Was It Something I Didn’t Say?

A few months back, I messed up the medial collateral ligament in my left knee. My kine – physical therapist – told me that riding a bike would be better for healing my knee than would walking. So unless it’s super-windy or raining, I take a ride every day after lunch – nothing major, maybe 15kms/9miles.

Being France, there are plenty of trails a cyclist can take. Most days I take a road past a couple of gites – essentially farmhouse B-and-B’s – with some pretty fields.

IMG_20190409_135254

A gite.

A field of the pretty but rather unfortunately named rapeseed ('colza' in French).

A field of the pretty but rather unfortunately named rapeseed (‘colza’ in French).

The path leads to a small forest and from there you can branch off in different directions. But regardless of which path I pick, the return always brings me back to a path that follows a little stream and there’s a cute little wooden bridge going over a set of rapids. It’s there, in the middle of the narrow bridge, that I stop for a drink of water and watch the rushing water.

IMG_20190616_140349.jpg

The Aussonelle stream, which eventually flows into the Garonne River.

One Sunday, I was on the bridge, just finishing my drink and getting ready to start off for home when I saw a man and woman on their bikes heading up the slope to the bridge. As I said, the bridge is narrow but I moved over as far as I could and the guy went riding past me.

The woman, on the other hand, waited at the entry to the bridge and – remember, this outside of a small town in France and I hadn’t said a word – she says: “You can go first.” In English.

As I got near to her, I asked, “How did you know I speak English?” With a Spanish accent she replied, “I don’t speak French.”

Well, alrighty then.

Advertisements
Posted in Hobbies, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Goog in Bilbao

Wow! Is this really the first entry in 2019?! Alas – and heavy sigh – it is. Apologies. Being a full-time (as in: I get paid to do it) writer, writing on days off just isn’t the first thing to pop into my little noggin.

Still…here we are.

The Goog. That’s what everyone who’s anyone calls the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. We went there during our stay in San Sebastian. Even though it was a while ago, I remember that when we left San Sebastian it was grey and drizzling. Yippee. An hour later, we’re in Bilbao and there’s actually some sun poking through the clouds. Yippee!

Honestly, when you visit the museum you could spend a nice afternoon just looking at the structure itself and the artwork that surrounds it.

DSC00120 (2)

The exterior is built to resemble sails, reflecting Bilbao’s maritime history.

DSC00124 (2)

World’s biggest guard dog.

DSC00126

Maman.

DSC00136

I hope those are eggs.

Things get interesting on the inside, too.

DSC00137

A bird-like inflatable suitable, I suppose, for Thanksgiving.

But my favorite installation plays a key role of the beginning of Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’ – his latest ‘oh this starts out really cool, oh there are some nasty villains, what tricky clues and Geez Louise, what a god awful ending’ book. If you read it, you’ll remember Robert Langdon using these ‘sculptures’ to evade the bad guys. I had trouble picturing them when I read the book, so it was good to actually be able to visit and explore them.

They are from Richard Serra and called ‘The Matter of Time’.DSC00146DSC00147

At ground level, it’s hard to grasp just how big these works are. But when you look at them from above it’s easy to see how Professor Langdon could have evaded the bad guys.

Next up: A return blog entry to Corsica.

But if you want more photos of the Goog, here’s a link to our collection on MSN One Drive.

Posted in Entertainment, Organizations, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas 2018 in and around Toulouse

It’s been a while since the last post. Sorry about that. Between work, travel and an injury, I haven’t had the time.

So to spread a little sunshine (during what is a too-long foggy period), here are some photos of Christmas-related photos from the mall and downtown Toulouse.

We start at the LeClerc Commercial Centre in Blagnac:

IMG_20181215_151915

The Christmas Queen and members of her court.

IMG_20181215_152200

The kids don’t seem too frightened by the Adorable, er, Abominable Snowman.

IMG_20181215_152216

Nothing says ‘Christmas’ quite like a pair of white-clad women on stilts and wearing unicorn horns.

IMG_20181220_143716

Even Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer can use some backup brightness.

IMG_20181220_145326

Behind Rudolph, bears and deer and a I’m-dreaming-of-a-White-Christmas tree.

And then it was time to head into Toulouse to get a glimpse of Santa’s home and workshop:

IMG_20181230_170625

The workshop.

IMG_20181230_170645

The elves’ (not Elvis) bunkhouse.

IMG_20181230_170829

Santa needs a lot of mailboxes (and apparently a signpost in English).

IMG_20181230_170358

Even reindeer could go inside.

Meanwhile, outside of Santa’s house and workshop:

IMG_20181230_170944

Nice product placement. Note: I have no idea who or what Oliver Coleman is.

IMG_20181230_171108

Laughing (?) reindeer in a stable with a rather large-antlered little deer.

IMG_20181230_171156

The two elves (not two Elvises) look a lot grumpier than I do.

And, so, as 2019 is nearly set to begin, I’ll make a resolution to post more stories in the coming year.

Posted in Entertainment, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BYOM

Bring Your Own Medicine.

I have bursitis in my right shoulder. That’s kind of odd because I’m left-handed.

Anyhoo, after seeing a kine (physical therapist) several times without any improvement, my general practitioner sent me to rheumatologist for a cortisone injection (infiltration in French). The specialist looks at my x-rays and MRI results, manipulates my shoulder and agrees that I need a shot.

So I get one.

Then, she writes a prescription for me. It’s for the cortisone. She tells me, “I just gave you a shot, now I need you to replace it.”

There’s a pharmacy right next door (how convenient), so I present the scrip and receive a box with the cortisone (just 5.50 euros – or less than 7$ if you’re curious). I return to the doc’s office and present the receptionist with the ‘refill’. I get my bill for the office visit and off I go.

Hopefully – and the doc said this – I will see improvement beginning this weekend.

 

Posted in Health and wellness, News and politics, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Chinese Tourist, Napoleon’s Birthplace and French Pastry

It was a cold like any other cold: I got it from a Chinese tourist at Napoleon’s childhood home and it took special measures to cure.

A little background: Corsica is a beautiful island in the Med that is part of France. Back in 1769 (August 15 to be precise), lil’ Napoleon Bonaparte is born in Ajaccio, a small city on the west coast of the island that would later become the capital. A territory of the city-state of Genoa for centuries, revolutionaries in Corsica declared independence in 1755, which Genoa didn’t recognize. In 1768, Genoa cedes Corsica to France (under Louis XV) and the next year (when Nappy is born), French troops beat the Corsican army. Except for a couple of years in the 1790s, Corsica has been part of France ever since.

Seemingly everyone we know in France has been there and raved about it. So the lovely missus and I recently decided to spend a week there. (Blog post and pix to come. And we agree: the place is magnifique.)

Naturally, the island claims Napoleon as their own and all sorts of monuments, squares and streets are named after him as is virtually every other bar, cafe and tourist shop.

Anyway, to make a long story short – too late – we’re in Ajaccio and go to Napoleon’s birthplace, a charming little place on a very narrow street.

DSC00385

Be it ever so humble…

We’ve reached the top floor and I’m looking at some artifacts when someone behind me coughs directly onto my left hand. I turn around and it’s a guy who’s part of a group of Chinese tourists. A few seconds later, he coughs again – this time directly onto my upper arm. Neither time has he covered his mouth. I know I must’ve looked angry because when I turned around to say something to him – in French or English, I hadn’t decided – his wife notices my expression, grabs hubby and pulls him away to the next room (where he continues coughing away).

DSC00387.JPG

His bedroom. Was he already thinking complex thoughts (pun intended)?

I tell the missus that if I get a cold, I know who to blame.

Sure enough, three days later I have a sore throat and I’m going through tissues by the gross (no pun intended).

After five days, I’m doing a bit better and after dinner, as M and I are watching TV, I’m feeling a bit peckish. Other than the light from the TV, the house is dark but I know what I’m looking for: a clear plastic box with a few tournades, a flat pastry wrapped sort of like a barber pole with custard and little chocolate chips in the seams. I see a half piece – perfect! I pair it with an adult beverage, we watch the rest of the show and head to bed.

Next morning, I get up and M asks how I’m feeling. “Really good,” I reply. “I think the cold is gone.”

I go to make a cup of coffee and think about having a tournade to have with it. I look at the box and – uh oh – the tournades have got mold – and plenty of it – on them.

Near as I can tell, I had French pastry penicillin. Regardless, the cold hasn’t come back. But I think the next time I go for a snack, I’ll turn the light on.

Posted in Health and wellness, News and politics, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow – All It’s Kracked Up to be and More

With the schools back in session and everyone back to work, it was the perfect time to take a vacation. So that’s what the lovely missus and I did. For our first week off we went to Krakow, Poland. Mostly undamaged during World War 2, Krakow is a beautiful city and wonderfully inexpensive.

Our base was the Hotel Copernicus, located on the city’s oldest street and right between Wawel (vah-vell) Castle and the historic Market Square. In its past, the hotel was a residence for church officials and a dormitory for university students and, yes, Poland’s favorite astronomer also stayed there (but the rates have gone up). We decided to splurge and upgraded to a room that features a fresco dating to 1500.

DSC00357.JPG

We’re assuming this wasn’t some type of crib sheet or medieval graffiti.

For our first night, we decided to do something a little different: We went to a log cabin-style restaurant featuring a polka band and dancers.

DSC00195.JPG

Of course, there was kielbasa.

When visiting Krakow, the star attraction for many is the Market Square, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site on the very first such list. The second largest market square in Europe, this place bustles with activity all day (and night) long. In the center, it features the Cloth Hall and its beautiful arcades. In one corner stands the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica (alas, closed for renovations whilst we were there) and in the opposite corner is the much smaller St. Adalbert’s church. And lining the square are dozens (hundreds?) or bars and restaurants.

DSC00181

St. Mary’s Basilica – listen for the trumpeter every hour.

DSC00184

The Cloth Hall

DSC00187

Just some of the people exploring the market square.

At the other end of the ‘Royal Avenue’ is Wawel Hill, with its Castle, Cathedral and lookout points.

DSC00206

On the ramp leading up to the complex.

DSC00210

The cathedral and some side chapels.

DSC00271

Nighttime view of the castle.

The next day we were off to – where else? – the salt mine. I thought that this would be rather boring. I’m happy to say that I was completely wrong. This was a fascinating experience (despite our tour guide’s audio system not working very well).¬† The Wieliczka Salt Mine, in existence for more than seven centuries claims to be the oldest salt mine still in operation. And we’re not the only ones to find this an amazing experience: it was also included on the first UNESCO World Heritage list. The miners carved beautiful and whimsical statues throughout the complex. There’s even a church down there, some 100 meters or so below ground.

DSC00286

A princess and knight.

DSC00295

Bashful? Grumpy? Sneezy? Who knows?

DSC00301

A church where everything except the pews is made from salt.

Despite being relatively left alone by the Nazis during World War 2, the city does have a sad history with regards to its Jewish population. A ghetto was erected – its residents were forced to build the walls – and the Jews were forcibly moved there. Within the ghetto was Oskar Schindler’s factory (which offers a very moving tour) and Steven Spielberg filmed much of his movie within Krakow. Nearby is the Empty Chairs memorial, where 33 empty metal chairs represent the tragedy of Poland’s Jews.

DSC00349.JPG

It was sobering way to spend our last day, but we’re glad we did.

So if you’re looking for a place that is beautiful and historic, interesting and vibrant and filled with friendly people (many of whom speak English), I can’t recommend Krakow strongly enough.

Do widzenia!

If you want to see more photos, I have some small collections on MSN’s One Drive:

Posted in Entertainment, Food and drink, Music, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Sebastian, Spain

Recently, in a futile effort to escape from what was an extended rainy spell in Toulouse, we headed to San Sebastian, a foody city on the Atlantic coast of Spain.

I say ‘futile’ because the closer we got to the city, the harder it rained. Still, it was nice to get away and have some, indeed, wonderful food. And with Bilbao only an hour away, we went to visit the Guggenheim Museum.

DSC00093

Like I said, a futile attempt to escape the rain. At least on the first day.

DSC00098

A pretty clock complete with barometer, which was, of course, reading low pressure.

DSC00096

Putting a bright smile on a dreary day.

DSC00104

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Probably looking for drier climes too.

DSC00105

Town hall…at night (for you Sponge Bob fans).

DSC00109

Be it ever so humble, this is what we called home for the weekend: the Hotel Londres, grand dame of the beach.

DSC00110

A pretty nightscape featuring a park, town hall and Jesus on a hill.

DSC00115

Low tide at night.

DSC00155

Low tide during the morning.

DSC00157

The camera has a great zoom.

DSC00162

Based on our start, who’d a-thunk I’d need shades?

Note: We learned from a restaurateur that San Sebastian has 200 days with rain per year. I really need to do better research.

Posted in Entertainment, Food and drink, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment