Day 3 Toulouse-Beynac

We set the alarm for 7 am since we needed to run, then have breakfast, then drive 3 hours to Beynac. It felt like the alarm went off too soon! I think that 9 hour time difference might be catching up to us. We headed out for a run towards le vieux pont, the old bridge, and we started running along the river. It was chilly, and it had rained overnight, but the little streets were so pretty we had plenty to keep our minds occupied. Then we went back to the hotel and showered, and went to the dining room where John had his first ever proper French breakfast. It was delicious! Apple Juice, coffee, yogurt, ham, cheese, pastries, jams, and butter. It was yum.  The hotel had 2 big dogs and a cat, and we enjoyed watching them as we ate. Why is it that the pets here are so overweight, but the people are so fit? How does that happen? The old brown lab was so chubby he looked like two of my little Penny. But he was so pretty there on the steps. I had to give him an ear scritch.

Les Chiens

We drove about an hour into Toulouse, where we walked around the old city and went to the market. It was so very beautiful. We enjoyed looking at all of the shops on the meandering streets between parks. I had expected Toulouse to be more modern, and I was glad when Samantha led us right into the middle of the old city, where we wandered the streets imaging what life would have been like 200 years ago.

Le Marche

Then we drove towards Beynac, but had a little adventure first. We saw a sign that said “Vin” and felt we needed to follow it. So we drove down many narrow country roads, following each sign, until we came to a little farm house and parked. We got out of the car and walked around, but were about to leave since we did not see anyone. Just then a woman came out and said “Bonjour!” She took us into her basement and let us taste some wine. We bought a few bottles then got back on the road, where Samantha begrudgingly “Recalculated” our route back to town.

Vin

The town we were heading for was Sarlat—a larger town about 7 km from Beynac. They were having their market, and we were surprised that we kept walking, and the market kept going! We walked and walked, checking out all the items for sale. Soon we left and went to Beynac, our home for 5 nights with Kirk, Corinne, Justin and Emma. We arrived into town, which was swarming with gaping tourists. You can understand why—the whole town, about 100 houses and a large castle, are perched on the side of a severe cliff overlooking the river. It doesn’t even seem possible that these houses can be here.

Le Petit Village

We walked up two steep footpaths to the entrance of our place, Mont Joie, and started to settle in. The property has a total of 4 flights of stairs. The first floor is the main living area, then the master suite, then the downstairs ensuite bedroom, then terrace 1, then terrace 2. So there is plenty of room to spread out. We unpacked, caught up, then went to dinner at the Restaurant Hotel du Chateux, where John and I shared a Prix Fixe menu of duck salad, venison, and cheeses.

What a lovely home, and what lovely friends to share it with. It’s going to be such a nice stay.

Day 1 Mataro, Spain

Wow. That was a long day of travel. There’s nothing like getting your period right before your 22 hour transatlantic journey (sorry boys, I know that’s TMI). But the day of travel was worth it since the tickets were free. We flew from Phoenix to LA to Philly to Frankfurt to Barcelona. It’s pretty amazing that the only delay was on the last leg. Thank heavens! And it was only 20 minutes late. We didn’t have a layover longer than an hour. We did a lot of running from gate to gate. We got to the Barcelona airport and it was really nice—brand new. Went straight to Avis and picked up our VW Golf. It’s a cutie! It will serve us well for 18 days.

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We started driving, relying on our Garmin Nuvi 275T to get us to the hotel in Mataro. When booking our hotel, we chose the town on the water right off the freeway but outside of Barcelona because we knew we would be exhausted and in no mood for crowds. All went well, even thought the Garmin thought we were in Madrid for about 10 minutes. We got to our hotel in only 20 minutes of driving. We went for a walk, exploring all the back streets and shops, then we ate some Tapas and had a bottle of Rose for $15 total. Then we went back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap. Well needed!

We have kind of a promise to run every day, not only because we plan to eat, but also because it is such a great way to explore. So after our nap we went for a 3 mile jog (really! it was slow!) by the beach. It was so beautiful, with lots of people strolling with their dogs and lots of others running and biking or eating at seaside restaurants. We circled up around the harbor, then back through the city center to our hotel.

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After a shower, we walked to a Jamon restaurant where we ate tapas—manchego, and some ham John really wanted to taste. They feed the pigs nothing but acorns, and I’m not sure of the science, but it tastes really good! Tomorrow morning I think we’ll run a the beach again since the breeze is so nice, then head up to Carcasssonne. I posted more pictures on another blog site I’m trying out at pcmasuedu.shutterfly.com I’ll take a vote and see which one you like best.

Dinner Tonight

I’m so happy to make dinner tonight that I wanted to share it with you. This dinner makes me so happy in all kinds of ways–happy to have fresh, nutritious food, happy to be with a man I love, happy to have a comfortable kitchen, happy to have puppies to shoo away from that comfortable kitchen. I’m also happy that we have this wonderful summer routine and partnership. Here’s how we do it.

John grills. We buy whatever protein is fresh–fish, chicken, beef. Tonight  it is our favorite locally raised chicken from RedBird. John wraps it in saran wrap and pounds it out so it is plenty tender and thin enough to cook evenly on the grill. He seasons it with salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder, then he disappears outside.

While he braves the heat, I make the sides. My salad always has a fruit, a cheese, and a nut. Tonight it is blueberries, Roquefort, and pecans. I mix it with a little White Balsamic vinegar and it’s ready to go. The cheese and nuts are rich enough that any other oil or fat would be overkill.

Then I chop some tomatoes (from the garden if we have them) and add some basil (from the garden–we always have some), some Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss and enjoy.

Then we always add an additional veg. Tonight I sauteed some baby portobellas in a pat of butter. Real butter–not the fake stuff. When used sparingly it won’t kill the diet, and it adds a flavor that cannot be replicated.

I hope you all had a good meal tonight too. I wish we could have shared it together.

The Driving and The Lodging

I have been very slow at starting this blog, which makes me sad because my mom would have loved reading it. Four days before she died she sent me an email asking about our trip and I didn’t have many answers because I was still struggling to find time to put details together. Now I have the driving and the lodging figured out, but I still need to choose lots of activities and restaurants. That is the more fun part, I think, since it involves fewer calculations and fewer hard decisions. To see all the details so far, including the hotels and houses, click here.

Planning this trip makes me really appreciate my mother because when she took me to Europe when I was 16 she had to do all of this work through phone and mail. I can’t imagine trying to plan this without the internet and email. Mom worked really hard to make that trip special and it obviously had a big impact on me because I still have the travel bug. Thank you Mommy!

John and I go to a new country every year, and though I lived in France during college I never did get to Spain. That’s lucky for us because when our friends Kirk and Corinne called and said “We rented a house in France, come join us,” our answer was a big yes! Kirk and Corinne are the same friends who called us in 2000 and said, “We’re going to China, want to come?”  That was another big yes! So the four of us went to China, and Kirk and Corinne fell in love and 9 years later we’ll be vacationing in France with them and their two children Justin and Emma.

Here's the house Kirk and Corinne rented.
Here's the house Kirk and Corinne rented.

I’m really looking forward to this trip. It will be wonderful to spend time with friends, show John some of my favorite places in France (Carcassone and Sete), see the second to last stage of the Tour de France, and explore brand new territory in Spain. Our lodging is a mix of 5 hotels, 2 house rentals, and a 4 night package we purchased from Luxury Link. We are spending 10 nights in France and 7 nights in Spain.

I’m very sad that because of the trip I will be missing my Aunt Lynn’s 80th birthday party on July 17. But as a lifetime lover of travel herself, she promises me she forgives me. Plus I’ll be going to see her in Minnesota on her actual 80th birthday August 21, and I’ll bring plenty of pictures so she can see my adventures. I’ll be thinking of you Auntie Lynn!

Now. I still have a lot to do today. Boy it’s hard to balance a busy life. We got the dogs walked, the chores done (oops–there’s laundry to fold still) and soon John will start grilling his amazing Tequila-Lime shrimp. I still need to write a poem for my online Poetry Group (that’s due tomorrow at noon) and I need to write a piece for my Graduate course in Creative Nonfiction (that’s due Tuesday at 6pm). I need to answer a few student emails too. I better log off before the whole day passes me by.

John’s Tequila Lime Shrimp

1 lb Big Shrimp
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tequila
3 garlic cloves
salt
pepper
cayenne pepper

Zest the lime, then squeeze it. Place the lime zest and juice, plus all the other ingredients in a ziplock bag in the fridge for about 2 hours. Grill in a grill-basket just until pink. Don’t overcook ‘dem Shrimps or they’ll be tough.

AM Hike

Egg Pie and FruitI’ve been a sloth for a while now–since my mother died on June 2. John went to the grocery store and came home with all my favorites: cherries, raspberries, strawberries. Later I found that he had also brought home a gallon of butter pecan ice cream, and somehow that’s where my attention went. I have had about a half cup of it each day, and when I eat it I think “I am doing something good for myself because I’m letting go a little.” But when the ice cream is gone, I’ll go back to fruits and veggies, which will feel good too.

Our friends Autumn and Jeff are coming over for a hike today. When folks found out mom had passed they all asked what they could do. “I want to see you!” I told them. Now more than ever I want to spend time with my friends. So Jeff and Autumn are coming and we’re going to hike up to the top of South Mountain, and it will be so nice to see them and get a big fat hug. I’m going to make my egg pie. It’s really simple and here’s the recipe:

1 potato
1 red pepper
1 container pre-sliced mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
1 onion
18 eggs
1/2 cup asiago cheese

Slice the potato into thin rounds (I use my Cuisinart). Layer them in a lasagna pan to form the crust. Pre-bake the potatoes at 350 while you chop veg. Mix the 18 eggs well (I use the Cuisinart to mix eggs since it makes em fluffy) and put them in a big bowl with the cheese and chopped veg. There will be a lot of veg (it’s good for you). Salt and pepper the mixture, pour over the potatoes, and bake until firm.