Oui, chef!

Yesterday, we took a bus to Lyon, which is the third-largest city (second-largest urban center) in France. It is located about an hour from Grenoble, where the Saône and Rhône rivers meet.

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Lyon has many little passageways throughout the city. Parts of the city are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lyon is beautiful and is known for its gastronomy. It is one of the top food destinations in the world, both for aspiring chefs and for restauranters. It was the home to Paul Bocuse, who was the le chef de tous les chefs. He was taught by Mme. Eugenie Brazier, who was a force in her own right–she was the first, and to this date, the only person to be awarded three Michelin stars twice. Bocuse held three Michelin stars since 1965. He died earlier this year. We went to a food hall that was built in his honor. It did not disappoint! It was full of florists, fishmongers, cheese shops, bakeries and more. The attention to detail and displays were spectacular!

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Above: M. Paul immortalized in a mural and in his food hall in Lyon.

Left: A little description of Bocuse and his accomplishments. (If you have not seen the Parts Unknown Lyon episode, you can view Anthony Bourdain’s experience with Bocuse and Daniel Boulud here.

 

 

 

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Above: Mme. Eugenie Brazier, who struck fear into the heart of Bocuse. What a boss!

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Above: A few of the delights at La Halle

We had some nice treats throughout the day. We had the best pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) of our trip thus far at Boulangerie de Saint Marc, a crêpe lunch, and some really good, American-style coffee at Mokxa (see below).

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Our language learning is starting to progress. We have been in France for less than a week, but we are starting to pick up on conversational French. It is challenging to have someone say something very quickly, understand what is being said, and respond appropriately. However, part of it is just listening carefully and not getting too flustered. We have had small (but meaningful) conversations with our “cheese man” at the market and some other people. Everyone has been very kind to us.

We are going to join a couple of English-French speaking groups here in Grenoble to help us learn French and to make some friends. They meet in cafes throughout the city. We are also planning some trips within France and neighboring countries. We were able to go to Lyon on a bus and return safely (all in French) so far, so that’s a good start!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

En français:

Nous allons rejoindre quelques groupes francophones-anglophones ici à Grenoble pour nous aider à apprendre le français et se faire des amis. Ils se rencontrent dans les cafés de la ville. Nous prévoyons également des voyages en France et dans les pays voisins. Nous avons pu aller à Lyon en bus et revenir en toute sécurité jusqu’a présent (en français), donc c’est un bon début!

Bon week-end!

 

 

 

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Paris and Grenoble

Hi everyone, it’s Ali! I’ll pick up where Tim left off.

On Monday, we decided to tour the Left Bank in Paris. We went to Shakespeare and Company, which is arguably one of the most famous English language bookstores in the world. It has two floors–the first is fairly straightforward, and the second floor has a little reading room and a poetry section. Tim took an illegal photo of me at the typewriter (photos are prohibited in the store).

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Me, typing away at Shakespeare and Company

 

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We walked around a bit and had Niçoise salads for lunch. We have realized pretty quickly that everything is shifted later in France–breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyone was still drinking coffee at 11am and lunch was nowhere in sight. At the Sorbonne, there was a philosophy bookstore. Tim was in heaven. All continental philosophy, all the time!

We went back to the hotel and grabbed our bags. We had a train to catch at the Gare de Lyon at 2:40. About three hours later, we arrived at our home for the next seven weeks–Grenoble!

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Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps. Officially, it is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. We decided to stay here because it is a beautiful city and has easy access to hiking and the rest of Europe (especially Italy and Switzerland). We do not have a car, so access to public transportation is really important.

We met our landlord, Michael, at the apartment. It is a walk-up on a major street. It’s a beautiful little apartment–just the right size for the two of us. It has large windows that let in a beautiful breeze. We will do a more detailed post on the apartment later, but here are a few photos:

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View from one of our windows

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Tim relaxes on the couch

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Staircase leading downstairs

Around 7pm, we decided to cook dinner at home and set off for the grocery store. It is about twenty feet away from our apartment. It is a smaller version of a larger supermarket (it is a Carrefour City). It has everything we need. The BEST thing is that all of the wonderful French and European brands (such as Maille, Bonne Maman, and so on) are much more reasonable than in the United States. In fact, we bought a fair amount of groceries for €20, which is about $23 with the current exchange rate. We came home and made a very simple dinner and then went to bed. I slept for nine hours!

When we woke up this morning, we decided to go to the farmer’s market near our apartment. We weren’t really sure what to expect. Imagine our surprise when we saw dozens of stands with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and cheese. It was hard to choose.

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One stand at Le Marché de l’Estacade

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Today’s haul: fresh apricots, cherries, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and blue cheese (total: €12)

One of the best parts of the market is that it is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6am to 1pm, and that we absolutely must speak French to communicate. One of the major reasons we chose France is to work on our language skills. In Paris, most people would hear our accent and begin speaking in English. Not here. So far, everyone has spoken to us in French. We stumble, but we will learn!

 

We ate a quick lunch and walked around Grenoble. It is a really beautiful city. The Alps surround it on all sides. It has been said that Grenoble has “a mountain on every street.”

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A classic shot of Grenoble. Imagine how beautiful it is in the winter! Grenoble is a skiing destination. You can fly directly in the winter, but not in the summer.

 

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Place Victor Hugo, a large green space and park in the center of the city

 

 

We walked to the city center and over the Isère.

 

 

 

 

 

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The French and département flags fly proudly.

Then we went back to the apartment to rest. Tim is taking a nap (he did not sleep for nine hours) before we enjoy the evening. France is playing tonight and we are going to go out and cheer on les Bleus! (Update: They aren’t playing tonight–they are playing on Thursday. I was looking at the wrong calendar! Whoops!)

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Our grocery bag celebrates the French team (FFF).

I really want to improve my French, so I will be writing at least part of each blog entry in French. I hope that it will help with my tenses and vocabulary. Today, I will write about our experience at the market.

Thank you all for your support, and à bientôt!


En français:

Quand nous nous sommes réveillés ce matin, nous avons décidés d’aller au marche des producteurs près de notre appartement. Nous ne savions pas à quoi nous attendre. Imaginez notre surprise lorsque nous avons vu des dizaines de stands avec des fruits, des légumes, de la viande, du poisson, et du fromage. C’était difficile de choisir.

L’une des meilleurs parties du marché est qu’il est ouvert du mardi au dimanche de 6h à 13h, et que nous devons absolument parler français pour communiquer. L’une des principales raisons que nous avons choisi la France est de travailler sur nos compétence linguistiques. A Paris, la plupart de gens entendaient notre accent et commençaient parler en anglais. Pas ici. Jusqu’à présent, tout le monde nous a parlé en français! Nous trébuchons, mais nous apprendrons!

 

 

 

Paris

Saturday was a long, but exciting day.

Waking up for what will be the last time in 51 nights (!) in our own bed, we spent the first half of the day closing, locking, cleaning, mowing, wiping, storing, baiting, vacuuming, and packing. When you are leaving for an extended period, there are a surprisingly large number of small things to do. We tried to leave the house in good shape. Besides cleaning the inside, this meant giving all of the plants in our yard a good haircut, since Florida summer is essentially a greenhouse, with surpluses of water and heat. Left unchecked, it would not take too long for the swamp in which we live to reclaim our house to the earth.

By early-afternoon, we were packed and ready to go, with the two cars tucked away in the garage, the AC set to 82 (to help keep the house dry and prevent mold, since it is so humid), doors locked, neighbors alerted, and Wolfgang, our beloved grandfather clock stilled. Off to Orlando International!

Our flight from Orlando to Paris was quiet and uneventful. We were fortunate to sit in an exit row with plenty of leg room. Because we were on Norwegian Airlines, we brought our own food and water. Everything on Norwegian is a la carte, so passengers do not receive even a cup of water unless you are willing to pay extra for it. Poor Ali was so cold during the flight that she went to the back of the plane to ask for a blanket. She was blankly informed that they are available for purchase on her touch screen. It is an unsympathetic sky over Norway apparently.

Customs in Paris was a breeze. I don’t think the customs agent even looked at us before stamping our passports and moving us along. A 45-minute train ride from Charles de Gaulle to Gare de Lyon and we were at our hotel. We had a great view of the Seine and the Eifel Tower from our room (I’m not too embarrassed to say that I really enjoyed watching the Tower sparkle at night on the hour, so much so that I stayed up till midnight to see it happen again, yes).

Our first meal in the city was perfectly French. We had crèpes in a small restaurant close to our hotel. It was especially fun to see the owner and his 12-year-old son interact. The son was the waiter for our table, and I was caught off guard when he came up to us and asked us what we wanted in real French, not the baby French that will make the tourist feel très française. I blabbered something about, “I would like the la provençal crèpe merci, s’il vous plait, a bientôt, au revoir.” Ali, on the other hand, responded in nice, crisp French that she would like the Mediterranean and a carafe d’eau sur la table. Boom. Our friend, le garçon, shuttled off with our order. Perhaps, the French do not seem to have the same concern with child labor as we have back home. Or, perhaps, it was just Sunday afternoon at the family business. Whatever the case, the food was outstanding!

Ali will post soon with some more details from Paris. In the meantime, I’m going to start studying some French so I don’t get left too far behind! Here are some pictures.

Below: The bags (we tried to pack reasonably light, not too bad for seven weeks), Wolfgang stilled, cars away, two views of Gare de Lyon, Ali at dinner at Les Temps des Cerises, obligatory Louvre selfie. 

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Bon Voyage

Hello, everyone!

It has been a long time since we posted on the blog. Ali and I are both excited to re-commit to a blogging habit as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends, near and far. Life in Florida can sometimes leave us feeling disconnected from those we love, and we would like to keep you all a little closer!

This week, Ali and I are celebrating the official end of her school year. As many of you know, Ali returned last August to teaching high school English. It has been really exciting to see her share her creativity, positive energy, and passion for learning. She has such good ideas for how to run a class and how to take advantage of technology to connect with students. I have been shamelessly “borrowing” her ideas to use in my own classes (Harkness Discussions and Google Agenda were big hits!) I think having two teachers in the same house has pushed us both to be more thoughtful about our work.

One of the other nice benefits of us both working in education is that we share time off in the summer. Since Florida is not necessarily the most pleasant place to be at this time of year, Ali and I are travelling to a (slightly) cooler climate for our summer vacation. Departing this Saturday, we will be spending the next seven weeks in the French Alps, based out of the city of Grenoble (see below).

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Because of its central location and its size, Grenoble is often referred to as the “capital of the Alps.” It is a quintessential college town and ski destination. Additionally, the city is surrounded on all sides by national parks, including the massive Parc National des Ecrins. But, the city is probably best-known for its Bastille, with its long row of stairs and towering views over the valley below. One of our first orders of business upon arrival will be to climb to the top! From everything we have gathered, Grenoble should serve as an interesting home for our summer in France.

We have an apartment in the center of the city about 10 minutes from the main train/bus station. Our hope is to not only explore Grenoble, but many of the surrounding alpine destinations, such as Le Bourg d’Oisans, Les Deux Alpes, Chamonix, Chartreuse, and Annecy. Also, we will not be far from Provence, Switzerland, Italy, or the food mecca of Lyon. And, there is always a 3-hour TGV ride into Paris…

We hope that you will follow along with us this summer. Also, we will soon share some photos from our other post-Ranger travels over the last months.

Two more days before we’re off!

Tim

 

Wal-Mart, Vans, and the NYT

George Etheredge for The New York Times

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During our summer trip, we spent quite a few nights in Wal-Mart parking lots. We realized very quickly that some “RV Parks” are just parking lots with dump stations. Since we didn’t need dump stations, Wal-Marts worked very well. They have 24 hour security, bathrooms, and all the van necessities, such as ice and propane. Overall, Wal-Mart’s policy saved us hundreds of dollars and allowed us to stay in a safe place. We didn’t meet many people (most people kept to themselves), but that was fine. 

The New York Times published a photo essay of Wal-Mart’s overnight policy. Right now, it’s the top trending story on their site. You can read it here

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Our fall has been great, and it has been very busy. Tim has traveled to San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and we visited Pennsylvania. We are very excited to have a break next week. Hope everyone is well. 

Hurricane Irma

We’ve had a busy August and start of September. I started a new job (going well) and Tim has begun a new semester. 

We decided to leave Tampa ahead of this serious hurricane. The storm is huge and unpredictable, and gas/food shortages were widespread in Tampa on Tuesday. We are currently north of Atlanta, staying at a hotel. We are planning to head west to Nashville tomorrow. Our hope is that we will remain out of the storm’s path and return to Florida via the western panhandle when possible. 

We left this morning at 3:30am, and drove for 12 hours to Atlanta (the drive would usually take about 7). Most of the rest areas were closed because they were filled to capacity. We were able to find gas but we also carried a gas container with us (lesson learned driving from MA to PA after Sandy). We were glad we left when we did, because it seems that the window to leave is closing. 

Our thoughts are with those who remain in Florida. We will update the blog as able.

New Adventures

Tonight, on a rainy Monday evening in downtown Boston, we sold our beloved van, Ranger. 

Ranger was made for adventure. He is a true camper van. He carried us over 8,000 miles, from Florida to Texas, throughout New Mexico, up to Colorado, into Wyoming, across Montana, home to Massachusetts, and back and forth to Maine. He did it all with no complaints, with only a flat tire and a cracked oil pan. Amazing, considering he is a 15 year-old car with 166,000 miles. 

As we spent more time out West, it became more and more apparent that our current location (Florida) makes it very difficult to camp as we did this summer. Most campgrounds are expensive and reservation-only. The Everglades are too far to visit frequently. To leave the state, we have to drive four hours north. Shipping the van is cost-prohibitive. Although Ranger never gave us cause to worry, we knew repairs are inevitable. It was also sad to think of Ranger just sitting in our garage, unused. 

After a lot of thought and deliberation, we listed him online on a VW classified site called The Samba. They focus on older specialized VWs. We had waited a couple of weeks without responses, so we had decided to drive Ranger back to Florida and go from there. 

However, last Wednesday we received an email from an interested party. We told him that we had planned to leave for Florida soon, so he came and test drove on Wednesday. He said he had other vans to see and would be in touch. On Friday he made an offer but later said he couldn’t make a decision. We were disappointed, but decided to resume our plans to drive home. However, on Friday evening during the HMA Summer Party (as Tim was eating a lobster), we received a call. He was back in and willing to pay for an inspection at VW the next day. We met him at VW and waited for an hour while the service team inspected the van. 

One hour later, the service manager appeared. He called the buyer over, but we were in earshot. “Well,” said the manager, “This is always the tough part.” 

We leaned over to hear the report, feeling a little nervous. What would they say? We had just had a look-over in Billings, but who knows?

He continued, “Good news for you though, because there is nothing wrong with this van. If you brought it in for an oil change I would not be able to find anything wrong with it. It is in great condition. Great tires, work has recently been done, the body is in great shape, this is a great van!”

What a glowing review! From a dealer, no less! We were proud of Ranger, and proud of ourselves for negotiating the repairs at time of purchase and doing the appropriate repairs at Billings. We were leaving Ranger better than we found him, and that felt good. 

We also sold some of our camping equipment, which was a win-win for the buyer and for us. He gets high quality gear researched for Ranger, and we don’t have to ship it home to Florida (we are flying home later in the week). 

Ranger will be heading back West on a three-month road trip to various music venues throughout the country. We are happy for his new buyer. As we signed the paperwork tonight, he said, “I am so excited. This is a kick-ass van.”

Yes it is. 

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Some favorite photos of Ranger are below:

Readying Ranger for departure in early May (with my homemade screens and curtains!)

Ranger in Artesia, New Mexico 

Ranger at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico 

 Naptime in Ranger at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Ranger in Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico 

Ranger atop the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico

Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 

Ranger at Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming 

Driving Ranger home, Montana 

It may seem a little silly to be sad about selling a car, but Ranger is special. We would not have been able to do this trip without him. He was the perfect car for us–not too big, not too fancy, just right. The decision was hard, but it was the right one. We are excited for his next adventures, and for ours. Thank you for the memories and for keeping us safe, Ranger!

Thank you all for following along this summer. We hope you enjoyed our journey. Your support means a lot to us. We will write a retrospective entry with things we learned and would recommend to others. We will also be checking in here from time to time, especially when we are traveling. Stay tuned! 

✌🏻️and 🚐,

Ali and Tim 

Maine, Heading South 

Last week, we drove up to Maine. Pat is now home and doing well, and we had a great time visiting with Rick, Denise, Michael, and Madeline. On the way back to Massachusetts, we stopped at Bowdoin, Diane’s beautiful alma mater:

We did some shopping in Freeport and Kittery. We really need new clothes. In between trading in my old Patagonia fleece for a new one (you can read about the Worn Wear program here), we ate generous scoops of Ben and Jerry’s “One Love” ice cream (whoa) and browsed the L.L. Bean campus. The below moose were found with their antlers locked together and their battle is reenacted in the store:

Maine was beautiful, even (especially) in the rain:

We have enjoyed a month in Massachusetts and are set to head back to Florida this weekend. We will be stopping in Pennsylvania to see our friends. We haven’t been in Bryn Mawr for over two years and we are excited to see our friends, their children, and our old haunts!

We have been away from Florida for nearly three months and we are excited to return to our home. Below are some of the things we are looking forward to:

  1. Our house, which we love and appreciate 
  2. Seeing our friends and neighbors 
  3. Finding Sig! 🐾🐾
  4. Grocery shopping
  5. Daily smoothies
  6. Palm trees 
  7. Coffee setup 
  8. Meaningful work
  9. Getting back into a routine 
  10. Driving small cars!

We are sad to leave Massachusetts, but we will be back frequently this fall. We are so happy that we have had the time to travel the country and see friends and family. 

Please keep your fingers crossed for a safe journey south. If all goes well, our buddy Ranger will have carried us 10,000 miles in less than three months! 

Talk to you from the road! 🚐 ✌🏻️

Home

As we drove across the country, we decided to change our plans a bit and head home to Massachusetts. The ride was mostly uneventful. Ranger is clean and resting, as are we!

We are going to do a couple of shorter New England trips before we head back to Tampa. I will write some posts about our most important gear and tips for camping in BLM/Forest Service lands over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for following our journey so far!

On our way!

We left South Dakota, which was beautiful. Here’s a view from our campsite out of the Badlands:

We were aware of the long drive ahead of us, and as much as we would have liked to spend time in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, we were feeling the pull of the East. Here are some photos from Ranger:


We stopped at Notre Dame to stretch our legs:

And made our way to Cleveland this morning:

before arriving in Pennsylvania.

We hadn’t been in Pennsylvania since our move in 2015, and it was nice to see some familiar signs. 

We crossed into New York this afternoon and indulged in Wegmans and Polar Seltzer. 

We are officially back East! Very happy, with a renewed respect for our Eastern roots!!!