Gone Away / Tags
Contact Followers

France

The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

The long journey home from Montpellier is underway

— After fifteen days in Montpellier, France, our long journey home to Phoenix is underway. The upside of getting an early start is not having to rush. The downside is a lot of time spent waiting. We unwittingly arrived at the airport an hour before check-in was scheduled to begin for our flight to Paris. We used the time to enjoy a coffee and the sandwiches Kathryn made us last night from food we otherwise would have had to throw out.
If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

If you’ve ever struggled with the gender of French nouns, take heart!

— Last Saturday around midday, Kathryn and I were at the zoo here in Montpellier, and we found ourselves looking at the giraffes next to a French couple and their young children. I overheard the father saying to his children, “Les girafes sont beaux!” As soon as the words finished leaving his mouth, the mother corrected him, “Belles.” “Hein?” he grunted. “C’est une girafe,” she insisted. “Eh, ouais,” he said, now recognizing his grammatical error.
I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

I’m way behind on my posts, so here’s a brief status update from Montpellier

— I was doing so well at publishing a blog post at least once a day, and then when we got back from Lourdes it kind of fizzled out. Well, have no fear, we’re doing well here in Montpellier. Yesterday I finally posted about our road trip to Sommières, which happened last Thursday. Last Friday we went on our highly anticipated hike up Pic St. Loup, along with a little bit of beach time before returning the rental car.
Another road trip from Montpellier, this one to Sommières

Another road trip from Montpellier, this one to Sommières

— Since we’d reserved a rental car for four days, I felt a certain obligation to make the most use of it. Thursday morning, after lingering a little too long over breakfast, we got in the car to visit Uzès, an ancient walled village that dates back to pre-medieval times, about a 90-minute drive from Montpellier. However, after all the driving I’d done Tuesday and Wednesday, I wasn’t on the autoroute for more than a few minutes when I started formulating for an escape plan.
Last-minute road trip to Lourdes for Mass with Cardinal Burke

Last-minute road trip to Lourdes for Mass with Cardinal Burke

— One advantage of not over-planning a vacation is that you leave yourself open to opportunities that arise. This week, we changed our planned daytrip to Lourdes on Saturday to an overnight trip on Tuesday and Wednesday. At Sunday Mass here in Montpellier, we learned that an American cardinal, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, would be celebrating a Pontifical High Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes on Wednesday morning at 10 am.
We’re back in Montpellier after a whirlwind side trip to Lourdes

We’re back in Montpellier after a whirlwind side trip to Lourdes

— Kathryn and I just got back to Montpellier after a whirlwind 30-hour side trip to Lourdes. This is just a quick update because the last two days have been somewhat exhausting. I’m really happy we didn’t do this as a day trip as we’d originally planned. Four hours driving a rental car I’m not familiar with, on roads I’m not familiar with, took more out of me than I expected. Now I can’t imagine doing eight hours without getting some sleep in between.
We eventually made it to Lourdes

We eventually made it to Lourdes

— It took us a longer than planned to get our rental car in Montpellier, and then the drive took longer than planned, but eventually we arrived in Lourdes well before sunset. The hotel is not bad, and the manager was amenable to letting us leave two hours late tomorrow. We arrived in Lourdes quite hungry because of all our delays, but as we headed out to dinner, we realized we were about to miss the best light of the day, so we turned around and headed to the shrine.
In Paris, waiting for our flight to Montpellier

In Paris, waiting for our flight to Montpellier

— I planned to write a brief status update as we took our seats on the flight from Detroit to Paris, but somehow we ended up in an AT&T dead zone, so I had no access to the internet. The flight was uneventful, other than a bit of turbulence leaving Detroit. Kathryn and I both got a reasonable amount of sleep. The food was edible, a feature of flying Air France. Dinner was chicken with a cream sauce served with polenta something or other.
Bags packed, ready to go

Bags packed, ready to go

— Kathryn and I were up and at ’em early this morning to start our long trip from Phoenix to Montpellier, although compared to our normal weekday schedules, it was like we slept in. Even after a couple leisurely cups of coffee, we finished our last minute chores way ahead of schedule. We’ll leave for the airport in about two hours, giving Kathryn extra time to say goodbye to the cat. We’ve arranged a petsitter who will be here the entire time we’re gone, so the cat will be well cared for.
Our next trip to Montpellier, France, starts next week

Our next trip to Montpellier, France, starts next week

— Kathryn and I are getting ready to take off late next week for a couple weeks in the south of France. Once again, we’re renting a small, furnished apartment in Montpellier. In fact, it’s the same apartment we’ve rented twice before, just a few steps from Place Jean-Jaurès in the heart of the historic center, so we have a good idea of what to expect. What we’re unable to predict at this point is how our arrival will be affected by the ongoing Gilets Jaunes protests.
Holiday lights, fountain in the historic center of Montpellier, France

Holiday lights, fountain in the historic center of Montpellier, France

— I took this photo of the fountain near the entrance of Esplanade Charles de Gaulle in Montpellier, France, on December 17, 2002. It has the distinction of being the oldest photo in my Google Photos collection — for now, at least. The camera I used back then, a Minolta point-and-shoot, had low resolution by today’s standards — about 3 megapixels, I think. However, I’m pleasantly surprised when I look back at some of these old photos and see how much nicer they look than those taken with my phone.
Hertz, fool me four times, I won’t get fooled again

Hertz, fool me four times, I won’t get fooled again

— To paraphrase the great philosopher-president George W. Bush: fool me once, shame on you; fool me four times, I won’t get fooled again. Take note, Hertz. January 2016: Hertz charged us an administrative fee for a supposed moving violation in South Africa. To this day we haven’t seen a citation from the local authorities. I guess the police had enough time to nag Hertz for our name and address but then couldn’t be bothered to mail us a ticket.
Bronze matador statue in front of the arena in Nîmes

Bronze matador statue in front of the arena in Nîmes

— I don’t generally follow the news over the weekend. When I scanned the headlines this morning, I discovered that Pamela Anderson had stirred up a bit of controversy late last week in France, at least enough to merit an article in a regional newspaper. She had posted a photo of herself on social media, posing under the bronze statue of a matador in front of the Arènes in Nîmes, France. Apparently it was part of an anti-corrida campaign that ties in with her long-running animal activism.
St. Joan of Arc, Domrémy-la-Pucelle

St. Joan of Arc, Domrémy-la-Pucelle

— On the way to Luxembourg yesterday, we got off the autoroute for a while, enjoyed a spirited drive through bucolic French countryside, and visited the birthplace of St. Joan of Arc in Domrémy-la-Pucelle. Owing in part to the inclement weather and bad traffic we encountered earlier along the route, we arrived fifteen minutes too late to visit her childhood home. However, we could walk up to the gate and take pictures, and the church next door — Église St.
A one-day road trip to the Cannes Film Festival

A one-day road trip to the Cannes Film Festival

— Back in the spring of 2003, I took a day trip to Cannes during its famous annual film festival. It was the last day of the festival, and most of the Hollywood celebrities had already come and gone. However, watching the European celebrities arrive for the final screening was no less glamorous. Pay close attention to the security detail. They were actually officers of the elite CRS, a special unit of the French national police, in formal uniforms.
Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

Germany: Any reason to celebrate in Monheim am Rhein, Cologne, and Düsseldorf

— I arrived in Paris six days ago and spent a couple nights there. I didn’t do much in Paris that I haven’t done before. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there, sitting in cafes, walking through parks, and so forth. The only new thing I really saw was the museum of the police prefecture, which actually I didn’t find very interesting, aside from an exhibit of some of the firearms used during the Liberation.
Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe

Frequently asked questions about our road trip in Europe

— We’ve only been home a few days, but Kathryn and I have already heard a lot of questions about our trip. For the benefit of everyone else, I’ve decided to repeat some of them here, along with their answers. What was the highlight of the trip? It’s been really tough to single out a highlight, since we had such a great time the whole trip. For me, picking up the new car in Germany was a moment I won’t soon forget, and flying a glider in Austria was a truly unexpected surprise, but the trip was really a series of highlights punctuated by sleep.
Oktoberfest, BMW, Rothenburg, Baden-Baden, Eiffel Tower

Oktoberfest, BMW, Rothenburg, Baden-Baden, Eiffel Tower

— Phew! It’s been about 72 hours since the last update, but we’ve managed to pack an awful lot in. We arrived safely in Munich on Saturday, about six hours later than anticipated, so the thought of doing Oktoberfest that evening was quickly dismissed. My friend in Munich met us at the airport and showed us the way back to her place. After we washed 30 hours of traveling filth off our bodies, we went out for a serene evening at a nearby beer garden, where Kathryn had her first ever German meal.
Long overdue post

Long overdue post

— There’s a certain irony to writing a blog. During those times when you have the most to write about, you have the least time to write it. The year 2007 has been, and continues to be, almost unbelievably good to me, and for several months I’ve been maintaining a hand-written list of all the things I want to write about. However, the blog format lends itself to telling stories in a chronological fashion, so as my list grows longer, I feel a certain pressure to write everything or nothing.