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pscossette


37 Blog Entries
1 Trip
131 Photos

Trips:

The Cossette Family Sabbatical

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Day 36

Shorewood, United States


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permalink written by  pscossette on July 24, 2007 from Shorewood, United States
from the travel blog: The Cossette Family Sabbatical
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Day 35

Paris, France


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permalink written by  pscossette on July 22, 2007 from Paris, France
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Day 34

Paris, France


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permalink written by  pscossette on July 21, 2007 from Paris, France
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Day 33

Paris, France


This morning was Marks choice so off he and I went to see the rest of the Army Museum (Mark was sure we didn’t see everything during our first visit). Suzy bailed on us and did a little shopping in the boutiques of Paris. Mark and I saw lots more armor, swords, guns, cannons, tanks….every weapon you could think of up to World War II. Mark was in heaven.

We met Suzy a little before noon. She had several full shopping bags and had worked up an appetite. We all decided a picnic was in order so we set off for the Rue Cler to stock up on baguettes, cheese, pate, fruit and a little wine. This is a great little walking street near the Eifel Tower that has one of the best open markets in the city. Once we had stocked up we walked a few blocks west to the Champ de Mars Park for a picnic right in front of the Eifel Tower.

We took the rest of the afternoon pretty easy, simply walking around and doing a little exploring. For our last dinner in Paris we went to a great little neighborhood restaurant about 2 blocks from the Orsay. It was one of the best meals we had in Paris. The cheese ravioli was unbelievable! What a way to end our trip.
PC


permalink written by  pscossette on July 20, 2007 from Paris, France
from the travel blog: The Cossette Family Sabbatical
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Day 32

Paris, France


We enjoyed the Musée d'Orsay so much the first part of our trip we decided to go back. We stopped at a little sidewalk cafe across the street for a little espresso and a pain chocolate. As we were enjoying the sunny morning, a beautiful young women pulls up in a little European sports car to give us a French parking lesson. She backed up to the bumper of the car behind her, yet the front of her car was still hanging into the crosswalk. Not to be detoured when parking is so scarce, she simply slammed her car in reverse and gunned the engine. She proceeded to slide the car behind her tight bumper to bumper to the car behind it. The car behind her was now wedged tight (touching) between her car and the one behind it-they were going nowhere! She then preceded to foof her hair, adjust her sunglasses and saunter down the sidewalk without a care.

The Orsay was great - one of our favorite museums of the trip. Next we went to Montmartre to see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Moulin Rouge-this is definitely the red light district of Paris, and even Mark picked up on the fact the neighborhood was a little more “slutty” than the areas we had been frequenting (where do 9 year olds get their vocabulary). After hiking up and down the hills of Montmartre, Mark was ready for a nap at the hotel. Suzy and Paul headed to Cafe Les Deux Magots, a favorite writers hangout for folks like Hemingway, for a glass of wine, some people watching, and to do a little blog writing of our own.

In the evening we all hiked the spiral staircase to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. There we watched the sun set over Paris and the flashing lights come on the Eifel Tower. It was a great view!
PC

permalink written by  pscossette on July 19, 2007 from Paris, France
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Day 31

Deauville-les-Bains, France


We awoke to the sounds of Seagulls. I must say I prefer the sound of cicadas in the warm afternoon and evening to the screeches of seagulls early in the morning. It was not raining, but a little cool so we though we would go find some breakfast before heading to the beach.

Off to the town market where we found plenty of fruit, cheese, meat and spices to keep us entertained. We found not only breakfast, but the makings of a nice picnic lunch we would later eat on the train to Paris. After dropping the food in the car, we found a spot on the beach where Mark could busy himself collecting shells and we could read our books. I went exploring the multicolored umbrellas that could be rented if it had been a hot and sunny day. Very few were in use while we were there. More interesting was the walk of Cabanas. There were rows of beach cabanas all named for movie stars, directors and producers. Who needs a star in front of a Chinese restaurant when you can have a cabana named after you?

We had a dinner date in Paris that night with the Graziano’s who were also vacationing in Europe, so to the train we went. Soon after pulling out of the station we ate a wonderful lunch of meat and cheese sandwiches, olives, and the best, biggest, juiciest strawberries we had ever had. It will take me a long time to get used to the Minnesota supermarket produce after being in France.

When we arrived at the K+K Cayre Hotel on Rue Du Bac near St Germaine and went for a quick glass of wine nearby, just to get our bearings. Upon retiring to the hotel we had a message to meet Vince and Jude in their room for a little wine before dinner. It was Vince’s birthday and they were celebrating with his brother Steve and his family as well. We did finally all head to dinner, quite well primed. Luckily the Blanc Gorilla was not hard to find and we had a very nice dinner with more great wine and great company. We said our adieus late that night as they were headed to Florence in the morning to bask in the 100 plus heat. SKC


permalink written by  pscossette on July 18, 2007 from Deauville-les-Bains, France
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Day 30

Deauville-les-Bains, France


Today we head to Caen to the World War Museum near Omaha Beach. First we need to wash clothes again. A bit hesitant to have anyone else do it, Paul headed to the Laundromat. This time we had clean and dry, but not pressed clothes in a couple hours for 14 Euro.

We headed down a straight road with Mark in the back seat. We had to stop on the highway for a potential puke, that did not come to fruition thankfully, and then transferred him to the front seat. He then became the designated shifter of the car and that seemed to keep his mind off of being sick.

The weather had turned cloudy and quite cool when we got to Caen. This is really the first cool, long pants, type of weather we have had. The museum is inside so it did not bother us much. The museum is filled with war history, starting with WW I and continuing through the cold war. Most of the exhibits cover WW II and are filled with quotes from letters of the soldiers, French people, and the politicians. I did not take pictures as it just did not seem like the right thing to do. It was quite a sobering experience. War is hell and this museum did a very good job of showing that. We spent about 3 hours in the museum and did not see the whole thing.

Next stop is the beach in Deauville. It is not really beach weather, but what the heck. The first thing we notice is the buildings are different here. Large plaster buildings with plenty of roof gables, decorated with various metal sculptures, and decorative brown wood battens. The second thing you notice is the seagulls. They are everywhere and none too quiet about it. Clearly they think all those pretty buildings were built for them to perch upon until low tide reveals their seafood buffet or until some café patron leaves a delectable treat for them. The last thing we noticed were the boats, lots of boats, big boats, expensive looking boats.

Deauville is the Hamptons of Paris crossed with the Sundance Film Festival, the playground of the polo set with the extra draw of the annual film festival the beginning of September featuring both French and Hollywood stars. The French hate to admit that they are impressed with anything American, but from the number of photos of Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Jennifer Aniston on the walls of their restaurants and hotels, don’t believe it.

We checked in at the Normandy Grand Barriere, billed as the favorite spot for the French film stars to stay when they were in town and as having a great children’s program. The two seemed incongruent to me, but there were a lot of pictures of stars on the walls and they did have a pretty busy appearing kids club. There were lots of kids running through the lobby at least, trailed by young hotel staff members that were presumably entertaining them. Mark, not speaking French, was not too interested in spending any time in the “club house”. We did go use the indoor pool with the retractable roof, which was not retracted as it was cool and raining. Mark had lots of fun playing by himself near the other kids. In typical French fashion there was a pool monitor that would hiss at the kids when ever they laughed or yelped a bit too loud. (In France, instead of saying shhhh when someone is too loud or doing something you do not like, the all purpose, SSSSSSSSS is used.) It did not seem to be terribly effective on a pool full of children and their nannies on a rainy day at a beachside resort. I did notice the noise did not draw any of the mothers out of the spa in the next room to see what the trouble was.

Following the swim, we went to explore the town itself. It is a very charming town of expensive shops and sidewalk cafes. We found a spot for a snack as it was 3:30 and we had not eaten yet that day. We sat for quite awhile as there was a war of wills involving the consumption of a sugar crepe occurring between the male members of the family. What Mark did not understand is that we really did not have anywhere to go and we did not care how long it took for him to eat. As we watched the stylish Parisians stroll down the streets of their home away from home we noticed that the seagulls were particularly riled up. A moment later a falcon flew by at break neck speed, just above the cars. He was followed by a very fast falcon handler, running next to the cars, and behind him a camera crew. Now this seemed like it may be worth eating a crepe for, just so we could leave and see what was going on.

With crepe digesting, we walked down to a large crowd of people on the ground and an even larger crowd of seagulls flying in circles in the sky. A lone falcon was sitting on a building ledge having a war of wills with his handler, who was standing on the ground waving inducements to the bird and muttering obscenities not quite under his breath. The falcon appeared to be unaffected by any of this, he seemed to be saying, “I have had enough and I will not work without a change in these conditions”. We finally wandered off and several hours later, following a late dinner, we wandered by the same spot and all the commotion was gone. Presumably either the handler or the falcon had given in eventually. SKC



permalink written by  pscossette on July 17, 2007 from Deauville-les-Bains, France
from the travel blog: The Cossette Family Sabbatical
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Day 29

Pontorson, France


Today we are driving to Mont St Michelle in Normandy. After about 11/2 hours we turned a corner and caught a glimpse of the beautiful monastery on the mountain in Mont St Michele. The countryside is very flat along the northern coast of France and suddenly there is a mountain with a huge spire sticking out of the tide flats.

The legend is that St Michael, the archangel came to earth to convince the local Bishop to build a Monastery and cathedral on this mountain. He came to the bishop in dreams two nights in a row and the bishop ignored him. The third night, St Michael had lost his patience and pushed on the bishops head so hard that a hole was created in his skull showing he meant business. The nest day the bishop got started on the plans for the church which was built starting in the 8th century. This story lends a new meaning to the saying, “He must have a hole in his head.”

We climbed up the cobblestone streets to the base of the church. It was almost as crowded as Pamplona had been. The crowd was much better behaved though. We got tickets for the tour and had a very nice young lady, who said she was a trainee tour giver; you would never know it, take us and 4 others on an hour tour. It was very interesting and amazing to think about how they built this huge structure on the side of a pyramid shaped stone mountain. The views across the tide flats were amazing too. It was a very low tide and you could see forever. Until recently, pilgrims coming to this holy spot had to cross the tide flats, about 6 kilometers, during low tide to get here. Not so bad except the flats are filled with quick sand and when the tide comes in, it is at a rate of one meter per second. We learned much about Benedictine life in the monastery’s earlier years.
This a definite do not miss if you are in France.

We went and checked in to our hotel room, which had a full wall of windows that viewed the Mont. We decided to go back for dinner as there were many restaurants on the hill. We wanted to go have an omelet that had been cooked on a wood fire as we had watched them being made earlier in the day. As it happened we did not eat there, but would certainly try it in the future. We found a spot that had a view of the incoming tide for Mark and a hamburger steak that he though was wonderful. The Norman roast chicken and vegetables were pretty great too. The tide was going to be very high that evening so the announcement to move your cars out of the parking lot before they were under water was made. We were parked high and dry so we just sat and watched as it rushed in, and rushed it did. I would not have wanted to be about 1 kilometer away, walking around quick sand when it came in. The lights then came up on the cathedral and it was absolutely stunning. I actually got up in the night and sat by the hotel window for awhile just because of the amazing view.
SKC


permalink written by  pscossette on July 16, 2007 from Pontorson, France
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Day 28

Nantes, France


We have been traveling for a month now and it is still wonderful. We would highly recommend a prolonged vacation to all who have a chance to take one. I think Paul will even survive in retirement as he is relaxed and has not even thought about work more than a couple times. More importantly, I think I will survive Paul’s retirement.

Today we are going to start toward Normandy. We will go a little over half way to Nantes. We drove through the wine area for awhile after loading Mark up on Dramamine and putting him in the front seat. The roads are quite winding and his stomach as we know is not very tolerant. After a tour of the country side we got onto the highway. We could have been in Minnesota by the scenery. The fields are smaller, but lots of corn and wheat, cows and sheep to be seen.

We decided to take a detour to La Rochelle along the way. This is a very nice seaside town that happened to have a music festival going on when we arrive. Lots of people and things to see. We had a very good seafood lunch near the pier before siteseeing. Suzy managed to get seperated from Mark and Paul when they headed to the beach. Mark was not too happy when we had to pack up from the beach and look for Suzy. She was eventually found, and we headed back to the beach for the afternoon. La Rochelle was a nice spot and a key sailing center and beach town, nice detour.

Nantes is not much of a city to look at. Apparently there are some interesting sights including a secret garden, but we could not find them. We could see the spires of the church we wanted to visit, but couldn’t make our way through the maze of one way streets and blocked roads by the above ground train system. After about 45 minutes of driving in circles we gave up and went to the hotel. There was a big thunderstorm and just as we sat down in a restaurant for dinner the lights went our. We had a half bottle of wine and by then the lights were on and we ordered a very nice dinner. It seems that no matter what is wrong with a place in France, they still have good food.
SKC



permalink written by  pscossette on July 15, 2007 from Nantes, France
from the travel blog: The Cossette Family Sabbatical
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Day 27

Saint-Emilion, France


I neglected to mention we had a nice swim in the pool yesterday afternoon and a bit of a nap around the pool. There were several English speaking guests at this hotel including a group from New Zealand that were having a great time. The typical sedate French hotel was challenged a bit by all of us non French tourists.

We got up and went back into St-Emilion to explore. After Mark had a hamburger we started checking out all the wine shops. Mark even enjoyed learning about Bordeaux wine. He was petty good at determining the contents of the bouquets, but often couldn’t get over “that alcohol smell”. We were looking for a 1982 wine as that is our wedding anniversary. 1982 was a very good year so the selection of available wines is scarce and expensive. We did find a nice bottle of Pomerol for 5000 Euros. I think we may have to celebrate with a nice 2000 vintage wine. We always new we were a fine vintage. The recommendations from most of the wine shops were to get 2005 Bordeaux now as it is going to be even better than the 1982 or 2000 vintages. The second labels of most of the Grand Cru Classic Chateaus are also very good wines that will cellar just a few years less than the first labels and are much less expensive. There are 7000 Chateaus in Bordeaux alone so finding the perfect wine is a bit overwhelming.

Paul and I decided we needed more training so we signed up for a wine tasting school. The class was led by a very funny guy who put on quite a show of being the Bordeaux wine snob. “That Beaujolais is made over night, not even really a wine, and the Rose’s, definitely not wine”, were a couple of his comments. We learned how to smell, swirl, taste, and check the legs after being tested on our ability to detect smells. I only got 3 correct out of 8, but I still know what I like and do not like.

We went back to the hotel for another swim and dinner. The plan was to eat and drive into Leborne to watch the fireworks as today is Bastille Day, or French Independence day. Dinner was a long and very enjoyable event. Mark even joined us for most of it. Just as we finished our dessert, we saw the first fireworks being shot off. We jumped in the car and got to town just in time for the grand finale. We had a perfect day!
SKC



permalink written by  pscossette on July 14, 2007 from Saint-Emilion, France
from the travel blog: The Cossette Family Sabbatical
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