Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer

I had a plan for the day. But when we hurriedly boarded the bus so we didn’t have to wait for the next one, we got on the wrong bus. Instead of a 15 minute ride to Villefranche-sur-Mer, we ended up with a full tour of the Riveria and got out in Menton. Two miles further and we would be in Italy.

Was I frustrated?

Nope. That’s one of the adventures of traveling–things don’t always go as planned.

We ended up with some great Italian food (we were after all just feet from Italy).

And Rob found some American coffee. He’s always a little put off by the size of French coffees.

We did eventually end up at Villa de Ephrussi. The house is nice, but the gardens are amazing.

The woman who owned it was quite a character. Apparently she arranged for a full wedding for her two dogs.

Imagine this view. Pretty spectacular!

Since we were having trouble with the bus, we ended up walking from the Gardens to Villefranche-sur-Mer. And Rob found us a great restaurant right on the water.

We started with dessert, and then stayed so long we bought dinner too.

Nice to Meet You Nice

I sometimes error on the safe side. When I booked our Paris – Nice flight I had many options. But I didn’t want to cut it too close. After all we would have to go through customs.

Our flight from Minneapolis was to arrive at 7:15 am. I figured 30 minutes to get out of the plane, another hour for customs, and maybe a nice coffee.

Imagine my surprise when we arrived an hour early, customs took less than five minutes, and the coffee another 10. We ended up waiting in CDG for five hours! It’s not the best plan when you’re jet-lagged to start with!  We had a difficult time keeping our eyes open.

But when we arrived in Nice we were all smiles! it was sunny and bright.

Nice is close to the Italian border and looks like it. Old Nice reminded me of Venice with windy streets, cafes that spill out on the street, and music!

I loved the trick fountains.

And a picnic along the Mediterranean is just fun.

Then to top it off–gelato.

My 60th Birthday

We started the day in Amboise. Since it was my birthday I enjoyed pastries and a croissant!

After breakfast we walked to the train station to head back to Paris.

I got a chuckle out of this baguette vending machine at the station.

Once in Paris we walked the Rue Cler to gather up a picnic.

No Birthday meal is complete without dessert, I made mine a meringue of course.

The last time I was in Paris we tried to eat at the Quai Branly, the cafe with a view of the Eiffel.

At that time it was too busy, but this time we scored the perfect spot!

We ended our day with a boat tour of the Seine. It was cold!

Twyla pulled out her neck pillow and made it double as a pillow!

So thankful for the opportunity to spend my sixtieth birthday in Paris! Here’s to all the adventures ahead.

Castles in France

About two hours from Paris by train you will find Amboise, a little town in the Loire Valley.

We stayed at Le Vieux Manoir…a beautiful bed and breakfast today run by Americans Gloria and Bob.

Since we didn’t have a car, we boarded a shuttle to your three castles–apparently there are more than a thousand in the area.

The first castle Chenonceau, was my favorite.

We stopped for a cup of coffee in the cafe.

And toured the gardens.

We also visited Cheverny.

And Chambord — with over 400 rooms and 17 stairwells.

We finished our night with Quiche and dessert at the patisserie Bigot.

Paris Passages

The Paris Passages feel like secrets. Everyone visits the Arc De Triomphe.

And the Eiffel Tower.

But the passages are less well known. They feel like entrances to the past.

Dotted with antique stores, bookshops and restaurants they were a perfect stop for a cloudy day in Paris.

The trick is finding them.

We found a lovely patisserie in one of the passages So we stopped for a quintessential French lunch: quiche and French onion soup.

After lunch we stopped at E. Dehillerin–famous as Julia Child’s favorite kitchen store.

The store was packed. It covers a huge space–but it must be 90% storage. There is almost no place to stand inside.

To complete our shopping adventure we stopped at the famed Le Bon Marche–the beautiful Paris Department store. High fashion (read expensive). They had just one or two of each item. In some cases it may have been plenty 😉

To finish of the night we stopped at the little Supermarket on the island and made a picnic. The outdoor restaurants on the Seine were closed because of the cold weather, but two women from Minnesota were not put off!

Sunday in Paris

I’ve been to Paris a few times, but I haven’t been able to attend the American Church, so Twyla and I headed over there. Our plan was to catch the Batobus, but we never found it. So we ended up walking the whole way.

The church was already in progress when we arrived. Parisian security being what it is, we had to have our bags searched before entering the sanctuary. We loved the service.

After the service, they had a coffee hour in the room next-door. Look at the little basket of coffee spoons! They’re just little mini spoons.

I was also amused to discover the fellowship hall doubled as a ballet studio.

After church we walked over to the Orangerie museum. The museum rooms were built specifically to hold Monet’s water lilies pictures. It was pretty amazing.

Next we joined a good part of the Parisian population at the Tulleries for a sit down.

We ended our evening with dinner close to the river and in our own neighborhood. And crepes!

Paris — Art and the Marais

One of the best things about staying at a bed and breakfast is well BREAKFAST! The French don’t do big breakfasts, they prefer a croissant and espresso. That’s fine with me. I’m a fan of pastry.

Our table included fruit, croissants, French bread, juice and three kinds of jam. Oh and French butter. It’s the best.

We woke to find our host ironing. Not surprising, the linens were antique and …ironed!

One of my goals this trip was to see some things I hadn’t seen so we started at the Orsay.

I’m not a huge art fan, but I was smitten with this place and the impressionist art.

Twyla gave me a mini lesson on Impressionism and Pointillism. Born to teach she is!

Museum cafes are the best and this one had two. Look at the light fixtures!

And a great clock.

Just outside d’Orsay we heard jazz music. And this woman, I’m thinking in her 80s, provided the dancing entertainment.

One of the best things about Paris is just wandering. We wandered into the Marais, the home of falafel. Both Twyla and I are indecisive about where to eat. I’m sure we could have looked all day, but hunger finally took over. We found a great place and I tried falafel for the first time. It was great!

It’s our goal to have coffee and dessert outside every day. Today I picked a meringue and Twyla selected a beautiful raspberry pistachio.

We ended our day taking a boat ride and seeing the Eiffel for the first time.

We ended up back in our room about 10 o’clock. We had walked 10 miles today! That deserved another round of gelato.

Turning 60 in Paris

Last year on my birthday, my friend Leah wished me 59 adventures for my 59th year. I’ve thought about that all year. What if instead of dreading turning 60 I could celebrate the year with 60 adventures? Would it be possible? Instead of being sad so many years were behind me could I embrace the year joyfully?

So when the opportunity arrived to turn 60 in Paris, I packed up and went.

My sister Twyla came along to celebrate with me!

We booked a Bed and Breakfast on Il de Louis just a block from Notre Dame. Carol welcomed us with coffee on a silver tray. She speaks my love language.

With less than an hour of sleep, but buoyed by coffee, we headed out to Paris. First stop, lunch.

Croque Monsier sandwich and Orangina eaten on the square in front of Notre Dame.

After a quick wander through the church we headed to the Marais for cloud cake. Seriously a chandelier in a pastry shop!

A sweet deserves coffee and what better place to enjoy it than the Seine?

We found a hidden garden inside the Hotel Dieu.

And headed over to the Luxembourg Garden for more!

I finally hit the Shakespeare bookstore … but no photos are allowed inside.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner eaten in the best way–outside.

We considered crepes to end the day, but gelato won out.

We wrapped our first day in Paris. I’ll take 59 more adventures!

The Rainforest

We left Lake Atitlan today but not without one last adventure.

We started the day with a garden breakfast. Plants and flowers were everywhere. And of course a dog or two as well.

Then we boarded a tuk tuk for the Nature Reserve. Our driver was a bit of a ham!

We had to travel up the volcano to get to the reserve. With three adults in the back, I was afraid we might have to push to get up the incline!

The Nature Reserve was a sugar cane plantation that has slowly been reclaimed as a rainforest.

There are plenty of brightly colored butterflies.

And flowers.

We hiked up to see the waterfalls.

To get there we had to cross multiple swinging bridges. I’m not the best on them! My travel partners had no fear.

Seeing the water rush below is less than peaceful.

Along the way we met some coatis. They are a monkey-like raccoon-like creature. If you look you can see the babies in the second picture.

We also saw spider monkeys swinging through the trees. And one waiting for snacks at the Restaurant.

Then we headed back to Guatemala City. We did see a few more animals there and Rob can never resist a good goat picture.

Boating on Lake Atitlan

The gardens at Lake Atitlan hotel are legendary. This morning before breakfast I spent an hour just wandering.

Everywhere I looked foliage and flowers.

And birds.

After breakfast we transferred our bags to another hotel. Sadly Hotel Atitlan only had room for us one night.

Hugo met us at the hotel and escorted us to the boat docks for a tour of the lake.

He didn’t speak any English–but he smiled at us a lot!

We visited three towns. In one town we stopped at the ceramic works. Amazing what they produce from such primitive tools.

Then at the market they dressed Maria in tradition Mayan dress.

They do this in hopes that you will buy the outfit. Maria didn’t think she’d wear it again so no sale. Most of the women here in small towns still wear these clothes.

Many of the tourist stalls are manned by young girls. I loved seeing them play a game of soccer in the street.

After the boat ride the hammock looked comfortable for a snooze! I had trouble staying in it but Rob figured it out.

Our hotel had a fussball table and ping pong table. We played both. Maria won even when she played one handed.

We ended the night with ice cream. Rob, who cannot say no to the children selling their wares, ended up including an extra in our order. After all, he figured, how many bracelets can we give away! Buying ice creams might be his modus operende.