Sunday, November 4

Day 13 The final day in France! 😭

This morning we all packed up our apartments in Avignon and took our bags to the train station to start the journey to Paris. The beginning of our trip home. We had two train connections which are intense and tricky with a group of people, but we made it!  Travel can be challenging, and it’s not always luxurious or glamorous, sometimes it’s carrying a heavy bag through a train terminal with 10 minutes to spare to catch the next train and wondering if you’ll make it or not. Sometimes it’s getting your bag stuck trying to squeeze through the metro entrance because it shut too quickly. It can be mentally and physically exhausting. But, the goal, OUR goal is to show how worthwhile it is to go outside your comfort zone. That you can do so much more than you think and experience so much more than you dreamed by treating the experience as an adventure instead of a vacation. The view from atop the mountain is so much better when you’ve hiked it as opposed to when you’re dropped off there from a helicopter. We work hard to give real, authentic experiences that are designed to make us all feel, for just a little while like we are french, or italian, or Spanish or whatever. We have most of our lives to act like Americans and that’s great. But we feel like we learn how to live better as citizens of the world, as well as Americans from these experiences. That’s what traveling is all about in our opinion. Anyway, from there We got to our final neighborhood in Paris, St Germain Du Pres. We walked the few blocks and got to the only hotel we will stay at in Paris!  The Hotel Verneuil. We had our honeymoon there and stayed there for the end of our trip last year also. We know the people and it is a very comfortable place to us. It really makes you appreciate an AirBnb though. It’s more expensive than our apartments and you don’t get as much space. It’s a very small room with a small by our standard bathroom but, by Parisian hotel standards, it’s amazing!  We got here, got our stuff brought up to our room, which was great and then we relaxed for a little bit. Then we went out and explored our neighborhood. We went towards the Luxembourg Gardens and stopped at this nice antique market in the plaza in front of Saint Sulpice church, of Davinci Code fame. After that we walked through the church. It was beautiful. A lot of great stuff in there. It’s amazing how many huge churches there are in Paris. After that we walked the Luxembourg Gardens which is like Paris’ Central Park. It was a little chilly but the Parisians were out in full force today!!  It’s a great place to just watch Parisians live their life and that’s what travel is all about to Emily and I. Being in the moment and watching the world around us. At home we are face down in our phones a lot!  We don’t do that much at all when we travel. Travel is about awareness. For dinner tonight we went to our very favorite place. Relais de L’Entrecote. My Sister and Brother-in-law bought us a meal there for our honeymoon and we were hooked!  There’s no menu, it’s salad, steak in a weird looking green sauce and frites that are darn close to McDonalds fries and I mean that as the highest compliment!  They keep bringing it until you say stop too!  The line was crazy long!  We got there about 20 minutes after they opened and they were already jammed. But it wasn’t bad and before long we told them how we like our steaks and the food started coming!  We all loved it!  What a fantastic meal to end this food festival with. Totally different from every other place we have been to. We typically go to small, mom and pop restaurants that are off the beaten path. This was big, crowded, in the middle of a crowded area and it was amazing!  We had great desserts too, a theme throughout the trip. Now we are back in our comfy room ready for bed knowing we have to wake up really early and head home from yet another adventure. A travel adventure and a life adventure. We led a group! Successfully!  A dream we have had for a while now. We feel ready to take on that challenge regularly now. So, anyone who wants to go on a trip like we offer, whether it’s as part of a group or as a family that we guide around. Contact us and we can Taylor something specifically for you!  Travel is a huge part of who Emily and I are as people, as business owners and as a couple. It fills our souls and helps us to be better business owners as well as better people. If you haven’t travelled abroad, do it! If you have, do it again!  We have so much to learn as a society and seeing that there’s a whole big world out there that does many things just like us, but so many things differently always makes us ponder the meaning of our existence and of our purpose. It causes us to look inward by looking out at others. Some of our best ideas for our lives have come while we are walking down a back alley or having a picnic in a park. I want to end this trip as I end all other, by thanking you all for coming with us on this journey and by telling everyone how important these experiences are. We love all of you and can’t wait to come home to our city of Charlevoix and to our shop and make more delicious food for our friends and customers and bringing the experiences we have had home with us so if you can’t travel, you can feel like you have for at least that little bit of time you share with us!  πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

Saturday, November 3

DAY 12 Our last day in Provence, Picnic part 2 and Pont Du Gard

We have been blessed with beautiful weather these past 2 days and we have taken advantage of it!  We had another amazing picnic at the Roman ruin of Pont Du Gard. The 2000 year old aqueduct that’s incredibly well preserved and has the largest arch the Romans ever built!  The romans specialized in arch building so seeing their biggest one always fills me with awe!  It’s such a beautiful park setting for the aqueduct that spans the RhΓ΄ne River and supplied the city of Nimes with water. Nimes is known today for the famous fabric they produced. It was from Nimes, or De Nimes so we just shortened it to denim. It’s a great place to really appreciate the amazing reach of the romans and how they built incredible things all over the place. It’s also a great place for a picnic!  We laid out a tablecloth on a bench and put out a lot of the stuff we didn’t get to yesterday because we just had so much stuff!  It was wonderful. Picnics are the best way to enjoy the best local food specialties and eat cheap at the same time. Yes, I know the blog looks like all we do is eat, and we certainly aren’t starving over here!  But we do walk a lot every day and I tend to focus more on the food than most would. Maybe that’s why we opened a food establishment together?? LOL. The wonderful thing about Europe in general is they eat well, but not huge amounts. And the quality of the food is much higher than we get. And by that I mean there aren’t the preservatives, the chemicals, the sugar and the basic crap we eat. So, what I’m saying is it isn’t as crazy as it looks. I bet Emily and I have actually lost weight this trip!  Now, back to food! 😜 We went back to our favorite restaurant, Restaurant E.A.T.  The place we went for our anniversary and took the whole group there. It didn’t disappoint. Patricia and Sebastian really know how to run a restaurant!  Amazing food, exceptional service and even a special gluten free recipe that we are bringing home with us that they gave us!  πŸ˜‰. Really, they are the nicest couple and they did give us an amazing recipe that we had for dessert that we just can’t wait to share with everyone and yes, it’s gluten free!  They didn’t have to do that, but we have become friends with them over the past 3 years and I think that’s what makes these experiences extra special to us!  The relationships we are building. That’s why we wanted to and still want to take people with us, so they can experience these places, moments and people along with us and see what an amazing world we live in. Now we are packing for our train trip to Paris tomorrow morning. We are spending our last day in Paris and our last night in the hotel we spent our Honeymoon in, the Hotel Verneuil in St Germain de Pres. it’s a very special place and we can’t wait to have the rest of the group experience their warmth and the beauty of their hotel!  It also helps to take a taxi from there to the airport the next morning, and it’s right by our favorite restaurant! LOL All in all, a great way to end a great trip!  Only one or two more days of trip blogs for this journey. I hope it’s been enjoyable for all of you who read it. Whether it’s once in a while or every day. It really is a pleasure to share our travels with others!  

Friday, November 2

Day 11 Picnic at the Aqueducts of Barbegal and a visit to Arles

Emily and I got an early start today. We went to the indoor market here in Avignon on our own and started using our new found confidence and knowledge to put together a picnic for us and the ladies. We got all sorts of garlic and olive spreads, Marcona almonds, all sorts of cheeses, bread, rotisserie chicken, sausages and potatoes. We went all out. We brought some of the wine we picked up yesterday in Tavel and we hopped in the car to get to the Aqueducts of Barbegal. A 2000 year old grain factory capable of producing enough grain to feed 12,000 people every day!  It’s in ruins now, but it’s so far off the beaten path for most tourists that we basically had it all to ourselves. We set up on the hillside overlooking a gorgeous valley and started unloading our picnic from our bags. What a spread!  And what a place to enjoy that delicious food!  We sat there and just ate and appreciated life at this moment, because it just doesn’t get much better than this!  Then, we packed up what we had left and went back to the van and made the short drive to Arles from there. We really enjoyed Arles. It has lots of cool history. Lots of Roman ruins alongside of a lot of the exact spots where Van Gogh painted some of his most well known paintings. We visited the Roman Amphitheater that’s still in use today. What incredible views of the town and surrounding countryside and river!  We had ice cream in the center square of town. Can you believe it??  Day 11 and our first ice cream?!?!  That’s what the cold and rain will do!  The ice cream was pretty good.  I was happy with it. 😁 it was a long day between the two activities and the longest drive we will make. We still got home in time to take a rest for an hour or so before our 8:00 dinner reservation. We ate in a different area of town than we usually stay. It was a place that was recommended by a few different sources. It was good, not great. Probably the 2nd worst meal of the trip, which is still really good!  We haven’t had a bad meal, that’s for sure!  I had pork, Emily had beef we had some good appetizers and desserts, but we all felt the chef was a little heavy handed. The flavors were too overpowering. Like my pork had a coffee sauce and there were TONS of whole coffee beans in the sauce. It was good, but only needed a few to give it the proper balance of flavors. The deconstructed lemon meringue tart, one of my favorites, was SO tart that it was hard to really enjoy. But, we had excellent wine and overall it was a nice meal. A lovely end to a really great day. All the women said it was the best picnic they’ve ever had!  Tomorrow, our last day in Provence, we go to Pont du Gard. The Roman Aqueduct that spans the RhΓ΄ne river and is in perfect shape after 2000 years!  Always makes for one of the very best days. That’s why we saved it for last!  πŸ˜ƒ. We have a great dinner also. We are taking everyone to the place we went alone for our anniversary. They’re gonna love it!  It’s gonna be a great way to end the week in Provence!  Hope you enjoyed today’s adventure as much as we did. And I’ll have lots more tomorrow. Thanks for caring!