I've recently heard a little phrase coined to describe the massive problem I'm about to share, which I'm positive will evoke an ounce of pity from absolutely no one. I'm finding it nearly impossible to stay up to date on trip recaps. Now that the girls are fully insane during the day, I get very little blogging time aside from the couple of hours that they nap and the maybe one or two hours that I'm awake before them in the morning. That's also when I have to squeeze in things like exercise, chores, random bits of paperwork, and of course keeping up with my demanding Hulu queue. Unfortunately, this old blog of mine gets the shaft most of the time and in the meanwhile, we just keep on visiting amazing places! I know. Don't you feel sorry for me? Yeah, that's what we like to call #USAFEproblems (that acronym stands for US Air Forces in Europe for the uninitiated.)
Anyway, I still have to wrap up our Croatia getaway with our day trips to Mostar, Bosnia in Herzegovina and Ptuj, Slovenia, our trip to the Loire Valley in France, our weekend in the Netherlands and Aachen, Germany, and most recently, my sister/sister trip to Marrakech, Morocco. That's not even including Copenhagen and our Baltic cruise last summer since I'm still scared to look at the pitiful number of photos that were recovered from a tragic SIM card failure... moment of silence, please...
So, for today, let's hit a quick and easy one and finish up our winter trip to France. I already covered the amazing chateaus we toured, but we also took the time to do a little ancestor hunting and a quick day trip to Paris for a macaron baking class.
My mom has been very interested in our genealogy for as long as I can remember, and has managed to amass quite a bit of information about where we come from, dating back to the 1600s in France. My grandparents moved from Quebec, and settled in New Hampshire amongst many other families who had also moved from Canada. My mom's oldest brother and sister grew up speaking French, but as was the way of most immigrants at that time, by grandparents stopped teaching it to their three younger children as a way to make it easier for them to assimilate (feel free to correct any of the details for me, family!).
However, we knew that though we had been in North America for hundreds of years, our family originally came from a rural region in France called Perche. When my mom was looking into the area that we would be visiting during our trip to the Loire region, she realized that we were just a 1 1/2-2 hour drive away from where the two original brothers that we descend from on my grandmother's side had lived. So, it didn't take much convincing to decide to devote a day to visiting our past.
And it truly did feel like a step back in time. The roads that we drove along were back country roads that few tourists would purposefully travel, and we passed through sleepy ghost towns that seemed to have no residents, thought there were Christmas lights hung and lacy curtains in the windows. After driving up and down the same stretch of road a few times, we finally located the old mill in Guemencais where the brothers had made their living before sailing to the New World in a group known as "La Compagnie des Cent Associes" (The Company of One Hundred Associates), recruited by representatives of the king to settle New France.
This group of men was memorialized in a stained glass window in the town church in Tourouvre, and we also had another lucky find in a different church in Ige when we stumbled upon the priest who invited us into his house to show us his book about the Gagnier (one of MANY spellings) settlers and the scores of people he has met over the years who have traveled to find their ancestors' home. He was such a lovely man and it was a truly special experience to share that moment with someone who has so much passion for their town's history and legacy.
We also managed to find this cottage, La Giguererie, where my grandfather's family line originated from, the house they lived in before they also took part in the emigration to Canada. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to tour my own history in such a personal way, and I'm so glad we took the time to drive out there and see it for ourselves. It made me feel extra Frenchified!
Our last excursion was to Paris where my mom and I took a macaron class with La Cuisine, the same school through which Colby and I did our market and cooking class for our anniversary trip. It was much more intense as macarons are shockingly labor intensive--even splitting the work amongst eight or nine people--but so fun and rewarding. We couldn't believe how gorgeous and delicious our macarons turned out--salted caramel with chocolate ganache and candied chestnuts with cinnamon chocolate ganache, all fillings also made from scratch. I've got an application in at Laduree, but for some reason I haven't heard back from them yet!
We also took a little bit of time to take in the Christmas windows at the Galerie Lafayette where I had a super tasty birthday lunch (oh French cafeterias, you are magnificent) (and yes, that is red wine in a juice glass) as well as the Marche Noel at La Defense. As much as j'adore Paris, I must admit, the Christmas decorations were a bit of a let down. Maybe they think they're just a little too cool to get totally into it? There just weren't nearly as many sparkling lights and trees as I had been dreaming of. So I still maintain that Paris in the fall is absolute perfection!
So, that was it for France. I suspect it's probably the last long trip we do there as we've traveled it so extensively over the past few years. Maybe we'll do one more trip to Paris, or possibly a weekend in Lyon, but we still have so much of the rest of the world left unexplored. Onward to the next big thing!!