The whirlwind of my daughter Mary’s visit this year was over all too soon. While she was here she helped me with some French business, we traveled a bit, visited with friends, enjoyed some local culture, savored many good meals, and of course ate lots of pastries.
We were off to a running start as soon as she arrived. Mary and I met up at Charles de Gaule in Paris and took the RER from the airport to Gare du Nord where we lunched at a nearby restaurant before catching the train to Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
There we dropped our luggage at the hotel and the fellow at reception shared some thoughts on places to explore. We walked around a bit then strolled to the dock area and enjoyed a nice evening meal.
The following morning we caught a train to Utrecht to meet up with Elaine, one of our ‘adopted’ family members. She is attending University there working toward her PhD.
Elaine was an excellent hostess and tour guide. She showed us around Utrecht: a tour up the Dom Tower – all 465 steps, a visit to the Speelklok Museum, a tour of the lab where she works at the university, lunch of Dutch pancakes and more.
The Speelklok Museum is a large collection of automatically playing musical instruments that goes far beyond music boxes and player pianos.
Heading south we spent a night in Antwerp and the following day visited with Gabrielle, a friend from when I worked in Geel, Belgium many years ago. It was good to get back in touch, catch up on what our families were doing, and to meet her grandson.
Returning to France we arrived in Uzerche late in the evening. Mary had only seen my house once before I bought it when it was still full of layers of dust and cobwebs. So I got to show her around the house after it was all cleaned up and discuss my renovation plans.
The next day was the fireworks for the Fête National (Bastille Day). My neighbor invited us to a party in his garden which provides a great view. Because they wait until dark the fireworks didn’t begin until around 11pm. The fireworks show was spectacular. Around midnight Mary and I wandered down to La Petite Gare where the town festivities were still going strong. We listened to the band for a while before returning home and were serenaded by the music as we drifted off to sleep.
The festivities continued on Friday. During the day we wandered around Uzerche, walked along the river and watched the donkeys in a nearby field. In the old town there were some Boutiques ephemerals (temporary boutiques) and one was put on by Art’ Scène, the art class that I attend, so Mary had a chance to meet a few of my friends.
There was also kid friendly street entertainment with a theme of old time Uzerche.
Friday night was also Marché des Producteurs, our local market night. We had dinner there and enjoyed the live entertainment. I bought some wonderful fresh peaches, and of course another pastry. Mary had a goal of eating at least one pastry each day. Then of course we also had to walk them off – which wasn’t too difficult since we averaged at least six miles each day.
On one of our more leisurely days we went through some of the things I’d found in the house when I was doing the first pass of cleaning. There was lots of old stuff including pictures. We found a few old photos of the house; when we took them outside to compare one of my neighbors came over and identified the couple in the picture as the owners that he knew as a boy and told us their names. We then connected the name to some papers and discovered I have the man’s birth certificate from 1908 and an id card from the 1920’s.
The following week we rented a car. Our first stop was Jardins de Collette. We started at the butterfly shaped labyrinth with five internal gates. To get through you must collect clues and type a code in at the gate to open it or at the water gates to turn off the water to pass through. We then explored the theme based gardens and stopped for a cool drink.
A trip to Carrefour allowed me to do some major shopping which was extremely helpful since I could get large and heavy items that aren’t possible when walking home from the local supermarkets.
After a brief rest that evening we were out again to Mardis dans Uzerche, family oriented entertainment. This time it was literal good clean fun – with soap bubbles. It’s amazing what can be done with bubbles; the show included a working bubble puppet.
The next morning we set out to visit some towns to the south. In Salers we had lunch at a cheese museum (Mary’s idea). On the way out of town we heard what sounded like a very loud wind chime. It turned out to be a field of cows with every one of them wearing a bell; the sound was incredible.
Later that evening we reached our destination of Conques which is amazingly beautiful. We had a chance to walk around before dinner. We visited the Abbey church of Saint Foy, Trésors de Conques and Musée Joseph Fau. As we returned to the hotel it started to rain. Later there was a wonderful thunder storm; we left the windows open and enjoyed the sound of the rain and thunder.
The next day we made a brief stop in Figeac. The town was nice but we didn’t really have time to explore well. On the way out of town however we stopped to take some pictures of a beautiful castle.
After returning the rental car in Brive-la-Gaillarde we went to Emmaüs, the charity shop where I’ve bought most of my furniture. Mary was completely blown away by what they offered and the prices. In Brive we also enjoyed some ice cream made in-house at a local patisserie/chocolatier.
We returned by train to Uzerche and had a relaxing evening.
The next day it was market night again. This time we were joined by my friend Jo from Laguenne. We all had dinner and wine as we watched the entertainment. The market itself is not very big but lots of people show up for meals and entertainment. Some buy food there and others bring their own picnics. It’s a lively and fun environment.
Saturday morning we walked up to the Auto Retro to have a look around. It’s fun to see the different types of cars on display.
In the afternoon we just took it easy, walked up to the boulangerie to buy some pastry and returned by the river path to my house. Then a dose of reality hit when Mary had to pack for the trip up to Paris on Sunday.
Her vacation was way too short – for both of us.