An note on inspurration…

Happy Friday!  I wanted to take a moment to mention a blog that has been truly inspiring to me- baileyboatcat.com.  I stumbled across it a few years ago when I was doing a Google image search of cats wearing life jackets.  The reason behind this has to do with my Dad, a sailor who loves to take his poor cats out with him…we were debating the likelihood of a cat wearing a life jacket happily.  His cat, unlike Bailey, is not a born sailor as maybe you can guess from this picture:

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Bailey, who is a Siamese cat, and happily wears a life jacket,  looks quite similar to my own Tonkinese cat, Maya, (seen below) which further interested me.   The writing and pictures were so engaging and funny that I was soon totally hooked.  “Bailey” would post almost every day, giving updates on his sailing adventures and his life in general.  When thinking about beginning my own blog, I drew a lot of inspiration from Bailey (and his “Mom”).  The writing is so fresh and fun that I always felt happier after reading his blog posts.  While my cat will NEVER be a floating feline, we love hearing all about your adventures.  Thank you Bailey for sharing your experiences with me and all your other furry furriends!

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Chartres Cathedral, France May 2018

During our recent visit to France, we spent an afternoon at Chartres Cathedral.  This sleepy little village was our first taste of the French countryside and it did not disappoint!

The village surrounds the cathedral and is very quaint and has a medieval feel to it.  The streets are narrow and crooked and are built onto the steep hillside, at the top of which is the cathedral.  It felt very quiet as we walked to the top of the hill. Once there, we had, in my mind, one of the best lunches of the entire trip.  I had a sandwich made entirely of Camembert and French bread.  I will remember it for the rest of my life.  It was surreal.  (Sadly, I did not take a picture of the sandwich or the restaurant.  Worth noting, is that the restaurant featured an interesting collection of teapots. It was full of them.)

The interior of the Cathedral was breathtaking. The soaring ceilings and stained glass windows were spectacular.  The exterior of the cathedral looked like it was due for a cleaning, as some of the more elaborate details were masked by a layer of black…IMG_8967

(Please excuse the dorky picture, it was the only one I had close enough to see the covered in black soot.)

The front of the cathedral was also surrounded by beautiful flowers and gardens…

Finally, the highlight (apart from the excellent sandwich) was the French cat we discovered enjoying the flower garden behind the cathedral.

IMG_8418 On a rainy weekday, remembering this visit has been fantastic.  I wish you all a happy day and safe travels (hopefully with frequent cat sightings!)

Meet Annapurna…

This post is not about travel, but I thought this would be a good time to introduce you to a wonderful cat in my life….Annapurna!

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She is an 18 month old Tonkinese cat, who lives with my family and her two older brothers, whom she delights in chasing and pestering.

These guys, Smuttynose and Zeus, are brothers, from the same litter (my cat Maya is their mom).  Sadly, there is quite a bit of tension between them.  Zeus came back to us after 4 years of living with another family, and Smutty has done his best to make him feel unwelcome at every turn.

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This situation is slightly humorous, as they are practically identical in appearance. (Zeus, however, struggles a bit with his weight, and Smuttynose is notoriously cross-eyed.)

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Annapurna, meanwhile, rules them both!

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A bit about Maya…

While this is a blog about my travel experiences and love of history, I think it is worth mentioning who I leave behind when I am away.  I have a lovely little Tonkinese cat named Maya.  She is 11 years old and is, in my opinion, the most spectacular cat on earth.  Her traits are far more canine than feline.  She greets me at the door when I come home and always wants to be close to me.  She is the ultimate lap cat and likes to snuggle under the covers.  Sometimes she gets up to mischief: one of her favorite past times is pulling pushpins out of the wall and batting them around.  This activity, while sort of cute, sets me on edge as I fear she might eat a pushpin one day!

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Chenonceau, France May 2018

Beautiful Chateau, shaped by powerful women

During my trip to the Loire Valley a few weeks ago, we had the great fortune to spend a day visiting Chenonceau, one of the loveliest architectural masterpieces I have ever seen.  The Chateau was home to some powerful women- Diane de Poitiers, and Catherine De Medici. While the chateau itself is stunning, and the situation is majestic (it spans the river Cher) what made this Chateau so special to me was the relationship between Diane and Catherine.  I had read a book by Leonie Frieda about Catherine DeMedici which gave me some insight into her life and what her marriage with Henri the Second was like.  Fundamental to this relationship was Diane de Poitiers relationship with the king.  Diane was his mistress.  I found it fascinating that this woman, 20 years his senior, could maintain such control over him and command such fascination and amorous desire.  Thinking that she must have been truly beautiful or full of charm, it was eye opening to discover that in reality, she was a cold fish who was generally disliked by everyone.  (The only nice thing that was said about her was that she was a thrifty house keeper.)

At Chenonceau there are two gardens, symbolizing the two women: The Catherine garden, and the Diane garden. They are on opposing sides of the chateau and create totally opposite feelings in the visitor.  the Diane garden, which is much larger, was  stark and austere.  The sun beat down and  there were no trees only copious gravel pathways.  All the plants and flowers were so constrained; it was difficult to get a sense of beauty when walking in it.  Only when seen from above, inside the chateau, does the visitor get a sense of what it actually looks like.  From the ground it felt large, flat and hot. (Below) Perhaps similar to the character of Diane, beautiful, remote, distant and austere.  Like I think Diane would have, this garden left me feeling cold and unwelcome.

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The Catherine garden, by contrast, had an entirely different effect.  It was surrounded by tall trees and woodlands.  the river felt closer, even though both gardens adjacent to it. I was full of wide expanses of grass and lovely little trees and plants.  The lawns were inviting, there were benches in the shade, encouraging people to sit and relax.  While smaller is scale and size, this garden felt like it was naturally part of the landscape.  The feeling is almost maternal, as if you are being taken care of and accepted.  Which, given that Catherine had 10 children, makes sense. IMG_8468

These two very different experiences in the gardens made me wonder if they were a reflection on the  characters of the two women? It seems like it might be so.

The crowning glory of Chenonceau was the grand hall.  This ground floor hall runs the expanse of the river.  It began as a bridge during Diane’s time, but Catherine when she took ownership of the chateau, had it enclosed and turned into this majestic space.  Catherine used this hall to hold a grand party for her son upon his succession to power.  Being there, you can picture the dancing revelry which took place.  (Also of note, the black ans white floors- Diane famously only ever wore black and white clothing for the majority of her life. Could this floor be an homage to her time at Chenonceau?)

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One of the unexpected joys we discovered was the village area next to the chateau which housed, presumably, the workers of the estate. This is a lovely enclosed little community, full of beautiful houses, a duck pond and carriage house.  The houses are surround lovely grassy common area.  It felt cosy and comfortable, as opposed to the grandeur of the chateau itself.  Being there, it was easy to picture what it might have been like when the estate was working- full of chickens, children and people bustling around.  Today the area is immaculately kept with matching buildings crawling with Wisteria bushes.

Finally, the drive up to and away from the Chateau is worth showing.  the elegant tree lined road really illustrates that this is a royal residence. There is no ambiguity of the power of the resident one is visiting. (There is even a guard cat today in residence!)

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“Un Chat de garde!” I believe his/ her name is Noisette. Well worth the visit.

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