Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trip to France

Valentine's Day 2015 in Grenoble, France
Jonathan planned a trip to France.  He was already going to be in Germany on a business trip and paid a little extra to fly to France for four days to visit Nathan and Valerie.  He asked me to join him there. I was surprised and thrilled to be invited. We left Curtis and Trevor at home with instructions, schedules and phone lists.

I took the bus to Boston Thursday afternoon for my long flight to Amsterdam, then Lyon, arriving at 11AM Friday morning (with two hours of sleep on the plane). Valerie picked me up for an afternoon of sightseeing in Lyon.

Corridors between the apartment/shop buildings from 1400's.  The longest corridor is 4 blocks long!

Cobblestone streets in historic Lyon
 We took the metro into the historic section of town.  We had an authentic lunch at a French restaurant (lamb chops, fish dumplings, and potatoes au gratin).  So delicious.  Then we walked through the cobblestone streets to see the sights: village with buildings from 1400's, two cathedrals, roman-era amphitheater and museum.  The large museum contains archeological finds from the Roman era.
The remains of two amphitheaters - built in Roman era and the larger one for the commoners seats 11,000.   The basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière is in the background.

Mosiac tiled floor in front of amphitheater

Saint Jean Baptiste Cathedral in Lyon

The basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière - a huge cathedral on top of the hill.  It has two stories, each with a large, ornate chapel 
 I had no idea that this was such an old city, founded in 1 B.C. by Romans. It was a great afternoon and also fun for Valerie as she had never toured this part of town before.

 We picked up Jonathan at the airport at 5PM and drove through lots of traffic (school winter vacation) to their home in Grenoble.  This was the first time we have seen their home since they completely renovated it eight years ago. It is so nice! We had a yummy dinner of salad, pumpkin soup, and chicken and rice with Nathan, Valerie, Meryl and Elina.  I headed to bed and Jonathan stayed up to visit with his twin brother.

Meryl, Elina, Nathan and Valerie

 Saturday morning we went nordic skiing at the closest ski resort to Grenoble.  We did several loops, totaling 12 km with a picnic lunch break of quiche, baguette and cheese in the lodge.  Nathan gave Jonathan lots of pointers on skate ski technique.  Valerie and I classic skied.  I'm pretty rusty and out of shape as I haven't skied much since we left Oregon three years ago.  They felt bad about the cloudy weather because we couldn't see the Alps, but I was thrilled to leave the sub-zero blizzard conditions of NH for a few days.


 Saturday evening, their good friends came for dinner.  They are beekeepers too, so we shared photos and philosophies.  Dinner was the French style called raclette.  Yummy, thick slices of cheese melted in individual trays, poured over potatoes and served with a variety of cold cuts.  Dessert was glazed orange slices.  It was a lovely evening.

 Sunday morning I made cinnamon rolls (I woke early every morning with the 6-hour time difference).  I went to church with Meryl while Jonathan and Nathan went for a bike ride.  Meryl belongs to a very friendly, family-oriented Christian church that does lots of praise worship and spontaneous praying.  Meryl and her friend Anna translated parts of the service to me. 

Gerard and Frederique

 Sunday afternoon we went for a traditional French lunch at Gerard and Frederique's (Valerie parents).  The are gracious hosts and we had an enjoyable 3-hour meal with them of appetizers, salad, creamy potatoes au gratin (I got the recipe), roasted chicken, bread and fancy cheeses, orange dessert with toasted almonds and cake.  

Then we went to the Natural History museum in Grenoble (walking in the rain) to see the exhibit on spiders.  It was fascinating and luckily had English subtitles on  most of the signs.  That evening we had a light dinner of left overs and played card games with Meryl and her boyfriend, Camille.

 Monday we went for another day of nordic skiing.  This time we went farther away to a nice ski resort outside a quaint village.  This ski area reminded me of the ones at Mount Bachelor because there were more remote trails into the woods with the mountains in the background. 

 We skied into a rustic lodge/restaurant where we had reservations for an amazing lunch.Hot raspberry drink, endive salad, bread, polenta with sausages, glazed fruit topped with shaved chocolate and whipped creams.  It was one of the best meals I've ever had.  Somehow we managed to ski another 8km on very full stomachs!  Again, it was cloudy but so much warmer that NH that we kept shedding layers.

 After skiing, we returned our rental equipment and walked around the quaint village of Villard de Lans, visiting a few shops and buying some treats for Curtis and Trevor (and pastries for ourselves).  We went back to their home for a final evening of left overs, visiting and packing (sadly). 

Villard de Lans

We took a bus early to Lyon to begin our trip home (two plane rides and another bus ride).  Fortunately, the weather cooperated and after digging our car out of the long-term parking we made it home.  The boys were very responsible in our absence, clearing snow after Sunday's storm, taking care of the animals, and going to school.