Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Truly, what could be more romantic than a wedding in a French Chateau?!  What really is amazing is that Dani and Nash planned this fairy-tale experience from the USA.  They had never been to this chateau...or even to France before but they had a vision of what they wanted, and I think they exceeded their goals.  It was a magical experience for everyone involved.

First off, the location was so very special.  The Chateau du Percy is lovely and sits on fabulous grounds, complete with huge hedged labyrinth.
The wedding was planned to be outside, with the bridal party walking from the labyrinth to the  flower covered trellis with the chateau as a backdrop.  The wedding dinner was planned to be in the great hall, and dancing on the terrace.  In the days leading up to the wedding, the weather had been more than a little "iffy" with overcast skies and some light rain.  But come one hour before the planned 7pm wedding, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out.  The blue skies were fabulous and we all marveled how light it stays here.  France is far enough north that it really stays light until 10pm!  The wedding flowers were all done by Brittany (the youngest Belmont girl) who works at a florist shop while going to college.  She found all the flowers for the bouquet,  and the decorations on the grounds of the chateau.

 Photographs were taken by a friend of the bride and groom.  Makeup for the girls was done by one of the bridesmaids, Allison, who is a professional make up artist, and big sister Ashelee did all the hair for the girls.

 Oh, and I ironed all the shirts for Pastor Russ/Dad and all the groomsmen!  Setting the tables, moving furniture...it truly was a group effort...everyone played their part in making this wedding a dream come true for Dani and Nash.  The chateau was a beehive of activity!  This was not a wedding where you just showed up for the ceremony and party...every body was involved in the preparation, and everyone shared in the sense of anticipation!
I must say that as the mother of 3 boys, I was a bit out of my element with the hair and makeup process in the "girls room"...I was much more comfortable with the groomsmen as they did their shots of rye and struggled with tying their bow ties!

As the wedding didn't begin until 7pm, Gary and I explored the labyrinth (with wine in hand...we are in France after all!)  Hidden in the center of the labyrinth was a table where the girls would sit for a glass of champagne before walking down the "aisle"...

Monday, June 17, 2013

TINY BUBBLES...(and LOTS of them!)

An entire day spent champagne tasting...how fun does that sound?!  If any of you do not know the Belmont family, I can't express strongly enough that they LOVE champagne!  Way back when we first became friends and we all had very little money, Russ and Adrienne introduced us to fine champagne...they definitely knew their stuff regarding champagne even back in the 80's!  So it should come as no surprise, that on our big adventure in France, we would have a special day touring the Champagne region!
We all loaded into the cars (two 9 passenger Mercedes vans and a Ford Fiesta) and headed north to the Champagne region.  Russ (father of the Bride) was driving the lead van with Adrienne navigating (with the help of the iPhone)...and the 2 other vehicles followed.  John (father of the groom) drove the other van, and the Ford Fiesta was driven by Josh (friend of the Bride and Groom).
This was about a 2.5 hr. drive.  All I can say is thank goodness for Google maps and iPhones!  The French highways are in great condition, and travel through gorgeous countryside...but things are not always clearly marked (at least by American standards!)  It was just so helpful to have the little voice in the iPhone tell us "...in half a kilometer, at the round-about, take the third exit onto D77...proceed 17 kilometers".  Every once in a while we would make a wrong turn off one of the multitude of roundabouts we encountered, and the lovely little voice would "recalibrate" and get us back on track.  The French country side is so pretty...lush and green.  I have never seen so many shades of green in my life!  Predominant crops seemed to be green wheat, green asparagus, and mustard flower.  Sprinkled through these fields were beautiful red poppies (They looked just like our California poppies, but the color was amazing bright red-orange).  And the fields also had many little mini-forests growing in the middle of them.  As we got closer to Reims we started seeing the vineyards too!  And of course every little town we passed had an ancient cathedral (14th century?!)
Dani had arranged for tours at three very different Champagne houses.  At first this sounded like a bit of overkill...but each tour was so different and each of the 3 Champagne houses was so unique that it really was perfect and we all learned so much.   I really can't thank Dani enough for putting together such a fun outing for all of us.  And it was so nice that our group of 22 got private tours (and tastings!) at each house.  First up was the house of G.H.Mumm.  We had all heard of this house of course.  They were founded in 1827 and have been producing extraordinary champagne for 166 years!  They had a very slick and informative film to introduce us to their history ("audacious" and "panache" are words they like to use to describe themselves!)  and then our lovely red blazer clad tour guide lead us down to the cellars.  I was really not prepared for the size of their underground cellars - 14 miles of chalk walled cellars!

 It was very cool, dark and damp in the cellars.  Can you see the cobwebs on some of those bottles?!  (They keep some bottles of every vintage they have made!)  We learned that only 3 kinds of grapes can be used in Champagne...chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.   How they blend them determines blanc de blanc, blanc de noir, etc. We learned about the champagne making process, the bottling process, the riddling and storage, and so much more.

And then it was time for tasting!  We all tasted 4 different types...and we all preferred different ones.  There are only a few Mumm champagnes that you can buy in the US, (but they had so many more to taste that are available to purchase there of course!)  And we all purchased our particular favorites.  Russ and Adrienne bought a jeraboam of champagne for the  wedding!  What a great way to remember this special day!

After all that touring and tasting, we were hungry and Dani had made reservations at a restaurant just a few minutes walk away.  The food was very tasty (all 3 courses) and of course we needed the champagne, red and white wine they served!  The best part of the lunch was that we were joined there by the eldest Belmont daughter, Ashelee and her husband Clint.  They had flown on the red-eye the night before, hopped a train at Charles de Gaul airport straight for Reims, then walked from the train station to the restaurant!  Finally, the group was complete!  (Ashelee, I'm not sure how anybody can look so beautiful after all that traveling...it's just not fair!)  I know Adrienne hates having her picture taken...but I couldn't resist this one of Russ and Adrienne kissing...we are in France (for a wedding!) drinking champagne - there have to be some kissing pictures!

The 3 lovely Belmont girls!

Back in the vans...we were off for our second Champagne tour!  This time we went to a small producer (2,000 bottles a day!)  The Champagne house of Henry de Vaugency has been passed from father to son since 1732.  Our tour guide, Pascal Henry is the 8th generation of this family!  Henry has a passion for champagne that was extraordinary to see.  His champagne elaboration follows the traditional methods: wooden press, aging in chalk cellars, manual riddling, and hand disgorging and corking.

Friday, June 14, 2013

HOW STUPID CAN I BE?!?! (please don't answer that!)

OK...we have all done some thingsthat are really stupid, right?  And sometimes at the time you DO realize it is a stupid thing to do...and sometimes it isn't until you look back that you realize how stupid you were.  Well, I had one of those moments...I did something ridiculously stupid and dangerous, but I did it without any hesisition or thought of danger at the time.  Honestly, I am lucky I am alive to tell you about it.

We left Paris by train the other day, heading to St. Florentin-Vergigny.  This is about 2.5 hours south-east of Paris...on the road to Dijon.  The train ride in second class was comfortable and uneventful.  We were in a small compartement with another couple (French) and a young woman.  Unlike the Italian trains we travellled on in first class, this local train didn't make announcements in English...only French.  The PA system was quite poor and had a lot of static, which made understanding the messages very difficult.  However I knew that our train arrived in St Florentin-Vergigny at 2:11pm...and sure enough, we pulled into our station right on time!  We were ready...standing by the door with our baggage (our 2 carry on susitcases, 1 purse,1 totebag, 1 messenger bag, a bag of gifts and 1 bag of gluten free cereal, bread and crackers!)  The train came to a stop and there we stood waiting for the door to open.  (Those Italian first class trains we had used before had attendants in each car that opened the train doors so we were a bit unsure how to get the door to open!)  Right in front of the door was an outline of 2 feet with a red X through them...indicating "don't stand here!"  so we made sure to avoid that spot!!  Apparantly nobody else was departing the train at this station so we were a bit confused as to how to proceed.  Finally, Gary stepped in the "forbidden zone" and easily opened the door with the lever on the door...super simple - it was "self serve"!  Gary got off the train first and I handed him one suitcase.  Suddenly the train inched forwrd.  We though it was creeping into a better position so neither of us moved.  But instead of coming to anothr stop, the train began to pick up speed.  I quickly tossed the remaining suitcase, my purse, Gary's messenger bag, my totebag, and the bags of gluten free food and gifts.  That part was easy...but how was I going to get off the train.  In a flash, I though of going to the next stop - but didn't have any idea how far it was.  I knew that this train only stopped in St FlorentinVergigny 3 times a day.  I also realized that by tossing my purse off, I had separated myself from my ticket, my money, my cell phone and my passport...I  HAD to jump!  By now the train was at the opposite end of the station, and picking up speed - I had to make my move FAST!!!  And so I did the most stupid thing I have ever done in my life  -  I JUMPED OFF A MOVING TRAIN!!   I wish I had a video of the whole thing...it happened so fast that it is a blur in my mind.  I DO know that Gary was yelling "DON'T JUMP...DON'T JUMP" (but we all know I don't always follow directions!)  and I was aware that I had to jump as far out as I could...I wanted to make sure I landed well out in the centr of the platform.  But I'm not sure if I landed on my feet and rolled, or if I just landed on my backside.  What I DO remember is landing on my butt and holding my neck and head up, but the back of my head hit (gently) on the pavement.  One shoe fell off as did my glasses.  That was the first thing I shouted to Gary "Oh no...I lost my glasses."  However, the glasses somehow landed safe and sound inside my shoe farther up on the platform!  By the time Gary ran to me, we were both laughing...part nervouos and partly with relief!  Gary helped my to my feet and we assessed the damage...scraped elbow and bruised tailbone.  I think the first words out of my mouth we "Oh my God...that was THE MOST STUPID THING I HAVE EVER DONE!  I am 56 years old and I just jumped of a moving train!".  I don't even want to think of how disastrous this move could have been.  I did make Gary get out the camera so we could re-inact the scene...her is what it looked like:
Reinactment of my "graceful" landing on the train platform!

 This is the scene of the stupidity...the deserted train staion at St Florentin-Vergigny...no taxi, no bus no people!  We called our hotel in St. Florentin and asked them to send a cab to pick us up.  At this point we sat on a wall and waited...and laughed...and laughed...and laughed!
After we walked int othe "town" of Vergigny...we were waiting for a taxi to come take us to St Florentin!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


There are some things that the French just get right (and the Parisians in particular!).
We think we are so smart to have the "local" food movement...The Parisian way of shopping is awesome (and the original "local" way of doing things)...I love the whole concept that each little neighborhood has it's own cheese shop, it's own fruit market, it's own charcuterie, it's own pharmacy (more on that later!), and most of all it's own boulangerie and patisserie!  Any by "neighborhood" ... it is really like a 3 block area!  I love seeing the locals (mostly women) shopping daily for the freshest and the best, and supporting their local family owned businesses.  When we were in our closest fruit market (which was not much bigger than most Amreican's walk in closets!) the venders knew the families shopping, chatted daily with the women and their children -  both sides valued the relationships.  I love the way these little markets work ...the fruits and veggies are arranged like artwork, but you don't just grab a basket of strawberries or a bunch of bananas yourself...you first say "bounjour madame" (or "monsieur") when you enter, then you ask for your items one by one and they select the basket of strawberries and ask if you want the slightly green banana or the one with freckles!   If you ask for 5 small potatoes, they will pick on up at a time and turn it over  and check that it is perfect before puting it in the bag, then they will select the next.  It is so clear that they value their product and they value the customer and take great pride in providing the best!  (After all, you could just walk 2 or 3 more blocks and find another produce market that might have better potatos!)
Another thing the French do well is Pharmacies!  Their pharmacies (always marked with a big green cross out front) are amazing!  They bear no resemblence to what we think of as a pharmacy (Longs, CVS, Rite-Aid?!).  We went into a pharmacy a few days ago to get some Advil, deodorant, toothpaste and eyedrops (Visine or something for Gary's dry itchy eyes).  The problem with flying with only  carry-on baggage is that you are so limited by the TSA regulations regarding liquids...so we needed 
to replenish our supplies!  We found the deodorant (Bioderm brand?!).  It is roll-on...the wettest deodorant you ever saw!  You may not perspire when you use it, but your armpits will be wet all day none the less!  Plus the stuff cost 19.5€ (that is $25.76!!!!)  My son Matthew loves to tease me about 
the smelly French...perhaps it is the cost of lousy wet deodorant that is at the root of the problem!  Ok...so the deodorant is no good, but the pharmacies are fantastic!  Ask for eyedrops, and they ask if you have red eyes, itchy eyes, allergies...what exactly are you trying to fix?!  Then they disappear into the back room and bring out just the right kind.  Ask for Advil and they have a few questions for you!  They will ask who they are for, and then tell you just how many to take and how often.  It is all so personal and seems so caring...unlike the teenagers working at Longs!  (sorry Bryan and Jayson...I know you took your jobs at Longs VERY seriously when you were in high school!). I have heard it said that if a French person has an ailment they go first to see their pharmacist.  If the pharmacist can't cure them, they will refer them to a doctor!!  The French pharmacist is the first line of defense...doctors come second! So one side of the pharmacy has the health aids and the other side is more "beauty" oriented. In fact I have a list of beauty items that "all" French women use that are available at the pharmacie...hope I have room in my suitcase for some of the French beauty secrets!  (no deodorant though.)
I also love the way the French love their dogs!  Big or small, they are sitting patiently with their masters at cafes, riding the Metro, at the produce market, sitting in the sun in the park...or just out for a walk.  Each one made me miss my girls...although the French dogs are much more polite than my wild girls!
And the children...oh la la!  The cutest in the world! (at least the best dressed!). Really, when I saw a little girl about 5 years old wearing a perfectly tied scarf and little hat I about died!  So many customers at Eileen Fisher are worried about wearing a scarf correctly...and here was a 5 year old French child wearing her scarf with panache!  Seriously, everyone was wearing a scarf...male, female, child!
The Metro is another of my  favorite thing about Paris!  I love the sensibility of it...one ticket get you ANYWHERE...no matter how many transfers!  It is laid out so well, that you can get anywhere, and most addresses (of restaurant or stores) indicate what is the nearest Metro stop. I really think this is the ultimate public transportation!  There is frequently someone playing the accordion or saxophone in the tunnels of the Metro so there is live music wafting through the subterranean tunnels of the Metro...kind of romantic in a weird way!
Gary loves the way the French voices are so melodic...he doesn't understand the language, but he says he could listen to French  conversations all day!  He loves the sing-song nature of the language, and the expressive faces that go along along with the "melody".  Their interactions are passionate and full of life.
So although we did a lot of "touristy"" things in Paris, like visiting the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, St. Chapelle and the Arc de Triomphe along with the Louvre and Musee D'Orsay...the things I have enjoyed the most are just "being" in Paris with the locals.  Nothing makes me happier than sitting in a cafe watching the locals interact (and trying to interact with them myself), shopping at the local shops...just pretending that I am Parisian too!!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Can I mention just one more time how much I love Paris...and I think the love is mutual!  How else can I interpret the way my "cafe creme" was served this morning?!  We ordered the 2 coffees and 1 croissant (poor gluten Free Gary...I feel so guilty eating them in front of him...but not quite guilty enough to NOT eat them in front of him!)  Anyway, my coffee had a nice little heart in the foam on the top - and this is not one of those "fancy-schmantzy" coffee places that practices making hearts and other designs intentionally in the foam...Gary's was just plain, and mine clearly had a message for me - it was saying "Paris loves Kathy right back!"

 I thought it might be fun to show you what our apartment looks like.  I wish I had thought to take pictures BEFORE we exploded all over the apartment!
This is looking from our bedroom back toward the entryway.

And this is looking out the huge 4 meter high windows out onto the courtyard.

This is the bedroom complete with super comfy European king size bed which is more like a queen...maybe a little bigger.

This is standing in the entryway looking toward the bedroom...aren't those windows awesome?!  I wish I played the piano...it has headphones tht plug into it so you can play and not drive your neighbors crazy...all the sound can be fed through the headphones and none comes out of the actual piano!  (or you can play it the regular way of course.

This is the courtyard and you can see Gary walking toward the front door that opens onto rue Saints Peres.  Our apartment is on the 2nd floor  (3rd floor if you are counting American-style)  above the cars on the left side of the photo.

And Gary is now at the front door lookiing back at me.  It is the super typical Parisian door that you open one side if you are just walking in, but if you need to drive your car in to park, you open both doors.  It is so great because the courtyard is so nice and quiet.  The place has a very modern bathroom with a shower, and a super cute and effficient kitchen complete with a small little washier/dryer combo.  It looks like a small front loader washer, but the clothes just stay in and then you change the settings and it proceeds to dry the clothes...and it is so much quieter than either my washer or dryer at home...I love this machine! 

And I love Paris...and Paris loves me back!

Friday, June 7, 2013


I love the d'Orsay...partly for the beautiful artwork and partly for the architecture.  The building was originally a train station and the space is just spectacular inside...big and open with awesome HUGE clocks at each end and huge barrel shaped glass ceiling...it is really a work of art in itself.  Plus it is located right across the street from the Seine...location, location, location!

As you can't take any photos of the artwork,  I only got these clock photos!  Oh wait, there is one more photo of Adrienne and me resting after covering  3 floor of Inpressionist art work:

This was the most amazing piece of furniture I ever sat  on!  Russ and Gary had to literally pull us out of thise huge comfy leather "nest" we were in!  All that museum work certainly meant we deserved another cafe visit, right?  This time we had "coca light" (diet coke) served with 2 ice cubes each!   Sufficiently refreshed, we parted ways and made our separate ways home.  We only had a 2 block walk, R & A had another experience that involved closed RER train stations and some Metro mix ups...I think they could have actually walked home faster than the public transit!  We were all so tired (jet lag...how long can I keep blaming that!?) that we all took naps and actually woke up feeling so much better...ready to take on the world (or at least dinner together!). While we drank wine and ate cheese in our apartment, we waited from the Belmont group as to the dinner plan.  Russ texted us that he had made reservations for 10 of us at Boui, Boui up in their neighborhood.  This is a good point to introduce the full cast of characters.  
 First up is Dani and Nash...the whole reason we are here!  Next Friday they will be getting married at  "the chateau"!
 This is Rob and Allison...they are Dani and Nash's best friends!
 This is Brittney (youngest of the lovely Belmont girls) and Will, her boyfriend.
 Russ and Adrienne...proud parents of the the bride...and our dear old friends.  I think I better be careful when I say "old" friends...Adrienne's birthday is June 7!  I honestly mean "long-time" friends!
And this photo I just love...look at how Russ is looking at Dani...how sweet is that!?
Ok...ready for a group shot from our dinner at Boui, Boui?  At this restaurant the waitresss spoke basically no english, so I had to read the menue to the group...I think there might be a photo of that too!

 Food was delicious (as was the wine) and the restaurant was fun.  When we were done eating we wanted to keep the fun going, so we wandered until we could find a bar that could accomodate all 10 of us.  Eventually we did find one and we took over the entire upsstairs...cocktails were amazing; I think all of the ladies had one kind of a champagne cocktail or another...each more delicious than the nest!  And the glasses were the most amazing,longest stemmed champagne flutes I have ever seen.  I'm just sorry I didn't get a photo of the glass-ware...guess I was too busy enjoying my scrumptous cocktail!
At his point we decided it was time for us to part with the youngsters and head home...boarded the Metro and were home in bed at 1:30!