We went for a long walk late yesterday morning. We’re taking advantage of the mild temperatures even if it is foggy and grey.
We went for a long walk late yesterday morning. We’re taking advantage of the mild temperatures even if it is foggy and grey.
We drove one and half hours south west and arrived in the unusual but pretty town of Concarneau. We did drive along a major highway and when we passed Lorient we saw what looked like the approach to Barry or Mississauga…..big box stores and a variety of unfamiliar companies with outlets. Yuck.
Concarneau looked like any French seaside town until we got down to the sea itself and there sitting opposite a travelling carnival with ferris wheel and all was the walled city. “The Ville Close” as it is called in French, is definitely Concarneau’s most popular tourist attraction. This old stone fortified ‘town’ has just a few narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants, where geraniums tumble from window boxes and where there are lots of pastry and chocolate shops. We went into each and everyone and chose a few things to munch on in the car or later this evening. I’m not exaggerating when I say that a handful of (albeit, handmade) chocolate covered almonds cost $15.00, about $1.00 a piece. “Eat slowly Greg and savour each of those chocolate gems.” All the other shops and most of the restaurants were closed. This time we think it was not siesta time but rather a seasonal thing. I think they consider it winter here. They obviously haven’t seen any pictures from Southern Ontario and Buffalo.
Concarneau is also the third largest fishing port in France. In some of the shops they had a variety of fish and seafood for sale in large cans. Herring, langoustine, sardines. Some how, though, sea food in a can was not appealing to us.
There were beautiful yachts and sail boats in the harbour over which we salivated for a while. It was around 1 in the afternoon that we settled on a very nouveau French restaurant for lunch. We both had pizza. The anorexic (I’m talking thin, thin, thin) crust on the pizza they make here in Brittany is like nothing we have ever tasted. It’s baked to perfection and melts in your mouth. Greg likes to order the one with a sunny side egg plunked in the middle of the pie. The restaurant had a very interesting copy of a painting on both the wall and on the menus. Greg thinks it was called Nipples, but I’m thinking not. I’m sure it’s a famous painting and that my artist friends (Debbie?) will know what it is called.
We drove past sea side condos as we explored some of the beaches and then decided to head home.
Omaha Beach in 2014 is completely tranquil and serene. There are cow pastures up on the Bluffs. It was almost impossible to imagine the events of 1944 as we walked along picking up stones and sea glass. The remnants of a German bunker was a harsh reminder of what happened on those shores over 70 years ago. Greg and I spent the day quietly visiting all the museums and memorials. Especially poignant was the American Cemetery with it’s thousands of white crosses. There are a sprinkling also of Stars of David amongst the crosses.
Today we made the trek to Juno Beach to learn about the Canadian advance and losses. We loved the museum. It was a Coles Notes version of Canadian History from before WWW1 and right up to D-Day. Very informative. The Canadian site was more modest than the American but then again, I feel as a nation we are more modest. It was interesting because we were charged to get into the Canadian museum but not the American and when I asked the cashier about that she said the American museum is funded by the American government and the Canadian museum is run by a private company and the admission cost helps with its upkeep.
In the tiny and very old villages around the beaches, we found we could just picture the marching troops as has been depicted in so many wartime movies.
We stayed overnight in Bayeux, a very pretty larger town with a lovely main street with beautiful shops. We did go to the tapestry museum and saw the famous embroidery. It is about 70 metres in length and through needlework drawings tells the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Remember your grade 10 History…..William the Conquerer and Harold?? No one is sure if it was completed in England or in France but it was designed and stitched almost as a history book for the illiterate of the time.
Our Bed and Breakfast was built in the early 1700’s and it was very pretty. www.hoteltardifbayeux.com
I think the bed may have been from the 18th century too as it was almost too short, okay, well for Greg anyhow. It was also not really even a double. I think it may have been 3/4 of a double. Not the best night’s sleep.
And looking for a place to eat at 6 p.m.was a challenging feat too. Nothing opens until at least 7. Reminiscent of our time in Spain. We sat in a Braisserie having a drink and finally realized we COULD actually get a snack there as well. We stopped in for a hint of Mass (it was just ending) at the ancient cathedral on our way back to the B & B.
We are back “home” in Kergrist tonight. The kitties have all been fed, laundry done, a soup made, emails answered and now even the Blog is complete. Goodnight All.
We drove approximately one and a half hours yesterday to Josselin, really not knowing what to expect. We had heard it was a medieval town dating back over 1000 years.
The drive through open country, cow and sheep pastures was idyllic. We arrived in town and drove down the main street of town. We had to veer off to the right towards the canal or we would end up driving the wrong way on a one way street. We came round a bend and there it sat, dominating the Oust River Valley like something out of a Disney movie. It’s hard to describe the moment when the ancient chateau first came into view, but I think Greg and I would both concur it was one of those unforgettable moments in our lifetime.
We parked the car. It was raining so we ducked into a tiny pizza restaurant. I was proud to be able to order for us in a place where no one spoke any English. We shared a delicious pizza; it seems that everything here is delicious. The French can turn even a cheese sandwich into something gourmand.
With no cares about getting drizzled upon, we spent the better part of the afternoon walking the perimeter of the castle. Inside is closed for viewing until the spring but that’s okay. Family of the original owners still live in this chateau. Construction started in 1008 so that’s pretty surprising.
The entire town was magical with it’s crooked, sloping, moss covered, half timbered homes. We had the town to ourselves. It was siesta time again. Either that or no one is home in Europe.
We stopped in Pontivy on the way home at our Boulangerie for our daily bread. We visited with and topped up food for our eight charges and tucked in for an evening of reading and geeking, well-satisfied with another day of adventure.
It’s quite rainy here but I’m sure it’s 10 to 15 degrees warmer than home. I’ve only worn my down vest…no need for a jacket yet. We are loving the freedom of having a car at our disposal. Yesterday morning we went into Pontivy to the open air market which happens every Monday. It’s cheeses and fruits and veggies and meat and flowers and clothing and and purses and scarves. We each bought a scarf….everyone here wears a scarf…. Greg also bought an Andy Capp cap and two shirts. We also went into all the shops downtown. The prices are crazy…..when I look at a sweater and its 89 Euro, I think that’s about right and then I realize you have to add another 50% on to get the conversion into dollars. I’m not talking about anything really special either. Just a sweater!
At 4 O’clock we were invited to Leanne’s (daughter of Ann) for true English tea. She lives in a remodelled 16th century farm house….so unbelievably charming. She had a fire burning in her wood stove and the table was set like the Queen was coming. (I’m only a princess!!) She had baked raisin scones and had jam and clotted devonshire cream……oh my. She had also baked chocolate cupcakes and a chantilly cake. We were curious if they do this everyday but were told only on occasion. Later they would just have a simple bowl of soup for the evening meal. She had also invited Paul and Nicky another expat English couple from Cornwall who live here in the village. It was lovely to meet them and hear their story.
They are also retired Brits from the Cotswolds. We’ll have to check out all of these places in England next. The trip to Caurel yet another tiny village near the Lac de Guerladan was our outing for today as it’s been raining most of the day. We’ve lit a fire and are just reading and geeking.
Today, we drove to another small town about an hour away called Montauban de Bretagne and had lunch at the Hotel de France…..we were having so much trouble speaking and understanding the waitress that a lovely English-speaking Fr. gentleman came over to see if he could be of assistance. It had something to do with the fixed price menu or NOT. I’m shocked at how poor my French is and how often I slip into Spanish. Not that my Spanish was great either.
The weather is quite mild but it rains off and on all day long. The sun pokes through the clouds and then it becomes overcast and rains and then the sun pokes out again. It’s been like that almost every day since our arrival.
I do love waking in the morning, showering and dressing and waking into the village, about 100 metres away and going into the little grocery to get a fresh baguette. Coffee is done by the time I return. I feel so European.
On Monday we will go to the farmer’s market in Pontivy in the morning and then Leanne (the daughter) has invited us for high tea at her farm at 4 p.m. By the way, Leanne took us to the car rental and her assistance at the rental office was invaluable. We were going to go to Normandy for Remembrance Day but imagine it will be mobbed so we will go later in the week. We will do Bayeux on the same trip. Ann told us we could be away for one overnight and we will plan that for this little getaway.
Life is good.
The trip was quite daunting….24 hours in all from the time we left our door to the time we crossed her threshold. It was truly planes, trains and automobiles plus a 2 hour bus ride on a milk run through all the little villages but she met us at the bus and we drove the final 8 km to her home.
The home is on a large property quite lovely. The village is called Kergrist. The house itself is under construction but all of the rooms that we are using are done and cozy. There’s a big fireplace in the dining room. The village is absolutely adorable with two restaurants a bar and a church and mayor’s office. We are surrounded by little villages. We took Ann to lunch today at an adorable auberge near the village called Guerlan which is close to the man made lake. We had a delicious lunch from a fixed price menu. We felt we needed to do this as she is leaving for her ferry ride over to England tonight and she has wined and dined us since our arrival.
The larger town called Pontivy is about 8 km away and t has lots of lovely shops and restaurants and its quite charming. Every Monday there is a huge open air market which we will try to get to this Monday. I’m excited to get into some of those ladies wear stores in town. Even the rural French have that “je ne sais quoi” it seems.
Ann has been quite delightful. She is a widow for ten years now. I think she’s 66, very attractive and her daughter Leanne and her husband and three kids live in an 16th century old farmhouse on the outskirts of this village where they raise, chickens, and geese and turkeys and llamas. It’s just such a wonderful little place. Leanne will be our “to go” person if we need her. She is fluent in French. They have lived here for several years now. Ann and I got along like we were old friends meeting again. I quite liked her.
Greg has been quite crochety with me since we left home as he’s decided on this trip to give up Coca Cola and I see it is really an addiction. He’s definitely in withdrawal. It was funny to see him drinking wine at lunch.
(No I haven’t – I’m my usual charming self!)
That’s about it…..Ann has just left in her car to drive to the ferry and as nice as she’s been it will be good to have the house to ourselves.
Will update more as there is more to tell. She has borrowed two bicycles and helmets for us to get around, but although it was lovely and mild yesterday it is grey and cold and rainy today. We’ll see if we get to use those bikes. May rent a car for a few days….thought it might be neat to be in Normandy for Remembrance Day on Mondaytoo…..too many plans for Monday.
By the way we are looking after 8 (that’s right 8) she lied to us and said there would be 3 but she’s had a litter since and hasn’t found homes for all, berman cats…..google them. They are gorgeous. She has one named Jack and another named Bella…..had to laugh at that. All of them are in a log cabin in her back garden with their food and water and their litter boxes…..a true cat house. The only one inside is Jack…we love him…he’s got the cutest temperament….makes me believe in reincarnation….ha. ha ha!
I’m finding it hard to lift my arms high enough to type this morning. Yesterday was Treetop Trekking day. Louise Smith, who jumped off the top of the corporate ladder years ago for a simpler, more meaningful and healthy lifestyle, (but somehow is climbing the corporate ladder at TTT) met Bev Erdenberger and I at the Barrie location in Horseshoe Valley for an AMAZING day at the park.
What is Treetop Trekking you ask. Glad you did! Check out their promotional video below.
Louise introduced us to everyone who worked at the park and then got us all harnessed up in our safety stuff. Between the harness around each leg and around our wastes, two (not one) but TWO safely lines and zip line rollers, I don’t think I could of hurt myself no matter how hard I tried.
We started off with a few minutes on the orientation lines where we were shown how to clip in, to climb the ladders, double clip to walk across a cable and triple locked in for the zip line, we headed off to the easiest of 6 circuits to give it a go.
The course ladders were a bit higher than ordination. I kept telling myself that, I used to be afraid of heights but, that was yesterday! It worked for a while.
The first “Game” (they call it a game – sort of like- oh, this is fun!!) was a tightrope walk between a couple of trees. We walked along one line of super thick aircraft cable (about 75′) and held onto another cable the same size, about 5′ above the line we walked on. Both safely clips are attached to the top line also. If I did slip off, I’d only fall about a foot anyway. The bottom line was about 10′ in the air. The trick here was to pushes the line out one way with your hands and the other with your feet. Interestingly enough, that was easier to do in the middle than at either end.
I’d done this with Louise a couple of years ago. I was in better shape at the time. I remembered it being the most unbelievable core workout that I’d ever done. I was nervous about doing this yesterday because, I’m not in good shape at all . . . . well, unless you consider ’round’ a good shape!
Out I went, sliding my feet, gripping the line with my gloved hands as hard a possible, trying not to look down.When I got to the other side, I felt great. The platforms at each end of the game feel like ‘home sweet (safe) home’ at the end of every game. Bev came along after me, at probably twice the speed or maybe three times the speed that I’d done it in. “Fearless” she is! Louise followed along behind us like she was walking along a path through the woods! (showoff!!!!)
The next game entailed a double line with boards about a foot wide between each line. Again, another line above to hold and clip onto. I just knew that the boards were going to flip over and send me flying through the (for 12″ perhaps) by the time I got to the middle. Slowly, slowly, step step step with an occasional breath tossed in, I got to the other side. I’m such a chicken shit. I HATE heights. I think I may hold the course record for being the slowest most careful person on the course ever. Again, reaching the other end and standing on that platform was heaven. Sold ground. Not swaying in the breeze. Fantastic. I had a chance to catch my breath again while Bev worked her way across then then Louise gleefully skipping along behind us.
Game after game with a few zip lines tossed in we went. Each course got a bit tougher. By each course I was more an more tired. Louise was giving us tips on occasional ‘easier ways’ of doing each game. She loving shook the lines occasionally, just to make them bit more more fun (for her anyway) as we worked our way through the courses. By the time I got to the last course, I was totally exhausted. My legs hurt, my arms, my shoulders ached, my leather gloves were completely soaked with sweat. My stomach muscles felt like I’d been run over by a truck, many many times. but, every time I got to the platform at the end, I felt like a million bucks for making it through yet another one.
All of these games and zip lines run through the woods so, whenever I did get a chance to stand (clipped in always) on a platform, the scene around was beautiful. I reminded me of climbing trees in the forest when I was a kid or, sitting in the tree fort above the forest floor. We lucked out with the weather. It was a bit overcast but, almost no winds in the forest and, the temperature as comfortable. Both Bev and I talked on the way up about what we thought we’d wear while playing. We both decided to drop the jackets just before we started and, we were glad we did. That workout sure brought our body temperatures up.
Bev didn’t like the zip lines in the beginning. Personally, I felt ever so slightly less wimpish seeing her a bit afraid of SOMETHING along the way. Just about all of the ‘games’ scared the crap out of me but, Bev was LOVING everything else. We finally got a a good sized zip line. I got across first. I LOVED the zip lines and videoed Bev and then Louise.
The final event was the “Big Zip”. It’s 700 – 800′ feet long. It goes from one side of the park to the other. They walk over to the beginning of it meant we had to walk up a hill. After the workout we’d just done, that felt like the hardest climb ever but, the zip was worth it for sure. Apparently, you each speeds of 45 mph. Just AMAZING!!
We ended up exhausted but, we had more fun than you can imagine. I’ve tried a couple of times to organize a trip up there with my old triathlon group of friends but, scheduling always turned out to be a nightmare so, I’ve given up on that. Too bad though. The workout is far beyond what any of us have ever done in the gym. Add in the fun and the sunshine and, it’s AMAZING.
We grabbed a quick bite afterwards. It was great that Louise was able to take some time off to take us through the course and then spend a bit of time with us afterwards. I wasn’t going to be surprised if Bev didn’t go back home and quit her job to go and work at the park!
What a great adventure. If you ever get the chance, or, if you can somehow make the time go do this. It’s more fun than you can ever imagine. If you want to go and, want company, let me know. I’ll go anytime!
Well 3 weeks has simply flown by. Our social calendar has never been so full. We’ve reconnected with everyone we know down here either over lunch, dinner or drinks…..actually the drinks have been a part of every reunion.
We are walking every day sometimes doing only 5 km but mostly 7 to 15 km. We are trying to walk away our belly fat but so far we’ve seen little change. The French Patisserie and the new European bakery in town haven’t helped with the anticipated weight loss. There have been some benefits though. Our breathing is less laboured, our skin is tanned and we’ve explored every hidden alley way and path in both Ajijic and Chapala.
This past Monday we picked up our friends Kay and Paul and drove into Tonala, a community in Guadalajara where there is a glass blowing factory and many stores and stalls selling typical Mexican craft ware. They had never been so it was fun to show it off to friends as we have been there several times in the past.
Later in the week we had lunch with Collette, a gal who’s dogs we looked after for a week last winter. After a visit with the dogs, Collette suggested a lovely place called Tabarka. They specialize in Tapas. The chef is a Spaniard. The setting was lovely and the food delicious.
We also had a wonderful “catch up” lunch with John and Joan, the first couple we met in Ajijic the first year we came.
Last night we had a very special reunion at Los Telares Greg’s favourite Friday night place dinner place. We met Gonzolo and his wife and their two lovely daughters for dinner. Gonzolo started out as our rental agent the first year we were here but in true Mexican style adopted us and included us in a Sunday Family Fest that first year, a day neither of us will ever forget. We had lost contact information last year and the year before and hadn’t seen the family but through Lucia the head caretaker at The Ranch we were able to track him down. Daughter number two is a new addition since we saw them last and she is a real little character and had us laughing our heads off all evening long. The singer/guitar player at Los Telares was fantastic as always.
Other happenings include repairing and painting the car. I managed (somehow) to get a huge dent in the front bumper when we were still back home….that’s gone now along with the rust on the hatch door. Everything is all painted like new. It set us back 100. dollars. Greg finally got his new glasses. They are very John Lennonesque and I think they look great on him. Best of all though is the fact that they seem to be correctly done and he can see once again. Night reading was particularly daunting with prescription sun glasses that were two prescriptions past.
Next week it’s teeth cleaning and a hair appointment.
Donna and Douglas are up in California preparing their American home for selling. Lina is also in the States visiting her kids. Both will be back before our departure so we can say our goodbyes.
This week on Wednesday, Susy, the owner of the home we are in returns. We will spend two nights in a beautiful B and B we have always admired. Then another week in the centre of town looking after a dog for a friend of Susy’s in her home.
We are in no hurry to return to what we understand still includes some snow and blow. We have successfully applied for and been given one last house sit. It is in Walter White Land….Albuquerque New Mexico. We’ve always wanted to see Santa Fe and it’s only one hour away. The temperatures are somewhat cooler but there will be lots of hiking and exploring to do. We are looking after a 24 year old cat. Pray it doesn’t die on our watch.
We will leave here on March 20th and head for Arizona where we spend a little time with Ron and Bev We will get to hear first hand about their adventures in Mexico this past Winter. This year our paths didn’t cross here in Mexico but we look forward to seeing them in Arizona.
It’s been quite a while since writing in the blog. These are just a few recent highlights of Lynne and Greg’s latest excellent adventure.
Those were the headlines in all the Toronto newspapers the day before we were crossing the border from Laredo Texas for our 2 day drive to Ajijic Mexico – the town where the two were murdered. We were hit immediately by a double edged sword.
Between living here for a year and a half and a lot of other winter months, we’re spent a lot of time over the last 4 or 5 years here. We feel as safe here as we do anywhere. You have to have a few ‘street smarts’ anywhere these days. I must admit that, I feel a bit nervous for the first hour after we cross the border heading south. Truth be known, although the border is where the most drug violence takes place, Drug Lords don’t want the extra heat that murdered gringos brings down on then, but, I think there is just a bit more of a chance of getting hit by s stray bullet along the border than anywhere else we travel.
We always spend the night in Laredo Texas when we’re heading down here. We do our last minute shopping there where we can buy familiar foods at regular, not imported prices. We finalize our car insurance and, no matter how hard we try, there are always a few last minute details we need to look after. We grab a room in fairly standard US hotel and get our butts up early so that we can cross the border bright and early. We figure that no self respecting drug lord gets up before 11:00 am!
It was the night before we crossed that we got emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from just about everyone we know telling us about the murder, telling us to be careful and telling us they were worried about us. That brings us back to that double edges sword thing.
On one hand, it’s great to know that so many people care. On the other hand, it would have been a lot easier on our nerves if everyone had waited a day or two. All those messages sure tuned up our nerves for our night before the crossing. I don’t think either of us got the best sleep ever that night.
In case you didn’t read the original story, here’s a link to the original report.
We got to town here after a beautiful, uneventful 1100k drive. The only thing that happened to us was that the sun came out, the temperatures rose to the 80’s, and we drove through some beautiful country side and into the mountains.
It took us all of 2 hours to get the story from down here. The basic facts written about the couple were correct. The initial published story made it sound alike a random murder though.
The part of the story that was missing was that there was a construction site beside these folks house. I’m not sure if an old house was being knocked down or if a new house was being build on a vacant lot but, apparently there were a couple of Mexican labourers staying on the site. It’s not an uncommon occurrence here that the labor families practically move into the site while the work goes on. (It takes a LONG TIME for a house to get built here!)
The two guys were making too much noise for the woman’s liking. Rather than taking over a couple of beers and asking them to keep it down, she apparently took to yelling and screaming at them. That’s the wrong approach in most places and most certainly here. They lowered the noise for a bit but, turned it back up shortly afterwards. I think this went on for a couple of days until the women went to the La Floresta (Rosedale of Ajijic) folks and complained. The guys were fired. They’d seen the women take a nice new big TV into the house a few days earlier. They broke into the house at 2:00am on e morning to steal the TV. The couple were still awake and could identify they burglars so, in a stupid attempt to protect themselves, they murdered the couple. I think the fact that they took I’m out quickly but let her bleed out tells a bit of a story of it’s own.
It’s not a nice story but, somehow, knowing the facts feels better knowing there was a dumb reason for the killing and that there weren’t just a band of bandits running wild on the town. The police / army forces that descended on the town was fast and numerous. We’ve been told that every level of security forces was here, helicopters flying overhead and some big shot from the government came to town to address the nervous townsfolk.
I was told recently that there have been 17 Gringos murdered here over the last number of years. The full total was 34 I think but, suicide, spousal murder and drunk guys falling over balconies don’t count. There were 598 homicides in Canada in 2011
The worry about “Murders in Mexico” makes me laugh. I always want to answer with, OMG, better not go to the United States, there was a murder in New Orleans. It really does make me realize how much we are manipulated but sensational headlines.
The bottom line from all of this for us is . . . . . thanks for caring guys. We love you all too.