The coolest place you’ve probably not been to….

Fort Boyard in France

                     Fort Boyard in France

One of the highlights of our 2015 tour of Western France and Belgium was a boat ride to the coolest place. It is called Fort Boyard. From wikipedia: Fort Boyard (pronounced: [fɔʁ bɔjaʀ]) is a fort located between the Île-d’Aix and the Île d’Oléron in the Pertuis d’Antioche straits, on the west coast of France and is the filming location for the TV gameshow of the same name. Though a fort on Boyard bank was suggested as early as the 17th century, it was not until the 1800s under Napoleon Bonaparte that work began. Building started in 1801 and was completed in 1857. In 1967, the final scene of the French film Les aventuriers was filmed at the remains of the fort.

Since I had been before on a boat tour to Île-d’Aix when I lived there in 1990-1991 and I’d seen Fort Boyard, I really wanted to take my family there. However, we were staying with friends about 40 minutes away from the boat departure and I didn’t want to book something and have to be there at a certain time potentially sweaty and stressed trying to make it. So… When we arrived at the beautiful port city of La Rochelle, we then saw all of the boat ticket kiosks and bought some tickets for a 2 hour tour for an hour later. I think boats are really cool, but I can get quite seasick so it is a good way to never actually buy a boat. However, I knew this boat ride wouldn’t be away from actual land too long and I tend to get seasick when land is not visible. It was cool to again see Fort Boyard and show my family this unique and fascinating place. 

Bear Grylls came to my hometown neck of the woods……

It was with great delight that I discovered that Running Wild with Bear Grylls had filmed an episode near my hometown. Thanks Facebook friends from the past.  I have long been a fan of Bear Grylls and I enjoyed watching the episode on the internet early this morning while not quite recovered from jet lag. The sights were very familiar to me and I have a pretty good suspicion that some of the stuff may have been Hollywood staged, but the treacherous canyon is definitely the real deal. I’ve seen it more times than I could count. I have even hiked way below as a young girl. It is not a marked hiking path. I’m not much for eating the local reptiles though so we probably had some Twinkies. We never went to the mountain without a good stash of treats. I’ll probably watch this video several times before tiring of it. Thank goodness for the internet so I can watch it on my own schedule.

Biking… We still bike….

This summer has been crazier than most. We knew it would be crazy, we just didn’t know there would be a move thrown in the mix to make it crazy squared. We aren’t sure when the move will go down as the “crazy” real estate market never seems to work in my favor so I get to sweat and sweat and sweat and possibly send off my husband without us. Anyway, we went to an island the other day and I had already given up going to another island (the one I wanted to…) because the only thing to do there is ride a bike and I wasn’t sure my youngest could handle a day long bike ride. So….we went to L’île de Ré. A few years ago I read in a chic US travel magazine about this unknown (to Americans) place and it was a place that I knew as a place for biking and being chased around by my younger host brother. He thought he was Bilboa Baggins and I was the enemy…….so he chased me around the island with his wooden sword and we didn’t really see many other people back in 1991. Now, it is on the radar of the Hamptons crowd I guess. When I saw that they were renting bikes, I couldn’t resist. I went and rented 5 bikes and then my youngest threw a fit. She didn’t want to get on a bike. She couldn’t remember how to ride a bike. BLAH BLAH BLAH… I was not really in the mood after paying 50 Euros and wanting to bike super bad so we had to relearn to ride a bike. You know what? It was just like riding a bike and after she got over her bad attitude we had a great time. We had so much fun, but didn’t want to overexert her so we turned around before doing half of what we wanted, plus we were on dinner duty at the home of our friends we were visiting so we definitely didn’t want to flake out even though the biking was SUPER FUN!!


A few years ago I wanted to do the camino…..

A few years ago, I saw the movie: The Way about the Camino Santiago de Compostela. It was a really good show about walking. Knowing we were going to be in Europe for an extended trip, I continued to consider this option. Although I never came close to actually doing it, it is a very cool thing. We were only coming here on our extended trip when school was out and walking in the heat of the summer really didn’t sound fun, not to mention sleeping dorm style at my age. Add to that the possibility of bed bugs and it becomes really iffy. Of course there are more posh options, but when you go with 5 people you have to actually be pretty intelligent about budget issues. Fast forward and we are in France in a very comfortable townhome rental…….. We have had to go multiple times to the grocery store a few miles away,our hot water runs out long before the day is over and worst of all is that the laundry machine pretty much doesn’t really wash our clothes. So, we are kind of roughing it as it turns out. I have adapted by doing my dishes while boiling pots of water at the same time to keep the food preparation hygienic so we do feel a bit like campers. Good thing we camped with my family in the seventies to give me a few ideas. However, my Mormon pioneer heritage is clearly far up the family tree at this point.

Otherwise, we are on the West coast of France and we are having a good time. We are not really used to having extended vacation time since we are Americans so it is taking a bit of getting used to not running from place to place. Actually, we are kind of extreme in that we did a world tour in about 10 days in 2014 so maybe we’re a bit CRAZY. (Well, my kids do get dragged and don’t get much say….. ) We are here to visit old friends of mine and to take advantage of a closing window of opportunity since some of the people we will be visiting are NOT spring chickens. I am very excited since we haven’t made it to these parts in 10 years. We have been doing our own touring, but in a few days we will be guests to some brave elderly friends. The other reason the camino was inconvenient is that this is the place I wanted and needed to come visit so Spain will have to wait, but I don’t think camino is too realistic anyway for this gal.

Traveling with kids is awesome…

Of course it is not awesome to hear: Are we there yet for the billionth time or the constant fighting because someone got touched in the 5 passenger car with 5 people in it…… But how about finding a playground tucked in a courtyard surrounded by a castle and high on a hill. This is the heart to the city of Caen, France. Pretty sweet! image

Mont St. Michel

Yesterday, we visited Mont St. Michel. Once upon a time in 1990, I came here with other exchange students studying in France and I always wanted to return. Although I came previously in the dark ages and also off season, it was clear that this place is quite the destination; what now with parking lots that could rival the Disney parks and all. It was too crowded, but it’s a remarkable place so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. We ended up walking there instead of taking the shuttle bus due to my lack of desire to wait in any line. Also, OF COURSE I enjoy walking so it was okay, but we were quite hot and sweaty before we even got there. I can only tolerate sweaty if there is a guaranteed shower on the horizon. The photo does NOT accurately represent just how many people were heading towards the Mont AND when when we left there were even more going there.montst.michel

Utah beach sounds like a good place to start…

We are in France. I love it here. We had an uneventful flight which was awesome cause I freak out during any turbulence. I pray and remind myself of statistics anytime things get unpleasant on flights. The drive after the flight was actually quite unsafe cause of the jet lag, but we made it. We were coming to Normandy on our route so we decided to make a trip to the WWII monuments. We started with

Bar at Utah beach.

Bar at Utah beach.

Utah beach. The beach itself was quite unremarkable with very low wave activity which is what made it such a miraculous place. The Dday invasion was a lot bigger event than I realized and was quite amazing to learn about and a solemn hollowed location.  When you travel with a family the costs add up fast so we enjoy going to the grocery store to get a baguette to eat with ham a cheese. Total cost today = <6 euros with a drink for 5 people. You then find a nice park and have a picnic.

August already???

The past few days have been around 100 degrees in Portland, Oregon. After living here for 8 years, I have a low tolerance for hot days like that so I stay inside during the heat. We have had some nice pleasant walks in the night though. I like the warm temperatures, but I don’t like the sun beating down on me. When I was growing up, we would go to Las Vegas  to a waterpark and once when it was 118 degrees at 10 night it was just awesome. There was a temperature and clock that hovered high in the sky at a casino next to the waterpark so that is how we knew the temperature. Tomorrow, we are embarking on a long held goal. It is amazing how goals can be so hard to achieve. In my youth, my education goals were what was the most important thing to my existence so I was pretty dedicated and then when schooling was done the paths were endless and more complex. I LOVE the beginning of the movie UP that shows the man and his wife saving up for their goals, but always other stuff gets in the way. It is really profound and true to life. Yesterday, I was at the dentist since my daughter was getting her braces off. My dentist runs a thriving practice as the only dentist and her husband had a high powered job and he was also the primary care taker for their teenagers. Last time we talked, she told me they would play tennis for 4 hours a night most nights when she would get home from work. I was astonished cause I knew it I ran a dental practice that I’d be on the couch every night not being able to move from exhaustion. However, she was energetic beyond my imagination. Fast forward, I had heard something was wrong with her husband since we had had some appointment cancellations in the past few months which we were fine to work around. So, I asked if he was okay………. and he is dying of a terrible aggressive cancer and she is now running her practice and the show. Tennis has been sidelined for them indefinitely. Life can change is a second. Life is precious. Goals are important, but some people aren’t lucky enough to ever get that far.