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I took over 1000 photos on my recent trip to France. Most aren’t what anyone else would find fun to see: closeups of blocks used in walls, cobblestone patterns, the vaults of way-too-many cloisters and churches. But there are a few that are just pretty or (I think) represent something cool. If you’re not sure what a particular picture is all about, ask me in the comments!

 

Choosing settings

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I’m here for a purpose. I have a story in mind that takes place in the south of France. I’ve been researching the area and had made some decisions about how things were going to go. But the purpose for being here was to check things out, to learn what’s actually here. The difference between reading a map and walking the path.

There’s also knowing something and, well, KNOWING something. Avignon was not part of Provence during the 15th century. It was a Papal territory. I knew this. And yet, I’d been planning on setting my story in Provence because of the presence of King René and so I’d use Avignon. And then I toured Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. This is an interesting city to set my story in! Actually in Provence, unlike Avignon. But I knew that.

Entrance to the walled, fortified city of Villeneuve-lès-AvignonGardens in the former Abbey there.Looking across to Avignon and the Palace of the PopesA chapel for one of the saints that predated the abbeyRelaxing in the gardens after the tour

Not going to be a setting, at least, not a primary one. But so cool! Two thousand years of history and this hand built bridge that also worked as a life source providing water for cities for a thousand years. Man, just cool.

Pont du Gard. I’m sure I’ll have to use this bridge because, cool!

This is a tunnel cut — by hand, remember — through solid rock to help carry the water towards Nîmes

Reading a place

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There are things that I needed to know before traveling that I didn’t realize I didn’t know. Language plays a huge part in this, I realize now. How often does one go into a restaurant, a shop, and listen to the other people around to learn how the place works. Do they want you to take a number? Will they call your name? Do you ask for a place, whether at the bar or at the table? Are there different rules for different types of places that might otherwise seem similar? And can you discover those rules if you don’t understand what people are saying?

I thought I knew enough French tho “get by.” I’m doing great with the reading of placards and historical notices. But I’m not picking up on the speech. There’s a French phrase that I’ve used for years: L’esprit d’escalier. It’s the act of coming up with just the right phrase, the bon mot when you’re already halfway up the staircase, when it’s far too late to use it. That’s where I’m at, but it is happening at every interaction. I realize the correct phrase I should have used, about 2 minutes after when I should have used it.

On another note, I’m going to have PTSD from driving over here. Some of the roads make sense but those are the big modern freeways. The rest? I drove on roads today that were no bigger than the bike paths in Madison but were expected to allow drivers on both sides of the road (hah! “Road”) doing 70 or even 90 kph (about 45-55 mph). No shoulders. In fact, on the sides of the road are ditches about two feet deep. Let’s just say it would be bad to fall into one of those. Most likely, more of those tomorrow.

But I’m here in Sarlat, alive and well, loving the flat I’m renting for the next bit. Now, have some pictures from the Limoges area. And a selfie. Next time I’ll even smile.

Not the start I had hoped for

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Let’s just say I’m off to a slow start. Two days in France and I accomplished driving to Limoges. In a minivan. Diesel, manual transmission, but where I was hoping for a small car I got “upgraded” to the minivan. European-sized mini van, but still.

I stopped one place for pictures near St Emilion but by the time I got there it was closed for their lunch break. Given the time of day, I decided to drive straight to Limoges and not stop in St Emilion itself.

Seriously, I’ve spent most of yesterday getting to the hotel in Bordeaux and most of today looking for a SIM card. As it was, I ended up just adding International travel on to the plan I have and I just have to hope it doesn’t cost me that much more. 19,000 steps, much of it in the rain, looking for an Orange store in either of two cities. When I finally did find it, they told me the SIM I’d shopped for was at the “other” Orange. wha?

Too late now for anything but eating. I’ll find something and then tomorrow will be another day, one that, I hope, will be the actual start to the research part of the trip.

Fly, by night

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Moon rise, thoughtful eyes

Staring back at me from the window beside

No fright, or hindsight

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Start a new chapter

I find what I’m after

Is changing every day

The change of a season

Is enough of a reason

To want to get away

Almost there…..

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Medieval Commerce.jpgI’m now in the final stages of preparation for my trip. Tickets and lodging were secured before 2018 even began but the big work of the last 4 months has been taking my list of things to do that is THAT LONG and getting it down to something that might, possibly, sort of, be close to manageable.

I’ll never do all of the things I’m looking to do and I’m starting to be okay with that.  There are two thousand five hundred years of recorded history in the areas I’ll be visiting but I’m only interested in the now and the Middle Ages. That still leaves me much to see and experience and that’s exactly what the trip is for.

I plan on updating this blog with something at least a few times a week. Not promising daily, I have things to do! Maintaining the blog will be, itself, an adventure. I’m not hauling a bunch of tech with me so I’ll discover just how hard/easy it may be to work with a camera and an iPad. What? It’s an adventure!

Ready? Set?

Allons-y !