Week three brought us to the home of Matthieu's family. We arrived in Saint Malo by ferry from Portsmouth, England on Saturday the 11. The wonderful Sophie woke early to pick us up and drive us the 45 min South to Rennes, the capital of the Bretagne region of France and Matthieu's home. I had private tutoring Mon-Fri with an amazing and patient professour. Two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and about five hours of homework a night. I think we wrote on over 80 sheets of paper! On Wednesday, we spent the day at her house and I got to go to "La Poste" to order bread at the boulangerie and she taught me some traditional French recipes as well for lunch. My head feels a bit heavier after the week, and as my father in-law Pierre-Henri says, my foot is now in the stirrup and all I need to do is swing my leg on the horse. Matthieu took week one of a week and half session of mastering the art of crepe making. He learned how to prepare the doughs for the sweet and salty crepes, to be technical in America we often just say crepes but the savory ones are called galettes. These are the ones you might fill with cheese, ham, eggs, mushrooms, etc. He also made cookies and cakes using crepes. His work is incredibly tasty and we hope to share his new talent with family and friends!
After a lovely ferry ride from Dublin to Holyhead, the two travelers boarded a train east to Chester, England. Here they hired a car for five stunning days. Jackie studied in Wales when a junior working on her BA at the University of Iowa, and has been longing to go back as an adult and with a car. The train system in Great Britain goes east to west on the south and in the north, and then north to south on the east only. So much of the west of the country is missed by rail and bus. While this is perhaps tragic for the student stuck to public transportation, it is indeed a blessing for the untouched countryside! Matthieu braved the small, twisty roads and driving on the opposite side, as the two wound their way through North Wales and then South. Stops included castles Denbigh, Harlech, and Carreg Cannen. They stopped at a crafting village and watched a man make dragons out of glass and at the town of Portmeirion, a bizarre resort town made up by an archtiectic and was also the location for the TV series "the Prisoner"
Along this drive we came upon a true B&B for a night. The older gentleman who owned the pub, a cafe, and lived above the two with a few rooms rented out that were better than any hotel room. We had a grand time getting to know Eddie and his dog Darcy. Eddie made us a fry up like you have never seen in your life (pictures in the slide show on the right!). If anyone ever finds themselves in Llandawr, Wales stay here!! (The only B&B in town)
But of course, a stop to Wales wouldn't be a stop without a night in Swansea and the lovely company of Jackie's old flatmates! Darren walked the town with the two, and we were lucky enough to get to stay with the lovely Laura and her lovely Chris as well.
After a car-rental gone wrong in Dublin, Jackie and Matthieu hopped on a train west to Galway for the weekend. They arrived in the early evening and found a cheap room at a small but friendly hostel. The got to pretend they were at camp with bunk beds, a basin in the room, and freezing cold tile floors with only cold water to bathe. Sadly, unlike at camp, there wasn't any sunshine to go run around in afterwards.
The two spent Friday night hanging in a pub called the Crane, which is known locally for its musical sessions. Musicians drop in every night just to play together and the results were phenomenal. The pair had so much fun listening to the live music that they returned the following evening for an encore performance. Saturday's line-up included a magical harp solo that hushed the room. It was as if you were listening to a prayer.
These two bone-chilled travelers (yet happy with the warmth of tea at every corner) boarded a musty tour bus for a day trip through County Clare. Stops included castles, an area of land called the Burren (in which there are magnificent limestone shelves) and the spectacular and windy Cliffs of Moher.
Many thanks to Beatrice for hosting us in Dublin, and driving us through the hairpin turns and amazing sites of the Wicklow mountains and Sally Gap!
The adventure begins in Ireland: home of Irish green, Irish charm, Irish whiskey, Irish wool and Irish accents. In their first outing, the couple wanders the streets of Dublin, enjoys a (FREE) museum of exceptional quality and interest, and samples some of Dublin's finest beverages. Pictures of bogs, monastic ruins, harrowing cliffs, and dogs that discover America coming soon!
M and I drove the back roads home from Iowa City to Des Moines, stopping in Pella so he could see where I went to college my Freshman year. My grandma grew up there, so it was fun to walk the square and show M where the family's general store had been, and the house my grandmother grew up in. We brought her back a dutch letter of course, and treated ourselves to the spice cookies I am always ready to eat! As we drove the countryside we listened to an amazing mix Amanda made me once upon a time and got to drive for 40 min through this glorious sunset. I do love the horizon.
It has been 5 years since I have had Thanksgiving in Iowa with my family, so it was a real treat to get to spend the past few days in Iowa City with my siblings and niece and nephew! Matthieu and I took Ella and my old babysitting charge, and his little brother to the Iowa Children's Museum. We had a blast playing with the different exhibits and got ice cream AND rode the carousel too! I watched O for about a year and a half at the beginning of his life so seeing him as a SECOND grader is amazing. Of course, the fact that he is a superb reader with a witty sense of humor is awesome. His parents are smarty-pants so no surprises there!
Jim had hunted down some great recipes for the meal and he and Matthieu made up Stuffed Jalapenos that were a huge hit, dressing that was amazing, and fried up a turkey.
To top off the evening, we all watched the Iowa All-State concert on PBS- as Keegan made the orchestra. He is a bassoon player and it is quite the honor to make it as a Freshman. Jameo kept looking for him on tv and would yell "Keeg-keeg! More Keeg-keeg!" anddelighted us with wonderful dancing to the music.
Hope everyone else had as wonderful of a turkey day as we did!
We then enjoyed a delectable hummus and roasted red pepper sandwich with Peruvian coffee at Ritual Café. More pics in the gallery!
Des Moines is not the doldrums you may expect. Jackie is amazed by all the changes in the past ten years. Here is a fantastic city guide that she really likes: http://www.designspongeonline.com/2009/09/des-moines-guide.html
After a troubleless trip (Thanks Kevin!!!) that took us across NH, MA, NY, PA, OH, IN, ILL and IA, we have settled here:
Or at least most of our worldly possessions have. They will await, dry and cosy, our return from Ye Olde Continent. We have for our part enjoyed time with Jackie's family and will do so until just after Thanksgiving week-end, replete with its own excitement. More to come on that!
I have been lucky to have the most amazing book groups at the library. One has been meeting for THREE years! I will miss this phenomenal bunch of kids. They are witty, smart and incredibly fun. Last Thursday we had an online chat with author Sarah Prineas the author of the intriguing fantasy book The Magic Thief. It was a cool experience. She was very giving of her time, and answered questions with humor and honesty. Thank you!
We went to Iowa the past week and had an absolutely wonderful time with friends, family and fair. My brother Kevin took us skydiving (YouTube clips can be seen here for Matthieu and here for Jackie). It was amazing! We got to go bowling, swimming, golfing. Of course the cultural highlight was experiencing the Iowa State Fair. I had not been in almost 6 years and this was Matthieu's first time. I was most entertained by watching my little brother eat his savings. That to the left is a fried Snickers bar!
Matthieu enjoyed eating his first REAL corn dog. We saw the Butter Cow, the prizewinning giant Bull and Pig, watched the talent sprouts, went to the Kelly Clarkson concert (which was surprisingly amazing-we expected good), saw a demolition derby with a man named ROCKY HARDCORE who set himself on fire,
rode the sky ride, and decided what cooking contests
we were going to enter next year.
Jameo was crazy for Sebastian the family cat- or as he called him "Meow".
The amazing Sue and Pascal threw a classy and fun wedding at the Commandant's House in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Congratulations PK and Sue! We wish you many years of making witty commentary to one another.