1. Free Champagne served on Air France.
2. Arriving at my destination at the end of the long plane trip.
3. Eating fresh croissants with café au lait at a sunny breakfast table. (Okay, eating fresh croissants, period but they're best with coffee and some nice jam of some sort....)
4. A whole new country to take pictures of.
5. Driving through the Southern French country sides on small roads shaded by allées of Sycamore trees, and bordered by field after field of brilliant yellow sunflowers growing en masse.
6.The Bishop’s Garden at Albi with it’s grape vine arbor shaded walkway overlooking the Tarn River.
Albi, The Bishop's Garden 7-7-2011
7.Discovering the delicacy known as Pain Cordeais at a salon du thé in the village of Cordes-Sur-Ciel. (Similar to a croissant in texture, but round, slightly sweet and with almond paste inside. Fantastic and a perfect thing to have with coffee. I'm on a holy quest to find a workable recipe!)
8. Soaking in the atmosphere while walking down narrow old medieval city and town streets. (Walking down them is infinitely preferable to driving down them, in this case.)
Moissac, the Abbey Cloister, 7-9-2011
9. Wandering through the Romanesque Cloister in the village of Moissac, and seeing the wonderful carvings on all the capitals of all the pillars.
10. Old stone houses with pale blue window shutters, and pretty flower pots blooming on lacy iron balconies.
Bastille Day and Market Day in Montignac, 7-14-2011
11. Discovering the beautiful little town of Montignac where we went to buy our tickets to visit Lascaux II. The main street had been decorated with thousands of handmade poppies (those red things in the picture). I know it’s not the real Lascaux Cave, but the man-made copy was damned skillful and convincing.
12. Seeing all the French flags flying in the early evening of Bastille Day in Sarlat while listening to a marching band play the Marseillaise. I’ve heard more polished renditions, but that one had such heart, for that moment, I really wished I were French myself. Great fireworks show, that evening too.
Marching Band in Sarlat, Bastille Day
13. Eating a Parisian ham sandwich on a baguette at a picnic table overlooking the Dordogne River, watching all the people below, splashing and canoeing in the river.
Dordogne River, 7-15-2011
14. Spending the night at the Chateau de Pray in Amboise in the Loire Valley. Listed as a Hotel de Charme—which it certainly was.
Approaching the Chateau of Chenonceau, 7-17-2011
15.Seeing the Chateau of Chenonceau again. First saw it 32 years ago, briefly. Remembered it as beautiful which was why I wanted to go back. It’s not often my memories and expectations are exceeded, but they were this time.