Posted by: kdeversblog | September 24, 2019

Early morning walkabout and canoeing the Gardon river

Fran got up early and jogged but since I don’t jog, the next morning we walked together so explore a bit of St. Rémy closeup. You see things differently when walking, details show up that are missed when driving, especially on unfamiliar roads.

We left Place St. Marc and headed down the road, away from the center of town that was our usual route. I was impressed with the way trees are protected using logs and branches to form triangles or squares. One young oak tree was laden with acorns that undoubtedly pleased the birds.

There was an old house that looked like it would be perfect for Halloween. A waterfall was a surprise as it gushed fresh water. The sun through the plane trees was a familiar site that was always a delight.

Then we were off to find the canoe rental place near the Pont du Gard on the Gardon River. The water level varied and was so low in some places we had to get out and drag the canoe to a deeper spot. Actually I just did this once and Fran did it the rest of the times.

We stopped for a quick lunch near where horses and a donkey were grazing. It was more comfortable to eat in the canoe than the rocky shore. When the wind was not so strong and the water was high it was fantastic.

After a couple of hours of paddling we were feeling it in our arms but we had to keep going. We approached the Pont de Gard and were impressed with the structure spanning the river.

Some of the rocks weighed two to five tons and it was amazing to think the aqueduct brought 100 gallons of water per second to Nimes.

We paddled underneath the massive structure and made our way to the canoe meeting place 20 minutes away.

We were exhausted and happy and ready for the wine and snacks that awaited us back at the Airbnb.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 22, 2019

Castle on a hill and paintings on cave walls

The Chateau Des Baux-de-Provence is a sun-bleached fortress perched 650 feet above the lush valley. The castle ruins were once home to medieval warriors, Les Baux that protected 80 towns in the 11th century. It was incorporated into Provence and France in 1426 but they didn’t like following the commands of the French king. He destroyed the castle in 1483. Les Baux was Protestant and regained its strength only to do battle with another French king 200 years later. This final destruction of the fortress in 1632 left the castle in the ruins we see today.

Driving up the winding, narrow road we got a glimpse of the castle in the distance. It was a perfect place to stop and take some photos.

We walked through the lower part of the town where shops, cafes, and restaurants offered temptation along the winding streets.

When we reached the top, we had a wonderful view to the valley below.

I loved the textures in the rocks and watching as the gathering clouds filled the sky.

Modern sculptures were placed throughout the area. We couldn’t resist participating with one of them, and noticed how the negative space created a different form when we walked by.

Near Les Baux is the Carrieres de Lumieres which means Quarries of Light. This is an astonishing place where immense walls of stone create surfaces for projections of paintings.

Walking into the huge area took my breath away with the flowing images and emotive music. The people became part of the show as we milled around and gazed at the multiple walls of moving images.

The first show was Asian art and the music matched the mood. My favorite part of this exhibit was the lanterns. They began as a few lanterns flowing upward then more and more came into view. Soon the walls were filled with floating lanterns against a blueish background.

Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings were the main attraction for me. It was an experience similar to the overwhelming joy I felt viewing Monet’s water paintings. This was even more astonishing because all of us in the cave became part of the experience, part of the images on the walls and even the floor.

When the show was over we could see the walls and how uneven they actually were. The entrance shows the immense scale of the structure. Im glad Fran and I could share this memorable experience.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 21, 2019

Beach day in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

It was a lovely drive from our B&B to the beach town called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and took about 45 minutes. We found a parking lot and happily there was no charge. It even had a WC (bathroom) there as well. I noticed that the parking spaces were good-size so it was comfortable parking and getting out of the car.

We walked a few blocks through the neighborhood and saw homes and hotels with brightly painted doors and shutters, and lots of flowers. Along the walkway there were places where all sorts of boats were moored.

We stopped for a light lunch then headed down to the beach. We found a place where we could rent comfy lounge chairs for the day. Each pair of chairs had a cushion and an umbrella, and an adjustable chair back. We chose chairs in the front row and settled in for the day.

It was so relaxing to rest and listen to the waves. Many women had their bathing suit tops off and it felt very natural. The family next to us had an adorable son about a year and a half old who spent the day naked. We opted to keep our suits on!

The site included a cafe and bar so we each ordered a pina colada and it was delivered to us. Ahhh!

The beach was narrow and rather plain, especially compared to our dramatic Oregon beaches. This was a protected inlet rather than the Pacific Ocean so of course it looked different. The water felt chilly but there were people swimming, wind surfing, and jet skiing.

As the sun sank lower, it was time to pack up, pay our bill, and leave the beach.

After a day in the sun it was nice to stop and have a nicoise salad at a nearby restaurant. There were so many restaurants and cafes to choose from and the language difference created challenges. Places that had photos of the dishes made it easier to interpret.

The orange sunset was a lovely ending to a relaxing day at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 18, 2019

Another day in paradise

Fran and I worked out an itinerary before we left so we would have a plan for our days in St. Rémy. We alternated active days with more laid back days. However, we want to be flexible and be open to new ideas.

Since we are close to the center of town, we’ve walked a lot each day. We begin each day with a delicious breakfast that Marc and Sarah make for their guests.

Bread and jam, almond pancakes with maple syrup, cheese, meat, fresh squeezed orange juice, tea or coffee, along with lively conversations with the other guests – we know we’re on vacation when breakfast lasts an hour and a half!

Our first full day we took a long walk along the path to the psychiatric clinic where Vincent Van Gogh was treated. He was in the St. Paul Monastery and Hospital from 1889 to 1890. In his 53 days at the hospital Van Gogh completed 143 paintings and over 100 drawings.

Along the path are metal discs in the sidewalk marking the way, as well as plaques showing what the artist painted at various locations. The English translations are helpful and it’s a sign of how quickly change occurs to see that a parking lot full of cars was once a wheat field. Happily we have Van Gogh’s emotive images to give us more than a realistic rendering of the scene. His dashes of colors swirling across the canvas invite us to share his perceptions, wonder, and passion for this amazing place.

After paying at the entrance we walk a short path to the hospital entrance, then into the cool interior of the hospital. The courtyard garden is lovely and well cared for, ringed by arches and pillars.

Inside there is a gift shop and upstairs we see a recreation of Van Gogh’s small room. The painting he did of his room is a much livelier representation of the room that seems cramped and dismal. The rooms where treatments took place seem equally depressing. The photos and descriptions paint a picture of people trying to get well and others trying to help. We noticed that the translation refers to the nuns as nouns. Perhaps an editing job awaits me here!

On the walk back home we were greeted by a ginger cat with a question mark tail. We’ve seen a good number of cats and dogs here, especially adorable small dogs. They are welcomed everywhere, even in restaurants!

Time for a bit of a rest when we get back to our lodging, then another nice meal. Incredibly tender veal with an eggplant side dish. It makes sense to share when we can’t eat a full entree. I find that I need less quantity of food here because the quality is excellent. A good rest and another adventure awaits tomorrow!

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 16, 2019

At home in St. Rémy

After not not getting much sleep during our long flight across the US and the Atlantic Ocean, the layover in Amsterdam, and the two-hour flight to Marseille we were ready to be in St. Rémy. In order for that to happen we had to secure our rental car at the Marseille airport and drive an hour to our destination.

Fran and I had read a book describing how to drive in France. We were both a bit concerned about the different road signs and cautions outlined in the rather terrifying little book. But Fran rallied and Really perked up when she discovered that the posted speed on one of the roads was 90. More joy when drivers were directed to go 130 on the main highway.

Of course this was not MPH, it was kilometers but even so it was fast, as 130 in kilometers is 80 in miles. We do love the French!

The highway was free of traffic since this was around 5 pm on Saturday. We saw gorgeous outcroppings of sandy colored rocks and chiseled cliffs. Some had modern homes perched on the ridges. It reminded us of Southern California. Rugged olive trees clung to the rocky landscape, grayish green and stoic.

We arrived in St. Rémy after driving through several small towns and around countless roundabouts. The English-speaking car GPS was a flawless and patient guide. Lines of Plane trees on both sides of the roads formed graceful tunnels, filtering the evening light, their trunks and branches looking like creatures with soft, mottled skin.

We finally arrived at M&S B&B and it was so nice to see Marc and Sarah again. They are such warm and welcoming hosts. Lots of hugs and cheek kisses all around. We got situated in our upstairs room that is more like a suite, with a cozy balcony and newly built-in bathroom. They have a playful sense of design and the remodeled room includes modern designs and comforts as well as reclaimed wood and furniture. (I’ll post photos later.)

Walking a half block and a right turn took us down a side street with lots of small cafes. Across the street a pub was overflowing with patrons and lively music. Another turn next to a fountain and we were on the Main Street of St. Rémy. It was Saturday evening so restaurants were full inside and outside. Tables were set close together along the sidewalks, leaving narrow walkways. The diners didn’t seem to mind, even when potential dinners stopped to read the menus written on blackboards posted by the entrances.

We found a lovely place to enjoy some French comfort food. Ravioli with pesto and cheese for me and seafood risotto for Fran. It was a peaceful finish to the day. We walked home in the cool evening air, happy to be sharing the sights, smells, and food in this sweet French town.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 15, 2019

Back in France September 2019

I’m taking a siesta my first afternoon in France after a two year hiatus. It feels so good to be back in St. Rémy de Provence and staying at the same B&B is like coming home. This visit my daughter Frances is with me and that makes this a very special mother daughter experience.

We had a clear view of Mt. Hood as we flew out of Oregon and took our first selfie on the plane. We look so fresh and wide awake. We won’t look this rested later after flying ten hours to Amsterdam, having a six hour layover in Amsterdam, and a two hour flight to Marseille. Not to mention picking up the rental car and driving to St. Rémy, but more on that in my next post.

This was my first time in Amsterdam but Fran has had layovers here many times. We took a break from the airport and taxied into a fun area with lots of shops and restaurants, near Chinatown.

We left Oregon in the afternoon and arrived in the early morning the next day. It was Saturday so we had fun watching the city wake up. Having a cappuccino and breakfast at a lovely cafe was yummy after so much airplane food.

The canals in Amsterdam are lovely and individualistic houseboats hug the edges. I’ve never seen so many bicycles and people of all ages pedal among the cars, on the streets, and the sidewalks. Beautifully preserved three-story buildings sport architectural details such as gargoyles, elaborate window frames, and hooks for levering belongings to the upper levels through the windows.

Walking through the area led us into many lovely shops and past mouth watering displays of pastries and desserts. One of them boasted the best cheesecake in the city. If we hadn’t been so full from our breakfast we would have given this a test.

We found a restful park to sit and listen to the fountain and birds before getting a taxi back to the Amsterdam airport.

The Amsterdam airport is huge, confusing, and extremely clean. Everything is very modern in design except for the bathrooms. Yes, they are clean and modern but there are only two stalls in the women’s bathroom. As a result there are long lines of women waiting to use the facility at every bathroom while the men’s has no lines.

I require a wheelchair since there is so much walking in large airports, especially for international flights. Having carryon baggage makes the chair a necessity as well. I have found that requesting this when booking my flights guarantees that the chair will be waiting for me with an attendant, when I exit the plane.

This was a new experience for Fran and she was initially skeptical, but when she saw how it expedited our passage through lines of people waiting at various points, she became a believer. We now refer the “magic chair” with great fondness!

Posted by: kdeversblog | October 12, 2017

Amboise: A lovely home base in the Loire

After the sparkling city life and abundant art in Paris, we were on our way to the Loire Valley. The Loire River, running east/west in the middle of the country, separates northern and southern France and is bursting with thousands of castles and palaces. They were built mostly in the sixteenth century to replace the outdated medieval castles. To help with upkeep and maintain ownership, the chateaus are open for visitors and the owners receive government compensation.

Aside from the amazing variation of chateaus, the Loire Valley is green and lush, blanketed in fertile fields and fed with abundant, clear running rivers and streams. It’s an important agricultural area for France. We saw the gorgeous produce in the Amboise market and tasted it in the restaurants.

The rain caught up with us when we arrived in Amboise, our home base in the Loire. With the help of a phone call with our host, we found our Airbnb apartment and settled in. John graciously let me have the bedroom with a very comfy queen bed while he took the fold out sofa. This was not a comfy bed, but he managed to get to sleep and get rested for his pastry run in the morning.

Our host designed the apartment and we appreciated her attention to detail and the fun artwork that was an integral part of the decor. John bought a yellow calla lily plant that matched the color scheme perfectly. The lovely plant traveled with us until it found a good home in Provence.

The bathroom was quite large with a rain shower and heated pipes for drying clothes. The apartment was well stocked with dishes and cooking utensils. It even had a dishwasher (that we didn’t use) and a clothes washer and dryer.

Amboise is a lovely town with lots of restaurants and shops. It was fun to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air or choose a cozy setting inside for our meals. Night time lights made it nice for an evening stroll or a last minute run to the grocery store.

On our last day, we decided to wash a couple of loads of laundry. This necessitated several phone conversations with our host but finally John was able to decipher the instructions. Since there wasn’t enough time to get everything dry, and many of my items needed to air dry, I used the heated pipes and the radiators. They worked great and everything was ready to be packed in the morning. Apparently the heated pipes are common in France and I’d love to have them in my house. Hmmmm, a future project!?

There are lots of bakeries and charcuteries in Amboise and we had our favorites. Each morning John would get pastries for our breakfast and a fresh baguette for lunch sandwiches. He made scrambled eggs to accompany the pastry and I prepared our traveling picnic. I cut the baguette into four chunks then sliced them down the middle, without separating the halves. Cheese and ham or chicken would be put in them later. I liked to have some olives and an apple as well. John liked custards of various kinds. He had his Coke Zero and I drank water. It was always easy to find a picnic table in a lovely setting for our picnics.

Fed with a good breakfast, with our lunch packed, and lugging maps along with Rick Steves’ book on France, we headed out for the next phase of our adventure, extreme chateauing in Loire!


First on the list, the elegant Chateau de Chenonceau gleaming on the Cher River with well groomed gardens and inviting walking paths.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 27, 2017

Chartres Cathedral: Another Notre Dame

The Chartres Cathedral is located 50 miles outside Paris and on the way to the Loire Valley. We opted to visit the cathedral rather than Versailles since there wasn’t time to visit both. The official name of the cathedral is Notre-Dame de Chartres and it is one of more than 100 Notre Dames in France. These cathedrals honor Mary, mother of Jesus as she was more accessible to the medieval people. The Chartres Cathedral is one of the best examples of pure Gothic design.


There were at least four churches built on this same site, possibly beginning with a Roman pagan temple honoring a mother-goddess. The first Christian church was built in 876. When the third church burned to the ground in 1194, the people built the current Chartres Cathedral in record time.

Unlike the Notre Dame in Paris, and other monumental cathedrals that take centuries to build, Chartres was completed in 30 years. This meant that some of the children who witnessed the old church destroyed by the fire were alive to help with the rebuilding and attend its dedication Mass in 1260.

Entering the Cathedral we saw the candles and were surrounded by glowing stained glass windows.

The colors were vibrant, illustrating the Christian biblical stories. I was fascinated by the variations of marble used throughout the cathedral.

We didn’t go on any of the tours, instead we meandered throughout the cathedral and marveled at the beauty of the place. There was no charge for admission so I made a donation for the upkeep and upcoming restoration.

I’m glad we chose to visit this stunning Gothic Cathedral. It was a peaceful way to begin the next phase of our French adventure. Onward to the Loire Valley!

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 25, 2017

Last Tango in Paris

Our four days in Paris were packed with so many wonderful experiences from stunning art to endless gastronomic delights. I found myself exclaiming gleefully over every meal, glass of wine, and snack.

Since we both enjoy the quirky romantic comedy, Amelie we decided to visit some of the sites that were in the movie. Click this link for movie info. Amelie movie

We made sure to use the Abbesses subway stop where Amelie saw the musician playing. The cafe where Amelie worked, Les Deux Moulins was smaller in real life than it appeared to be in the movie and the bathroom, also featured in the film was teeny. In the bathroom, a window display was crowded with Amelie memorabilia. I highly recommend the movie if you haven’t seen it.

Then it was off to visit Ron Bowen in his art studio located at the foot of Montmartre with a sixth floor view of the hill leading up to the Basilica.


It was a pleasure to visit with Ron, an American expat who studied art in Paris as a young man then moved to the city permanently in 1970. It is a remarkable story of courage and innocence. He didn’t know anyone and had only his compelling knowledge that Paris is where he should be as an aspiring artist.

It was obviously the correct choice since he has been very successful and is well known for his clear and selective approach to scenes that are laced with shadows and subtle value changes. Check out his website to see examples of his work. Ronald Bowen art

We took him to lunch at one of his favorite cafes nearby where I had the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (sorry Burgerville!). John and Ron had duck and it was a great way to finish our visit with Ron. The French tend to serve fries with many of their meals, here they are called “frites” and they really are delicious.

Since we were near the Basilica Sacre Coeur we wound our way up the hill for a quick visit and saved some steps by taking the outdoor lift. I was especially glad not to have to climb more steep and seemingly endless stairs. The Basilica is young by French standards, only 130 years old, but it proudly stands on the highest point in the city.

Notre-Dame Cathedral was one of our last stops in Paris. It was dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, that’s why it is called “Our Lady.” The building was begun in 1163 and completed two centuries later in 1345.


This medieval wonder is beautiful and while the work was supervised by Master Masons, the people who lived in the area did the actual work.  Huge stones were hauled from distant quarries and a 30-foot-deep trench was dug to lay the foundation. Workers walked on treadmills to lift the heavy stones up, one by one.

Notre Dame is an impressive landmark and we saw it during our boat ride down the Seine as well as on foot.

Our Paris visit wouldn’t be complete without some wonderful jazz to enjoy and John found the perfect show. We were the first people to arrive at the intimate cafe called Sunset/Sunside. The trio of singer, pianist, and clarinet player offered emotional and heartfelt renditions of Billie Holiday favorites.

It was a delightful show and the performers were obviously having fun on stage making beautiful music together.

It was sad to think of leaving Paris, but we knew there were wonderful experiences ahead. We had our farewell dinner at a unique and stunning restaurant called Le Train Bleu. It is situated at the end of the train tracks, the food and presentation was superb, and the staff were friendly and attentive. The decor can be distracting because it is lush and ornamented but that’s just part what makes the experience so much fun.


The next day we said good bye to our delightful Airbnb apartment and took an Uber to pick up our rental car. It is a modern Citroen, perfect for traveling the narrow roadways and comfortable.

We had the perfect location in the St. Germaine area of the Left Bank for exploring the town, and John did a masterful job of planning and navigating us to our destinations.


Next stop, the glorious pure Gothic Chartres Cathedral.

Posted by: kdeversblog | September 20, 2017

Art Treasures in Paris


There are so many places to see fabulous art collections in Paris, but we only had a few days so we had to be selective. Rather than get swallowed up by the overwhelming quantity of art and people visiting the Louvre, we chose to visit the Orsay Museum and the Orangerie Museum.

First, we had to get fortified with a ham and cheese omelette and croissant at our usual neighborhood cafe. Then we headed to the subway and the Orsay Museum.


Walking into this museum, I realized that it was going to be an amazing opportunity to view Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. The main hall is huge with a large clock at one end.

There are multiple levels and as we made our way through the galleries, I felt like I was seeing old friends. The photographs I had seen in textbooks as a student and shared with my own students as an instructor, came to life. I could see the brush strokes and finally appreciate the actual sizes of the paintings.



It was a thrill to see Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, as well as those of Degas, Cassatt, Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Gaugin. Many others were there as well as one of my new favorites, Luce.

To be able to see Dega’s ballerina sculpture was thrilling. He was the first artist to add an actual article of clothing rather than create the illusion of fabric.


Of course Mary Cassatt is one of my favorites.


In the upper level there was another great clock that allowed us to see the city through the markings. It was also a place for people to relax. The cafe had unique lighting and looked inviting, but we had other plans.

It was time to say goodbye to the treasures in the Musee d’Orsay and head over to the Musee de l’Orangerie.

On the way , we saw Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss. This is one that I share with my students and it is an iconic piece, full of grace and passion.

I knew that we would be seeing Monet’s water lily paintings, but I was not prepared for the visually overpowering experience. We walked into the room and it was very quiet. The entire room was devoted to the semi-circular mural-size paintings.


I started to walk into the room and then stopped. Tears filled my eyes and I started to cry. I’ve never had any art experience to rival this. I wasn’t embarrassed, it didn’t matter to me that there were other people there. I could have been alone in the room except that John hugged me and offered his support. Even recalling the experience brings tears to my eyes as I write this.

I know these photos will not show the astonishing beauty of the paintings, but they are a reminder of the experience. There was another room with the Willow Tree paintings, but I prefer the Water Lily images.







It meant a lot to me to experience these paintings, it was like entering Monet’s world. I loved looking closely at the brush strokes and imagining how he quickly and intuitively applied the paint to the canvases.

There was a small collection of art in the lower level of the museum, this is a small sampling.

This was truly a wonderful experience and one I will never forget. France has offered us her treasures and she has preserved and presented them beautifully.

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