Sunday, 28 June 2015

Training for the Tour... Motivating Myself to Stay Fit

Less than a week to go now, before the start of the Tour de France. I'm a big fan. But you probably already know that if you read my blog regularly. A highlight (actually two highlights) of our recent trip to France were the days we drove up Alpe D'Huez and  Mont Ventoux, two of the most famous mountain climbs of the Tour. I wrote about that part of our trip in a post which you can read here, if you're interested. And now the Tour starts in a few days. Well, five days if you're counting. And I am.

tour de france 2015, map

Hubby and I love to bike. We're not great cyclists, we don't do road races or climb mountains. We just love to be out there... in the fresh air and sunshine... riding our bikes. It's fun and great exercise and something that we can do together. And when one is over fifty... nudging up to sixty, I am... staying fit and healthy isn't as easy as it once was. So, we've been in training since we came home from France. Training for the Tour. Well, kind of. Mostly we just ride our bikes like we always do, twice a week. We plan our week on Sunday, around our respective schedules, and the weather, so we can dedicate two days to biking.

We're spoiled for choice, with respect to biking trails, around Ottawa. Sometimes we ride the Trans Canada Trail, that follows the old railway lines. And then hooks up with a local trail that snakes through sun dappled bush.

Ottawa cycling and walking trail

We often ride on weekday mornings, and then we have the trails mostly to ourselves. Last week we followed this trail that crossed the Green Belt outside of the city...

Ottawa cycling trail

And ended up at the Ottawa River.

Ottawa River at Shirley's Bay

Last Saturday we biked along the Rideau River. While the Ottawa River is wide and fast flowing, the Rideau is bucolic, even placid.

Rideau River near Burritt's Rapids

We crossed the river on this single-lane bridge dating from the 1890's.

bridge over the Rideau in Burritt's Rapids

And tooled around the tiny village of Burritt's Rapids

cycling in Burritt's Rapids

We stopped for lunch at the locks just outside Burritt's Rapids. Boaters can follow the Rideau Canal system from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River, all the way to Kingston on Lake Ontario.

lock on Rideau near Burritt's Rapids

This is the view from our picnic table. It was a perfect day. And since it was still June, pretty uncrowded, I'd say. The lady on a boat tied up near here, said she and her husband had spent the night here. And were  moving downstream the next day, with an eye to being docked in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day. That would be pretty special, sipping a cold glass of wine and watching the fireworks on Parliament Hill from the deck of your boat.

lock on Rideau near Burritt's Rapids

After lunch we hit the road again. Past farms and a field of animals of all sorts. I think this must be the year of the donkey, for me. And yes, that's a llama.

animals in a field near Kemptville, Ontario

And eventually rounded a bend ... to see an osprey nest on a platform on top of this pole. We've seen several of these nests in the surrounding countryside. But this one was occupied. And the mother's feathers were a little bit ruffled by our continued presence, so we hopped on our bikes and headed for home. 

osprey nest on River Rd, near Kemptville, Ontario

But the Tour de France hoving into view on the horizon, makes our rides special, these days. We laugh and say how we're in training for the Tour. When we ride, I always lead, because I pedal slower than Hubby and he has trouble knowing what pace to set if he's in front. Then, if it's windy and I'm struggling, I flick my elbow... just like the boys on the Tour... a small motion that says, "Get up here and lend me a hand." And Hubby comes up to be my "domestique." If you're not familiar with cycling lingo, "domestiques" are the riders who work for the benefit of the team and the team's lead rider. They help the cycling stars to win races: they ride in front so the big name rider can save energy by riding in their slipstream; they selflessly surround and protect the star, who then gets all the glory. A "domestique" is quite literally a "servant" to his or her team. 

So sometimes Hubby responds to my elbow flick, and plays the servant, and I ride close on his back wheel, making it much easier for me. Yah. I like that part. Sometimes I pull out from behind him like a shot and try to sprint away. Playing the part of that famous sprinter Mark Cavendish. Otherwise known as the 'Manx Missile', because he's from the Isle of Man. I usually shout as I speed by in a blur (I hope) that "Burpee is making a break-away." Sometimes I win and Hubby can't catch up. But not often. I'm not actually much of  a 'Manx Missile.' More of a Burpee Bomb. Ha. Well, at least I try. And it makes our rides more fun. And when it's fun, staying fit is so much easier!

This was the route we took the other day. Past lush green cornfields, under a perfectly blue sky.

corn fields and blue sky around Ottawa

Past an old farmhouse where the retired farm machinery makes a wonderful planter. I'm pretty sure this is a manure spreader. Quite appropriate, eh?

repurposed farm machinery, a planter

This is my favourite house on our route. I love the old brick, the clothesline out back where the grass slopes down to a small creek. There's even a lovely swing in that big tree on the right. 

heritage home in North Gower

Seriously what could ruin this perfect morning? Nothing ...except my stopping to take yet another picture of this sky with one single cloud. One cloud. "Ahhhh. How great is that?" I murmur.

corn fields and blue sky around Ottawa

And then Hubby's voice admonishes me for stopping yet again. He's been circling waiting for me. "Come on, Suz! Let's go." And I zip my camera into my pack and pedal off after him. I should know better; we are in training after all.  

I do other stuff besides biking to stay fit, and still fit into my jeans. I power walk one morning a week with girlfriends, and ride my exercise bike three times, combined with at least one weight workout. And I take one day a week off.  Retirement means that I can't count on all that calorie-burning running around that I would normally do in the course of my day at work. And running around burns a heck of a lot of calories. It's a battle. But it's so much easier to fight the battle if I can find ways to make it fun. 

Because of course we're not really in training for the Tour de France. You might say we're just getting into the spirit of the event. Gearing up, so to speak. Being silly, pretending we're famous cyclists, acting like kids, you might also say. Yep. You'd be right about that. 

Check out this great blog about cycling. Suze, read my travel posts about France, about Hubby and I driving up Mont Ventoux, and sent me her story about doing it for real...on a bike. You can read her post here.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rethinking Pink

I had an epiphany the other day. Well, kind of an epiphany. Let me explain. I was at a local hospital for a CT scan of my sinuses. And I was lying on the sliding-bed-thingie, and the technician was moving it back and forth, as they do. Then she disappeared into the back room, and when she reappeared, she said..."My little machine," I assume she meant her computer. "tells me that you are fifty-nine. Boy, you don't look anywhere near fifty-nine!" 

Smiling, I calmly swung my feet over the edge of the bed, and said, "Well, thanks very much." But... inside my head, I was shrieking..."I'm fifty-freakin'-nine! When the heck did that happen??!!" I mean, I know literally when it happened; I had a birthday when we were staying in this lovely B&B in Chambon-sur-Cisse, in the Loire Valley last month. But somehow it didn't sink in, that I went to France in my fifties, and returned home almost sixty. Sixty! Six zero. 

And it started me thinking about those stages in life when you just know that a certain item you've been wearing is no longer appropriate. I mean, you still fit into it (whatever it is) so you can wear it. But should you wear it? I remember clearly, years ago, hauling out my lovely, royal blue, corduroy Laura Ashley dress. And putting it on. And then looking in the mirror and just knowing that the time for that dress had passed. It still fit; it was still in style; I still loved it, but it just did not go with my face anymore. Something about the shape of the dress screamed young. Girly. I could pull it off in my twenties... but those days were gone. Ah well. So be it. I gave that dress away. 

And so I've been wondering this week about pink. Pink is such a girly colour. And it's everywhere this spring and summer. Like these looks from Beautiful blush pink dresses, and skirts.


And hot pink tops and pants. I love them all. Admittedly, I couldn't wear the dresses because that soft, blush pink looks awful on me, and I couldn't keep the strapless one up anyway. And the column dress, trust me, I tried that look in the 90's... ugggh. But I love that patterned skirt, in those soft shades of pink and grey. And that hot pink, asymmetrical tee shirt is great. As are those pink, pleated dress pants. And so I ask myself... is pink too girly for me now that I'm creeping up on sixty?


I don't own a lot of pink clothing. A couple of tee shirts, a sweater or two. And a pair of coral pink jeans from Elie Tahari that I bought three years ago. I love those pink pants. They are slim but not skinny, high-waisted, and cropped just above the ankle. I've worn them so much that they are a bit faded from the wash now. But are they past it? Or more to the point.... am I past it when it comes to wearing pink pants? 

So I tried on my pink pants with the Rag and Bone layered silk tank that I bought to take to Paris... and which I never wore because the weather was too cool. I love this top. It's age appropriate (whatever that means) and, more importantly, shape appropriate for me: long, with a narrow cut that falls away from the body. I love the high crew neck and the cut-away shoulders. I'd definitely wear this outfit on a summer evening, maybe strolling in the Byward Market, stopping for a glass of wine and dinner at one of the outdoor patios.

Pink Elie Tahari pants, black Rag and Bone silk tank     

I think the simplicity of the tank calls for big earrings. These are my cheapie Pier One earrings, brass-coloured with red beads. I like the little bit of bling that they add to an outfit. I'm all for bling.... in small measures. 

And if it's cooler, I'd wear my Helmut Lang jacket. This is almost the same outfit that I took to Paris. But I think the pink pants and flat sandals are more casual than the white pants and black patent loafers. And you know, there's nothing wrong with this look for a newly turned fifty-nine... creeping up on sixty... year old. My Helmut Lang jacket is a miracle worker; it packs some serious chic power. I'm so glad I bought it.

Pink Elie Tahari pants, black Rag and Bone silk tank, Helmut Lang blazer     Elie Tahari pants, black Rag and Bone silk tank, Helmut Lang blazer

And so while I was thinking about Paris outfits, I tried my pink pants with my A.L.C. black and white striped tee which I wore all over France, not just in Paris. I rolled my pants and slipped on my red-trimmed Stan Smith Adidas sneakers. I like this. The pink pants are a nice change from my blue or white jeans.

black and white striped ALC tee, pink Elie Tahari pants, Black Helmut Lang jacket

But as Stacey and Clinton from What Not To Wear would say, I needed a "completer piece." (Don't you miss What Not To Wear?) So, the Helmut Lang Jacket it is. I love black, white, and a colour, in this case, pink. If the pants were pastel pink, this outfit wouldn't work, but the coral is a strong enough shade to offset the black jacket, I think. So, in my pink pants, I was off to run errands downtown, and maybe check out the sale at Nordstrom. My friend Liz had e-mailed me that they had a great sale on all week. 
black and white striped ALC tee, pink Elie Tahari pants, Black Helmut Lang jacket       black and white striped ALC tee, pink Elie Tahari pants, Black Helmut Lang jacket

And so, to answer my own question, at fifty-nine...creeping up on sixty... I don't think I'm past wearing pink pants. But, of course, that depends on the pants doesn't it? Pants that fit properly, and are cut to flatter my shape, are age appropriate no matter what colour they are. Okay... I don't think I could stretch to soft pastel pink, but you get my point. 

I don't believe that our age means that we arbitrarily shouldn't wear certain things. But I do believe that every so often we need to reassess our fashion choices. And see if what we're wearing reflects who we are now. That's what my epiphany was about, really, as much as the gasping realization that I was one year from sixty. I realized it was time for some reassessment. Time to look at whether some things in my wardrobe (like my pink pants) which still fit, are still in style, and which I can still wear, are what I want to be wearing. Whether my clothes reflect me, and who I am inside... now. That's the important bit. Because, after all...fifty-nine is just a number. And pink is... just a colour. 

This is the view from my car window as I sat in traffic on my way to Nordstrom last week. It's Ottawa...and summer...and of course there's construction everywhere. Still, there are worse views to look at as one sits and contemplates youth vs age... and rethinks pink. 

What do you think about pink, dear readers? Do you have any wardrobe no-go areas now that you're the age you are...whatever age that is?


Linking up this week with: What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Manic Monday (at More Pieces of Me and On the Daily Express) and Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Summer Reading

Since we came back from France, I've been reading. A lot. I hardly read for the month we were away. When we were in Paris, I started a book by Laura Lippman, whose writing I usually like. It's about two teens, who were convicted of abducting and killing a child when they were thirteen. The book starts with their release from prison and their attempts to rebuild their lives. But twenty or so pages in, I knew this was NOT going to go well. I reread the blurb on the back of the book: "And now another child has disappeared, under freakishly similar circumstances..." What the heck had I been thinking? This was NOT what I wanted to be reading on our holiday. I set it aside. Paris was calling me, anyway. No time for reading.

on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris...not locking, just looking

Then a week or so later, I tried to read a book that I had downloaded onto my i-pad. It was a mystery set in France; it should be appropriate holiday-in-France reading, non? Sigh. I simply could not adjust to reading on the screen. Really, really did not like it. Plus I didn't really like the book. Plus I kept switching away to read blogs. Or Instagram. I gave up. So no reading, of books anyway, for me, for most of May. 

But the day after we came home... actually it might have been the same night we came home... I got stuck into a book. Right after I started the first load of laundry (of course) and made a cup of tea.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

We're Back From France and There's Gonna Be Laundry... and Shopping

If you're not Canadian you probably didn't get the reference in my title; it's a riff on the title of the one-woman show by Canadian comic Sandra Shamus... My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry. (Which is itself a riff on that fifties song, "My Boyfriend's Back," by The Angels.) Tough talking, often profane, but soooo funny, Shamus is well known in these parts. But more on her later.

Let's just say that I was humming... "We're back from France and there's gonna be laundry. Hey-la-day-la. We're back from France...." to the tune of The Angels' song for several days after we returned from our trip. That's because there was laundry, lots and lots of laundry to do. And unpacking. And changing the bed. And dusting. And vacuuming. And all the other household stuff that needs to be done when a house has been empty for a month. Like cleaning the fridge...taking advantage of its being so empty and all...before we restocked it. You know the drill. 

And then I was well and truly itching to do some shopping. The day I met my former teaching buddies for lunch, I kind of scratched that itch. I mentioned this lunch and my little shopping spree in a post last week. It could hardly even be called a spree, really. But I did walk by one of my favourite stores, Green Tree Eco Fashion, in one of my favourite Ottawa neighbourhoods, Westboro. I walked by on the way to put more money in the parking meter, so I could walk back and go in. And of course try on a bunch of things, and buy a couple. 

I was looking for summer tops. Tops that are casual, comfortable, a bit loose, and on the longer side. Like this black tunic top which I really like. It's from Canadian designer Diane Kennedy. (I had never heard of her either.) It has a lovely silky texture and feels great on. I like it with my cropped white jeans.

my new black Diane Kennedy tunic and white cropped NYDJ jeans

I haven't worn it yet, but the stretch and weight of the fabric make me think it probably won't wrinkle after I've been sitting for a while. So it will be good for travel or for a casual dinner. It's also the right length to fit under my Helmut Lang blazer.

my new black Diane Kennedy tunic and white cropped NYDJ jeans

The label on my new tunic says it's 92% "viscose from bamboo" and 8% lycra. Bamboo. Really? Bamboo is supposed to be the next big thing in eco-friendly, sustainable material. That's because it's an extremely fast growing plant, that "requires little chemical fertilizer, regenerates naturally through root shoots rather than seeding" and as such is very sustainable. I looked that up.... mostly because on her website Diane Kennedy talks a lot about eco-friendly fabrics, natural fibres, and "ethically produced clothing." Okay, I'll give her the sustainable bit. And I certainly applaud her for making "ethically produced" clothing that is manufactured in Canada. But the Canadian Competition Bureau would beg to differ with her claims that bamboo "fibre" is natural. An article on about new labelling laws for clothing made from bamboo, claims that while "bamboo pulp is natural," and viscose made from bamboo contains bamboo pulp, the fibres that are eventually woven into silky cloth are "chemically processed or man-made." And the chemicals that are used to turn the pulp into fibre, like sodium hydroxide (lye) and dilute sulfuric acid are pretty harsh stuff. That's why the labelling law was changed, so that consumers wouldn't think that bamboo fibre was natural, like cotton or silk. And the article I read said that viscose or rayon made from bamboo is "no more environmentally friendly than rayon that is derived from oak and beech." You can read that article for yourself here. Live and learn, people; live and learn. Or maybe that should be shop and learn. 

By the way these are the earrings that I bought in Paris. Hubby was napping one afternoon and I did a troll of the neighbourhood shops in the Marais. I bought these in a little jewellry atelier. Had a lovely chat with the young designer at the same time, well, as much of a chat as we could have with her limited English, and my terrible French. 

earrings I bought in Paris

This is the other purchase I made that day at Green Tree. I love this casual cardigan. It's a light-weight knit (made from viscose as well, as it happens.) Long without being too long, cut close to the body and thus not bulky, and so soft. This sweater will be a great addition to my summer wardrobe. I love the button detail on the sleeves. I'm wearing it here with a Gap short-sleeved tee, my dressy joggers and my now ubiquitous sneakers. 

joggers from Aritzia, tee shirt from Gap and Inwear cardigan          joggers from Aritzia, tee shirt from Gap and Inwear cardigan

I wore this outfit earlier in the week for a casual lunch with a friend/former student/former student teacher/former colleague. Yep...that's all one person. I met Erica when she was in high school and I was her Creative Writing teacher. Then, when she was in university, she worked with me during her student-teacher internship, then when she graduated we were able to hire her to work in my department. That was pretty cool. And now we're good friends. I still remember her first day as my student teacher, and how difficult it was for her to stop calling me Ms. Burpee, and start calling me Sue. And I also remember how proud I was when she grew into a wonderful English teacher. And now she's on leave and very, very pregnant with her second child. But she was under strict instructions when I picked her up for lunch... no giving birth in the restaurant. Just kidding. Mostly.

joggers from Aritzia, tee shirt from Gap and Inwear cardigan, with Kate Spade purse

Now, about Sandra Shamus. That's her in the shot below, by the way, from an article about her Toronto show last winter; "Big Girl Panties" apparently was her perspective on aging. Love that title.

I've never seen Shamus on stage, but I've heard her on CBC radio. Talking about menopause. And nouns. And how menopause affects our ability to use nouns. I won't say anymore. Just click on the link to her YouTube video on the subject. But be careful, she uses some strong language. Even the "F" word a couple of times. I don't even blink when I hear that word; too many years in crowded high school hallways, I guess.

I just heard from my friend Liz that Nordstrom is having a great sale this week. Liz is the personal shopper there. Hmmm. I might be in the market for a light summer dress; it was on my wish list for spring but got lost in the hunt for perfect clothes for France. But now that we're back from France and the laundry's all done...well...

What are you shopping for lately? 

Linking up this week with: Fun Fashion Friday at Fashion Should Be Fun, What I Wore at The Pleated Poppy, Style Me Wednesday at Shopping My Closet, Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat, Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs, Manic Monday (at More Pieces of Me and On the Daily Express) and Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Last Post... About France ... Cue the Bugle Music ♫ ♫

I feel like I should quote a Beatles' song to describe most of our trip this spring... you know the one that goes..."the.. long.. and.. winding road...♫ da-da-da."  That's because we did a whole lot of driving in the month we were in France, and a lot of the driving we did was on roads like this. Winding and narrow, with spectacular scenery.

The day we left Ispagnac in Languedoc, to drive through the Gorges du Tarn was no exception. The road snaked along the banks of the river Tarn, winding between stone fences and, eventually, steep drop-offs on one side and soaring cliffs on the other side.

 And in several places right through the cliffs.

Requiring some serious driver concentration.

We've driven lots and lots of small roads before, in the Yukon, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, and Hubby's an intrepid driver. I remember our very first time on roads like this on the north island of New Zealand. We often encountered a speeding car driven by a local who would be perfectly happy occupying the middle of the road until the last possible second, and then would veer over to his own side and fly past in a rush of wind. And every time, Hubby would instinctively turn the wheel towards the edge of the road.... and I would gasp as I stared down into a ravine, the tires catching gravel on the shoulder before he righted the wheel and we both breathed again. He became much more comfortable as the trip wore on, but he'd still flinch ever so slightly as cars passed much too close for comfort. And we began to call it the "Kiwi Flinch," and then in Ireland and Scotland the "Celtic Flinch."

But I can honestly say that despite the fact that we'd driven some pretty hairy roads this trip, there was no "Gallic Flinch" until we drove the Gorges du Tarn. And then only a couple of times when the combination of cliff falling away on one side and cliff rising on the other side was compounded by the rising cliff presenting us with a gigantic-looking bulge, just when the road was at its narrowest point, and it looked as if the car would never be able to squeeze through. 

The road snaked up, up, up from the bottom of the gorge until we were looking down from almost the full height of the cliffs. This is a view down into the gorge. You can just make out the blue kayaks on the river. And the stone houses on the rocks at the base of the cliff and even built into the hillside above. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between cliff and house. The sun was so bright that day, it was hard to get a shot that captured how lovely this view was.

Later that day, tired and eye-strained we pulled into the town of Figeac. We'd never heard of Figeac until we'd booked into a Chambres d'Hôte here, but it has a long history, tracing its roots back to medieval times when it was a bustling commercial centre. I loved the narrrow streets and half-timbered houses in the old part of town. Almost expected Juliet to appear on that upper terrace. These buildings would have been around in Shakespeare's day, that's for sure. 

But alas for us, narrow one-way streets were not to the taste of our fair GPS maiden. And she lead us on a merry (okay...maybe cranky might be a better word than merry) dance before we stumbled upon our accommodation. 

But it was worth the hassle. Old and rambling and a bit in need of some upgrading, with a genial, helpful host, "Les Pratges" was our kind of place. I loved that, when the proprietor, Gerard, asked me my name, he smiled gravely and said "Ah yes, a Canadian Suzanne. Like the Leonard Cohen song. Reminds me of my youth." And then we heard him humming the song as he worked in the kitchen. We walked along the river and into the old town for dinner that night. And then headed  north enroute to the Loire Valley the next day.

We watched the landscape quickly change as we drove north. Still beautiful, but different. The morning of my birthday, we stopped at this village. I can't remember its name. It was market day and we strolled past the stalls and purchased some excellent cheese, a couple of saucisses (I was becoming addicted to these ugly things) and, in a boulangerie, a baguette and several macarons. "Pour ma fête," I smiled and said to the cashier. "But in French class we always sang "Bonne Fête" to students who were having a birthday," I explained to a quizzical Hubby. Who knew that fête meant feast and not birthday? Ah well, it still applied though. We would have a feast that night.

Below is a picture of the château in that little town. It seemed every town had its château. We heard classical music as we walked into the empty courtyard, and then saw the tiny speakers. That was pretty cool. But even if we had had time to take a tour, the gates were closed and locked. It was lunchtime after all, and this was Monday, and it was France. Or as our host in Arras shrugged and said ruefully when we asked why the stores were closed on Monday..."You are en France."

Below is a shot of our B&B La Source de Bury in Chambon-sur-Cisse, near Blois. 

Here we would celebrate my birthday. On the night of our arrival with an al fresco supper of barbequed salmon and salad. Barbeque and charcoal kindly supplied by David our host, supper cooked to perfection by Hubby. Wine from our Chateauneuf du Pape adventure the previous week. Macarons for dessert. The next night we had my official birthday dinner at a local restaurant recommended by David. But I think I actually enjoyed lolling in these chairs, listening to the stream bubble over the rocks, sipping my Chateauneuf du Pape even more than the restaurant meal, lovely though it was.

These are the gates we drove through to get to David's B&B. They are the vestiges of the old wall that once surrounded the nearby château. See, every village does have its own château. Or maybe it's more correct to say that every château had its own village.

From our B&B each morning, after a wonderful breakfast of David's homemade breads, yogurt, confitures (rhubarb and fig being my favourite) and crepes, we set off to explore some of the more famous châteaux in the Loire Valley.

Like the iconic Château Chenonceau.

This is one I had seen in so many pictures, its reflection gleaming in the waters of the River Cher. It was built on the foundations of an old mill.

The next day we visited Château Chambord. Everyone we asked agreed we must see Chambord. The French Renaissance architecture was fabulous. But the château was so huge, we never felt that we had a sense of it as a whole. And it seemed impossible to capture it in a single photograph.

But we climbed the famous double helix stairway inside and emerged onto the top outside walkway, up among the slanting roofs and towers and beautifully ornate spires. That was pretty amazing. Apparently Henry James said the "roofscape" of Chambord looked more like the spires of a city than of a single building. 

When we found our way out of the château, we explored the farm and gardens, and we met this little fellow. It seems to be my trip for meeting friendly donkeys.

After Chambord, wonderful as it was, we had had our fill of the grand and the ornate. We were as Hubby said "château-ed out." We're actually more fond of the small and quirky. Like the field of sculptures in the tiny village of Chambon, created from old bicycle parts, bits of scrap metal, whatever came to hand, by students who live at the local "Le Foyer Amitié." According to a staff member with whom we chatted, these kids, who have no families, and who come from all over Europe, live in the "foyer" or what we, in Canada, would call a group home. They study to be artists and artisans. We thought the sculptures were wonderful. This is Hubby demonstrating his wolf call. Life imitating art?

We had one more night on the road after we left Chambon sur Cisse. And we spent it here. In a B&B Inn called "La Marlotte" in Bourron-Marlotte near Fontainbleau. It's a converted stables. And it had everything my quirky-loving heart could desire. Charming, and unique, inside and out, filled with antiques and collectibles, I could have moved right in.  

There was even a pony and a horse stabled out back. In fact, when we checked in, the owner was just returning from her daily ride.

Oh... and they had a cat. I love a place that has a cat. On top of that the dinner was really good, and the breakfast as well. Sigh. We were sad to leave.

But leave we must. We had a car to return, once we navigated our way back to Paris CDG airport. And a flight home to catch. 

So that's it friends. Four weeks on the road, seven travel posts, and one fashion post. And I'm done with France. We met some wonderful people, saw some amazing places, climbed some really high mountains, got lost too many times to count, spoke some really bad French, ate way too many croissants, and stored up some wonderful stories. You ain't heard them all yet, you know. 

But for now.... it's late and I really should wrap-up this marathon post. I mean that's if there's anybody other than my mum still reading. 

Time for bed. Night, Mum.

Linking up with Thursday Blog Hop at Over 50, Feeling 40.