Sunday, June 29

Postcard From France - Back in Paris

On Friday we returned to Paris. Transitioning through train stations and subways with all our gear was not easy. We are in a different apartment - 106 Rue d'Assas - on the other side of Luxembourg Gardens, in the 6th. It is nicer than we expected. We went to the grocery store and stocked up on some essentials for the week. We made a simple dinner at home and settled into our comfy beds. The French seem to really have a wonderful appreciation of fine bedding and wonderful quality linens.
On Saturday we ventured out toward the Eiffel Tower. We spent some time in the Champs-de-Mar and Henry got to ride a pedal-powered go-cart and ride a donkey at the base of the Eiffel Tower. I have been using CLOTILDE'S EDIBLE ADVENTURES IN PARIS as my food bible of places to go. I was excited to finally try some "salted butter caramel" ice cream at Martine Lambert. Meghan was wonderful enough to offer to babysit Henry on her last night in Paris. We are very sad to see her go. Our trip would not have been a vacation without her. Thank you Meghan. We love you more than you can imagine!

Saturday, June 28

Postcard from Burgundy VI: Our last day in Beaune

We wanted to do something special for our bike and walking guide Florent Leroux. We learned that he was celebrating his 40th birthday so we asked if he would have a glass of wine with us. It was clear that Florent is no stranger to the best wine and food and Burgundy so we wanted to get something really special. We strolled through Beaune looking for the perfect bottle. We finally came upon a shop with a very helpful English speaker. He was quick to point out a very rare and special bottle of port from 1968 - Florent's birth year. Wow... How can we beat that?! Florent joined us at the apartment and we celebrated over this very unique 40-year old wine. Later Abby and Meghan joined us for Kir Royals - my new favorite apertif!

Thursday, June 26

Postcard from Burgundy V: Burgundy on foot

Tyler and I returned from our 3-night "on foot" adventure yesterday. On the whole it was great. The walking was very beautiful. It was much more challenging than we anticipated. It was HOT and the sun was mighty intense. We didn't realize how heavy our packs would be... we didn't realize we would go over so many hills and travel on narrow footpaths... we didn't think about missing trail markers and getting a bit lost.... Mostly, we thought every village would have at least a small store and restaurant. We were wrong! 
Day #1 Beaune to Puligny-Montrachet
Splurge night at La Maison d'Olivier LeFlaive 
We walked about 10 miles... flat and easy. The challenge was time. We didn't leave Beaune until 4:30 PM. We arrived by 8 PM. We had a shower and then indulged in the special tapas menu.
Day #2 Puligny-Montrachet to Saint Romain
This was a very challenging day. We walked about 12 miles through steep hills and rugged little footpaths. It took us 5-6 hours before we finally arrived in Saint Romain. We were hot, thirsty and exhausted. We were shocked and horrified to learn that the one restaurant in town was CLOSED (on Mondays and Tuesdays). There was no store, no bar, no bakery... NOTHING!
We found our B&B Domain Corgette. The owner had left a note that she had an emergency and had to leave until 6 PM. She left the key so we were able to get into our room. I raided the house looking for a cold drink... ANYTHING! All I could find was milk, butter, yogurt, and confiture (jam). By amazing luck, we passed a school on the way to the B&B. We saw a teacher and children playing in the schoolyard. We called the teacher over to ask if he knew of any place for us to get a cold drink. Fortunately he spoke English. He was able to see that we were in a bad situation. He told us to come back to the school at 7 PM. He said that the kids were doing a special little concert and there would be beer. Our inn keeper returned around 6 PM and informed us that we didn't have any options other than taking a taxi to Beaune for dinner, so we went to the concert... hoping. Sure enough it was a charming evening. Elementary-aged children from three villages played the drums and sang sweet little French songs. At 7:30 there was an intermission and cold refreshments were served. We bought SEVEN beers (one for the kind teacher who invited us). It still didn't look like we would be able to get any dinner. The kind and generous teacher Ivan told us that we should stay until the end of the concert. He explained that all of the families have brought food (and wine) for a "potluck" (not his word).  We are so glad that we did. Word started to spread among the French families as to who we were and why we were there. There was an outpouring of kindness and generosity. Most of the families did not speak English, but we tried our best to communicate. People were filling our plates and pouring wine in our glass. We finally met a lovely mom named Sophie. Her English was great and she took us under her wing. We ended up having the best evening on our trip. We stayed until after 11 and walked home rather full and intoxicated. It was an evening that we won't forget.
Day #3 Saint-Romain to Meloisey
This was our shortest walk... maybe only 3-4 miles, but we still had a few good climbs. We were happy to get into Meloisey by 1 PM... We were ready to rest and relax at our B&B Marie Calou. As you might have noticed from the link, everything is in French. Our lovely host, Marie Helene, did not speak any English. Really... NOTHING!!. We tried our best to speak some French to her and NOTHING... she didn't seem to understand us. We had a complete communication failure. Our concern was Meloisey also had no restaurant, store or bakery. We needed Marie Calou to make us dinner and we couldn't seem to understand if she would. She was kind enough to wash our very stinky clothes... Finally at 4 PM I mustered up the courage to tell her that we were thirsty (J'ai soif) and we would like a cold drink (Je voudrais boissson froid). Hooray... she understood and gave me a coke and an orangina. She gave us glasses, but no ice. I wasn't about to try and ask for that. I don't know the word for "ice". We were thrilled to have these cool drinks by the pool. Oh yes... her property was delightful with a really nice pool. At 7 PM we went into the dining room. She continued to try and explain something. We finally realized that she was telling us that she had other dinner plans. She offered us wine, bread, cheese and a charcuterie platter.  We had not eaten since breakfast. We were so hungry. It was all wonderful.
Day #4 Meloisey to Beaune
This would have been probably the longest and most difficult walk. We decided that we were not up for it. We were eager to return to Beaune by noon, so we managed to get a ride from Marie Calou. Perhaps our communication improved slightly, but we still had no idea what she was saying. It was very kind of her to drive us to town.

Monday, June 23

Postcard from Burgundy IV: Multiply by Four

Yesterday we rented a car and toured around the countryside. We rode on a great little steam engine. It was the real thing... coal, water, fireman, flagger. The Thomas stories came to life!
I feel like by blog posts seem a bit biased about how wonderful this place is. I really don't want to sugar-coat our trip too much. Believe me... it is really incredible, but traveling with a 4-year old has its moments. Each of us melts down at least once a day. We move at a snails pace... for each hour, we should allow four hours. The other downside is cost. This country is EXPENSIVE. We are burning through Euros at an incredible pace. Again, for every dollar we budgeted for, we are probably spending 4! Meghan and Abby will return this afternoon from Nice and Tyler and I will set out on foot for a 3-night adventure to the south of Beaune. I'll post again in a few days.

Saturday, June 21

Postcard from Burgundy III: Speedo Required

It was a warm and sunny day, so we ventured to the Beaune swimming pool. We learned a funny thing about French public pools... Bermuda-style swim trunks are not allowed. Boys and men can only swim in Speedo-style swim trunks. They actually have a vending machine with speedos! It was a great pool and a fun afternoon. It will be interesting to see if Tyler and Henry continue to sport their new swimsuits in Portland! Here are some more photos from today.

Postcard from Burgundy II: Saturday Market

It was a perfect sunny morning. I woke up at 7:30 AM and snuck out while Tyler and Henry were still asleep. I walked into the village and had a cafe au lait. I continued on to the center of town to explore the fabulous Beaune Saturday Market. It was so much fun to take my time and slowly explore every nook. There were all kinds of plants, spices, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, olives, roasted chickens, linens, clothing, toys... you name it. It was a cross between a green market and NYC street fair. I purchased a perfect market basket and some goods for our apartment.  Tonight we had a fabulous dinner of Dijon rubbed chicken, roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus and a salad of cucumber and cherry tomato. Of course, we enjoyed a local Burgundy with it! For lunch we had olives, goat cheese, melon and baguette. The French are quite passionate about food. I can see why!

Friday, June 20

Postcard from Burgundy I

On Tuesday we took the train from Paris to Beaune. Beaune is a charming village in the Cote d'Or wine country. Beaune is much larger than we expected (pop. 25,000). It is a propserous and popular resort town. There are tons of charming shops and restaurants, a fabulous park, wonderful stone walls and paths and ancient buildings. I really love it here! The apartment really exceeded our expectations. It is so pretty and comfortable. Henry seems very happy and is adjusting well to this new environment. Tyler and I just returned from a 2-night bike tour through the vineyards north of Beaune. We were lucky enough to find the best bike shop in Beaune. Florent (the owner) was AMAZING!!! He set us up with two great bikes, helmets, locks, bike bags, and a perfect itinerary. He also told us to go to the store, buy this specific kind of cheese, and he arranged for us to have a special wine tasting and picnic on our journey. He also arranged our lodging in a castle-like B&B where we were welcomed by a 91 year-old countess. She was delightful, with wonderful stories to share. We enjoyed our first Kir Royale (Creme de Cassis with Brut Sparkling Wine). It was a mightly tasty cocktail! Cassis (black current) is a prized product of this region. We also rode our bikes to a hilltop strawberry field where we were able to pick strawberries for our picnic. We returned to Beaune today and Meghan and her sister, Abby, set off on a 3-night trip to Nice in the South of France. Tyler and I will enjoy Beaune with Henry while they are away. It is really wonderful here (Did I mention that?). It feels much more like a vacation than Paris. Here is a link to some more photos.

Sunday, June 15

Postcard From Paris

It has taken seven years of dreaming, over 300,000 frequent flyer miles, booking our airline tickets eleven months ago, and many months of research and planning. We are really here!
Our Friday the 13th flight was smooth and uneventful. Henry was a fantastic traveller. Henry and I were absolutely indulged and pampered in first class. Wow... How can I ever go back to coach?! Henry told me, "I have never flown first class before". I tried to explain that it was a very special thing and we were very lucky. On the flight to Paris we were offered champagne, warm nuts, wine, many dinner options, hot fudge sundaes, after dinner cocktails, chocolates, etc. It was pretty extraordinary. It got even better when we were provided with Bose noise-canceling headsets. Did I mention that our seats fully reclined flat into beds?!
Wow... It was quite nice!
I must admit, even with all that pampering it was hard to be on a plane for 10 hours. We finally arrived at Charles DeGalle around 10 AM Paris time (1 AM in PDX). Getting through customs and through the airport was a bit overwhelming to our travel-weary bodies. We managed to purchase tickets for the train to Paris and finally arrived at our apartment shortly after Noon. In total it was about 17 hours of travel and we only had a few hours of sleep. As you might imagine we spent most of the day trying to nap and recover.
The weather has been a pleasant mix of Sun and clouds with comfortable temperatures. Our apartment is quite lovely. We are speaking some French, but it does not come easily.
Henry slept until 1 PM on Sunday. Our babysitter Meghan and her sister Abby found a lovely studio apartment in the Latin Quarter. They have been having fun enjoying the city. Today they spent the afternoon with Henry and I escorted Tyler across town for a special Father's Day massage at Holistic Paris. We had a wonderful long walk through Montmartre and across the city. We walked for nearly 5 hours. We had amazing gelato to keep us going. I had yogurt and mango flavors and Tyler had white chocolate. It was really good! Since Henry slept until 1 PM we decided to keep him out until 10 PM. We took an evening river cruise on the Seine. Amazingly it doesn't get dark until 10:30 so we didn't get to enjoy the city lit up.
Overall we are well and happy. I hope to post some nice photos soon. So far I haven't taken any winners.

Friday, June 6

A Magical Portland Night!

Tonight was one of those magical Portland nights. As a birthday present and celebration of my husband's official sabbatical kick-off, we purchased tickets to the patron reception for FundFest 2008 at the Crystal Ballroom. We walked downtown and enjoyed lovely pink martini cocktails while Thomas Lauderdale (of Pink Martini) performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue. I was blown away. What an amazing piece of music. If you don't know it, take a moment to listen to this video clip with Leonard Bernstein at the piano.

Tuesday, June 3

Who's in Rabbit's House?

My son made his theatrical debut today in his preschool's production of Who's in Rabbit's House? A Masai tale in which the frog gets the job of getting a monster out of the rabbit's house after the leopard, elephant, and rhino bungle the job.

Our son played the monster "the long one" (along with several other classmates). His lines were:

It was a delightful production and the kids were fantastic!

Monday, June 2

Happy Birthday!

Henry's 4th Birthday, originally uploaded by thewelts.

It has been a week of various festivities and celebrations for my son's 4th birthday. It all culminated with a fun party at Kruger's Farm on Sauvie Island. Friends joined us for a tractor ride and visit to the strawberry patch. This year my son told me that he did not want cupcakes. He told me that he wanted a cake ("shaped like a truck, with real wheels, and it can drive").

I found a pan that fit perfectly in the dumper. I iced the cake with chocolate "mud" frosting and topped it off with brownie "dirt" chunks. The gummy worms were a huge hit. I think I pulled it off!