A Budding Romance in Würzburg (1959)

Dear friends,

Forgive me for hopping from one topic to another in my blog.  But I think every post is like a puzzle piece of my life and eventually you might be able to join all  the pieces together to get the big picture.

As I told you before, my life as a child and teenager was quite restricted.  My mother tried to shield me from negative experiences and people. I had freedom within the confines of home and school, but my mother controlled my outings. The older i got the more controlling she became. While my twin brother was allowed to visit his friends and stay out as long as he wanted, I had strict curfews. Although I was allowed to go to my girlfriend’s to study and do homework, I had to be home before dark. Often my mother would unexpectedly show up at my friend’s house under the pretext that she had business in the neighborhood to walk home with me.

Although I hadn’t shown much interest in boys,  I was now at an age when it was just a matter of time and “hormones”. My brother’s friends who often visited our home were unattractive to me. I considered them annoying like my brother at that time. “Stupid little boys”.

One of his friends was a few years older and looked like a young man compared to the rest. My parents liked his company, because he always engaged them in interesting conversations, plus he loved my mom’s food.  As you may remember that always won her heart. In fact, eating was one of his favorite activities. He seemed to like me and tried to invite me to the movies, the ice cream parlor or pastry shop on many occasions. Such invitations were a sign that a boy was serious about a closer relationship. I always refused and tried to avoid him. In my mind he did not measure up to the romantic hero of my dreams. This young man’s mother was a close friend of my parents and I wonder, if my mom would have let me go out with him, if I had accepted his invitations.  In retrospect I have to admit that he was a nice person but not for me.

That year, our class went on a school trip to Würzburg, a beautiful historic city in Northern Bavaria. I am still amazed that even at that time so long ago, field trips were considered educational and important for the social development of children and young adults.  In that respect our educational system was quite progressive.

Most of my friends and I did not have the opportunity to travel far from home and so we were excited with the prospect to see new places, meet new people and have exciting experiences and adventures. These school trips usually took place in the beautiful month of May.

Würzburg, Germany - Photo Credit: wikipia.org

Würzburg, Germany – Photo Credit: wikipia.org

Würzburg is a picturesque medieval city located in a scenic wine region on the river Main. We traveled there by train, which is always an exciting experience, and we stayed in a youth hostel together with a group of senior male students from the big northern port city  of Hamburg.

Würzburg is a beautiful city and  sightseeing was interesting and fun.   But for us teenagers the evenings after supper sitting in the court yard of the youth hostel was the highlight of the day. There was a class of senior boys from Hamburg, the biggest port of Germany. Our teachers had arranged that we should sing German folk songs together.   That was fun. We never sang with so much enthusiasm before.

Our teacher kept a close watch on us and we were not allowed to speak with the young men or have any other interactions. However, there were many glances exchanged.  A skinny tall young man with blond hair and bright blue eyes would always look in my direction and smile when he caught my eye. My discerning girl friends pointed out to me that he probably liked me. I was shy and embarrassed and did not want to admit that I liked him too,

The last night together we sang with extra passion and exuberance and glances darted back and forth without restraint. Just before we had to say good night to our singing companions a little rose bud landed on my lap, which my secret admirer had thrown in my direction. I didn’t even know his name. That gesture was so romantic and I couldn’t sleep for a long time that night. The next morning our singing partners from Hamburg were gone. Our last day in that beautiful city lost its luster. Singing that night was pitiful.

For a long time after our trip I would think of the young man from Hamburg so far away from where I lived. There was probably no chance of ever seeing him again.

One beautiful sunny morning just before the summer vacation, I decided to walk to school instead of riding in the stuffy bus. For part of the way I had to walk along the busy highway between Velbert and Essen. Although i liked the pastoral scenery along the highway, I did not like the noise of the cars and trucks speeding by and the periodic loud honking.  It was the custom in Germany at that time that any young female would be acknowledged by male drivers with loud honking or whistles.

i kept on walking ignoring the attention seeking drivers.  When I heard the loud ringing of a bike bell I pretended not to hear by looking straight ahead. Suddenly the bike stopped right beside me and an excited male voice said,  “It is really you!”   When I dared to look up into the face of the rider (I had to look up high because he was so tall)  I recognized my  unknown admirer from Hamburg. The man of my secret dreams.

He told me that he had embarked on a bike tour through Germany and decided to travel through Velbert in the hopes of seeing me again.  We were both like in a dream.  We arranged a meeting for after school. I had to make a quick decision. I knew my parents would never allow me to bring a strange young man home. I would meet him in town.

After agonizingly long  hours at school I rushed home and told my mom excitedly that I had to leave right away to do a major assignment with my girlfriend at her place. Meeting my friend in a small cafe in town was wonderful. We got to know each other and discovered lots of common interests, especially the love for books and art.  He planned on becoming a librarian or even the owner of a bookstore. The time passed too fast.  But we decided to meet again the next day.

At home I was in for trouble.  My mother who had a sixth sense had found out about my secret meeting. She kept me at home the next day to prevent me from seeing this strange young man again. I was devastated and helpless. My mother was very strong willed and it was her goal to protect me from mistakes she and my sister made in their youth.

My friend made many attempts to contact me or see me again over the next few months, but his efforts were eventually all foiled.

The budding romance from Würzburg was not destined to blossom like the little rose thrown my way that night in the youth hostel. It  became a faded memory in my favorite novel.



In retrospect I thank my mom. She was an agent of fate to keep me free for my beloved husband Peter.






My Favorite Novel

Dear friends,

It’s a very cold November night and after a busy day baking bread and buns and  a delicious apple tart, plus writing an important letter, doing laundry, making a yummy pizza from scratch,  writing comments for  my Flickr friends’ amazing photos I am finally sitting down on my cozy couch near the crackling fire to write my weekly post.  Now I can catch my breath after this lengthy sentence, which my teacher in my long past school days would not have approved of.


I am remembering the long fall and winter evenings in my childhood and youth, which i would spend reading curled up in a comfortable chair or in my bed.

When i grew up, books were for me the major source of entertainment,  diversion and education. Our family like most of my friends didn’t have television, computers, record players or even a phone or other electronic gadgets. My father had a small radio to listen to the news.  We had to find other means of entertainment.

Although I was allowed to visit my friends, I had to return home before dark, which cut my visits short in the fall and winter months.

Thus, books were my major source of exploring the world. As I mentioned in an earlier post  i read my first novel secretly,  when I was six or seven years old.  This book was my first love and I still love it to this day.

I remember seeing it on my mother’s bedside table, when we still lived in our big house in Gotha. I had just learned to read and was intrigued by the size of this book, which my father had given my mother as a present. The title “Antonio Adverso”  (Anthony Adverse is the original title)  sounded mysterious and beautiful like a lovely melody.

I started reading the first few words and sentences feeling accomplished and proud that I could decipher and understand some of what I read. Intoxicated by my success i continued and suddenly felt drawn into a mysterious strange world far beyond my years. I would take every opportunity to hide in the bedroom and continue to immerse myself into the fascinating adventures and experiences of my hero Antonio Adverso as he was called in German. When confronted with difficult passages I had a great capacity for intuitively feeling or sensing what my brain could not yet understand or explain. With the help of my vivid imagination i was able to finish reading this amazing life story of an orphaned twin and his miraculous and adventurous life journey spanning many countries of the world. All universal aspects and topics of life are touched in this epic novel. Eventually i told my incredulous mother that I had secretly read her amazing  book.

Over the years I have reread this fascinating novel of more than a 1000 pages several times.  i sent it to Peter to read when we were first engaged and i wanted to name our first son Anthony.  We ended up giving that name to our third son because there were already four Anthonys in the maternity ward, when our first son was born,

My mom’s book is still in my possession, but it is old and tattered now.  However, Peter was able to find an original Amarican edition on ebay a few years ago.  I was surprised to discover that the previous owner of the book may have never read it but used it to press delicate flowers.  Some pages were still not cut open as was the custom in the long past.

Anthony Adverse was first published in 1933 and remained the bestseller of that time until Gone with the Wind swiped away the lead.

In 1999 Anthony Adverse was republished and is available through amazon.com. I can highly recommend this epic novel, which spans continents and touches all aspects of life.  It still has relevance for this day and age.  Anthony Adverse’s miraculous story will touch the heart and mind of  every reader as it touched mine.  Anthony Adverse has been my first love and I’ll never forget him.




Back to my Past (1958-62)

Dear readers of my blog,

finally I am continuing with my childhood memories.  In  my last post from that time I told you about a “smelly” prank  which we played on our art teacher. We were lucky that we didn’t all all get kicked out of school except for our class mate who had masterminded this “evil deed.”   She had already a bad reputation for being disrespectful and causing frequent troubles.  She seemed unperturbed by her suspension because she wanted to quit school anyways to have a fun life.. With a big grin on her face and a twinkle in her bright blue eyes she happily waved us good bye

Even without her, we played another prank on a teacher who , however, reacted  with good humor and did not retaliate.

This teacher had newly arrived from the GDR,  the other side of  the divided  Germany as a refugee.  He was a skinny man whose pants would often precariously slide down when he stood at the board  explaining mathematical formulas with great passion for his subject. We, however, tried to figure out or estimate how many times during his lengthy instructions he would pull up his irritating pants. We would stare at him with intense concentration and fascination, which he took as a compliment for his lively teaching style.


One girl in our class was the daughter of the vice principal. She told us that our math teacher  was bragging in the staff room how focused we were on his instructions.  Some of the other teachers had voiced concerns that our class was easily distracted or not attentive during their  instruction times. She also found out our math teacher’s birthday.

We decided to surprise him with a unique and useful gift. On his birthday, our teacher started to present us with a lesson on an especially exciting algebraic problem.  After he had pulled up his deviant pants  frantically  for the tenth time, the top math student asked very respectfully, if we could take a short break.  She informed him that the class wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday and present him with a gift. Our teacher looked perplexed. Maybe he was calculating the odds of such an unusual event happening to him. Teachers at that time never received birthday gifts from students.

The top math student, a quiet girl, politely shook his hand to wish him a happy birthday.  Shyly she handed him a small package while the rest of us shouted our congratulations. A bit hesitantly our teacher started to open the little gift. He looked surprised and slightly amused when he pulled out a pair of fancy suspenders. To his credit,  he was a good sport. He thanked us profusely for this most useful gift. To our delight and a bit of shame he even tried them on before finishing his “exciting” lesson without his usual wardrobe malfunctions.

He must have received another present after school for his birthday;  a pair of well fitting pants. No more need for suspenders. Unfortunately from that day on,  our attention to his instructions left much to be desired.  Did he ever figure out the  unknown variable  for this decline?


By a funny twist of fate,  I married  a math teacher who had the same ” pants sliding problem” during his exciting teaching career.  However, his students never had a bright idea to help alleviate his problem.

This Eventful Summer 2015

Hello friends and readers of my blog.

Before I start to continue  with my childhood memories  again, I’ll tell you a bit more of my experiences this summer while they are  still fresh in my mind.  This post is quiet lengthy.  If you want to read it in  two installments,  there is a break, marked  PART ii

I n my last post I talked about the short but sweet visit of our granddaughters and two sons.

They had hardly left, when school closed for the summer.    Peter and I  decided  to travel right at the start of my holidays to Vancouver Island to visit our middle son Tony and his wonderful partner Lisa.  They had just recently bought their first home and were eager to show it off.   It was a good decision not to delay our travel plans until later in the summer because an unforseen event would have prevented us from going.

Ferryapproach small

Traveling to the coast and taking the ferry to the island is always a great experience for  us.  Each time  I am more in awe of the breath-taking landscapes we travel through.  I let some of the pictures speak because I lack the words and time to describe all that awesome beauty.

Lumby 2


The one and a half hour ferry ride,  especially in brilliant sunshine,  is always exciting.  I  enjoy sitting on the deck with cheerful and relaxed tourists  who are often eager to engage in short conversations to share some of their travel experiences.

BCocean ferry small

This year,  the island looked drier than usual for the beginning of summer  because of the unusually hot spring we had.  However, the life giving presence of the ocean is forever invigorating and exiting.  Peter and I always feel more alive when we walk along the beach and  listen to the waves. the cries of the sea birds, feel the moist, salty air….and are overwhelmed by the majestic view of the magnificent ocean.   It is exhilarating.

Tony beach small

I am so happy that Tony and Lisa found each other and seem to have a loving relationship.  It took Tony a long time to find the right partner and I am glad that he waited. I had almost given up hope when it finally  happened a couple of years ago.  They seem to be right for each other and it is so much fun to be in their company.

Their new home is located in a beautifully treed, landscaped and quiet neighborhood close to beaches, parks and Tony’s beloved golf course.  It is an older house but so well built, designed that newer houses could not compare in quality and beauty.  We were so impressed by the bright, spacious and cheerful rooms tastefully decorated and furnished.

Lisa door small


Living room TL small r

The large deck adjacent to the kitchen  is shaded by a big fig tree and other fruit trees, lush shrubs and vines. The colorful flower garden interspersed with blooming bushes is a delight for the eyes. It feels like an enchanting, magical place especially when you sit under the cool grape arbor. The variety of flowers, shrubs and trees is astounding for such a small  city space.   Tony and Lisa seem excited to take up gardening and asked a lot of questions.

Along the wall leading to the stairs at the back of the house  grows an enormous fragrant Rosemary bush.   I have never seen one so big and healthy looking.  The aroma mingled with lavender and honeysuckle scents is intoxicating.  From the deck you can see two big bird condos on high poles along the fence overgrown with jasmine and honeysuckle vines. This little flower garden is a paradise for birds and butterflies. During our visit  Lisa bought a bird bath and we had fun watching the cheerful feathered friends while eating our meals outside.

Rosemary Biene small

Tony and Lisa spoiled us with their hospitality. Both love cooking and are excellent gourmet chefs. They complement each other. Their meals are light, fresh and healthy. They are delicious and also a feast for the eyes. It is a delight to watch the two prepare a meal together. All their moves are so graceful like dancers especially when they skillfully chop vegetables, slice meat or fruit or assemble ingredients.

Lisa kitch sm


Tony BBQ small 2


Deck small


For me it was so relaxing to just sit back and enjoy their delicious creations in the wonderful surroundings. I felt blessed and grateful for their loving companionship. Tony as a child and teenager was not always easy to raise. He caused a lot of worry and stress for a while.

But miraculously he has turned into a loving and successful adult. Peter and I are so proud of him. Young parents take note. Always believe in your children and never give up hope when they go through difficult times in their adolescent years. Stay firm but  loving and always forgive and support.

Victoria is a picturesque place especially on a bright summer day. We explored the scenic beaches near by and the colorful touristy harbor down town.Tony would hunt for the freshest sea food and other ingredients while we leisurely explored with Lisa as our charming guide.

Peter and me small

Shorty before our departure, they invited Lisa’s sister, husband and young family for a BBQ of Buffalo burgers with goat cheese. It was such joy to see how Aunt Lisa and Uncle Tony interacted so lovingly with the  children. The little nephew and the twin nieces clearly adored them and I could see why. They were so attentive and sensitive to their needs and engaged them in fun activities and play. Their big dog Shulo, also part of the clan, was no stranger to us.  Tony and Lisa had brought him on their visit last Christmas when Sarah and Mingo needed a break from him. I hope that Tony and Lisa will have a  family of their own some day.

Far too soon we had to say goodbye. But in Vancouver we had a short stopover and a pleasant visit with Stefan who had just returned from Colombia, one of his many travel destinations. Over a relaxed meal with a big glass of cool beer he told us some of his exciting experiences in South America. From his visit to a coffee plantation he brought us some coffee beans and a big decorative gunny sack. The coffee aroma in the car was so invigorating and tantalizing all the way back.

Stref Biene beer small


columbia small

But  we had to take an unplanned detour route on the way home.  The Coquihalla Highway was temporarily closed because of a forest fire near the highway.  However, our detour turned out to be an exciting little adventure. We had not traveled this wild and scenic route for many years and were impressed by the upgraded highway conditions. I annoyed Peter by frequently begging him to stop to take pictures of the many awesome scenic views. He always declined because we had to make it to Cache Creek in time to find a hotel for the night. But he promised to take me on an exploration and photo shooting trip next year if not sooner. i am always amazed how roads and highways can be build and maintained in such isolated and rugged landscapes.

Part ii

Shortly after our return home, we set up camp at Taite Creek, our beloved forestry campsite close to home at the lake. Over the last few years more and more people have discovered this hidden jewel and have fallen in love with it. Therefore it is not always easy to find a site in the summer. But we were lucky to get a spot in this wonderful summer community. We know almost all the regular return campers, but every year we also meet new and interesting people. Some campers think we live there year round or we are the camp hosts. In the future I will write an exclusive post about this enchanting place and the many exciting experiences we had there over the years.

This summer our stay was marred by an accident. Peter loves exploring the back country to take pictures of the beautiful natural surroundings. He drove his scooter repeatedly up the power line road to get a view of the lake to post on Flickr. Photography has always been his passion and now even more so because he can share his pictures on Flickr and other social media.




He would be so exhilarated after such a  trip returning with beautiful images on his camera.  We would keep in contact with radio phone.  This particular afternoon he was so eager to go for one more short drive he didn’t even change into long pants and boots

Dinner was simmering on the camp stove when I heard the moped approach right on time for supper.  I let out a gasp when i  saw my husband hobble towards the picnic table and sit on the bench  Blood was running from big gashes on his knee and leg.  “That’s nothing”, he said,  “it’s just a little spill. It looks worse because of the blood.  I am fine.”   Before I could question any further he limpd to the  lake and had a short swim to wash off the blood.

During dinner he told me that two big rigs had parked side by side on the road blocking his way. The owners were nowhere in sight. When trying to squeeze by at the side of the road he had slipped and the moped had tipped on his leg.

To make a long story short. Peter initially refused to see a doctor. His cuts and bruises healed quickly. But he stubbornly bore the pain of what he thought to be a sprained ankle.  A camping friend who is a nurse supplied him with pain killers and good advice.

However, eventually he gave in, when more and more people urged him to get medical attention. Reluctantly, he finally  saw the doctor who diagnosed a broken fibular and ordered complete rest. Luckily Mike and Angie had planned a short camping trip with friends. They helped us move home and took over our site.

I became a nurse and chauffeur for Peter for the rest of the summer. Peter at first was scared to death sitting in the passenger seat. But eventually he relaxed. He had to cancel all our travel plans to the Similkameen Valley, which he had so carefully planned through the spring.


With all the forest fires raging through the province, we might not have had the holidays we had dreamed of. Instead we had to enjoy our yard at home which was actually quite relaxing.  I didn’t even have to miss swimming.  Every day, before the afternoon heat i would go for a solitary swim at the boat dock and come back refreshed to look after my patient. Later on, when Peter was allowed to  walk on his crutches with his special boot, he would sit in his chair by the water and watch me swim or take macro pictures of insects or flowers in close range. He would attract friends and strangers eager for a chat.

Boat dock small

I tried to speed up the healing process with  warm comfrey leaf poultices which seemed to give him comfort.  He really looked forward to their applications.

This accident was a reminder that life can change in an instant. Therefore, we should always follow the saying “Carpe Diem” and enjoy every moment of this miraculous life.

May lots of good things come your way.  Until next time, hopefully in a week.

By the way,  Peter is finally almost back to “NORMAL”









Hello friends. I am Back

Dear friends  and followers of my blog, last year, on my birthday I started writing about  my  journey through life.  Every living being on this planet has a unique and miraculous story.  This is my attempt to share my experiences with family, friends and the world since we are all interconnected in mysterious ways.

Eagle feather blog

I am a person who lives in the present and does not often dwell on the past or daydream of the future    However, by writing this blog  I started to like reliving memories of my life.

At the beginning of summer I took a break from writing because that beautiful season is so short.   I am like a sunflower and need to turn to the light to survive,


I love the sunshine and activities outdoors with family, friends and new people we meet when camping or travelling.  In summer when I charge up  energies there is no time to spend in front of the screen  The vibrant and life-giving forces of Nature are calling me to the wonderful world  outside.

Whatshan Lake

I am a sun worshiper.  For me sunlight is vital to my physical and emotional well being.  Water is another element I adore which enhances my joy in life and invigorates my spirit,  Since my early childhood I love the freedom and peace when swimming in lakes and rivers,   Gliding through pristine waters always washes away stress, negative feelings or thoughts It energizes me.

Solitary walks along the beach or in the forest have the same calming and uplifting effects on my sense of well being.  I come to realize that many of my best memories are connected to experiences in the natural world with people I love.

It gives me joy to see that our five sons are all drawn to the same life-giving forces of the outdoors  and are seeking out experiences in beautiful natural environments like hiking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, swimming, boating, gardening and walking.

Forest Light

This summer started off with the wonderful visit of our second son Richard from Montreal. He came with our two little granddaughters, Azure and Emeline.   I let the pictures speak for themselves. As the well known saying  goes,  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”   Azure and her little sister are such sparkling and multifaceted  personalities that i could not even do them justice by attempting to describe them in a thousand words.   Their unique personalities have to be experienced in person.

Azure Em

Uncle Stefan, our youngest son from Vancouver, also joined us during that time to share in the family fun.   He is the strongest family bonding glue of all his brothers.

Me girls Rick




One of the highlights of the short visit was a trip to my favorite beach and campsite at Taite Creek.  June is always a wet month and a storm was brewing.   In spite of the menacing clouds on the horizon,  spunky little Azure   (following in the footsteps of her grandma) was the first to brave the still frigid waters of the Arrow Lake    With chattering teeth but bubbling over with excitement she then danced around the fire.   Little Emeline snuggling in her father’s arm clapped her hands in admiration of her older sister  Their singing and dancing around the fire at my favorite campsite are memories i never forget,

Em taite

Dear friends,  for today I’ll close my post.  I am so glad to be back  It’s a dark and stormy November night.  Through the coming dark season there will be more time to write   The last picture was taken at Taite Creek which is even beautiful at this time of year.   I wish you happy memories of your miraculous life.   Let the summer sun be reflected in our hearts.

Dunkle nacht

Taking a Short Summer Break (June 2015)

Dear friends and followers of my blog.  I just want to let you know that I am taking a short break from writing on my blog.  Some of you may want to catch up reading  older posts.  So here is your chance.

First swim 3

Summers are always too short.   So we have to enjoy every moment in the sun or shade.  We are doing a bit of travelling and camping at my favorite site.  I’ll write about this miraculous place very soon.  I’ll share it with you….soon soon soon.  Until then Happy Summer!





Smelly Childhood Prank (1957)

Dear friends,  after digressing from my childhood memories for  several posts I am now back on track and will continue to tell you about my journey through this miraculous life.

As you may remember I had a fairly strict upbringing.  At the time of my growing up children lived under an authoritarian regime especially at school.  We had to treat our teachers with utmost respect.  Their word was law except at classroom debates and discussions.   If we had sound arguments and could back them up effectively we were allowed to express contrary opinions.

However, children at all times did outrages and even cruel  things and we were no exceptions.   I am still ashamed to remember the prank our whole class played on a teacher.

Our art teacher was a middle aged lady of great proportions  who loved to eat.  She would sit at her front desk in the art room munching away on enormous sandwiches filled with strong smelling  cheeses or odiferous garlic sausages and cold cuts.


Bacon sandwich

Bacon sandwich


Instead of giving us inspiring instruction of drawing or painting techniques  or providing us with shining examples of fine arts she would devour her heavy lunches  leisurely reading the newspaper. Absentmindedly she would sweep away crumbs from her desk with her sausage-like fingers.

sandwich 2

We had the freedom to draw or paint whatever we fancied.  She never showed any interest in our  “masterpieces”.  Her sole interest was directed to her prolific victuals.

Because of our teacher’s  lack of good modeling behavior and lack of interest  one of our class mates was inspired to rouse her out of her lethargy. She wanted to  pay her back on her assaults on our aesthetic sensibilities.  This inspired student asked us to bring smelly soft cheeses to school for the next day.  And I have to admit we all followed her lead without any reservations or scruples and did what she told us. Before our art lessons started  the next morning she directed us to quickly smear the smelly soft cheeses on all the surfaces of the art room especially on  our teacher’s chair and desk.

We could hardly cope with the overpowering stench ourselves  before our teacher entered the room.  Maybe she was already desensitized by these odors. To our secret delight she sat down on the greasy chair without noticing the unusual sheen and smell.

When she calmly started unpacking her lunch,  we politely asked her if something was spoiling  in her bag.  Suddenly she seemed to become aware of the stronger than normal aromas. Bewildered she looked around and  seemed to notice that they came wafting from all sides and not just from the usual place in front of her. That’s when she smelled the “rat”.She left the room and returned in a short while with the principal who was a very proficient “rat smeller”.

Our classmate who had hatched the idea of the plot bravely and willingly accepted the role as scapegoat in spite of our strong protests.  She took her lashes in front of the class with dignity and even humor as we noticed a twinkle in her tearing eye and a tiny smile in spite of the obvious pain and humiliation.


Photo Credit: 123RF.com

The rest of us had to scrub and clean the art room and polish the furniture without the aid of  disintegrating  aromatic cheeses.

From that day on our art teacher seemed to have lost her appetite during art lessons.   She even started teaching us techniques as for example in different  perspectives.

In spite of my  sketchy art lessons I have developed a lifelong love and appreciation for art.  In retrospect I thank my teacher who gave us the freedom and opportunity  to explore our own creativity.


Traveling with Rob in La Belle France-Part 2

In the soft evening light the pastoral landscape is flying by like a series of beautiful paintings. My memory is blurred like a dream. I only remember, meandering little rivers, soft wooded hills, small orchards, vineyards, and villages nestled into the valleys. Over the ages houses and walls built out of local rocks and materials have become an integral part of their natural surroundings. I wished to have more time to explore and to meet the local people.

200701311328340.Wine-RegionsDarkness is setting in, when we arrive at Brays et Mons. Rob has no problem finding his destination. There are only a few houses built out of gray rocks almost looking like fortresses. We reach a beautifully fenced in yard. A dense profusion of blooming shrubs and budding leaf trees is hiding the residence from view. Rob drives slowly through the decorative iron gate onto a wide driveway leading through a small park towards a charming white building. It looks like an elegant mansion or small castle. Big windows, balconies, terraces and airy French doors are leading from all directions into the garden. In contrast to the well-kept building, the flowerbeds and lawns are overgrown with weeds and winter debris and look neglected.

Here we are, at the Castello de Bray et Mons,” says Rob with a big smile.

I am delighted. It has been a full day, progressively getting better after a stressful start with our vehicle. And there is the prospect of a grand finale.

The patron of the estate meets us at the colorful stained glass doors of the entrance. He is a stout, middle-aged man of medium height with unremarkable features. He greets us formally in French. Obviously he has been expecting us, and as he indicates, a bit sooner. Grabbing our luggage, he immediately leads us up a flight of an amazing spiral staircase. It is the masterpiece of a noted French architect whose name I forget. The bedrooms are situated in a circle around the landing. The patron deposits our luggage in front of one of the doors and unlocks it with a big old-fashioned key.

spiral staircase

Voilà,” he says with a discreet side-glance at me.

I am riveted to the floor. After having seen the dolorous black room decorated in somber colours at Chanonceau this room is a dream in white. The enormous bed dominating the chamber is covered with starched, immaculately white linen adorned with precious lace. The wall tapestry is of a shining white silk material. The soft white carpet is spotless. Delicate sheer curtains like bridal veils are gently moving in the evening breeze in front of the open French doors. On a lace covered table stands a magnificent vase with blossoming branches in it. White petals have fallen on a small statue of stone lovers intertwined forever in a passionate embrace. The end of the room is partitioned off by a white Dutch gate barely hiding a huge white enameled bathtub standing on golden feet in front of a mirrored wall. Two luxurious white bathrobes are hanging over a bench. The room radiates such untouched beauty that I envision a delicate princess, like Snow White, lying on that immaculate bed, forever waiting for her prince.


Rob and I are standing at the entrance spell bound. I don’t know for how long.

Ça vous plaît?” the proprietor suddenly asks breaking the silence.

Enchantée”, I reply, “mais…” I stumble nervously searching for appropriate words to explain that I cannot sleep in this enchanting bridal chamber with my son.

C’est mon fils”, I finally manage to say in French.

The patron seems unperturbed. “Votre fils, votre frère, votre mari, ça ne m’intéresse pas. C’est votre affaire,” he answers shrugging his shoulders to show his indifference.

Rob,” I whisper panic stricken in English, “we have to get another room. This is a honeymoon suite.”

Yes, Mom,” Rob agrees, “but it is getting late, and I don’t know if there are other hotels in this small village.”

Trying to take control of this embarrassing situation, I ask in an assertive voice, “Une autre chambre, s’il vous plaît?”

The proprietor staring into space with a bored expression mumbles, “C’est dommage, but..,” he continues in perfect English, “ we have one more room available, which, however, will cost you more.”

Oh, you speak English!” I exclaim surprised. Taking a deep breath I almost shout, “In my fax I told you that I would come with my son. How can you offer us this inappropriate room and charge us more for another one!”

Provoked by his arrogance I am not afraid to create a scene. Rob, however, immediately interrupts my attempts to fight for a fair deal saying in a firm voice, “Mom, leave it to me, I am paying for the room.”

Grabbing our luggage the proprietor quickly leads us to the adjacent hunter’s chamber.

Voilà, Monsieur,” he says completely ignoring me.

Rob whose face had disappointment written all over moments ago immediately lights up. This room is more to our liking. Two solid rustic beds with beautifully crafted thick quilts look very inviting. Original paintings and precious tapestries depicting local wild life and colourful hunting scenes adorn the walls. Fresh scented air is wafting in from the garden through the big open windows. I am happy that there is a door in front of the bathroom allowing for privacy. The bathtub is not standing on golden feet as in the white room but is spacious and comfortable. To my great joy there are also two thick, luxurious bathrobes at our disposal, one pink and one blue. Would Peter and I have enjoyed sleeping in the white room I briefly ask myself. Definitely not!

hunters room

Blissfully relaxing in soapy suds before changing for dinner I call out to Rob, “This is so wonderful Rob, I feel like a queen!”

We arrive in the floral dining room around nine, which for French standards is not late. The tablecloths, napkins, curtains and tapestry are all printed with boldly colored oversized spring flowers. The small bouquets of real flowers on the tables are lost in this overpowering display. A tall, young waiter with a sad look in his dark eyes seats us at a corner table with velvety green benches. Only two other tables are occupied. One with two formally dressed middle-aged couples from Belgium, overweight and red faced, talking loudly. On the other table are two elderly couples from Britain, sprightly thin and wrinkled, engaged in a more subdued conversation. I wonder with a chuckle, if they have also been offered the bridal chamber first.


Rob decides to be adventurous and orders snails for his entrée. That would be my last choice. Only under the ultimate threat of starvation would I try them. But for Rob’s sake I make a special effort to hide my feelings of disgust. I order salmon mousse. Both Rob and I are pleased by our first choices.

Snails taste a bit like squid,” Rob informs me.

Animated by a second glass of delicious house wine, we try to select the main course. We both have developed a hearty appetite.

Rognons de boeuf seems like a good choice to me,” I tell Rob who is seeking my advice.

Rognons I think means little round pieces and boeuf is beef. While studying the menu, I realize that my language skills are still very limited when it comes to deciphering specialties of French cuisine. At least I know that boeuf is beef. A safe choice, I think.

We are on our third glass of wine and in animated spirits, when the serious looking young waiter quietly serves us our main course. I notice a faintly sour smell coming from my plate and those little round pieces in the whitish sauce are definitely not pieces of beef.

French beef looks very different,” I say jokingly to Rob discreetly inspecting a small round specimen on my fork.

Mom, this is not beef, these are kidneys you ordered,” Rob says with a disgusted look on his face.

I hate kidneys!” I had not seen kidneys since my early childhood when my father sometimes used to eat them.

I am immediately overcome with the same strong feelings of nausea, which this dish used to provoke in me then. Trying to keep control, I quickly push the plate aside. In an instant the young waiter arrives at our table.

Is something wrong?” he asks in perfect English pointing to my plate.

I am perplexed. He had stood there silently waiting for our orders when I had explained to Rob that ‘rognons de boeuf’ mean little round pieces of beef. I had assumed that he did not speak English. He could have helped us with our selection. But I will not blame him.

Sorry, we made a mistake ordering this dish. We both don’t like kidneys,” I say.

For the first time this evening the young man’s face lights up in a sympathetic smile and he answers, “I don’t like them either. I’ll take your plates back and you can order something else,” he offers. “Maybe I can convince my father not to charge you extra for these,” he adds.

But I have my doubts. “No!” I say firmly brushing aside Rob’s protests. ”This is my mistake and I’ll pay.”

Anyway,” the young waiter briefly interrupts, “I’ll bring you another glass of wine which is on me and I’ll help you with the selection on the menu when you are ready.”

Having lost our appetite for meat this evening, we choose a local seafood dish, which turns out to be a tasty choice.

Where did you learn English so well?” I ask the young man who seems to like talking to us.

In Florida,” he answers. “I was born and raised there by my Francophone parents. After their divorce two years ago, my father bought this place and moved back to France.

You must love it here!” I exclaim. Impressions of the beautiful countryside and castles are still vivid in my memory.

Not at all! I hate it here!” he says emphatically, looking sad again. “I want to go back home to the States.”

Lingering over a delicious desert of crème brulé, we are the only guests left. The young man takes the opportunity to join us again. In an animated conversation, he and Rob, both natives of North America, amicably exchange their thoughts and impressions of their life in Europe. I sit back relaxing, sipping my wine, enjoying the moment, and the transient friendly relationship with this young man. Before he can say good-bye, he is abruptly called to the kitchen by his rude father. I am glad he does not take after him.

We have a wonderful sleep under those heavy warm quilts protecting us snugly from the frosty night. Crisp, chilly air has invaded our room. It is early morning. We have to return our little car to the dealer in Tours before lunch to catch an afternoon train to Paris for the wedding. Shivering in my light spring outfit, waiting for Rob to finish shaving, I can hardly wait for breakfast. The prospect of steaming hot coffee and warm croissants with melted butter is already warming me up.

Go down and start breakfast without me. I’ll join you in a while,” Rob shouts from the washroom. He is not a big breakfast eater.

Today I have a ravenous appetite and decide to have a substantial meal. I almost fall down those famous spiral stairs in my haste to get to the dining room. Everything is quiet there. No one in sight. After my third “hallo” tentatively called into different directions, the proprietor shuffles in. He is well protected against the cold by wearing warm fleece slippers and a beautifully knit heavy wool sweater, which must have cost a fortune. It looks very new. Seating myself on a small round table close to the entrance, I eagerly ask for the breakfast menu.

Breakfast is not included!” he answers curtly avoiding my glance.

Although a continental breakfast is almost always included in the price of an overnight stay in France, I am so starved and in need of coffee that I am ready to pay extra.

I’ll pay,” I reply quickly.

Oh, no!” he says with emphasis turning to leave. ”We are not serving breakfast today.”

I am shocked. “O.K.,” I plead trying to hide my disappointment, “you can serve me at least a cup of coffee!”

It will take a while,” he replies and reluctantly shuffles into the nearby kitchen.

The door is left ajar and I can hear him putter around. Obviously there hasn’t been any coffee brewed yet. Suddenly I hear the shatter of glass, followed immediately by a loud expletive, ”Merde.” In a flash the patron dashes out of the kitchen door with a brown liquid dripping from the front of his precious sweater. After a few moments he returns heading straight back to the kitchen. This time he is wearing an apron and an old flannel shirt. I hear some more clanking noises, and eventually he serves me with a stony face a cup of steaming hot, black coffee. He does not say a word and I refrain from expressing my sympathy at his mishap. It would have been hypocritical to say the least. To his credit, the coffee tastes wonderfully strong and I enjoy every sip of it.

There is frost on the windshield, when Rob puts the luggage in the car. I pity the flowering fruit trees, which had burst so early into bloom. Nibbling on some cookies and apples we drive off to Tours. Trying to ward off our hunger pangs, we are planning to have an early lunch before catching the train to Paris. Late morning we safely arrive in Tours. Before returning our car to the dealer, Rob drops me off at the train station with the luggage. We want to store it there before going out for lunch. I am amazed how deserted the train station is at this hour. Not a soul in sight. And to my dismay I remember that you cannot store luggage at train stations in France because of threats of terrorism.


It takes Rob about twenty minutes to return and I am puzzled that nobody enters the station during that time. Very strange, I think. Tours is a big place. Don’t people take trains? None of the ticket counters are open, either. Stepping out of the building for a moment, I spot a policeman. I manage to ask him in French why the train station is so deserted. “En grève”, he informs me laconically. Quickly looking up ”grève” in my pocket dictionary I am shocked to find out that it means strike. We quickly forget our plans to find a place to eat but rather try to find a way to get to Paris. Still debating what to do, we are suddenly approached by the policeman. He informs us that at around four o’clock at near-by subsidiary station one train to Paris is coming through. This friendly policeman also helps us to find a small office close to the station where we can temporarily store our luggage. Obviously we do not look like terrorists to him.

View of the 'Place Plumereau', located in the old city of Tours, with its café terrasse and famous half-timbered houses. The french city of Tours is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and Saumur. It has a central location in the Loire Valley for anyone eager to discover the World Heritage site composed by Chateaux de la Loire and the Loire river.

View of the ‘Place Plumereau’, located in the old city of Tours, with its café terrasse and famous half-timbered houses. The french city of Tours is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and Saumur. It has a central location in the Loire Valley for anyone eager to discover the World Heritage site composed by Chateaux de la Loire and the Loire river.

Downtown is in walking distance. The streets are bustling with people on this wonderful spring day, and there are lots of different eating establishments. Rob selects an Italian restaurant, which serves his comfort food, spaghetti with meat sauce. I seem to have lost my appetite and go for a salad. After retrieving our luggage, we take a taxi to the near by station. The taxi driver, a young passionate man, with a slight accent is very sympathetic to our predicament. Hearing that we are from Canada going to a wedding, he is raving and ranting about the stupidity of the government, which lets these apparently frequent strikes happen. Apologizing for the inconvenience, which this strike is causing us, he is adamant in not accepting any fare or tip. He even carries our luggage into the station wishing us luck and “bon voyage” like a friend.


Canada is a good country,” he says in parting with a big generous smile. We are deeply impressed by this unexpected hospitality of a complete stranger.

The station is packed with people. On the quay where the train to Paris is supposed to arrive crowds of people are standing, sitting or even lying around. Strangely enough, it is very quiet. There is definitely no holiday atmosphere. Most people have an apprehensive look staring silently in the direction from where the train is to come. No one knows the exact time. I have visions of people in war times, fugitives, soldiers, families, desperately waiting for a train to escape danger. There is no danger for us, only inconvenience.



Eventually, after a long, silent wait, we hear the train approaching. My fear that people will brutally force their way into it, pushing and shoving, does not materialize. Everyone quietly and civilly waits their turn and boards in orderly fashion. Miraculously no one is left behind. A courteous gentleman with a friendly smile even offers me his seat in the overcrowded compartments. People start relaxing. Lively conversations spring up even among strangers as if everyone is trying to make up for the long silence. In this cheerful atmosphere we travel to Paris and make it from there safely to Saint Etienne to Richard and Agathe’s wedding. But that’s another long story.

Traveling with Rob in la Belle France – Part I 1997 ( Another Detour from my Childhood memories)

Dear friends.  On this post I take another break from my  childhood memories and travel to the future.  I’ll return to my past very soon.  Hope you like the interlude.

When we travel we have to expect the unexpected. The most memorable events of our journeys are often unplanned. In retrospect we can laugh about stressful or embarrassing situations. They are the stories we tell our friends. For over 25 years I hardly had the opportunity to travel far, especially alone, without my husband and family. Our budget was stretched to the limit by the financial demands of raising five sons. However, we had a constant stream of visitors every summer, from far and wide who had interesting stories to tell.

Then came the time, when our sons flew out of the nest. One by one they discovered the joy of traveling in the big wide world. Our oldest son, Rob, fell in love with Italy, and our second son, Rick, with France, or rather with a beautiful girl from Paris. To our great surprise, he was the first of the boys to announce wedding plans. The marriage was to take place in a small village, close to Paris, called Saint Etienne Roilaye.

This announcement caused great excitement in our quieted down household. Since our budget would not allow for two tickets to Europe, my husband, Peter, magnanimously decided that I should be the one to go. I was overjoyed. Our oldest son working in Germany as a civil engineer supported his father’s decision wholeheartedly. He offered to take me on a short sightseeing trip to the castles of the Loire before escorting me to the wedding.

“You deserve a real holiday Mom,” he declared, “and since you are proficient in French I feel comfortable traveling to France with you.”

I was extremely touched by his invitation. It exceeded my wildest dreams. When the boys were still in diapers, I started envisioning all the exciting things we could do together in the future. Traveling was high on that list. Now my dreams were coming true! All the maternal sacrifices of the past were forgotten in an instant. What wonderful prospects lay before me! Since I was far from proficient in the French language I practiced speaking it from dawn to dusk until my German accent took on French overtones and strangers asked me if I had recently moved here from eastern Canada.

On a beautiful spring day, in the middle of April, I start my journey to the old country. Not accustomed to traveling alone I feel somewhat lonesome and insecure after saying good-bye to Peter at the Kelowna airport. These feelings intensify in the crowd of strangers at the Vancouver airport terminal. Suddenly I am embraced from behind. Two excited voices are screaming simultaneously in my ears, “Gertrud, what on earth are you doing here?”

Anita and Gerhard, two old acquaintances we had lost contact with, are bombarding me with questions. Friends of our Bavarian neighbor, they are part of the visiting crowd of seasoned globetrotters whose stories we had listened to in the past. And as coincidence wants it, they have seats right beside me on the same flight. To travel with friends is like having guardian angels accompany you. Engaged in animated conversation, the time passes quickly. Before I know it, we have crossed Greenland, Iceland, the North Atlantic and Scotland. We are preparing for landing.

Since I arrived late at night, my travel agent had arranged for a stay in a hotel in Frankfurt. It is located at the outskirts of the city beside a huge and lifeless computer terminal building heavily fenced in like a prison. On the other side is an idyllic little park with a fishpond and bird sanctuary. Waking up at dawn, not accustomed to the time difference yet, I have the opportunity to admire the sunrise. The distant city on the horizon is bathed in golden light. I listen to the cheerful chirping of birds greeting the new day and watch two wild rabbits playfully chase each other on the strip of grass around the computer terminal. I even venture on an early morning walk to the nearby fishing pond, a quiet green oasis. The bushes and trees are just bursting forth with fresh new leaves. Usually, I am not an early riser. Therefore, it is quite an exciting experience for me to walk before breakfast. The girls on the reception desk of the hotel who I had asked for directions are relieved to see me come back. They had worried about me walking all alone so early in the morning. They welcome me back with friendly greetings.


Mystical Morning – Photo Credit: Mike Saupe @flickr.com

I had phoned Rob when I arrived late last night. He had asked me to compose a short note in French, to confirm a hotel reservation in Mons, the last destination of our planned sight seeing trip. All other arrangements he had been able to do in either English or German. Glad to be able to show off my French skills, I took this task very seriously and sacrificed quite a bit of time and paper in the process. Finally, this note, written in my neatest hand writing is faxed off to the hotel with the romantic name of “Le castello de Brays et Mons.”

The next day I meet Rob in Stuttgart, and together we have a wonderful excursion to Heidelberg. I had never been to this famous tourist attraction before. After climbing on a cobble stone road up to the imposing ruin, we enjoy sitting in the shade of a budding Linden tree in the idyllic garden cafe. While eating a delicious apple Strudel, we are watching little sparrows hop from branch to castle wall cheerfully chirping, and nimbly picking up seeds and crumbs. I remember old photographs of my mom in her youth posing as a charming tour guide with groups of mostly American tourists in front of these walls. Sitting here with Rob, I suddenly feel her spirit surround us.


The train we take to Paris the following day is crowded with noisy schoolgirls who are going on exchange programs to France. The exuberant holiday atmosphere is contagious. Many of the teenagers practice their flirting skills on Rob. For a while he enjoys being their centre of attention until they become bothersome like persistent flies. I am free to look out of the window and see the beautiful spring landscape pass by. Even old dilapidated walls look lovely when adorned with fresh leaves and colorful blossoms. Nature appears to be so tame in Europe. Forests are tended like parks and lack the pristine beauty of the Canadian wilderness.

Rob is relieved when we reach Paris. For hours the girls have been swarming over him like bees. No way to escape their pestering presence. Good-naturedly he endures their teasing. In Paris we have to change from one train station to another. For each cardinal direction there is a train station, which is connected to the other terminals by the Metro. In transit to Montparnasse we meet Rick, the prospective groom, at the station and deliver a suitcase bulging with wedding presents. Packed with Canadian whisky, Okanagan wine, smoked salmon, maple syrup and other gifts, it feels like a ton of bricks. Coming from so far, I am still amazed at the accomplishments of modern travel. We actually meet Rick exactly at the right time and appointed place among the crowds of strangers.

From Montparnasse we take a TGV (train de grande vitesse) to Tours. These famous trains reach a speed of 350 km per hour. At that dizzying pace the scenery is flying by in a blur of colours and shapes. Overcome by jet lag, I fall asleep as soon as I nestle into the comfortable seat of the luxurious compartment. Rob is disappointed that I do not show more enthusiasm for this momentous train ride. But all I want now and long for is a clean and comfortable bed.

tgv duplex train at Nice station

tgv duplex train at Nice station

I do not remember how long it took us to get to Tours. I vaguely remember stumbling out of this famous train like a sleepwalker rushed on by Rob. In spite of his limited French, Rob manages to get a taxi and tell the driver to take us to l’Hôtel d’Opéra. Before I have time to nod off again, we stop on a quiet side street in front of two ruined buildings. One is a completely dilapidated shell overgrown with weeds. Only broken down walls are remaining. The other appears in a slightly better condition. Although ravaged looking, the walls, windows and the roof seem to be still intact.

L’Opéra!” the taxi driver announces pointing to the ruins.

A cigarette in the corner of his mouth, he is stopping the taxi, opening the doors, removing our luggage with great speed from the trunk, depositing it on the sidewalk, and pocketing his fare.

Suddenly wide awake, I ask in disbelief, “L’Hôtel d’Opéra?”

“Là,” he replies jumping back into the cab.

On this once imposing but now dangerously crumbling flight of stairs, we enter the building with some trepidation. The glamour of days long gone by is still evident in the chipped and dusty chandeliers, the stained, worn out purple carpets, the faded murals, and the elegant interior design. A glowing bouquet of red tulips and yellow daffodils, beautifully arranged with blossoming branches on the reception desk in the entrance hall, detracts the eyes from the shabby surroundings.

Contrary to all expectations, our chamber-like room, on the second floor, has charm. A single bed standing close to the entrance is partitioned off by a screen. Rob graciously offers to take this and grants me the big double bed facing a huge open window leading out into a park. The branches of a blooming chestnut tree are almost touching the panes. Numerous birds have chosen this beautiful tree for their happy home. They are singing, twittering and chirping at their heart’s content. Taking a rest from their nest building they are enjoying the last sunrays of the declining day. A warm breeze stirs the delicate curtains. The air smells fresh and fragrant with the aroma of spring flowers and blossoms.

After a short stroll, admiring some of the interesting facades of the old buildings downtown, Rob and I are lured to a cozy restaurant by the enticing aromatic smells wafting out of the open door. The taste of grilled lamb chops swimming in a sauce seasoned to perfection lingers in my memory forever. Back at the hotel, I take a relaxing bath in the enormous, antique bathtub. I start feeling like a queen. The bed is comfortable and the sheets clean and smooth. I have a wonderful deep sleep until the birds’ jubilant morning concert wakes me up to another brilliant spring morning.


In the cheerful breakfast room the sunlight is making the fresh daffodils on the tables glow like miniature suns. While I am still savoring an extra cup of strong coffee, Rob returns with the car he has rented for our sightseeing tour. It is a Renault, so small that Rob’s head almost touches the roof and his knees the steering wheel. Settling comfortably into my seat I am full of joyful anticipation of our trip.

Ranault car

Rob is nervously manipulating the clutch to get out of the tight parking spot when suddenly the car jumps into reverse almost hitting the vehicle behind us. I am instantly on the alert.

“Are you familiar with the controls of this vehicle, Rob?” I ask trying to keep a calm tone of voice not to shock him into further erratic moves.

Slightly annoyed Rob answers, “Yes, Mom, but the clutch seems to be stuck.”

I am holding my breath until he succeeds to maneuver the vehicle onto the road. There it stalls momentarily and then starts bolting like a bucking horse. Luckily, there are no other vehicles on this quiet side road.

A bit jerkily Rob enters the main traffic route leading through the city. In the morning rush hour it is congested. For a while we are moving along smoothly and I start relaxing until Rob has to slow down at the bridge entrance. The clutch seems to get stuck again. The car jerks into reverse almost hitting the vehicle behind us. An instant cacophony of honking horns adds to our panic. Rob’s face and knuckles are ghastly white from shock, but he immediately manages to regain control and safely crosses the bridge moving along with the traffic. My heart, however, continues to pound wildly with fear. I feel faint but dare not say a word lest I might cause another disturbance. I have visions of Peter bemoaning the loss of his wife and oldest son in France. I am so nervous my mouth is parched. All I want is to get out of this vehicle and walk along the quietly flowing river to our right.


“Rob, can we stop for a while. I need a little walk,” I whisper in a hoarse voice.

“Mom, you must be crazy. How can I stop in this traffic?” Rob replies with irritation. His face has regained some color and his expression some assertiveness.

“Look for the sun, where is the sun?” he asks impatiently.

“What do you need the sun for?” I cry out in disbelief.

“To turn west,” he replies curtly.

I manage to locate the sun peeking behind some buildings to the right. Without stalling Rob succeeds to turn west onto a secondary highway. I am fervently praying for safe passage.

My prayers seem to get answered. The traffic is easing, the car continues to roll smoothly, and my heartbeat is slowing down. After successfully entering a deserted country road, Rob utters a sigh of relief.

“I can handle this baby now. The funny pin I have been pulling is only for the reverse gear. The dealer didn’t tell me. I had to find out the hard way,” he smiles stopping the car on a slightly sloping parking spot near a country lane. Freshly plowed fields of white chalk like soil stretch before us. A rooster is crowing from a farm near by. Birds are singing. The morning is still young.

“You can have your walk now,” Rob laughs jumping out of the vehicle and sprinting with his long legs towards a blossoming orchard. Rob had talked too soon. The capricious “baby” of a car starts rolling as soon as I step out. Trying to hold on to the open door I start screaming in desperation. In one leap Rob is there and with unexpected presence of mind corrects the problem. He had left the clutch in neutral.

We silently walk for a long while along the quiet country road trying to recover from our last shock. The air is crisp, the sky a hazy blue, and the early morning sun radiates gentle warmth. We come to a small river leisurely meandering through the pastoral landscape. We sit in solitude on a bench listening to the water’s soothing prattle. The meadow is lush green, and bees are buzzing around buttercups. Suddenly, as if on cue, we both burst out laughing. Racked with laughter we run back to the capricious little car. Our tension eases. We are ready to continue our adventure with restored confidence.

Miraculously, from now on we have no more trouble with our little French vehicle. I start enjoying the landscape painted in pastel colors by an early spring. Blooming meadows, yellow rape fields, flowering orchards, greening vineyards, small orderly villages, blossoming trees, spring flowers against ancient stone walls create a colorful kaleidoscope in my mind. We journey on at a reduced pace stopping here and there to briefly visit a less known castle, an ancient fortification or a charming village. The old stone houses with low rock walls encircling their front yards have become part of nature. They are overgrown with vines or other trailing plants. Even flowers grow in the stone crevices.

At Loches, an enchanting medieval looking town, we buy fresh strawberries at the market place admiring the colourful stalls selling the first produce of the season. Fresh asparagus, lettuce, peas and strawberries are a tantalizing feast for the eyes of a seasoned housewife like me. The air is perfumed with the scent of spring flowers. Beautiful bouquets of violets, daffodils, tulips, lilacs and roses are offered everywhere. An ancient cathedral is overlooking this timeless scene, a silent witness to countless market days of the past. There is laughter and good cheer as people of all ages mill around enjoying once again the wonderful gifts of a beautiful spring day.


For lunch we stop at Moulin Pierre, a small garden restaurant on the way. The ancient water mill is turning with a monotonous gurgling sound as in days long gone by. Sitting at a rustic table enjoying the warm sunshine and peaceful atmosphere we leisurely feast on an enormous platter of a great variety of aromatic cheeses and fresh crusty bread. I indulge in some red wine and Rob slurps with contentment a refreshing raspberry drink. Our spirits are wonderfully revived by this relaxing repast.

In the early afternoon we reach Chenonceau. The spacious parking lot and reception area is full of people. Enormous tour busses with license plates from different European countries are spilling hordes of noisy and excited tourists. Lots of boisterous school children are also milling around heading for washrooms, souvenir shops and refreshment stalls. Past the tall entrance gate of wrought iron, colourful groups of sightseers are walking on the wide alley, which used to lead horse drawn coaches and carriages to the castle in days gone by. The old shade trees flanking this imposing driveway have recently sprung into leaf. The fresh green is a delight for the eyes. I wish they could talk of the romantic history of this unique and beautiful water castle.

Chenonceau is built over the river Cher. The gallery or long reception hall is spanning across the gently flowing water like a bridge. Looking out from the big, recessed windows of stained glass, you have the feeling of floating on a riverboat. For most of its history Chenonceau has been in the possession of queens whose legacy has survived the ages. Queen Louise, widow of Henri III, created the black room after the death of her husband. The sad beauty of this lasting testimony of mourning is still haunting visitors today.



I was especially impressed by the huge vaulted kitchen, storage and work area located at the foundation pillars of the castle. I visualized wonderful feasts being prepared on those spacious heavy oak tables and counter tops. Only robust chefs with strength and stamina would be able to operate those heavy cast iron and copper cauldrons, pots and pans over the gigantic spits and artistically crafted wood stoves. And yet they also had to possess the exquisite finesse and gastronomic savoir typical of French cuisine. The grounds are artfully landscaped. Trimmed hedges, manicured lawns, trellised vine arbors, pruned trees, shaped flowerbeds and paved paths are skillfully arranged to create symmetrical designs. After a leisurely walk through the forest-like park, which has retained some of its natural wildness, Rob and I feel pleasantly tired.

Late afternoon, we reach the famous Villandry castle and gardens. The air is still balmy and the sky without a cloud. We seem to step into a picture book. Against the background of the flawless sky, the architecture of the gleaming white castle and the arrangements of the meticulously groomed, terraced gardens seem so perfect. We are awed and delighted by the intricate geometrical designs and patterns created by the artful interspersing of colourful flowers, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, hedges, small trees and trellised vines. We feel transported into an époque of the past when splendour was a way of life and natural surroundings were shaped into pieces of art.


In the golden glow of the setting sun we drive off to our final destination, the Castello de Brays and Mons.

There will be a surprise for you, Mom!” says Rob with a promising look on his face.

On my next post I’ll tell you about the surprise.  Until then…..

Time Travel to May 2015

My dear friends.  Sorry for taking a detour from my chronological life story again.

This week I have been very busy working in the yard and garden because it is planting season.  And I am also preparing for the visit of our second son Richard and our precious granddaughters Azure and Emeline from Montreal.

Azure  will be six years old in September and Emeline two years old in June.  We last saw them a year ago at our family reunion at the Lake. Mateo, their beloved half brother is unable to accompany them,  He’ll be 16 in June.  When he was Azure’s age he would fly out from Montreal every summer to spend several weeks  with us.

Mateo girlsI am so excited.  We went shopping this weekend for toys and goodies.  i am baking and making ice cream. and Tira Misu.  Stefan. our youngest son is also coming.  All the beds are freshly made and ….

IMG_2273These  rag dolls I made a long time ago.  Maybe they will like them.

IMG_2259This is the custard for the ice cream.  Stefan introduced us to the ice cream maker.  It’s fantastic.  So delicious.

IMG_2267This is one of the many sticker and activity  books.

IMG_2262Some toys,  Bubble blowing should be fun.

These are just samples.   I’ll close my post now.  Maybe next week I’ll talk about the visit and then back to my past.