It’s been a while, I know. We were on vacation for a whole month, and between the preparation before, the vacation itself, and the recovery time after (jet lag, ugh), I have been out of the habit of regular blogging for several weeks. My apologies for that. But as you can imagine, I have lots of material for new posts, and I will start sharing those with you this week, so keep coming back and your efforts will be rewarded.
To start with, I thought it would be good to give you an overview of how our trip went, so you can get an idea of what might be coming up. I will not proceed exactly in order – in fact, I will more likely start out by posting on some of my favorite days on the trip – so if you see something on the list you’d like to hear about, drop a line in the comments, and let me know what you’re interested in, and I will make that a priority. As I blog on the days and events listed below, I will add hyperlinks in this post to take you to those individual posts, so feel free to use this as your index for finding all the information about our vacation.
Before I list individual days, let me give you some background on how the idea for this trip came about. Therese and I did a “Paris and Environs” trip in April/May 2014, during which we spent about 2-1/2 days in Rouen. We were impressed by the quality of the food, and also heard that the weather is usually mild in Rouen during the summer. So when we started thinking about taking a long vacation somewhere, using a particular city as a base over the course of a few weeks, we thought of Rouen first.
The Bulgaria part of the trip was the result of an invitation from the mother of a close friend, Tsvetta, here in New York. After her mother, Teddy, came to New York, we started talking about visiting Bulgaria. It took a couple of years to figure out what days would work best for all of us, but after trying and failing to do it in 2015, we were determined to make it happen this year, and so we picked out some dates last December, when Teddy once again visited New York City.
Therese found a “gite” or French apartment for hire in Rouen for three weeks, and we planned to visit Bulgaria – the capital of Sofia and Teddy’s home town of Veliko Turnovo – for a week before that. And it was an incredible trip. We had a remarkable time in France, spending most of our time in Rouen, but also visiting Paris three times, as well as Bayeux, Jumieges, St-Wandrille-Rancon and Caudebec-en-Caux. But the surprise for me was how much we enjoyed visiting Bulgaria. There was more in Sofia than we could take in, in the few days we were there, and Veliko Turnovo similarly had lots to explore, and we really just scratched the surface (to give you an idea, we didn’t visit any museums in the latter city).
For the first two of our three week in Rouen, we were on our own, to some degree planning our days as we went. We organized one day trip outside Rouen by train, and a second one by car (with my brave wife agreeing to drive in France, while I served as navigator). For our third week, our friend Faith traveled to France for the first time, and we met her for a weekend in Paris before bringing her to Rouen to show her all that we love about the city.
To close, my experience of this month in Europe was that we did so much, much more than even a point-by-point accounting of our actions and adventures can tell. Maybe it was being away from our usual hum-drum life. In any case, we look forward to doing a long trip like this again – and are planning on doing three weeks in Italy in October 2017 (one week in Rome, two in Venice with some day trips from the latter – maybe to Verona or Padua or both).
Day One – Saturday, June 18 – Walking tour of Sofia
Day Two – Sunday, June 19 – Visit to Rila Monastery
Day Three – Monday, June 20 – Boyana Church and National History Museum; lunch at Turquoise; Rawlly health food store; travel to Veliko Turnovo/Vetrintsi
Day Four – Tuesday, June 21 – Afternoon trip to Arbanasi
Day Five – Wednesday, June 22 – day trip to Tryavna
Day Six – Thursday, June 23 – walking tour of Veliko Turnovo and shopping; Vegan cake at Shtastliveca
Day Seven – Friday, June 24 – bus ride back to Sofia
Day Eight – Saturday, June 25 – Saint Sofia Church, Archeology Museum
France, on our own
Day One – Saturday, June 25 – arrival, check in to Astor Saint Honore Hotel
Day Two – Sunday, June 26 – Centre Pompidou; train to Rouen; dinner at La Walsheim; Au Petit Robec
Day Three – Monday, June 27 – Grocery shopping at Monoprix; visit to Musee Le Secq des Tournelles; chicken with Normandy sauce “at home”
Day Four – Tuesday, June 28 – Historial Jeanne d’Arc, Tourist office, Antiquities Museum; takeaway dinner from Ho Lamian
Day Five – Wednesday, June 29 – Day trip to Bayeux by train
Day Six – Thursday, June 30 – Ceramics Museum; Dame Cakes
Day Seven – Friday, July 1 – Musee des Beaux-Arts; veal escalopes a la Jacques Pepin
Day Eight – Saturday, July 2 – Lunch at L’Espiguette; The National Education Museum; seafood cioppino at home
Day Nine – Sunday, July 3 – Marche St-Marc; sausage, potato and leak tart at home
Day Ten – Monday, July 4 – Eglise Saint-Maclou
Day Eleven – Tuesday, July 5 – Palais de Justice and Monument Juif; shopping at FNAC; chicken legs a la Normand at home
Day Twelve – Wednesday, July 6 – Day trip to Jumieges, St-Wandrille-Rancon and Caudebec-en-Caux by car
Day Thirteen – Thursday, July 7 – Lunch at La Rose des Vents Snack; visit to William Klein exhibit at Saint Ouen; organ concert at Saint-Maclou
Day Fourteen – Friday, July 8 – Natural History Museum; mussels and frites from Le Rocher
Week with Faith
Day Fifteen – Saturday, July 9 – meet Faith in Paris; Archeological Crypt Museum; Notre Dame Cathedral; dinner at Pomze Restaurant; Sainte-Chapelle
Day Sixteen – Sunday, July 10 – Eiffel Tower; Musee d’Orsay; Place des Vosges; train to Rouen
Day Seventeen – Monday, July 11 – Lunch at Le P’tit Bec; Aitre St-Maclou; Turkey escalopes with haricots vertes at home; Cathedrale de Lumiere
Day Eighteen – Tuesday, July 12 – Notre Dame de Rouen; Lunch at La Rose des Vents; Gros Horloge; Apple meringue tart at home
Day Nineteen – Wednesday, July 13 – Historial Jeanne d’Arc
Day Twenty – Thursday, July 14 – Musee des Beaux-Arts; concert at St-Maclou; Hotel de Bourgtheroulde; Fete Nationale fireworks aboard the Lutece
Day Twenty-one – Friday, July 15 – Musee Le Secq des Tournelles; mussels and frites at Le Rocher
Day Twenty-two – Saturday, July 16 – Faith heads home; Musee Jacquemart-Andre; Un Monde Vegan; King Falafel
Day Twenty-three – Sunday, July 17 – Père LaChaise Cemetery; head home!