Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

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Bend – Oregon’s Playground

This spring and summer we have been on a quest to become more intimately familiar with our new home state of Oregon — something we intended to do after we returned from our last trip to Europe in 2019. However, that plan was unfortunately interrupted and we had to put travel on hold for awhile. It was finally time to explore (albeit cautiously) once again and in June, we chose to travel to Bend. After Portland, Salem (the capital), and Eugene (where we live), Bend ranks 6th in population. It has experienced quite a boom in the last 20 years growing from 50,000 to over 100,000 inhabitants during this period. It may be the most popular and well-known city in Oregon due to the fact that it has developed into a veritable outdoor playground. Where people used to only frequent the area to ski in the winter, now all seasons of the year attract tourists for a variety of adventures.

Bridge over the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District.

In Bend, you can play at almost anything you can imagine and often the adventures are right downtown. It was unusually warm during our visit and many people were already taking advantage of the beautiful Deschutes River that runs through the center of the city. There were kayaks, floats, and all manner of water locomotion out and about enjoying a fairly lazy afternoon on the river. We also have a famous river running through our city, but it’s not accessible like this. We really loved the inviting atmosphere the Deschutes creates in Bend.

One unique feature created right downtown is the River Wave. So, if you’re a surfer you can get a quick fix. Apparently, this is nothing like ocean surfing and is even quite challenging for the pros. Nevertheless, they certainly make it look easy and fun!

Bend is one of only four cities in the U.S. featuring an extinct volcano within its city limits. It’s a popular hike but rather steep so we chose to drive to the top of Pilot Butte which rises to almost 500 feet. From there you get a 360-degree view of Bend and the surrounding mountains which is truly spectacular and much better in person that any photograph conveys.

In fact, there are so many huge mountains that can be seen from this point in Oregon, it’s very difficult to keep track of which one you are looking at. You are literally surrounded by dormant (you hope!) volcanoes. Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, the Three Sisters — they’re all here and with the help if this compass located in the center of the viewing platform, you can pick them out. Without it, however, I just happy to see so many gorgeous snowcapped mountains.

Of course, you can’t visit Bend without taking a drive through the Deschutes National Forest to the famous Mt. Bachelor. At 9,068 feet, it is the only major volcano in the Cascades with a chairlift to the summit — open for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.

And this stellar summit is Broken Top… I think.

Last but not least, you are guaranteed to run into Sasquatch many places in Oregon and Bend is no exception. However, he can be a little intimidating!

After three days, it was time to say “Farewell Bend” (as originally named by the pioneers). On our way to Bend, we took the more northerly route passing through some of the worst devastated areas from the fires of 2019. They are still actively clearing lumber and debris as well as landslides along this highway greatly disrupting the traffic flow. Even now, it was a sad sight to see. There is still so much work to be done.

For our return trip, we decided to take the southerly route and ended up discovering a real treasure. For sometime, I had heard about the incredible beauty of Salt Creek Falls and all of a sudden we realized we were going to pass right by the entrance. We couldn’t resist the possibility of seeing one more spectacular Oregon waterfall so we made a quick detour. Was it ever worth it! We will definitely be back for a longer visit to this one with all our camera gear in tow and perhaps a fancy picnic lunch.

And… I’m sure we will visit Bend again. In fact, we already have plans for a trip to some of our favorite Oregon locales in October to enjoy the fall color and try to capture it through the lens of our DSLR. We are not exactly an outdoorsy couple (especially me), but the beauty and tranquility will bring back.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Geared up for another day in the Gorge, we headed off to Bridal Veil Falls State Park. This is my kind of park — nice parking lot, picnic tables and grassy area, plus “real” bathrooms! As most readers know, I’m not up for camping or roughing it in the outback, but I do love nature and am willing to enjoy it comfortably so this is a perfect place for me. There are two short trails available here. The first is a 2/3 mile interpretive loop that passes through wildflower meadows and camas fields with three vistas of the Columbia River. The second is a 1-mile round trip trail to the falls. We chose the latter and were immediately immersed in a lush green landscape full of moss-covered maples and Douglas Fir. One thing you learn in photography is to look not just in front of you but in every direction — to move your body as well as the camera. At every turn on this trail, there was some new angle to photograph.

In the 1880’s, large-scale commercial logging and lumbering at the western edge of the Gorge began at this location so there are remnants of the mill pond, log flume, and other structures. However, the myriad local flora have pretty much taken over the area. 

After following the steep but not difficult trail full of switchbacks, we came to a bridge passing over Bridal Veil Creek — our first stop for a few prize shots. 

Just beyond the bridge, Bridal Veil Falls came into full view. Though just 120 feet high, these falls are no less impressive than the others. They are the only falls where the basalt rock formations so prevalent throughout the Gorge aren’t visible underneath resulting in a solid flow of white water which makes them all the more enchanting.

You might wonder why we didn’t hike the second trail as well. Upon returning to the the main entrance, we considered it but decided against it for a couple of reasons. We were sure the vistas would be amazing, but we had already seen a few and that sort of thing is much better appreciated with the naked eye than through the lens of a camera. It’s very difficult to capture all the details your eye can see and photographs can be disappointing. Also, you have to keep in mind that we are each hiking with heavy packs of camera equipment and, well… we’re not so young anymore. There’s always next time.

At the entrance to the park, I discovered this quote on a sign and couldn’t agree more…

Water, in its many forms, provides some of the earth’s most beautiful landscapes. Rivers, lakes, and coasts all offer images of scenic beauty, but undoubtedly waterfalls are the most impressive.” ~ Gregory A. Plumb, A Waterfall Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest, 1989

During the past four years, the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge has been repeatedly devastated by natural disasters — first by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017 which almost consumed the renown Multnomah Falls Lodge and more recently by this year’s severe winter storms causing flooding and active landslides which have closed many trails and obstructed the historic highway. We were fortunate to finally be able to enjoy at least some of its bountiful beauty… looking forward to many return visits.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for our Columbia Gorge Photo Gallery that will be posted once we’ve processed all the images we shot with our Nikon D810.

The Gorgeous Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge was carved out about 15,000 years ago during the last ice age when a glacier that held back an ancient lake melted and released its water into what is now Oregon and Washington. The pressure and high speed water flow from this event created the Gorge as we know it today. Over time, the geology of the area has produced an abundance of waterfalls and other scenic sites that are mainly situated along the Historic Columbia River Highway for about 15 miles. It is extremely popular with tourists, especially hikers who can enjoy an array of interconnecting trails and photographers like us. When possible, the old highway is the easiest way to visit the five main waterfalls out of some 77 falls that exist in the entire area. However, due to recent active landslides, about half of this route is closed. The much more modern Highway 84 runs parallel to the old highway and provides intermittent access to the various sites with exits that often exist on one side of the highway but not the other making it necessary to follow a somewhat convoluted course to get from “Point A to Point B” or rather, from waterfall to waterfall. You find yourself traveling west and then east to go just a few miles down the road. Nevertheless, it is totally worth the effort. First stop, the ‘big daddy” of them all.

Heralded as the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with over two million visitors each year, Multnomah Falls is constantly fed by underground springs, rainwater, and snowmelt creating a spectacular year-round attraction. We have been anxious to see it ever since we moved here so that’s where we began our exploration of the Gorge.

In order to get to Multnomah Falls from our cabin, we traveled back over the Columbia River this time crossing at the Bridge of the Gods. This is a toll bridge operated by the Cascade Locks and one of only three ways to cross the 75-mile Gorge. Fun Fact: In 2014, the bridge became ever more popular after the release of the film Wild, a biographical adventure drama about a young woman’s experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail resulting in a toll increase to $2 each way. The Bridge of the Gods is the lowest point on this 2,653 mile trail that runs north-south from Canada to Mexico through Washington, Oregon, and California.

We arrived early at Multnomah Falls before the crowds and almost had the park to ourselves which is the key to success here. Reputedly the tallest waterfall in Oregon at 620 feet, the falls, named for the Multnomah tribe, did not disappoint. It’s a very short hike on a paved pathway to the base of the falls making it an experience everyone can enjoy. Farther up the trail at the division of the two-tiered falls, you reach Benson Bridge in honor of Simon Benson, lumber baron and benefactor who donated the land. At this point, the spray from the falls makes everything a bit slick and wet including the viewer, but we were prepared for that with rain jackets and camera covers. We had fun capturing some great images using our new CamRanger2 setup plus quite a few more both still and video using our phones. 

Multnomah Falls

Not satisfied experiencing just one waterfall, we decided to continue on to another… Latourell Falls, the second highest at 249 feet. We did, indeed, have to drive west then turn east to get to it. No loss since along the way there were some vista points to enjoy. The first was Chanticleer Point sponsored by the Portland Women’s Forum an organization active in preserving the beauty of the Gorge and providing for donation of the land. From there you can see the next landmark off in the distance — Vista House, originally constructed in 1918 as a rest stop and observatory of the Columbia River. It is essentially a small rotunda with an octagonal floor plan housing bathrooms and a gift shop and was considered by many at the time to be an over-priced outhouse. Unfortunately, due to COVID, it’s currently closed so we were unable to partake of the facilities. However, I loved seeing the Art Nouveau architectural style and, of course, the views.

Chanticleer Point with Vista House in the Distance (shown below)

Eventually arriving at Latourell Falls, we made another short hike to the pool at the base of the falls. Latourell is unique in that it drops straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff rather than tumbling over like most of the others. Accented by a wall of lichen, it’s just GORGEous!!

Latourell Falls

These huge waterfalls are really impressive, but it’s important not to miss the small things…

And this guy — hope he survived his slow trek across the trail!

We were slowing down ourselves so it was time to return to our cabin and prepare for Day 3. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs on the menu and more beautiful views of the Gorge from our deck made the end of a perfect day.

Heading Out…

This week we are visiting the Historic Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area located about 30 minutes east of Portland, Oregon. The route follows the Columbia River which originates in the Canadian Rockies and eventually winds its way south creating a dramatic border between Washington and Oregon as it flows to the Pacific Ocean. This is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise and there’s something for every ability. On the Oregon side, you can access many amazing natural sites along Highway 84, formerly part of the Oregon Trail. Alternately, you can approach these sites and other famous landmarks from the Washington side of the river using State Route 14, the Lewis and Clark Memorial Highway. We chose to do both.

Traveling two hours north from home to Portland, we made the requisite breakfast stop for a taste of France at La Provence in the tony city of Lake Oswego. This was an event in and of itself — the first time we had been out for a restaurant meal in 16 months! What a treat it was!! Afterwards we picked up a delicious seeded loaf of bread and some U-Bake almond croissants from their bakery for our vacation pantry then headed northeast to our destination.

Continuing on our journey, we soon crossed over the mighty Columbia turning east into Washington. So much beautiful scenery once we hit the heart of Lewis & Clark territory! It was a joy just to be out and about after such a long time at home. We took in our first view of the Columbia Gorge at Cape Horn… breathtaking, of course!

Eventually, we arrived at Shellrock Cabin, our home for the next three days. This newly built cabin is one of two identical 400 sq. ft. vacation dwellings situated atop a hill above the small community of Stevenson, Washington.

Fronted by a huge rolling lawn leading your eye to the Columbia, the cabin is modern and tastefully decorated. Though small, it is perfectly designed and organized for a comfortable stay. The compact, efficient full kitchen totally worked for the preparation of our breakfasts, snacks, and evening meals which we prefer to constantly eating out — healthier, more relaxing, and certainly more economical. To top it all off, the cabin’s inviting covered deck boasts its own private view of the Gorge.

As the first afternoon progressed, ever-changing clouds provided visual entertainment and photographic inspiration for the evening which was capped off by a full moon.

After a bowl of my homemade French Cassoulet accompanied by a delicious glass or two of red wine, it was time to hit the hay and prepare for the adventures of Day 2.

Through the Lens

It was my dad who first introduced me to photography. During WWII, he served in the Air Force on a B-17. After one fateful mission which involved a battle with a German airplane, he ended up as a POW in Sweden for nine months. Even though the Swedes were “neutral”, they treated the American servicemen rather well. So he was given a bike and allowed to ride all over the country. It was then that he purchased his first 35mm camera and became quite adept at using it. From there his love of photography grew and it became one of his few hobbies. I clearly remember the years when I was very young and he would convert the master bath into a dark room from time to time. I had to be reminded to stay out, but I remained close by and I was his most popular photographic subject. In 1965, my parents and I lived in Albany, Oregon about an hour from our current home. For my 10th birthday, my dad proudly gave me my first camera. It might have been a Brownie, but I’m not really sure. This was the first picture I took with that camera. We were at Trout Lake — Dad no doubt indulging in his other hobby, fishing, and Mom going along reluctantly for the ride. 

Over the years, I owned a huge variety of point and shoot film cameras and have the photo albums to prove it. I had grown up accustomed to every important moment being photographically chronicled and so I continued life as an adult in the same manner. For all this, I learned very little about photography itself. There was almost always a 35mm camera available, but someone else was in charge of using it. Somehow it wasn’t considered my (or perhaps a woman’s) territory. 

While participating in my school district’s 21st century technology grant in 1998, I acquired my first digital camera. Thus began a huge surge in the use of technology both at work and at home including some steep and swift learning curves. Around 2003, during Norman’s tenure as a professor in the Fine Arts Department at College of the Desert, he developed and taught the first digital photography class there. By this time, we had purchased one of the original digital SLR cameras and it was finally time for me to step up my photographic knowledge and skill set. So I enthusiastically participated as one of his students. Norman is a fantastic instructor and even quite patient with his wife for whom this topic does not come as easily to her as others. We became a bit of a team and eventually established a small business, Pérez Productions, wherein I built websites and Norman edited the photos we took for them. In those days, this was new territory so it was rather a big deal. We really enjoyed it but, in the end, realized the demands of the photography business were not for us. 

Some of our favorite subjects back then were in and around the Coachella Valley…

Palm Springs Indian Canyons
Castle Rock ~ Joshua Tree National Park
Cholla (aka Teddy Bear) Cactus ~ Joshua Tree

And the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles…

Reflections
Staircase

In 2005, we moved to the heart of the Silicon Valley where we lived for the next 12 years. It was an ideal location for capturing all manner of interesting landscapes. We spent a lot of time pursuing photography together providing some of our fondest memories. Two of our favorite spots for repeat visits were Lake Tahoe…

And Yosemite which we managed to shoot in all four of its glorious seasons…

El Capitán
Upper Yosemite Falls

The digital photography world has changed and evolved immensely in the past 20 years. We have gone through various camera kits and a myriad of accessories. In the transition to this “completely retired” stage of our lives during the past five years, we have been busy with many things which have taken time away from photography. We have mainly depended on our phone cameras to record our adventures and these days they do such an amazing job that it makes you a lazy photographer. However, there’s nothing like using the proper equipment and being totally in control of the outcome. So, now that we’re slowly coming through the pandemic to a point where we’ve been vaccinated and can at least travel by car, we are planning some road trips with photography in mind. One thing that has changed over time as much as the camera is our eyesight… especially for me. Setting up a shot using the viewfinder is a challenge when wearing progressive lens eyeglasses even with a large, live view display on the camera. There are a few ways to accommodate for this, but we are most excited about the latest addition to our kit — a CamRanger2 attachment which creates a wifi connection between the camera and an iPad. Finally I can actually see what I getting by shooting and viewing images directly from my iPad screen. We’re looking forward to putting it into practice out in the field this coming week. 

THE PHOTOGRAPHERS…

Norman on a stormy Lake Tahoe
Cheryl at Joshua Tree
Norman in Yosemite
Cheryl in Yosemite

Sewing is My Therapy

Over the past few months, I have been working on a couple of new blog posts, but I just can’t seem to get them finished. I can’t say if this is attributed to the distraction of the tumultuous events of the past year or my newest hobby which has grown exponentially. If you read “The Retirement Adventure” some time ago, you are aware my sewing history and how I came to unexpectedly embark on a quilting adventure. (If you need a refresher or haven’t read it, you can find it HERE.) Suffice it to say, sewing of any kind is almost the only thing I do when I am not thinking about anything else. Hence – my therapy. 

In just two years, I’ve gone from these small, fun projects…

To creating one of my favorite wall hangings…

And now I’m working on a series of these crazy Psychedelic Blocks in a BOM (Block of the Month) program designed by Australian Jen Kingwell. I’ve discovered that Australians seem to be even more into quilting than we are. I’ve never traveled Down Under, but if I did, I would want to visit all the amazing quilt shops there. 

Lately, what has made this quilting journey even more exciting is the remodel of my studio, a Christmas gift from my husband. When he announced this gift in November, I’m sure he had it in his head that it would be a fairly straightforward and swift endeavor. But these things never are, are they? He has worked on some aspect of the project pretty much daily for the past six weeks. However, the effort was more than worth his time. He’s such a perfectionist and it’s just gorgeous. I’m like a kid at Christmas – I have trouble going to sleep at night and can’t wait to get up and sew again. He transformed my space from this

To this…

What you see here is an 11-foot wall-to-wall sewing table constructed from repurposed solid oak church pews. Hubby bought several 10-12 foot pews for $25 each knowing he could eventually reuse all the wood. He disassembled, stripped, and planed them resulting in quite a stash of lumber. Tons of work but definitely worth it. The table has a custom insert with a manual lift which allows my sewing machine to sit at three different heights — on top to facilitate cleaning or the addition of the embroidery attachment (on my list to learn for 2021), set-in for smooth sewing, and tucked away down below when I want to avail myself of the entire workspace for cutting out large projects. It also has sliding shelves at each end which I have equipped with baskets that hold all my tools and supplies. I can use them just like drawers or remove the basket entirely. 

For years, my studio space has had an animal print theme. Even though I had to give up my beloved (and extremely comfortable) leopard print futon, I was able to carry on with the theme by creating “wild” basket liners to replace their original drab ones. Plus, I quilted up one of those crazy Psychedelic Blocks with some of the same fabric. I also had to shorten the curtains which I was about ready to ditch but hubby insisted I keep. 

To replace the folding table I was using for my pressing board, hubby built a rolling cart which also serves to store my various boards and cutting mats. 

Finishing touches…

I was able to hang some more of my quilts… this latest one is called “Clamshell” — not doing a bad job of competing with the Hermes scarf and contributing to an inviting corner for relaxing and having a cuppa while contemplating my next project.

And these words now hang above the walk-in closet where I store all my fabric and other sewing supplies. 

Since my parents watched me catch the sewing bug and develop my skills (and addiction) from the age of 12, they apparently felt this was a good moniker and had it printed on a sign as a Christmas present one year when I was in my 30’s. Somehow, that sign didn’t make it to this stage of my life. I have missed it and the reminder of how they supported me even though originally they didn’t believe I would actually accomplish much when they bought that first sewing machine. Speaking of which, when I went off to college, my mom (who did not sew at all!) wouldn’t let me take that machine with me. She liked the small wooden cabinet it came in and didn’t want to give it up. So I bought the only thing I could afford… a Sears Kenmore for $99 and proceeded to sew on it for the next 30+ years. 

In 2006, we replaced that machine with a Brother Innovis NX-400 which seemed like quite an extravagant investment at the time compared to my previous purchase. It is housed in that wooden cabinet which has a convenient motorized lift (on the left in studio photo above). This is an item we found via Craigslist along with that comfy black recliner and the recently departed futon. Sadly, it was sitting outside on someone’s back porch. We painstakingly refinished it. I was not about to give it up… never know when you might want to have two projects going at the same time! With the new arrangement of my studio, I am happy to now be able to use it in addition to my main squeeze, the Brother Quattro 2 Innovis 6700D… also purchased through Craigslist for a deep discount. When my husband saw how serious I was about quilting, he went in search of a more appropriate machine. We had to make an 8-hour roundtrip to get it, but it literally paid off. The one piece of furniture you can barely see is a full-size antique roll top desk — yet another CL treasure. Thrilled to be repurposing so many things!

Oh! Even one more repurposed thing… a beautiful wooden Williams Sonoma gift box turned project box to hold all those bits and pieces — felt-lined with felt feet added because heaven forbid I should scratch that brand-new table!

So, that’s it for this post. Off for a therapy – I mean, sewing session!

Adventures on the Home Front

University of Oregon Education Building

Well, I guess it’s about time for an update. Last you heard, I was a Duck which is no longer the case. For eight months, I had the pleasure and privilege of assisting a professor and her team with some important research work related to bilingual education. I spent a lot of time organizing files and data-filled spreadsheets — definitely my forte but not so much fun. Later, I spent hours designing an elaborate presentation which I used to teach data collectors how to administer two different assessments — so much fun! I was very nervous about teaching a room full of graduate students. However, as I discovered years ago when I moved up from teaching elementary to middle school students, they’re just big kids eager to learn. They were amazingly receptive and the two days I spent with them were such a blast! I had forgotten how much I loved the classroom.

While I was able to do most of my work from home, I was unexpectedly assigned an office shared with one other very amicable project coordinator. A teacher’s office is her classroom which is rarely private, quiet, or completely organized except on staff days. I had always wanted a real office so I took full advantage of this opportunity by completely decorating it with all my favorite office supplies in green and gold UO-style including a custom-designed quilted pillow…

Alas, it was to be a short-lived experience. At the beginning of February, we sent the data collectors off to test students in their homes and schools. By the second week of March, they were about three-quarters of the way through their lists. Then COVID-19 arrived and, of course, we had to halt all activity. By the end of May, I had done all the work I could do to contribute to the culmination of our research project. Sadly, it was time to say good-bye to the UO. 

This blog is now eight years old, originally conceived as we embarked on our first exploratory trip to France. Those were the days when we dreamed of a retirement life in France. It was not just a dream. If you’ve followed this blog, you know we worked hard to make it a reality even though we had to eventually resort to Plan B. We have been in Eugene for three years now — completing our fourth summer and we find we are very happy here. Living just on the edge of the city bordered by small farms and in close proximity to the Willamette River, our environment is very similar to the southern French countryside we longed to inhabit. So when we are out biking around this area, we often come away for a moment with a sense that we could actually be in France. Considering the current circumstances, it’s difficult to say whether we would have been better off here or there. No matter. We are fortunate to have a comfortable home with plenty of space to enjoy all the things we love to do best. This is it for us… for now. 

Riding my electric bike along the Willamette

The intent of this blog has always been to share our travels so I have been reluctant to post on other topics. Given the situation we are all in, traveling afar isn’t happening anytime soon. We hope to be off adventuring again perhaps in another year or two. Many aspirations – who knows if they will ever come to fruition, but it’s always good to keep dreaming! Meanwhile, we strive to create interesting and challenging at-home “adventures” in cooking, gardening, sewing, knitting, photography, music, and art among others. Plus, good food and good drinks along with some festive, seasonal decorations and we can always have a party at home. You can see the fruits of some of our efforts in this slideshow…

Looking forward to a small adventure a short distance from home in November. Actually, it will be a BIG adventure leaving Eugene for the first time in nine months!

As always… stay tuned!

Stay safe & stay well! And… if you’re a US citizen, don’t forget to VOTE!!

I’m a Duck!

AFC5D2C7-3807-4C5F-9FA2-E546651D0314And the adventure continues! You just never know what will appear around the next bend. As it happens, I’m going back to work. Wait! What? I’m retired, aren’t I?

When we moved to Eugene two years ago, four of my former middle school students were attending college at the University of Oregon. I kept in touch with them while they were here and it was really a lot of fun to see where they were going in life. Eisa was the last to leave. A few weeks ago, she finished her Masters in Education and was ready to head off to Washington to begin the first job of her career. Before she left, I invited her for a drink and we chatted about what she had accomplished and what she hoped to do. It’s wonderful to know that there are still people who are excited to take on the challenge of teaching these days.

The following day, Eisa was speaking to her favorite professor who mentioned that she had a position to fill in her research project. Given the parameters, Eisa felt like I would be a good fit and recommended me to her professor. She introduced us via e-mail. Mind you… this is my 25-year old former middle school student giving me a job recommendation. Think about that! Suddenly that resume I never thought I would ever need again became important and I knew I had to dig it out and update it. Since I didn’t need this job and, truthfully, wasn’t planning to go back to work, I wasn’t too stressed, but I did want to get it right. I forwarded my resume to the professor and received a call from her the next day which resulted in a job offer. At this point, I was rather shocked and amused because it just didn’t seem real. This is a small state and the University of Oregon is literally its highest academic institution. It would be quite an honor to be even a small part of it!

The research project involves developing a progress and monitoring assessment tool for preschoolers in Spanish similar to one that is already being used in English. I know, I know… this doesn’t sound too exciting to most people, but I was ecstatic to learn that bilingual education was alive and well again! This was right up my alley. Bilingual education was the inspiration for my career choice. During my 40 years in teaching, I worked through every iteration of it including the period when it was basically forbidden. This opportunity would allow me to come full circle and return to the root of my motivation for becoming a teacher.

While I do not possess the advanced degrees that almost everyone connected to this project has, I do have some invaluable qualifications which I never really thought would be recognized. Forty years of practical classroom experience, the environment for which the assessment tool is designed, has given me the ability to communicate effectively with school district staff, parents, and students participating in the project. In addition to that, being fluent in Spanish and knowledgeable about bilingual education provide significant advantages.

So, obviously, I accepted the offer and after jumping through all the HR hoops for the past three weeks, I will finally get to set my foot in the office this week and get started. Yes, I even get an office! Even though I was originally told I could do most of the work from home, I am pretty excited about the office aspect. My official title is Project Coordinator. I really have no idea exactly what I will be doing yet, but I’m pretty sure it will be challenging and interesting.

When the professor said, “You are exactly the person I was looking for”, I jokingly finished her sentence by saying “and can’t afford.” While they certainly cannot pay me what I’m worth within the constraints of a research grant, I believe the work is totally worth my time. I hope my contribution to the project will have a meaningful impact.

So that’s how I became a “Duck”. Since Oregon only has one professional sports team, the Portland Trailblazers, the majority of the population’s team spirit falls on the University of Oregon Ducks. Most often when you hear the word “Oregon”, people are referring to the team or the school, not the state. Duck Fever is extremely high and completely pervasive even far beyond Eugene. Evidence of it is everywhere from decals, license plate frames, and “Duckwear” to homes and businesses painted in UO’s bold green and yellow colors.

Well, now I guess it’s time for me to get to work. All I can say is…

GO DUCKS!

 

And then… there was Paris!

Once we had survived the heat wave and rejuvenated ourselves at the Château, it was finally time to ride into Paris and celebrate the end of our Tour. So Norman joyfully relinquished our car in Bordeaux and we boarded the TGV high-speed train bound for Gare Montparnasse. Riding in style and luxury, we arrived in the City of Light ready for the last circuit in just over two hours.

2367B918-8605-41EF-A5A0-05CCC2533CC6

Each time we have gone to Paris, we have stayed somewhere in or near the famed Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement. Since World War II, it has been known as a cultural and intellectual hub frequented by many notable writers and artists such as Hemingway and Picasso who reputedly hung out at places like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. Being one of Paris’ wealthiest neighborhoods, we could never afford to live there, but it is always a treat to stay in the area for a few days because it’s so well-connected to everything you would want to see or do.

This time we chose the small, family-run boutique Hôtel Signature located on a quiet side street — oversized room by Parisian standards, inner courtyard view, air conditioning, elevator, breakfast, and champagne — all the requirements for a perfect finale. We knew this would be our last full-length Tour de France so we decided to go all out, but we wanted to do it a little differently.

We spent our time doing simple things most of which were within walking distance though we did take the metro once or twice. The best part was seeking out non-traditional French food every day. In the process, we discovered some great international cuisine. The first evening we went to Saigon d’Anton and enjoyed a delicious and very authentic Vietnamese dinner of Pho and Bun, two favorite dishes we have been missing since moving away from California. I also ordered a unique lemon sorbet served in a real lemon providing a refreshing ending to my meal.

Afterwards, we made our way to the Luxembourg Gardens for an evening stroll on the way back to our hotel.

02E4AB0D-BBF6-48CF-BC70-5A19BCC39336On Day Two we found our way to the Lupicia Tea shop, a tea brand we’ve loved to drink for years. This Japanese company has just recently closed all but one of its US outlets (inconveniently located in Hawaii) so I was thrilled to pick up some more of their excellent teas.

Later, we crossed the Pont des Arts taking in one of the most iconic views of the city. You may have noticed that we updated the header photo on this site with the panorama Norman took from where I’m standing. The original version was taken in 2006. Interestingly, the view hasn’t changed much which I suppose is a good thing.

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We continued on to explore the grounds of the Louvre and beyond…

…where there’s some cool architecture —

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Then we stopped for a quick Sushi lunch.

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For dinner, we chose Evi Evane (which translates as “Cheers!”), an upscale Greek restaurant run by two very talented sisters. We squeezed ourselves in to a perfect little table in this tiny place and what an absolutely fantastic experience it was — probably the best Greek food we’ve ever had. No surprise once we learned that sister Dina Nikolaou who is responsible for creating the menus (supervised in-house by sister Maria) is a highly-trained and well-recognized Greek chef.

Below left – Pikilia (Assortment of cold appetizers): Tarama, ktipiti, tzatziki, fava, mélitzanosalata, purée d’olive; Center – Dolmas; Right – Grilled Octopus

Wednesday, July 31st, was not only the last day of July but also the final day of our tour and, additionally, my birthday. Making every effort to fit in as much as possible, we began by revisiting the beautiful royal chapel, Sainte-Chapelle.

From there we walked through the Île de la Cité until we reached Paris’ most renown cathedral, Notre Dame. Since the fire in April, it has been well-barricaded making it difficult to appreciate as a tourist destination. However, due to its size you can still see quite a lot. It was interesting to observe its current condition and the progress rapidly being made on its restoration.

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Returning to the hotel for an afternoon siesta, we popped in for lunch to another tiny establishment this time run by two brothers called Cook’n Saj specializing in Lebanese fare.

Of course, we had to check out the inviting array of sweets at the cleverly named Hugo and Victor Patisserie just around the corner from the hotel. What’s a birthday without cake?!

Finally, we took the metro directly to the Louvre for an evening visit. Last time we employed this strategy for a time with fewer visitors, it worked out really well but such was not the case on this night. It was crazy busy! We were only able to spend a couple of hours before we had to escape. We’ll be back another day.

After already having had champagne and cake, you would think the day would be over. But NO! It was still relatively early so we decided one more dinner at Evi Evane was in order. Fingers crossed with no reservations for such a small and extremely popular place, we set off on our conquest. As luck would have it, there was one table left for the evening and it was ours. Maria remembered us from the previous evening and we were rewarded with an even more spectacular meal.

To top it off, she surprised me with a birthday dessert, dimmed the lights, and led the entire restaurant in singing “Happy Birthday”… in English! Wow! I was not expecting that! We couldn’t have achieved a better finish.

Sharing Our France

E669DF9D-A0BD-4094-B67D-02F1F3F95750As you learned in the previous post, part of the inspiration for this trip was an opportunity to stay in the manor house at the Manoir des Granges. But truthfully, the majority of the motivation was to share all the things we love about southwestern France with our son and his friends. And share we did!

At first, Lorenzo’s friends were a little skeptical about spending a week out in the middle of nowhere with his parents. You can’t blame them. They really had no idea what they were getting into. However, our various recommendations for daily adventures worked out well for them. Coupled with the availability of a large private pool and fabulous local food and wines plus the unique qualities of the Manoir, they seemed to have a really good time. We were really pleased to see them enjoying much of what we love about the Dordogne and southwestern France. As you can tell from these photos, they do know how to have fun!

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“The Kids” started off their journey with a short stay in Paris including a spectacular dinner at Bernard Pacaud’s Michelin three-starred restaurant, L’Ambroisie — quite a contrast to what awaited them in the Dordogne. Here they are decked out in their finest for that evening.

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Ryan, Amy, Lorenzo, & Jacob

They even managed to squeeze in a few major sites especially for first-timer, Amy… Lorenzo’s friend since 5th grade, 22 years ago.

Sunday – Bastille Day

43DB8976-E12C-4AD9-B1D3-08D1495D893FAfter arriving in Bordeaux from Paris via the high-speed TGV train, the Kids hung out there for a few hours and even whisked through La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux’s new wine museum.

Still reeling from jet lag and lack of sleep, they made it to the Manoir ready to experience a week in the countryside. Coming from their home cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles and spending some time in two of the largest cities in France, they were looking forward to a less hectic lifestyle for a few days.

Monday

The Kids made the requisite trip to the local grocery store stocking up on all kinds of local delicacies and treats for the week. Meanwhile, we headed off to Sarlat on the first in a series of “revisits” and ate a light lunch surrounded by some medieval grandeur.

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That evening, Ryan, who served as Activities Director & Food Connoisseur during their stay, produced this delectable dinner spread for all to enjoy.

Over the week, the Kids also became well-acquainted with the large private pool and took advantage of many opportunities to spend idle hours there simply relaxing — something they rarely get to do in the midst of their typical daily grind in the tech industry.

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Most mornings began with breakfast often featuring eggs cooked-to-order by Ryan and/or Jacob accompanied by fresh pastries Norman acquired from the bakery just a five minute walk away.

Tuesday

It was time to explore farther afield, so we set the Kids off on a 27-mile loop through the Périgord that encompasses the quintessential towns of Sarlat, Domme, La Roque Gageac, and Beynac. We had driven this route in 2012 (read about it here) and knew it would be a great introduction to the unique history of the area. Later, Norman prepared a delicious meal of Cassoulet to finish off the day.

Wednesday

Requesting another recommendation, we suggested a visit to Bergerac and the Château de Monbazillac that we had discovered on our 2015 trip. Read about our experience.

Continuing the theme of revisiting favorite places, we returned to the beautiful village of Brantôme where we ate a tasty bistro lunch along the river and wandered the charming streets.

 

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Despite being seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, there are a few notable restaurants in the vicinity of the Manoir where you can make reservations for a special meal. One of these is the Auberge du Coq run by a former Michelin star chef who decided to leave the stress of the big city and retire with his culinary skills to the country. We all dined there together choosing some delicious options from the three-course menu. Merci beaucoup, Ryan!

And, yes, I had Foie Gras twice on this day!!

Thursday

Officially declared “stay-at-home” day. Even if you are young, you have to stop and rest sometime! Directly across the road from the Manoir is an archeological site called La Roque Saint Christophe — an easy walk and entertaining window into the past. The Kids ventured over in the cool of the morning to check it out and returned with intentions of canoeing, but, in the end, the relaxation of the pool called to them again. Time to kick back and take it easy.

For this evening’s gourmet dinner, we were all able to walk right up the road to La Table de Moustier, a small restaurant with big flavors and superb enthusiastic, multilingual service provided by a very talented husband and wife team. Once again, we ordered from a three-course menu and were extremely delighted with the results.

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Below is just a sampling of our various dishes…

I have to say that eating well and drinking some fabulous wines played an important role in the success of this week.

Friday

The Kids went all out for the grand finale of their week making the 5-hour round trip to Toulouse. It had been Jacob’s lifelong dream to visit the Airbus Factory located there and his friends were determined he should have the experience. There was a slight compromise… Ryan accompanied Jacob on an engaging tour and museum visit, while Lorenzo and Amy spent the day hanging out and shopping in the Place du Capitole, the central square of the Pink City. We made our own Toulouse trek in 2012.

While the Kids were out and about all day, Norman and I made one last revisit to the hilltop bastide of Domme for that spectacular view of the Dordogne River and Valley it so uniquely provides. Another light lunch and we were on our way back to the Manoir through the lush green countryside.

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Since three of us had upcoming birthdays, a small celebration seemed a fitting way to end this wonderful week. I arranged for a traditional French cake called a Croquembouche which is a tower of vanilla pastry cream and caramel-dipped profiteroles decorated with sugared almonds.

With candles lit, we made our wishes, and served up glasses of our favorite Bonhoste white and rosé Crèment while pulling apart and devouring the delicious pastry. When asked if we would reveal our wishes, Lorenzo stuck with tradition and kept his to himself. Jacob admitted his wish was to move to New York. I replied that I didn’t make a wish because I had already gotten mine… to return to France and have the opportunity to share what we love about it with others exactly like we had that week.

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Joyeux Anniversaire and May all your wishes come true!!

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