Monday, August 23, 2010

Fête de famille à Arras

We returned Sunday from Paris to a beautiful lunch Anne had ready for us when we got back. We spent the afternoon in the apartment relaxing and getting over our “Paris hangover.” The Lamirande family was set to arrive in Arras the next afternoon, so Monday morning we started preparing for their arrival, and also I'm proud to note; I made my first galettes for lunch!

It was Aunt Grace’s birthday on Sunday, so we celebrated that night when they arrived with birthday cake, and a few bottles of wine. Tuesday we did a huge shop, everyone found a little something to take home from the many little boutique stores of Arras.

Left & Above: Shopping in the Market
Above Right: Bon Matin, votre petit-déjeuner est prêt!

Wednesday we went to the local market in the morning to get our vegetables, cheeses, and meats for the week. And also so the Lamirande family could take a picnic for their afternoon trip to Vimy.

Patrick Hermand was also open after two weeks vacance! Delicious!

Since we had all already been to Vimy; Bob, Louise, Anne and I went to Amiens to see the Gothic Cathedral and search for the piece of John the Baptist. Amiens is absolutely beautiful, the cathedral was awe inspiring, and the city is very quaint with beautiful canals and bridges along the Somme river.

Poppies along the Somme River

We all returned that night to a dinner of Anne’s homemade chicken soup and market sausages. After dinner we all sat in the living room with Memère and Pepère hooked up on skype!

Thursday the Lamirande family left for Brussells and the Netherlands. Anne and Louise went to Lille for a day of shopping in the big city. Bob and I stayed back at the apartment running errands, doing laundry, preparing dinner, and re-ulpolstering our new chair.

Friday we went to Le Touquet for the afternoon. Andre and I went to Le Touquet back in the spring by train. For this trip we took the rental car and made it there in just over an hour.

Itwas a beautiful day for the beach. The tide was out so there were lots of people bringing nets to catch some marine creatures for supper. We walked all along the beach and up to the Nemo Brasserie for a pint on the beach.

Saturday we went to the market in the morning and then had a nice café au lait on the terrace of the Place des Heros followed by more shopping! For dinner we took Louise out for her Birthday dinner, since earlier Andre had been away in Normandy for her Birthday dinner.

And finally this past Sunday we went to the Marche aux Puces. A grand flea market to celebrate the summer holidays. It was pretty cool, and I did find a nice painter's eisel, but it can hardly compare to the Great Glebe Garage Sale. That night we went out for a drink in the Place des Heros while the flea market closed up. Now the Lamirande family has made their way back to Arras……

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Une Grande Famille dans Paris

The day after Andre’s parents and friends left we decided that we too should go to Paris to spend more time together since Andre had been in Normandy all week. We left the Saturday morning and met everyone for lunch near the Champs-Élysées. We then headed over with Andre’s parents to meet the Lamirande’s; Andre’s Aunt, Uncle and two cousins who had just arrived in France that day. We all walked up to the Arc de Triomphe to see Andre’s wreath, which as you can see is the biggest attraction these days.From there the group divided up to go see the sights. Andre and I went with his Mom to the Orangerie to see Monet’s paintings Above Right: Two Pouty French men outside Royal Hotel
The Lamirande’s and their friends from Holland went down the Champs to see La Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens. The Orangerie was actually very busy and not the meditative haven/escape from the masses of tourists, that I had been told it was by my professors in University. It was still something to see though; with Monet’s late work the des Nymphéas, sweeping across the curved walls in the two oval rooms.

Typical Tour Guide Face Orangerie

That night for dinner we had made a reservation for our party of 12 at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter. We all hopped on the metro and walked along the Seine and across L'île de la Cité to see Notre Dame.

At the restaurant we had a gigantic table upstairs it was wonderful to all sit together.

We took the metro back to our hotels after dinner, and just as we think we’re all safely out on the platform we turn around to see Andre’s Uncle still inside the metro train waving as it goes past! The doors had closed before he was able to get out! So we stood waiting for the next train to go by the opposite direction, and sure enough as it came in we could see Uncle Rob waving as the train pulled in! There was a bit of confusion after that, since there are so many exits to different streets from the metro stop. But we did find him at last!

The next day Andre, his parents and I returned home to Arras and Anne. Their friends from home flew back to Canada, and the Lamirande family stayed in Paris to see more of the sights.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A G.R.B.L.R. Party in Arras

Andre’s parent’s good friends from home came to visit last week. They arrived in Arras Monday afternoon by train. We started off by touring around the town center, stopping at the Belffoi so the group could get a tour of the Boves and a trip to the top for the amazing view.

For dinner we headed to the grand place to try a new restaurant, the Assiette au Boeuf. Just as the name of the restaurant implies; our delicious meal consisted of a plate full of beef!

The next day we went to Vimy Ridge. I had a meeting with the moving company, so I was not able to attend the tour. It looks like they had a good time though!

After the party returned from Vimy we all piled back in the car and drove to Ypres. Ypres is a beautiful town in Belgium that sustained a lot of conflict during WWI. There is a large and impressive war memorial called the Menin Gate that holds a ceremony every night at 8 o’clock. The Last Post is played and is a tradition that has been held since it first started in 1927. Even during the Second World War the memorial ceremony was apparently moved to people’s basements.

But we started our visit to Ypres with waffles! After some delicious waffles, we walked around the main square looking for a Belgian chocolatier. We also stopped in at the Flanders Museum inside the Ypres Belffoi. From there we walked to the Menin Gate that really is a beautiful and solem memorial.

We returned to chez Andre and Christi (sans Andre who was still in Normandy) for a delicious spagetti dinner prepared by Anne.

avec pain au l'ail du Bob

The next day was Wednesday, a market day! After a café and patisserie in the place des heroes, we perused the market vendors buying all sorts of meats and cheeses.

We also got a little shopping done along the pedestrian walkway heading back to our apartment.

In the afternoon we went to Beaumont-Hamel. We took a slight detour that ended up taking us through a farmer’s field.

The tour and entire site was very impressive.

That night Andre came home. He met us in Place des Heroes for a pint, concluding the G.R.B.L.R. Party’s stay in Arras, because the next day everyone would be heading to Paris!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Little Bourgeois Robitaille Party’s First Weekend in Arras

The first night in Arras we decided to celebrate Andre’s Mom’s birthday since Andre would be leaving for Normandy the next day (her actual birthday). We had a nice dinner at the apartment followed by a custard pie from the bakery up the street. The next morning Andre left bright and early. We spent our first full day together in Arras touring the city, getting groceries, driving the standard rental car, and shopping. That night for the real birthday dinner we had chicken salad and macaroons for dessert.

We also had bought some bad garlic the day before so we peeled it all that night to save it by keeping the good pieces in oil.

The next morning was market day! We went to the market in the morning and bought all sorts of cheeses and meats to take with us on a picnic that afternoon. We picked a Chateau from a regional guidebook and headed out in the rental car. As we were driving we saw the remains of L’abbaye du mont Saint-Éloi. All that remains of this emmense abbaye is the front façade of the cathedral.

Click here for a French newspaper article on the archeology at the site

We walked around the grounds and had our picnic in a small park across the street. We finished our picnic just as it started to rain and headed back to the car to continue our drive to the Chateau. We arrived at the Chateau Olhain at two, but it wasn’t open until three. So we continued driving to the next small village where we found aroadside restaurant and fishing pond. We stopped there for a café and watched the people fishing in the fully stocked man-made ponds.

A little old French man came to greet us in the restaurant (an old custom when entering a restaurant is to greet everyone already seated) and then after discovering that we were obviously not French went back outside to show us how much the local ducks love him. With a baguette from his pocket, he fed a whole family of ducks who recognized him and immediately came running out of the pond when he stepped outside.

"Volia, ils m'aiment!"

After our cafés we headed back to the Chateau. The Chateau wasn't open when we arrived and while waiting outside the gates a British tour bus operator told us that many Chateaus in France are privately owned and open to the public to obtain government funding.

The Chateau was really phenomenal. It is a medieval fortress really, surrounded by a moat and built by the knight Hugues d’Olhain around 1200 CE.

One of the inhabitants was the knight, Jean de Recourt, who fought in the siege of Compiegne where Joan of Arc was captured. Upon entering the first set of gates you come into a walled courtyard which leads to the drawbridge of the main castle.

There are two towers still standing, and a large terrace over looking the moat where the third tower once stood. You can also climb the hundred steps of the spiral staircase all the way to the top of the watchtower.

The next day was Sunday, our day of rest. We spent the day hanging around the apartment and going for walks, ending off our first weekend in Arras.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Robitailles and one Bourgeois come to France!

Andre’s parents and their good friend Anne Bourgeois arrived in France this past Tuesday. Andre and I went to Paris to meet them and stay together in the big city for a few days to see the sights. The first day we walked from our hotel up to the Notre Dame and then along the Seine to the Louvre. Since the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays we headed from there to one of my favorite spots, the Tuileries Gardens. After a pint and a galette in the gardens we headed back to the hotel by metro.

The next day we got up early to try and beat the line up at the Louvre. Since you could spend a lifetime in there we decided to keep it relatively short, and only toured the halls with all the "Masterpieces" of the great French painters, Italian painters, and the Greek sculptures. We were also able to see the Louvre’s original medieval foundations; which I thought was very cool and although really only a round stone wall it is still definitely a must see! After that we headed up via l’Open Tour bus to the Arc de Triomphe to see Andre’s Canada wreath from the fête nationale. From there we got back on the bus and headed to the Eiffel Tower.

Glass Dome at the Galleries Lafayatte

After a nice light lunch and some stops at the souvenir shops we hopped back on the tour bus and headed to the Galleries Lafayatte. There's a beautiful terrace at the top with a view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacre Coeur. After a drink at the roof top terrace cafe we took our tour bus back to the stop nearest our hotel. For dinner we wandered around the Latin Quarter and happened to come upon a little winding promenade of really nice restaurants. We found one to seat five just before it started to rain.

View of Sacre Coeur from the Galleries Lafayette

The next day Andre had to return early in the morning for work. The rest of us were able to stay allowing time for Anne to see inside Notre Dame, a quick visit the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, and pop in a few cafes to start the day. Just after twelve we caught our train to Arras and are here now settled in our apartment, and making plans to tour Arras.….

Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore