Thankful…All the time. Let’s Pay It Forward

If you know me, you know I’m all about travel and exploring the world. That’s what this blog is about. Hubby and I love to travel as much as budget, time, and responsibilities allow. We have so much fun, that much of the time, I don’t even have time to blog about it.

Over the past 13 years since I started keeping track, we have taken around 60 trips, whether long weekends or months long journeys. Someday I will calculate the mileage and I’m sure it will be amazing. We have another dozen trips in the planning stages and a seemingly endless list of cities and countries we want to explore and then go back again and again because we meet such wonderful people and make great memories.

Having just changed homes (yet again), we are home for a few months before the next adventure. One of our grandsons recently asked, “Grandma and grandpa, why do you keep moving?”  Hmmm…probably terminal wanderlust.  In his 8 years of life we have been in 5 different homes. He and his brother especially enjoyed our big forever home with the huge dodge ball friendly basement and yard that was really too much for us to worry about. Now we are in a condo that Goldilocks & big Bear says is “just right”. Finally we have a home that can sit unattended when we travel the world.

What is the segue way to Thankful? This is the time of year when Being Thankful is always playing on my mind. I am so thankful for where I am in my life. I have an amazing husband who enjoys the same things I do (24/7…but that is another story). We are retired and can do what we enjoy – particularly travel. We enjoy good health for the most part. We have lovely friends, and most importantly, we have healthy, happy children and grandchildren, most of them close by. What more could you ask for?

We also have a brand new cozy home to come back to when our wanderlust is temporarily satisfied.

Not everyone is so lucky. Living close to the city, we daily encounter people in need on the street. Every year we typically donate to our favorite organizations, but these everyday reminders of humans in need make me more thankful that I can help a little, particularly at this time of year when we encounter so much overindulgence.

Giving Tuesday is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving . Many organizations that you donate to have matching donations on that day so make sure to put Giving Tuesday on your calendar and remember your favorite charities this holiday season (November 28, 2017).

Besides monetary donations, the MacLennan’s like to give back on a personal level whether it’s volunteering or sometimes adopting an elderly person or children off a gift tree. This year we are collecting scarves, hats, and gloves to keep in the car (because it gets pretty darn cold here in Chicago). When we come across those less fortunate, we will hand out something warm to wear with our donation, as well as some days a bag of something to eat like Subway and fruit. This requires planning ahead, so I’ve marked a few days on the calendar when I think we will be out and about in the car, so we can pick up food in advance.  Another day we plan to bring a holiday meal and some wish list items to a local homeless veterans shelter.

We have a great deal to be thankful for, and have a wide variety of favorite organizations. This is not a shameless plug for our favorites – I just wanted to share our list so it might jog your memory for ways that you might give back or pay-it-forward.

Special Needs:  

Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey

WDSRA

We Grow Dreams

Cancer:

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

Military/Veterans:  

Operation Support our Troops

Midwest Homeless Shelter for Veterans

Children:

Toys for Tots (it’s a great tradition to get your children involved in choosing toys for the less fortunate & bringing to a donation center as a family)

Elderly:

Chicago Scots Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care

DuPage County Convalescent Center (Adopt-a-Resident)

Animals:

DuPage County Animal Control Foundation

Public Television:

WTTW (When we are not traveling, I love to watch Masterpiece, Doc Martin and a ton of their shows. Outlander & Game of Thrones are a given but we need Public Television!)

Church: of course that’s your choice and it’s personal to us all

I hope that you, your loved ones, family and friends, are warm and safe, healthy and happy this Thanksgiving and Holiday season. If you are as blessed and lucky as we are, consider paying it forward on Giving Tuesday to your own favorite organizations or finding a way to make contact with those less fortunate and pay it forward.

We continued to be very blessed, very lucky, and very thankful!  Sending good wishes from our home to yours, Happiest Thanksgiving to you xo

C’est tout.

 

Normandie-WWII International Film Festival June 2017

Our 2017 significant vacation adventure is just about upon us as we prepare to travel next week. Our first destination is Normandy for the inaugural WWII International Film Festival to be held June 2 through 5, 2017 at Musee Du Debarquement Utah Beach in Saints-Marie-Du-Mont and Cinema Le Cotentin in Carentan.

Do not fear my little friends…there will be plenty of other Le Bon Vie fun to report on this holiday. Stay tuned for updates from some lovely European towns and cities.

C’est tout!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countdown to 5 Glorious Days in Berlin

We are in the last week countdown before jetting off to Germany and are looking forward to visiting the cultural and historical hub that is Berlin. So far for us, Germany has been explored via a series of plane changes in Frankfurt and Munich on our way to sunnier climates in France, Spain and Italy. September 2016 we will finally visit Berlin, Munich, and Ingolstadt (yes home to Audi!) before moving on to Italy.  Stay tuned for some exciting travel stories and hopefully gorgeous photos.

Downton Abbey Fashions at Driehaus Museum

19 MuseumBeing a Downton Abbey lover, I was excited to find the Driehaus Museum in Chicago is presenting Dressing Downton – Changing Fashions for Changing Times February 9 through May 29, 2016. As the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey has concluded, PBS stations WTTW & WMFT have sponsored an exhibit of over 35 period costumes from the award winning show.

This exhibition explores fashions in Britain between 1912 (the year the Titanic sank) and the early 1920’s, the dawn of the Jazz Age. The impact of World War I greatly affected people’s lives and the way that they dressed. These changes are particularly highlighted.

The culturally and historically significant Driehaus Museum is located steps from the Magnificent Mile and the perfect setting for the Fashions of Downton. This grand and palatial mansion was the residence of Samuel M. Nickerson and is one of the few remaining examples of the 19th century Gilded Age-era in both design and architecture.

My first visit to this glorious mansion left me dreaming of years gone by, experienced only in old movies or British television series. After tickets and coatroom, obtaining a colored brochure of each exhibit and an audio presentation, I ascended one of the grand carpeted marble staircases to the first floor. There I joined the crowd of ladies who lunch in watching a short introductory film on the made for television show. The visitors on a Tuesday morning were 99% women with some serious Red Hat Society ladies. Today however, they were wearing white gloves and adorned with straw hats, feathers and such finery as to fit in at a proper tea party.

Promptly at 10am, the ticket taker appeared and we glided into the grand reception room from where the staircase ascended to upper floors and from which all the first floor rooms connected.

17 staircase

 

Tickets are purchased for every half hour admittance times. Quite well thought out. There never seemed to be people crowding in if you wanted to take a photo or in your way while you examined an exhibit. There is plenty of room to envision yourself a distant Crawley cousin, belonging in the priceless surroundings.

1 Martha Levinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Lady Crawleys spanish dress

 

 

15 presentation at court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 presentation

 

4 stained glass ceiling

3 library

 

2 fireplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The library is furnished around an artistically significant fireplace and statuary which leads the gaze up to a stained glass ceiling. The ceiling is beyond words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Mary's riding habit

 

 

 

Each of the rooms on the three exhibit floors hold multiple costumes, informational directories, and photos from the television show.

The rooms themselves have directories as well that are part of the regular Driehaus Museum exhibition. There are no words I can use to describe the beauty and opulence of the mansion. It just requires a visit to absorb it all.

6 Edith's riding costume

 

 

 

 

 

11 Cora & Lord Grantham

 

 

 

 

 

14 Dowager Countess

10 Cora & Lord Grantham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Cora's gown Edith's wedding

7 Mary's dress

 

18 tea

 

Traditional English tea is available by reservation in the Murphy Auditorium, served by properly costumed servants .

There must be a gift shop! Oh yes there is, just next to the tea.  Many treasures abound.

 

 

 

Life after Downton…what will we see next? Luckily the Driehaus Museum is a must see on it’s own, holding many interesting programs and exhibitions. The Museum entrance is located at 40 East Erie Street, Chicago, IL, 60611.

C’est tout!

Digging into the past in with Agatha Christie in Old Montreal

Palais de Congress

st Patricks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As our December visit to Montreal comes to an end, I ventured forth with my trusty camera for photographic evidence of the holidays…but then was distracted by the past and an old friend.    Agatha Christie

Walking along the waterfront in Old Montreal, I came upon a new exhibit entitled In the footsteps of Agatha Christie at Pointe-à-Callière museum.  Très excitant!

Agatha Christie has always been one of my favorite authors and earlier just this spring I read The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery.   This particular book is a travelogue of her yearlong trip around the British Empire in 1922 with her first husband, and contains letters and photos from her travels.  Interesting side note, Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

The Pointe-à-Callière Museum is the only major archeology museum in Canada, and caters to interest children as well as adults. There is much more to see here than this one exhibit, but time was limited, so I concentrated on digging into my favorite mystery writer’s life.

The Pointe-à-Callière exhibition is presented in French and English and runs through April 2016. Photos were not allowed except in the gift shop, but that was good for me, as I then took my time to drink it all in.

If you are familiar with Agatha Christie, you know of her interest in archeology as well of her archeological adventures with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan. Max was a prominent British archaeologist specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history. At least half of this exhibit highlights this part of Agatha’s life in previously unshared artifacts, black and white films, audio recordings, notebooks and photos, from the Christie Archive Trust and her grandson. The other half of the exhibit shows the writer and her personal life, and also has many personal artifacts and huge larger than life photos of Agatha.

The exhibit presents how she incorporated her travel and experiences, and even her favorite dog into some of her novels. It was all terribly interesting darling, and makes me wish I could curl up in front of the fire with one of her books and a cup of tea. I do love Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and wish I could have met the Agatha in person. Sometimes living in the past seems wonderful…in the meantime, it will have to be books, photographs and movies that take me there.

Looking into the past in Montreal…C’est tout.

railsquare philliphidden gardenCentre d'histoire clocktower

look into the past

Habitat 67

Montreal abandoned rail

Montreal’s festive holiday markets (Marché de Noël)

ice sculptureThe weeks leading up to Christmas are a fantastic time to explore downtown Montreal. Having recently spent three months living near Old Montreal, I was excited to travel back this week to visit the Christmas markets, or Marché de Noël as they are known in Quebec.

Today while walking over to Rue Ste-Catherine for a little retail therapy, I came across a pop up Marché de Noël in the square above Place Ville Marie, complete with Christmas trees, ice sculpture, and scattered comfortable Adirondack chairs covered in cozy (faux) fur throws.

fur accoutrement

Place Ville Marie is an underground shopping mall connected to the underground city, located across the street from the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel. The Fairmont is the site of the Beaver Club, and many famous celebrity guests have stayed there.  Probably the most celebrated of all, John Lennon, held his ‘bed-in’ here in 1969, where the song Give Peace a Chance was written and recorded. As well, the Fairmont has a unique gift shop worth exploring and the BEST high tea, but that’s another story.

Back to the Marché…one of my favorite pâtisserie/boulangeries – bar à beurre, has a booth with samples of their yummy cookies and candies, and mason jars of the same for sale as gifts, and their signature shopping bags.  bar à beurre literally translates to butter bar…hmmm, no wonder their cupcakes and cookies are so wonderful.

bread

There is a artisanal bread booth, and a cheese and sausages booth, perfect for gift baskets…walk faster you little weight watcher!

les chocolats de chloe

But alas, I was caught up at the chocolate booth, Les Chocolats de Chloé.  I met lovely Chloé herself, luring in customers with her wonderful cocoa treats.  I guess a few bars for stocking stuffers would be okay…if I just can forget they are packed in the suitcase.

raplapla

Raplapla sells handmade dolls and animals to cuddle…so soft, and they have a doll hospital to repair your treasures.

Boucle & Papier  papeterie boutique had many fun gifts…. artisan stationary and labels and soft little handmade zipper bags…oh my. So many cute things.

relax

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love that the Christmas markets boast artisanal wares and unique gifts from boutiques, and am looking forward to treasure hunting tomorrow.

Joyeux Noël!  C’est tout! 

Sucrerie de la Montagne: Sugar Shack Supreme

16 fireplaceVacationing for a few months in Montreal, we plan to make the most of every festival, concert or attraction the city has to offer. With Montreal as our home base, there are many beautiful towns we can drive to in Quebec or Ontario within a few hours, and I would love to share those with you.

It’s certainly a change to live in the city and to be able to walk everywhere or hop the metro, after spending most of our lives jumping in the car to drive to work, shopping, or for a coffee. Living downtown, we are getting more exercise and that’s great, and hopefully a justifiable excuse to try a lot of local Québécois specialities…over and over again.

So yesterday, John offered a field trip in the car. Yes! Excited as a Jack Russell when he hears the leash, I immediately responded in the affirmative.  John had planned a surprise trip to a historic Québécois sugar shack. I imagined a family entertainment type maple syrup tapping activity, filled with kids, pumpkins and caramel apples. Aux contraire. This French Canadian maple grove is so much more. Sucrerie de la Montagne is about an hours drive west of downtown Montreal near Rigaud, Quebec. The literal translation is candy mountain so I knew good things were in store.

Per their advertisement, La Sucrerie is designated an official “Site du Patrimoine Québécois” or Québec Heritage site.  The sugar shack is located in the middle of a 120-acre forest of century-old maples atop Mont Rigaud and transports visitors back in time to a momentary glimpse of life as it was for Québec and Canadian pioneers.

Although the Sucrerie de la Montagne sign was missing at the road, we knew we had arrived when we saw two huge Belgian horses being harnessed to a wagon.

2 charming cabin

Walking up the main path towards delicious smoky fire smells, we passed a number of rustic wooden cabins that we later found were rentable accommodations, as well as a few cabins designated as general store, sucrerie and boulangerie. Things were looking even better!

4 caban

 

3 caban

Soon we found ourselves in front of a smokey fire pit across from the main barn. I can imagine it packed with visitors on a crisp afternoon, sitting around the fire drinking hot toddies and watching the brilliant leaves fall.

1 Sucrerie

We explored the outbuildings and met the baker in the boulangerie as he was getting ready to fire up the wood stoves to bake fresh country bread. Once inside the main barn, we found ourselves in a homey reception area filled with authentic wood stoves, a huge rustic bar, and old family photos. We were greeted by Stefan, son of Pierre Faucher. Stefan, like his father, has impressive hair and beard, and dresses as a traditional Québécois pioneer. He is friendly, attentive and an all around fantastic host, checking each table numerous times to make sure diners are happy and well fed, making suggestions, and later providing entertainment and tours.

The first order of business for us was lunch. The Sucrerie offers a traditional hearty Québécois menu. We had not fasted in preparation or cut a few cords of wood to work up a lumberjack’s appetite, so we chose a few items à la carte at Stefan’s suggestion.  We enjoyed the Mountaineer’s pea soup, fresh bread, pancakes (similar to crepes and perfect for soaking up their thick maple syrup), crispy back bacon, maple bière…and SUGAR pie – oh my!  Everything we had was fresh, delicious and mighty tasty. We know that we will be back to try the rest of the menu. It was just that good.

7 pea soup

8 crispee

9 bread

11 maple biere

10 pancakes

12 sugar pie

6 l'erable

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La Grande Motte, Round Trip to the Sea

La Grande Motte is a popular seaside resort and port in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

entrance beach

Over 2,000,000 tourists descend upon the area in the summer no doubt because of their beautiful sand beaches that slope gently into the sea.  The white sand extends for about 7 kilometers.

behind

We visited in early June and enjoyed the warmish bathing waters and the wide open pristine sand beach. Le Grand Patron is not a beach person with his fair Scottish-Canadian freckled skin, but he is amenable to sunscreen and a swim shirt for protection. The weather was fantastic and the water, as I said warm enough for us to frolic and cool down on the sand bars while the waves of the Mediterranean broke over us.

white sandThe sky was cerulean blue and the sea a darker shade, accented against the white sand –  memory making view.

 

 

blue water

 

 

 

 

as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is free parking no more than 600 meters away from the beach and all of the development is away from the beach itself. That being said, there are ice cream & Diet Coke boys that push their motorized carts up and down the beach to ensure happy children and hydrated moms…and a couple men balancing trays of hamburgers on their heads as they walked up and down hawking their wares.

ice cream man

 

 

 

 

 

 

hamburger guy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We planned to have a light déjeuner and were delighted to find Le Voile Bleue Beach Club directly on the beach near our access point, with local huîtres on the menu. Loving summer!

huitres la grand motte

wine is light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we were enjoying the sun and the sand and the water, I realized it is almost (but not yet) forty years since high school graduation (shocking). Tradition at my high school was senior ditch day the Friday before graduation. All the seniors would ditch school and drive to the Michigan dunes. It was about an hour and a half drive and some of us would go for the day, some for the whole weekend, but you just had to go even, if you hitchhiked. So my friends and I loaded up the car for the weekend and we went with tradition. Great fun, the beach, the sun, driving back and forth to see who else was there, some shenanigans, and of course some drama.

Senior year of high school, all you can think about is the rest of your life: big decisions, what is next, college, jobs, what will I be, leaving home, becoming independent, staying friends, finding new friends, finding significant others, and all those other thoughts rambling around causing ripples and whirlpools.

So here I am (almost) 40 years later again at the beach staring at the sand dunes. No worries, no Marlboro Lights, the wine is chilled and being enjoyed at a nice beach club.

sailboat parasailing 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to school, found jobs, stayed friends with my forever friends, married, raised two fantastic kids, had a career, worked, bought, remodeled and sold houses, found the love of my life, traveled, retired, and traveled some more.  And now here I am again at the beach, thankful for everyone and everything in my life, my experiences…thinking about what is to come.  Almost full circle. It’s time to start a second circle.

 

monkey

Wonderful thoughts…free to plan and do more fun things with my husband and best friend. More travel, more time to spend keeping our bodies young and brains active, cycling, reading, photography, writing, creating, more time to spend with all of of our friends, kids and now grandkids.

delicate boybeach July 1stJohn swimming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had such a great time at the beach in June, we came back again for one more visit in July. It was every bit as gorgeous the second trip. Enjoy the photos. Hope you start a new circle…C’est Tout!

just take me out to the sea

 

Vaison-La-Romaine, Another Provençal Gem

Vaison-La-Romaine is about an hour drive northeast from our home base in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue. With a few days left in Provence, we decided to venture out for a visit to this one of 100 Plus Beaux Villages de France.  trees

Almost to our destination, we passed Malaucène. It was an inviting and charming town and a cycling mecca at the foot of Mont Ventoux. There were quite a few bike stores and cafés, so I am sure will be back to visit someday.

Tuesday is market day in Vaison-La-Romaine. One of us was surprised with that information, perhaps under the assumption that we were avoiding shopping. We arrived just in time for a patio lunch in the main square, with misters to ward off the heat, music, and une pression bière for Le Grand Patron. Merci beaucoup LGP for navigating us on one more Provençal adventure. The market was huge but the sun was hot, and the vendors were starting to take down their stands. Nonetheless, we found un pain ancienne and two luscious ripe and wonderful heirloom tomatoes to take home for dinner…their fate to be flavored with sea salt, basilic olive oil and basil leaves. Miam miam!

Vaison square vaison fountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

more pottery

Fortified with salads and cold drinks, we ventured into the sun to hike to the medieval city across the Roman bridge, which is incidentally over 2000 years old. Across the bridge, we were faced with an impressive WWI and WWII military memorial dedicated to the sons of Vaison-La-Romaine.

military memorial vaison

Since we enjoyed an American length déjeuner, it was still a time of rest for the residents of Ville Médiévale. We climbed the quiet streets, interrupted only by the droning of the cicadas and a few camera laden tourists determined to make it to the top and the 12th Century Chateau despite the heat.

ville medeival

vaison entry vaison arch

John vaisoneglise vaison chateau vaison chateau flag

bee Vaison la Romaine

waiting for le grimpeur

 

neighborly bridge

garden

farden doorvaison antique doorway

Besides the Ville Médiévale, there is an archeological site of preserved Roman ruins, wine tastings, Provençal cooking classes, cycling, and many shops and restaurants. Vaison-La-Romaine is certainly a destination where we could spend a few days on les vacances.  C’est Tout!

 

Sault Market and A Cycling Star

Sault is an old fortified village situated high atop a ridge overlooking a wide valley, with many lavendar fields spread out like purple patches on a summer quilt. patchwork lavendar

This amazing countryside is northeast of Villes sur Auzon where we had experienced a wine-cycling tour last week. It is also very close to the Gorges de la Nesque were we picnicked another day. Each time we drive back to this area, the lavendar is more in bloom and intense in hue.

L'Etoile cycle

bile sign

We knew we wanted to come back at least one more time this Provençal visit so Le Grimpeur could climb all those glorious Ventoux hills on a bike, and me for the lavendar and a little shopping. We planned a Wednesday visit when the Sault market could entertain me while John cycled. In the 18th and 19th centuries Sault was the center of an important glass industry. There are no glass works today, but the weekly market continues as it has since since 1515…and that’s good enough for me.cycle shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found a brand new cycle shop just a km or two out of Sault, so we called ahead to rent a road bike.  L’Etoile Du Ventoux (The Star of Ventoux) had just opened for business and John rented their first road bike. They offered a brand new Fondriest 19-speed as well as new clip shoes right out of the box. John cycled up Col de la Ligne (altitude 756 meters) twice and was pleased to ride 60 kilometers.

sault market

dream of anna

Artisa

While John was cycling, I explored the village armed with camera and shopping sac. There are so many wonderful markets every day in Provence, but with limited luggage space, if I purchase something, I prefer fabricated in France or something fantastic that cannot be found at home. The markets are filled with fresh, colorful and delicious produce, soaps, oils, wine, bread, fromage, flowers, clothes, linens, bags and nougat to name a few. I like to check out the artisinal shops as well that sometimes are overlooked with the market stalls blocking them…and sometimes I am just delighted with some photos.

The proprietress at Art’Isa sits at the counter hand-painting her porcelain ware.sault towersault kitty 2 pretty Sault doorholleyhocksmore lavendarsolaire

The village is open and large with many squares and cafés and panoramic overlooks to the Ventoux mountain range, and the Plateau de Vaucluse spread out across the south.

Just a few kilometers out of the village to the southwest are the deep canyons of the Gorges de la Nesque. gorge de la nesque

 

 

 

 

gorges 2

 

When John had cycled as much as he wanted, I picked him up and we drove part of his route to go back and enjoy the scenery and the lavendar fields up close. They smell delicious!

brilliant lavendar

kathy and lavendarlavendar & goldenrod

 

 

C’est Tout!