France 2013 (From the Archives)

So as I mentioned in previous posts, toward the end of our sabbatical year, back in the early summer of 2011, Melinda and I began dreaming of the idea of returning to France, and specifically to Nantes, for the better part of a month each summer. We worked out the details at PSCS to make this happen and in 2012 we returned with Chloe and Ella, as summarized in my previous post.

In 2013, Melinda and I returned to Nantes without the girls. At age 20 and 16, they kinda liked the idea of having time by themselves in our Seattle house.

How odd…

While not having the girls with us provided a lot more flexibility, I’d hate to suggest that we didn’t miss them. To be honest, some nine years later, I don’t really remember missing them. I do remember posting on the blog little tests for them, cryptic photos of places in Nantes that I invited them to identify. So clearly, I was thinking about them…

The point that really felt different without the girls is when Melinda and I spent extended time in Paris, just the two of us. That was, indeed, a glorious time.

To gain easy access to all the posts from our 2013 trip, use the France 2013 tag or, even easier, click here.

18 July 2013 : A Confession

Paris 2013Melinda and I spent the better part of the last three weeks in France. I didn’t announce this on this blog because Chloe and Ella were staying alone in Seattle, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to be promoting this on the Internet.

Instead, I set up another blog to provide updates for our family, especially Chloe and Ella, while we were gone. And I made a couple of posts here to keep things active.

But now we’re back in Seattle and I’m offering interested people the opportunity to read the blog I kept while we were in France. If that interests you, start here.

15 July 2013: Artificial Fire

Yesterday was the 14th of July in France. Heck, I’m pretty sure it was the 14th of July everywhere, but with time zones and everything, who knows. I just know yesterday was the 14th of July in France.image

It’s a big deal over here, you know, the French equivalent to our 4th of July. We spent a good chunk of it in Pornichet at the home of Luc and Isabel, good friends to Laurent and Frédérique. The six of us had lunch and then went to the beach, most of us braving the 62 degree water for a short swim.

We returned to Nantes to see the feu d’artifice, which translates literally as artificial fire. Its actual translation is fireworks, and it being the 14th of July in France yesterday, there was a lot of artificial fire taking place.

I took this photo of the event, trying to capture Laurent and Frédérique.

14 July 2013 : Château de l’Oiselinière


This was the view we had from the car yesterday as we drove in to the Château de l’Oiselinière, a winery/vineyard/B&B some 30 minutes from Nantes. Laurent, at Melinda’s request, had arranged for us to have a private tour of the vineyard, followed by a wine tasting.

02Scott, you would have loved it.

03This particular vineyard dates back to 1635, although the history of the property dates back even further. It’s like going back in time. For the tour of the vines, we were taken by M. Verdier, our host who spoke in both French and English, out into the vineyard. He talked in specific detail about how the vines are cultivated, including the 6 months it takes each year to prune each individual bush by hand.04

After that, he showed inside the buildings and talked about the fermenting process, before taking us to the wine-tasting room. All they make is a white wine here and we got to sample several different vintages.

Note, the link above is to the English language version of their website. Much more detail can be found there.


13 July 2013 : {“Day 13 (13 July 2010) – Happy Birthday, Al!”}

Such was my blog post title 3 years ago today, on the 13th day of the sabbatical. How can it already be 3 years? And here’s a link to that post, for those of you who, like me, enjoy time travel.Al's Birthday

Get this, this is our fourth consecutive year in which we’ve spent July 13th in France, which leads me to think there are two interpretations of this. The first is that we feel some kind of need to get far away from my father on his birthday. And the second is that we so much want to celebrate his birthday in a big way that we travel to France to do it.

On that note, Melinda & I found this poster in Paris announcing a big French celebration of my father’s birthday taking place today at an Irish pub. If you squint a bit while using your imagination, you can almost believe it says Smallman there on the poster (or O’Smallmans).

Say, Al, Frédérique just walked by and wanted to make sure I pass on a birthday greeting to you from her. Have fun at the track!!

13 July 2013 : Estuaire Nantes Saint -Nazaire

Boat TourSo yesterday we went on an art tour by boat from Nantes to Saint-Nazaire. It was Bernard’s idea and along for the trip were Christine, Bernard, Théo, Claire, Melinda, and me. It was a great time. If you want to know more about it, read about it (in English) here. Me, here are some additional things I think you should know.Brassiere

#1 – That really is a house in the water. It’s an art installation. Think that’s nuts? Go to that link above.

#2 – As I wandered the boat, I discovered that they have brassieres stowed away in packages of 6. My guess is that if the water gets rough and a lot of large-chested women are on the boat, they want to keep everything in order.

Burger House#3 – When you get off the boat in Saint-Nazaire, the first thing you see is the re-purposed Burger House!! You may recall that Rick moved the Burger House out of Nantes. Sad fact of the day, it was closed yesterday.

13 July 2013 : Getting Caught Up

Thai Food!
Thai Food!
We’ve not had easy Internet access for the last couple of days, hence the lack of blog posts. Thursday was our last day in Paris and we wanted to make the most of it. We went out for a Thai lunch at a restaurant recommended by Christine. It was really good. But it was far enough away from our apartment (one Métro transfer) and we had to check out by 2pm so time was tight.
Biding Time
Biding Time

Hustling to the train station.
Hustling to the train station.
We were able to stash our bags for a few hours, time enough to do some final sight-seeing. But then we had about 3 hours to kill with our bags before our train left. We managed to do that in a wonderful little bar. It’s really not difficult to bide one’s time in a Parisian bar while on vacation. I recommend you try it some time.

We did such a good job of biding our time that we had to hustle to the train station (one Métro transfer and a packed, packed subway). But we arrived with plenty of time to spare (10 minutes), according to Melinda.