August 18, 2014

Normandy History And Restoration

Cathedral de Coutances

Cathedral de Coutances

On Friday I went to the cathedral in Coutances with a friend who is not only an architect, he is currently in charge of all the momuments historiques in the entire Auvergne region. Spending the day with him is like having a history, art and architecture professor at your disposal and I was more than happy to visit as many cathedrals, churches, abbeys and châteaux as he wanted.

We arrived under beautiful blue skies and thanked Mother Nature for giving us the chance to enjoy a day free of the drizzle and gray skies that decided to take their holidays in Normandy this August.
We walked around the exterior, snapping photos and admiring the Romanesque/Norman/Gothic facade. In the square in front of the cathedral we came across a series of photographs depicting the bombardment and destruction of Coutances during World War II. Seventy years ago, the exact place where we were standing was a giant pile of destroyed homes, businesses turned to rubble and pieces of the cathedral.
It was a sobering moment.

Never Forget

After the war the cathedral was painstakingly restored by Yves-Marie Froidevaux.
When you step inside and your eyes are drawn up to the light, the stained glass windows and the central dome, the amount of care that was given to bring it back to its former glory is unmistakable.

Looking Up

Cathedrale de Coutances

Cathedrale de Coutances

I'm sure that those poignant photographs will be stored away at the end of 2014, the year of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the year when Normandy remembers its liberation by the allied forces. I can only hope that in the years ahead, when visitors come to experience this beautiful, delicious region, they will have read not only about Mont Saint Michel, Impressionism, Calvados and the cheese, but about the restoration of places like the cathedral of Coutances, the history and impact of the war, and will remember the atrocities that the French people suffered under the Nazi regime, so that it never happens again.

Cathedrale de Coutances

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August 10, 2014

5 Things

Plums and Apricots

1) Sweet summer at the Bayeux market


2) Busy summer in Montmartre


3) Rue Crémieux

Still in Paris?

4) Incongruous


5) Wood, water and old stones

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August 8, 2014

The Point Of No Return

Trois Fromages

A fellow expat friend and I were talking over drinks and nibbles the other night and out of the blue she asked me if I ever thought about moving back to the States.
I sat there for a minute, like a deer caught in the headlights, trying to come up with a response.

Of course, I think about it.
But would I ever really consider it?

We've worked hard over the years to live here and there are many things I love and take for granted in France.
  • fabulous, inexpensive healthcare and doctors and nurses who make house calls 
  • 600 + kinds of cheese!
  • unpasteurized, hand churned salt butter
  • amazing AOC wine from more regions than I can count
  • efficient train travel (unless there's a strike...)
  • numerous European countries at our doorstep
  • inexpensive monthly internet and phone packages
  • weekly outdoor markets with fresh, local produce 

  • the café culture
  • long Sunday lunches
  • diverse regional cuisine
  • flaky, buttery croissants
  • a more relaxed pace of life
  • the history, art and architecture

  • Normandy

    On the other hand, there are many things I do miss!

  • family and friends, of course
  • stores open on a Sunday afternoon in case I need a last minute ingredient for dinner
  • hot sauce. So many kinds of hot sauce.
  • cheap fuel
  • not having to worry about having exact change
  • Dairy Queen (yes, I love Peanut Buster Parfaits - don't judge)
  • no foreign language mix-ups
  • long, wide stretches of empty beach
  • drive through banking
  • Trader Joe's (and its amazing selection of salsas)

  • Trader Joe's

    A Day on the Beach in California

  • a life free of endless paperwork
  • drivers who respect others (of course this is debatable, depending on where you live
  • not having to mentally and emotionally prepare myself every time I need to return something
  • having my groceries bagged up for me
  • good bagels
  • Mexican food

  • Three of my favorite things: chips, salsa and a margarita

    After thinking about her question some more on the train home to Normandy the next day, I realized that after 11½ years, a quarter of my life, I think we've reached the point of no return. We chose to change our lives and move to France and have managed to make it work despite the bureaucratic challenges and other headaches. We've learned to be more patient, flexible and very determined.
    There has also been a huge emotional investment. We have put down roots here.
    France is home.

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    August 2, 2014

    5 Things


    1) Paris corner café

    Domino (a.k.a. The Diva) has found a new favorite sleeping spot. On the table in our garden.

    2) Zen cat

    Paris Views

    3) Signs

    Les Vaches

    4) Spotted while driving into town


    5) Extra chairs

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    July 31, 2014

    Photo du Jour - French Wine Barrel

    "Ici Chiroubles"

    "Ici, Chiroubles au verre."
    Spotted at a café in Paris.

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