year, among many things, we lounged by our pool before attending the Nantes fireworks display with the Bertails.

This year has been quite quiet, much like our first July 14th in France. Melinda & I went for a late morning walk between rain squalls. And Chloe & Ella have been homebodies. It’s 6:30pm as I write and Melinda is helping Bérnard and Christine. I’ve just returned from reading a book at the nearby Jardin des Plantes de Nantes.

Yes, I say nearby, because our house (see today’s photo) is a 5 minute walk from this incredible garden/park. That pleases me very much as I love it. It’s a perfect place to sit and read, people-watch, or go for a short jog. I wrote about on Day 231 of the sabbatical.

Life Lessons – Contrasts

Today is a day of extremes and within it I have found much to think about. First, we learned that Laurent’s mother, Nicole, died suddenly yesterday of a stroke. This is a blow on many levels, from sadness and concern for our dear friends, the Boudeaus, to our own sadness for Nicole’s death, to contemplating the mortality of our parents, to contemplating our own mortality. Melinda and I had just been talking with Laurent and Frédérique this week about our parents, and we were looking forward to seeing Laurent’s later this month.

To express this further, I could easily be convinced that Nicole is related to my family. Chloe commented today how similar Nicole and my mother are, and I mentioned in a blog post 14 months ago how much Nicole reminded me of my mother’s mother, one of my life’s most important influences. Like I said, much to think about.

I also said this is a day of extremes, as it is my father’s 78th birthday, a happy occasion. Last August he gave us all a bit of scare, eased by pacemaker surgery. Two years ago today, just into our second week in Nantes, we went searching for a representation for his 76th birthday. This is what we found.

So in honor of this day of extremes I am breaking one of my blog “rules” and including two photos. The first is one of Nicole of me, taken at her home in Bressuire when we visited in May last year. And the second is for my father and in honor of the idea we had two years ago.