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Blessing of the Ships – Pentecost Weekend – May 27th 2012

Trouville – Deauville – Honfleur – Weekend of Pentecost

English: The Pentecost Mosaic, in the center i...

English: The Pentecost Mosaic, in the center is the dove of the Holy Spirit with the twelve apostles below. This is one of the oldest mosaics in the church dating from 1125 AD. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Besides having an important and strategic influence 900 + years ago with William the Conqueror, it was strategic also in WWII,and extremely fortunate to have missed the bombings that were to the North East of this tiny harbour.   Honfleur, is just so beautiful and picturesque  I could hardly take it all in.    We took a short vacance here end of May, when it’s a celebratory feast of sorts – or Benediction of the Ships – which come from ALL OVER to be blessed.  If this had anything to do with the seafood being so incredibly fresh and good, I wouldn’t be surprised either.  But first a word about this special holiday …….

This weekend was Pentecost, from the Ancient Greek pentếkosta, meaning fiftieth. It is the Christian holiday celebrating the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles fifty days after Easter.  It is a HUGE weekend in France, especially since Pentecost Monday was a public holiday in France until 2005.  Then something happened; about 15,000 elderly people died in a heat wave in the summer of 2003.  The French government made a committment to financially support the elderly and people with disabilities by deciding that Pentecost Monday would no longer be a public holiday and people would work  this day without pay. The public holiday was replaced with the Day of Solidarity. On this day people worked for no pay. Their wages were collected to assist the elderly and persons with disabilities. However, the French in notorious fashion, took to the streets and Pentecost Monday became a public holiday again in 2008. The French government introduced other fiscal measures to raise money to support the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Next up:  A Vacance, indeed, for David & Marti – who had a  tremendously lovely time in Honfleur……….  stay tuned……………

TOILET PAPER (when there’s nothing else to talk about)

In all the world, of so many subjects, I bring you Toilet Paper, as I sit in my little apartment in Montmorency………….

City Lights, France-Italy Border (NASA, Intern...

City Lights, France-Italy Border (NASA, International Space Station Science, 04/28/10) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

Coming from America, and now living in France, I have a special affinity for CHARMIN TOILET PAPER.  I’ve written about this before, ( in a bored but nostalgic mood) so then – after seeing all the designer toilet paper in the Louvre Carousel Restroom, decided to post the lovely array of designer toilet tissue that amused me to the max.

It’s a good thing it was amusing because the cost to get in was not.  (1,50 euro).!!!  Robbery!  But I had to pee!!!

Enjoy –

(but they’re still not as soft as CHARMIN)!!

France’s Lost Colony: One of ‘Em, Anyway

More about South Carolina that I could ever possibly imagine.  Where WERE all my AMERICAN history lessons back then? Hmmmm – and my family hailed from NORTH Carolina!!!

je parle américain

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the day that Captain Jean Ribault sailed into the body of water that would later be known as Port Royal Sound in what is now South Carolina. The colony that he founded there became the first French settlement and—with the exception of a very short-lived Spanish outpost possibly near present-day Georgetown, South Carolina—the first European settlement in what is now the United States.

The middle of the 1500s was marked by competition among the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the French to colonize the Americas. The English, the Dutch, and even the Swedish eventually arrived on the scene, but their efforts came at least a generation later. The Spanish dominated the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and western South America. The Portuguese dominated eastern South America—that’s to say, Brazil. That left northern North America for the French. In the early to mid-1500s, though, a lot of…

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SPECULOOS – the paste that grabs you and never lets go…….

Okay, here’s the deal.  I’m in France and I walk everywhere.   EVERYWHERE.    When I’m not walking I’m on a train, when I get off the train I walk some more. I climb steps and would give the Stair Master a run for its money.  My husband cannot keep up with me.   And because of this little activity – that is always necessary (because we have no car) it has become a way to drop weight plus be most adventuresome.  AND, because we are walking so much absolutely everywhere,  my pants/jeans/slacks are falling off my body.  The only pants that I  have left that I can wear into Paris now are my PAJAMA JEANS – because they have this little tie at the waist.  Sacre Bleu!!! Pajama Jeans into Paris!!! Does anyone know I do  this?  I do hope not!!    David’s slacks  have even surpassed my falling pants and  he had to put an additional rung in his belt because it would have been embarrassing to see them fall in class while teaching!!  🙂

But then something happened.  I discovered SPECULOOS.   For those of you that are not aware of this tasty treat, I encourage you to read about it on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculoos

Spices used for Speculaas (a Dutch cookie). Sp...

Spices used for Speculaas (a Dutch cookie). Speculaas blend (Speculaaskruiden) 15 gr cinnamon (kaneel), 2 gr cloves (kruidnagel), 2 gr nutmeg (nootmuskaat), 1 gr white peppercorn (witte peper), 1 gr ginger powder (gemberpoeder), ½ gr cardamom seeds (from the green pods) (kardemomzaadjes). Grind in a coffee grinder or mortar. Nederlands: Speculaaskruiden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and then go out and try to find some. But those of you in the states, probably won’t find it.  I’ll have to bring (the PASTE)   to you.  It’s Dutch.    The cookie is known as  DUTCH WINDMILL COOKIES in the states. For those of you that work for the airlines, like I do – or are those that regularly fly FIRST CLASS on any particular airline, they serve these tasty cookies on the plane,

speculaas_rokken_bakkerij_verbeek_brummen

speculaas_rokken_bakkerij_verbeek_brummen (Photo credit: ciao_yvon)

in order to keep you quiet when you’re expecting a hot meal because you are, after all,  in First Class and deserve that hot meal.   Sometimes it works.  They are so good, you just keep asking for more and the F/A’s keep bringing you more because that’s all that they can serve – plus designer chips.  ANYWAY,   It’s the most amazing paste  from a cookie ever.  You thought you liked PEANUT BUTTER?!?  Just you wait.  I have to blame my friend for this added weight gain, because she introduced it at the family party she gave and there’s no looking back.!!!  I ate the entire jar!!!!

Here’s the scoop from Wikipedia…….. (See how it’s pronounced!)

Speculoos (Dutch: Speculaas Dutch pronunciation: [spekyˈlaːs], Flemish Dutch: Speculoos, French: spéculoos) is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ feast in the Netherlands (December 5), Belgium (December 6),[1] and Northern France. In recent decades it has become available all year round. Speculoos are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat.

Speculoos dough does not rise much. Dutch and Belgian versions are baked with light brown (beet) sugar and baking powder. German Spekulatius uses baker’s ammonia as leavening agent. Spices used in speculoos are cinnamonnutmegclovesgingercardamom and white pepper. Most Speculoos versions are made from white flour, brown sugar, butter and spices. Some varieties use some almond flour and have slivered almonds embedded in the bottom. Belgian varieties use less or no spice.

AND THEN THEY MAKE IT INTO A PASTE………………!!!!!!        

We Interrupt This Travel Log – with Breaking NEWS!!!!!!!!

“Alls I can say” (as they aptly say in Missouri) is that if I could describe how happy a Mother’s Day this has been – it would only be described

as one big HAPPY FACE!!      🙂

Okay, then, I shall try to describe………

What do you say about eating the freshest OYSTERS you’ve ever eaten – overlooking a 16th C Chateau……..

Château de Saint Germain en Laye

Château de Saint Germain en Laye (Photo credit: chenevier)

– and have been wanting to taste for over 7 months?  And how about followed by the tastiest SALMON?  And then how about visiting a new suburb of Paris called Saint Germain-en-laye- originally found in 1090.  It is The “Chesterfield” of Saint Louis, The “Wilton” of Connecticut.  And it’s for fun and a LOT of profit (for some.)

Saint-Germain-en-Laye was founded in 1090 by Robert the Pious who built a convent there.  It is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France in north-central France. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris 19.1 km (11.9 mi) from the centre.        

On the official website it says ” With its elegant tree-lined streets it is one of the wealthiest suburbs of Paris, combining both high-end leisure spots and exclusive residential neighborhoods (see the Golden Triangle of the Yvelines).    

Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a sub-prefecture of the department. Because it includes the National Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it covers approximately 48 km2 (19 sq mi), making it the largest commune in the Yvelines. It occupies a large loop of the Seine. Saint-Germain-en-Laye lies at one of the western termini of Line A of the RER.  ”        

Claude Debussy (1862–1918), composer of European classical music  was born here.        

This is also an area where many American Expats live, or Brits so, ofcourse, there is a lot of English spoken here. There are many  lovely homes to look at and a lot of GREEN everywhere.

Taking the RER A

RER Station

RER Station (Photo credit: JR_Paris)

out here today, to an area I really didn’t know existed was a pleasant surprise. Why?  First of all, something as simple as AIR.  Yes!  The air is fresher, it’s perched high up, overlooking Paris, there is no dog poop on the sidewalks,  (how does doggy know to go in the gutter from this sign???)it’s surrounded by a huge forest and it was the home of Louis the XIV while he was waiting for Versailles to be built.    The homes are anywhere from the 16th century to the 21st century, and one can see La Defense in the distance so clearly, and beyond.   The Chateau Saint Germain has the most lovely gardens lined with the fullest and greenest of Linden Trees you’ve ever seen.

It is like walking around Versailles only without the 10,000 visitors each day and parades of tour buses marring the vista,  creating pollution or with  a plethora of souvenir shops.   It was a bit of a Shangra La out here, and I can say this, because  I do live in the suburbs of Paris myself, but  my commute towards my home is nothing like the commute WEST.   Why is it, that in all these lovely city areas, that it’s by going WEST – that you have such open spaces, clear air and serene beauty?   and we went with our friend and had the best time all afternoon.   

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After having a Cottage Pie dinner for another friend, Cate,  who is leaving soon for Indonesia, 😦    we received the two most exciting and fun video phone calls (on facetime) EVER.

First, my ex-husband called (from Babler State Park) in Missouri, with his wife, my friend Jane, and we’re cracking up talking, when lo and behold, my SON calls me from Saint Louis, with IRIS in the picture and she is talking to me (she’s 19 months)  and giving me BESOS and then when I turned the PHONE around so that he could see on the computer who was calling me on the iPhone – it was such a surprise to Ryan !!!!  Ryan’s  dad, his stepmom, his mom, his stepdad, Iris, and Anna all on the other side of the big blue ocean, 6,000 miles away, talking and looking at each other.  This was a real first and a hilarious one –
and THAT is ONE MOTHER’s DAY I will not forget in a loooooooong time!!

So much fun.   Thanks to my kids for making it so fun!!!!!!  Thanks to IRIS, my little talking Rooster Girl!!!!!!!!

Mercure Hotel – Non-rev Style – Fontainebleau

DISCOUNT here….and a good Discount – at that,  all my Airline chick-a-dees.

Normally this Mercure is 100- 115 (euros)  a night – they gave it to us with the airline (retired) discount for 59 euros. We had an outstanding  dinner in the hotel and breakfast buffet for an incredible total price of 83 euros.  That included the room!! You can’t get a good meal in Paris for under 80 euros !!! So we were very happy with this.
Mercure & Novotel used to be the F/A – crew place to stay back in the late 90’s. Not sure what it is now – but it would be worth it to find out if you’re planning to come to Paris. It’s usually the much better deal.
This hotel also takes their rewards card but won’t be able to if you use your airline discount. Better deal anyway is the airline discount, unless you were a business traveler.

And look how large the rooms are!  It’s a SUITE!  Nothing is large in France – (in the way of rooms especially) so these rooms were a bonus!

Large rooms (like a suite) which is a bonus in France – Nothing is large in France, especially ROOMS!

French Countryside Vacance – Chartres – Fontainebleau

 Still Day Two – Can you believe it?

Covering a lot of Territory in Two Days,   but that’s because we have a CAR!!!   As you know, I’m in a bit of heaven driving in the countryside after no car/driving for 7 months!   Whooooooo hooooooo!

If you want to visit Napoleon’s LIFE, the life he would have you believe was the most important, Then visit FONTAINEBLEAU. (If you want to visit the “in love with Josephine life” than visit Malmaison, their country estate) Fontainebleau is where Napoleon lived after he crowned himself emperor. The Musee Napoleon houses a massive exhibition on the Bonaparte family.  What I didn’t realize is that there were more books written on Napoleon (with the exception of  Jesus Christ).    Hmmmmmm. Fascinating.

Fontainebleau is a  favourite weekend getaway for Parisians, as well as for the historical château de Fontainebleau, which once belonged to the kings of France.  It is also renowned for the large and scenic forest of Fontainebleau.

I won’t go into the “made for many movie specials” history, instead, click on the blue links.

 An Historical trivial moment  – in the photo below (slideshow) David and I  are standing by the staircase. This is where  Napolean bid farewell to his troops before being forced into exile on the Island of Elba and also is the exact spot where his remains were returned before they were sent to Invalides for final burial.  If you haven’t visitied Napoleon’s Tomb at Invalides – it is a magnificant memorial.

Another piece of trivia:  It is a fact that Napoleon introduced many innovations, notably the DECIMAL SYSTEM.    I bet you always wanted to know who invented that, right?   🙂

Everything else in this elegant town defers to the spectacular palace in its parkland of woodlands, lakes and landscaped gardens.  A discreet plaque acknowledges John D Rockefeller Jr’s generous funding of the palace restoration in the 1920’s.

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Day 2 (still) and then there was the YARN shop in Rambouillet

Yes!   It just came upon me like a deer darting out from no where – and I thought  – “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT”  – they are so hard to find, but there it was!   🙂  (I’d like to say …it’s the car you can’t find everything by walking and trains – but my friend, Melanie, would disagree)   So, yes, because we had a car, in the middle of nowhere – Well, actually SOMEwhere – the most historical area of France……my car – just happened to take me to a big desire of my heart.  Sorry Mel.  I still love driving.  🙂

Lovely little shop with yarns from everywhere,- Romania, Germany, England, France,  – wool, and blends and tricot and cotton,…..Love the Cotton!                                                                 So I had fun looking, and did buy a few baby blends for some baby, somewhere…..hmmmmm . It was all on SALE.   How fun was that?!    But basically, I had taken my knitting with me and needles and half way into the trip one of the needles disappeared.  How could this happen?  Dunno, but it did, and the shop keeper found me another needle which matched and made me very happy.

Now I have yarns from a friend in Saint Louis, have begun with these , a new needle to replace the one lost, and

new baby micro fibers to try when I can actually knit with that tiny of a needle!!  Life is good!

The original video game?

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DAY 2 – The Historic Centre of France

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This is Day 2 of the Original “A Vacance of Knitting, Writing, Driving through Fields of Gold………..”

It is the Historic Centre of France and it is most lovely. Much of French life and its history are combined in this car tour  of ours – branching out from the Cathedral City of Chartres.  The Palace of Fontainebleau and the Castle at Rambouillet conjure images of the once sumptuous ease of the Aristocracy of years gone by.  The Parks, woodlands, forests which circles Fontainebleau are beautiful to stroll. So, if you  have the opportunity, take that stroll in an afternoon.

First was Milly-la-Foret, a 15th-Century attractive, peaceful village of timeless appearance.  The artist, dramatist and poet, Jean Cocteau  – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Cocteau    – lived here and you can see his house that had invited guests such as Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Edith Piaf.  To refresh your memory, Cocteau wrote the original Beauty and the Beast – and a lot of other stuff – plus he was an artist in many aspects – not just writing, poetry.

Alas, I had photos of Jean Cocteau’s home, the plaque and all its interesting trivia, but the photos didn’t register on my iPhone – probably because it had an extremely low battery .  Errrrggggggg!!!  (Make sure you take you car charger when renting a car and using your camera/phone all day!!)

Update update!! – Photos found – Taken on David’s iPod!!! Hooray !  _ Here they are:

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