Saturday, June 5, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt-Sixième Semaine!

Saint Jacut de la Mer, France
Walking on the sand at low tide.
After a wonderful week in that seaside town in February, we wanted to
share a meal and a hike with Matthieu's family (Brother could not make it).
It was a perfect way to wrap up our Breton, French & European adventure.
PS: Happy Birthday Maman, Bonne Fête Sophie, Happy Anniversary Papy
et Mamie, Bonne Fête des mères les mamans!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt-Cinquième Semaine!

Carnac, France
Plage de Legenese
We enjoyed a relaxing ten days
near the ocean, thanks to Papi and Mamy
for the use of their condo.
Biking, reading, writing, playing guitar
and enjoying the sun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt-Quatrième Semaine!

Bono, France
The Gulf of Morbihan
Taken right before an amazing dinner with sailors
of oysters, bread, wine and songs.
Thank to Romain for sharing this 
amazing evening with us!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Matthieu and I are in the midst of a Road Trip around Brittany, the western region of France.  Big thanks to Matthieu's family who loaned us a car! It has allowed us to explore small roads and coastlines.  France is an amazing country to just GO in.  There are awesome information tourist centers in most villages (look for the blue lower case i).  These tourist centers post lists on the door: campsites, B&Bs (gites in France), and hotels. Even when they are not open you can find what you need. But better yet, the signposts in town TELL you where to go for camping, hotels, and gites.  The handy blue rectangular signs will guide you to a good night's rest.  Campgrounds abound, and many municipalities run them, offering a cheap night's sleep.  You can actually camp in cities! 
I wish America had more of this- it would make travel much more affordable.

So far we have wound our way from Rennes to the Granite Coast, to Brest, to the Crozon Peninsula, 
to Quimper.  More entries to come on this beautiful country!

Camping at the municipal campground, next to the soccer fields, in Camaret-sur-mer:
(Thanks to the Bigers for the car, the tent, the sleeping pads, the maps and Matthieu!)

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt-Troisième Semaine!

Brest, France
Visiting Grand-mère.
Matthieu and I had  a lovely time getting the
tour of the town where Grand-mère, Matthieu's father 
and Matthieu were all born and raised.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Paris Picks

We finally edited our month in Paris to an album.  Click on the moulin rouge for more!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt-Deuxième Semaine!

Western France
Foret de Broceliande (Paimpont)
At the Fontaine de Barenton
 (Known for being guarded by the Black Knight and where Merlin
performed magic with the sparking clear water from the natural spring)
Sophie and Matthieu battle it out:
"It is but a Flesh Wound!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Brocéliande- in which we pretend to be Knights of the Round Table.

      Yesterday we went with Matthieu's sister Sophie to the magical forest of Brocéliande.  Whether you know it from the many tales of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table- from Mighty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail- from the Pendragon series- from the Disney Movie The Sword in the Stone-or from reading the Magic Tree House stories- you know something of the tale. 
If you don't, please go to your local library and read up!

                 Let me refresh your memory with what most scholars would call a horrifying recap:
   Arthur was the king of the Britons (which includes Brittany of France in some tales way back when the channel was walkable at time).  After being raised by the Wizard Merlin, Arthur became king after pulling the sword out of the stone (that Merlin had enchanted). Arthur was the leader of the knights of the round table, whom he assembled to protect the kingdom, right wrongs and to search for the Holy Grail (the chalice/cup used in the last supper).  Merlin the wizard was in love with Vivane the water fay- also known as the Lady of the Lake (she lived in a crystal palace under the water).  Lancelot du Lac was raised by the Lady of the Lake and then came to Camelot and was accepted into the court after showing how brave he was.  Most of the tales of the Knights involve them going off to rescue damsels in distress and fight evil knights like the Black Knight.  Morgan le Fey also plays an evil role in the tales as a wicked enchantress who traps people in the Valley of the Lost.  In some versions she is the half sister to Arthur, in some his healer, in some his enemy.  It is one of those stories that changed many times over history as various characters were given major and minor roles depending on who is telling it. 
   I think one could spend a lifetime on these fabulous and tantalizing tales. 

     The forest we explored has natural springs and valleys and enchanting 'lakes' (really more like big ponds) and although maybe not the real place (I like to think so)- exciting and lovely all the same! 
The saddest thing is that we did not bring our coconut halves from Building 19.  It would have been nice to ride along on our horses. Sadly, this is not the first day in which we had wished for them not to be in a storage unit in Iowa but in our hands for clip-clopping along. 

Merlin heading into the woods for a bachelor party.
Jackie gazing into the "Fairy's Mirror"
Preparing for a quest at the round table.
Dipping my pinkie into the Fountain of Youth.
Despite Morgan's Spell, we escaped the Valley of the Lost!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Paris, I do love you.

      Matthieu and I had an amazing month in Paris.  
We rented a small studio apartment with a couch/bed and kitchen with hotplates and scudsy bathroom with mold and peeling walls.  
But it was in Paris. It had a balcony. It got sun all day long, was in a prime people watching location, had the Internet and phone.  I loved it. We were in the 18th arrondissement, near both the vital North to South 12 line and the wonderful East to West 2 line.  It was a mere 5 minute walk to Sacre Coeur, to Pace du Tertre where caricatures and artists vie for your patronage, to the Moulin Rouge, to a public pool, to the fabric markets, to the cemetery where Degas is laid to rest.  
We had 6, SIX, excellent boulangeries within a five minute walk and tried them all. We were IN the neighborhood of Amélie. The fruit stand was down the street, her cafe around the corner, the seedy Pigalle area where her love interest worked was down the hill. It was an amazing month.
    We did a lot, and yet it seems like we didn't do enough. There is much to take in and experience, that quite frankly I don't know what to even say.  I have added a better late than never summary of our museum week (see further down in blog). Matthieu and I took so many photos that it will take us a little more time to sort them into an enjoyable album.  We took long walks by the Seine, discovered fabulous book stores, had laughter-filled meals with friends, discovered new neighborhoods, marveled at art, history, architecture, and ate sandwiches on our porch. Sometimes eating a really good sandwich on a porch is all I need.  
But eating a sandwich on a porch in Paris during sunset- somehow makes it taste even better.  

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingt et Unième Semaine!

Paris, France
Sacre Coeur
Springtime in Paris
For most of the year the grass in Paris parks is "resting", but
over the past week the grass was opened up, and people flocked!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Vingtième Semaine!

Paris, France
On the The Île de la Cité 
     Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle (1245), 
Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisioned)
and of course, Notre Dame! 
One of our frequent Metro stops
during our week of Museums and Historical Sites.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Dix-Neuvième Semaine!

Paris, France
Montmartre 'Hood'
Matthieu enjoying a café crème in our favorite
local café- just on the other side of the hill.
We like to go here to dream about
our future whilst sipping their homemade tea infusions.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Dix-Huitième Semaine!

Mount Trubsee/ Mount Titlis
Engelberg, Switzerland 
Skiing the Swiss Alps!
Over 2,000 meters of altitude change and 12 Km in one run!

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Dix-Septième Semaine!

Paris, France
Our apartment in Montmartre.
Watching a sunset and people
while reading, doing French homework,
day dreaming and drinking wine on our porch.
To our left: Sacre Coeur
To our right: Montmartre Cemetery
Behind our building: Le Moulin de la Galette 
(painted by Renoir among others)
Behind the building in front of us: The Eiffel Tower

Friday, March 26, 2010

New picture album: South of France and Barcelona with Jackie's parents and younger brother.

For you viewing pleasure, we have posted pictures of our 10 days traveling from Barcelona to the Perpignan area, to Carcassonne, Montpellier et al and back to Barcelona. Say "Fromage!" or "Queso!".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Seizième Semaine!

Barcelona, Spain
Sagrada Familia
An unfinished Cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi.  
 We are standing in front of the nativity facade in this picture.
A site to behold!

On the other side of the church is a much starker, darker facade of the Passion of Christ. It was executed by a different artist- who designed the Roman Soldiers to look like this:
The design for the soldiers is taken from another of Gaudi's work (chimneys on an apartment building) but I wonder if George Lucas was inspired by them as well for the design of stormtroopers.  A little google-ing will answer this question!

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Quinzième Semaine!

Ganges, France
La Grotto Demoiselles
The Hockett Family admiring stalactites in
the most amazing grotto I have ever seen!

Okay, so we tweaked that photo. The flash didn't capture the awesomeness of the ceiling.
Here is the original:

But the picture of the cave ceiling in the first photo IS legit and taken by Matthieu. 
Here is a shot of the jaw dropping "cathedral":
It did feel like being in a church!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stealing French Heritage (well, buying it)

Matthieu and I had so much fun this week hitting up sales and markets and an auction. I have always been in love with older things, estate sales, other people's things and history. I even had a subscription to "Times Remembered" while in high school. France has history!
 Our spoils:

Our week included a notions sale at Emmaus- a French Salvation Army of sorts- I picked a sack of fabulous colored buttons just waiting for a craft.  We also went to a post card sale here and added more to our collection started at Frank's in Rouen of early 1900's holiday and special meaning cards.  There are some real doozies that I may share at a later time if people are interested.   

We also had a fabulous meal with Papi and Mami, which led to conversation about postcards, which led to them pulling out three shoeboxes full and M and I getting to choose a bundle to take with us.  I love the old black and white pictures of French scenery.  They feel timeless.

There is a market, like only Europe knows how to do (although I hear DSM has a pretty sweet one) every Saturday in Rennes.  There are the most gorgeous veggies, tantalizing fruits, nuts, olives, sausages made of every animal you could think of,  fish that is so fresh, and the flowers.  OH the flowers.  It is almost overwhelming of the senses.  In addition to all of this is the great people watching- like this guy who did some pretty impressive moves with a ball and rode a unicycle.
Perhaps he went to clown school?

 In addition to the food market, there is a book market every Wednesday and Saturday in Rennes.  One thing I LOVE about France is that they know how to do comic books. And not just for kids- really there are only 4 main kid characters- but adults have endless choices.  
There are entire stores with just comics, graphic novels, manga and the works.

Another great thing about France is that there are a lot of antique and specialized sales in France.  On Sunday we went to a toy and advertising sale.  There were VERY cool metal adverts (like what you might see hanging in a bar) fans, matchbooks, tins (like what you might find biscuits in), toy cars, dolls, picture books and such.  They were also mostly very expensive.  An old Coca-Cola garbage can was 700 euros!  We found our Votre Beaute mags here for a very reasonable price. 

On Monday we attended a weekly auction at an auction house.  There was a statue of St. Anne, the patron saint of Brittany, that we had our eye on.  She was made in Quimper, a town in France known for their ceramics.  It was my first auction, and it was very exciting.  M and I had a very clear price in mind before we came in. I got very nervous when I saw how quickly the other Quimper products were going- my heart started racing and my stomach hurt.  Thank goodness Matthieu took care of the hand raising.  One other person was interested- but we won her! 
I think she will be a great addition to our future Breton Cafe...

How to be a Beautiful Woman- in 1930's France

Some of our buys this week were some old ladies health 
and beauty magazines Votre Beaute (Your Beauty).
There are fashion and health articles as well as fabulous adverts (most unsuitable for this web-page). There are also numerous tidbits of advice. Advice on how to stretch in the morning, what types of shoes are bad for your feet, how to climb a tree, what beauty supplies you should have in your "arsenal", how to pluck your eyebrows, which hairstyles are better for day than night, how to exercise on the beach....

I picked out a few important tips to share with you. 

 1.  The shape of your lip can be changed. 
  In fact, if your lips look more like a famous person's lips you  may be more attractive. This article includes a handy appendix of famous actresses lips- Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and the likes.  Personally, I have never been a fan of painting lips on your face where they are none- but I guess if you want the full pout of Madge Evans you might just do this. I do find this solution much more appealing than the lip-injecting that some of today's stars choose.

   I decided to give it a go and make my lips like Joan Crawford in her heyday.  How did I do? 

2. Tall socks on the beach are not stylish. 

I quite like this fashion spread on beach clothes from an article titled "Today we Have Learned to Undress on the Sand".  It contrasts the fashion on the early 1900's with the fashion of "today" (at the time of publication).
The one on the right has this caption "And here is a poor bather, who in 1913, for the first time had the extravagance to wear a skin-tight swimsuit without giving up on either black or her socks"  I actually find this black bathing suit to be practical, I am sure this girl can play sports and swim with no troubles.  I would actually like to own this swimsuit. 
The polka-dotted one on the left is a sunbathing ensemble...reversible cape included.  I guess women of the 1930's were liberated by wearing color to the beach, and no socks!

3. A black dress is still the way to go.
  This black satin evening gown is gorgeous.  The description says "The cut of this skirt makes for a graceful and youthful fullness".  From what I saw on clips from the Oscars, some of today's ladies should take note.  This stunning lady could actually walk upstairs unattended.  

4. Walking is great exercise.  Chris: this one is for you!

Matthieu getting his "walk" on with a copy of a 
1933 magazine with the Headline: 
Le premier des Sports: La Marche.  
This translates to The First Sport: Walking.

This entire issue is devoted to walking paths, how to walk, things you can do to push that walk into even more of a workout, and even how to correct your walk so it won't hurt your hips, back, and feet.

6. They detoxed in the 30's as well.
 Highlights from the article:
"To be beautiful
Detox youself"

-Do not eat too much
   -Breathe deeply
  - It is important to sweat- 
(A teaspoon of sweat is toxic enough to kill a human!) 
  -If you have trouble perspiring you should have a warm drink
 and have an 'electric light bath' (?)

   -Twice a month you should have a whole day diet or drink juice of 10 or 12 oranges or 5 or 6 grapefruits  
or one liter of milk or one liter of Vittel water.  
Do it on a Sunday so you won't feel feeble at work.  

-Go to the countryside and breathe fresh air, canoe, hunt or simply walk the other three Sundays of the month. 

It seems that lady mags have been giving the same realm of advice for years! 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Quatorzième Semaine!

Rennes, France
At a book market in Saint Anne's Square
We had a fabulous week of markets, auction, and antiques.
(See next posting for more!)

What you can't hear is the amazing carousel music:
Austin Powers-esque

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Treizième Semaine!

Rennes, France
After Matthieu had a chalazion removed from his lower eyelid.
There had been a bump under his eye for a few months now, and it had
formed a cyst that was scooped out through an incision.
Jackie is sad she didn't get to watch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to turn an Iowan into a sea-side-loving gal. In a week!

      Although I don't always agree with everything Bill Bryson says- I am proud to be from Des Moines and hear the call back to the Heartland quite clearly- I do agree with his essay "A Day at the Seaside" from his collection of essays, Notes From a Big Country:

              "Iowa, where I grew up, is a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, so to me (and I believe to most other Iowans, though I haven't the chance to check with all of them yet) the word 'ocean' suggests alarming things like riptides and undertows......Lake Ahquabi, where I did all my formative swimming and sunburning, may not have the romance of Cape Cod or the grandeur of the rock-ribbed coast of Maine, but then neither did it grab you be the legs and carry you off helplessly to Newfoundland."

          I had never tried to put the feelings into words before- but when I read this I knew it to be true.  I can maneuver a canoe across lakes and up rivers with skill I un-charmingly brag about. I have very talented toes that can scoop up mud from the bottom of farm ponds to slather on my arms and face.  I have no problem not knowing what it is exactly I am swimming in.  
       But oceans-oooh the ocean has always made me nervous.  Oceans are salty and sting your eyes. Oceans have no other side to challenge yourself to swim to.  Oceans have big scary animals living in them.  Oceans upturn boats and ruin cities and pay no mind to your desire to just float about aimlessly in an inflatable tube on a hot afternoon.  Don't even get me started on the beach. The only time I whole-heartily enjoyed a beach was in the British Virgin Islands in the calmest cove, with the bluest water, a stack of books, no commute, and no one else around. 
       So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself in love, in awe and just so darn pleased with the sea.  Matthieu and I were staying on the coast of Brittany, in a town called St. Jacut De La Mer.  More specifically in an Abbey (in which are REAL LIVE nuns- a whole other first time experience for me).  We were there for a week of personal insight and shiatsu meditation.  The Abbey is right on the coast, our room had a view of the sunset over the ocean every single day.  And perhaps most important is that it is located on a peninsula of land subject to low tide.  A glorious, muddy, sand-waved, algae-spread, crab and shell seeking, oyster and mussle farm-seeing low tide.  There is so much to explore. So much that goes on underneath all of that water.
        Matthieu and I spent hours and hours walking across the sea floor- to little islands with trees and birds and to coves with castle ruins- that in the midst of it all I found myself loving the salty air. Adoring the French fishermen with long white beards and smoking pipes while raking for some sort of shell-fish to cook up. I even felt the joy of the dogs running on the beach.  (I do side with cats most often in  life- but here is a moment where I was very envious of getting to just roll in mud and stink). 
        So although I will never have strong sea legs- and can't imagine ever lasting on a cruise boat, I do dream of the day we will bring our children to explore the sea at low tide.  I really want a shovel, a bucket, a little rake and a book to tell me exactly the name of all those creatures.




Le Polaroid de la semaine: Douzième Semaine!

St. Jacut De La Mer (low tide)
Do-In (a form of Shiatsu) retreat
This was hosted at a very old Abbey 
and the classes taught by nuns

Friday, February 19, 2010

Literary Dreams Can Come True

       One of the books I discussed with an amazing book group when I was a working librarian (as I hope to be again someday) was The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong.  This tale was first introduced to me by my Dutch Grandmother, and has always been in my "Top100 Children's Books for a Warm Soul" mental list.  

       In this awesome, gentle yet exciting story, a group of children involve their Dutch village in a hunt for a wheel to place on the top of the school.  The wheel would act as a base for a pair of storks to build a nest- and this is what the children want above all.  Their teacher understands this and encourages them to go on the hunt.  Each chapter follows the individual tale of each child's journey for a wheel- before they all come back together for the satisfying conclusion. 
      (B, I know you were not totally thrilled with the action as it cannot compare with the world of Harry Potter- but when you think back to the book, do you like it any better?)

    While we were in Morocco, we visited a palace that had storks nests all along it's walls.  I made a short video of it before realizing just how many there were.  So take a look (and a listen!) to the storks in action.   I have not been this excited about a literary connection since I got to roll maple syrup in snow and eat it like in Understood Betsy

Here are some of the pictures Matthieu and I captured of the storks, click on the photo to view it bigger.

How to see Morocco in 11 days- or 12 if Easy Jet cancels your flight

A visit to Morocco

 We have finally sorted the over 2,000 pics down to an enjoyable 280. 
They are in their own devoted albumn, cleverly titled "Morocco".  You can see them on the right hand side of the page- where our other travel pics have always been displayed.  

        It was an amazing trip- and a write up of the adventure will be coming soon.  It takes longer than I think it should to do these things, but we like to do them right. 

   OH and to all those people who noticed that I spelled desert dessert- here is a picture of a Moroccan dessert...I bought it in the streets of Morocco. "Why you picked THAT one [dessert] I will never know" says Matthieu of my choice.  There were french-like pastries and sticky sweets with flies buzzing around them, but I chose the one with green frosting and blue sprinkles. Because I can. 

 There are plenty of pics of the desert in the album- if you like dunes and camels.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Onzième Semaine!

Merzouga, Morocco
The Dunes of Erg Chebbi
Part of the Sahara Desert
It was a cloudy day, but a gorgeous day to ride camels!

Le Polaroid de la semaine: Dixième Semaine!

Marrekech, Morocco
Among the stalls of shops within the 
medina (walled city)
also known as the souks.
This picture cannot capture the craziness, the noise, the maze of
allies and corners and dead ends. The people zipping by
on mopeds and transporting wares on mules and pushing carts of 
goods. Those setting up shop on a free patch of concrete to sell their clothes and
vegetables and herbs and the yelling in Arabic and Berber...