Overcoming Challenges

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Bernice Johnson Reagon

This quote is especially meaningful for me today since 36-hours ago my laptop computer crashed. All the photos I’ve taken during this trip were on the hard drive, as was the latest version of the book I am writing, my Skype account, and well, pretty much my life.

As you can imagine I was a bit of a mess for about 24-hours. Thank goodness for a friend back in the States who called my French phone and was able to help me calm down and get my perspective back; reminding me, just as the quote by Bernice Johnson Reagon states, I can’t let this paralyze me, or get me down. I must press on!

“Press on. Obstacles are seldom the same size tomorrow as they are today.” – Robert H. Schuller

The next day I saw my friend Catherine and fortunately she had an extra computer I can use until I get mine fixed or purchase a new one. It’s a mac (I use a PC), and it has a French keyboard with many letters in different locations then on an American keyboard. But it has Word and connects to the Internet, so I can at least get online, call home via Skype and take care of some things until I can get a new computer.

I have a fairly recent version of my novel on an external hard drive, so all is not lost.

My dad is a computer wiz, so hopefully when I get home he can help me get the files and pictures off my laptop hard drive.

Obviously this is not the end of the world and I keep reminding myself – I’m in Paris, I’m living my dream. Challenges happen and we can always learn something for them.

So I will take out my notebook and pen, and continue writing my book longhand, like all the writers did before computers and typewriters.

“Without difficulties, life would be like a stream without rocks and curves – about as interesting as concrete. Without problems, there can be no personal growth, no group achievement, no progress of humanity. But what matters about problems is what one does with them.” Benjamin Hoff, The Te Of Piglet

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September 30, 2013 · 2:15 am

A different Moulin Rouge

Le Moulin du Val Hulin

Le Moulin du Val Hulin

Just 10 kilometers south of Saumur, perched atop a hill in the village of Turquant, sits a house and mill that was built in 1749. When the Mill was first constructed it was a part of the Abbaye de Fontevraud. And up until the beginning of the 20th century it served as the bakery for the village of Turquant.

Le Moulin du Val Hulin, which was classified as a historic monument in 1963, just happens to be owned by a friend of Catherine’s. So instead of just viewing the mill and home from the outside, we were lucky enough to be able to visit inside as well. However, since it is still a private residence, I did not take photographs inside the home.

The mill was constructed with the Tuffeau stone extracted from the hill it sits upon. The stone is grey and soft when mined but becomes hard and turns white when exposed to the open air and sunlight. The mining techniques used to extract the valued stone created a vast network of caves in the Loire Valley, which have even been used as dwellings.

Turquant, France - Troglodyte cave houses

Turquant, France – Troglodyte cave houses

These troglodytes cave houses are famous in Turquant.

Troglodytes cave houses

Troglodytes cave houses

Le Moulin du Val Hulin

The Mill is oriented west to better face the wind. However, if the wind happened to change direction, the Miller was able to turn the mill so that it always faced the dominant wind. A few years ago, during a particularly strong storm, the mill was damaged and one of the wings was broken off.  It has now been repaired, and is back to its original state.

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Le Moulin du Val Hulin

Le Moulin du Val Hulin

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Saumur Part three – Horse Country!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

I have always loved horses, I find them beautiful, graceful, gentle and strong. So one of the things I enjoyed about my time in Saumur was seeing horses everywhere, and even being able to walk up to a few of them and pet their soft muzzle and coarse mane. It is truly horse country. In fact, Saumur is home to the Cadre Noir, the École Nationale d’Équitation (National School of Horsemanship), known for its annual horse shows.

the Cadre Noir

Cadre Noir

According to Wikipedia, the Cadre Noir is an equestrian display team based in the city of Saumur in western France. The troop was founded in 1828, and gets its name from the black uniforms that are still used today. It is one of the most prestigious horsemanship schools in the world.
The historic role of the Saumur School of Cavalry was to provide training for the officers and non-commissioned officers of the French cavalry. After World War II the mounted element of the French Army had been reduced to a few squadrons of spahis (disbanded in 1962) and the primarily ceremonial Cavalry of the Republican Guard.

While the need for a purely military riding academy had all but vanished, the international prestige of French horsemanship ensured the survival of the Saumur training centre in the form of a national riding school under the Ministry of Sports.

Therefore in 1972, the National School of Équitation was constituted around the Cadre Noir, which form its core teaching staff. Today, there are about 50 horses and a team of elite riders, usually limited to 22. The members of the Cadre Noir have either civilian or military status. Some of the riders have reached the highest level of international sport, being Olympic or world champions.

Here are a couple of shots of the Cadre Noir (photo’s by: Alain Laurioux, IFCE).

Photo Credit: Alain Laurioux, IFCE

Photo Credit: Alain Laurioux, IFCE

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: Alain Laurioux, IFCE

The Ecole Nationale d’Equitation’s La Grande Semaine de Saumur (the great week of Saumur) is being held this week, but I am back in Paris now, so unfortunately I will not be able to attend. I’m so disappointed!

I did see a lot of horses while in Saumur, in fact, I think I found the Prince of Saumur training his horse.

Gorgeous White horse

Gorgeous White horse

I found these beautiful mares while out for a walk one afternoon.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

When I first arrived in Saumur, I booked a 2-hour ride in the countryside and along the Loire River, but alas, the day my ride was scheduled it was pouring down rain , and my excursion was cancelled. I really must get back to this area for more horsing around. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

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Saumur Part two – Wine Country!

Saumur Wine Country

Saumur Wine Country

The Loire area is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur such as Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc. which produce some of France’s finest wines, and as I soon learned: Bubbly!

As we drove through the Loire Valley in the Saumur area, it was like driving through one postcard after another.

beautiful vineyards

beautiful vineyards

Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley, France

Saumur is famous for its grapes that are similar to Champagne grapes; and using méthode traditionelle the wine makers make exceptional sparkling wines that rival Champagne. I even found one wine maker with my surname – Grenelle (French spelling of Grinnell) which was established in 1859. How exciting!

I love tiny bubbles!

I love tiny bubbles!

Louis de Grenelle wines

Louis de Grenelle wines

AckermanOur first night in Saumur, Catherine took me to visit an even more historic winery, Ackerman; and lucky for us, we happened upon a special event.

There was music (three separate groups throughout the evening), art, games, education, food and of course wine tasting. Plus, the vineyard is on the hill above and the winery is actually in caves below. We walked around the caves and visited the exhibit on making exceptional sparkling wine in the traditional method.

Pouring the bubbly!

Pouring the bubbly!

Wow - these are some big bottles!

Wow – these are some big bottles!

Catherine relaxing in the cave.

Catherine relaxing in the cave.

Enjoying some sparkling wine!

Enjoying some sparkling wine!

Method Traditional

Méthode Traditionelle

Music in the wine caves

Music in the wine caves

Cool art display with champagne flutes

Cool art display with champagne flutes

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Filed under Art, French Finds, Travel, Wine

My new French family

Saumur, France

Saumur, France

I just spent ten days living in the most lovely community – Saumur, France – which is a historic town is perched on the Loire river. Staying with my friend Catherine’s parents, in their 17th-century, 3-story house in the center of town, I was able to experience traditional French living – and let me tell you, I loved it. Her parents are so generous and kind, and made me feel very welcome.

There is so much to say about this lovely town and all that I experienced while I was, there that I will need to separate this blog article into several postings.

I’ll start with Living life as part of a French family:

Each morning Catherine’s father walked to the local pâtisserie and picked up croissant and pain au chocolat for petit dejeuner (breakfast) – that along with a cup (or two) of café (espresso) was a perfect start to the day.

petit dejeuner

petit dejeuner

We dined together (as a family) daily for lunch and for dinner, and even though Catherine’s parents spoke very little English, and my French language skills are still a work in progress, we always had a delightful time.

These meals were generally a minimum of three-courses, with the table set with a beautiful table covering, all the silverware and glassware we would need (yes, we had a glass of wine with lunch and dinner), and of course a cloth napkin. Catherine’s parents each had a unique napkin ring to tell them apart each day, so as to avoid washing a barely used napkin; Catherine and I each folded ours in a distinctive way in order to tell them apart. When we were finished dining the napkins went into the bread basket ready for the next meal.

After dinner, Catherine’s parents would go into the longue to have their coffee and listen to music or watch something on television.

On Saturday mornings we walked to the market in the center square of the city. The first Saturday at the market it was pouring rain, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone, people donned their outer-wear and navigated through the sea of umbrellas and canopy covered stalls.

Raining Day at the Market

Raining Day at the Market

Market day in the Rain

Market day in the Rain

fresh sea food

fresh sea food

Boucherie

Boucherie

Stinky Cheese!

Stinky Cheese!

We purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, crème fraîche, eggs, muscles, pork, beef, sausages, etc. for the next few days of dining; then came home and started preparing for our mid-day meal.

Preparing the Moules-frites

Preparing the Moules-frites

Time for Lunch - Moules-frites - YUM!

Time for Lunch – Moules-frites – YUM!

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Marseille: 2013 European “Capital of Culture”

According to Conde Nest Traveler, visitors to Marseille during its 2013 reign as a European “Capital of Culture” will experience a city transformed by a multibillion-dollar urban development project billed as the largest in southern Europe. I was impressed by the amount of art along the Old Port and on the walls in the city.

Here is a sample of what I saw…

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

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Salvador Dali

More Dali

More Dali

Dali

Dali

Dali

Dali

Mural

Mural near the Old Port

Recently unveiled in Marseille, is this giant mirrored canopy called the Port Vieux Pavilion was designed by architecture firm Foster + Partners. The pavilion measures nearly 150 feet long and is made of highly polished stainless steel meant to reflect people and the surrounding harbor.

The Port Vieux Pavilion: A Mirrored Canopy

The Port Vieux Pavilion

The Port Vieux Pavilion

The Port Vieux Pavilion: Look ma, it's me!

The Port Vieux Pavilion: Look ma, it’s me!

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Afternoons at the Seaside near Marseille

The coast near Marseille offers an enormous array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its west-facing southern coastline. Most of the terrain is rocky, but there are some “beaches” with pebbles and a few offer a sandy place to walk in your bare feet.

A number of the beaches have activities as well, these include everything from kayaking, paddle-boarding and snorkeling to beach rugby, and even swimming lessons for kids. And it seems you will always find someone hoping to catch some fish for dinner. One thing to note, there are no bonfires allowed on beach (whether rocky or sandy) due to a high fire danger in the area.

One afternoon Evelyn and I headed over to the seaside but when we arrived the sky was clouded over and it was a bit cool for swimming. We had a nice walk along the rocky cliffs and then found a nice beach to lay our towels down on and relax for a bit. I put my feet in the water, but it was too cold to go all the way in, so I didn’t end up swimming that day.

Small cove

Small cove

Going fishing

Going fishing

Canoeing

Canoeing

Rocky sea scape

Rocky sea scape

Sandy beach

Sandy beach

sandy beach near Marseille

sandy beach near Marseille

Hello!

Hello!

I went to the sea near Marseille on a few occasions while in Provence, and below are some of the pictures from those trips.

Crystal clear!

Crystal clear!

Water activities

Water activities

Beach near the Old Port

Beach near the Old Port

Biking along the water.

Biking along the water.

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Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Simple pleasures, Travel