Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday in France, 10/16/14

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Today I woke up in castle surrounded by nice antiquities and dreamed the servant was coming to brush my hair and tie my corset.   This place really is something else, grace and beauty surrounds.   Growing up in a home that was over 120 years old I expected a building that had been renovated but you could still tell it was old and had lived past its prime.   This one though, yes you can tell its old, but they have done such a wonderful job refurbishing it.    It really is like staying in a castle with all the fuss, awesome sauce.

Today we left for a day excursion because we get to stay two nights in this marvelous place.    Chateau Chambord was our first stop.  It was really magnificent with towers, walls, motes, and everything you would expect from a castle.  It has a staircase inspired by Leonardo DiVinci – two spirals that you can see each other from, marble and beautiful.     It felt very Disney like with the style of architecture etc…   I enjoyed photographing it and admiring its beauty.   It was built in originally as a hunting lodge in the 1500’s by Francis the 1st but my goodness what a hunting lodge.   It is the largest chateau in the Loir Valley and was really impressive to see.      I actually could have spent another 10 minutes here to really get the pictures I wanted, I had to power walk back to the bus so as not to be late, but I did manage to get at least a couple of pictures of the police on horseback – maybe from a distance,  but I did get it.  One other thing I wanted to note on this property is that it is 11,000 acres – that is the same size as Paris, but Paris has 2 million people in it, this has 200.    The property is now a game reserve … I didn’t see any animals, but they stated wild boar are common and you could see where they had been digging in the grass beside the road.

Then we headed to the Chateau Chenonceau.  This Chateau was also built in the 1500s but the interesting tidbit about it is that Henry the II took possession of it then gave it to his mistress Diane.  After he died, his widow Catherine de ’Medici forced the mistress to move to a different chateau.   Both ladies had separate gardens planted and the gardens still exist to today – to the right the mistress, to the left the Queens.   Different times for sure!     The inside was ok and I loved the tapestries, but the outside and the gardens was phenomenal.  I loved the mistress’s garden, probably because the flowers were still in bloom, but both were pretty.

We toured the inside, went to the cafeteria they have in an outbuilding and ate lunch and then we went and walked around the gardens and took some more pictures.  The air was crisp and cool and it was generally just a nice time.   For lunch we went simple – HAMBURGER!

After the Chateau we went to a wine tasting.  We did the little tour of the cellar, then went and had some wine – I just tasted the first Rose and then I kind of checked out mentally as wine is totally not my thing, but Jack got him some red and we got some as gifts so it was all good.  My favorite part though was the cat, they have this cat who is huge and so loving.  I sat on the ground and petted him before we did the tour – me and kitties = heaven J  He was so sweet with expressive eyes and you could tell he is used to people, he would meander from person to person to see who would love him.
We then headed back to the hotel and she was pointing out how many of the houses are partially underground – dug into the rock, where it is a constant 58 degrees.  It was pretty cool looking.
It started raining as we got back to the hotel so my idea of taking more pictures was squished so I decided to get a bath.   I was going to get a bath in this enormous tub they have, but it was filling up so slowly I probably still would be waiting so I ended up just getting a shower.  

We then had dinner downstairs in the hotel restaurant which was really nice and elegant, not like most hotel restaurants.  The food on the other hand – oh my give me some country cookin.   We had some type of leek soup to start = YUCK.  Then we had bread, which was good, hard like all French bread on the outside but good.  Then we had a main course that had chicken with herbs, a carrot that had been cooked and some green and orange stuff that looked like baby food.   The chicken was pretty good, I liked the carrot and the orange baby food stuff was ok – the green stuff was absolutely nasty.   We then had desert which was strawberries, raspberries and some type of sour berry in a sauce.  Jack liked it a lot and ate Mama’s – it was ok to me, a little too tart for my taste but I ate about ½ of it.  We then had coffee and Jack ordered us a coke – a 4.5 Euro Coke.   That’s about 6 or 7 dollars for a 12 oz. bottle of coke – I’m bringing that bottle home with me dang it.   The only bad thing about being out in the middle of nowhere, no other option…. Well that and the crappy Internet.
So that was our day – castles and wine. J All in all a good day that I really enjoyed.   Tomorrow we go back to Paris.

There are a couple of miscellaneous things I want to remember that I will note here as well:
Many of the people on this trip probably thing we are absolutely crazy or stupid, not sure which, but it makes for good fun.   You all know Mama has very little filter on what she says – she thinks it, she says it.    Course that being said my filter has gotten thin as of late and I’m not sure it was ever there as much as some peoples.    I think it if I don’t say it you can read it on my face.   Makes for some hilarious moments.  Add to that, we are southern and I am my mother’s daughter so between the two of us it has been hilarious.   For example everyone is raving about the food/wine; Mama and I are begging for southern cooking and a soft drink. 

That being said it makes for some good, clean, entertainment and well we are who we are.   I’m enjoying myself – hope Mama is too.

Everyone is also looking out for Mama which is cool and I appreciate.  She isn’t the oldest by far and gets along better than many of them, but they watch for her and make sure they take her under their wing if going somewhere we are not – love it!

There is a couple Jim and Chris that are pretty awesome.  She was an art teacher and him a salesman, they are both retired now and obviously love to travel.  I believe she said they have been to Europe 14 times in their life.   I hope Jack and I are like them at that age – she is in her 60s’s, but you wouldn’t know it.  I figured she was in her 50s with her energy and togetherness … I hope we are still like that then.    She thinks we are funny and probably a little crazy, but that is ok - crazy is good.

Overall the group is really nice and we have people from all over.    I am enjoying the camaraderie of the group and hope to stay in touch with some of them after this is over.   

Well that is it for today – hope all is well in the states!  

P.S. I love my husband - my devices won't connect to the Internet here so he figured out how to share over blue tooth so I could post this from his laptop tonight.  Geeks Rule. 

Wednesday 10/16/14

Wednesday 10/15/14

Over half way through our vacation and it feels like it really just began.  I know we have seen and done many things, but the jet lag is finally wearing off and we are energized, kind of J
Today was really a travel day.  We left St. Mont Michel this morning – I tried to go get some pictures at dawn but the sun came up later than I expected and I had to leave with the tour, 15 more minutes and I might have had some great shots.  I have some ok ones to prove I was there that morning, but 15 more minutes….   There is a lady on our tour I’ve been calling Dee Dee – apparently here name is Deenie, yea who knew?  Anyway, she is tends to run late – marvelous woman whom I really adore, but a watch is not her friend.  So when I returned to the hotel to catch the bus and found it was running 5 or 10 minutes behind and I could have stayed longer I looked at her and said I should have pulled a Dee Dee J   She probably wanted to kill me, but it was all meant in good fun – and seriously I should have said screw it they can wait and got my pictures, ah well.   I hate to be late – it stresses me.

Anyway, on with the story – we left the hotel and drove to Angers.   It is a little village that has a 13th Century Castle and it also had a market going on today.  We took pictures of the castle, walked through the market and just enjoyed stretching our legs.   The market was interesting, you could buy live chickens and ducks, seafood ranging from crab, to eel to regular fish, cloths, scarfs, books – all kinds of stuff that was set up in this outside market place in the middle of the street.     It was raining a bit so I was trying to take pictures while holding a phone (interesting) but I still enjoyed it.  I bought a scarf and Mama ate a Crepe.

We then hopped back on the bus and drove to a larger town for lunch.   We went to a restaurant that had English subtitles and ate.  Mama and Jack had steak burgers, basically hamburgers with a higher quality of meat and I got a ham and cheese sandwich.  I had hoped to get what they got yesterday but ended up with a Croque-Monsieur.  They put the cheese on top of the sandwich though and the bread was soggy, the ham was also different.   They again choose well in their menu and I didn’t, next time I’m just going to order what they do, LOL.   I ate my fries, the ham and the apple I had gotten from the breakfast buffet.

One thing to note about this town it has a unique wood buildings with lots of carvings.  I need to ask the name of it and the town tomorrow and will input it then.

After lunch we headed back to the bus and drove 2 hours to our hotel.   I say hotel, but this is so much more than that.   For the next two nights we are staying in a Chateau, formally known as The Chateau du Breuil.   This place is massive, it is located on a 45 acre estate and dates back to the XVth century.    The central part of the building dates back to the XVIIth Century and the main building I am in was built in the XVIIIth Century.  It has of course been completely renovated and is very comfortable, but still has all of its old elegance.   The barn was also renovated into hotel rooms, but the end of the building is still a barn for the 2 resident horses.  There is a dog name Joseph who is exceptionally friendly and the area is just magnificent.    I can’t believe I’m sleeping in a castle – how cool is that?     Maybe not Cinderella’s castle, but a castle none the less – it belonged to the Marquess of Meloize Frenayback then to Count de la Salle until 1968.  No idea who they are but still cool!
The estate is gorgeous, with walking paths, ponds, weeping willows, grassy yards, beautiful flowers and the sound of nature lulling you to sleep!     Not to mention it is a 4 star hotel with 4 star quality. 
Once we settled in and roamed the estate for a bit it was time to get dressed for the extra dinner out.  Mama elected to stay in so it was just Jack and myself (and 20 or 30 of our new friends).   We went to a restaurant that is owned by a husband and wife where we had authentic French food, supposedly.    It was ok – everyone was raving but I didn’t really love it all that much and the conversation over dinner was slightly forced.   Just the luck of the draw on who we sat with, etc… - nice people, just not the conversationalist of the group, except Deenie – her and her husband Jim can talk to anyone.  I want to take them home and keep them, they are so freaking cute! 
Jack didn’t notice the forced conversation so it may have been all me, but well you know what I mean.   Anyway, given we are in France we did decide to try new stuff.

Jack had the Liver Patee and I had the Fish one – both were really good with bread, though I liked the fish better.   They didn’t give us enough bread though and without the bread it wasn’t all that.     Then I had the salmon and Jack had the duck, both were good – I wish I could have had a steak, but alas.    And last but not least we both had a chocolate desert – it was basically scones of some type filled with ice cream and covered with deep chocolate dessert – rich but yummy!

Once dinner was done we had coffee, talked for a few minutes more and headed back to the hotel.  I sit here, nestled in my antique bed with my window open (wood shutters J ) and am listening to Jack breath.  Life is good J

Tomorrow we visit more chateau’s and do a wine tasting - looking forward to the chateaus J

Also, some interesting tidbits our tour guide told us about France today:
  • Ways the French make money:
    • Nuclear Power – 55 plants in France, they export power to most of Europe and also help other countries design, build and maintain their plants.
    • Oil (refining / processing / etc…)
    • Cosmetics
    • Hotels
    • Transportation – Design / Install subway stations all over the world including Mexico City
    • Airbus
    • Mineral Water
  • French are discrete with their business and are a leader in several industries but they spend too much and national debt is high.
  • Taxes:  
    • Citizens Taxed on almost everything
    • Most taxed population in the world behind Sweden.
    • Waiters are taxed on 5% of the checks regardless if they made 5% - if they made 2% taxed 5%, if 15% they are taxed 5%.  Thus, due to recession waiters are hard to find because they don’t want to be taxed on money they are not making.
  • Unemployment Benefits:
    • 2 Years – 90% of Salary
    • After 2 Years 40% of Salary
    • Max is $6,000 Euros a month
    • Educational loopholes allow you to collect the 90 for well beyond 2 years so many people don’t want to go back to work – I can see why
  • Employment Strikes are Common – Employees have right to strike over anything as long as they told their boss they needed whatever it is 3 weeks before they strike.   Strikes are unpaid, but often in the agreement for workers to come back there is a condition all strike days are paid days.
  • All workers have a minimum of 5 weeks paid vacation, if you work 39 hours or more a week you have 8 weeks – I need to live in France.
  • Worker Minimum Wage – 1,375 Euros a Month
  • They don’t have health insurance, part of taxes, as a result all health procedures are free.  However, they have some of the best hospitals in Europe thus citizens from many countries come here and they have to compete with those patients for the Drs / Hospital’s time.
  • President in office right now if very unpopular because he doesn’t work a lot and doesn’t make any decisions.  French have no interest in Presidents personal life, they can be divorced, have girlfriends, mistresses, several kids, no kids etc… just so long as he does his job.    They have had a president die in the bed of a prostitute before, no big deal.
  • Gas prices right now roughly 6 Euros a Gallon or $10 a gallon.

Well, that is all for tonight, sleep well dear friends.

P.S.  This was posted on 10/16 due to fact I couldn’t get connected to the precious Wi-Fi J

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

France 10/14/14

Tuesday, 10/14/14

We continued our French adventure today by leaving Caen and heading to see the D-Day beaches. We saw Gold beach at Arromanches first - there wasn't much resistance in thee battles on these beaches because the paratroopers had landed earlier and handled much of the battle.   The little village was quaint and it was interesting to see.   The beach itself was pristine and I would have enjoyed taking a jog on it - there was a sheer mountain that met the ocean, the sky was pink and well it was peaceful.

There is also still concrete out in the ocean that they made in England and floated over here to serve as a makeshift port until a city could be taken that had a port ... think of all that had to go into that planning?    12 countries working together to plan one surprise attack on one day - 12 countries (American, Britain, Canada, Poland, France, Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand and Norway)   Today they can't even make a decision about if the sky is blue.

We then went to the American Cemetery in Normandy - American soil and a honor to visit.   10,000 American lives lost during WWII, the crosses representing the dead, some named, some not.  It was sobering and humbling.  Its so easy to take our freedom for granted, but in the end Freedom is never free.   To think what would have happened if Hitler had not betrayed Russia and he wasn't divided on the two fronts, or if he had heard about the landing before noon that day?    So many little things that made our victory possible, little things that had they not happened the war would have been very different.  

We then went to Omaha beach where roughly 1,500 of our men died within minutes and hours of landing.  The tanks they were supposed to hide behind sank due to the rough seas and they were little target practice for the Germans.  To sit and look on those pristine beaches, so pretty today and to know that 70 years ago they ran red with the blood of American Soldiers fighting for someones right to be free, or even more their right to live.    Very humbling.   I'm not really a history buff, museums in general are not my thing and I tune out much of the history lectures, but standing there you could not help but imagine.     There are still German bunkers in France, one of which can be seen at Omaha beach... relics of the war can still be seen here and there, but overall if not for the memorials you would just see a beach.   A pristine beach made for walking and enjoying the crisp air off of the sea.

We then went to Sainte-Mère-Église.   It is a little village inside of Normandy France and is best known because John Steele parachuted down and landed on the church steeple - he pretended to be dead for 2 hours in order to survive and was later taken hostage.     The stained glass of the church is neat in that it is the Virgin Mary surrounded by paratroopers.     Overall the village is tiny and cute.  We ate at a little restaurant - Mama and Jack had a ham sandwich and I had lasagna.   It was very American, but after not eating very much breakfast this morning we were all hungry.

A few things that were mentioned from a historical point of view that I want to remember so I am including them here:

  • Germany, while the bad guys in the WWII events it is important to remember that many German soldiers were not there by choice, but were there to avoid being killed themselves by Germany.
  • The first victims of Hitler were Germans themselves.
  • Russia lost by far the most people in the war - 20,000,000
  • In total the war cost the world 2.5% of its population or 60,000,000 - 85,000,000 people estimated.
  • One of the famous french actresses fell in love with a German and was put on trial - I loved her come back "My heart is french, but my ass is international"
  • Germany actually elected Hitler to be it's leader - he told them what they wanted to hear.  Be careful with your vote, it has great power!

After we finished up with the D-Day visits we took a hour and half drive through the gorgeous countryside to Mont St. Michel.   I absolutely love this place - it was my favorite from my previous visit and so far it still is.  I was so happy to get to share it with my family.

It is a monastery that was built due to a dream a monk was given my the Arch Angel Michel - he supposedly put a hole in his head as proof he wanted him to build the monastery on top of the mountain.   Thus the monastery was built.   We took the walk up the mountain (lots of steps) and saw the various private homes (47 people live on the island itself), the walkways etc...  Mama actually made it up all the steps, I was so proud of her.  Last time I came we didn't go to see the private homes and I didn't know about the steps - we had gone up the walkway where all the shops were, so I was expecting her to have to do that climb, but she did it and enjoyed one great view because of it.

We had a tour guide that went on and on a little too much for my taste and I really wanted Mama and Jack to enjoy the shopping so we left her about 3/4 of the way through the tour and headed out on our own.    The building served as a monastery for years, then a prison and now it is a monastery and a tourist attraction.   The monastery itself is impressive, but it is also cold and damp.     I love some of the architecture and certainly appreciated it more as an adult, but I had seen enough.

The walk down is filled with shops of various types and restaurants.   Last time I came they had more vendors on the streets, but we were here during the busy season and now it is slow for them, but it was still fun and quaint.   I just enjoy the feel of the village and meandering in the shops.   I was looking for a picture frame but no such luck.  Maybe the next city will have one for Mt. Saint Michel, Lord knows Mt. Saint Michel had plenty of Paris stuff.  I found it humorous.

The monastery on the mountain with the shops and other buildings going up to it looks like a Disney castle or something from Harry Potter.   I just love it, I love the feel of it, the history and the ambiance.   It was different that I remember from my youth, but I still loved it!

We then came back to the hotel and met with the group to have dinner.   We ate at a restaurant across the way and had a five course meal.  It was good but not my favorite one here by any means..  Menu below for memory sake:

  1. Cider Again - still taste like bear, hee.
  2. Appetizer - some little bread things with cheese and etc... in them.  Maybe Mini Keeshess?
  3. Salad Appetizer - beats, cucumbers, and some other stuff I tried and hated. 
  4. Pallet Cleaner - A very strong cognac mixed with ice-cream.  Tasted to me like a shot of Seagram Seven Rum, YUCK.
  5. Main - Fish and Potatoes.  The fish was dry but the potatoes were excellent
  6. Cheese - I gave mine away - Jack seemed to like his.
  7. Desert - 3 little varieties.  I liked the apple and the chocolate.  They also had a raspberry thing but it was tart.
  8. Coffee - little cappuccino cups but was actually good and very smooth.
  9. Desert shot of something liquor wise - I took a taste, not for me.  Too strong and taste like rum.  I like my alcohol fruity with the taste of alcohol hidden.

Once dinner was over Mama left to go back to the room while we were still visiting.   She went the wrong way so Jack went to help her and he had the $$$.   We had bought an extra Coke so I ended up borrowing money from a group member, it wasn't a big deal but I'm sure later it will be funny.   Teach me not to bring my purse!

After dinner we walked down to the boardwalk with the unobstructed view of Mt. Saint Michel lit up.    It was so pretty and the sound of the water hitting the dock was peaceful.   I thoroughly enjoyed it - we played with the camera some.  I didn't have tripod and I shake so mine weren't great, Jack got a few ok ones though.  He used the balcony as a tripod - I'm looking forward to seeing them on a computer screen.  I'm sure they aren't print quality but they will be cool and can show we saw it night.    Side note we had to come back to the room for a battery because the one I had just changed so we would have a full battery died just a few minutes after we started using it. Murphy's law.

I want to go back in the morning before we leave and get some more pictures in the day light.

Now I'm in bed - about to take my medicine (which seems to really be working well).  Tomorrow we go play queen and king in the chateaus :)

Hope all is well in blog land - sleep well!

Monday, October 13, 2014

France 10/13


Today was good - a short day, which was nice because everyone needed the rest.   We started the morning in Paris and ate the buffet breakfast at the hotel.  It was actually pretty good - after eating breakfast in Italy on our last trip I was worried :)    This was good though and the coffee was good as well - stronger than I normally take it but still drinkable - bonus for Europe!  

After breakfast we headed to the bus and out of Paris.  We went to a town called Rouen - it was very quaint with wood buildings that are built something like I would expect to see in a Dutch area.   Kinda like Helen, GA really - the architectural style, these were just MUCH much older.   This town had a couple of interesting things we saw.

1) Joan of Arc - this was the town she died in.   We saw a church dedicated to her, odd looking building that has alot of symbolism attached to it.  

2) The town has two gigantic gold clocks that have been around for hundreds of years.  You can read more about the here - they were pretty cool, only one still works but still awesome - hundreds of years!

3) There is a church there that is also Notre Dame (my lady) - it was pretty and has a bit of history as Monet used it as subject for several of his paintings.  It is a white church and he used it a study for light and how it plays.  

We then went and had lunch at a French bar and grill.  The waiter was friendly and worked with us on our tight schedule.   I had a veggie and ham pizza - the crust is thinner than what we have in the states, airier, but good and it was big!    Once we finished eating we met back up with the group and headed to the bus.

We went from there to a little village in Normandy called, Beuvron-en-Auge.  It only has 230 people that live there.  It is surrounded by pastor land and was really picturesque.   I loved it - we drank cider made from the field and wondered around.   The cider - reminded me of bear so yuck!  But the town was so quaint - I loved it.

Once we left there we headed to the WWII museum in Caen.   I'm not a big history person, but it was interesting to see WWII from the eyes of the French.  We hear so much history with the American slant, I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle.   I made it about 1/2 way through the exhibit and honestly it was sad and I wasn't feeling well so I went out and sat in the cafe.   I ate a chocolate filled croissant and rested while Jack and Mama continued.   I actually enjoyed my time sitting there watching the people and eating my little snack.     

We then headed to the hotel - Hotel Mercure.    Jack went to get me some meds from the neighboring pharmacy while I settled in.   One thing I have learned in France, go to a pharmacy and you get one choice of meds.   Not Sudafed, Tylenol, Etc... - You tell the pharmacist your symptoms, he hands you meds, you leave.  One type of tissue, one type of throat lozenge (and it taste like menthol ass).   That being said I took that pill and within 20 minutes my nose was drying up and I was feeling better so go France.   I may get another box to take home just due to how well it works.

Once I had meds in me and we had rested for a few we went to meet the group for dinner.   Dinner tonight was a simple meal in the hotel - it was actually really good and the company was great.  We set with some people we hadn't really visited with much and the conversation flowed pretty freely - I really enjoyed it actually.   

And now I'm tucked away in my hotel room - just took the nighttime dose of the meds and am about to go to sleep.    My nose may be running away, but I'm enjoying the trip regardless.  Here's to continuing the adventure.

** One thing to add - Jack kept falling asleep on bus and snoring - he may have a bruise from me having to wake him up so much, hee.   Time change is a killer!

Love you blogland - till next time.

France 10/10-10/12

Our First Few Days in France :)

Friday 10/10/14
We got up on Friday and began our adventure to France.  We were packed and headed to Atlanta by 8:30 EST.   The ride to Atlanta was uneventful; I had a conference call for work and read, Jack listened to an audio book and drove, Mama slept.

We got to Atlanta Airport around 12:30 for our 2:30 flight and I have to say it was like the rolled out the red carpet just for us.  The traffic guy or gal – not really sure which she was – was very friendly.  Answered our questions, was patient while we unloaded, etc.   I’ve pulled up before and no more gotten out of the car and they were yelling for us to move, so pleasant surprise.   Then the United baggage agent was extremely nice, the security line was short and we were fast tracked.  We didn’t have to take off shoes or belts and no one dinged – bonus.  Even the food guy at Five Guys was nice, called Mama Sweetheart, it was cute.

Out flight was delayed about an hour, but we still got to Chicago in plenty of time to catch our connecting flight to Paris.   Even boarding the plane went well – they had the zones divided into lines so instead of standing around and then rushing forward when they called your name there was a line –awesome.   We then headed to Paris – flight was roughly 7 hours, Mama and Jack slept through most of it, I only slept a little bit.  Still though overall it was good - we all got to sit together and no one around us smelled bad, you know what I mean… J

We landed in Paris on Saturday 10/11/14 and the adventure officially began.

Saturday 10/11/14

After arriving in Paris we were picked up at the airport and brought to our hotel, Hotel Concorde Montparnasse.  The hotel did not have our rooms ready given how early we arrived so we stowed our bags with reception and went exploring a bit.   Mama got a sandwich at the little grocery shop around the way while Jack looked at the non-electronic map and tried to figure out where to go.  We ended up walking around the corner and having nice view of the Eiffel Tower.  We then strolled the little street and did some window shopping and generally just enjoyed our first taste of the city.   We got back to our hotel around 1:30 and the room was ready so we went upstairs and laid down to get a little rest before the welcome dinner that evening.

I should note we met one couple at the airport who is on our trip – Greg and JoAnne, they are from Chicago and seem nice.  I think she may have had a stroke at one point as she has a slight speech impediment and a limp but I admire her for not letting it stop her from coming and enjoying herself. 

So on with the story – we got up from our little nap and headed down to meet with the tour guide.   He gave us our luggage tags for the trip, introduced himself and off we went to the welcome dinner.   We sat with Deedee and her husband, Jim – DeeDee reminds me a lot of Jean and it appears she loves to travel and shop.  She is always late though. J  Her husband had a stroke 2 months ago and here he is enjoying life – love it.   We also sat with a lady who is traveling alone, her name escapes me at the moment [Name is Cathy, added 10/13/14] , but she is nice and Mama says she reminds her of Laverne.    She works for NBC as an accountant.

Jack talked a lot with Deedee and Jim, and Cathy (the NBC lady) floated between their conversation and the one Mamma and I had with the older couple next to us, Harold and  something… they were friendly and were from Ft. Lauderdale FL.    He is a Dr. 

Overall the dinner was nice (will tell you food details in a moment) and the company good.  The waiter liked to pick on me for ordering coke, not eating all my food, etc...  He made the meal a lot of fun – wish I would have gotten a picture with him.

As far as the food goes – I adventured:
I ate escargot – also known as snails, a beef dish and tiramisu.   Snails weren’t as bad as I imagined, I ate more than one, but I wouldn’t reorder. 
I also tried the pre-wine and the coffee, neither my style. J  

After dinner we took a brief drive around the city to see it while Phillip our tour guided pointed out things about the city.   We saw the Eiffel tower but didn’t get to stop so Jack and I went back after the tour was over given our visit the next day would be during the day and the tower is prettier at night, in my opinion.   We got a metro and went to see the Eiffel tower.  The hotel clerk was extremely helpful and told us how to get a better view than the map told us about and we were grateful… we walked down to the metro (roughly 3 blocks) and promptly got misplaced in the metro station as it is a combination of a train/taxi hub/subway station, similar to Grand Central but not as pretty.    However, we found a clerk to help us and worked our way down to the metro section, bought our tickets from the kiosk, hopped on the metro and worked our way to the Eiffel tower.

We got off on a stop above the Eiffel tower and got a great view of the tower from a distance, it was lit up and very pretty.   It was nice and despite how late it was the area was full of people – there was dancing in the street.   We didn't know but on the hour ever hour the tower glitters at night, like a dancing Christmas tree.    It glittered for about 5 minutes, it was pretty awesome – Jack got a video.   I loved it, the atmosphere, the evening crisp air, being with my husband, it was really a great moment.

We then headed to the tower itself and walked around, bought some souvenirs and then headed to the closest metro, which was not the one we came in due to the view we wanted to get... so we also got slightly misplaced on the way to the station :)  However, luckily I overheard a gentleman mention the metro in English so I asked him and they were going to the same place - Awesome Sauce.  We were  grateful to have met them.  He was a student traveling abroad and he was happy to hear someone speaking english, win for both :)

We took the metro back to the confusing train station and promptly went out of the wrong exit, LOL.  I found a security guard and asked him for help… he didn’t speak great English, I didn’t speak French so it was interesting.  That being said he was very nice and when he found out we were American – he smiled and said Obama, lol.  He took us then to the right exit and was extremely friendly.  We then walked back the hotel, I got a bath and then fell in the bed and slept soundly.  Awesome!

Sunday 10/12/14
We got up this morning, very early – had breakfast and we met with our group at 7 AM.   We then went to Versailles.  It was great because we were the first group in so it was like we had the gardens of Versailles all to ourselves.  It was so calm, quiet and pretty.  I was a little disappointed the fountains were not on and it is getting winter here so the gardens were not in bloom, but it was so quiet and you could still appreciate the grand gardens and the secret surprises it holds – truly awesome.

We then explored the public rooms of the castle. It was as I remember, it was grand, gaudy and gold.  All of the ceilings were painted, custom carvings on the walls, gold, and fabric walls – no word to describe other than grandeous.   I enjoyed it and was glad I get to let Mama and see Jack see the castle I got to see in my youth.

We then headed back to Paris and promptly got stuck in traffic because of a race they had going on.  This did allow for some much needed nap time though.   However, it did put us slightly behind and had to make up time.  We picked up the rest of the group because Versailles was optional and headed to Notre Dame.   The church was fabulous and I wish we would have gotten to spend more time, but we were a little crunched and they had a mass going on so the church was extremely packed.  I didn’t have a panic attack, but it was so crowded and easy to get lost.     The outside is still my favorite part of the church – I love the buttresses.
We then went to the Eiffel Tower as a group.   We went up in it and mama and I missed the elevator due to weight and had to wait on the second one by ourselves.  It was ok, but it took a few minutes to get up as the lift takes 10 or so minutes to load/unload so we had a limited amount of time on the top, but we did get to enjoy the view and had a good time.   We found Jack and headed back down to meet up with the group …

Once reconnected we went to catch our boat for the evening cruise, it was raining and the cruise was a little disappointing due to that.  We shut the door in the glass enclosed area and it was foggy so I was wiping the fog off so people could see out the front, kind of funny actually.   The cruise was still nice despite the rain and it stopped raining just in time for us to head up to Montmartre.  It is a little village inside of Paris.  Historically is the artsy area where artist go to paint to earn money doing portraits, etc… It was quaint and we enjoyed it.  We bought souvenirs, had dinner with some group members and generally had a good time, though I do have to admit the waiter was a little rude – ah well – we still had a good time.

We then headed back to the group, took the trolley car back down to the bus and called it an evening.

Overall our first few days have been great, we are all still recovering from the jet lag and I’m dealing with a slight cold, but all is well here in France.   

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ice Saga Day 2

I want to start this post off by saying - WOW!  The preacher tonight, though difficult to follow at times, drove one simple point home - treat others better than you treat yourself.   I thought to myself as he was preaching this, that he was preaching to the choir that surrounded me for today the embodied this philosophy in such a way that I was left breathless.

Last night during the earthquake chat Ashley asked if there was anything they could do to help to let them know.   I told her we would welcome a chainsaw and some hands... the conversation ended with that.   I figured if they could come they would but didn't really get my hopes up - figured it would be us, Ty and Alice working along.   Not that they aren't phenomenal, just assumed it would be us.   So this AM at 9:00 Chris, Ashley's husband, texted asking when to meet.  Talk about blown away, we had an extra hand coming - WOW, I was blown away at that and so thankful.

I did post on facebook, more in jest than for reals saying - Free Pizza for anyone that can come lend a chainsaw / hands, cleanup starts at 10:30 or something like that... I know everyone had their own yards to attend to so I figured it would be Chris, us and Alice / Ty when they could, but the text kept rolling in.  Rusty needed help so Ely and Tom went over there.  Chris stated Ashley and Haize would be by later and I well I can't just tell you the feeling.   Venee texted Jack offering to help... I mean it just kept rolling in.

At the end of the day there were 10 of us pounding away at this disaster of a yard: Myself, Jack, Ashley, Haize, Chris, Venee, Ely, Tom, Rusty & Ty (in no particular order).  We made more progress in one day than Jack and I could have made in a month.  All of these people had things they could have been doing, they could have been enjoying their families, catching up on weekend errands - anything but helping us, yet here they were - sweating and pulling muscles - almost flipping four wheelers - cleaning off leaves from my porch roof - pulling daggers out of my roof - picking up limbs - chainsawing like no ones business - wenching trees! These amazing souls who donated there time and effort for a friend.

Two of these people we had not ever even met face to face, only via the computer and knowing we were part of the same church family, yet they came.   One works for my husband and has a new wife at home, yet they came, two had sweated to death already at they gym, yet they came, others had business and yards to clean up of their own, yet they came.     I am more grateful to them than they will ever know.  I can pull into my drive now without looking at it in misery - I know there is an end, we will get it back to where it was, all will be ok.  I love them and I will never forget them taking the time to lend a helping hand - whenever and wherever they need us we will be there, just say the word.

There is still much to do, but I now have faith we can do it.  The roof is going to have to be replaced, given there is a 4 to 6 inch hole in it, but God knew I needed a new one.  I prayed - God protect the house and protect the cars and he did just that.   He kept the promise that whatever we ask  in his name he will give - he knew our needs and he covered us in his umbrella of protection.   I know there are many suffering now and I don't mean to demean that in anyway - this has been a true disaster down here in many ways, but for me it was a lesson from God.  One I will treasure and remember forever.

Cleanup to be continued, but with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ice Quake

Just have to add this - we are sitting here chilling in Wade's apartment grateful for the warmth and an earthquake hits - shakes the entire building.   We thought it may have been a train or something, just kept shaking - a good 30 seconds or so... seemed like a washing machine but it was shaking the entire building.

I walked outside, no one was poking their head out or anything... come back in shaking it off as a train or something and then I get on Facebook.   It was a Quake - 4.4 that was centered in Edgefield SC (about 45 min down the road).   Felt it all the way to Cumming and Dawsonville according to friends on Facebook!  Absolutely nuts - Snow Thunderstorms and Earthquakes!!!!  

I don't know when Jesus is coming back but I do know that I am saying my prayers.  I don't  normally use this blog as a religious post, but if you don't know - Jesus came to this earth to die for your sins, so that you could be reconnected to God - so you could have a relationship with him.   John 3:16 - For God So Loved the World that he gave his only begotten Son that you may have everlasting life.   It doesn't take a magical prayer or a magical ceremony - just asking God to come into your life, forgive you of your sins and start walking with him.  Maybe get in a church long term so you can learn and grow in him... but at the end of the day it boils down to your heart, not your deeds.  If your heart is truly changed your deeds will follow, though you will never be perfect - there was only one perfect sinless man - Jesus.    Ask him into your heart today... Need guidance?  I'll be glad to help - I'm not a perfect person by any means and I'm still growing in my walk, but I would love to help you.

Saying my prayers and enjoying the heat - clean up starts tomorrow!

Ice Adventures

Good evening folks - I want to record the events of the past few days before I forget.

Tuesday we knew snow was heading to Augusta and our boss went ahead and preliminary closed the office for Wednesday.   Wednesday I thoroughly enjoyed my day off watching the sleet/snow come down and played Everquest II all day - around 5 pm our power started having brown outs, Jack and I worked to get my computer and the router on the battery backup so we could play through the brown outs - right when we thought we had it all set, bam, no power at all.

So we broke the candles out, got the fire going and settled in for the night.    We were laying in the bed and started to hear the trees breaking all around us - it was a cross between hearing fireworks and a war zone.   We had a couple hit that we went out and looked at, careful not to leave the roofed area of our porch - it was a little freaky.   We went back to bed and finally Jack went upstairs to sleep because his snoring was drowning out the trees = no sleep for me.

Once he got upstairs I fell asleep only to wake up at 2:00 sick at my stomach - I got really sick and end up violently vomiting for a good 20 minutes, I finally got back to sleep around 3:30.

When we got up it was Thursday, around 9 am, both our offices were closed and it was nutz outside.  We had a tree limb hit the front of the house, luckily no major damage.  We had a tree collapse in the back yard, luckily hitting nothing, four sections of the fence are damaged from tree limbs and that isn't to talk about the front yard.   We had one pine tree fall across the yard to hit the road and rip our power line out of the pole, our Internet line was also ripped out leaving us powerless and internetless.

Billy stopped by around 9 am to check on us, cell phone service was shotty at best.  Him and Jack went to Home Depot and bought a generator and some other items.  We were hoping to not have to use it, but he bought it just in case.   I went back to bed while they were in town - it was warmer under the covers and I was so tired.

Once they got back and Billy left - We tried to head over to Alice and Ty's to check on them but we couldn't get the car out of the driveway.  We started to walk, but it was too cold so I called it and went back in.  I laid on the couch - While I laid down Jack got went outside and got the little generator we already had out, he got the fire going and moved the freezer outside and hooked it up to the little generator.  The entire time I was asleep on the couch and/or chair, just couldn't wake up - I can only assume looking back that my body was still fighting whatever made me so sick the night before.     I did turn my chair around at some point so my feet pointed to the stove - they were so cold.    Jack also cut some wood up outside while I slept under my 7 or 8 blankets...

Around 5 I woke up and we were able to get out of the driveway - we drove over to Alice and Ty's to check on them. they gave us some more firewood and we discovered their large generator had failed.  We let them use the little one and broke out the new one Jack had bought as the little one wasn't providing enough power for the freezer anyway, but would provide them with a light and something to charge phones.

After we got them the generator and visited for a bit we left to go home.   However we decided on the way home to grab a bite to eat.   Waffle House had a line out the door, but Applebee's was also open so we went there.  Their food sucks, but at that point we didn't care - We had a hot meal and thanked the staff for being kind enough to open. They were way understaffed and people were coming in groves as most didn't have power.   I was grateful to them.

We then went home and Jack got the big generator going - wow is it loud.  We got the freezer, the refrigerator, some lamps and the tv and media server hooked up.   It was awesome - I was watching some tv while he went to get some more gas.  All things considered we were doing well... then the server died, the hard drive failed.    Murphy's law but we are still blessed!    So we called it a night, I went into bedroom and got under my 8 blankets and Jack slept in the living room so he could keep fire going - super man I tell ya :)

We got up this morning around 9, my office was closed again due to no power and Jack didn't go in due to the mess at the house.  We called Alice and Ty, to see if they wanted to get breakfast - they said yes, they brought some food for the freezer to keep it safe and we headed to Waffle House.  We ate and while we were there, Wade, Jack's boss called.  He keeps an apartment here, but goes home to Atlanta on the weekend, so he offered us his apartment while he is gone!  Can you say awesomeness?   We stopped by Jack's work and got the key and then headed back home.

Alice and Ty dropped us off and Jack went to get more gas for generator and some oil.  I got the house straightened up while he was gone.  He got back and we loaded up chainsaw and headed to Alice/Ty's.  Plan was to get the chainsaw working and go over to Janine and Gordon's to get tree off of their house.  though when we got there - Ty and Gordon had gone to get gas so we just hung out for a bit.   Sat in the sun and chatted.   When Ty got back we learned that the tree that was on Gordon's house had fell and they weren't going to work with it today so we decided to go ahead and fix chainsaw (actually Ty fixed it - we thanked him, awesome handyman), get some wood and then head to Wade's so Alice/Ty could get showers.

When Ty was fixing the chainsaw Alice and I decided to load some wood.   Alice went to move Ty's truck and scraped it against the side of the tree - pretty bad.   Murphy's law I tell ya - once hugs were given, Ty went on to fix chainsaw and Jack, I and me loaded some wood.

Jack and I took Ty's truck back to the house (along with my Rav4) and unloaded the wood.   Jack also changed the oil in the generator (needed to be changed given it was it's first run) - while he did that I loaded up pillows/bag etc... for visit to Wade's.      I walked next door and checked on neighbors, they are fine - heading out of town tomorrow.

I also called my brother Bobby to see if he could help - it was funny, I asked what he had going on next weekend and he said he didn't know, needed to check with DeAnn.  I then told him I needed a favor - I needed his chainsaw and some help next weekend.  He didn't hesitate - said I'll be there, in fact I can come tonight if you need me.   I told him to wait and just come next weekend, we have to get power etc... before we can start making repairs, but the fact he was willing to drop everything brought tears to my eyes.   Family is family and I just can't say what his response meant to me.

Ty and Alice headed to our house and we caravaned over to Wade's.  They got showers and we relaxed on his couch - his apartment is very homey.  I thought given he lives here only in the week and without his wife that it would be bland, like Jack's was when I moved in, but it is decorated and very cosy.   He has books everywhere, leadership and christian reading material, pictures of his family, a keyboard ... I don't know why but my thoughts of the man have really increased.  I liked him before, but his thoughtfulness and his obvious dedication by his reading material just makes me think more of him.  I just want to give him a bear hug.

Once they got showered we headed back out, them for home (Janie and Gordon had loaned them a big generator) and us for dinner.  We ate at Cracker Barrell then went back to check on house, gassed up generator, made sure fire was still going for the fur babies, let the neighbors put some food in freezer, checked on the other neighbor's and headed back to Wade's.

I now sit here after getting a bath, in a heated apartment and am just grateful.  Grateful as it could have been a lot worse!  I prayed God protect the house and the cars and he did - I grateful and overwhelmed.    I'm hoping we get power tomorrow and I know there is alot of work ahead of, but at the end of the day - I'm simply grateful

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A New Year

January 2, 2014

A New Year – One with no written pages, undefined road maps and unspoken possibility.   Where will I go, who will I become?  To have these answers would be as if I were God and I’m not.  I’m merely a wondering soul in search of a purpose – a destination.

There are those that say focus on the journey, focus on your spiritual relationship with God and all else will be as it is meant.   I’m not sure how to do that or if I even want to.   God made me.  He created my face, my body, my soul and my personality.   He made me.  He made me a planner, a methodical yet impatient person, he made me.   While I know that trusting him is paramount, I also know he made me to be me.
So I sit in my office on this first work day of 2014 and I look forward.  I may have three hours of actual work to fill my eight hour day and this makes me listless, anxious and determined.   Determined to change – the question is how do I change & what do I change?

Do I change careers or jobs?

Do I change what defines me?

Do I change my passions – or more accurately do I find a passion,  for if the truth is known I have none.

So what does 2014 bring?  What does it have in store?  I don’t know – I don’t even really know what I want it to have in store and that I believe is the true crux of the issue.  So I’ll make a list here of things I hope it holds – things that are on my mind.  I won’t call them resolutions for I really don’t know if they are my thoughts / wants or just things I think I should want because society/church/culture says I should…

  1. More Dedication at the Gym – 4 Days a week
  2. Make a decision on my career and take whatever steps necessary to make it happen
  3. Let go of the resentment 
  4. Nag Jack Less – Communicate More
  5. Read/Study Bible More
  6. Pray More
  7. Be more open in my relationship with God – Learn to separate emotion and truth – Stop being afraid of the emotion
  8. Stop defining myself by what I do, but instead by who I am
  9. Do more – Whine less
  10. Realize I can do anything I want – from Construction, to programming – I can.
  11. Move forward – learning from the past without sitting in it
  12. Even out the emotional rollercoaster
  13. Do more than exist

So these are my thoughts, my hopes, and my list.   Now to do something about it.   Here is wishing you and yours a fantastic blessed New Year!

Jamaica Day 2 and Part of 3

I'm relaxed - I mean really relaxed and it feels amazing.  Yesterday after the post they showed us a new room and I was really undecided...