Return to the US to sell the house and say goodbye

March to July, 2015

After 4 months in Poulsbo we have returned to Paris.

The time in Poulsbo melted. We had no idea it would be so busy – our plans to keep up with people in Paris, continue French lessons, etc., faded in the rush to get everything done and see everyone we could. Hugh said he got to Seattle once and Bainbridge Island perhaps three times during our stay.

6th Avenue Poulsbo home and garden

Our 6th Avenue home and garden

We prepared our home on 6th street for sale. Connie Lamont toned down the interior paint palette, and Chad Lyons Painting did the work. Suzy Legiere directed the house staging, while her husband Mark Middleton expertly priced and marketed the property, and then found the perfect buyers in the very first day! Jill Harris and Jim Pijan prepped the gardens. Rolling Bay Plumbing replaced a sink and fixed plumbing leaks. Bill Hill (Hill Construction) made repairs recommended by the ace home inspectors Ron and Adam Perkerewicz. Michael Mills recoated our wood floors. Sunset Electric completed minor electrical repairs. Paul Klingbeil (All Kitsap Windows) cleaned our windows and gutters. Jacqui’s White Rose Cleaners gleamed up the interior.

We worked hard to keep the garden groomed and the grass green-it was our way to bid goodbye.

Piles of photos and letters to be scanned

Some photos and letters to be scanned

We sorted through boxes and boxes from our storage unit. Hugh scanned hundreds of letters, notes, and photos – those family momentos we had been saving all these years. We donated clothes and furniture to Fishline and nearly all our books (perhaps 250) to the Friends of the Library. Our storage unit shrank from 10×10 to 5×5 after we shredded 35 boxes of business and personal records.

Andrea Lanyi priced items, set up tables, then “merchandised” and sold hundreds of items at our giant and very successfull garage sale. Chuck Finkbiner and Carolyn Stein hauled away things we couldn’t sell. Neighbors Paul and Kathleen helped with signs and were great customers too, as was Don Merry’s wife Kathy Parker.

After ridding ourselves of most of our clothing, personal possessions and furniture, we spent a very long day packing and loading what was left for shipment overseas. Our car, purchased when we arrived, was re sold on consignment through Kevin Hogan at Liberty Bay Auto. Our friends Wanda and Dave Taylor bought it.

Some of our things in the process of being arranged for the garage sale

Some of our things in the process of being arranged for the garage sale

Much in Poulsbo was the same, though we recognized many changes – the new Safeway and CVS Pharmacy, the closing of Albertsons and the new areas of road improvements and home construction. The price of food in the Pacific Northwest seemed much higher than when we left – perhaps we just forgot? The city of Seattle looks like a war zone with all the new construction. All in all, Poulsbo remains a town with lots of energy, making great improvements while preserving its character and uniqueness. We couldn’t have hoped for better weather during our stay.

We visited as many friends as we could. Breakfasted with Ardis Morrow, Gretchen Pickens and Donna Davidson. Attended Ardis’s 90th birthday party as well as the 80th birthday party of Bill Austin. Met the group in downtown Poulsbo to celebrate Donna Etchey’s birthday. Dined with Lauren and Greg Meyer, Jeff and Carrie Goller, Ann and John Pyles, Wally and Wendy Hampton, Jerry and Becky Deeter, Steve and Cindy Garfein, Eric Thanem, Martha Pendergast and Terry Campbell, Jeff and Denise Bauman, Bryan Johnson and Rob Gelder, Randi Strong Petersen and Dick Soderstrom, Cami Gurney. Partied at the home of Gay Brownlee who kindly hosted a wonderful John L. Scott reunion. Spent several Sundays and the 4th of July at the home of our dear friends Barb and Dave Maxey and their special group of friends. I spent many peaceful hours at the home of Peter Hasson and Andrea Lanyi. We stayed overnight in Seattle with Laurie Greig (who was our wonderful hostess in Provence last year). I danced, lunched and toured gardens with Signa Palmerton, walked the beautiful gardens of Sharon and Don Savelle and Hugh and I celebrated the 3rd of July fireworks at a party at the home of Gabe Gaylord and Jim Korzetz.

My world upside down at Jo Carter's pilates studio

My world upside down at Jo Carter’s pilates studio

Jo Carter welcomed me back to her Bainbridge Island Pilates Studio where I got to work out twice a week. Hugh attended weekly Poulsbo Rotary meetings and made a presentation about our two year Paris sojourn. He kept in shape by running and working out at the Poulsbo Athletic Club.

I got to spend the night with my friend Christine Smith in Port Angeles. She helped me spread my Aunt Phyllis’s ashes. My friend for over 30 years, JonLee Joseph, drove from Oregon to spend the night with us and say goodbye.

I joined my dear friend Don Merry for coffee on many Saturday mornings, for monthly pedicures, trips to the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market and for breakfast at Choc Mo, often accompanied by Wally and Wendy Hampton.

Friday mornings I savored coffee at Coffee Oasis with my cherished friends Mary McAlhany and Eric Thanem. Wednesday evenings were spent with my long time friend Randi Strong Petersen, who not only put us up at her home for the 5 days before our departure but picked us up and drove us to the airport.

My mom and me celebrating completing another Bloomsday

My mom and me celebrating completing another Bloomsday

Hugh and I drove to Spokane in May to participate in Bloomsday with my mom Beth Shaw. And mom visited Poulsbo with her friend Steve, who cooked us marvelous Mexican food. I returned to Spokane in June and was able to see my sister Joani Shaw, as well as my sweet friend Karen Estes who lives in Coeur d’Alene.

It was a whirlwind of preparation and goodbyes. I know I have not mentioned all of our friends who called, e-mailed or visited: Pat Osler, Andi Reed, Debbie Nitsche, Wanda and Dave Taylor, Maureen Meyer, Bonnie and Pete Pederson, Sylvia Smith, Ward Fuentes, Tyson Rodgers, Ed Bomar, Hans Hoehn, Janet Harter, Karen Ramsey, Richard White, Jerry Hall, John and Pamela Krueger, Strong Paulson, Pat Hardesty, Donna Bumgarner, Mark and Patty Nesby, Carol Despeaux, Dan and Tamara Fischer, Carl Swanstrom, Jeff Petersen, and Hugh’s many friends from Poulsbo Rotary, as well as Monty Bolstad and Terry Mahony from his days at the Applied Physics Lab. There are so many others with whom we were fortunate enough to spend some precious time. Please forgive me if I didn’t list your name. You are in our hearts. We miss you. We thank you for your friendship. It was not easy to leave you.

Here is an album with a few photos of friends and events from our visit home.

How Visitors Helped Us Learn About Paris

IMG_4283One of the many experiences I have been lucky to have while living in Paris this year is spending time with guests, both family and friends, and especially getting to host Paris visitors. Some have been here before and some are first time visitors, but regardless, I get to see the city again through their eyes. Each guest has his or her Paris bucket list.

Jeff and Carrie Goller helped us plan a delicious dinner at Restaurant Gallopin. They also invited us to dinner at their apartment on Rue Claire. Carrie is an excellent cook!

My friend Randi Strong Petersen insisted that we see the night lights at the Eiffel Tower, so we had an absolutely magical evening with a clear sky and a full moon. Randi took us on our first foray into the Champs Elysees, as well as many other parts of Paris. We also went with Randi on our first trip to Montmartre, a wonderful part of town that we’ve visited repeatedly and encouraged other guests to visit. Randi’s son Kiel lives in London and comes often to Paris, so we’ve been able to have dinner with him.

Most visitors want to see Notre Dame. Luckily our apartment is right across the street. Wendy Armstrong and daughter Jess Jewett wanted to climb the stairs to the top of the cathedral so we spent a magical hour viewing the city with them on a splendid sunny day. Previously we had thought that it was would be too hard to stand in the long line and struggle up 387 stairs to the top of the south tower but it was definitely worth it. And a photo op at the Pont d’Archeveche with the Cathedral in the background is a must – almost everyone has done that. Surprisingly only one of our guests has installed a lock on the famous bridge (maybe too touristy?)

We took Wendy and Jess on the Paris Fashion Walk, a look at the high end houses of fashion design that influence fashion throughout the world. Wendy and Jess suggested that we have a late picnic supper on the Champs de Mars so we could watch the lights come on the Eiffel Tower – another ‘first” worth repeating. What a beautiful, magical night.

Wendy wanted a Parisian fascinator – she’d hosted a fascinator party back when we lived in Poulsbo. Turns out there is a fascinator store just down our side street – Rue de Bievre. I now own a “fascinator” (special hair decoration) to celebrate special evenings out, and I got the chance to meet the lovely store owner.

Sometimes we can only meet a guest for dinner, as we did with Lauren Meyer, who stopped by the last night of a business trip in late March. It was fun to hear how her Bainbridge Island based company was working to arrange tours in France. Lauren also shared some of the secrets of French cooking.

Our friend Don Merry wanted to go on a Seine River cruise, so we helped him organize that – we hadn’t done that before even though the river boats are just across the street. What a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of so many of the city’s marvels and enjoy the fresh air. I love watching the faces of our friends as they view the Hotel de Ville, Louvre, Grand Palais, Musee d’Orsay and of course the Eiffel Tower from the boat. We’ve passed along Don’s idea to numerous other guests, including my mom and sister.

Don had lots of other ideas, for instance something to do that first day when you’re trying to recover from the jet lag. We ended up on a Paris Walk looking at modern architecture. We’d never have done that except for Don’s interest in it. As a result we learned about completely different part of town just down the road from us.

Don brought us to some great places to eat – a lunch at the Grand Colbert – the restaurant where they filmed “Something’s Got to Give” with Jack Nicholson and Dianne Keaton. Don’s suggestion to have lunch at Les Georges Paris, the restaurant atop the Pompidou Center completed  a splendid summer afternoon.  One of the most famous cafe’s along Boulevard Saint Germain, Cafe de Flore, where Picasso and his friends used to hang out was another opportunity to enjoy French cuisine on a lovely summer day.

Most visitors want to spend some time at museums. For those who want to see the Louvre, I think their best bet is to use a guide. The place is just too big and overwhelming, and with a guide there is no time wasted standing in line or trying to “find” the Mona Lisa. Plus the guides have unlimited knowledge about the art work and history and can tailor a the visit to the guest’s interests. When Don visited we hired a guide for an evening tour. Even though Hugh and I had already had one Louvre tour with Paris Walks, our evening guide provided so much new information that I would not have traded the opportunity for anything.

It was because of Don’s list (he had a big one) that we made our first visits to the Orsay and Rodin museums. Both are magical places to enjoy with our friends, and because of our first experiences we’ve been able to show these special places to other visitors.

Jeff and Laurie Tolman were interested in seeing the Holocaust Museum nearby us in the Marais – that was a powerful experience that has helped us understand so many other aspects of Paris history.

My friend Jonlee Joseph told me about the unique tapestries at the museum of medieval history, Musée de Cluny. The tapestries are actually on loan to Japan until November, a disappointment, but Jonlee’s knowledge will help us add this to our understanding of important art in Paris. We’ve been to the Cluny in the meantime, and it is fascinating even without the tapestries.

Our friend Carl Swanstrom had been to Paris before. He led our first foray into Pere Lachaise cemetery. It was Carl’s idea for he and Hugh to explore the military history museum at Invalides. They spent hours wandering around there. Carl also got Hugh to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at sunset. You may have already seen some of our great photos from that trip.

Gabe Gaylord and Jim Korzetz told us how much they enjoyed the Locaboat as a way to quickly learn about the town, and Pat McFadden and her group from Edward Jones told us how valuable it was for them to take the Hop on Hop off Bus as a way to conveniently get to all the important places with one cheap and easy pass. We went to dinner with Cliff and Angie Despeaux, who were in town on their honeymoon before moving on Germany. They told us about how to stay in Paris on a budget and provided an excellent example of how to keep the vacation focus on having fun.

Our fellow (star) Realtor from Realogics Sotheby’s Int’l Real Estate Dennis Paige and wife Peggy visited in early September. A trip to Paris had been symbolized by a map on Dennis’s bulletin board for many years – so he was fulfilling a dream. They had a great vacation and were wonderful company for us. Also in September we got together with Monty and Janis Bolstad – Monty worked with Hugh at the Applied Physics Laboratory at UW when both were younger and they had fun catching up with each other.

More recently we were visited by John Becker and Dianne Rodway, two very successful Portland Realtors whom we’ve known for many years. Dianne helped me find some great new places to shop in Paris, and we got to meet Dianne’s English host family from when she was an exchange student in college. John helped us pick some excellent French wine and shared with us a huge album of photos he took on their trip. It was great seeing them.

Most recently we spent time with Mary McAlhany and Patrick Gahan, who were in Paris as the first leg of a longer vacation. We met them for dinner and had them over to our apartment for dinner on several occasions. Our good friends took us on our first trip to Versailles which we enjoyed immensely.

Nearly all of our visitors have enjoyed visiting Paris’s famous gardens, particularly the Luxembourg Gardens and the Jardins des Plantes, but also the Tuileries Garden. My mom and sister Joani really focused on non tourist aspects of Paris during their visit rather than trying to see all the famous attractions. We spent much of our time going to the gardens and experiencing the local markets and the joys of French cooking as best we could manage in our tiny kitchen. I never tire of strolling through the wonderful gardens. They change so dramatically from season to season. Watching the French relax in the parks is inspiring.

And is it ever fun to go out to eat with friends who want a “real French dining experience”. We have been able to offer our guests a chance to dine fairly inexpensively at restaurants in our neighborhood, helping them to get away from the tourist fare and to experience perhaps more authentic French dining experience. I love to try to explain what this dish is or to avoid that one. Unfortunately for one recent guest we didn’t know that the house specialty, andouillette sausage, really is made of ground pork intestines. We won’t make that mistake again!!!

Here is a photo gallery with some comments showing many of our visitors this year.

Celebration of the Assumption of Mary

Tonight we saw police in the street outside our apartment as we were leaving the building. A short time later we were engulfed in a parade celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Clergy and several thousand Catholic followers from Notre Dame paraded down our street to celebrate the Assumption of Mary. We had heard the church bells and observed a large group with candles proceeding to the church last night, but didn’t know of the parade we now observed.

If you’ve studied the Bible you may have noted that it doesn’t contain much information about Mary and Joseph. As far as I know they are not a big part of the message of the Gospel. Yet at the same time, one need not look far to find Mary as an iconic figure in the Catholic Church. Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris (Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris) is a reference to Mary, not to mention the US university you see on TV every weekend in the fall. The figure of the Virgin Mary in sculpture and paintings may be as common as artwork for Christ. While I could try to decipher the terminology of the church, suffice it to say that the Catholic Church realized that Mary was an important part of their message of Christianity. Even before 500 AD there was tacit acceptance that the end of Mary’s life was a holy event and that the anniversary was to be celebrated and recognized.

It was not until 1950 that the Catholic Church officially incorporated the Assumption into its dogma, thus vouching for a practice that had long been condoned. This event was noted at the time by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung to be “the most important religious event since the Reformation”. Protestant movements have not similarly included Mary, to which Jung at the time commented,”Protestantism has obviously not given sufficient attention to the signs of the times which point to the equality of women. But this equality requires to be metaphysically anchored in the figure of a ‘divine’ woman. . . . The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation.” He said that many years ago, but his observation seems rather modern to me.

You can see a few photos of the event below:

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Paris Gardens!

Our summer visitors have enjoyed exploring some of Paris’s many gardens. Two of their favorites were the Jardins des Plantes and the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Brenda in the same field after the flowers get going

Brenda in the field after the flowers get going

Jardins des Plantes-Paris’s main botanical garden was founded in 1626. It was planted as a medicinal herb garden in 1635 by Louis XIII’ s physician, Guy de la Brosse. There are over 4500 plants in these spectacular grounds and they are only a short walk along the Seine from our apartment!  About 3 hectares (7.5 acres) of the total 25 hectares are planted in stunning display gardens. There is also a magical rose garden, an alpine garden, Mexican and Australian hothouses, a labyrinth and a zoo.  The Jardin des Plantes maintains a botanical school and 4 museum galleries.

Sailing ships in the Luxembourg pool

Sailing ships in the Luxembourg pool

Jardin du Luxembourg is located a bit further away from our apartment but still within walking distance-my 87 year old mother had no trouble strolling there with me! We love the wide tree lined pathways, the ice cream vendors conveniently located at the entry gates, the combination of traditional French and English gardens, the fountains and sculptures. There is even a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty. When Henry the IV was assassinated in 1610, his wife, Marie de Medicis, had the Palais de Luxembourg and surrounding gardens built to be like those of her childhood home in Florence, Italy. She did not want to continue living at the Louvre with the memory of her slain husband. We explain a little more of the history in this previous entry about the gardens. The Palais de Luxembourg has been home to many other historical events and is now home to the French Senate.

Visitors!

We have had quite a few visitors lately. The best part for me and Hugh is that each guest has interests that lead to new explorations and adventures for us. A recent guest whose first ever visit to Paris had a few things on his agenda: visit Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Rodin museum, the Musée d’Orsay, a boat ride under the bridges of the Seine, a visit to the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, dining at the Grand Colbert (the restaurant made famous by the Diane Keaton-Jack Nicholson movie “Something’s Gotta Give”), a cooking class at La Cuisine cooking school, and a modern Architectural walking tour.

Even though our apartment is right next to the Seine, and we walk along it and cross the many bridges with regularity, we had not previously taken a boat ride. We found the hour long trip most enjoyable and now plan to take one at night too. Seeing the historical buildings lining the Seine from the boat perspective was exciting and so much easier than walking! There is a boarding point within a block of our apartment too-how great is that!

The visit to the Rodin museum was a first for us too. The gardens and outdoor and indoor sculptures were awe inspiring. I had not known that “The Thinker” would be mounted high on a pedestal nor that it was so large. Our friend was moved to tears by the sculpture of “The Kiss” which was truly beautiful. The day we visited, a wedding event was being staged in the gardens. We wished we could be guests for that enchanting event.

I organized a special private Louvre Tour through an excellent tour company, Paris Walks. Even though Hugh and I had a previous Louvre Tour, this one was even better. Our guide was passionate about art history and because we were so interested and she was having such a wonderful time our tour was extended almost an hour. Having a guide for the Louvre in my opinion is a must- it is just too overwhelming to do on your own. With a guide you can skip the waiting lines, go directly to the best areas and get an extensive history lesson.

Musée d’Orsay is a magical place. Just being inside the bulding and seeing the light stream through the high celings gives me a euphoric feeling. Then there is the artwork-Monet, Van Gogh, Gaugin just a few favorites, the art nouveau furniture, the sculptures, the dining area. I am so happy visitors want to experience this museum.

Cooking class is a blast! La Cuisine is a wonderful small cooking school only about half a mile north of our apartment. It offers a myriad of classes from cutting up a whole chicken and using all the parts to create a divine dinner (french onion soup with broth from the carcass, ailles de poulets from the wings, paupiettes de volaille-pounded flattened chicken breasts stuffed with herbes and mushrooms,) to making the perfect french baugette, or shopping at the local market for the best ingredients to make a sumptuous lunch. Our recent guest put the baugette making class high up on the enjoyment list.

Another new discovery for me and Hugh was made on the Modern Architecture Walk sponsored by Paris Walks. The Arab World Institute, which is less than half a mile east of our apartment, has a world class view of Paris from atop the sun terrace, and it is a free elevator ride to the top. While climbing to the top of Notre Dame can’t be beat, the Arab Institue elevator is a wonderful device ensuring that less nimble guests can view Paris from above. The walking tour also led us past the ebullient Frank Gehry cinematique, the controversial National Library which is designed like four open books, the brand new Cité de la Mode (les Docks) and the stunning Simone de Beauvoir footbridge.

Another dear friend arrived in Paris today. We will have many different experiences as she loves gardens!

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Fête de la Musique

Last night was Fête de la Musique, a free public musical event outdoors all over the city. What a party (fête means party) – there were literally tens of thousands of people roaming about until well into the morning. There were bands and performances on many street corners, including a great jazz group at the bar at the other end of our building. All we had to do was open the window. Launched in 1982 by the French Ministry for culture, the Fête de la Musique is now held in more than hundred countries in Europe and over the world. It takes place every 21st June, the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere.

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Here’s a web site that explains a little about this event.

http://www.fetedelamusique.culture.fr/en/International/presentation/

Unlike perhaps anything we do in the US, the government is deeply involved in organizing this now international social event.

Here are 2 short movies showing typical street performances we saw.

Barbara Kingsolver at Shakespeare and Company

DSCF3115 Guess who I got to meet? One of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote The Poisonwood Bible among many other wonderful fiction novels, recently held a booksigning at Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I bought her latest book, Flight Behaviour, which she signed for me. I love that I can walk a few blocks along the Seine, in full view of Notre Dame Cathedral to the most marvelous book store to meet one of my heroines!

David Lebovitz Book Signing

DSCF3114 One of my favorite food authors and local Paris bloggers is David Lebovitz, whom I’ve been following ever since I read his book, “The Sweet Life in Paris” prior to leaving the US.  I recently  got to meet him in person at a book signing about half a mile from our apartment. The event was at a local cooking school, La Cuisine Paris. Not only did I get to meet David and have him sign another of his books, “The Perfect Scoop“, for me, but the Glaces Glazed ice cream truck was also there! Glaces Glazed serves unique gourmet blends of top quality ingredients in limited edition flavors. I sampled Black Sugar Sex Magic, a combination of chocolate, wasabi and ginger which had the most chocolatey flavor I have ever experienced. Hugh had their Mohito de Tokyo with rum, lemon, and mint – yum I think he said.

Paris Fashion Walk!

Paris Fashion Walk - Christian Louboutin

Paris Fashion Walk – Christian Louboutin

Recently we had visitors whom I thought would be interested in seeing the beautiful covered arcades of the famous fashion designers, so I booked us into the Paris Walks Fashion tour. They loved the walk as did I-even Hugh had a good time taking photos. We met our guide at the Palais Royale Metro station, a one of a kind metro! The entrance, which was designed by Jean-Michel Othoniel, is called “The Kiosque des noctambules” (kiosk of the night walkers) and has two cupolas covered in venetian glass beads that are threaded to the structure. Our lovely English speaking Paris Walks guide promised us that we would be doing lots of “léche vitale” or window licking as we walked past the display windows of Louboutin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Didier Ludot, Mark Jacobs-to name of few of the more well known designers. She also gave us a wonderful lesson in the history of fashion as we walked along. Louis the 14th was the King of Fashion. He also had great legs, so he showed them off in breeches and stockings that he made famous! Fashion was a symbol of French power and was important to French commerce. Fashion dolls became very popular since they were made to advertise the latest trends and were sent to London and Russia so the nobility there could see what was “in” in Paris. I was fascinated by the fashion transformations from Louis XIV’s haute couture to broad shoulder pads to bell flower or hobble skirts to pant suits for women, the caged skirts and the wasp waists (think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind) to Mark Jacobs slip dress and Pierre Cardin blue jeans. A highlight was when we walked past the restaurant, Le Grand Colbert, made famous by the 2003 movie “Something’s Gotta Give” starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. It would be fun to come back and dine there, though there are many other better restaurants in Paris. I thought that the Jean Paul Gaultier boutique was the most dramatic. It used to be a marionette theatre and has many levels of wide, high windows filled with his high fashion avant-garde designs. I will need to revisit Gaultier and Stella McCartney and the Acne (Swedish designs) to get a better look at their stunning clothes-maybe even try on one or two things . . . Hugh is turning blue.

Here is a slideshow with some photos we took along the way.

The Canal du Midi!

 Approaching lock on Canal du Midi trip

Approaching one of the sixty some locks on our Canal du Midi trip

Last week we had the pleasure of joining friends from Poulsbo, Karl and Kelly Hadley, Jim and Sharon Moore and the former Rotary exchange student Flora Midiou and her boyfriend Julien Plubel on a wonderful barge trip on the Canal du Midi in Southern France. Now I better understand the song from Camelot, “It’s May, the lusty month of May!”

Pastel violet masses of wisteria climbed the walls of many of the “ecluse” or lock buildings lining the canal. Bright orange poppies, yellow and periwinkle grinning iris faces, balloon clusters of creamy Queen Anne’s Lace bloomed along the grassy banks. Giant chestnut trees bursting with white chocolate frosted strawberry ice cream cone flowers dominated the walkways of the ancient villages. Pink with lemon tinged roses and cherry red peonies filled garden beds. Carefully ordered vegetable gardens sprouted onioins, cabbages, spinach, radishes.

Since 1996 the Canal du Midi has been classified in the list of World Heritage sites. The canal connects the Garonne river (at the Atlantic side ) to the Mediterranean Sea. Originally built between 1666 to 1681 to facilitate the wheat business, it is the oldest European Canal still in operation.

We began our tour in the village of Argens-Minervois after taking an approximately 4 hour train ride from Paris to Narbonne, spending the night there and the next morning taking another but very short train ride to the village of Lézignan-Corbières then taxiing to Argens. Our trip on the boat lasted a week. Captains Karl and Hugh navigated the waters and the rest of us learned to handle the ropes in the locks, drink much wine, sample the excellent local cheeses, ride bicycles along the canal. In the evenings we walked into the villages, ate delicious local dishes-a favorite of the group was a crepery, La Blé Noir in Carcassone, the walled city. Hugh and I were fortunate to be guided by Jim and Sharon Moore on a night walk through this 5th century village and through the magnificent castle atop. The Castle which reminds me of The magical Disneyland Palace was restored in the mid 1800 ‘s. It is filled with shops and restaurants, even hotels.

We left our boat behind in the town of Negra and took a taxi to Toulouse. In Toulouse our French guides Flora and Julien led us through the city.

We loved spending time with our friends and enjoying the Canal and the countryside of southern France. We did happily discover that after a week on the barge, our 450 sq. ft. Paris apartment seems very much larger!!! We like the shower too!

Here’s a link to a slideshow showing selected scenes from the trip: