It's been seven (count them) long months since that unfortunate day when I fell down some rather antiquated strangely-configured steps at Galleria La Fayette in Dijon, France. I'd like to say that time has passed by quickly, but then journalistic ethics would forbid me since there's not the slightest bit of truth in it. As a general rule, time does pass quickly but only when one has good health and mobility. I truly do miss driving and independence.
Through my own tenacity and determination, I have graduated from wheel chair, lift and place walker, and now the cane (except on rare occasions) and am donning an adorable pair of Naturalizer black Mary Ann flats (I can wear them with this smallish-designed air cast that I currently wear for ankle stability as I relearn walking). To me, progress has been tedious but worth every second of time I spend in therapy three times a week and the additional therapy I do at home. I'm able to go shopping for an hour or so now and we have moved back into the master suite on our second floor (when you live on a hill here in Hawaii, your bedrooms are downstairs and living areas up). We have a three story homes so that we can enjoy the Pacific ocean view from all rooms of the house, and I am now able to move up and down the stairs. Until recently I hadn't even seen our completed third level as it was under construction at the time of my fall. It was such a thrill to see if finished!
A good sign of my progress and recovery is my current desire to begin planning for a September 2012 trip to Paris and Provence. I'm very excited about this as we were unable to complete our plans that were already laid at the time I fell. The day of my fall we had just rented a car and stopped at the famous Dijon chocolatier's place (he had returned the day before from his August vacation) and purchased two beautiful kilos of fabulous chocolates to take to our friend and artist, Liliane Marco, in Lourmarin where we had planned to spend the weekend. We will return to pick up where we left off and our friend is as excited as we are!
When we go to Lourmarin we'll stay at a wonderful Bed & Breakfast owned by a English/Italian couple. Les Olivettes is a beautiful reburbished country home (mas, for those who know that that is) sitting in the middle of an old well-maintained and productive olive grove (hence the name). Our host couple have done an excellent job in dividing the home into small apartments www.lesolivettes.com and they are wonderful hosts. We stayed in the apartment known as Le Voltaire and we intend to rent the same apartment on this coming trip. We've already made contact and need only send a ten percent deposit to hold the apartment for us. Okay, for those of you who don't know, a mas (pronounced "ma") is a large two story rectangular sort of barn and in earlier times the French resided upstairs while their farm animals occupied the lower level. It was very efficient, truly in line with the way the French do things. Subsequently, people began buying these old buildings and remodeling them into homes, and, I might add, very nice homes.
Now back to Lourmarin: Le Voltaire, where we've stayed previously, has an outer sitting room on the mezzanine of the second floor above the common living room. There is a small table and a love seat and adjacent to that there is a double door opening out onto a terrace with a small table and chairs (perfect for afternoon apéro hour). In addition, the apartment has a full bath and a large comfortable bedroom, a small kitchenette and small living room with a television and two chairs. Each morning our hosts deliver a basket full of fresh baked breads, croissants, fresh berries and jams, to our doorstep! The patisserie is only a few meters across the street and down into the quaint village of Lourmarin, so the bread is still warm upon delivery. We love going into the sitting room after we make coffee and reading the online news from home while we enjoy the fresh bakery. It's a delightful way to start the day and we nearly always have enough bread to create fresh sandwiches to take along with us during our outings as we explore regions of the Luberon.
Not far from our apartment there in Lourmarin, on our last visit, we found a Hyper-U grocery store well-stocked with organic vegetables, meats, fruits, wine and cheeses. Since in France you must supply your own grocery bags, we have bags we bought in Paris and they are lightweight and easy to pack, so we carry the bags along on our trips, taking them to the open air markets and grocery stores. By the way, you can't use a grocery cart unless you deposit one euro into the slot to release the cart, so always keep a euro in the ashtray of your car or your coat or pants pocket. This is a very efficient method of insuring that you responsibly return the cart to the cart return area as unless you do so you cannot get a refund of your euro.
I'll note here that before we leave Honolulu, I pour over my french cook books or french websites, writing down new recipes to try in whatever region we visit. So with a particular recipe in mind, we purchase the local special ingredients and I prepare something elegant for us to enjoy by moonlight on the lovely terrace. If what I am making is too extravagant for our small kitchen, we use the fully stocked common kitchen just down stairs at Les Olivettes. By the way, just below our apartment (on both sides) there are trickling fountains surrounded by beautiful blooming and fragrant flower beds, making it a lovely sight. The sound of the water at night is so peaceful, making our evenings even more romantic.
If dining in isn't to our liking, I pull out a sweater and we walk the few meters into the village. There we have found fabulous restaurants; our favorite being the creperie. Reservations are a must and it fills early every day while local people (and tourists) file in to visit and enjoy apéros. They serve the most delicious crepes. The restaurant owner lives in Loumarin and everyone entering the restaurant seems to be her friend. She's a beautiful hard working woman who commands excellence and is divorced from a man who owns another wonderful upscale restaurant tucked away on a small side street and known mostly to local people. We dined there with Liliane and the food was deliciously Proveçal and the service and wine selections superior.
Enjoying an apértif during late afternoon is pure art in France. Friends and families gather around small tables that dot the sidewalks adjacent to cafes and chat for hours while enjoying a crisp cold rosé or crémant along with a plate of local paté and artisan bread or a piping hot platter filled with crisp-on-the-outside-and-soft-on-the-inside pomme frites (french fries). It's a wonderful experience, and one we savor as all-too-busy Americans.
We enjoy making Lourmarin our home base, not only because we have friends there but because it is so convenient for exploring other villages and towns of the Luberon. With fresh markets on different days throughout the region, it is fun to rise early to explore the markets and regions and to also pick up some wonderful food and wine for a picnic along the route. If you've never purchased a rotisserie chicken in France, you've just not lived--especially with herbs from Provence. Amazing.
As you can see, we are ready to return. Memories are flooding me and I can taste, smell and hear the joys of this region. I am, however, equally as happy to spend some time in the much more populated north: Paris. There is nothing quite like dining in a small five-table restaurant on food that is so succulent, fresh and tasty that you don't want the meal to end--except you can't eat another bite because the servings are so generous--and then walking out into the crisp night air and strolling around the Eiffel Tour bathed in light or along the Seine where you can hear the distant sound of music emanating from a street musician's instrument. Once in a while it is even possible (especially during warm summer nights) to encounter lovers who stop to dance at an improvised dance floor with live or recorded music along the Seine. It's rather amazing to pause and watch the excellent dancers or to join in and enjoy it as well. In France people don't judge you at all. In fact, they never ask you what you do for a living when you meet. They don't care what your profession is, they just want to know you as a person. I find this so refreshing. Even though we are older than our french friends, they treat us the same as they do their peers. They don't care about your age. I love the way they refuse to judge people in the selection of friends. It's very refreshing.
We look forward to visiting our favorite restaurants, walking through our favorite arrondissements and enjoying the beautiful museums along the way. Ah, Paris. She is a jewel, a thing of beauty to be admired.
So, stay tuned as I begin my trip arrangements and I'll share important information with you. Also, during July of this year, since I can't travel for a long distance due to needed therapy, we will visit the craggy Northern California coast at a place called Sea Ranch. I'll be sure to blog and provide information on this beautiful place. We rent a home on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, spend hours walking on trails and (if I can) play a bit of golf. We also drive on up the coast to Mendocino, a breathtaking drive. Also, this coming weekend we're taking a short trip to Northstar Ski Resort in Tahoe, as well as a short visit with friends and family in Sacramento. I'll try to post some pictures and blog a bit there too. In this afternoon's e-mail from our friends, we hear there is a fresh snow dump and that it is to snow all week. Although I can't ski on this trip, our son and his children will. It should be a fun trip.
Have a wonderful summer and think about coming to Hawaii. It's a great place to visit.