Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holidays in California

We went out to  California to spend Christmas and the next few days with our sons. I took so few pictures, and none of us, so I apologize for these few shots.

We played Frisbee golf in Santa Barbara one afternoon, drove up to Big Bear the day after Christmas and spent one day skiing at Snow Summit. The conditions were good, even though the temperature was in the 50's.  I've never skied in such warm weather.  I took off my hat in the first lift line and never put it on again.  I took my mittens off at the bottom of the hill and put them back on at the top, just in case I fell.  The snow was cold on my bare hands.  I stopped one time and took a few shots of Big Bear lake below us.

 

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I was bummed when I realized I had lost my goggles.  Those things are expensive, but make skiing much more enjoyable for me.  I took them off once when I was looking for Jim, because I was sweating, and somehow must have dropped them.  Jim checked the lost and found when we stopped for lunch, but they weren't there. The guy told him to check back later.  So at the end of the day I went back to the lost and found and asked again. This time they had them!  I was so happy to get them back.

The next day we drove back down to Palm Springs, where the guys played golf and I walked along. The temperatures there were in the  low 70's, but the sun was hot.  It was really nice in the shade, though.

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That snow-capped peak in the background is the south face of Big Bear Mountain, where we skied the day before on the north face.

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Here's another shot from the golf course.

The next day we went to Laguna Beach to visit my mother's cousin, Rolf Engen and his wife Carol. I really should have taken pictures there, but didn't.  Carol served us a delicious lunch before we had to leave for the airport and come back to Duluth. 

 

Now we are packing for our trip around the world.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Warm Holiday Wishes to all!

A photo of a park near my house.  We got some snow today for the first time this year.

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We are back home in Duluth, but just for one more day.  We have made a brief stop of 12 days here, will be spending the holidays in California with our sons, then be back here for New Years and then start out on our next big adventure.

 

We are going around the world in 80 days!   I will try to blog from each of the locations we stop at.  We will be in Beijing and Kunming, China; Osaka, Japan; Delhi, India; Istanbul, Turkey; Rio and Recife, Brazil, and Normandy, France.

 

In the mean time,

I'd like to wish you all a very happy holiday season. Keep warm, enjoy your friends and family, eat well and stay healthy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

London

I spent a lovely 6 days in London in mid-November.  Jim was working most of the time, so I walked around by myself, rode the underground and buses, toured a palace and a couple museums, had lunch with a friend and met some knitters.  It was a pretty full week.

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The weather was not bad at all for London in November.  We had some sunny days and some overcast, but very little rain. We always enjoy seeing Big Ben, because the year that we lived in London the tower was covered in scaffolding and we never saw it at all. I walked around the area near the houses of parliament and Westminster one sunny morning.

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Here’s a bit of an old sign on a small street in Westminster.

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I love the white painted houses in some areas of London.

 

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I went out to Fulham to have lunch with a friend. After lunch I walked along the Thames walk to the Bishops palace in Fulham. This is a gate at the back of the palace.

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This sign was on the Thames walk. Anyone want to try to translate?

There are more pictures of Westminster, Fulham and Greenwich on this page.

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Our hotel was near Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens. I walked through the park and took a tour of the palace one morning.  This is part of the private gardens belonging to Kensington Palace. A wing of the palace is open to the public.  The palace had fallen into disrepair during the reign of Queen Victoria, but she had it repaired and turned into an art museum. Other royals have lived in it since then and it has been renovated several times. Here is more about Kensington palace. Apparently they are working on new gardens and a tea house that will be open to the public.

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They didn’t allow pictures inside, but I took this one looking out one of the windows of the palace. The tour was interesting.  I commented on it on this web page.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A couple Châteaux

I have a wonderful detailed map of the area we are living. It shows almost every building, the names of the individual farms, etc.  I have discovered a few inaccuracies, but mostly the map is spot on.

I noticed it indicated a château not far out of town. During the middle ages, this part of France, and most of Europe was agricultural land owned by the king and managed by barons, counts, knights, etc who provided goods and services to the nobility.  The kings had very large châteaux, the other nobles, smaller ones. Normandy is dotted with large and smaller estates, country houses, villas, châteaux, whatever they should be called. Though I've done some research I haven't found much information about these places. I don't know how old they are.  I will continue to try to find out what I can.

I noticed a château indicated on my map just at the edge of town, so headed out one day to see if I could find it. It is in the middle of an apple orchard, where they were harvesting apples that day.

 

A couple weeks later, I was looking for someplace to walk again and discovered another château on the map, so I went in that direction and found a second one. Both of these had gates that were open, but were not sign-posted.  Anyway I took the open gate as an invitation and walked in.

 

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The gate at this place was a beautiful wooden one.

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And here's a view of the garden inside the gate.  For more pictures of both these châteaux, you need to go to my web page here.

 

I think these are some of the prettiest pictures I've posted of Normandy, so do check them out, then come back and let me know what you thought.  :-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Couple Bike Rides in Normandy

As promised last time I have now uploaded photos of the two bike rides we took when Ken and Marta were visiting.

It's all explained on this page on my website.  I like to use this site, because I can control the size of the photos and you can see them all by scrolling up and down.  Here's a teaser photo.

 

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We are back in Duluth for a few weeks, but will return to London and Normandy in November.

As always, I love hearing from you, so do leave a comment if you enjoy this site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Making a house a home

We have been turning this new place into our own.  It’s been a lot of fun.  The house was furnished with the bare necessities when we took ownership, so fortunately we could move right in.  But we have been adding lots of comforts, conveniences, doing some repairs, etc. and adding a few decorative touches.

Dutch-painting2Here is the living room today.  I should do some kind of “hover over the objects to learn more about them,” but I’m not going to.  The print over the mantel is one Jim and Marta, our sister-in-law bought in July in Utrecht. Marta managed to stash it there until last weekend, when we stopped to visit her and picked it up to bring it back here. We bought the Delft vase in an antique shop in Utrecht, possibly the same one where they bought the print in July. The Danish Christmas plate is one Marta brought when she came to visit in October. The lithograph on the left is one given us in Wrocław in September. It is of the old university building, one we’ve been in several times. The 3 watercolors on the right were in the house when we got here. The coffee table books are Asterix and TinTin that Ken and Marta brought over with them, a book about the University of Wrocław, another gift, and a book about beautiful villages in Normandy, a gift from some of Patrick’s friends who stayed with us in Duluth in August.  So you see we are filling the house already with things that have meaning to us.

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Here’s where we ate many lunches and several dinners when the weather was warmer.  The table and chairs came with the house, but I bought the tablecloth in Wrocław. This is a typical lunch here.

Marta and I have worked on the garden.  I think it deserves before and after pictures, because though the after is a huge improvement, it might not look that impressive if you don’t see the before.

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I pulled all the weeds out of the gravel pathway. Marta and I removed the black plastic and stones, a number of weeds and pruned the shrubs. The plants that are left are forget-me-nots, daisies, strawberries and some miscellaneous weeds that we don’t recognize. There is room for more improvement next spring.  We also planted two hydrangeas. The hydrangeas around this area are spectacular, so I wanted one or two of my own.  I think they will do well without attention.

I also put some bulbs in the front corner, but you can’t see those yet.

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When Ken and Marta were here we also bought 3 bicycles and went on two medium-long bike rides around here.  That was fun.

We just have a few more days here—well two more.  Then we head back to Duluth for 3 weeks, but will be back here for Thanksgiving.  Our boys will be here then too. Ken and Marta, the boys and Jim’s sister, Alice are all partners in this venture with us. Alice is planning to be here in April. We hope the boys and Alice like the house.  Ken and Marta gave it their two thumbs up when they were here.

I’ll try to post some photos of our bike rides if I get a little encouragement.  It’s hard dong this when I don’t know if anyone is reading it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wrocław–a modern medieval city

We are now in Wrocław, Poland.  We’ve been coming here since 1991, so 20 years.  I mentioned that to the fellow in the tourist office and he said he doesn’t hear that much from tourists.  This city has changed so much since we first came here.  It was heavily bombed at the very end of WWII and since then they have been working on rebuilding, modernizing and sprucing up the city, till now it is one of the loveliest cities in Europe, in my opinion.  If you’ve never been here, try to fit it into your travel plans. Below is a photo of the eastern façade of the medieval town hall.

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We’ve been here for 5 days and will be staying 4 more.  We have an apartment, just a block off the main square, which is so convenient to almost everything.  Last week I visited the botanical garden, which I just love.  I think it is the best in the world,  well at least the nicest one I’ve been in. The labeling of the plants is excellent, with labels in Latin and Polish on almost every plant. It is very nicely laid out, with walking paths in the woods and around the ponds. I think they much have every kind of plant that will grow in this climate. But I think I’ll do a blog post just about the garden, so won’t say more here. 

This weekend we mostly walked around the city.  The large town square is wonderful, so we spent much time there.  We also climbed 307 steps to the top of a church tower that we hadn’t climbed before.  Here is a picture I took from the top of the St. Elizabeth church tower. It shows the market square, which is the center of town.  It is actually a very large area around a central group of buildings, that contains the medieval town hall and other buildings and is cut through by 2 small streets. There are many, many restaurants, cafes and shops here.

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In the photo above the clock tower on the right is the town hall; the two towers near the top left corner are the Mary Magdalene church, which is the Polish National church, which started in Chicago, by Polish-American immigrants. The two streets I mentioned cut through the central square of buildings come out through those two archways you see on the façade facing us.

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Here’s a modern fountain in the square. Straight ahead is the tourist office and to the right in the background is the smaller square called the salt square, because there was once a salt market here. I hope you can blow these pictures up, by clicking on them, if you want.

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This photo (above) is taken from my seat in a café, where we had breakfast yesterday.  It looks towards the St. Elizabeth church and the tower, from which the first picture was taken. There were not only no cafés on the square there were only 2 restaurants and one disco here the first time we came.  Now there are more than I could count, on all sides of the square. This one is a Café de France and had a wonderful breakfast, so we had brunch here yesterday, skipped lunch and had a light supper back in our apartment.

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Just a couple blocks away is this little alley of artists shops. The alley used to contain the butchers’ shops and is still called Butchers’ Alley.  You can buy all kinds of art here and some shops also sell art supplies.

Our first 3 nights here we had dinner with 3 different groups of people. Since we have been coming here for 20 years, we do know quite a few people here.  Our third dinner with good friends was in a newer restaurant that we had never been in before.  It was decorated with cutwork and lace, with some faux lace painted on walls and ceilings.  Each table had a khaki colored linen tablecloth topped with a cutwork tablecloth.  And there were little pillows with cutwork covers all around the room. The traditional Polish food was delicious.

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I have so many more pictures, but perhaps that’s enough for today.  It is raining a bit outside today. I went out twice this morning, once to get laundry detergent and a second time to get groceries. I had to go to the Super Pharm(acy) to get the laundry detergent, but both that and the grocery store are only about 3 blocks from here.The weather has been wonderful since we’ve been here and is supposed to be nice again after tomorrow, so this afternoon seemed like a good day to stay in and work on the computer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Settling in

We are settling in. We’ve been shopping almost every day since we got here last Tuesday. There were no problems with the closing. Then we set up a bank account. Then we came straight to the house.
We love it here, but have been working on making it more convenient and comfortable day by day. The weather has been lovely. We’ve been going for short walks around the town and the lake.
There are no screens here. The French don’t use window screens. It’s not much of a problem, but there are a few flies. We have been needing a fly-swatter. We forgot to put it on our list, so didn’t get one on our first trip to the store. Then we did get it on the list, but forgot it the next time. On our next trip we looked but didn’t find one. Finally today Jim saw them and put one in our cart. We bought a number of small non-food items like paper, which we forgot to buy when we bought the printer, but mostly we bought groceries. We checked out and brought the groceries home, had lunch and worked on other things.  Later we realized we never got the fly-swatter home. It must have fallen out of the cart. I think we’re just going to make friends with the flies.
We have internet, but no TV or telephone yet. That’s fine.  All we really need is the internet. I managed to get a load of clothes washed today. We had bought a collapsible drying rack a few days ago. I set it up out in our little courtyard. We bought more groceries today and I made beef stew tonight in a baking dish in the oven. It turned out just right.  We had green beans and a salad with it, and crème caramel for dessert. The ready-to-eat desserts available here are wonderful. Last week we had some delicious chocolate pudding. This time we decided to try the crème caramel. It was good.
Jim got the internet set up yesterday when the guy from Orange who was supposed to set it up for us, didn’t show up. We bought a wireless printer/scanner and Jim set that up today.
I have also been weeding the courtyard in back. It is partly concrete and partly gravel. The gravel has plastic under it, but some weeds had started growing up through the cracks in the plastic, so I pulled those up and it looks better now. We also put our name on the mailbox. It was hard getting the little plastic name plate out of the box and then getting it open and cleaned up, but we got it done. We’ve lost the key to the back gate.  Just can’t figure out what happened to it.
My car is in Le Havre. We will drive up Tuesday to pick it up. That’s the earliest we can get it. There was a problem we thought might cause some delay, but it has been resolved. When Jim dropped the car off in Baltimore they didn’t give him back the original title. Later when he called about something else, he was asked if he had the title. They said he should have it.  He said he didn’t have it. They looked apparently everywhere there, but couldn’t find it. The woman Jim was communicating with suggested it might be in the car--that Jim might have left it in the car. Since Jim knew he didn’t leave it in the car, he didn’t have much hope, but I thought maybe someone there had realized the title hadn’t gone with Jim and just put it in the car. Anyway we got a phone call yesterday morning saying they had found the title in the car.  So yay, now we can pick up the car.
Here are some pictures of our little back garden. 
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Above is the gravel part between the garage and house.  I’ve removed some of the weeds that show in this photo.
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We’re not sure how long the garden has been untended.  It looked pretty much like this when we saw it in May. Except then there was a rose bush in bloom. On the right wall are two pear trees. One seems to have dropped all its pears. The pears on the other don’t seem to be ripe. I am waiting to see if they will be any good.
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I think I see strawberries here, among other things I don’t recognize.
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That little shrub by the garage is a grape vine!
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Which has grapes on it!  I tasted a couple of these and they are delicious. There a 3 other smaller bunches. How do I know when to pick grapes?
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And finally here is the outhouse.  It has some old junk in it. The key in the lock still works, but I can’t get it out of the lock. It is on the outside.  I guess I could lock stuff up in there.
Okay, that’s it for today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Watching the Tropicana

As I mentioned last time, we are shipping my car (a 2000 VW Jetta w/ 37,000 miles on it) to France, specifically Le Havre.  We plan to pick it up there in September. It is supposed to be shipped on the Hoegh Tropicana, a Norwegian ship that transports automobiles.

We left the car in Baltimore a few weeks ago, because we were expecting company here and couldn't do it later. We have been watching the progress of the Tropicana through the ship tracking site  http://www.marinetraffic.com.

We watched it go into and out of Jacksonville, Fl. Then it went out of range for a day on its way up to Baltimore. Wednesday morning as we were having our breakfast it reappeared on the tracking site. It was just outside the Chesapeake Bay headed in to Baltimore.  We tracked it off and on all day. By supper time it was getting close.  Then Jim discovered a traffic web cam on the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore. In the background we could see the bridge and make out ships going under it.  By the ship tracking site we could tell that the Tropicana was close to the bridge. We watched both sites and sure enough there was our ship!  We actually saw it in real time go under that bridge! Soon after that it was joined by the tug Donal G McAllister and docked very close to where Jim left my car.

Now we are frustrated that we can't track or watch it load my car, but we haven't found any port web cams.

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Here's another picture of "our" ship. We will be able to track it leaving Baltimore, but then it will be out of range until it arrives in Bremerhaven, Germany, which is its first destination in Europe. We think it will be away from the east coast before the hurricane gets there.

Jim got e-mail at 2:00 am this morning from the "Notaire" asking for James' new passport information, because the one he sent before expired at the end of July.  James had just received his new passport yesterday, so will scan and send the info to Jim today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Preparation continues

We have been busy providing all the documents required for the formation of a company and purchasing this house. We hope to close on the house on September 6th.  We leave here on Saturday, arrive in Paris (Charles de Gaulle airport) on Sunday September 4th.  We spend one night near Paris and a second in Domfront. Then we hope to be in the house on Tuesday.

We drove my car to Baltimore earlier this month. We left here August 5th, spent one night in Tomah, Wisconsin, the next night at my brother's in Oberlin, OH.  He was the only one home. His wife and daughter were coincidently both in Minnesota.  He and his wife are two of our partners in this adventure. We showed him more pictures of the house and left some Asterix books with him, that he is going to bring over to the house.

So here is the location we drove to in Baltimore.

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That's it. Just a chain-link fence.  They wouldn't let two of us go in, so Jim drove the car following a TWIC escort, who took him to all the offices he needed to go to to set the car up for it's overseas voyage. Then she dropped him back at our hotel, which was only a few blocks from here.  We took our suitcase - we just had one- on the free shuttle into the inner harbor in Baltimore, had some lunch there at one of the food courts of the shopping area. Then took a train out to the airport, which cost us $1.65 each. From there we flew to Duluth and took a taxi home. We are sharing a car this month, which has been working out fine. If I need the car I drive Jim into work, but I can get along fine without a car most days.

 

We are now tracking the vessel that will be carrying the car to Le Havre, France.  It is the Tropicana, owned by Norwegian company Hoegh.  We have been able to track it's progress on this site. Today it is in Jacksonville, Florida. It is supposed to be in Baltimore tomorrow. We are hoping Irene (Hurricane) doesn't interfere with these plans.  We want it to arrive in Le Havre as scheduled, so we can pick it up there on September 9th or 10th. We are scheduled to leave for Poland on the 13th, so we don't have too many extra days in our schedule.

Here is a photo of the ship.

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So keep your fingers crossed for us that all goes as planned. :-)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gardens

In the U.S. we call it a yard, front yard or back yard, but in England they call it a garden.  We wanted a little outdoor space of our own, so all the properties we looked at had some form of garden.  Here are some photos of those outdoor spaces.

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This was a lovely garden, which was slightly separated from the house. 

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Another part of the same garden.

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And this is the pathway down to the front door of the house. The barn or storage space in the foreground was not part of the property.

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This one had a similar situation. A lovely garden space surrounded by trees and a hedge,
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And this is the pathway down to the house.
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This empty field also went with the house.  I believe it is the part on the right that has been mowed less often that went with the house we looked at. The other part went with the house next door.
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This was a nice garden accessed from the house either by going through the garage or around the house next door and down the alley. the realtors suggested we might do some remodeling and add a deck and a door off the back of the house, which would have been very nice.
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Another view of that garden.  It had a lovely view out towards Mt-St-Michel in the far distance.
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This one was a blank slate, again across the lane from the house.
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We liked this one.  No lawn to mow and close to the back door of the house.
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The access from the street is either through the house (right) or through the neighbor's property straight ahead.
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We liked this private space just outside the kitchen.
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A private patio and a garden beyond.
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But this one won us over.  A private gravel patio outside the back door with space for planting and a garage accessed from the street behind the house.  We think we'll enjoy this space very much.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hallways and attic rooms

(If you haven't read the previous post, you need to start there.)

These are some of the hallways that we saw in the 8 houses we visited. We just don't see things like this in the U.S.

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We were told this house was remodeled in the 1930's and that these tiles date to that period.

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And in the same house the 3-story glass block window apparently also dates from the '30's.

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A more modern renovated hallway.

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The owner of this cute little house was an artist and his studio was in the upstairs hallway.

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Yes, that is a toilet in the hallway. There is no door. It obviously is never used and once the renovation is finished on the floor above would be removed.

Normandy 1 186_9_1 My favorite hallway again. It has the old French foyer feel. This looks older to me, but we were told the house is post-war. (WWII, that is.)

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This is the living room of the "gite" where we stayed.

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This house had a huge attic room. The bathroom is behind the short wall.

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This attic room had been painted red.

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Another view of the red attic bedroom, showing a skylight.

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And "our" unfinished attic bedroom.

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The ceiling and top of the wall of the bathroom. We plan to have this room finished as a third bedroom.

Why Normandy? We've been asked that so I addressed that topic on this web page. Why Normandy? I did it on my web-site, because I wanted to include larger pictures without you having to click on the pictures to see the larger versions.

Why Normandy? (my web page)

Do leave a comment. Comments are the incentive to keep this up. Or email me. I'd love to hear from you.