As you can see, it is not so much a cave as an overhang, which provided shelter from the elements, a nice flat surface for homes and commercial areas, a good view of the valley below for protection, access to plentiful water and game, and a flat valley for crops. This was as ideal as living conditions could get, and this outcropping was inhabited continuously from Neanderthal times through the Middle Ages.
Of course, the earliest inhabitants did have to contend with cave bears and cave lions!
During the Middle Ages, a whole city was constructed here.
You can see the imprints of thousands of footsteps worn in the stone.
I think the Dordogne is the prettiest region of France. Perhaps it speaks to something primitive in me. Note that there is a Roman aqueduct and a modern road in this picture. The region has obviously pleased a lot of people over a very long span of time.
In this silver-colored frame are the pictures of my great-grandparents, when they were much, much younger than I am now -- younger, in fact, than my children are now. These were taken sometime in the 1890's. The baby on the left is my grandmother. I looked so much like her mother when I was younger that it was like looking in a mirror the first time I saw the picture. The woman on the right was my grandfather's mother. She painted beautiful pictures, and had such a profound influence on me that I named Dolphin for her. I have authentic, shiny (okay, not so shiny, needing polish) silver, but this one is dear to my heart.
Kross-Eyed Kitty has instituted Travel Tuesdays. I finally remembered to do it on the right day!
These pictures are from Mont St. Michel, off the Normandy coast.
Mont St. Michel is built on an island, and for hundreds of years was only accessible at low tide. Many a monk was swept away by a rogue wave. The causeway in the top right picture was built to bring the tourists, but I recently read that it will be replaced by a bridge, due to silting issues.
The island is shaped like a small volcano, with the church at the very top. Below is an old medieval city, with twisting streets, charming buildings and narrow stairways. Lots of narrow stairways. More stairways than you can count. As one of the most famous places in the world, Mont St. Michel is also a Tourist Trap. However, the little-known secret is that there are a few hotels on the island. and if you spend the night, you share Mont St Michel with a handful of year-round residents and a few cats. This is when you really get the flavor of it. You hear the wind howl and the waves pound, and you realize how incredibly isolated and lonely and cold and miserable the monks must have been. The red sign at the bottom of the stairs in the bottom right picture marks the lobby of our hotel. Then we had to climb several flights of stairs to get to our room, but the incredible view and the whole experience was worth every step.
Actually, I was, too. I didn't do much of anything except work on my Secret Project and take in a movie (Stomp the Yard, not bad at all, and ohhh! that stepping is SO cool). The Professor and I spent a lot of time discussing vacation plans, which are now decided.
I hoard my vacation days as though they were gold. I have 12 left, that must be used by May 1st. I had planned to use 5 of them in March to take D-Man and Skater Dude to Costa Rica. But when I found out that the airlines had doubled the fares for that week, I re-scheduled that trip to early June. (Hey, Congress, how about an anti-gouging law for the airlines?)
I'm going to use a couple of those days for skiing, and the rest for a trip to Croatia. I've wanted to go to Dubrovnik for a long time now, but as I got on the internet, and then bought some guide books, I realize that the whole country has beautiful scenery and fascinating architecture. Who knew that there are huge waterfalls in Croatia? And apparently there are rooms for rent in old lighthouses. My children are of Croatian descent on their father's side; I'm pretty sure at least one great-grandfather was born there. If I can find out which town he (they?) came from, I can send my kids a card postmarked from that town. Wouldn't that be a great keepsake.
Well, it's time to go to work. Hope everyone has a great Monday -- at least, as great as a Monday can be.
It was four years ago that I got word that my immediate boss, who had also become a close friend, had a re-occurence of melanoma. He went through surgery, chemo and radiation, and seemed to be getting better. I lit candles and said prayers for him in majestic cathedrals and small country churches as the Professor and I traveled to various parts of the world.
But new tumors appeared, and his valiant fight was not enough. I wanted so badly to do something for him, so I made him an afghan of the softest yarn I could find. I knew he was in pain, and I hoped that the warmth and comfort of the afghan might allow him a restful nap.
He died a little more than a year ago. Here is the note his daughter sent:
I hope you are enjoying a peacful and happy beginning of 2007. My mom is attempting to begin to get the house in order and sort through some of my father's things.
This blanket brought him much comfort and warmth. The gift being from you, and made by you, was an incredible comfort to my father. He felt the warmth of your friendship and humbled that you took the time to create such a beautiful blanket for him. He was cold so often. Many times, I would pull this blanket up around him, and he was good.
Thank you for sharing your talent and your love. Your blanket provided so much more than physical warmth for my father. He led a life extending such love and warmth to so many, and in the final months of his life you were able to reciprocate that love and warmth to him.
I am humbled by her words, and very grateful for them. What a loving thing it was for her to write that. There is a Bible verse that keeps going through my head now:
Cast your bread upon the waters, and it shall be returned unto you a hundredfold.
It has been returned to me so many times more than that.
This is a picture taken by satellite on December 25, 2004 of the "South Texas Miracle". It was the same sort of lake effect snow that Buffalo N.Y. gets. A cold front blew clear out into the Gulf of Mexico, and when the wind shifted back, it brought tons of moisture with it. Amazingly, incredibly, and for the first time in at least 100 years, it came in the form of snow on Christmas Eve. I know I have cheated a bit, since I obviously did not take this picture, but I am so glad we had the technology to record our miracle. Those of us who experienced it will never forget it.
2. Yes, I know I stole that concept from Guppyman.
3. I have been struggling with airline schedules for a couple of days. I have to go to Reno and Tulsa for business, and am trying to work out Disneyworld and Costa Rica for pleasure.
4. I have never before tried to do two grandchildren trips in one year. It will take a lot of money.
5. I hate to spend money.
6. I am so cheap ... er, frugal ... that I found myself arguing with a sales clerk over a 30 CENT overcharge. On top of that, I was getting reimbursed for the purchase. It didn't matter a bit, except for the principle.
7. I decided that if you're the kind of person who watches pennies, you will watch them no matter what the situation.
8. Besides, although I will give anyone the shirt off my back, it makes my blood boil when someone tries to take it.
9. My theory is that the single most important factor in a relationship is the attitude toward money. Not just spenders vs. savers, but the priorities.
10. My ex-husband was a spender. Of all the problems, and there were many, that was the worst one for me.
11. He blew his money on eating out at fast food places, on cokes and snacks and I-don't-know-what but he never had a thing to show for it. It drove me nuts. I brown-bagged it every day. Eventually I realized that he was blowing all the money I was saving.
12. After our divorce, I had much less actual money, and yet I felt like I had more money than I had ever had in my whole life. It was because I had control. The bills got paid, the groceries were bought, and then I considered things like clothing and movies. Like I said, priorities.
13. The Professor and I have the same attitude about money. We once -- I am not making this up -- spent 30 minutes repairing a clothespin! He is of Scotch descent and I am half Swiss, and we both figure that if something still works, no matter how out of date it is, or how many features it lacks, it would be wasteful to replace it. It's not the way most people think, but we get along very well because of it.
2. Somehow, though, I managed to do my 200th post a couple of days ago.
3. I have my days and nights mixed up, just like a newborn baby. I am still waking up in the middle of the night, so I get up and accomplish things. But then I'm so tired by 7:30 or 8:00 PM that I fall asleep, which makes me wake up early, which makes me fall asleep early...
4. I have almost all the Christmas decorations put away. Guppy and Stormii "organized" me a few years ago with big totes. I am not a tote person: they are heavy, hard to move, impossible to open without breaking fingernails, and you can't see what's in them. I thought I could eliminate one tote altogether, but I keep finding more things that need storage.
5. Some of the remodeling will involve lots of shelves and storage areas. I love shelves: you can see exactly what you have, you don't have to move anything to get to something else, and your fingernails stay intact.
6. On the 22nd of December, I had to pick up a hot order at the airport and drive it to my customer, about 100 miles away. I had been hounding the factory about it for quite a while, and I turned out to be the only way to get it there, or maybe just the least expensive way to get it there. Anyway, not being a dummy, I made sure my boss knew that I didn't get home until 9:30 at night, and that I had plenty of other things I needed to be doing instead.
7. A couple of days after Christmas, I received a $100 gift card from him, with a little note saying he appreciated the "special things" I do, and specifically mentioning my foray into hot-shot service.
8. Now I've mentioned many times that I'm boring (like you can't tell by reading.) Here is how wild and crazy I got with my gift card: a big magnifying glass that attaches to a table or embroidery frame so I can see the stitches, and a new pair of Reeboks. I think I have about $25 left, and I am really trying to think of something to buy that doesn't scream Little Old Lady. Any suggestions?
9. I did, however, score a $360 Anne Klein pantsuit for $70. When I got it home, I noticed the tag said it was a 3-piece outfit, but I only have the pants and jacket. Guess that's why it was such a good price. It looks fine to me. I'm happy.
10. Yesterday the Little Angel stayed with me. She brought her new book which had all kinds of gross projects. We settled on making edible eyeballs, and, in fact, improved on the recipe by adding bloodshot stripes to the whites of the eyes.
11. She really wanted to make Poop Soap, but it required soap-making supplies and I didn't want to drive to the craft store in the rain.
12. I told you the book was full of gross projects!
13. Do yourself a favor and go see "Pursuit of Happyness". Will Smith is a great actor, I think, and his kid is astonishing. Is acting talent hereditary?
I'm speaking, of course, of re-gifting. But you knew that, didn't you? After all these years, I realized that every year some gifts are like the leftovers in the refrigerator -- you know, the ones you don't use but you can't throw away with a clear conscience until they are evolving into an intelligent life form. I would hang on to them, tell myself I'd use them someday, and eventually donate them to charity. (The gifts, not the leftovers.)
I started innocently enough. I bought myself a DVD player and case, thinking I would leave it in my trunk, and play exercise tapes on it when I was on trips. Then Guppy pointed out that my laptop plays DVDs. Now if there's one thing I don't need, it's more stuff to haul into the hotel room. I was ready to return it when I noticed that the case unzipped into a little shelf, and by attaching it to the back of the front car seat, you could entertain whiny children in the back seat. Light bulbs over the head! The Professor's son does not have a DVD player in his car! The perfect gift! So I wrapped it up for them. See, it wasn't totally re-gifting. Just because I didn't originally buy it with them in mind didn't make it leftovers.
Ah, what a slippery slope rationalization is. The next thing I knew, I received a mobile work station, which is actually storage on wheels, that I apparently won at Employee Appreciation Day. Without a moment's hesitation, I slipped a large gift bag over it and put Guppy's name on it.
I also won a clock that makes bird sounds every hour when I was at the factory in December. I left it behind, but they shipped it to me. I debated that one for a while, but decided the Prof's DIL would like it. I think she did. She grinned from ear to ear.
Then I did the unthinkable. Someone brought me a lovely Christmas soap dispenser and hand towel. It was really nice, but I already have two Christmas soap dispensers that I usually forget to put out, and it was a totally different theme than the one(s) I already have going. So when I realized that the Prof's daughter's present is a day at a spa, leaving her nothing to open, I whisked out the bag, wrote her name on the fortunately blank tag, and gave it to her, towel, soap dispenser, bag, confetti and all. I suspect I may burn in hell for that one, or at least have a lot of explaining to do to St. Peter. But she seemed very pleased with it, and, I think, quite surprised at how much my taste had improved.
So there you have the story of my descent into re-gifting. So come on, tell me, have you done it, too?
The holidays were lovely. We had the Professor's daughter and her family here on the 23rd. His grandsons, A and B, don't like family gatherings on Christmas, so we did it ahead of time. Now everyone in my family is full of energy and enthusiastic about things, while A and B are much more reserved. I frequently think that I just haven't pleased them at all with the gifts because I only get a polite Thank You. But this year they got their own light sabers, and they actually grinned from ear to ear and immediately started playing with them. A is 16 and B is 10, and that is the Very First Time I have ever seen them actually play with a present.
There were 19 here for Christmas, and lots of playing going on. (See Nerf Darts on Ceiling Fan post, below.) I had a MyTwinn doll made for the Professor's granddaughter.
These dolls are like Barbies : $5 for the doll and $50,000 for the wardrobe. But they are so much fun! The Little Angel has certainly enjoyed hers. I especially wanted Little Girl to have one of these, because dolls seem to be either blue-eyed blondes, or black. I have yet to see an Asian doll, and while I don't think this one quite looks Asian, she is certainly closer in looks to Little Girl than any doll I could buy. Little Girl seemed very happy with her (though, to tell you the truth, she seemed even happier with her own copy of Bambi, which she watches every time she comes here.)
Now I am trying to un-decorate, start my ham and black-eyed peas, and make plane reservations to Costa Rica for spring break. I promised Skater Dude and D-Man that I would take them there. Just one little problem -- the tickets that cost $400 last March cost over $1000 this year, but just for that one week of spring break. That difference is pretty much the money I budgeted for hotels, meals and activities. So if I can't use my miles, and I'll bet I can't, we will either have to go to Mexico, which D-Man has already nixed, or wait until school lets out, which sounds like it may be a problem for Skater Dude. Nothing is ever simple!