Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Back to the future

Yes, you were right, of course ... my holiday destination is Corfu. It'll be my first beach holiday since 1983 when I visited Malta with my late husband.

Spring sky on April 14th: plane tracks over Brussels.
Looks like it's pretty busy up there !

The last time I took an airplane was in 1995 or 1996. I'm not quite sure. If it was 1995, my destination was Sweden, If it was in 1996, it was Geneva (Switzerland). In both cases I went on a business trip. 

I'm not really a beach or pool person. So what takes me to Corfu, you may ask? Well, it's a long, long story. I'll try and squeeze it into a nutshell. I'm going to visit a relative, who - all things considered - isn't really a relative. Her name is Marleen. She was once married to my brother-in-law, who by the time they got married in 1987, was already my ex-brother-in-law, as my husband had passed away in 1983. Marleen and I always got on like a house on fire, despite our age difference (about 7 or 8 years I think). Marleen's marriage wasn't a success and ended in a divorce. So I guess that makes her my ex-ex SIL. 

We stayed in touch after her divorce until about 18-20 years ago when she got involved with an unsavoury bunch of people. After that I lost all track of her. We stopped exchanging birthday and Christmas cards. So that was the end of it ... or at least that is what we both thought.

Last January while cleaning out some drawers, I came across an old address book. I was about to throw it out, when I decided to leaf through it ... just in case. Suddenly I came across Marleen's last known address and telephone number. Intrigued, curious and slightly nervous I dialed the number. How would she react after all these years? The phone rang - once, twice,  ... 'Hallo?' a creaky old voice said. OMG, I thought, if this is Marleen, life certainly hadn't been kind on her. 'Marleen?' I tentatively inquired. 'No, sorry dear, you must have the wrong number.'

I apologized and hung up. At that point I could have given up. But I didn't. I put on my Sherlock Holmes cap and continued my search ... A little voice in my head said that I had to find her.

(more to come ...)

P.S. April 14th, the day on which I shot the above photo, was special and unique! More about that to come too. Two cliffhangers in one post! :)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Not France

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had some important expenses coming up. Some of you were kind enough to suggest that you hoped they would be travel expenses. And yes, you were right!

Since 1984 my yearly vacation took me to France. Our means of locomotion being the car, it gave us a lot of freedom, but had an impact on the distance. When you take only a week's vacation, you don't want to spend too much time travelling to and fro. So the limit quickly became the Loire Valley. Which was perfect! Leaving Brussels at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we were sipping our aperitif at the 'Café du Château' at the foot of Amboise castle at 11 a.m.

It became an annual ritual from 1999 till 2009. I made the same trip in 2010 and 2013 with my friends B. and J.L. And in 2012 with my Swedish friends M. and V. In 2011 I took a short break to visit Deal in the U.K. where I used to spend my vacations in the seventies to practice my English.

Last year - 2014 - I wanted to travel to Amboise by train to spend a few days in my beloved Loire Valley. But then my mother started having serious mobility problems, and I had to cancel my trip. Luckily the SNCF (France's train company) almost totally refunded the tickets that I had already paid for. 

I wasn't sure about what I would do this year, considering my mother's health. But then, in November last year we received the excellent news that she could move into a service flat. As you will remember, we signed the lease on Dec. 5th, 2014, started packing up over Christmas, had the flat painted in January. On January 30th my mother moved into her new home, which she thoroughly enjoys. She has made new friends, attends the on-site gymnastics class on Thursday morning ... and feels as snug as a bug in a rug.

Between January 30th and February 21st, our loyal and brilliant cleaning lady and I emptied most of our family home and on the latter date, the real estate agent put up the 'for sale' sign. Five weeks later, we accepted an offer of a potential buyer and are now in the process of getting all the papers ready for the actual sale.

Any idea what my destination is?
Note to B. in the US, please don't tell - because you already know!

After the 'for sale' went up I realized that I was dead tired and that I needed a break. A stress-less short stay in friendly surroundings, without too much transport issues. How I came to pick this island out of all the nice holiday destinations in Europe, is another (long) story, which will be the topic of my next post.

Btw, tomorrow is my birthday. We will be celebrating it on Sunday, cracking open a small bottle of Champagne, followed by a nice home-cooked lunch.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Life goes on

This morning when I got out of bed, I glanced out the window to see what the weather was like. This habit is part of my weekend (mine starts on Friday) routine. During the week, when I have to go into the office, I don’t bother … as long as it isn’t snowing …

Back to this morning. I looked straight into the garden of my mother’s cousin P. I saw her silhouette behind the kitchen window. She was leaning over the sink, probably getting some water to make her morning coffee. She looked like usual, a bit thinner maybe. But nothing special. Yet, I wondered what was going through her head, because only yesterday we buried her husband C. to whom she had been married since May 1960. He died last week, quite sudden after doctors had found a lump in his neck only a few weeks ago.

Even wilted roses keep their fragrance and beauty.

He had been poorly for seven months, not because of the new-found lump but after some really serious back surgery which kept him ‘chained’ to his chair since. My mother and I visited him just a week before her move, which was 8 weeks ago.

The funeral, yesterday, was very emotional. My mother didn't attend it. But I did and so did my cousin I. (my mother’s godchild) and some 400 other people from the village. There was a lot of sniffing and crying, but also a short burst of laughter when one of C.’s granddaughters addressed the congregation telling us how she remembered her granddad. One of the things she said even brought a smile on P.’s face (C.’s widow). ‘When P. turned 75’ – the granddaughter said’ – C.’ had said: “I wish I could trade her in for 3 of 25.” That’s how he was, also joking, always taking the mickey and yet being the best and most faithful husband in the world and a loving and caring dad to his 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

We will all miss him … As for P., I felt so sorry for her this morning, when I saw her standing there by the sink on her own. I really hope she can overcome her loss and has the courage to spend time again with her many friends, whom she missed terribly over the last seven months while looking after her handicapped husband.

I know this was a very sad post. I promise to update you soon on the happier stuff that has kept me occupied over the last two weeks.