Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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.


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.


Bye San Sebastian

Well, one week left in San Sebastian, Spain, and it’s hard to leave.

We love it here, and I could easily move here. I’m not sure I can say that about any other city. Yes, Samantha, I know you told me I’d love it, and you were so right. All the places we have lived have offered amazing experiences, but San Sebastian has a little extra magic.

In these last days, we are getting in a bit more hiking and visiting a few our favorite spots.

Next up is a three-month visit to the States. We will be in Brooklyn and Albany for December, and Philadelphia for February. Albany and Philadelphia are housesitting near the grandkids. I don’t really like the winter temperatures anymore, so we’ll thaw a little in Gulf Shores, Al for January. (thank you, Kristin, for the condo!)

My policy has been to not blog when we visit family, so look for my next blog mid-February from Venasque, France. We are returning to care for the spitfire Jack Russell, Lolly.

Meanwhile, here’s another quick look at San Sebastian, Spain.

Until Later.

Sadly, my cart stays here, but I’m sure I’ll have another.


The Market and Perseverance

One of my favorite pastimes is finding the local open-air markets in a new city.

A quick search on the internet brings up “Mercado Itinerante de Productores.” The site describes a market with only locally grown fruits & veggies as well as cheeses, breads, and other goodies. It sounds like a Jane place.

It’s a Saturday market that changes location each week. Our first Saturday here, I headed out to Plaza Easo with my new cart (more on the cart later). It was a perfect excuse to navigate the city with a destination in mind. The route took me along the River Urumea, through some posh neighborhoods which opened up to the lovely Plaza Easo.

But NO market.

I knew my mistake instantly. This was the second Saturday of the month, not the first, classic Jane mistake; reading something too quickly.

One little mistake isn’t going to stop me from finding the Mercado Itinerante de Productores. I pull out my phone, get online and find the location for the second Saturday of the month. I enter the plaza into Google Maps and I’m pleased to see that this plaza is on my way home.

Dutifully, I follow my directions which take me to a street with only apartments. No plaza. I decide I must have made a wrong turn and wander around the area looking for the market. About now I’m thinking this market has an invisibility cloaking device and then I have another aha moment. I bet it’s in another town.

Sitting on a bench in the shade, I get back online, and yep, this week it’s in another town. There’ll be no Mercado Itinerante de Productores today. Next week it is.

The third Saturday of the month arrives and with a spring in my step, I’m off to the market. I get to the street and… no market. Now I’m sure there’s a cloaking device. Where is this frickin’ market?

Oh, vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. Once again, I find a bench in the shade, pull out my phone, check the website and I read, “Penultimate Saturday of the Month.” I thought perhaps this is the name of another town, but I’m also confused because Gros, our neighborhood, is listed as the location.

“What does penultimate mean? It can’t be a town.” A quick bit of research and it means … the second to the last. The market is the second to the last Saturday of the month. There are five Saturdays this September, so NO market, it’s next week.

I regroup, collecting that spring in my step, explore Old Town, and enjoyed a few pintxos along the way.

So, on the penultimate Saturday of the month, I finally experienced the Mercado Itinerante de Productores in Gros.  I bought a tasty local honey and a few other products. I now know the secret to the magical cloaking device and will return to Plaza Easo on the first Saturday in the month of October. That will be Oct. 6th, right?

As for my new cart, I have officially become a cart lady. I walk the streets of San Sebastian with my fashionable black cart in tow. I just got tired of lugging groceries. Having a cart is “a thing “ here.  Most women, young and old use carts. I’ve even seen a few men pushing one. My new cart might just be partly responsible for that spring in my step, especially on a trek home loaded with groceries.

Until Later.


First Few Weeks in San Sebastian

Almost three weeks in San Sebastian, Spain and I’m in love. She’s a city that instantly welcomes. The wide tiled sidewalks, and the tree-lined streets shading me from the heat of the sun, inspire me to keep exploring. It’s definitely a place to spend some time.

Every few blocks, there’s green space, often with a playground. Smiling people rest on the benches absorbed in conversations. Sometimes, I take a seat just to take in the positive vibes. It’s a happy culture.

Small markets dot the street every few blocks. Fruits and vegetables on display outside the stores draw me in to search the shelves filled with jars of beans, bottles of wine, cheeses and fresh breads for something new to try. I haven’t found a favorite and I’m not sure I will. They all feel special.   

And the hiking… In 20 minutes, we walk through a mountainside neighborhood and are on the trails that wind through the forest, often with views of the crashing waves of the Atlantic coast. Bob says it reminds him of Big Sur in California. Part of the hiking is on El Camino de Santiago. I can now say, I’ve been on the pilgrimage, but not really, just 20 minutes of it. People hiking El Camino for “real” attach a shell on their backpacks that identifies them. I have great respect for their challenge.  I could hike these trails for the rest of our stay here. Nature is within minutes of our apartment.

San Sebastian is known for the pintxos bars. Every day the bars offer a display of tasty bite-size savory treats. I’m getting quite good at ordering pintxos. I study, guess, and sometimes know what I’m ordering. Perhaps a tuna salad or an anchovy and goat cheese drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar on top of crusty bread. So far, I’ve enjoyed each and every one. The barkeeps have been patient and kind as I learn to navigate the pintxos scene.

And the ocean… the beaches… A 10-minute walk and I’m at the beach. It’s a great surfer scene. When walking around town, a surfer can step out of an apartment building, wetsuit peeled to the waist, barefooted, carrying a surfboard on the way to the beach. The surf’s up and they’re on their way to catch it. For me, a towel in the sand, a dip in the ocean, and a good book are all I need. I’m trying to take full advantage of the ocean before the temperature drops.

As I said, I’m in love with this city. In the coming weeks, I will learn more of her secrets and can’t wait to share.

PS – I have received a few comments that there were no pictures of me in the last blog. Seriously, I had no pictures of me. I’m always behind the camera. Bob and I took note and are taking more pictures of me. This blog has a few more than normal to make up for the last blog.

Until later.