Sunday, October 23, 2016

A step back in time...castles, castles, and more castles

King Doug
I'm really a Renaissance woman at heart
 Last weekend we took Friday off and went to see the Chateaux de La Loire river valley for three days with our friends Doug and Pauline Todd. Absolutely amazing!
"Why won't they share with me?"

We saw seven castles, including Leonardo Da Vinci's home where he spent the last three years of his life. Pictures tell the story best, so here you go:



Gorgoyles galore!

Glad someone (or something) is looking over the manicured gardens at Villandry:
The interiors of the castles were often as impressive as the outsides. 
Walls and walls of incredible tapestries--beautiful works of art that also served to help keep the castles warm


The abundance of orchids was incredible--this one is 50 years old
My knight in shining armour

Please join us for dinner!
Arrangement made with fresh vegetables

I was especially enamored of Leonardo da Vinci's chateau. He spent the last three years of his life here 500 years ago when the king of France invited him to move here from Italy. IBM undertook a project to convert his drawings and plans into actual models: a drawbridge, parachute, airplane, helicopter, car, and catapult are a few of his inventions. Roaming through his study and seeing his drawings, paintings, and quotes on the walls felt like being in sacred space to me.  
His actual notebooks and sketches of segments of his paintings.
Legend is that King Francis I of France was with him when he died in this bed. His last words were reported to have been: 
See original image

It makes me wonder if anyone is ever satisfied with what they accomplished in their life.
And now, "Adieu," from our castle to yours.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Things we are enjoying getting accustomed to (and others...uhmm, not so much). PART 2

So, PART 2--the things I have not really enjoyed getting accustomed to. It was with a grateful heart that I posted my last post; and, believe me, I am beyond grateful for the blessing of being here. And this post, by no means, contradicts any of that. It's just that sometimes I need to vent my frustration--mostly at not being able to speak or understand French. I take full responsibility for that, of course. And I understand more French every day--I wish I could say that about my speaking ability.

So, here we go.

One of the hardest things for me is shopping and cooking. I mean, look at this:

Even with limited French, anyone can see that the package on the left translates to "Cream Fresh" or fresh cream. The package on the right is clearly "Powdered Sugar." Right? WRONG! The Creme Fraiche is actually sour cream and the powdered sugar is good old regular granulated sugar. Who would know? Just when something looks like it makes sense, it doesn't.

So, I've obviously bought the opposite products than I was hoping for more than I care to admit. I've also cleaned the toilet with oven cleaner (it did quite a nice job, actually) and made other similar faux pas.  Take rice for instance. I've cooked rice all my life with great success. Here there was a package of rice in the cupboard and it said that the rice cooks in 10 minutes. I've never used converted rice before, but figured that's what I had here. So I looked on the back of the package to look for readable (for me) clues that would tell me how much water to use for the rice. While 1 liter of water seemed like a lot for a little package of rice, I confirmed with Doug that it did, indeed, say to use 1 liter of water. So I did. An hour later, the water was absorbed and I had the biggest pan of thick white paste that would have made a great advertisement for Elmer's Glue. What a mess. I dug the package out of the garbage can and showed it to Doug to prove that I had "read" it correctly. The joke was again on me--I really was supposed to use 1 liter of water but that was just to bring to a boil before dropping the whole little brown bag (bag and all) into the boiling water, cooking for ten minutes, removing the bag, cutting it open and pouring out perfectly cooked rice. Again, who knew?

Sometimes I think I just need to go to an xylem--at least there we can solve water. What the heck? I apparently don't even understand English any more.

A few other things that I really am miraculously getting accustomed to (and actually enjoying the process) are these:

  • The hot and cold water faucets are on opposite sides than I'm used to--usually. If there is a pattern on when the hot is on the left and the cold on the right, I can't figure it out. To add to the guessing game, one turns on by twisting away from you and the other by twisting toward you. It's always a guess--no consistency for the hot turning one way and the cold the other. Seems so inconvenient, wasteful, and time consuming to me. I'll let you know if I find a pattern--I'm sure you'll sleep better knowing, and I know I will.
  • Restaurants don't open for dinner until 7:00 p.m. Being "senior citizens," we would really like to have our supper in the early evening, please. Also, the French like to dine for a couple of hours so the waiters, waitresses, and cooks, really take their time. Sometimes we've waited 30 minutes to receive our check after asking for it.
  • A great thing about restaurants is that there is no tipping. Nice. A frustrating thing about restaurants is that you don't get ice in your water or butter for your baguette.
  • One of the first words I learned in French from Rosetta Stone (pre-mission) was "cheval." It means horse. I'm so grateful I learned that word, even though at the time I thought it silly to learn the word for horse. BUT, as I was looking for meat at the grocery store, I was glad to realize that the section of meat I was in was "cheval." That was a close call--getting granulated sugar when I wanted powdered is far better than getting horse meat when I wanted beef.
  • Speaking of grocery shopping, we love going to the outdoor markets for fruits and vegetables. But what really is frustrating to me is that you aren't allowed to touch it! The vendors pick out your items for you. They do a good job, I have to admit, but I'd just like to give that mango or peach a little soft touch test myself, if you know what I mean.
  • French manicures: they don't exist in France. In fact, I have yet to see a French woman here with her fingernails even painted. Just doesn't happen. By the way, I've never seen a French braid either.
  • It's illegal to do your laundry before 8 a.m. or after 10 p.m. as you "might disturb the neighbors." The washing machine takes 3 hours for one small load and the dryer almost an hour--so with working from 8 or so until 7, 8 or 9 or so, and also obeying the mission rule to never leave your apartment with the washer or dryer running, what are we to do? 
  • Going even 1 km per hour over the speed limit can be very expensive--we luckily haven't personally been picked up on the invisible radar, but many, many of our missionaries have. Seriously, there's no 7-10 mph grace given to anyone here. 
So really, just a few minor inconveniences that sometimes on especially stressful days seem bigger than they are. Deep breath, let it out slowly. After all, when in France...
                   Image result for when in france

And now that I've vented and with my frustrations waning, that's exactly what I am doing my best to do.
 Image result for joie de vivre

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Things we are enjoying getting accustomed to (and others...uhmmm, not so much). PART I

Like amazing gelato--we're definitely enjoying getting accustomed to that! They put all the flavors you would like in one cone. We chose raspberry, lime-basil, mango, stracciatella (chocolate chip), chocolate amorino, vanilla bourbon, noisette (hazelnut), and strawberry.

And, unbelievably, they scoop it so each scoop forms a petal of a beautiful rose in the cone vase:

Pictures just don't do it justice

As I've mentioned before (probably on several occasions), we are REALLY enjoying the pastries (as you can see from our growing girth in many of the posts). Here is yet another bakery excursion:

Just simply unbelievable in taste AND presentation. The French are truly pastry and bread artists.
I'm afraid I'm getting too used to the beautiful architecture--it's everywhere we go and everywhere we look. It's phenomenal and I want to always be awestruck by it.

The cathedrals, of course, are breathtaking--both outside and in.

Even unknowingly walking down little streets in little villages holds wondrous surprises:


It seems I often find the best visual treasures by looking up. I have to not worry so much about misstepping on the cobblestone streets and lift my head toward heaven (a lesson I've been taught all my life and am still working on).

Notice the big watering can hanging from the tree :)

We are gratefully surrounded by beauty...

...and beautiful friends in beautiful places!