Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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Springtime in Paris

Our Arrival…

We said au revoir to Venasque April 4th and took the fast train from Avignon to Paris. Our seats were on the second level of the train and we relaxed watching the French countryside pass by. “I’m not on Amtrak anymore,” was all I could think. This train was modern, clean and fast. It’s sweet.

Two and a half hours later, we arrived in Paris. Our next step was to find the metro and catch the 1 line. Naturally, we needed subway tickets, and since we are in Paris for the month, I made the executive decision to buy unlimited passes.  

The woman at the service desk oozed kindness, debunking the rude Parisian stereotype, and explained how to prepare our passes. We’d need to sign the cards and get photos to tape on the cards. I’m thinking, “great, we can figure all that out tomorrow,” and we’re off to the turnstile to catch the metro.

I scan my card, the gate opens (think the beginning of a horse race) and I plow through with my large black duffle in tow. I get through, but my duffle does not. The gate closes and my duffle is trapped. Bob is on the other side with his duffle and guitar wondering what is going on.

I’m pulling, pushing, laughing and attempting to problem solve this one. A tall Frenchman walks to my gate and I wave him off, explaining in English, “I can’t get out. I’m stuck, so use another gate.” I have no idea if he understood me, yet he knew exactly what to do. He waved his Metrocard over the reader, my gate opened, and with one easy pull, my duffle was free. The Frenchman smiled, walked through following my duffle and I said, “Merci, merci, merci,” with a namaste bow. I’m free and now for Bob.

Having watched my less-than-graceful attempt to navigate these gates, Bob was a bit more cautious. There was no way he was getting through those skinny gates with a duffle and a guitar. Wisely he returned to the service window, used his proficient French and learned where to enter with a wide load. We are on our way. So we thought…

The metro arrives quickly, and we are zipping along toward Neuilly, our neighborhood. All good. We get off the train and head to the escalator to go above ground when we are stopped at a checkpoint. They ask to see our tickets and we produce our unsigned, photoless passes and the woman says, “Wait here. You need to speak with my manager.” Ugh.

The manager asks when we bought the passes. I explain about 20 minutes ago and that we have just arrived in Paris. We have not had a chance to sign our passed or get photos. He asks for our receipts.

Shit, where did I put the receipts? Did I even keep the receipts? The kind woman at the original service desk sold the passes as two separate transactions (why I don’t know). I find one receipt in my wallet, show it to him and then he says, “This is only for one pass. Where is the other receipt?” I look him right in the eyes, and say,  “I have no idea.” I start to dig.

My duffle has an outside pocket where I stuff last minute stuff, so I open it up, and voilà, the other receipt is sitting on top of two maps of Paris that were included with the second purchase.

We received a small reprimand for not having photos, and we were off to our Airbnb.

So, the next day we find a Woolworth style photo booth. We sit down on the stool, push some buttons and for 5 euro each we have pictures for our passes. We are ready to explore and yes, the receipts will be in my wallet until we leave Paris.

Exploring Paris…

Since the purchase of our Metro passes, we’ve taken total advantage, traveling all over Paris to see the sites. It’s spring. The trees are leafing out, the tulips and daffodils are in bloom and the grass is green. The temperature climbs as the weeks pass. When we arrived, it was in the 50s and now for our last week, it will be in the 70s. No complaints here.

Notre Dame, the Rodin Museum and garden, The Marmottan Monet Museum, and the Eiffel Tower were a few of our first stops. We jump on the Metro with a destination in mind, visit the site, and then explore the neighborhood, often stopping for a light lunch and a glass of wine. It’s a great way to just soak up the Parisian scene.

Paris has everything, including friends from our past. We met up with Kaye and Tom, who just happened to be in Paris at the same time as us.  We met them in our first year of travel in Cuenca, Ecuador where they were escaping the cold of Upper Michigan. I couldn’t believe that we were all in Paris at the same time.  We shared a Parisian lunch at Le Balzar Brasserie. Perhaps we will meet again somewhere else in the world!

Neuilly, where we are housesitting, is a gorgeous suburb of Paris. Rio, the dog, is our new best friend and he helps us explore our new neighborhood.  Its wide sidewalks, gorgeous gardens, and churches make it the ideal dog walking scene. He has ideas on which turn to take, and I have ideas, and most often we agree. He’s a fun one to hang out with.

We have a few days left in Paris and I’m planning to visit a few more museums. On Saturday we fly to Mijas, Spain for the month of May.


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Notre Dame

I write this blog with sorrow and with great hope.

Notre Dame burned on the evening of April 15th. The world mourns the tragedy at Notre Dame. It is not a total loss. The roof and the spire are gone, but the walls and the bell towers remain.

The quick thinking of the French fire department saved many precious artifacts, and the venerable pipe organ survived.

I went to this iconic cathedral the next day. Hundreds of people gathered. An eerie quiet fell on the scene with only whispers when needed. The respectful silence reflected the love of Notre Dame.

The city, the county, and the world can feel hope.

Next week, a blog with a different mood sharing our adventures in Paris.


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A Return to Venasque, France

In December, January and February we were in the US visiting family and friends. Lots of laughs and more memories created and I’m grateful for all.

This March we returned to Venasque, France for a  housesit with Lolly, our favorite Jack Russell Terrier. She’s a happy spirit and makes me smile many times each day.

Venasque is a quiet village atop a mesa in the Provence region. We are here on the offseason, so it’s fair to call it sleepy. One bakery and one small grocery shop that sells the basics is all that’s open and only for limited hours. There is a post office too. Since we arrived, one shop/cafe has opened and I’m taking complete advantage of it. In fact, this blog was started there.

The woman at the bakery is very patient with my lack of French and speaks slowly, attempting to teach me a little French. I go once or twice a week for some fine bread and maybe a tasty sweet.

Most of our time is spent walking with Lolly, a little gardening, hiking, and traveling to the nearby villages for bigger grocery stores. A giant THANKS to Dan for taking me shopping on Tuesday and Thursdays. I love the adventures and the many stories we have shared.

Lolly and I walk every morning. She lets me know when it’s time to go. First, she sits up perfectly straight, directly in front of me with a loving yet determined stare. I do my best to ignore her as I enjoy my last sips of coffee, but when she walks over and puts her white and brown head on my leg, I know it’s time.

At this point, I go upstairs and dress for the walk. She follows me every step of the way making sure I know it’s time for the walk.

I have two favorite walks. One takes us through a cherry orchard and the other into the rocky cliffs. Every hike offers spectacular views. I know they are coming, and yet I’m still surprised by their beauty each time I turn a corner. Mountains, rock formations, and distant villages are everywhere.

Lolly’s favorite part of any walk is when she is off lead. She sprints, sniffs and smiles, enjoying the freedom.  She runs ahead exploring and taking in all the new smells. She’s a lucky dog.

Oh, and the weather. All I need to say is that it’s strawberry season and they are the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten. Yummy!

Venasque’s laid-back scene allows time to us to regroup and immerse in nature. It’s the perfect balance as we leave for a month in Paris tomorrow.