Carcassonne: A Photo Essay

Last post in this series was Driving the coast road

Carcassonne lies about 120 kms northeast of our home base of St-Andre, south of Perpignan.  Consisting today of La Cité, the oldest part, and the Ville Basse or Lower Town, the history of the site rolls back over two thousand years.

Carcassonne was first identified as being strategically important in 100 BC and was fortified by the Romans. In the 13th century, the Cité was a major Cathar stronghold. Continue reading “Carcassonne: A Photo Essay”

Five Minute Friday: Opportunity

Around here we write for five minutes flat on Fridays.  We write because we love words and the relief it is to just write them without worrying if they’re just right or not. So we take five minutes on Friday and write like we used to run when we were kids.

We write with gusto, unselfconscious and flat-out.  Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

My Five Minute Friday on Tuesday:  Life’s Ways Continue reading “Five Minute Friday: Opportunity”

Driving the coast road

Previous post: Central France – St. Enemie and other gems.

Sunday was a day of rest – a leisurely rise, croissants for breakfast, coffee on the terrasse with our view to the Pyrenees, warm October sun in the south of France.  For us it doesn’t get much better.

N &B went off on foot to explore our somewhat uninspired little village of St-André while I received a refresher course on driving a standard, something I hadn’t done in over 10 years.   I hoped to get behind the wheel at least briefly just for the experience.  This went quite well and we learned something about our rental – when one squirts to clean the windshield, the windows automatically go up.  Presumably sensors detect the ‘squirt’ and read ‘rain’ and send a message to the windows to close.  This ‘smart-ass’ feature of our car caused some embarassment. Continue reading “Driving the coast road”

Mum’s Bundle of Joy

win badgeIt was a winter Friday when I was born.   I stayed in the hospital with Mum for two weeks while she recovered from her birthing experience.  Later, as a grown up and mother of three who only got 48 hours to recover, I thought that was a bit excessive.  My mother stayed in the hospital longer recovering from me than she did recovering from the open heart surgery she had 47 years later.  My own daughter only stayed in the hospital about 5 hours after she gave birth.   Give it another generation and we will have come full circle and parents-to-be will just forego the trek to the hospital and be birthing babies at home again.

On examination after delivery the doctor announced that Continue reading “Mum’s Bundle of Joy”

Central France – St. Enemie and other Gems

Previous post – Renting in Europe

So our French home-away-from-home was in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, snuggled up to the Mediterranean and the Spanish border.  Poor us.  To get there we would have to drive down through central France.

Due to full flights we flew into Charles De Gaulle  on September 28, three days early and recouped in a hotel near the airport in the village of Le Mesnil-Amelot, at the Comfort Inn specifically.  I see today that it is listed as a 2-star … I think it was a 3-star when we booked it.  As I’ve said, we are simple folk and mostly we’ve found that the differences between a 5-star and a 3-star are some smelly lotions in the bathroom, a chocolate on the pillow and, well, location – and that one you want to pay some attention to.

Seeking a one night lay-over hotel in Frankfurt on one of our trips our cabbie asked why we had selected the hotel we did.  Price.  He informed Continue reading “Central France – St. Enemie and other Gems”

Renting in Europe

St-Andre accommodations view from terrace to the Pyrenees

The essence of my previous post is – if you want to have twice the vacation for half the cost, travel with friends.  We have shared six rentals in Europe and there were no surprises – our lodgings were exactly as pictured and described.

I know many are leery of doing business on-line and you only do what you feel comfortable with but we had no problems or hiccups working with either site I mentioned in my last post. These sites offer a wealth of choices in all locations, in all price ranges but your enquiries go directly to the individual hosts and all arrangements and discussions are directly with them.

Some hosts accepted international bank drafts, others preferred pay pal; most requested a 30% deposit on booking.  Check on their refund policy – usually if you give enough notice the deposit will be refunded in case of cancellation.  We did have to cancel one of our bookings and because we only gave less than two weeks notice he was unable to refund.   However, he did provide a letter to submit to our travel insurance, which did reimburse us.

The sites don’t usually give specific addresses so you need to check things out with the host – on one trip we were undecided whether to rent a car or not but in speaking with our host found out that our village was somewhat remote and a car was a necessity.  At another, there was only parking for a mid-sized car, nothing larger.  There was good reason for this as it turned out:   Continue reading “Renting in Europe”

Southern France – 50% Off

“Where are we going this time?”  “We” is my sister and her husband, and me and my husband. “We” all agreed we had made such a great foursome on our first venture together that henceforth it was all for one and one for all. I spoke up and offered an item from my bucket list: in big, black, bold letters at the top – Villa in Southern France.

Southern France – land of breathtaking views, fast cars on the Grand Corniche, palm trees lining the Promenade des Anglais, mediaeval villages atop rocky outcrops, and seaside resort towns backed by the grandeur of the Pyrenees; steeped in Van Gogh and Cezanne, rich with Roman ruins, a patisserie or boulangerie on every corner and free-flowing, palatable French wines.  We agreed on southern France.  Now to find a villa. Continue reading “Southern France – 50% Off”

“Ohhh, You’re the One …”

I discovered another challenge.  This Weekend Theme is from SidevieW and the theme: Birth

The greatest natural high that life could offer was coursing through me as I floated above and beyond, my tiny newborn tucked safely in my arms.  Ohhhh, she was beautiful.  I peered at my tiny, perfect baby and  in my heightened awareness I felt the wellspring of love bubble inside me as I slipped into her embrace.

Motherhood was not a given for me; as a young bride I recall not wanting to become pregnant because I had things to see and places to be.  After one such trip during which I spent considerable time with two young children I realized that yes, now I was ready for motherhood. However, we rode a roller coaster Continue reading ““Ohhh, You’re the One …””

Five Minute Friday: Real

From Gypsy Mama: Around here we write for five minutes flat on Fridays.  We write because we love words and the relief it is to just write them without worrying if they’re just right or not. So we take five minutes on Friday and write like we used to run when we were kids.

We write with gusto, unselfconscious and flat-out.  Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

Here is my five minutes on: Real Continue reading “Five Minute Friday: Real”

Our Radiant Beamer

As Lightly Crunchy pointed out, May is MS Awareness Month. I perhaps should have known this but I and my family are still new to this. Our daughter/sister/niece/cousin/fiance was diagnosed a year ago. I wrote an essay, which I might share at some point, titled “A Helper, A Dreamer and a Radiant Beamer”. It is about my three daughters and Jamie is the Radiant Beamer, and Jamie has MS. We don’t know where this road will take us and unknowns make us fearful and we push them aside.

Jamie is facing this bravely though we know of the fear and the anxiety that lies beneath. I am also still trying to find my way – I want to wave my Mother’s Wand and make it all go away … I should be able to, but I can’t. MS has already affected our family relationships – I do think we are closer, newly aware of the fragility of our lives and dreams, and more actively supportive of each other.

Treatment includes a daily injection, which for some is painful.  Research is getting closer to an oral treatment.  For some reason we in Canada have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world and it is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. Every day, three more people in Canada are diagnosed with MS. To learn more about MS or to donate I have found these sites:

In Canada – MS Society of Canada
In the US – American MS Society 
In Britain – British MS Society
In Australia – MS Australia
In India – MS Society of India

On May 30, acknowledge World MS Day.

The Canadian campaign has several events planned for May:

  • On May 10-12, buy a carnation to support the MS Carnation Campaign.
  • Get an oil change at Mr. Lube on May 12, and $5 will be donated to the MS Society.
  • On May 30, Niagara Falls will be lit red to commemorate World MS Day.
  • Cities across the country will be hosting MS walks – check your local chapter

For those of us who don’t have MS but want to understand more I found this at A Short in the Cord – thank you to Lightly Crunchy for directing me to it. Continue reading “Our Radiant Beamer”

Lot 22

win badgeFor more about Write It Now – WIN – click here. For other WIN  posts click here

This year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the only war fought on Canadian territory.  This story seemed appropriate.  Stewart and Mary are my 4x great grandparents.

By May of 1812 Stewart Grafton and Mary McCool had made their way from the Carolinas all the way to York, present day Toronto.  Once there Stewart sought and secured an interview with Sir Isaac Brock, military commander and administrator of Upper Canada, telling him of their adventures.  After settling his family Stewart joined the York Militia.

On October 13, 1812 Stewart was on the field at Queenston Heights, the largest battle at that point in the war between United States regulars and New York militia forces and the British Forces, led by Major General Sir Isaac Brock. Before the battle was over Continue reading “Lot 22”