Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend Warriors

Two week school vacations are great for traveling, but given how easy and quick it is to get from Paris to another region of France or even another country in just under a few hours makes weekend travel pretty much of a breeze.

Train travel is a real delight. Gazing out the window we see novel and beautiful scenery whizzing by while our ears perk up at the variety of languages we overhear from our fellow passengers.  Making the quintessential dash down the full length of the railway platform because we are late for our train has seared train travel deep into our memories. Soren and I have literally been drenched in sweat upon taking our seats, breathing a deep sigh of relief that we actually made it on board with less than a minute to spare. Mademoiselle Nola always requests to travel first class since she so enjoyed being served a delicious meal in a first class car last winter. We've told her she can pitch in her allowance money to continue to have that privilege. The weak dollar is not working in her favor at the moment.

Cultural experiences are plentiful during these short but nevertheless educational weekends. The girls toasting champagne with us to commence our tour of a regional cellar followed by sips from their child-sized flute is totally acceptable. Visiting a fois gras farm and seeing the ducks that are force-fed until their livers become fattened provoked a discussion comparing and contrasting animal cruelty practices among U.S. cattle ranches and French fois gras farms. Encouraging the girls to leave our hotel with the city map and venture around the block- without us- to find a snack, feels safe and nurturing of their otherwise stunted independence due to our overprotective tendencies back home.

Our touring and sightseeing are not always embraced with enthusiasm. "Another cathedral? But they all look the same," is now the standard grumble muttered by the girls. Another favorite objection of theirs is, "We have to walk? Can't we rent a bike instead?" thanks to their love of our Giverny and Holland cycling escapades. One evening, while visiting the French town of Reims, we treated ourselves to an outstanding meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant. The girls initially refused to try the complimentary bite-sized hors d'oeuvre and amuse-bouche. If I were their age and a shot glass layered with pureed zucchini, a slice of prosciutto, pureed rabbit, pureed carrot, and cream were put in front of me, I'd reject it too. With some prodding from  us, they finally touched their tongues to the amuse-bouche and muttered, "It's okay, not great." As an adult, I appreciate how such a culinary concoction does make for a happy mouth. Someday, I hope, they will too. I'm just glad they didn't ask to order chicken nuggets and french fries. Instead, they surprised us and Raelyn ordered the risotto au homard (lobster) and Nola requested le pigeon, pleased with the fact that she was about to eat a rat with wings. And, true to form, Mademoiselle Nola loved her fine dining experience so much that she can't wait to eat at another fancy restaurant. She had better start saving that allowance.

Here are some photographic highlights of our weekend jaunts:

London, August 2010

Versailles, October 2010
Town of Honfleur in Normandie, October 2010

Markt Square in Brugges, Belgium - January 2011

Brugges is often referred to as the 'Venice of the North'

Nola's memorable first-class meal. Brussels to Paris- January, 2011

Reims, France - March 2011, The Surrender Museum is where General Eisenhower and the Allies received the unconditional surrender of the Germans on May 7, 1945. This is the room and the table as it was on that day where the signing took place.
Welcoming Spring at Claude Monet's home and garden. Giverny, France - April 2011

This would make a nice Impressionist painting don't you think? Minus the tourists.
Disneyland.  Nah. It's really Troyes, France - April 2011
Cathedral in Troyes, France. We're neither Catholic nor religious, but I told them to repent anyway.

Fois Gras Farm in Gye sur Seine, France - April 2011

Nola and Raelyn toasting with their champagne in Gye sur Seine

Biking through the tulip fields in Lisse, Holland- May 2011

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