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Of Sheep and Turtledoves

Posted by on July 6, 2013

Standing outside our front gate today, Ken pointed high into the chestnut tree and asked how many doves I could see. At first I saw only one, balanced on a limb in the cool shade of the broad leaves. And then I saw another and another, at least five, all standing perfectly still in the deep green shadows. They didn’t make a sound, quite unusual for these vocal birds. But it’s no wonder they were perched so silently by our gate in the full shade – the temperature was just about 40 degrees C. or 104 F.

Hurray for summer. Break out the sundresses and hats, settle around the table in the garden for an impromptu picnic supper, search out a swimming hole or beach, and by all means get many scoops of artisanale ice cream down the street just past the city hall. If you are lucky enough to have tickets, you might see Rigoletto tonight in the Place Archivèche, or you can come with us to Les Écuries (stables) de l’Aube for a dinner outside on their terrace. Everywhere there are musical and theatrical events, the outdoor cafés are filled, and even the man who sells me newspapers started up a chat today about the weather. It’s the first time he’s talked with me. He prefers snow, he said, and he’s read about the fires in California; and we smiled and he complimented me on my french. It’s taken 10 months for this conversation to happen. Hurray for summer and open doors.

And summer has brought Dominique and Monique out onto the golf course with us – it’s taken ten months of consulting calendars and weather to finally make this happen. Both are just learning the game, and they have good natural talent and are “sportif”. Dominique is passionate about golf, and Ken is a willing coach, so a new team has formed, with mutual respect, and absolute glee. Each enjoys encouraging the other. Monique will try to find more time to play, and like Karen will enjoy the outings.

golf with the Faillards

golf with the Faillards

While on the subject of golf, I promised a few photos from our trip to Scotland where Ken played in the Scottish Senior Men’s Amateur Championship in June. While his score was modest, about in the middle of the pack, his spirits were great and we enjoyed immensely the whole experience of being in Scotland (except for driving on the tiny roads on the left side). The links course at Elie where the tournament was held, just down the coast from Saint Andrews, provided beautiful views of the ocean and castles of this rural “kingdom of Fife,” a peninsula north of Edinburgh.

Ken at Elie

Ken at Elie

At the bed and breakfast homes in Fife I felt as if I was “at home” in Philadelphia with the same furnishings and manners. Everyone was welcoming and helpful. The Park House at Kinneswood, with its ivy walls and sheep in the pasture (yes, sheep with horns) was very special.

Our bedroom is at the top left.

Our bedroom is at the top left.

Sheep from Arran Isle

Sheep from Arran Isle

Sheep were everywhere, on every possible slope and in every country yard.

Babe and mom

Babe and mom

While it may sound a little “woo-woo” I do think I felt a strong sense of my Scottish ancestry as we traveled around, especially on the Isle of Skye, the main site of the Donald Clan. My grandfather, Robin Macdonald, is sure to have descended from these smart and testy folk. We visited the Clan Donald museum and talked with a nice lady who will try to help us trace our ancestry, but I have a bit of work to do first to find out more about my grandfather’s family.

Sleat, Isle of Skye

Sleat, Isle of Skye

The southern tip of the Isle of Skye is the Sleat Peninsula, a moody, hilly place that yields a frugal living for man and animal alike. I loved it. It’s that family feeling, I guess.  In Sleat, on Skye, it is most always cool to cold and drizzly to downpour. But what magnificent greenery. Whitewashed stone-walled farms dot the countryside.

At Eilean Larmain, Sleat

At Eilean Larmain, Sleat

Did I mention the sheep?

Standing by the road on Skye

Standing by the road on Skye

Tucked into a rock

Tucked into a rock

At the Eilean Larmain hotel with its gentle view of the sound and the lighthouse (above) we were thrilled to hear a group of young musicians, all from the Highlands, who are carrying on the traditions of Scottish music. Below is a still picture of them playing. Unfortunately I couldn’t upload the  video that I took of them playing.

Traditional music

Traditional music

All over Scotland the spring flowers were in full bloom and rhododendrons were not just the decorative garden plant I’m familiar with, but were wildly cascading up and down mountains and hills in every part we traveled. I was astonished. Like so much of Europe, Scotland experienced a prolonged and unusually cold winter and spring, allowing us to see spring at its peak in mid-June.

rhododendrons everywhere

rhododendrons everywhere

Our last night in Scotland we stayed with Mary and Tom in their B&B, South Whittlieburn Farm, outside of Largs, not far from Glasgow. Mary loves to travel, and had just returned from a trip to France, but it’s hard, she said, to take time away from their farm of 500 sheep (a small herd).

Mary in Scotland

Mary in Scotland

There’s much more to write and photos to share of our recent trips in France, but not now. This coming week I’ll try to catch up on sharing recent events on the blog before we take off to England on July 17th where Ken will be playing in a qualifying competition for the British Senior Open Championship. It’s a BIG DEAL, and we’re excited to go. If all goes well with the golf, he will play five days there. He’s in top form, and has been winning regional team amateur events.  Next week he plays in a national team tournament at a course by the Mediterranean not far from here. While Ken is golfing, I’ll be doing more painting. I’ll close with some photos of a recent lunch our painting group enjoyed at the home of one of our painting friends. It was a great day and plein-aire painting at its best, with good food and good friends.

a toast to painting with friends

a toast to painting with friends

a pot luck fit for Cezanne

a pot luck fit for Cezanne

Okay, just one last image from a recent drive. The poppies and other flowers are still in bloom in areas just a short drive north of Aix.

Wildflowers near Digne-les-Bains

Wildflowers near Digne-les-Bains

Stay tuned for coming attractions! Next installment will include photos of the french Alps. Oh, it was glorious.

Thanks for sticking with us on our journey. You can write us at  karen@karenmerriam.com    or    kensmokoska@gmail.com   We would love to hear from you.

Bisous,   Karen and Ken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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