Monday, March 30, 2009

10 French Things

A small list of things we will really miss once we find ourselves in the States again...

(in no particular order)

1. The excellent bread. Seriously, I think I've become a bit of a bread snob since I've been here. When I get home, I'll probably throw all of our bread away once its a day old....

2. The slow lifestyle. Nobody is in a hurry! Whenever you are invited to lunch, it means spending most of the afternoon in fellowship with others. Such a pleasant difference from the American rush, rush, rush. Take your is sweet....

3. The incredible doors and windows! Everyone has a different door here. All ornate and colorful! And there are a variety of shutter colors. Purple, green, blue, yellow, even pastel pink!

4. The "oldness." The buildings have such character and we love the cobblestone streets and stone structures that date back to the 13th century or so.

5. The patisserie shops and their creative confections. (Hopefully I can do a more thorough post on them soon!)

6. This charming road Stuart and I take almost daily walks on. There are horses on the walk, pretty flowers, a small stream, and ivy covered trees. I will always treasure our memories of walking it!

7. The Gothic architecture we've snapped so many photos of! I've waited a long time to see some of it and I will miss its stately presence!

8. Being so close to so many wonderful historic sights/countries!

9. Herbs De Provence - A blending of herbs such as thyme, basil, fennel, savory, lavender, etc., that supposedly captures the essence of the South of France. Stuart and I have enjoyed it immensely and pretty much put it in everything we cook (meats, potatoes, sandwiches, etc). Hopefully we can find it in the USA!

*To find more on Herbs De Provence click here.

10. The wonderful people who have welcomed and befriended us here! Our neighbors and church friends have been so good to us. They've driven us to the train station, taken us sight seeing, cooked for us, and explained the "French Way" to us! I couldn't have asked for a better welcome! I truly hope the Lord blesses them for their sacrifices and love!

So, I guess these would be my top ten. Although, I'm sure after I get home, there will be things I'll miss and just don't realize it yet!

Missing France Already,

Friday, March 27, 2009

Travel Radar: Germany and Holland


Stuart and I are now back from our trip to Germany to see the Young family. I so enjoyed seeing Dana! It was especially hard to leave because I usually only get to see them once a year. Sadness! It makes those final moments hard. But! We had such a great time! We talked and played with the girls and took two day trips. Both were fantastic and I'll give more details/history along with the pictures below. As with the Paris trip, too much happened to post it all, but I will give you the gist. Here you are, friends!

The worst and best day trip we took was to Amsterdam, Holland, a trip that was a complete surprise to Stuart and me. We didn't realize that Dana and Rob lived so close to the border of Germany/Netherlands (about 5-10 minutes)! So....we got to see Amsterdam (a city Stuart has always wanted to go to), and tour Anne Frank's house (a literary landmark I've always wanted to go to)! We killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.

So, why was it the best and worst day trip?

It was the best because it was so interesting and a complete surprise.

It was the worst because it was really cold and rainy and....I got sick!

Yep, halfway through the day I started thinking, "Huh, I don't feel so good..."

Honestly, I thought it was just because I was damp and cold from being outside most of the day, but then on the way home my teeth started chattering and my body started aching and I knew I was sick. Blah!

Dana was really sweet and found me some meds and of course Stuart was right there asking me if I was okay.

"What aches?" he asked.

"Ummm....everything." I chattered.

"Like your head and stomach?"

"Yeah. And my armpits, and my skin, and my throat, and my ears....."

"Oh! That kind of achy....."

Haha! Needless to say, I have been taking it easy the last couple of days and am feeling better, if not totally up to speed yet.

Anyway! This first picture is of Dana and me in an Amsterdam restaurant fixing to eat pizza. I think I have like 4 layers of clothes on here....Brrrr!

Pictures weren't allowed inside of the Anne Frank house, but I got a shot of her memorial statue instead. Wow! That house was so sobering to me. It especially made me sad when Hannah would ask Dana, "Mommy? What happened to her? Why did those men want to kill her? Did she die?" Its hard to explain something as evil as the Nazi regime to a 4 year old, but Dana did a great job putting it on her level without terrifying her.

As a book lover, I have a desire to visit every literary location I can find, so this was very engaging to me. I kept trying to picture little Anne writing this journal, never dreaming that her words would impact so many people all over the globe.

I'm also a lover of history, so it was equally interesting to learn additional facts about the Holocaust, a subject I find fascinating and sickening all at the same time. Otto Frank, Anne's father (who survived), had filmed an interview and allowed pictures of him to be taken as well. You could see such depth and sadness in his eyes.

I know for me, I can have trouble taking really important things in when I'm there. It seems kind of surreal, or like a dream. I don't know if any of you know what I'm talking about but, sometimes I'll talk to myself (silently of course, don't want the men in white coats a' knockin' on my door!) to make it more real. For instance, as we were entering the secret annex at the AF house, I was thinking:

"Anne walked up these stairs, just like I am. The people who captured her had their feet on these stairs too. And here I am with my feet on these same stairs, all these years later. She wanted to grow up, and get married, just like I did. She wanted to write, like I do....."


I don't know, it helps make it more personal to me sometimes. More than a museum that you pay to see, you know?

Anyway...the statue...

Next up are our adorable nieces sharing a chocolate milk in Amsterdam. Hannah on the left, Rebekah on the right......

Cuteness, right?

Can I just say that Stuart and Rebekah hit it off from day 1? She loved him! And I can't say that I blame her! She would run up to him and hug his legs, or want him to hold her in his lap all the time! When he picked her up, she would just stare at his face for the longest time (I know what that's like)! Finally I asked, "Bekah, do you think Uncle Stuart is handsome?" She gave me a shy smile and nodded. SOOOOO sweet! Here is a picture of them together before we left.

Another sweet moment between the two: Stuart had fallen asleep on the bed while we were watching a movie with the girls. Rebekah pointed to Stuart and said,

"Uncle Stuart is tired?"

"Yes, he is." I said.

So Rebekah went and got her very worn out stuffed Eeyore and sat it on Stuart's chest so he'd have something to sleep with. How precious is that?

This next picture is of Hannah and me putting Easter clings on the window of their bedroom. We had so much fun! Every month, Dana and the girls decorate their room together in whatever event is coming up! So, we had bunnies, Easter eggs, and flowers galore to decorate with.... I'm so glad I got to be there for the "changing of the decorations" ceremony!

Rebekah's face when her mommy pulled out the Easter decorations for their room! She was so excited! Out with the March kites and in with April, Easter bunnies, and spring flowers!

Our other day trip was to Cologne, Germany to see the Cologne Cathedral! This place was amazingly huge and so fascinating to learn about. Rob told us on the way that he thought it beat out Notre Dame. Ummm....yeah! I would have to agree with him! It made Notre Dame look like a little chapel! It took over 600 years to build (1248-1880) and is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe! It also houses the coffins and remains of the famous three wisemen, which we got to see! We also toured the treasury (where no photography was allowed) and saw beautiful chalices, staffs, etc. made of gold, crystal, and precious gems.

Another "fun fact" that Dana and Rob told us: During WWII, this cathedral was off-limits for bombing, because all the pilots and soldiers used it as a landmark!

We couldn't fit the whole thing in, but you get the idea!

Dana, Rob, and the girls enjoying a snack as we all waited for our train to Cologne.

Seriously, I am so thankful we got visit the Young's. Both of us really enjoyed it. I enjoyed catching up with Dana and seeing the girls (Hannah was a flower girl at my wedding this past summer, but Rebekah couldn't come that trip. I hadn't seen her since she was 4 months old. She's two now! That is way too long to go without seeing her!)

Stuart really enjoyed this trip as well. He expressed happiness at finally getting to sit down with Dana and talk and get to know her (Dana felt this way about Stuart as well). Up until now, Stuart has only really gotten to know Harrison, so I think it was neat for him to be able to spend time with another sibling of mine.

But now the thing that tops them all!

I was there when Dana found out she is pregnant with her third baby! WAAHHH! Words cannot express how special this moment was to me as a sister! With Hannah and Rebekah, I found out from Mom, or over the phone, or through another one of my family members. But this time, I was actually there in person! It was so neat to hear Dana telling Mom and Dad over the phone (she put it on speaker so I could hear their reactions) that they were going to be grandparents a fifth time! Mom actually didn't believe her at first and was like,

"I know Haley put you up to this! This is a joke!"

As if I would do such a thing! (Halo) What does she take me for, a prankster? (Okay, okay, we really did consider calling her up together and saying, "Hi Mom! One of us is pregnant! Guess which!" But...we were afraid she might have a heart attack!)

Some may call it perfect timing, but I think it was a special gift from the Lord, I really do! I mean, what are the chances of that happening in a five day time frame? I will always treasure it!

Well, that's all for now! Stuart and I leave in about 12 days for home, and we are intent on enjoying every moment of the rest of our time here.

But! I am looking forward to some events when I get back, such as:

*Officially graduating from LU (meaning the cap and gown ceremony)
*Seeing my younger brother Harrison graduate from Hargrave Military Academy!
*Seeing both of our families and meeting Elyana Ruth for the first time.
*Being a bridesmaid in Melissa's wedding to a wonderful man named Andy, and helping her in any way I can to get ready!
* Buying our first house together!
*Finding a job or some sort of paying activity in Lynchburg, Va!
* Finally seeing our wedding album!

Have a great weekend!

Love to everyone,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Travel Radar: Paris

Hi Everyone!

Wow! So, it's time for the Paris update that you've all been waiting for! Sorry it has taken me so long, I've been uber busy this week with cleaning, cooking, and preparing for this weekend's jaunt to Germany. But! I finally have gathered up some extra minutes to share some trip highlights with all of you!

Since it would be impossible to show you the whole trip (we literally took 100's of photos), or tell you about the entire experience, I am only going to share a few things I think are interesting and share a little background behind the photos. Enjoy!

Here's the breakdown of our trip:

Day 1: Arrive in Paris around noon. Check into hotel, wander around city.
Day 2: The Louvre Museum (Mona Lisa, Da Vinci, etc.)
Day 3: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Browsing in the Latin Quarter, supper outside at a small bistro.
Day 4: The Palace of Versailles (Marie-Antoinette, all the Louis the 14ths, 15ths, whatevers), and exploring Lafayette Galleries (the biggest store I have ever seen in my life. Period. Bigger than anything I've seen in New York, Texas, or anywhere else in the USA.) It carried all the designer names. I picked up a pair of Prada flip-flops.....400 bucks. Yeah....I put them down carefully. If that's the flip-flops, I don't even want to see the boots and high heels! Dessert at a bistro.
Day 5: Museum D'Orsay (Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Millet, etc.), Nice dinner inside, due to cold weather!

Okay, here are two shots of our hotel. The Hotel Prima Lepic. We enjoyed staying here! The staff was very friendly. We had a bit of trouble finding it, but not too much which I'm grateful for. My suitcase was getting awfully heavy!

Our cute little bed with a pretty canopy. Typical European hotel room -tiny with thin walls! You could hear everything! We didn't mind though! It just makes for better snuggling up!

As you read above, we spent the first full day of our trip at the Louvre. Stuart and I had a running joke that we spent the majority of our trip doing this.....

Haha! Which makes sense, because most of the ceilings are beautifully decorated! Neck gets a little sore though. We toured several sections, hitting the highlights like the Mona Lisa and some of the Classical and Napoleon paintings, then decided to look at our personal interests. We both wanted to see Vermeer and other Dutch painters, Stuart specifically wanted to see the German paintings, and me? Well friends, I immediately headed for the Egyptian artifacts! What can I say? I've always been fascinated with ancient Egypt, and here was my chance to see a real sarcophagus! It is a topic I'm very much interested in, but don't know very much about...hmmm...I should work on that!

This picture is of Stuart and Homer becoming fast friends. Homer even played his harp for us. What a thoughtful guy.....

Here's a shot of us culture vultures somewhere during our trek of the Napoleon paintings. I couldn't believe how huge these paintings were, or how perfectly detailed! Where was I when all this talent was handed out? I haven't even graduated from stick figures yet!

This is our second full day in Paris! We decided to visit the Eiffel Tower and climb it the old fashioned style! No elevators for us! We came, we saw, we got slightly dizzy, we conquered! After this, we walked to Notre Dame where we did not see Quasimodo, but did get to see beautiful Gothic architecture and stained glass, and got bugged to death by some woman who wanted us to give her money. The thing was, there were like 10 women working the same street with the same lame story! Really? They should split up or something! Anyway, we were approached probably four times by these people, and then got cursed at for turning them down!

"Oh wait ma'am! Come back! Now that you've cussed me out, I just really want to give you money!"


Anyway, us in front of the Eiffel Tower!

Our third day found us at Versailles, the palace of some very rich, very troubled people. When we got through, all Stuart and I could say was, "No wonder the people revolted!" These rulers lived in such ridiculous opulence. It was really incredible. I can't even describe it! It was beautiful, but wow! Apparently, it really sapped the money out of the country. The king had a series of rooms (about 7) leading up to his throne room, each one growing more and more ornate as we grew closer to the throne room and the king's divine presence. It was kind of his way of saying, "So do you feel inferior yet?" Here's the famous Hall of Mirrors. Very bright and open!

Here is the room several of the queens slept in, including the doomed Marie-Antoinette. It was out of this room she fled from Paris when the peasants began to attack the palace. (Oh! Side note: The picture at the very top of the floral chair is also from Versailles. All of the furniture varied from room to room. Nothing was decorated the same! This chair was in the library of one of the king's daughters.....) Anyway, everything in this room matched! I must admit, being a person who is fascinated with interior design and clothes, I was excited to see Versailles simply because of the array of fabrics I had heard about. Now, I can't decide if it would be a designer's dream or nightmare!

Check out this canopy with the feathers! I don't know....I kinda think it should be a little more ornate, don't you?

Here is me in Marie-Antoinette's room sporting headphones and my awesome audio guide necklace. I'm pretty sure that all of you are jealous of this right now......Visit Versailles and you too can wear one, my friends!

Here is the outside of a section of Versailles. It's only a side of the palace, can you believe it? One story tells of a maid who got lost inside the palace for several days before she found her way again! I believe it! Also, this is only one of the palaces on the extensive grounds. There are two others, a smaller one specifically for Marie-Antoinette to get away from her duties and relax in. She kept animals like sheep and cows, and liked to disguise herself as a dairy maid to get away from her people and all the royal demands. The other is a much bigger one that we didn't tour. I didn't have the courage....

Our last full day in Paris we went to see the Museum D'Orsay. We loved the paintings there, and Stuart was so excited about seeing one of his favorite paintings by Van Gogh up close! Of course, we had to get a picture of him with it! Here it is! I think this is the title!

Vincent's Bedroom in Arles:

And lastly, this is Stuart and me in the Museum D'Orsay browsing random galleries. One of my new favorite artists is definitely Millet, who had several beautiful pastoral paintings, which reminded me of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, one of my favorite books! I fell in love with them, and we even bought a small print for our new house (wherever that may be)!

So! We had a wonderful trip! I will try and fill in some other finer points later, such as food and smaller attractions we enjoyed, but this should give you a rough sketch of our trip! Some of the best times were at night, when we were eating outside under the heaters and talking for hours together! It was so great! The metro was an adventure as well!

Well, off I go now! Tomorrow we are on the road again for another short trip to see Dana, Rob, Hannah, and Rebekah! Yay!

Goodbye for now!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Spy...Spring!

Did you ever play "I Spy" when you were little? How about "Guess What Color Car Is Going To Drive By Next"? Or "What Shape Is That Cloud"?

Okay, so I don't know the real titles of those last games, but I do know that these games always remind me of cool spring days when I was a little girl. I used to sit on the front porch swing with my grandmother (we call her granny), usually with a bowl of peanuts or an apple, hoping the next car that drove by would be blue and that I would win the game.

I also remember wonderful days when my mom would take Harrison and me outside for a cheery picnic in the front yard. We would play "I Spy" for forever. I also remember having to pick really easy colors for Harrison, because he was so little!

So, why the walk down memory lane, you wonder?

Why, finding these first hints of spring sprouting around the house, of course! Seemingly overnight, a beautiful assortment of flowers have woken up from their winter sleep and stretched their stems towards the sun!

When I saw them, I got so excited I got out our camera and snapped pictures of them all! I love spring!

As evidenced by the flowers, we have had some really nice weather lately. Actually, the same evening I was happily photographing flowers, Stuart and I had a wonderful time grilling steaks for a Friday night supper! There is an indoor grill in the sunroom, and we quickly put it to use! We also made french fries and had our weekly Coke.

Sunday, the weather was beautiful again and we had lunch with Jean and his wife. Afterwards, Jean showed us an old cemetery in their town (the town of Mazan), as well as the old city (similar to the walled city of Pernes I blogged earlier about). Back at home, Stuart and I enjoyed a long walk and talk on the country roads. We had a wonderful time! There were many other couples out in the nice weather, and we all exchanged a polite "Bonjour" whenever we met up. Stuart was wearing a t-shirt, and I was picking violets and admiring the horses we always see on our walks.

All in all, a relaxing time filled with great conversation!

We wanted to give everyone a glimpse of our Friday night cookout, so here are some pictures for you to enjoy! Hope your weekend was as great as ours. . .

You can tell we like lots of marinade and seasonings on our steaks! Hooray for flavor! Won't you please have one with us?

The grillmaster himself. Making eating fun... one perfect steak at a time!

Stuart and Haley in front of the sunroom grill, having some Friday night fun! Hello everyone!

On the outside looking in - I started the fries inside while Stuart grilled outside. We always open the window so we can still talk!

Well, that wraps up the recap of this past weekend. This weekend however, we'll be in Paris! Look for pictures and a post next week sometime!

Have a great week, and take time to notice all the signs of spring! It only comes once a year, you know!

Off to pack,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And On A More Personal Note...

Happy March!

Stuart and I have been doing lots of traveling over the weekend, and looking forward to some special trips later on in the month, but our thoughts have also been turning homeward as we prepare to journey back to the good ol' USA.

First, let me say that this trip has been a really good time for Stuart and I to get down to some of the nitty gritty of what we want out of life. We've had talks about our goals as a couple long after we've gone to bed at night, spent many evenings on the computer house hunting, and gone for idea filled walks in the beautiful French countryside. It feels good to sort through the numerous areas of our life and decide together:

"Is this what we want?"

Kind of like spring cleaning, but with lifetime decisions! Thankfully, most of the difficult questions had been ironed out long before we were married, but there are always the ones that come up after you're married too! There have been foggy areas, and as we find ourselves on the downhill slope of our closing journey, we are emerging into a sweet clarity that we know has truly come with God's guidance.

That being said, I'm happy to say that after we return home we will be making our permanent home in (or around, depending on the house) Lynchburg. I know, I know! That's where we lived before we came here! But, Stuart has really felt that the Lord is guiding us back there. It is always amazing to see God work. If you had asked either one of us in January where we didn't want to live, we would have said Lynchburg! We were thinking the Triangle, Charlotte, even D.C., but Lynchburg was just supposed to be temporary until I graduated from LU.

But! When we got to France, we agreed to really pray for God's will in seeking our new home, neighborhood, job opportunities, etc. Imagine my surprise one morning, when Stuart told me that God was putting Lynchburg on his heart, more than that, that he actually wanted to live in Lynchburg and raise a family there! Well, this was a 180 from what I had been hearing! I had to laugh as I thought about all the weeks we had been looking for houses in the Triangle and numerous other locations. Trust me, Lynchburg wasn't even at the bottom of the list!

After we made the decision to pursue Lynchburg, we've both had that amazing peace that comes when you know you're headed in the right direction (a peace we definitely didn't have when we were looking elsewhere). It's funny, but now that the decision is made, I want to look at the whole situation and laugh, "Of course! It was there all along! How embarrassingly obvious!"

O'well! They say hindsight is always 20/20!

We've also made numerous other decisions pertaining to our lives, but if I typed them all out, you all would be here forever!

Suffice it to say, that we are extremely grateful for God's direction and the love of our families.

We covet your prayers as we try to find a house that is the right fit, and as I try to find a job in our present economy!

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon....


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