Wednesday, 19 November 2014

An Unexpected End



Throughout the first two weeks of this automobile trip though Holland, Belgium and France, I struggled.  Those of you who follow my travel blogs will remember that I was hit and knocked briefly unconscious by a bicycle on my first night in Amsterdam.   A CT Scan proved there was no immediate danger, but I was warned not to fly for a week.   JP and I decided to go ahead with our travel plans.  

By the time we reached Dinard in France, two things made us change our
minds.   A small wound in my left leg had become infected, and I had to consult a French doctor, who put me on a course of antibiotics.   The leg was swollen enough to make walking difficult.   Also, I was having daily, debilitating headaches and nausea.   Concussion, I thought, a diagnosis confirmed by my doctor when I got home.  We debated long about whether to push on or to head for home.   After a particularly bad day, home won out.  

I’ve never had to do this.  I’ve seen the insides of hospitals in several countries, but I’ve never had to give up before.  It was depressing.  But I learned several things in the process.  

When you book a trip, pay attention to the cancellation policies of the hotels, inns, B&B’s, where you’re booking.  Most give you a day or two.  Unfortunately, we were booked for the next four days into two small inns that required a week’s notice.  It cost us about 500 Euros.  I will not do that again.

Second, we should have read the fine print about the penalties for changing airline tickets.  We had to change ours to three weeks earlier than our original planned departure from Amsterdam.  It was not difficult to do, but the penalty was 300 Euros each.  Ouch!  The good news was KLM offered us an up-grade to business class for very little more.  This made it possible for me to keep my very swollen leg elevated for the duration of the nine hour trip.  Ask about up-grades.  You never know.

Third, when we booked our car, we failed to take note of what the rules were for early return.  We ended up having to pay for a month’s rental for a car we used for only ten days.  Live and learn!

I am fortunate that my traveling companion, JP, is one of the most organized people in the world.  She saw to all the cancellations, all the re-bookings, all the paperwork, while I lay prostrate, nursing the granddaddy of a headache.  Traveling with someone else is always a good idea, although I must admit I did travel many times by myself when I was younger.

What did we do right?  We have travel insurance.  Really good travel insurance.  I’m not sure exactly what will be reimbursed and what will not, but I know we will not be too much out-of-pocket by this unforeseen and unfortunate accident.  If you travel, buy travel insurance.  An accident like mine, if it had happened in the U.S., could have bankrupted me without insurance.  Hospitals and doctors in Europe are much less costly, but they can still put a major dent in your travel budget.  Buy the insurance.

And last, be sure you have credit cards with you.  For some reason, doctors and hospitals in Europe want credit cards, not cash.  Indeed I found it hard to change the five hundred euro notes I was traveling with.  Everybody everyplace wanted credit cards.  This is a change in just the last year.  I won’t bother to take much cash with me next time.

And yes, there will be a next time.  I don’t intend to let this setback deter me from the next trip.  Bon Voyage!
 ............................................................................................

Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and to read my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 


COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books  






Friday, 14 November 2014

Next stop on our European Journey - Mont Saint-Michel



I was in high school, taking the required two years of French when, in my text
Mont St. Michel
Mont Saint Michel
book, I first came across a photograph of Mont Saint Michel. It looked like a Disney castle only better, rising from the mists, surrounded by water. I knew then I would have to see it someday. I plowed through the French text enough to know that Mont St. Michel was both an abbey and a fortress, built in the eighth century. But most intriguing thing about it to me was that twice a day, it was completely cut off from the mainland by in-rushing tides. It is an island half of every day, and even when the tide recedes, it is connected to land only by a narrow causeway. An excellent position both for the isolation of the religious order and for the defence of the community around it. Mont Saint Michel gives a whole new meaning to the words “getting away from it all”.


Mont Saint Michel encapsulates the feudal society in which it was created—with God represented at the peak of the incredible structure by the abbey and monastery, the supporting great halls just below, and then clustered at the foot of the whole, a small town with stores and housing necessary to the  support of the religious structure. Outside the heavily fortified walls were the houses of the fishermen and farmers. Those are largely gone now.

We planned to visit this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site from the earliest planning stages of our trip. I thought I knew what we would encounter, so I didn’t do my usual pre-trip research. This was a mistake. I had no idea we couldn’t simple drive to the base of the Mont, or at least to the dry side of the channel. I had somehow missed the fact that Mont Saint Michel now has millions upon millions of visitors every year and it was necessary for the government of France to plan for this daily invasion. Clearly, the tides are not enough to prevent the hordes of tourists the Mont now receives every day.

We found we had to park in one of several designated parking lots, in marshland, at least a mile from the site. (By the way, perhaps the best views of the site are from this distance.) After paying and parking, a short walk took us to a bus depot. The bus drove us on a narrow road through the marshlands and across the now cemented causeway to the foot of the forbidding stone walls of the Mont. To the credit of the French, the bus service is constant. One does not stand around waiting. One bus arrives as another leaves. Still, a crowded bus was not the approach I had envisioned. 

Crowded streets inside the walls
Walking through the great gate, we were cast into that much earlier time. The stone structures, the archways, the narrow cobblestone lanes. But, alas, also the crowds, the wonderful old buildings housing shops full of tawdry tourist junk, the overpriced restaurants…

We had lunch in the most elegant restaurant in the lower town, La Mere Poulard. (Chicken Mother?) We both had the featured sweet souffl├ęd omelet. I’ve had this confection in other places, by other names, notably in Salzburg, where it’s called Salzburger Nockerl.  I also know how to make it. I will say only that Mere Poulard’s was disappointing.  An eighty dollar lunch consisting of six eggs (for two of us) not very well prepared? Still I suppose we were paying for the show—the chef, a woman
Making omelets at La Mere Poulard
dressed in period clothing, pushed the omelets, six at a time, into an open fire oven where everyone could watch.  The black suited very formal waiters then served them with something approaching awe. Autographed photos of the rich and famous who had previously enjoyed these same omelets, stared at us from the surrounding walls. It was good theater, even if it was not a very good meal.

This is not what I wanted of Saint Michel back when I was fourteen. I wanted to climb the Mont, and to visit the Abbey. Alas my climbing days are over. The best part of Mt. St. Michel for me on this trip was the sight of it from a distance. There it looked exactly as it was in my memory, in a text book from which I must admit I remember little else.

One more sight checked off my bucket list!
............................................................................................................
 

Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and to read my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 


COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books  





Tuesday, 4 November 2014

My Review of 'My Life In France' by Julia Child

My Life in FranceMy Life in France by Julia Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I learned to cook in the 1970’s from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was my constant companion in the kitchen and I was known more than once to take it to bed with me at night to plan my next day’s adventures in the kitchen. It was all absorbing, a whole new way of thinking about food. In My Life in France, Julia Child tells the story of her early years in France; how she came to study at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and how she chose to use her knowledge of French cooking to change the way Americans thought about cooking. It is a delightful book full of the kind of effervescence Julia Child exhibited on her many television shows about cooking.

But while this book is, of course, about food, it is more about Julia’s life with her husband Paul in post-war France. There are wonderful photographs throughout the book, most taken by Paul Child. Her experiences are a who’s who of the culinary world of that time.

I recommend this book highly to anyone who has Julia Child’s cookbooks in the kitchen, or who has ever enjoyed her television shows. If you love to eat (or read about) a beautifully prepared meal, this book is a feast.


View all my reviews
.........................................................................................................................................
 
Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and all my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 


COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books