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The BEST Summer EVER…..but then – it’s time to say Au Revoir …….& Hello

22 Months Later ……………………………….

Written July 12, 2013

Did someone very important say once, “It is necessary to have goals and work hard to get anything done in this life.”  Yes, I’m sure. I think many people over the course of centuries have said this profound sentence.  SO!  That being said ……..  Vacations are your reward, usually. So when you leave your country and visit another for a vacation, it’s meant to be relaxing, – hopefully.   When you leave your home country to stay and work in another country, on your own, without the benefit of a COMPANY* doing the paperwork FOR you, it is not a vacation, it is complicated and triple the work.

That being said, I wouldn’t have traded that “surprise of bureaucracy” for anything, because it is worth it to live in France.

Today, 12th Juillet 2013, 22 months after arriving in France, my coveted Titre de Sejour, arrived in my hands. I wrote about round 1 of this process in __________. The Carte de Sejour  is like the “green card” for foreigners living and working in the United States.  It is the French equivalent.   It costs a fortune for the GREEN CARD.  It costs NOTHING but your time in bureaucracy in France.

*( my friend Eleanor, had carte blanche everything rolled out for her when she and husband did a 5 year stint with an oil company in Paris. Not only were they able to bring every stick of furniture, every dish,  from their Texas home, but also their antique piano, down to the quilts on their beds.    Her Titre de Sejour was handed to her, with no trekking, no filing, no paperwork.)

For me, NONE of this, – the paperwork, the translations, the legwork, would have been possible for me, without my husband.    He’s the one that used all the French in speaking and comprehension, untold trips back and forth from Paris to Pointoise for the Social  Security and Paris to Sarcelles GENDARMARIE for the monthly disappointment of bureaucrats flipping through our enormous file , slamming it shut, and saying emphatically, “you need more of this this and this…….so-  “NON” and Good day!

We started the process over when moving from Paris to Marseille, and within a few months, were able to actually see the forest for the trees – SO, lesson here? =  it depends on 1) How much French you comprehend and can speak 2) how much work you’re willing to do, 3) where you are living  4)  the particular Gendarmerie that is assigned to you dependent on your house address and 5)  who you get in front of you  when confronting the Bureaucrat with your file,  – for that coveted card.

The following are coming……photos of my day, and the little celebration that my husband and I enjoyed despite a week long  marathon  teaching schedule on his part for extra classes.     He’s a little “coup de barre” (hit over the head tired) from the holiday classes this week, but he shared so much in my happiness to get my coveted Carte de Sejour or in French, “Titre de Sejour”   enabling me to reside, live and work in France.

Enjoy

I am

 

Paris Workout

Paris Workout (Photo credit: Nimages DR)

Counting sheep over the Roman wall between the Cherry Trees with IRIS – CORRECTION

a correction on “Snacking”

Letters from Marseille

(Correction to the “snacking portion” of the dream below………..

But it WAS a dream, coming from my reality of my environment…..)**

Counting sheep over the Roman wall between the cherry trees with IRIS

Have you ever had a dream that was so delicious that you wanted it to go on forever?   That happened in the wee hours of this morning.  I got up as usual to sip a drink, check out the brilliant stars outside the huge bedroom window, use the toilet and go back to bed.  But I couldn’t sleep.  So, I started counting sheep with Iris.   We were sitting on my front step looking towards “Bubba’s house” . ( I’m sorry to say that Bubba’s house is not so attractive and I have planted 2 cherry trees to grow really big and hide his house from my view.)  Anyway, Iris is my 2 1/2 year old…

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Counting sheep over the Roman wall between the Cherry Trees with IRIS – CORRECTION

(Correction to the “snacking portion” of the dream below………..

But it WAS a dream, coming from my reality of my environment…..)**

Counting sheep over the Roman wall between the cherry trees with IRIS

English: Cherry trees field near Villars, Vauc...

English: Cherry trees field near Villars, Vaucluse, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever had a dream that was so delicious that you wanted it to go on forever?   That happened in the wee hours of this morning.  I got up as usual to sip a drink, check out the brilliant stars outside the huge bedroom window, use the toilet and go back to bed.  But I couldn’t sleep.  So, I started counting sheep with Iris.   We were sitting on my front step looking towards “Bubba’s house” . ( I’m sorry to say that Bubba’s house is not so attractive and I have planted 2 cherry trees to grow really big and hide his house from my view.)  Anyway, Iris is my 2 1/2 year old petit enfant, (grandchild) .  We started counting sheep at 101.   But beyond the cherry trees there was a field going way across to Bubba’s house and his house was not anywhere,  only a low stone wall that was put in by the Romans.   The sheep were very big and had lots of wool and they were having a hard time running and jumping the wall, so we were counting ever so slow.  “One Hundred and two, one hundred and three………space space, sigh sigh, oh, here one comes……….up……..over……..one hundred and four…………and so on until, apparently, I fell asleep.    Then the most incredible thing happened.   Several babies, all Iris’ age were jumping on the big bed with tall posts, and invariably one of them hit the post and fell to the floor crying.  My son Ryan comes in and says, “This has got to be protected!  We can’t have the kids hurting themselves….it needs to be padded so they don’t get hurt”.   Well, I took one look at the big post bed and then him and said with  mother authority, “Look, if they’re gonna be jumping on the bed, they need to learn there are consequences, – one big crash into the post – and they’ll learn not to do it again.  Besides, they really need to go to the park and run off this energy.   I’m going to take them!  “  Ryan says, “Why don’t you let then run over the Miedievel Wall in the front and climb the cherry trees?”   Then, I gathered up Iris and all the other children (her cousins? –  I have no idea, there were just a LOT of kids) and I took them to a park to run, slide, climb – whatever.   My son and his wife appeared grateful that I had taken the kids to the park.  But I started worrying because I thought, “Oh dear God, I’ve said too much now to my son and he is going to kick me out of the house now!”     That’s funny just thinking about it, because I’m always worried I’m going to say the wrong thing, say too many things, be too emphatic, too high strung, too too much.   You know, it’s the “your mother has gone too far syndrome”.

A few minutes later, I’m sitting on the couch with same children (of which I don’t know who they are – but I imagine that they’re all the cousins, or maybe they’re the children of the future – God only knows) – but dreams are like that.

My sister-in-law is there with us.  A Crunching sound is heard.  It continues as we’re all watching a documentary on bugs and snakes. The crunching gets louder and I turn around and the children are snacking.  I say (very loudly) STOP SNACKING!!! Dinner will be ready in less than 2 hours!!  You won’t want your dinner!!!  ( I don’t know what this is, this snacking, because we don’t have it in France.   We eat three meals a day.  It’s very strange.   We don’t even have snacking materials.   I’m confused. )   The children look at me like I’m crazy and then we go to the next scene.

** Correction on above:  In reality, the French DO snack .  I’ve been at the beach a lot lately.  There is a LOT of snacking.  There is “Barbe a Papa” – cute name for “Cotton Candy”, there are candies, and many SMURF shaped chewie candies, there are sandwiches, chips, “biscuits” = “Cookies” – – – and a lot of water bottles.   That’s my correction for the “Snacking portion of the dream”.    My favorite is the “BARBE a PAPA”!!!!!!

 

 

It’s hot and sweaty and I’m in Marseille walking from where the bus driver has just announced “Terminus” – which means he “ain’t going any farther and we must get off”  –

English: A street in Marseille, France.

English: A street in Marseille, France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I’m off with scores of other walkers and we wait at a long light to cross over to the metro entrance.   We are all sweating.  There is a tall girl in a long skirt and sandals with her very tall boyfriend and an older man next to her with very bad swollen feet.  Besides these 3 there are about 40 others.   The light changes and like a herd, we cross into the next street, walk down in the metro and I see the same couple and the same man with swollen feet.  Then they disappear.  Then the metro comes and I hop on and voilà, there is the man barely making the door before it slams shut on him and his bad swollen feet.   After 2 stops, a long walk up the stairs, across the underground and down more stairs I am on the final approach to VIEUX PORT where I’m checking out sales which are fabulous this time of year.

After a race to get done so I can use the very same metro ticket I came with (it’s only good for 1 hour), I head back down the same way I came and unbelievably, there is the tall girl with the long skirt and the sandals this time without the boyfriend and I’m like – how does this happen that I have traveled all this distance, over and underneath huge Marseille, and see the very same girl that was at the bus stop (Terminus) over 5 km away?   It’s bazaar.

Well, all of the above are dreams except for the Marseille one. That was true.

By this time, I was in need of a SNACK – badly!!! But we don’t snack here, so I went to a cafe and bought a “jus de tomate” (tomato juice) with lemon slice, tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce & celery salt & drank slowly and watched the world go ‘round.     No, there was no vodka in it.   That was my “snack” and that enabled me to do the long trek back to British Council, where David picked me up.    yeah.

Dreams and reality.   They are often fun and often mixed up.

Tour-de-France 100th Anniversary – Slipstreaming by our apartment!

They didn’t run me over after all – and it sure was FUN, FUN!!!!

Letters from Marseille

Here’s the video – a picture (or two or three ) is worth the verbiage…….we so enjoy talking with and making new friends!  One couple were UK parents of a little 2 1/2 year old girl, Emily…… very cute

The TV shot in the end is of the cyclists going down our “Le Col Gineste little mountain” and the last shot is of CAVENDISH – British rider –  (David’s fav to win).  Yeah.

Enjoy!

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Tour-de-France 100th Anniversary – Slipstreaming by our apartment!

Here’s the video – a picture (or two or three ) is worth the verbiage…….we so enjoy talking with and making new friends!  One couple were UK parents of a little 2 1/2 year old girl, Emily…… very cute

The TV shot in the end is of the cyclists going down our “Le Col Gineste little mountain” and the last shot is of CAVENDISH – British rider –  (David’s fav to win).  Yeah.

Enjoy!

Dancin’ in the moonlight

Super Moon 6/22/2013

Super Moon 6/22/2013 (Photo credit: gachiman)

France 2005: Cassis

France 2005: Cassis (Photo credit: therebmeister)

Champagne Gatinois Rosé Grand Cru

Champagne Gatinois Rosé Grand Cru (Photo credit: e_calamar)

15-year-old Roman,  had a huge party last night in Cassis.   His grandparents, our proprietors,  told us weeks ago about the party, maybe hoping we’d be gone, cause they knew it might be a tad loud.  So, we don’t go anywhere as we have been gone all day and want to be home to watch an English movie. Hooray.  Roman comes over  about  8PM to our apartment next to the “grand maison” of his grandparents to  say “Bonjour” and gently states he hopes the music doesn’t ‘bother us” and apologies in advance if it’s loud. “No problem,” we say, “Have a wonderful party/fete”     So!   Lovely girls in cute dresses, &  guys in jeans show up  – all with relief on their faces after the BIG FRENCH EXAM DAY is finally over!   We’re inside watching a very loud WWII movie while couples glided past our pane doors…..laughing, talking, having fun, and no doubt trying to find a secluded place to kiss.  🙂 – (David goes to close the shutters and comes back with an “OH!!!!” –  a man of few words   😉 .    Others were in back of the house by pool having a great time, the music and the base going strong.   We remembered those carefree young days with a smile.  The party and music suddenly ended at midnight.  Wow.    Then, Roman once again comes  over this morning, his girlfriend in tow,  and brought us a bottle of Champagne for the “inconvenience.”    How I love these kids.

(He doesn’t know we were dancin’ in the moonlight)     🙂

The Super Moon on May 5, 2012

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

updated – with photos

Letters from Marseille

 

That’s where I am.  This is the period of time of enjoying the glorious summer in Cassis

 

 

and dying to get home to my bebe’s in Saint Louis.     It ranges from drinking a lemonade  on the steps  by the ancient maison where we share an ever petite apartment  while deadheading hydrangeas and waving at Sandrine across the hills, to taking a sledge-hammer to my petit congélateur and knocking the hell out of it to dislodge 7 inches of ICE.  The groans and exclamations  emanating from  our petite abode, well, you wouldn’t have believed it if you had heard it.   I could hardly believe it.

 

I am beside myself with JOY and also with LONGING.

 

I iron my towels, shuck some kind of spotted red and white long beans, then I walk to city center for epiliation which, I have never had done in the United States…

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Port de Cassis

Port de Cassis (Photo credit: Med PhotoBlog)

 

That’s where I am.  This is the period of time of enjoying the glorious summer in Cassis

 

Cassis port from Sandrine's balcony

Cassis port from Sandrine’s balcony

 

and dying to get home to my bebe’s in Saint Louis.     It ranges from drinking a lemonade  on the steps  by the ancient maison where we share an ever petite apartment  while deadheading hydrangeas and waving at Sandrine across the hills, to taking a sledge-hammer to my petit congélateur and knocking the hell out of it to dislodge 7 inches of ICE.  The groans and exclamations  emanating from  our petite abode, well, you wouldn’t have believed it if you had heard it.   I could hardly believe it.

 

I am beside myself with JOY and also with LONGING.

 

I iron my towels, shuck some kind of spotted red and white long beans, then I walk to city center for epiliation which, I have never had done in the United States. I wait for my friend to have hers done with sounds of sheer pain while I stand in the doorway and watch people pass in the tiny street with their white pants and their interesting shoes. They stop to look at funny greeting cards and Cassis postcards.     I drink Pastis in the late afternoon when I don’t even like it, just to blend in with the locals.  I also play Boules (Petanque).    I visit my doctor – only because he speaks English to me and is the ONLY doctor in 2 years to do so.   Ofcourse I have ailments, but they’re not important.  He speaks ENGLISH.  THAT’s important.

 

I take a coffee (That’s how we say it here – “take a cafe” – ) and watch a German film crew do the same scene over and over by the port.   They are walking in couples and hop into a convertible, then they have to shoot it over again because a REAL COUPLE is walking behind them and isn’t suppose to be in the scene.  It’s funny.  Sandrine knows some of the famous German actors, so we tell the “gofer” we want to have a picture with this famous guy, and I take his picture with Sandrine. Turns out it was the wrong actor, she wanted the young one.  I liked this one.  Anyway, it’s a good photo.   Catch me later.  I’ll have her on here with him looking down her blouse !!! Yeah, I caught him.

 

WHAT is he doing?????

WHAT is he doing?????

 

Now I am mourning the  loss of my cousins who visited me and went beyond the pale in getting to Cassis, as Cassis is not an easy place to get to.   It’s a 75 euro cab ride from Marseille and it’s so breathtaking that it’s worth it.  However, the cousins were brave enough to join us in our little FORD FIESTA, that tootled up the great GINESTE MOUNTAIN and got them safely to the harbour within.   I miss them so much.   I’m having fresh salmon tonight with ginger and white wine and shallots and wish they were here to enjoy it because they love fresh seafood.

 

Maybe next time.

 

Please?

 

Cassis port from Sandrine's balcony

Cassis port from Sandrine’s balcony

 

Our Maison across the hills - ( the tiny part on the right)

Our Maison across the hills – ( the tiny part on the right)

 

 

PS my wifi is tres tres slow, supremely inferior and will not allow me to upload pictures. Therefore, when it’s stronger, I will post some beautiful photos to this blog.

 

Mes Cousins – Mes amis – mes enthousiame ( my cousins, my friends, my enthusiasm)

There is flooding in Lourdes and a mistral has arrived in Cassis.   The flood is   heavy and deep, the winds, though breaking up the heat, – they’re volatile.    My cousins have been with me a good week in perfect weather and now are on the second stage of their holiday after taking them to Avignon,  where their Riverboat is waiting to glide the Rhone River.  I’m glad the waters haven’t reached them nor the winds.     Not that this wouldn’t be the perfect catastrophe ending to their beginning.

Maria arrived in Marseille via Munich and then via Rome.  Rome Cancelled, and…….     cancelled flight, really?

She was supposedly arriving WITHOUT  her sister.

Her sister Judy’s plane was delayed out of Norfolk, therefore she missed her flight to Munich from Charlotte.   She stayed over and was told she couldn’t get out until THURSDAY, and this was only Monday.   No way.   And why was this?    A “GREVE”, ofcourse or  STRIKE , among the French Air Traffic Controllers.  (but ofcourse).  They were striking against losing their autonomy and power if they consolidated the French and other European Union countries ATC to BELGIUM.   THey would also lose jobs.  This was a big concern.   So Judy stays back in Charlotte at her brother-in-law’s house and waits to do battle at the ticket counter the next day.  In the meantime, all flights out of anywhere in Europe are showing cancelled into Marseille according to my Flight arrival APP.

IMG_0428

I don’t want to trust the iPhone App, so we head over to the next big town, Aubagne, to check with a travel agency.   She said the same thing……..that “flights from Rome are  not coming in today”.   We imagined Maria throwing coins in the Trevi fountain.

English: Panorama of the Trevi fountain at night.

English: Panorama of the Trevi fountain at night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then the phone rang.    It was Maria, calling my French number from baggage service, and she WAS in Marseille – waiting patiently for me .  We were in the middle of Marseille rush hour so it was not a fast journey to reach her.  Poor girl.

Maria got picked up and not one word of complaint passed her lips she was so positive about everything.   I love this type of guest.  We delivered her to her very lovely  Hotel Royal Cottage,  next to our apartment and let her unpack and decompress before going out to dinner on the port.

IMG_0433

The next day Judy did get on a flight and while Maria was having a massage in the tiny spa place in the middle of our village, David went to teach, and I went by metro, train and bus to gather Judy from Terminal 2 – as she had been rerouted through to Paris and then to Marseille.  At least they had the decency to upgrade her to First Class and she got to sleep in the “pod” – champagne and all.    Very nice. She said that her USAIRWAYS agent had worked diligently from the time she left to go back home trying to find her a seat.  They were backed up with other cancelled flights which meant,  ofcourse, more passengers to book than seats.   Not a good situation.

Sitting down enjoying a “noisette” (espresso with milk) at a little table directly in front of the doors that fly open from arriving passengers I had a good view of those coming off any plane.   Finally Judy arrives, looking quite refreshed considering her ordeal .    Easy access to the “Navette” – the large tour like bus from Marseille’s airport to the St Charles Gare (train station) and a pleasant journey (better than driving Marseille, I can assure you).    Then we see a huge long line in the ticket area of the gare for people trying to buy tickets.  There is now a strike with the SNCF.  Ooo la la.  What next?   So, I , against all odds, decide to get out of the line, or we will not make the little train to Cassis, which we see is still in operation.   Going to the automated machine,  I  take a deep breath, trying to remember how to exactly get this ticket with 1) no english  2) no acceptance of my credit card as it’s french cards only 3) sometimes a faulty “Distributor billet”

Train à Grande Vitesse

Train à Grande Vitesse (Photo credit: FaceMePLS)

Well, by luck, it worked and it spit out our tickets to Cassis and we were on our way.

Arriving in Cassis, I said to Judy, “ Now don’t worry, I know there are steps down to cross the tracks (under the tracks) but you wait and see,…….there will be some strong guy that sees us struggling with your bag and they will come to our aid immediately and take it down for us.  Just watch”.    She was doubtful, as was I, because we were at the end, the last off the train –  and no one was behind us, least of all a strong and strapping homme.     However,  as we started down with the heavy bag,  a young girl (about 19) said in French….” Do you need help with your bag?” and I said emphatically, “YES, PLEASE!” and she lifts it in one fail swoop and takes it to the bottom of the stairs for us.  I so love these French.  Judy was amazed.

We were going to get the taxi, but there was no one IN the taxi as usual…….these drivers disappear to somewhere, everytime I go to get one in Cassis………so we saw the little white bus and asked him if he would stop by Hotel Royal  Cottage, which he absolutely would.   The strapping young fellow picks up Judy’s bag with one hand and puts it on the bus for us.   It was lovely.

After arriving at her hotel and finally meeting up with her sister, and unwinding, they were ready to hit the port and see everything and anything.  They were amazing.  I was ready for a nap.   They were ready to hike!   Funny.

*                 Maria & Judy, mes cousins

We enjoyed the beautiful tour of the CALANQUES as it was a lovely sunny day and not too windy, so we would not get sea sick.

Maria -- Judy on Boat in Port Miou Calanques in Cassis Maria - on boat to Calanques Calanques in Cassis

Our lunches were taken right on the beach, Sometimes we split the most beautiful meals, (which is the way David and I have eaten here for-ever now ) – as sometimes in France even the portions are too big for one!    We enjoyed crystal clear white wines of the Cassis regions, rich burgundy wines from the Rhone all outside in ample sunlight and cool breezes.   Judy got her massage the next day, even though I tried to get her in  as soon as she came off the plane, but there was no possibility of that.     While she did that, Maria shopped at the special Cassis marche (market) in the center of town , next to the 1700’s fountain and curving around to the plaza where ice-skating had closed 2 months ago……….

Fountain in Cassis, 1700's                                            A visit in hilltop  Medieval  Le Castillet

colors abounded of clothing, leather goods, scarves, children’s items, tablecloths, jewelry,  food section of every conceivable food from sardines to heirloom tomatoes to specialty olives and tapenades, breads, cheeses, tons of vegetables.

We toured the top of Cap Canaille, one of the most beautiful places on earth very high up overlooking the entire village of Cassis and the lovely Mediterranean.   We were in the CLOUDS that day, adding to the special feeling.  Mountain climbers were on their way up as well.

Climbers reaching top of Cap Canaille

On Friday night we had special entrance tickets for the PAUL RICARD CHATEAU, where the summer party took place for the MAABN (Mediterranean Anglo American Business Network).    We arrived early as David had to set up a display for the British Council, so we waited patiently to nibble on something and drink .     In the meantime, we made ourselves busy by checking out the Chateau of Paul Ricard.   HIs name is synonymous with the famous PASTIS, the drink of southern France.

http://translate.google.fr/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Ricard&prev=/search%3Fq%3DPaul%2BRicard%2BChateau%26biw%3D1024%26bih%3D635

But, here is where it gets weird.  While I knew really no one at this party, except David’s director and the manager of the school, and did speak to them, my cousins, very accustomed to party-ing in North Carolina, took it among themselves to speak to a vast amount of people, and finding out all sorts of interesting tidbits about them, and then introducing them as though they were friends from the distant past and this was their party!    The games that took place on the lawn, brought them out to cheer and congratulate and I stood back in amazement at their enthusiasm and festive spirit.    In the meantime, I took to the Chateau to take a seat as there were very few seats in the party area outside and I really needed to get off my knees, which were locking up causing me pain. I can climb the Garlaban, but don’t make me stand!   Where was the seat? No seats in the Chateau!! What the heck?!?! So, I found the toilet seat,  which was the only one, so I was gone for long periods of time.     I think I raised eyebrows as some people were asking where I had gone,  but it was my secret, (until now) and when you gotta sit, you gotta sit.   I truly have a weird life.

I must say, though,  the bathrooms (for France) were really really nice   – – – – – – –

If I were doing this party, however, I would have had more chairs…….not everyone at these functions is 30!!
The outside buffet was finally served and everyone lined up for food as they were famished as drinks had been rolling out now for about 2 hours.

There was ONE person to serve all those people    and I thought to myself – at how many functions I have done myself like this, but never with ONE person to serve everyone.   David wasn’t too happy about that – – The cousins – non-plussed – as usual – they were so accepting of it all.    Delightful.

Robert Hale went around as the LE MELLIURE OUVRE de PHOTAGRAPHE

(BEST PHOTOGRAPHER)     http://ateliervisit.com/wp/profiles/photographers/robert-hale/ and took hundreds of photos of the festiivites     – a lot of my cute cousins.

(pictures he took are coming and they are wonderful)

The funniest scene to me – was coming out of the Chateau once again (where I had been SITTING) and dessert was announced, and there  — walking across the long stone fountain, serenaded by the LOUDEST FROGS known to man, was my cute cousin Maria with her LILLET Panama red striped  HAT heading for the dessert bar with her sister in tow in her matching  hat………I thought…….I really should have a video of this……..   it was so charming, so priceless.

So, the tour of Cassis, Bandol, Marseille ,  & the Medieval town of Le Castillet, comes to an end and we  deposit our cousins in Avignon, amongst the gleaming Viking River Ship ready to scout the Rhone and all its glories.   Mes Cousins arrived like a scattered Mistral and left me with a flood of emotion of gratitude and love for them…..for their incredible resilience, fortitude and enthusiasm for life anew – in  unexplored cities and villages and which I hope they will never ever forget.  They have a French name after all…….. and then they both look so very French.  Yes, and that’s a compliment.

We will never forget them and our wonderful too short visit !   🙂

*more pictures to come!!

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