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It’s Jordan again, and I’d like to share with you something remarkable that the four traveling Evans’ have learned.  If you can believe it, we’ve figured out how to eat TOO MUCH cheese!  As I share our adventures driving from Provence to the French Alps and our jaunt today around the mountains of Chamonix, I’ll provide you with the answer of just how much cheese is a little too much cheese…

We left Provence yesterday morning in a pretty steady rain.  After spending the previous afternoon on the Mediterranean, it was nice to have some rain and be heading to colder climes.  As we mentioned in the last post, we drove to the Notre Dame de Tamie monastery in the Alps on the recommendation of Sister Noella.  It was beautiful!  The rain was misting and the cows on the hillsides were walking around the deep green grass while their cowbells played a harmonious cacophony of tones.  As Kristy would say, we were all in our “happy place.”  The girls kept singing, “The–hills are a–live—with the sound of mu–sic!”  It was awesome!

We stopped for lunch in a small alpine village called Frontenex.  We weren’t expecting much but we figured the abbey fromagerie would be closed (as most places except restaurants in France are) from 12pm to 2pm.  As a tidbit for future travelers to France, most stores close from 12pm to 2pm so the staff can have a proper lunch.  Restaurants tend to close the kitchen for a couple of hours around 2 or 2:30pm to do the same!  Ok, we had an unexpectedly lovely lunch in Frontenex.  Their lunch was basically the plat du jour and you could have an appetizer (du jour) before and/or a dessert (du jour) after, if you’d like.  It was a pretty simple lunch menu.  The hors d’oeuvre was a lovely mix (this is going to sound weird but it was great) of shredded carrots, fresh tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, and tuna in a dijon dressing.  The plat du jour was roasted chicken and a spinach gratin.  Fantastic!

We left Frontenex and climbed (in our rental car) the Col de Tamie up to the monastery. We walked around the monastery and stopped into the shop there.  We bought some of the Abbey cheese, “Notre Dame de Tamie,” along with some beer made by a couple of different Trappiste monasteries.  We packed up the beer and cheese and proceeded to drive down the north side of the Col de Tamie through some beautiful alpine villages on our way to Chamonix.  For those cyclists reading this, the ascent we took from Frontenex up to the abbey is a Category 2 climb and was featured in the most brutal stage (17) of the 2004 Tour de France, which included climbs up the Glandon and Madeleine before hitting the Col de Tamie and two others.  Lance Armstrong sprinted ahead of Andreas Kloden for the win on that day.  We didn’t give our Ford C-max rental car anything to help it climb, though…

Alyssa at the Abbey.  This girl loves to hike.  She found a trail here and went off into the woods!

Alyssa at the abbey. This girl loves to hike. She found a trail here and went off into the woods!

The view of the abbey Notre Dame de Tamie as we headed out to Chamonix.

The view of the abbey Notre Dame de Tamie as we headed out to Chamonix.

The roads in the Alps are really wonderful feats of engineering.  Here is a landslide barrier.  Of course there are also tunnels and viaducts!

The roads in the Alps are really wonderful feats of engineering. Here is a landslide barrier. Of course there are also tunnels and viaducts!

This viaduct was over a mile long and really freaked Kristy out as we approached it.

This viaduct was over a mile long and really freaked Kristy out as we approached it. The picture does not do it justice. It was high and skinny!

Last night, we ate at a restaurant in Chamonix known for their local Haute Savoie cuisine, La Caleche.  We had fondue!  It was local cheese and we paired it with local wine.  It was fabulous!

Today, after a lovely walk through town this morning to get pastries and coffee, we took a cog-wheel train (capable of climbing grades of ~25%) up the mountain to a glacier called “Le Mer de Glace.”  Once we arrived high on the mountain, we took a gondola down to the glacier.  Once down there, we toured an ice cave.  You haven’t lived until you walked into a glacier!  WOW!  Kristy had to tell herself that this was Disneyland otherwise she would have freaked out too much at any number of things…

  • The steep gondola ride down the face of the mountain
  • The see-through steps with 100-500 foot drops below her
  • The wood-planked platforms we had to walk along
  • The bridge over the deep crevasse in the glacier
  • Going >100 or 200 feet into a glacier

It was truly amazing.

As we hiked from the bottom of the gondola station to the ice cave, we passed several signs that showed the height of the glacier in past years to illustrate how far it has receded.  It is remarkable to see how far it has receded since I was in college or since Anna was born.  I don’t think the pictures do it justice.

The beautiful town of Chamonix, before the train ride.

The beautiful town of Chamonix, before the train ride.

The view after the climb in the cog-wheel train.

The view after the climb in the cog-wheel train.

Our two brave travelers in the Gondola.  Anna and Jordan took one to the top of Lone Peak in Montana, so this wasn't too bad for them).

Our two brave travelers in the Gondola. Anna and Jordan took one to the top of Lone Peak in Montana, so this wasn't too bad for them).

The trip to the glacier still required 420 steps after we got off this steep gondola ride.

The trip to the glacier still required 420 steps after we got off this steep gondola ride.

One of the many humorous signs that provide a status of how many steps you still have remaining and how much harder it is to go back UP!

One of the many humorous signs that provide a status of how many steps you still have remaining and how much harder it is to go back UP!

The walk from the Gondola down to the ice caves with the glacier in the distance.

The walk from the Gondola down to the ice caves with the glacier in the distance.

The glacier has to be 100 feet below this point.

The glacier has to be something like 200-500 feet below this point.

The lighting in the cave was cool!

The lighting in the cave was cool!

Back at the entrance to the cave.  They laid blanketing down because the ice is WAY slippery.

Back at the entrance to the cave. They laid blanketing down because the ice is WAY slippery.

After exploring the ice caves, we took the gondola back up and continued to explore.  Admiring the stunning views from the train station high in the Alps, we sat and ate our Notre Dame de Tamie cheese with a baguette we picked up in town.  After fondue last night, we polished off an entire wheel of the Notre Dame de Tamie at lunch!  Sister Noella, of course you were right!!!  The Notre Dame de Tamie was fabulous!

This cheese was spectacular.

This cheese was spectacular.

Following our cheese-filled lunch, we hiked some more and then took the train back down to Chamonix.

Now to explain how much cheese is too much cheese…

Last night, while enjoying our traditional Savoyard fondue, we saw some folks eating cheese fondue using a different mechanism.  It’s called Raclette.  It’s basically half of a cheese wheel sitting under a heat lamp and as the cheese gets bubbly, you slant the cheese wheel and scrape the melty, carmely goodness onto a plate to be paired with charcuterie, potatoes, and cornishons.  It looked awesome and the girls requested it.

SO…

Tonight we went back to La Caleche and ordered Raclette.  We loved it.  We paused, because there was still a lot of cheese left on the wheel.  We nibbled some more.  We paused again.  Anna and I tried to eat some more.  We paused yet again.

No

More

Cheese

That’s was it!  We figured it out!  Two nights of amazing cheese fondue with a full wheel of soft cow’s-milk cheese for lunch in between IS the limit.  We can’t have any more cheese.  We’re cheesed out!

…at least until tomorrow.

The half wheel of cheese roasting under the heat lamp.

The half wheel of cheese roasting under the heat lamp.

Jordan using a knife to create a "cheese luge" as the cheese slides onto the plate.

Jordan using a knife to create a "cheese luge" as the cheese slides onto the plate.

The yummy goodness (including crock of cornichons) that you eat with the bubbly cheese!

The yummy goodness (including crock of cornichons) that you eat with the bubbly cheese!

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Sep
23

Provence & The Mediterranean

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

I can’t believe today is our last day in Provence already!  It seems like we only arrived.

We arrived in Arles on Friday and got our relax on.  We’ve been staying in a 500+ year old house in the historic district of Arles.  The house literally is part of the original Roman walls built 2000 years ago.  I had Jordan take pictures of the beams of the ground  floor ceiling.  Etched into the wood are the dates 1743 and 1786.  It’s amazing how quiet these old houses are.  You never hear the neighbors!

1786

1786

1743

1743

Our first day we walked through Arle’s AMAZING biweekly market.  The market was HUGE!  Would you believe it is nearly 2-miles long?

Beautiful food!

Beautiful food!

Then we headed out to explore Peter Mayle’s Luberon.  Sadly, I have to say we were totally unimpressed!  We visited three different villages in the area and all felt like suburbia, with real-estate agents about every other door.  Not sure if it just became too popular with Mayle’s book, A Year In Provence, or if it just wasn’t our style, but whatever the reason, this was certainly not our favorite area.

On our second full day we went cycling in the shadow of Mont Ventoux.  Although we didn’t climb the mountain it was a magical experience riding around the vineyards and olive groves of the foothills… and then d-r-i-v-i-n-g up the Ventoux.  The only problem is we now really have the itch to do some serious training and return to this Giant of Provence.  Of course we had to buy matching cycling jerseys.  Go team Evans!!!!!!

Evans Take Ventoux

The third day we relaxed a bit more and toured the Cotes de Rhone area.  Beautiful.  Village after village clinging to the hillsides with some of the best vineyards in the world.  We had the loveliest picnic in the village of Seguret.  Quite possibly one of the best memories from this trip!  Simple lunch of baguette, cheese, olives and a bottle of wine picked up along the way, eaten on the hillside over looking the grape harvest.  Perfection.

Picnic perfection.

Picnic perfection.

Today we drove through Camargue.  A beautiful nature preserve outside of Arles where flamingos, wild horses, and wild cattle live amongst rice fields and salt beds.  We learned about the Camargue cross, a symbol for this area.  A cross for faith, an anchor for hope, and a heart for charity.  I’ll be bringing one home with me!  We also visited the ancient church in Saintes Maries de la Mer.  Built between the 9th and 12th centuries, it was beautiful.  It is believed Mary the mother of Saint James the Greater and Mary the mother of St. James the Minor and John, having been exiled from Palestine on a boat with no provisions, ended up in Camargue and evangelized the Gaul people.  (It is also thought Mary Magdalene was exiled with them.)

The Camargue Cross

The Camargue Cross

The Saints Mary

The Saints Mary

We ended our day with a drive to Cassis, a beautiful village on the coast of the Mediterranean.  The Mistral winds were howling, but that didn’t stop the topless sun bathers.  Anna was shocked, to say the least.  We some how forgot to mention that bit of French coastal trivia to the girls.  Oops!

Regardless, the afternoon was beautiful.

My first pastis...  I think I'll stick with wine from now on.  After a sip or two your tongue actually starts to go numb.

My first pastis... I think I'll stick with wine from now on. After a sip or two your tongue actually starts to go numb.

Hmmmm.  Perhaps I won't go home after all.

Hmmmm. Perhaps I won't go home after all.

No boobies are pictured with Jordan and Alyssa.  :-)  Actually, only covered ones...

No boobies are pictured with Jordan and Alyssa. :-) Actually, only covered ones...

Jordan and Anna blowing in the wind.

Jordan and Anna blowing in the wind.

The coastline is stunning and the water was the bluest I've ever seen!

The coastline is stunning and the water was the bluest I've ever seen!

Tomorrow, we’re off to the French Alps.  We are hoping to stop at an abbey where Trappiste monks have been making cheese for a long time.  It was recommended by Jordan’s pen pal, Sister Noella (aka “The Cheese Nun”).  We can’t wait!  We will be staying in the ski resort town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.  With all of the fondue dishes we have planned, we are hoping to do a lot of hiking!

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Sep
19

The Dordogne

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

We had never been to the Dordogne and I think we barely scratched the surface!  The Dordogne is a rugged region in the south western part of France.  It is green and lush with stone cliffs and walled fortresses clinging to the tops of the those cliffs.  It saw the Vikings and struggled through the Hundred Years’ War.  Richard the Lionhearted actually lived in the castle at Beynac for 10 years.  Following Rick Steve’s advice, we decided the best way to see the region was from the Dordogne River in canoes.

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I have to admit I liked this idea better on paper than I did when faced with having to climb into said canoe.  For those of you who know me well you know I don’t like being in the water…be it pool, ocean, or river.  I’m a beside the water kind of person and it makes me down-right nervous to think about pushing my canoe out.  My feet could get wet!  (I am fully aware that I’m absolutely ridiculous!)  Thankfully one of the guides had us climb in nice and dry and then he pushed us off.  Easy-peasy.  But going straight…  well let’s just say I drive a car better than I steer a canoe!  It took Anna and I awhile to get the hang of it.  :-)

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The views from the river were just breathtaking!  Those castles really don’t look real.

Alyssa had a BLAST!

Alyssa had a BLAST!

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Castlenaud

It was a beautiful day and so peaceful on the river.

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It's much better to travel during the shoulder seasons when the crowds are fewer. We felt like we had the river to ourselves!

After our 9 mile canoe ride we visited a goose farm.  It was a great experience learning about the artisan way of raising geese for foie gras.  We learned the geese are 4 years old before they are force-fed to increase the size of their livers.  The are treated very humanely and allowed to live full lives.

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These geese are about 6 months old.

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M. Mazot spends 5 hours a day feeding his geese.

After visiting the farm we headed back to our house in the country.  Looking out over the countryside is a beautiful way to spend the evening!

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Our rooms were on the second floor.

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A toast to us!

Ok, here is another confession.  French food is AMAZING!  Seriously.  Did you know UNESCO actually listed French dinners on their list of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity?  That being said… the French do not eat a lot of spicy food, fair to say next to none.  After more than two weeks of traveling, I absolutely had to eat something spicy!  We headed to what appeared to be the French equivalent of Walmart and managed to find some Old El Paso salsa, chips, jalapeños, and avocados.  Craving alleviated!

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Shopping at a big-box store was a weird experience in France.

As we headed out of the Dordogne we stopped by one of the many prehistoric caves in the region.  The tour took us more than one-half mile back into a cave to show us ancient cave drawings of mammoths, ibex, and horses.  It was an exceptional experience.  Even the graffiti (some dating back to the 1700’s) was interesting!!!

Our last stop after the caves was a lovely little farm restaurant overlooking hills of geese and cows.  Of course I had to have the foie gras sandwich and a glass of the local wine!  Delicious!

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—end of Kristy’s section…now Jordan will add a few notes—

Kristy and Anna were very funny in the canoe together.  Anna is practically an adult, in terms of size and strength, and she wanted to control the canoe from the front.  If you’ve been in a canoe, you know this is problematic.  She and Kristy quickly learned to work together and could really get their canoe moving!  Alyssa popped into our canoe and said, “tell me what to do, Dad!”  Plus, being the totally buff, mid-40’s macho man that I am, I am WAY stronger than she is so it was easy to steer.  As Kristy would say, “easy-peasy.”

Alyssa was funny.  She wanted to be the one to jump out of the canoe as we arrived at various stops along the river.  She totally one-upped me on strength by jumping out, grabbing the front of the canoe, and dragging the canoe (with my buff, mid-40’s butt still in the seat) up the boat ramp!  Suddenly…I wasn’t so sure that I was “WAY” stronger than her!?!?!?!?

The Dordogne is an amazing area…medieval castles, cro-magnon cave art from 14,000 years ago, excellent local food and wine, and what I thought were the narrowest roads in all of France.  BUT!  Now that we’ve arrived in Provence and are staying inside the old Roman section of Arles, I’ve learned that the Dordogne does not have the narrowest roads in all of France.  I literally could not make the right turn onto the street that our house is on.  There just was NOT enough room.  We had to loop around and park down the block.  We learned later that people go to the end of our street and BACK up the one-way street instead of making that right turn.  Below is a picture of our rental house in Arles, Provence.  We’ll post more about Provence later…

Our totally comfortable, totally provencal house in the historic city-center of Arles.

Our totally comfortable, totally provencal house in the historic city-center of Arles.

By the way, in between the Dordogne and Provence, we spent the night in the medieval walled fortress city of Carcassonne.  If you are wondering what it looks like, you can watch Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner.  It was beautiful and we ate fantastic Cassoulet.  We’re not going to write about it here.  We need SOMETHING to show family and friends when we get back to California!

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Sep
16

Today We Remembered

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)
One English word beckons, remember.

One English word beckons, remember.

Today we visited Oradour-sur-Glane, one of the most powerful sites in France.  Known as the Village des Martyrs, this town and its inhabitants were systematically machine-gunned down and burned on June 10, 1944 by the Nazis.  Left mostly untouched since that day, this town is a place of pilgrimage and remembrance of what happens when evil abounds.

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642 people, men, women, and children lost their lives that day for no reason.  Some accounts say the village had weapons.  None were found.  Another account said this was retaliation for resistance in the area, one town confused for another.  This didn’t have to happen.

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Seemingly each home had a sewing machine.   We must have seen 20 different machines amidst the rubble.

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Anna struggled with this history lesson.  She spent much of the time we were there with tears falling down her face.  If we take time to teach our children history it’s possible for justice in the future to prevail.  As hard as it is, we can not forget.

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Jordan teaching hard lessons.

I think the most difficult part of this for me was placing this within the context of what is going on in the world right now.  People dying for no reason other than religion.  Countries being invaded.  Men, women, and children in harms way.  We simply can’t turn a blind eye to the injustice.  Please Lord, show us ways to make a difference.

We must remember.

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Sorry, but you’ve got Jordan again writing this one.  Kristy is fine…just tired and I felt like writing!

It’s Monday night in France.  Two weeks ago we were sitting in LAX, getting ready to board our flight to Paris.  This evening we sat outside a 500 year old chateau in the Loire Valley, chatting for two hours with the wine maker and owner of the chateau as he slowly walked us through his creations dating back to 2009.  We talked food, politics, a bit of religion, homeschooling, winemaking, and what makes France and the USA great.  Just the three of us…while the girls relaxed under the trees nearby, eating local goat cheese, writing in their journals and, at one point, striking up a conversation with an elderly gentleman from Britain who had come out of the chateau to head to his car for dinner in town.  But more about Jean Christophe (the winemaker) and his wonderful family chateau later…

Our last post finished off with our last full day in Paris.  Notre Dame, playtime in Luxembourg Gardens, and those awesome puff pastries from Odette.  Oh those puff pastries.  AWESOME!  What wasn’t mentioned in that post was how the girls ended up befriending a little boy from Italy.  He couldn’t have been more that 6 years old and he followed them around that closed-circuit zipline structure like crazy!  He would say “scusi!” and “mama mia!” as he giggled and tried to catch them on the zip line.  So cute!

We left Paris on Saturday morning in our rental car.  It’s a Ford c-max…sort of a cross-over station wagon with a 6-speed manual transmission and diesel engine.  It doesn’t seem like something they make or market in the states.  We were heading to a small town just south of Mont St. Michel, Beauvoir, in the Normandy region.  We stopped at two cities with connections to some Saints that Alyssa has studied.  The first stop was Rouen to see the chapel of St. Joan d’Arc.  We picked up some Camembert cheese (a local favorite), apples, Rosette Salami (couldn’t resist the name), and a baguette.  We had a picnic lunch in the town square where, nearly 500 years ago, Joan of Arc was martyred.

Picnic in Rouen.

Picnic in Rouen.

From Rouen, we headed to Lisieux to see some sites related to St. Therese of Lisieux.  Alyssa had read a book on her and was very interested in going there.  We really enjoyed it.

Alyssa with St. Therese statue.

Alyssa with St. Therese statue.

Lighting candles in St. Therese's Basilica.

Lighting candles in St. Therese's Basilica.

We rolled into Beauvoir around 6pm to amazing views of Mont St. Michel rising out of the sea.  Pretty cool!  We stayed in a place about 3km from the Mont called “Gue de Beauvoir.”  Think of an old Normandy house on a large property with a stone wall.  Now, put some “living roof hippy huts” on it and throw in a wonderful owner, impeccably clean rooms, and a gaggle of bicycles you can borrow to ride through the countryside.  Our room was great!  It was quiet, comfortable, and clean.  That night, we took the owner’s recomendation and had seafood across the street.  It was GREAT (and I’m not a big seafood person).  Anna had sea snails (aka “Whelks”) and mussels.  She is such an adventurous foodie!

Our "hippy-hut" in Beauvoir.

Our "hippy-hut" in Beauvoir.

L'interior of our "Hippy-Hut."  The curved roof is covered with grasses!

L'interior of our "Hippy-Hut." The curved roof is covered with grasses!

After we got up the next morning, the owner of the property suggested we take some bikes and ride to Mont St. Michel for our visit.  We are all so glad we did!  It was a beautiful ride.  We then toured the Mont and attended the 11:15am mass with the monks and sisters from the Abbey.  Mont St. Michel celebrated it’s 1300 year anniversary in 2008.  Yup, not a typo, one thousand, three hundred years!  Now imagine sitting in the chapel in the abbey, while the nuns play flute and recorder and the congregation sings hymns.  Angelic.

Mont St. Michel makes a great "finish line."

Mont St. Michel makes a great "finish line."

Alyssa looking down off the ramparts.  The tide had not yet come in...but it did while we were sitting in mass!

Alyssa looking down off the ramparts. The tide had not yet come in...but it did while we were sitting in mass!

We then left Normandy around 2pm and headed to the Valley of the Kings…Val Loire.

I was really hoping our accommodations at the the Chateau de Pintray would be good.  We knew we were in for something special when we turned off the main road, headed down a little country road, and then turned into the narrow, tree-lined drive that led to a stone carriage gate.  The Chateau de Pintray is a small chateau that dates back to the 16th century.  It is owned by a wonderful family and we were greeted at the door by Anne.  Anne gave us a tour of the chateau and showed us to our “wing.”  We have the east half of the 1st floor (it’d be the 2nd floor in the US since the ground floor is “0″ in Europe…it’s almost like they’re software engineers counting from zero instead of one…but I digress!).  The girls have their own room and bathroom and we do as well.  Both rooms are part of a hallway that has a door that can close off the whole suite.  This is WAY more than I expected.

The entrance road to the Chateau de Pintray

The entrance road to the Chateau de Pintray

The Chateau de Pintray

The Chateau de Pintray

We spent today touring the chateau at Chenonceau (so beautiful…Kristy’s favorite) and tremendous limestone quarry caves that are used to grow France’s famed “blue-footed” mushrooms.  As an extra treat, the caves are also being carved into a subterranean cityscape!  These are surprisingly non-touristy and, sadly, the mushroom caves are a dying breed as flavorless, factory-grown mushrooms take over.

Kristy's favorite castle in the Loire.

Kristy's favorite castle in the Loire.

Alyssa loves the gardens (and the squash)!

Alyssa loves the gardens (and the squash)!

Our mushroom cave adventure!

Our mushroom cave adventure!

Le famous pied bleu mushrooms!

Le famous pied bleu mushrooms!

The pictures do not do justice to how very beautiful this was...

The pictures do not do justice to how very beautiful this was...

We finished our day on the back porch of the chateau with Jean Christophe.  Jean Christophe is Anne’s husband and he is the winemaker.  His parents bought the chateau when he was 12 years old and his dad was the winemaker.  He shared with us his amazing story of how he came to take over as the winemaker.  They are a lovely family, with wonderful pets, and they have found joy in what they do.  He even shared with us how each vintage he bottles has a fairy tale that goes along with it and the label, designed by his friend, is an illustration from the fairy tale.  Of course, all of the fairy tales take place here…at Chateau de Pintray!  By the way, the wines were OUSTANDING!  If any of you know a wine distributor in California who would be interested, we can help make the connection!

Some cabernet franc grapes at the Chateau de Pintray.  We were two weeks too early to help with the harvest!  Maybe next time?!?!?

Some cabernet franc grapes at the Chateau de Pintray. We were two weeks too early to help with the harvest! Maybe next time?!?!?

Tomorrow, after breakfast, we are off to the Dordogne region!

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Today was our last day in Paris for a couple of weeks.  Tomorrow we leave Paris to begin our driving tour of this beautiful country.  We have had such a good time in the big city but all of us are excited to explore the back roads and small villages.  It’s hard to believe we are nearing the half-way point in our trip!

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Today we finished our museum pass with a tour of Notre Dame.  What a beautiful church!  Spending time before the altar makes the crowds fade away into background noise.  Anna lit a candle before the statue of Joan of Arc and left a note for a special friend.

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After the church we wanted a bit of a break and snack.  Odette was just the place to cool our heals with the BEST cream puffs ever!  So delicious!  I wonder how many of these little gems I can sneak back in my suitcase?

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Lunch today was a picnic in Luxembourg Gardens.  The weather was perfect and the girls had a great time playing!

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We head to Mount St. Michel in the morning by way of Rouen and Liseux.

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Sep
10

We’re Finally Feeling Better!

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

We are all finally starting to feel better!  Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes.  I don’t know what kind of virus we got, but it was a humdinger of a doozy!  It worked its way around to each one of us in varying degrees of severity.  We all still have some congestion left and of course the tell tale cough, but that seems to be easing as well thanks to some Manuka honey we found.

We all managed a full day of sightseeing today with some good breaks for lunch and coffee and hot chocolate.  Have I mentioned the French have the BEST hot chocolate ever?

Melted bittersweet chocolate with warm milk and a sugar cube.  YUM!

Melted bittersweet chocolate with warm milk and a sugar cube. YUM!

Today we spent exploring Monet’s Water Lilies in the Musee de l’Orangerie.  I actually teared up seeing them.  They are more beautiful in person than I imagined!  After a lunch at a nearby Brasserie (think sit down restaurant at lightening speed) we headed off to Musee D’Orsay.  Anna really enjoyed seeing Degas’ Dancers.  I was thrilled to see Monet’s Girl with a Parasol painting and Alyssa loved seeing Monet’s Poppy Field (after all there is a copy of it hanging in Daja’s family room so to see the real thing was great!)

After all of our museum touring and being jostled by crowds, we decided to walk through the Tuileries on our way home.  What a find!  They have the neatest trampoline playground.  Alyssa couldn’t resist taking a turn on one of the trampolines!

Flying high!

Flying high!

This girl is so AWESOME!

This girl is so AWESOME!

It was a great day despite feeling less than stellar in the morning.  As the day progressed we just seemed to all feel better.  Thank the Lord!  Tomorrow we are headed out early so that we can catch the train to Versailles (DV.)

Bonne nuit!

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Sep
08

The End of Our First Week in Paris

Posted by: Anna | Comments (0)

Wow!  As of tomorrow afternoon, it’ll be one full week in France.  At this point, we’re all settled in.  We’ve got our favorite shops and already see familiar faces at the bistro downstairs and the boulangerie and marche a couple of doors down.  By the way, this is Jordan writing the post.  Just like being settled in, we’ve got a bug/cold working it’s way through our family.  Anna didn’t feel well in Normandy and then, yesterday morning, Kristina starting feeling really bad in the morning while we were shopping at the Sunday outdoor market.  A nice woman selling herbs de provence and salts at the market helped us out with a stool, some wipes, and a glass of water.  She asked me if Kristina was “avec bebe?” — “Non.  Est malade.” was my reply.

We had managed to do our shopping before Kristy got sick (fixings for a nice salad with chicken for dinner, two beautiful French cheeses, and a baguette).  We headed back to the apartment and, at that point, Anna and I also felt “not well.”  Kristy went to bed, Anna and I sat on the couch, Alyssa proceeded to take care of us ALL, and we missed going to church services at the American Church of Paris (next Sunday we are planning on attending services at Mont St. Michel).  Not only did Alyssa get us perrier and orange juice, but she managed to whip up THE BEST chicken soup ever with a few simple ingredients (none of which were planned for chicken soup)…

  • 2 chicken breasts from the Grenelle Outdoor Market
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Chives
  • Salt (from the Brittany coast)
  • Water

I’ll detour for a moment and give you the steps, as dictated to me by Alyssa…

Boil the chicken in a quart of water to make the stock/broth (approximately 15 minutes).  Set the chicken aside.  Saute the garlic, onions, carrots, and chives in olive oil until soft.  Add to stock.  Cut or pull chicken and then add back to stock.  Salt to taste (it’ll take more than you think!)

OK, now back to the post!  We spent the rest of Sunday at the apartment relaxing and trying to get healthy by loading up on GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract for those of you who don’t hug trees regularly).  Anna and I started feeling better by the middle of the afternoon, but Kristina remained sick.  The girls decided to have their own cheese course after dinner.  Anna had picked out (and ordered in beautiful French) a couple of cheeses from the Fromager at the Sunday Market.  Check out the way the girls “plated” their cheese course!

Cheese Course a la 11 and 13 year olds!

Cheese Course a la 11 and 13 year olds!

This morning, Kristina did not feel up to going sightseeing and we had the Louvre planned.  Since Kristina had already seen the Louvre, it was a good choice for the girls and I to explore “sans Kristy.”  With our museum passes, we were able to bypass the lines and go in through the “porte des lyons” entrance without waiting at all.  (Queue the “Everything is Awesome” song from The Lego Movie!)

The Louvre has 35,000 objects on display and more visitors than any other museum on Earth!

The Louvre has 35,000 objects on display and more visitors than any other museum on Earth!

Once inside, the girls dazzled me with their knowledge of art, particularly the paintings (Thank you, Gina, their art teacher!!!!).  Then, we got to the Egyptian Antiquities section and the girls further dazzled me by explaining to me each of the Egyptian gods.  I remember reading about King Tut as a kid but most of what I knew I learned from the Steve Martin song “King Tut.”  Remember “that funky Tut?”

No tourists were injured in the capturing of this photo...I promise!  ;^)

No tourists were injured in the capturing of this photo...I promise! ;^)

It looks like Anna is gasping at the sight of a mummy.  She's not.  I caught her at the start of a yawn!

It looks like Anna is gasping at the sight of a mummy. She's not. I caught her at the start of a yawn!

We spent a good 5 hours at the Louvre and probably only saw 1/20th of the collection, at best!  Overwhelming in size and in beauty.

She's almost as tall as me, but in this picture it looks like she's already past me!

She's almost as tall as me, but in this picture it looks like she's already past me!

We cooled our heals at a bistro a couple of blocks off of the Champs Elysees and then went up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.  It was a lot of fun.  I think there are 287 steps and the girls did not stop…my quads were burning by the top!  I’ll call it exercise.

Looking to the south, back towards our apartment.

Looking to the south, back towards our apartment.

Beautiful!  ...and the stairs are pretty too!

Beautiful! ...and the stairs are pretty too!

A lot of people are carrying around "selfie poles."  Google it.  I brought a lightweight tripod!

A lot of people are carrying around "selfie poles." Selfie Pole? Google it. I brought a lightweight tripod!

After soaking in the sights up top, we headed down and then took the metro back to our neighborhood.  Tonight, Alyssa and I picked up a couple of lovely pizzas “emporter” (carry out) and brought them back to the apartment.  Kristy was able to eat a couple of slices before dozing off.  We’re all hoping and praying she feels better tomorrow.  She loves the Musee d’Orsay and that was our plan for tomorrow.

I hope you’re enjoying the pictures.  I’ll leave you with a statement that I heard Alyssa say today and it made me chuckle.  She called Kristina at the apartment to check on her.

“Hi Mom!  How are you?  We’re good.  We’re on the Champs Elysees and should be home soon for dinner.”

Au revoir!

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We all see those jokes about those Americans who come to France and, well lets face it, don’t quite have the right accent for the language that they are speaking. But speaking a different language, as we all know, is not an easy thing to do. When we arrived in Paris I, for the most part, had no idea what people were saying.  All I caught was “bonjour,” “oui,” “non,” and a few other very simple words. After this week I am feeling much more confident in my french and I think that my family is as well.

us americans

Here we are

Besides the language difference here, there is also the difference in the culture and food. One of my favorite quotes was from the movie Julie and Julia. and the quote begins when Julia Child’s husband asks her…

What are you good at?” and Julia replies “I am good at eating!”

The reason that I put that quote in is because, when in France, you are not as removed from your food so you can see the butcher handle the meat with his bare hands or go into a cheese shop and watch them scoop out the cream fresh made there and packaged to go. They don’t even call fast food “fast food.”  Here they call it “speed food.”  The point of what I just said  is that when you are able to see your food and take the time to experience it. You can enjoy the differences in culture. To say it in a way I hope that Julia child would have said it.  Yes, you get pretty good at eating.

Dinner at our apartment in Paris!

Dinner at our apartment in Paris

For our family, fully experiencing the culture means trying all the food and also attempting to speak the local language. That is what we will continue to do!

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Sep
06

Our First Few Days

Posted by: Kristina Evans | Comments (0)

September 4-6

Time is flying and a bit of jet lag is being felt.  Poor Anna has been suffering with a cold the last couple of days but is definitely feeling better.  I’m so thankful I brought along our GSE and Immune Tonic.  (I questioned everything I brought in an effort to pack light and I decided pro-active healthcare was too important to leave behind.  It was definitely the right decision!)

We have really been enjoying the open-air markets and have been trying to visit them as much as possible because it really gives you a feel for life here in France.

Bastille Market

Bastille Market

Crepes and galettes (buckwheat crepes - considered peasant food).

Crepes and galettes (buckwheat crepes - considered peasant food).

Yesterday we rented a car and drove out to the D-Day beaches.  Nothing can prepare you for the emotions you experience when learning about this war.

Omaha Beach and the man-made harbor.

Omaha Beach and the man-made harbor.

Hitler and his troops were really here to stay.  This long-range gun could shoot 12 miles out to sea.

Hitler and his troops were really here to stay. This long-range gun could shoot 12 miles out to sea.

A wilted flower over the grave of a soldier who died too young.

A wilted flower over the grave of a soldier who died too young.

Before our three hour drive back to Paris we decided to stop in at the cathedral in Bayeux.  It was stunning!  Just a beautiful way to end the day.

Bayeux Cathedral was stunning at night!

Bayeux Cathedral was stunning at night!

Bayeux Cathedral at night.

Bayeux Cathedral at night.

Today we accidentally slept until nearly 11:00.  Jet lag… it’s a beast!  After a picnic lunch in a park outside the Chilean Embassy we headed to the Paris flea market.  I probably could live there!  Sadly I don’t think I can get my favorite pieces in my suitcase, but if somehow a chateau were to land in my lap… well let’s just say I know where to furnish it including the door knobs!

Tomorrow is Sunday and we’re headed to services at the American Church in Paris followed by an afternoon wandering the Louvre.

Bonne nuit!

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