I woke up at 3:30am Friday morning and never really went back to sleep, so I’m writing this on about 4.5 hours sleep. Forgive me if it’s not completely coherent. I get restless when it’s time to go and it hit me Thursday night that I was ready to be home. It’s been an amazing trip on multiple levels, but home is home.

I don’t even remember how I occupied my time before Ash got up other than endless and varied internet browsing. Redditt and Facebook can suck up a lot of time and in fact I probably hadn’t done that for 2 weeks now. Ash was up about 7am, we finished packing and started to make our way about 8am.

The only stop today on our way to the Paris airport was Orleans, the largest city we’ve come across since we left Paris last Saturday, population about 500k. It was about 90 minutes out of Salbris and we got there before 10am.

In the center of town is the cathedral, St Croix. This was originally built between 1278-1329, but was partially destroyed by fire in 1568. Reconstruction occurred for over 200 years starting 1601.

It’s massive. It took me 2 photos to capture the entire side of it. The front side above,

and the back side here.

And of course the requisite “ussie”, our last of this trip.

I tried to capture the scope of the majesty when you first walk in but that’s difficult to do.

One of the many stained glass windows here, including a series that tell the story of Joan of Arc and her efforts that led to France winning the 100 Years War against England and crowning Charles VII King.

An altar in honor of St. Joan of Arc, who the English burned at the stake. On either side of this were very nice plaques thanking both British and American forces for the sacrifices made during World Wars 1 and 2, and especially honoring the men who were buried here. I’ve been to American cemeteries in Normandy and Luxembourg and it’s incredibly moving.

Another attempt to capture the grandeur and size. See tiny Ash walking ahead at the bottom of the photo.

Many beautiful side altars.

This is the main altar, standing from sort of the middle of church.

Looking back at the organ. Note all the chairs – just in the first half of the church.

Another beautiful side altar – there’s a name for these sculpted from wood that’s escaping me.

Pews in the front – but no kneelers (continuing that discussion…).

A cute modern statue in front.

We went for a walk about town a bit and came across this lovely view. The main drag jutting from the cathedral was draped in Ukraine flags to show their support. Two of the words you see around France the most often in various forms are Liberty and Fraternity.

We also stopped into a pharmacy to get our COVID tests which we need to fly tomorrow. Both of us negative. We were relieved, although we weren’t too concerned. We’ve been mask free for most of the trip but wore them on subways and at Versailles. During this past week in the country we’ve sort of forgotten about them but boy did we immediately notice not having them in some of the castles that were super crowded. It seemed like every time we opened Facebook we saw another report of someone we know back home testing positive. So it was definitely on our mind but so far we’ve managed to escape it.

A beautiful old bridge over the Loire River.

Yes, we never really left the Loire River this whole trip. and Orleans is sort of the capital of this region.

We were ready for something different for lunch and decided this sushi place would hit the spot.

From the inside, that’s Ash on the left in the orange with his back to us. I sat across from him.

Sort of what you’d expect for starters: miso soup and a nice salad but these were really good. I think better than we expected.

They had this incredible deal for 42 Euros: this boat of a decent variety of sushi rolls and sashimi….

…as well as hot meat appetizers. On the left were thin slices of beef grilled around cheese – wow. Then chicken meatballs and chicken thighs, all tender and tasty.

We walked back through the center of town, which was mostly closed off to vehicles, a classic European thing to do which we love.

This was just looking back at the same cute area of the prior photo.

I love the look of this street, and of course kids especially can’t resist Paul.

Looking to the right of the prior photo. I love these narrow streets.

We drove on to our hotel at Charles de Gaulle where we will stay tonight so we have easy access to our 9:15am flight tomorrow.

Paul managed the 2.5 hour drive like a champ. Tomorrow he’ll do a 12 hour flight. He did great on the way out so we’re not anticipating any problems.

We got to the hotel about 4:30pm. It took us just under 90 minutes to check in, drop off our bags, fill the car up with gas, drop it off, and take the airport train back to the hotel. It’s a HUGE airport so it was over 5 kilometers just to get gas because of the way the roads are, even though the station was “in” the airport.

Ash is playing bridge again, I’m finishing up here. We will have dinner in the hotel and that will be it. So I figured I’d do my traditional “final thoughts” now and be done with it, but I haven’t put much thought into yet so we’ll see how this goes, in no particular order:

  1. Paris – 4th time there, still love it. For some reason I really enjoyed the subways this time. We didn’t really use them at all when we were here last year and it really is such a great way to get around. We went all out on food this time eating some great meals, the best one probably was when our friend Stephanie joined us.
  2. Buying our rings at a little jeweler in Sacre Coeur and using that spot to discuss getting married, finally. I mean, we bought a house together last summer, it’s not like we haven’t been thinking about it, right? But it was special that we did it in our own time, and in our own way, and while overlooking the city of Paris which is special to both of us made it perfect. We will be back.
  3. Castles – touring them brought back all kinds of fantasies and memories of books I’d read as a kid. I have no idea where my fascination with castles came from but this trip really satisfied all that. There is a weird thing that happens where you start to go through them pretty fast because of the “once you’ve seen one” affect, so looking for what was really original in each became the fun part. My favorites were Chambord and d’Usse.
  4. Staying in castles, old manors, etc – It’s cool and all but guess what? Not all that comfortable. I think I’ve had my fill of this. Now if we find one that’s been completely updated and somehow modernized then maybe. But face it: we’re pretty spoiled. We expect things like lots of plugs, coffee in the room, good wireless internet. Basics. Not so much in any of the places we stayed. So the truth is none of them were all that comfortable in the end. Each one had “something” (and often more than just one thing) that was just not quite right. It was fun, glad we did it, probably don’t need to do it again.
  5. Road trips – we did enjoy driving, but/and probably wouldn’t want to do more than we did. It was perfect – just enough to see what we wanted to see without being irritating. The best part was having our own music with us. Except on major highways where French radio would break in with emergency announcements we couldn’t understand! Thankfully that only happened on Saturday and today, because the rest of the week we were on country roads, and often weird backroads. We saw a LOT of French farmland this week, and of course lots of those pretty white cows. They always make me think of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
  6. The blog and all of you. Ash joked (more than once) about the blog being “my mistress.” Guilty. From the first trip in 2013, it’s become such a huge part of the experience for me – and in fact enhances my experience since it gets me to pay attention in ways I wouldn’t otherwise – that I can’t imagine not doing it. Now, the next trip is Ashland but that’s all about shows for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival so I may skip that trip, or at least cut way back, we’ll see. But it’s here to stay for now. And I so appreciate all of you coming with us and interacting along the way, it really does make it special.

And speaking of the blog: Ash took this one night when we were at Chateau de Briancon. He doesn’t like it when we don’t go to bed at the same time but I wanted to finish this so stayed up. He said “fine, but you’ll have to only use the light from your laptop because I want all the lights off.” Fine. So this was the result of that.

See you all in Costa Rica in November.


  1. cheymarkbryant June 5, 2022 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Just finished reading the blog and enjoying this amazing adventure you two are on. The cathedrals, the pastries, the castles, the cooking classes, the incredible dining experiences – we loved loved it all! But the rings and the proposals were the most beautiful moments of all. We are thrilled and so happy that you found each other and for the journey ahead! Love you both!

    • Steve Haas June 5, 2022 at 9:32 am - Reply

      Thanks for the lovely note. Now we just need to plan a visit ❤️

  2. Stephen Ward May 31, 2022 at 10:56 am - Reply

    What a wonderful journey you two are having!!!! This trip is just a part of it. I love following you along. Thank you.

  3. Jon Scott May 29, 2022 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    Well, I had hoped to get caught up before you got home but didn’t make it, As you know I was on a trip myself and the first couple of days of your trip my internet access was sketchy at best so I got behind. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and they brought back many memories for me and joy for you guys. I loved “The Best is Yet to Come”, it really is so you…Also of course you loved that clock! It’s a clock lol….As I said on FB the engagement was moving and a perfect place but after reading your afterthoughts it’s even more moving – and the rings are beautiful…congratulations!

    • Steve Haas May 29, 2022 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks! Your clock comment is hilarious. Honestly didn’t even occur to me!

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