Le Moulin des Landes

On the western coast of France, sort of halfway between Nantes and La Rochelle is a tiny community that is tacked on to the village of La Chapelle Achard. This collection of houses in the middle of farmland is where our good friends Danielle and Sylvain live with their four kids and menagerie of animals.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

Stone farm house of Danielle and Sylvain.

This is our second time visiting and we love the slow pace of country life mixed with the chaos of four kids, two cats, a dog, and three sheep. There is never a dull moment in this house, even though it looks sleepy and peaceful from this angle.

Indi the English Pointer

Indi the English Pointer

This is Indi, quite possibly the sweetest English Pointer that ever pointed. He’s still quite young, only three, and is full of pep and energy. I’ve been told when he is out on the hunt everyone calls him “The White Bomb” because he tears across the fields with incredible speed. When he’s home, he thinks he’s tiny because he will try to crawl into your lap for a belly rub. He is not tiny. Nor is he fixed, and his plums are often the source of mirth in the house because they are so… well, plummy.

Who's a good boy?

Who’s a good boy?

Pan the sheep

Pan the sheep

This is Pan. He has a wife named Grovey, and a son named Lamb Chop. All three had just been shorn shortly before this picture was taken. Pan looks delirious with relief her, mostly because we had just been through a heat wave and I am sure he was feeling the burn.

Danielle's hydrangeas

Danielle’s hydrangeas

Danielle has incredible hydrangeas growing next to the garage right on the road. Tourists stop to take pictures of them. This tourist stopped to take pictures of them. They are truly splendid.

Well hello, my deer.

Well hello, my deer.

Sylvain is a part owner in a deer farm. There are three types: Sica, Red, and Fallow deer. These are the red deer. We went to visit them all and bring them lunch, which Mr. Himself is munching on here.

 

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

Our hosts, Danielle and Sylvain in Nuremburg.

And this post wouldn’t be complete without Danielle and Sylvain themselves. We found we traveled very well together. They are wonderful friends and Kosta and I love them both very much. It would be nice if we could see each other more than every few years. But (!) they want to visit Greece with us in 2018. It is ON.

Note: I didn’t post any pictures of the kidlets because I haven’t asked permission from their parents yet. If they say okay, I’ll tell you about all four of them in turn. They’re pretty fantastic, as far as kids go.

Bad Windsheim and Nürnberg

We spent four days visiting the “bergs” of Bavaria: Nürnberg, Bamberg, Würzburg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber, with a day in Munich on either end. We traveled with our good friends Danielle and Sylvain, who flew in from France to join us.  We stayed in the charming little town of Bad Windsheim:

Bad Windsheim

Bad Windsheim

We chose to stay there because it was centrally located to what we wanted to see, and also because my friend Niki used to live there when her husband was stationed in the military nearby.

We rented a house off AirBnb and it was adorable. It had a patio where we sat every night to eat, or have a drink:

Sylvain and Kosta sample the schnapps.

Sylvain and Kosta sample the schnapps.

So. Nürnberg. It was the first city we visited and it was charming for all the notorious reputation is has received from the post WWII trials. We saw the Imperial Palace, walked the city wall, had lunch next door to Albrecht Dürer’s birthplace, and saw some beautiful churches and half-timbered houses.

On the river.

On the river.

Danielle and Sylvain

Danielle and Sylvain

My husband's herring. Ew.

My husband’s herring. Ew.

View from inside the fortified palace on the hill.

View from inside the Imperial Palace on the hill.

IMG_6260

Doofus.

Market Day.

Market Day.

Birthplace of Albrecht Durer.

Birthplace of Albrecht Durer.

One more thing we did was visit the Zepplinfield, or the Nazi Party rally grounds. Sylvian is a huge WWII buff and was intellectually interested to see the spot. We stopped there on our way out of town. The concrete risers are still there, although crumbling. I have no pictures of the spot because I did not want to honor it with a photograph. It was interesting, in a morbid way, but I definitely had the creeps being there. Kosta said he felt like he needed to wash the bottoms of his shoes after we left. I still can’t believe it hasn’t been razed.

On a lighter note to send you along your way:

I'll just leave you with this picture of a busker playing the accordion with his dog hanging out on top.

I’ll just leave you with this picture of a busker playing the accordion with his dog hanging out on top. Like you do.

 

 

 

Unexpected Events

Things have been great on vacation. We met up with our friends in Munich, and spent several days visiting Nuremberg, Würzburg, Bamberg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber. We were treated to such views as this:

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn't it?

Nuremberg. Totally hideous, isn’t it?

We have had a wonderful time reconnecting with our friends Danielle and Sylvain, and we have discovered a few things about German culture.

  1. They like cash. I think I only used my credit card to pay for the hotel and the rental car. Cash everywhere else.
  2. Sparkling water is called Sprudelwasser.
  3. The Germans are crazy for pork and cabbage:

    That's a lot of sauerkraut.

    That’s a lot of sauerkraut.

Seriously. I ate so much pork I thought I was going to sprout a curly tail. Pork at every meal. Cabbage hiding under the lettuce of your salad and of course the ubiquitous sauerkraut. We went to the grocery store and they had an entire Wall O’ Pork. They are totally serious about their pig food products.

We are now comfortably ensconced in our friends’ old stone farmhouse in Western France. And it was good to be surrounded by friends because the totally unexpected happened.

The other day I got a text from my Mom saying Dad had been having chest pains. They went to the ER, ran some tests, and the upshot was Dad had to have triple bypass surgery. It happened today and went extremely well. He is in recovery and all signs point to a good recovery. But the fact that I wasn’t with my mother to sit there and hold her hand while her husband of 46 years had open heart surgery left me a quivering mess.

But my wonderful friend Danielle helped me through with Reiki. If you don’t know what Reiki is, I invite you to read about it here. Basically, it is healing energy from the Divine that a practitioner can channel into another being: human, animal or plant. I’ve been a practitioner for several years now and Danielle is the Reiki Master who has taught me. Together we created a flow of Reiki that was sent directly to my father, thousands of miles away. It was proactive and left me feeling more in control of my emotions and hopeful of a positive outcome. I held it together.

Dad will probably be in the hospital for five or six days. Kosta and I debated over what to do. In the end, (mostly because we can’t afford to change our plane tickets) we are going to continue with our vacation. Trust me when I say it was not an easy decision to make. Most of me is longing to be home with my family. Everyone seems to be coping reasonably well. Mom has been so brave and capable and I am proud of her for surviving an extremely difficult situation.

The last couple of days have been rough, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much on a vacation before. But Dad has survived his ordeal, Mom is coping with hers, and Kosta and I will deal with ours.

Perplexed and a little frightened...

Perplexed and a little frightened…

 

 

V is for…


V
Vendée

France is divided into regions, sort of like we have states, only less autonomous, I believe. The Vendée is where my dear friend Danielle lives in a tiny hamlet called Le Moulin des Landes, which is near the village of La Chapelle Achard. Kosta and I visited in 2013 and stayed with Danielle and her family for a couple of weeks. It was a wonderful experience. Not only do we adore the entire family, but they live in a 180 year old stone farm-house. They keep sheep and chickens and are slowly restoring the place.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

That is Pan the sheep with his brother Fangus following behind.

The Vendée is on the Atlantic coast and Danielle and her family live just a fifteen minute ride from Les Sables-d’Olonne, which is a beautiful seaside town with spectacular beaches. I am very excited because we are going back there this summer for a week to see the family and hang out before we go on to Bavaria and Austria. I am hoping we can plan a side trip up north to Mont St. Michel in Brittany. It’s a few hours drive, but I’ve been dying to see it.

Les Sables d'Olonnes

The beach at Les Sables d’Olonnes