Category Archives: Random Katness

Eze to Provence, France Day 4

Packing up, even though we didn’t actually unpack for our short stay, still takes time. Where did I put this, what happened to that? Then making room for goodies bought. Jason and Kat head down for a last pain au chocolate before check out.

A last look at the sea, a last walk down, down, down through our little village. We couldn’t have had a lovelier time in Eze. 

One last look at the blue sea. Photo by j a-b

Now it’s time for Kat and the bellmen to pack our many bags into the car. And for BW to maneuver us out. It takes awhile to circumvent the sharp, narrow angles, especially with oncoming vehicles trying to do the same, but we get there. 

Where to go next? Photo by kat

We’re taking the fast route–not really scenic though those hills are impressive as we whizz along the road. The drive’s under two hours, with several tolls–escalating as we go. We have enough coins to make it, but wonder why they don’t post the cost of the tolls before you creep your way through the jammed traffic–jammed we suspect because any who don’t already know the cost are now digging for the correct amount.

And we exit and turn onto a lovely country road lined with forests, drive over little bridges. We come to an enormous and gorgeous lake with water of pale teal. I’ve never seen water that color, and it looks faerie-like to me. There’s a sandy beach, a little water park, paddle boats–some with slides! Sail boats gliding, and venders selling ices.

The road winds and curves, and here is our place! BW and I were here 12 years ago, and when we turn in, I remember the look and feel. Flowers, flowers, flowers!

Inside the big, airy lobby to check in. Friendly, efficient staff, and before we know it, our luggage is unloaded, we’re loaded into a golf cart and rolling our way to our villa.

It’s wonderful! And really big. I pass right through the living area with its plentiful seating to the big outdoor space. I could live there. Padded sofas and chairs, lounging areas in sun or shade, a dining table–and we’re all about eating right there tonight. Our own pretty pool and hot tub, and all of it surrounded by trees before the view opens to the hills with their gently rounded tops, the houses and towns stacked down the slopes. 

Le spa. Photo by NR
La spa. Photo by BW
La vue. Photo by NR

BW and I take a room, little terrace off the bedroom, big dressing area, huge bath. Kat and Jason take one with a pretty sitting room, little terrace. There’s a small library, yet another sitting room, a dining room and a kitchen. Glass doors everywhere opening to that wonderful outdoor living space.

We leave unpacking for later, walk back to the hotel–lavender thick on slopes–and eventually find the restaurant near the pool. I see a belini on the drink menu, and that’s for me. A scan shows a make-your-own-salad option. So that’s what we all do. Fresh, fresh, fresh. Field greens, romaine, Roma, cherry, big bright red, fascinating black tomatoes, peppers, tuna, anchovies, cheeses, herbs, olives, etc, etc. They offer huge bowls for a reason.

We very happily settle down to lunch–with fresh bread as well. And my belini all but brings a tear to my eye.

There’s a separate area–for kids, the waitress explains, for kid type food. No wonder we see several very happy kids while we eat our enormous salads.

A happy walk back, and it’s unpacking time. I’m so ready to put things away because suitcase living brought back the rigors of book tour. Now all our things are hung up or tucked in. Jason and Kat want a walk–and decide they’ll walk to the market. It’s like two miles, maybe three, but they’ve got it mapped out. Off they go–with an ETA back of three hours.

I sit, have a glass of champagne, then decide I want to try the pool. So does BW.

It’s just right. Not chilly–I’m not a fan of cold swimming pools. Just cool enough to be refreshing. A nice swim, a dip in the hot tub. The day’s travel, then unpacking all melt away.

I think I’ll read for a bit on the terrace sofa. I do, then drift off. Sleep right there in the shade, in the quiet, for more than an hour.

I hear Jason’s voice, and BW’s.

The adventures of Kat and Jason took more than three hours. The walk to the market timed well, but they discovered much of it meant walking ON the road as there was no real shoulder. It’s windy, curvy, and they both decided it just wasn’t a good, safe idea. So Kat mapped out an alternate route on her phone for their return. This through the forest, initially on an actual track. But then the track dies off, and with the drought the river is a dry river bed. They’re two Americans with backpacks filled with soda, milk, snacks–and of course Kat’s survivalist tools–in the middle of a forest in Provence. 

The forest path. Photo by kat.

Jason says he hears a bird call out, obvious distress, as they work their way through the woods with Kat’s phone map, then come across a pile of feathers. And Jason wonders just what kind of wildlife may live that wild life in the forest here. It’s still light, but there is some concern. I sleep through their adventure so Mom doesn’t have any worry time when they’re late getting back. BW had woken from his nap before me, so had a bit of concern before they came in.

But they made it through–and as Kat said, they could have spent the night in the forest with chips and sodas and milk–and limes–and her handy supply kit. LOL.

But now they’re back after a very, very long walk, so it’s time for dinner. They have sea bass, and I’m a fan. Pomme frites! Kat takes a well-deserved interlude in the hot tub after we order.

The waiter sets us up on the outdoor table. I bring out a travel candle so we have our first dinner here with the music of the cicadas and candlelight on the terrace. 

Vue de la soiree. Photo by NR

And the sea bass is amazing.

A little lounging time in the living room, and I’m in bed by 10:30.

Another eight-straight night for me, and I write this while the rest sleep in our wonderfully quiet spot. I’m going to work out here on the terrace, ease into the day, and I think maybe I’ll write a little out here where the trees are like home.

BW, driver extraordinaire, is getting a massage today. I expect Kat and Jason will take a more civilized walk on the many lovely paths of the resort. Then we’ll see what else the day brings.


Today’s #randomkatness:

Knock THIS way. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 5

After another eight straight of solid sleep–wowzer!–it’s workout time on a balmy morning. I figure to start with some cardio with my man Shaun T. We’re kicking it when I notice ants on the patio where I’ve set up. Don’t want to stop, so keep going, trying to avoid stomping ants.

Finally pause, move down the patio. Start it up, pumping up that heart rate. See the ants have followed me. Finish the Shaun T, go for more cardio and some upper body work, and move down the patio again.

Into it! And apparently so are the ants. It’s not a swarm by any means but about a dozen who systematically move where I move. I think they must be attracted by the music. BW says it’s my feet hitting the patio so they think: Fresh meat.


Conclude with a short yoga session–ahhh–and just ignore my tiny companions.

During my stint, Kat and BW head over to breakfast, and Jason’s up. Housekeeping comes in. I finish just as the tech guy comes to look at the hot tub, which stopped working–and a couple of the AC areas. We want the AC off and the doors and windows open. Temps climb into the mid-80s, but there’s always a breeze.*  My French doesn’t include words like hot tub jets and AC, and our guy has less English than I have French, but the housekeeper translates.

I decide I’ll work at the pretty table surrounded by woods while techs and housekeeping do what they do. It’s lovely, really lovely to have an hour or two in the shade, in the fresh air, in the woodsy quiet to work.

Keeping the distance while someone works in her outdoor space. Photo by j a-b

Jason and Kat go for a walk, BW heads for his massage. It’s quiet, quiet. I work on and finish the scene I’d hoped to finish. And that’s enough.

Jason with an oven? A hive? Alien pod? Need answers! Photo by kat **
A view and reflection. Photo by kat
Sun in a break from the shadows. Photo by kat.
The grounds. Photo by kat
Fleur. Photo by kat.
A little taste of home. Photo by kat

Tech says au revoir, housekeeping’s done. Time for a hot shower and real clothes. It’s then I discover my charger cord isn’t in my case. It’s always in my case. I’m practically OCD about my writing tools. But it’s just not in the case where I carry my Surface for work. Huh. I worked on it at The Greenbrier, but can SEE myself unplugging to pack up. Maybe I got distracted and forgot to put it in the case. Maybe the ghosts slipped it out hoping I’d come back for it.

In any case, oops.

Kat checks on her phone on the walk to lunch, discovers she can order one and it should be here Wednesday. But first Jason will check my model, as I have no clue.

Lunch of gorgeous freshness. Photo by kat

Lunch is perfect, and so is the belini. A trio of little French kids are running around, chanting something at each other that includes the word poopy (spoken with great glee). Obviously poopy is, like math, an international language.

Person of letters. Photo by j a-b
Guardians of the fountain. Photo by BW

I need to add that I’ve challenged my traveling companions to a day-long Fit Bit contest. Jason notes that I’m leading by considerable. And he takes himself off for a walk after lunch. But not before checking my Surface. Kat orders me the new charger. We’ll see if it gets here.

Before the second walk, we stop by the front desk to make some bookings. We’ll eat at the main restaurant tonight, as it was booked until 9:30 last night. Too late for our American stomachs. We get advice on what villages to visit, and have one earmarked for today, as well as a market trip. And we booked a two and a half hour horseback ride through the forest for Wednesday. They actually offer a full day ride that goes to the lake (where you can SWIM the horses) and includes a picnic. But we’ll start slower and see how our butts handle it.

Back for patio sitting, hanging out, reading. It’s a good day to veg with warm air, blue skies, and that quiet.

Patio cocoon. Photo by NR

Jason has now passed me on the challenge! I come back, punt him, but he rallies. We’re neck-in-neck through the evening.

Dinner at our villa, and I have velvety tomato soup along with a salad. Then there’s creme brulee. I can’t finish it, but there’s always breakfast!

Tumble into bed shortly after. I think I might try out the hot tub, but ZZZZZ.

Discover this morning Jason’s nipped me by about a hundred steps! I’ll get him next time.

Writing this on the patio by the pool. A mourning dove swoops in to the edge of the water-she comes several times a day–takes a drink, flies off.

Time to work out, with or without ants. Then we’ll venture out and see what there is to see.


Notes from Laura:

*These “oh let’s open the windows, it’s 80 and there’s a breeze!” people consistently confound me.

**When there are few cues in the copy to help caption a photo, I kind of let myself go.

An answer from Kat about the necklace she wore in a photo on Day 2: It’s an anniversary gift Jason bought for her in Eze — and here’s an explanation of it (It’s so kat, imo): 

In today’s #randomkatness:

Orb. Probably the home of the guardians of the fountain. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 7

Ants are fewer during workout time. Maybe they’re getting the message. I run the battery down on BW’s laptop, so consider that a good session.

A quiet morning with sun on the hills, twittering birds, singing cicadas. So I work on the shady terrace until I run the battery down on my Surface. (Kat’s tracking the new one, still scheduled to arrive today! We’ll see.)*  

While I worked, Kat and Jason took themselves off for a walk. BW’s working on his photos. It’s a good time to settle in with a book. This is, obviously, vacate day. Hang close to home, relax. I’ll take it.

Rock dress of many colors. Photo by BW
The view from the main pool. Photo by BW
Diving into infinity (pool). Photo by BW
BW found a good book. (For those who will ask, that’s Dark in Death — coming in January.) Photo by NR

But why not take a swim? And the water is just perfect. Top it off with a dip in our newly fixed hot tub. And yes! L’eau est TRES chaud! Fabulous.

(Merci, Alain!)

Later in the afternoon, I make a fruit and cheese platter. This time I used BW’s unfortunately dull Swiss Army knife. But it worked. Kat–they’re back and working on some Foundation business–comes out to join me. And I hear about their walking adventure. It sounds like down paths, over fields, through a gate–and yet another gate–and to a market she tells me is sort of like a Wal-Mart. Some of everything. Not the cable BW’s looking for to hook his iPod up to the villa’s music system, but an interesting accidental destination.

The path of the trek. Photo by kat
Les poissons! Photo by kat

Back the same way with some team work to get back through the gates.

BW wanders out.

We polish off hunks of bread, cheese, slices of white peaches, little purple grapes.

Quiet day, easy early evening. I try out the terrace cocoon, find it swivels. I swivel it to block the sun, and have a book and a pretty little window in the wall to see the hills. Very nice. 

Tablescape. Photo by j a-b
Suite art. Photo by kat
Evening, down the hall. Photo by kat

We think about ordering dinner, finally get to that. So we have an early-ish meal on our terrace, then an evening under the stars.

I decide to challenge my kids to a work week contest on FitBit–retroactively starting Monday morning. Hah! Jason points out I’m well in the lead with this retroactive business. Hey, rules is rules.

I’m going to add to that lead–after all I’m old enough to be their mama, so must exploit the advantage–with a workout. Kat may venture out to a yarn store she found through her phone skills. We have the day open until five, when we’re booked for the horses and the forest. So we figure a substantial lunch this afternoon as we won’t be back to the villa until about eight.

Two and a half hours on horseback. This may mean a group session in the hot tub tonight.

My doves are cooing, but the visitor hasn’t yet come for her drink. Time to fire up BW’s laptop and expand my lead.


*Note from Laura: the original one was wrestled from the grasp of the spirits at Greenbrier — or found under a desk in one of the rooms there (your choice) and will be waiting at home for Nora’s return.

Today in #randomkatness.  Name this flower.

Photo by kat (Laura’s guess is a wild plum.)

Provence, France Day 8

A good workout with some ant companions, a few of which insisted on joining me for yoga. We mostly managed to coexist.

We all walked, following one of Jason’s and Kat’s walking routes to the golf club for lunch. Lots and lots of lavender and herbs, flowering trees, unusual art along the way. A very fine lunch with views of the golf course and the hills beyond. And a solid walk back–mostly uphill, with a stop at an herb garden, scented especially with rosemary.

Reflection. Photo by j a-b
BW in buggy. Photo by j a-b
Art is everywhere at this resort. Photo by kat
Wall knife and BW. Photo by kat
Safely out of reach. Photo by j a-b
Today’s flora. Photo by kat

There’s a big, shiny, reflective silver ball. It has some depressions that makes me wonder if it’s representing a moon.* Now a little hang out time before our big adventure.

Still life. Photo by NR
Mirror of interesting luck with orchid. Photo by NR

As I lost my FitBit trail riding at the spa–hooked to the waistband of my jeans–I put this one in my pocket before we head out to drive to the horse farm. Windy, roundabout, then a very skinny road with curves. But it’s a short drive to a private dirt road that leads to an absolutely lovely spot with horses in paddocks, the forest everywhere, and still views of the hills.

Our guide greets us–her English is better than our French, and we’re shown our horses. Dark Spanish beauties. She say they’re cool–and I realize after a bit this is calm. I’m very fine with a calm horse. She sizes us up, assigns horses. We get our helmets, and lead our mounts into the exercise paddock. BW is mounted first–he’ll be behind the guide. Me next, then Jason, then Kat.

Riders up! Photo by j a-b’s phone.

We’re each to circle the ring a few times, at a walk, at a trot. I decide to pass my FitBit to BW, for his little saddlebag. Better safe than sorry. And off we go.

Down the little road, beside another paddock where a buckskin runs to the fence, runs down it as if to say: Take Me, Too!

The land’s beautiful, as are the views. My horse is sweet and responsive–and I like he’s not an ass-sniffer as so many trail horses will insist on tailgating the one in front. Jason’s likes to eat, so he’s dealing with that sneakiness. Kat’s is a very calm slow-poke.

A car comes along occasionally on this first leg, and over to the side we go. We pass other farms, pretty little houses, more horses, wind around–another car, and our guide tells us this is her uncle. A dirt stretch, and how about a trot. My mount–and her name never got through–has a very springy trot. I’m going to feel this tomorrow, I think. (I can now confirm this as true!)

Back to a road, and a steep ride down–no trotting. Around and around, all so pretty, Another dirt road, another trot. My glasses keep sliding down, so I have to rein with one hand and shove them up as I try to post–a good fast trot, too! Through olive groves with the hills spread out glowing in the early evening light.

Water on the trail. Photo by kat

And now we turn into the forest. After the VERY steep, very narrow track down where I put my faith in my horse. This is my favorite part of a really lovely ride. Thick woods, green light, dappled sun, and all quiet and timeless. Wild berry bushes like the ones above my own garden wall–and I believe our guide says something about wild boar and deer. I won’t think about the boar. Ducking under branches, soft dirt track–and here’s a branch you have to hold up as you ride.

I think of people who rode through forests like these hundreds of years ago.

We ride down toward the river–a dry bed in the drought. Jason’s horse not only likes to eat, but she wants to pass mine. Is determined. The first time she does it, mine kind of gets into it. A race! But then obviously decides live and let. I watch Jason’s horse give mine the side eye as it passes. Equine smirk.

Jason’s horse contemplating his moves. Photo by j a-b

But our guide says to be careful here as Jason’s mount likes to nip at BW’s mount’s butt. Mine isn’t a nipper or a sniffer, and just happily walks along.

We see the lake–that teal water soft in the quieter light. We cross what would be the river, a wide area where Jason’s horse stops to eat so my resumes his position. Kat’s is well back. Not only in no hurry she tells us later, but she all but hears her equine sighs. I’m tired! I need a nap! Not a clip clop, this one, but according to Kat, a clip–pause, pause–reluctant clop.

Tired horse with view. Photo by kat

BW’s having a great time up ahead, holding spates of conversation with our guide as she points out villages and hills. My horse is content to walk, falls back a few times, then on his own breaks into a bright little trot to catch up. Jason’s horse eats and passes mine. Eats, passes mine, and Kat’s clips . . . . . . . clops.

We circle back–road, houses, horses, the very beginning of a sunset, just that bright gold haloing the eastern hills.

And we’re back–a full 2 1/2 hours. I accept this is likely my limit on a horse. No way I could comfortably do a full day, even with a picnic lunch to break it up. But what an experience, and what a fine, beautiful horse.

Kat and BW take pictures, and I chat with our guide and her husband. I love Kat’s photo of her horse the best. Exhaustion! LOL.

Tired horse. Done. Photo by kat

There are riders in the ring, doing jumps, and one on a gorgeous mount is our guide’s sister, who competes. She’s a joy to watch.

Beauty in the ring. Photo by BW

A friend or relative sits at a picnic table with her recently adopted American Pit Bull–or I think that’s the breed. He is HAPPY. And instantly, as dogs are, in love with Jason. I explain we have three dogs at home, so his joy and enthusiasm aren’t a problem. The husband brings out their dog–so handsome! And beautifully trained.

Dog pals. Photo by kat

Then we have yet another treat. Our guide has adopted a twenty-year-old former bullfighting horse from Spain. A stallion. He rushes the fence when we approach–apparently he’d like to kill the horse the sister’s riding in the ring! You can see where he’s chewed on the paddock gate.

He breaks everything, our guide tells us. Then she goes in, and there’s such love. This horse loves her completely. He nuzzles, rubs, his whole body changes when she’s beside him. And that love is clearly mutual. She uses a whisk of straw to have him prance. And he stands so proudly.

The Spanish stallion. Photo by BW

I suppose he’s bilingual as she tells us she doesn’t speak Spanish.

We linger quite awhile. This is a happy, lovely and obviously loving place.

Back to the hotel, and we need a little food as we didn’t graze like the horses on the trail. Kat wants soup, and has figured out how to make little grilled cheese sandwiches with our supplies and the hot dish we held back from another meal. Clever, as always.

Kat making dinner. Photo by j a-b

We eat, and well, talk about our adventure, comparing horses and impressions.

Off to bed.

Yes, my butt feels it this morning! But we’ll see what a workout will do.

I had a different visitor today. A big gray cat who wandered it, slithered under the pool gate to drink. Meowed at me, but wouldn’t approach before she wandered off again.

New workout companion. Photo by NR

We’re driving to Fayence today to see what we can see.

I’ve ridden through the forests of Provence on a Spanish horse. That’s one for the memory book.


* Note from Laura. That’s probably the #randomkatness from Day 5 that I thought was the home of the Guardians of the Fountain.

Today’s #randomkatness

Nails of art. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 16

I’m getting spoiled being able to work out on the terrace in the air. I love my little gym at home, but this is such a treat. The views, the breeze, the light. BW even joined me for some yoga to polish it off.

Jason and Kat return from their morning ramble. No pain au chocolate today at the bakery! They had to settle for an eclair. It’s a tough old world. And they brought back a beautiful pastry to share when Kat put together a little pre-spa lunch on our terrace. 

Lunch is served! Photo by kat.

Pretty–and delicious.

Jason and I sit on the terrace before our little lunch and–what is that? Is that rain?

It turns out, not exactly. It’s a few drips from the sky. This region desperately needs rain, but this little cloud only wept about fifty tears.

We have a very active black squirrel in our woods–he jumps from branch to branch–and is a loquacious morning talker. Now he’s joined by a red one, and they do their gymnastics. Le Cirque des Ecureuils!

After our pretty little lunch my gang leaves for massages. They’re all booked at three, so off they walk to the spa while I laze around and read until I head up, too, for my four-thirty facial. I walk the path in air scented with rosemary. How I envy them those tumbling bushes. For my garden, rosemary’s an annual, and it simply refuses to be potted inside over the winter. 

Berries? Grapes? Photo by kat (questions by Laura).
Close-up. Photo by kat.
Black swans on approach. Photo by kat.
A closer look. Photo by kat.

After this scented walk, I experience very possibly the best facial on record. My tech has wonderful hands, the music’s soft and relaxing, the creams and lotions feel marvelous on the skin. And my skin feels baby soft when it’s done.

As I go to check out the woman at the desk tells me my husband took care of the bill already. We agree that’s what husbands are for.

My family’s equally relaxed on my return. Excellent massages all around.

Bellini time!

And I think of the cat, put a little pasta on a plate, set it out.

She shows up as evening’s settling in, creeps up, sniffs, accepts some penne. Then sits, waits. Aha, she’d like more. Kat brings out some lunch meat. Le chat backs off, but waits, watches while Kat tears up a little meat onto the dish. Eats, sits, waits.

I tell her, sorry, no more. I think too much people food will make her sick. She’s had enough. Je suis desolee.

We have a staring contest.

FYI: You can’t win a staring contest with a cat. They are undefeated world champions.

I have a bottle of water, go over, pour some into the dish.

The cat sniffs, gives me a look that clearly says: You have to be kidding me.

She departs.

We have our own meal, on the terrace. I go for the smoothest of smooth tomato soup again, and a little salad. Our Kat continues to spoil BW with fancy coffee and warm cookies.

We discuss ideas for our annual family panorama, and timing for today’s adventuring. A trip into Fayence, back for the glider flights, then dinner at the hotel. It’s barely ten, I’ve done next to nothing all day, but zzzzzz.

I’ll need to get my workout on soon. If they have another pair of those woven shoes in my size in Fayence, I’m having them. These are really great shoes! We definitely need to take home some regional wine and herbs. I need to get my shopping on, too.


Today’s #randomkatness:

All lined up. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 11


Pano by j a-b

A change of plans. We realize none of us actually feel like getting in the car to go anywhere. The nice thing about vacation is having no obligation, so we scratch the drive to Fayence for the day.

I change into workout gear. Kat and Jason gear up, too–for a serious hike. BW decides he’ll do a little Cizing It Up with me and Shaun T.(Correction on yesterday’s blog. Kat and Jason drove into Cannes not Nice.)

Picture of BW apres Cize can be found in yesterday’s blog. (Note to Laura: It’s real!)*

After BW sweated it out, I keep going, cap off my own sweatfest with yoga.

It seems like an excellent time for a swim. And it certainly was. Why not follow that up with a spin in the hot tub for a fine morning of work and reward.

Friday night, Kat did a little laundry in the tub. I elect to do a little myself on this fine Saturday, and hang the clothes on the rail in the bright sun while I settle down to read in the shade.

Pragmatic side of a long vacation: cleaning clothes. Photo by j a-b

The wind comes up, a quick sweep of it–feels great, but . . . I get up, go over to pick up tank tops that blew off the rail, and see I now have underwear in the hot tub. Go in, get it, wring it, rehang. Pour a glass of wine, settle down with book.

Laundry day. Photo by NR

Wind. Huh. Find a better way to secure laundry.

The bright Saturday passes with sun and warm breezes, wine and a book. That’s a very fine start to the weekend, though I suspect as Kat and Jason haven’t returned, my 13k steps (so far) on the challenge will be smashed to bits. 

Vertical pano of steps by j a-b
Stone walls. Photo by j a-b
Laura thinks its bougainvillea. Photo by j a-b
Bell tower. photo by j a-b
Notre Dame. Photo by j a-b
Laura Googled this — it’s a commune. Photo by j a-b

When they return, this is proven true.

They walked and walked and climbed and climbed all the way to a little village more than three miles away. Enjoyed the sights, found a church (two weddings scheduled for this pretty Saturday), found ice cream.

After some recovery time, Jason announces as he has 75 flights for the day (that’s climbing/stairs) on his FitBit, he’s going for another walk to get the 100, and a new badge. Just FYI, if anyone’s considering adding a device such as FitBit to their lives, our small, unscientific focus group attests they are highly motivating.

Jason earns his Skyscraper Badge. 100 floors=walking up The Empire State Building, I believe. Wowzer.

If anyone’s keeping score on our Weekend Warrior Challenge, Jason has the lead, followed closely by Kat. I’m trailing, but will see what I can make up today!

We laze, we discuss dinner. Since heading to the hotel means changing into not sloppy clothes, we eat in.

I can just see the sun setting through the trees, a hot glow of colors–reds and golds–while we eat. We hear some golfers–didn’t realize we had a hole this close. If they don’t finish up soon, they’ll be night golfing.

This morning, my dove returned for a drink, and a squirrel–probably the black one we see doing gymnastics through our forest–has a lot to say.

I think BW’s going down to the airfield to have a look, perhaps book glider flights for himself and Jason. Jason and Kat may walk down to the market for a few things before it closes for Sunday afternoon.

I think workout, swim, hot tub is my morning order of business. If we stay in, I may work a couple hours.

Did I mention it’s a beautiful morning?

Today’s #randomkatness
Real or art? Laura votes real. Photo by kat
 *Note from Laura: in my defense, without any copy supporting a joint workout, I thought BW did his own thing then wilted dramatically for the camera.  Now for some photos by Jason, not quite exactly sure where he and Kat were for these.

Provence, France Day 12

Work it out on a lovely morning while Jason and Kat sleep in and BW heads out to do some photography. Add a swim, some hot tub jets. Jason and Kat surface, head off to take their walk.  Think about work. Decide not to think about work and read instead.

[Please note, due to a warp in the time/space continuum — and snarky wifi — these are Kat/Jason’s photos from Saturday. — L]

Church by kat.
Inside the church by kat.
Cat with sidewalk grill. Photo by kat
Couple selfie #2. Photo by kat.

[Here are BW’s photos from Sunday. ~L]

L’aerodrome de Fayence glider experience. Photo by BW.
Castle of Tourrettes. Photo by BW.
The teal Lake? Question by Laura, photo by BW.

Hours of nothing much.

Everybody comes back, and nothing much continues very well.

I think being unused to nothing much my confused and relaxed system thought it was bed time. I drop out for a good hour on the sofa terrace.

But now it’s time for something more. Stagger off to the shower to clean up and wake up. We’re heading up to the hotel for their Sunday Pasta Corner. And as we start out, I realize it’s the first time I’ve left the villa the entire weekend.

Pasta Corner’s popular for a reason. Lots of families already seated–lots of Brit accents tonight. We opt for the whole buffet–that’s antipasto, pasta, dessert. For the first two it’s a build/choose your own from many options. First the extensive, colorful, fascinating antipasto bar. Fields greens, multiple types of olives and tomatoes, stuffed peppers, cheeses, fresh herbs, mushrooms. Big balls of mozzarella swimming in water.  Breads, breads, breads.

Olives with rosemary garnish Photo by kat.
Salad and massive breadsticks. After all, bread IS art. Photo by kat

We sit in the bright evening–and don’t forget the wine (wonderfully smooth). A family comes in with a little boy–maybe three–who is decidedly not happy to be there. Before long he makes his displeasure well known. I watch the mom carry him over to the lobster tank. This erases all displeasure. Lobster magic.

Now to choose pasta, sauce, additions to the sauce. BW goes for pistachio pesto. He’s a pistachio kind of guy. I’m red sauce with basil and garlic and marjoram.

Array o’pasta. Photo by kat.
Finished penne. Photo by kat.

It’s delicious.

And it’s a happy, relaxed, satisfying meal all around as the long twilight comes and goes, and the stars begin to wake.

They have a limoncello baba for dessert. There are other offerings here, but I don’t see beyond the baba. It’s just exquisite.

What to choose? Photo by kat.
Dessert flight. Photo by kat.

The walk back–and there’s the Bg Dipper in a crystal clear sky–isn’t nearly long enough.

We hang out in our living area, check the news. RIP Jerry Lewis. I recall a story when my father–a stage hand at that time–met him, and the inscribed lighters Jerry gave every member of the crew on the show. Thinking back deeper this morning, this was either at The National or The Carter Baron in DC, and Lewis played The Devil in Damn Yankees. Nearly sure of that, though I was very young.   BW remembers seeing him in Hellza Poppin’, and Jason heard a story about him going out the Stage Door to greet and spend time with a woman with MD.

The French President has called for a national day of mourning.

Today we’re taking a day trip to the French Grand Canyon. I can’t remember the name of the gorge–but will have it for tomorrow’s blog. The last time we were here, we drove the couple of hours, but there was tremendous fog, and we saw nothing but the thick curtain of mist. Today’s clear and bright, so we should have a fine view.

May have to shorten today’s workout as we want to leave around ten. Dinner at the villa tonight so we can stream some footage of the eclipse we’re missing.

There’s mist rising off the hot tub in the morning cool. I should carve out time for that.

Fancy hat stand. Photo by j a-b.


Today’s #randomkatness:

Random Panda. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 13

Short workout and some fine, hot jets before what turned into a marathon touring day.

Our sights are set on Gorges du Verdon, and the helpful concierge desk gives us a route, so off we go.

I take a half a Dramamine, and Kat opts to depend on her mints. Both of us suffer from motion sickness, and the route’s windy.

My Dramamine outlasts Kat’s mints by a thread, and just under two hours in, BW pulls over so she can get out and breathe, walk, settle. Then she takes the wheel as it helps to drive.

There’s a big fortress on a high hill, little villages, larger ones. Landscape that goes from woodsy to pastoral to rocky and steep. Now the road isn’t just windy. It’s sinuous, snaky, switchbacky–and all the Dramamine in the world isn’t going to handle it.

We stop often, which is good. End up turning on a little, skinny road already lined with cars that turns out to be a route down to a beach–and a jump-off point for white-water rafting.

No thanks!

Crowds of people, high cliffs, so many crisped trees from this long drought. We stop again, a couple little stands, lots of people, and walk. Walking good!! Everything’s so dry, and the landscape’s like the moon. Gray and stony as we climb, but the views are awesome. Wild rock formations–one so big and smooth and level it looks hewed by a giant’s axe then polished. Others are rough and tumbled, high and rounded, and it’s such a clear day it seems you can see for miles and miles and miles.

Straight down. Photo by BW.

 I buy chips at a stand as salt sometimes keeps things settled. They help some.

Up, up, up. The gorge is pretty amazing. We get out for a overlook. By now my legs are shaky–a side-effect of the queazies, but the being out in the air’s better. My mistake? Looking down even for a flash at the overlook.

Not sure if Nora’s signaling that BW is close to the edge. It would be a long way down. Photo by BW.
Cute selfie at the Gorge. Photo by kat.
Selfie with a view. Photo by BW’s phone.

Holy crap!!! Uneasy stomach drops to knees, whines: Don’t do that!

We’re seriously high here. There’s a guy whose vertigo must be worse than mine sitting on the platform, holding onto the rail and obviously working himself up to look. I opt to look out, just out and absolutely not down. And that’s another painting.

The river is that strange, beautiful teal where the river cuts its curving path through the steep, green cliffs. It’s lined with brown as it must be considerably more shallow now than usual. From this height it looks as though you could walk across it.

A river runs through it. Photo by kat.
A river runs through it. Photo by BW.
Straight down. Photo by BW.
River and mesa. Photo by BW.

Kat points out getting back up once on the other side would be a serious issue.

It looks–what I see down from looking out–like one of those toy landscapes on a model train set. You know those trees are tall and huge, but they look so tiny, and make a deep green, bumpy carpet on the sheer rise.

The cliffs rise up higher and higher, and the green gives way to stone or vegetation burned brown by the sun. Hawks circle in the sky.

We go through rock tunnels–literally rock with rough, stony arches–and odd stone  juts like free-form rock awnings, skinny, ever-winding roads, climbing higher. For a while we follow a little blue car in a parking game. We seem to arrive at a pull-out just as the car leaves, and slide into his spot. Handy.

I see a sign that puts us at 1285 meters. That’s high, even this math and distance declined woman knows that’s high. Between the height and the constant swerving road my system has failed.

Anyone who experiences motion sickness knows once you pass a certain point, that’s just it. You’re going to be queasy and off for the duration.

We make our descent, the mountains high around us, and finally into a pretty hill village–a pretty big one–at roughly four in the afternoon. Too late for lunch, too early for dinner for most restaurants. But we park, and we walk. I know my family asked what I wanted to do, but I had to tell them: I need to be led. My mind is mush, and can’t make any rational decision.

We walk. It’s a pretty town, I can see that. Color, movement, shops with their wares displayed, people walking dogs. And a beautiful, shady promenade on the way to the only restaurant we can find serving at this odd hour.

It’s busy and noisy, but we can order. I think plain, simple pizza as it might soothe. One slice is all my system accepts. I distract myself watching the waitress who hustles and looks distracted and out of sorts. And when I see her go into the bathroom, come out in a different outfit, I wonder why.

As she continues to take orders and serve, she’s not off-shift. Maybe it’s her evening waitress outfit. The bar and its tender are busy throughout in this little place. Jason comments I must be sick because I don’t even look at the gelato display.

Food bad.

No poking in the shops for me either at this point. My goal is home where the world will be still.

But we’re nearly two hours from that paradise.

Still, the route back is straighter for the most part, and heads down (or winds) through forest and farmland. Gorgeous green stands of trees, quiet fields. We wonder at the lack of livestock. We haven’t seen a cow or sheep so far in Provence. Horses, but no other livestock.

Vineyards, forests, pretty houses. Kat is steady on the wheel.

A huge lake–that wonderful color–with a beach and the people spread on it. Boats on the water, swimmers all making a living postcard.

And at last, the road home. There’s our market. And finally our turn into the resort.

Walk to the villa, breathe, sit in a seat that doesn’t move. Heaven.

We watch livestream from the States on the eclipse, and that’s pretty amazing. I think about food, decide to avoid that and just sit and relax until bed.

This will be my last adventure involving hours of serpentine roads.

Today I’ll happily stay put, workout, maybe take a swim. If my system’s fully recovered, it may be a good day to write for a couple hours. I think my traveling companions are ready for a vacate day as well. We left before eleven yesterday, returned about seven. That’s a long day.

Some answers to questions I’ve seen in comments:

No, I really don’t get recognized, and am grateful. Most people don’t recognize writers, so it makes it easy.

Yes, I think the proximity to Italy–esp in Eze–was an influence on the cuisine. Italian food is everywhere. (and yummy.)

I’m reading New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson–science fiction about NY, and a particular group in a particular building–decades after climate change has flooded the city.

And to add Jason and Kat nipped me by under a hundred steps (both of them) on our Weekend Warrior challenge. I’m working on defending my title for the Workweek Hustle.


In today’s #randomkatness:

Bird by kat.

In case you want to experience some tiny portion of Nora’s motion sickness, watch BW’s gif over and over.  I dare you!  ~Laura

Trigance on the way to Verdon du Gorge. Photo by BW

Provence, France Day 14

It really is a constant state of beautiful.

Every morning I sit out to catch up a little with the world, write this blog, and am wonderfully distracted by beauty. Watching the pink haze over the eastern mountains as the sky goes blue, and the changing light in through the trees. It’s a fine, fine way to begin each day on a holiday.

We took (certainly for Kat’s and my sake) a full recovery day. I did a good, steady workout, capped by much needed yoga while my gang disbursed–K&J for their walk, BW to breakfast then photo work.

I considered working, then considered my still shaky system and mushy brain. Decided on reading instead.

Finally pulled it together enough for actual clothes in the afternoon. Jason and Kat back, settled into their work, but how about walking up for lunch?

Walking good. Anything not involving car good.

I have to keep lunch light–it takes time for my system–so abused–to rebound–but it’s good to be out and about, hear chatter. There is a truly gorgeous breeze. We walk through the hotel, and I spot art I’d missed. I’m not at all sure what some of it represents, but it’s interesting and fascinating and fun. 

Golf ball with keys. Photo by kat.
Drama BW-style. Photo by j a-b.
How the day’s drinks progress? Photo by kat.
If you’re going to have a hand model, may as well make it practical. Photo by j a-b.

We pass the Kid’s Club, and oh so cute! They have a kind of modular little mini-golf, and a little boy is having the best time just pouring colorful golf balls in a hole, digging them out again.

Mini-golf. Photo by j a-b.

Back to the book, take a nap. I’m not a napper, but this is all about system recovery. Kat says her calves are tired. Not sore, tired. She naps, too. I stagger awake, take a swim. Hmm, am starting to feel almost level again.

Somehow it’s evening, and I still want to avoid cars. We have some left-overs and will order the rest from room service. I sit with my book again, then see the cat–definitely pregnant–make a dash across the terrace. 

The visitor. Photo by BW.

I say: kitty, kitty, which is universal cat language. She stops, gives me a suspicious look. I have a bag of chips nearby, toss one. She stares–I pretend to look away. She creeps, creeps, creeps up to the chip. Sniffs, snags, bolts.

Amused, I go in to get myself a drink, see her through the kitchen door, sort of slinking back onto the terrace. I grab what’s left of a round of brie out of the fridge. There she is, eyeing BW, eyeing me when I come out. I tear off a tiny bite of brie, toss it. She creeps closer, sniffs. Now we’re talking! More brie tossed–a little bit closer. She’s definitely not coming much closer, but she’s happy to have the brie.

What cat wouldn’t be?

I go in, pour a little saucer of milk–she’s eating for several, after all.

She drinks the milk, and is now relaxed enough to sit and wash herself–very thoroughly after her meal. Then she departs–I think she has a place in the woods near here. And as our own Kat points out, there are plentiful lizards to snack on.

If she comes back, I’ll find some little snack and some milk for her.

We’re having the most gorgeous evening, something about it. The light, the air, the breeze. It’s just one of those perfect interludes.

Now it’s time for our meal–and I still keep it light. System recovery is near complete. Kat and Jason bought cookies at the market, and Kat warms them up–divides one at my request so I have about 1/8th of a cookie. My girl is spoiling my man, serving him warm cookies and cappuccino after dinner. He will miss her when we’re back to reality! 

The Linzer tort game is strong in Provence. Photo by kat.
Choices, so many choices. Photo by kat.

A little more reading, then ZZZZZ.

And now it’s another stunning morning. I’ll pick my workout, clean myself up. I think to work as I seem to be back to normal. BW and Jason have their glider ride this afternoon. Have I mentioned their cast-iron stomachs? This has always been the case.

I’ll stick with the terrace and solid ground. Kat may go down to the aerodrome with them–not to fly, but to take pictures.

We have reservations here for dinner–so no car again today.

So workout, work, maybe a swim, a book someone else sweated over, and a bellini or two while I hear about the men’s adventures in gliding. 

BW avant Cize. Photo by NR.
BW Apres Cize (in his undramatic way). Photo by NR.

A fine way to spend a gorgeous day.


In today’s #randomkatness, a sequel and a quiz:

“Dude, I’m sorry I was late. Look at me!” Photo by kat, caption by Laura.
Spot the import! Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 15

Clouds over Tourrettes taken from villa patio. Photo by BW.

Before and after shots of BW’s Cize experience in yesterday’s blog. He worked it for 40 minutes! He joined me for that session after I did 50 minutes Bootcamp Boogieing with Petra Kolber. *

Back to normal for me and my system.

Jason and Kat head out, for their walk, a trip to the market and the bakery. On return we discuss vital matters such as: is pizza a kind of open-faced sandwich (as well as a pie) as it’s cheese on baked dough with toppings. Maybe.

This discussion launches from the fact Kat and Jason have picked up some lunch meat and what’s billed as sandwich bread. And I had a little conversation with the housekeeper regarding leftover pizza, wherein I remembered the word for lunch, in explaining why we’re keeping it rather than having her take it away.

Oui, bien. Pour le dejeuner!

I work in my shady spot, going back to NYC in my state of mind for a couple hours. And now and again surface enough to hear golfers through the trees.

Our men prepare to leave for their glider experience. And are back in ten minutes or so. Short flight?

Wrong day. LOL. Gliders booked for Friday.

So we settle down to our various pursuits. Some reading, some work, some conversation. Some planning for the last days of our holiday.

Playground near the villa. Photo by BW.
18th tee — just below the villa. Golf with a view. Photo by BW.

Jason’s discovered our foundation has its 17th anniversary on Friday–I think it’s Friday. We’ll have a little celebration, maybe here, maybe back at the open-air restaurant we call The Scrublands as the French name (which I can’t remember) translates to just that. Maybe there’ll be karaoke again!

We clean up, dress up for dinner here at the main restaurant. I leave a little plate of torn up lunch meat for the mama-to-be cat in case she comes by while we’re gone.

BW and I head up first for a drink at the bar. He orders some kind of fancy gin drink, and I go for what’s called a Sparkling Jasmine. Champagne, peach juice and jasmine syrup. 

It’s fascinating to watch a good bartender build a drink–and this one is very good. My favorite part of BW’s build is the graceful swirling of a long thin slice of cucumber onto the top, then dashing just a bit of what the bartender explains is barbecue bitters (from Memphis!) and a carefully placed grind of black pepper. 

Basil Collins made with Hendricks Gin (BW’s caption). Photo by NR with BW’s phone.

BW is pleased with the results.

My drink is absolutely lovely. A blend of gorgeous flavors and so very smooth.

The tender shows us the various bitters they have to work with–and some home-made. Saffron bitters, vanilla bitters, I think caramel. What drink wonders embrace these?

Kat and Jason join us, so it’s out (past the sinful dessert display) to our table. 

Temptation row. Photo by kat.
A closer look at Temptation Row. Photo by BW.

It’s a gorgeous night for eating outdoors, with a bottle of smooth, local red. I should take pictures of the wine bottles, but too late now.

A family group celebrating–we think–a birthday has a table nearby.

The service here is unilaterally friendly and as smooth as the wine. When you add fabulous food, it adds up to a very happy dining experience. Blue skies, warm air, good food, good wine, good company. It doesn’t get better.

King of the rock. Photo by kat.
Tray of petite pains. Photo by j a-b.
Dinner plate. Photo by BW.

Until you add that dessert.

They have what will always be pie-cream-pie for us. It’s very large, so Jason and I split it. Kat feels obliged to order the macaroon dessert (it’s France, after all). It’s pink and pretty–and delicious. BW got some creamy, glossy thing I can’t identify–but again, delicious.

I cannot express the fabulousness of the pie-cream-pie. Which is actually cake-cream-cake with pretty berries. Jason points out that when halved it looks like a crazy, toothy smiling face. When eaten, it brings a tear of joy and gratitude to the eye. Whoever baked this magnificence should rule the world. There would be no war, no sadness, no strife if every meal ended with pie-cream-pie.

Pie-cream-pie? Cake-cream-cake? Doesn’t anyone else see The Cookie Monster’s French cousin (Laura’s comment)? Photo by j a-b.

We wander around after, find a little lounge area and start to take a selfie. The bartender cheerfully comes back, and takes a photo for us. Our night is commemorated.

A group never afraid of color. Photo from j a-b’s phone.
Balls. Photo by kat.
Awww. Photo by kat.

We walk back–I might have rolled.

I check, and the little plate I left for the cat is licked clean. So she, too, had a nice little meal.

Hang out a bit, read a bit, then lights out.

To answer a question from yesterday, I don’t know how long it takes to write the blog every morning. Depends. Some days we’ve done more than other days. I just start, then end when it’s done. And that’s pretty much how I write everything!

Today we’ve all got appointments at the spa. Massages for the gang, and a facial for me. But those are hours away yet. Workout’s coming up. My mood after will determine whether I work on my book or read one. I think a swim should work itself into the day.

Right now it’s cool enough for a light hoodie on the terrace, but that will change as the sun gains strength.


*Note from Laura — there’s that time/space continuum thing again!

Today’s #randomkatness:

Huge butterfly. Photo by kat.