Friday, April 20, 2012

Back in the USA

We arrived home yesterday about 3 pm and have been quite busy since.  I have the laundry done, mail tended to and Ted has been to the grocery and bank.  That means that shortly I will be able to sort through the pictures to put them on the blog.  For now I'll let you know that I will start with our time in Nice on the French Riviera!  So beautiful - sunny and warm.  From there we traveled by bus to Arles, home of Vincent Van Gogh in 1888, visting many familiar scenes he painted that are Masterpieces today. 

In Arles we boarded our ship and traveled for the next week on to Avignon, home of the "French Popes" in the 14th century.  It was Easter Sunday and we attended Mass in the Cathedral next to the Pope's Palace which we didn't get to tour because of leaving the group for that hour.

Then on to Viviers, a river town that is being turned back in time by restoring its buildings to their original form several hundred years ago.  The views were marvelous and the most beautiful wisteria vines were blooming.  We spent the night docked in Tournon but didn't go into that city.

Our next big town was Lyon (pronounced Lee-Own).  I was under the weather the first day and missed the tour but was able to rejoin them the second day.  Lyon was very important to the Romans because of its size and proximity to the Rhone River.  Silk is a major production and I bought a hand painted silk scarf signed by the artist.

During the two weeks, we traveled the French countryside through the Provence, Burgundy and Beaujolais wine areas with one stop at a family winery.  Their vines are kept shorter than those I've seen in the U.S.  They claim it makes a more concentrated taste in the grape!  We saw beautiful chartreuse fields of canola, of all things.  I never really thought about where canola oil comes from and now I know!

Another large city was Macon (pronounced Mah-Cone).   I told our director it looked a lot like Macon back home in Georgia!  This is where the Soane and Rhone Rivers join together with the Seine coming in just north of this confluence.  When we left our ship we stopped in Beaune for lunch and a visit before arriving at our first hotel in Paris.  From there we visited Versailles Palace and Giverny, home of Claude Monet (where I bought another silk scarf with his water lilies on it and the name Monet).

Our last three days we moved to a different hotel on our own and spent time in Normandy from Utah Beach to Caen, the major offense area during D-Day.  The fellows loved this trip, especially the history buffs.  Our last day we visited Napoleon's Tomb and the World Wars museum in Paris.

We were apprehensive because of all the stories we've heard about the French people but I'm happy to report we had absolutely no problem the entire two weeks.  Everyone was as pleasant and helpful as they could be.  The hotel clerk helped me on a French genealogy site and I learned four people named Boudot were taken to the guillotine!  Now I have to study up on my French to see just what information I have on this site.

I've had so many people tell me there is too much here in the US to see to bother traveling abroad.  I've been to 46 of the 50 states, never having been to North Dakota, Nebraska, Vermont and New Hampshire.  But I've been to South Dakota, in Iowa across the river from Nebraska and in Montreal just north of VT and NH so I have been in those areas.  None of what you see here is anything like the experience of a European vacation. 

My biggest regret?  That we don't have metros and trains to take us all over.  It would make traveling to Austin, Galveston, San Antonio, Dallas just a day trip away.  And once you arrive, there would be more trains to take you where you wanted to go. The systems are all clean, safe and run like a clock.  I loved getting around Paris on our own using these routes.

A few things are still calling my name.  Next time I'll have some pictures and we'll do this a few days at a time. 

Since it is before 4 pm, I'll wish you Bonjour!

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