Saturday, August 16, 2014


Well, our last few days are here.  Montse, Grandpa, Ryan and Isabella went into Lyon to look at the beautiful city and interesting and historic buildings.  GG stayed home with the younger boys.

When they returned from Lyon, Montse offered to take us all out to lunch.  It was a bit late, about 2:30, but we decided to try anyway.  Our hosts had a recommendation in their book, so we went down to the riverside to Au Columbier.  The maitre d' was dubious when we inquired about the possibility of lunch, but he scuttled back to check with the chef and returned to tell us it was possible, but we would all have to have the beef special.

We happily, and yes, I'll admit it, gratefully, agreed and sat down to our appetizer of a cup of gazpacho.  Our beef came and it was delicious, tender sliced beef in gravy with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.  We all cleaned our plates and licked our chops.  We really enjoyed the excellent beef, the best we have had in France.  After our meal Grandpa took us home and then took Montse to the airport.
The next day we spent cleaning and packing.  The kids had a last swim in the pool while GG washed 95 loads of sheets and towels.  Then we had a bite to eat and as evening gathered our nice neighbor, Damien, took us to our budget hotel near the Lyon airport.

We went to our hotel fairly late because we knew there would not be much to do there and we were right!  Our rooms were tiny boxes with two twin beds and an upper berth and about 18 inches to walk around.  GG hit here head on the upper bunk 3 times!  The three boys had a room and then Isabella shared a room with GG and Grandpa.

We ate up leftovers before we left the house and GG brought along some snacks and bread. The boys came in and got rations of snacks and orange juice during the evening and most of the food was gone before we went to bed.  GG kept two loaves of bread and some jam for breakfast.

The boys vowed to stay up all night so they could sleep on the airplane, but GG and Grandpa and Isabella went right to sleep and slept pretty well.  The boys were fairly quiet, so we don't know if they really did stay up.  They say they did, but I am doubtful.

We had to get up at 3:30am to catch our 4am shuttle to the airport for our 6:30am flight to Amsterdam.  It was dark and quiet as we waited in the parking lot, hoping our navette would show up.  GG was dreading having to use the French telephone system to call and check if it didn't show.  But, good luck, it was right on time and we got to the terminal without a hitch.  Grandpa got our boarding passes at the self-serve check-in terminal and also printed out his luggage tag, but he didn't know where to put the checked bag.

We all got through the security while grandpa went in search of someone who could help him with his checked bag.  GG fed the kids bread and jam and after awhile Grandpa showed up after waiting until 5am for personnel to help him.  
The flight to Amsterdam went well, with a bit of turbulence due to stormy weather.  They gave us a breakfast sandwich to tide us over.

We made our connecting flight with no problem and then we were off on the looooong trip home.  The airplane again had seatback monitors so each of us could watch the movies or tv shows that we were interested in.  The boys did sleep some on the flight, but they all swear that they didn't.

Our flight attendant was an older fellow who looked at us all as if we were naughty children.  His service was speedy, frequent and efficient though, so I guess we should not complain.

When we got to SFO the line through passport control was huge.  It took about 45 minutes to get through.  Thank goodness Yvonne was there to pick us up and take us home.  

We are grateful to our two exchanges for sharing their nice homes.  Our Paris apartment was convenient and spacious and our Anse house was very large and met all of our needs (well, except for some decent knives), so we say thank you to the Delas Family and the Delamare Family for the exchanges.

And finally, it is so nice to be home in our own comfy beddie.

Thanks for following along this year on our blog "Myrah Kids Go to France 2014".  As of today, 8/16/2014, 1065 page views.

Geralynn & Don Myrah Sr

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Yet another chateau today, we went to the nearby Chateau de Flecheres.  We had never visited this chateau and so we didn't know what to expect, but it was a pleasant surprise.

The people who own Cormatin also own Flecheres.  I am very impressed by the outstanding restoration they have undertaken and the quality of 17th century furnishings they have acquired for both chateaux.

This chateau, built in 1606, offers some excellent wall murals painted in 1632 by the Italian artist, Pietro Ricchi.  The murals were discovered when some damaged wall paneling was removed so that it could be replaced.  After studying the old records it was learned that Ricchi spent a whole year painting murals on the walls, so more work was done in the mansion and many beautiful and interesting wall murals were discovered.  Several rooms have been restored and some areas are still under restoration.

First we visited the kitchen rooms, which were underneath the main chateau.  They had some very interesting medieval kitchen tools, including a cabbage shredder, a multi-slicer, some wicked looking (but blunt) cleavers and bedwarmers hanging by the enormous fireplace.  There was also a large, and apparently well-stocked, wine cellar.
After touring several bedrooms and sitting rooms and enjoying the artwork and wall murals, and appreciating the original parquet floor which as been reacquired at a cost of $35K  we went out into the gardens.  The kids played in the maze and we walked around the grounds, enjoying the moat, the grand entrance and the kitchen garden.      

Friday, August 8, 2014


August 8, 2014

The house cleaner is due today, so we spent the morning getting our personal things stowed away and the house ready for her to clean.  The house is actually pretty clean, except the floors.  She arrived at 1:30, just as we were leaving to visit the nearby lake.  We gave her the keys and headed out, leaving her in peace to clean.

We easily found the lake and we were hoping for paddle boats or fishing poles or something, but it was just a nice, grassy hill leading down to the lake.  There was a good, shallow area for little kids to play in the water.  We hunted around for some shade and put out our towels and the kids went into the water for a swim.  

GG had fun people watching and grandpa went around and took photos.  At about 3pm it began to get very busy with lots of people marching into the grass looking for some shade to set up their place.

We left about 3:30 and stopped at the grocery store before returning home.  We got there just as the house cleaner was leaving so we got the keys and settled into our home while the thunder and lightening roared.

Later that afternoon GG and Grandpa and Ryan and Brendan went to the Lyon airport to pick up Montse, a good friend from Spain.  Isabella and Bryce stayed home.

GG found Montse with no problem and we came back to the house for chicken dinner and ice cream for dessert before we headed off for bed for the night.


Thursday, August 7, 2014


Wednesday morning, since we were all in some state of repair, we took the day off to heal.  To recount our maladies, Bryce and Isabella's cold that started the trip with us worked it's way through the ranks, starting with GG, then Brendan and now Ryan.  Bryce got a case of swimmer's ear and Grandpa tried to fall down the stairs in the middle of the night and twisted his knee.  So, we just laid around and recovered.  Isabella is in the best shape and GG continues on since her cold is almost all gone and she is only coping with her arthritic knee now.

Thursday we were all feeling much better.  Bryce's ear does not seem to be bothering him anymore and his appetite is back, Brendan and Ryan are over their colds and even Grandpa's knee is feeling better.  After breakfast we made our lunches and headed out for Cluny, the famous old abbey town.

In Cluny we strolled the kids down the main street.  Since it was lunch time the cafes and bistros were all very busy and the sun umbrellas were out and the tables were busy.  It is a perfect street cafe atmosphere experience.  

In Cluny you have to use your imagination to think about how enormous the former church was.  In it's heyday this church spanned 4 or 5 blocks and was the largest church in the world, even bigger than the Vatican..  It was torn down during the French Revolution and only one spire remains.  But, the town has done a good job of setting up a view with an outline of the structure and we stood at the nave end of the building and looked out along the area where the building once stood. I don't know if the kids were impressed, but I always am.

After the visit to Cluny we drove on to the village of Cormatin.  We went to the secret picnic area that GG and Grandpa knew about, but the secret is out and all of the tables were being used, so we ate our lunch on a park bench.

When we went into the office to buy our tickets the same man was there selling them (he was there several years ago when GG and Grandpa visited) and he once again complimented GG on her French.  She told him that that was the same thing he said two years ago when she visited, and she bets that he says that to all the girls.  He got a good chuckle out of that.

The chateau here, which is privately owned, is in pretty good condition.  It has been through good times and bad times and was abandoned for many years before the current owners purchased it in 1980.

The first builder of the chateau was of the du Ble line and Jacques du Ble, a redheaded favorite of Marie di Medici, lead the chateau in it's heyday.  Louis XIII gave Jacques the title of Marquis in 1618, and Jacques, at the age of 39, married the 15 year old daughter of the Secretary of State.  This was a real shock to 15 year old Isabella, who exclaimed, "He was an old man!"  I explained that this was a political marriage and the only time they came in contact was to make babies, since that was the young lady's job.  "Yuck!" was Isabella's response.

Jacques lost his life at a fairly young age when he was killed in a battle and the estate passed to a relative.  Eventually the chateau ended up in the hands of a daughter and she was able to bring the estate back to life with the wine production of the estate lands.
During the Revolution the house survived fairly well, with mainly it's furnishings sold off, but the beautiful wall murals survived.  The house was purchased by Raoul Gunsberg, Director of the Opera in 1888 and once again became a very busy, social place and many famous performers stayed there.  The chateau once again fell into disrepair and remained in very bad condition until 1980.

The French government gave 400,000 pounds to the purchasers to help with the restoration and they have done a very good job, furnishing and decorating the chateau with wonderful furniture and rich fabrics.  The wall murals are highlighted in the presentations and they remain as originally painted, with vibrant colors.

We went on the guided tour and visited many rooms including bedchambers and sitting rooms and garde-robes and the kitchen.  The curiosity room was a big hit with the kids who enjoyed looking at the tortoise shell and the skull and various interesting oddities collected by the marquis.
 After the chateau visit we went to the maze where the kids had a good time getting lost and the ones who did find their way went up to the top of the folly to direct the others to safety.  We also enjoyed the kitchen garden, which is in full production with tomatoes and onions and parsley and artichokes and chard all green and vibrant.

Home again as the afternoon rain began to splat down.  The kids were happy to have tacos for dinner and it was obvious that they are all feeling better because their appetites are back and they ate a lot of tacos.  Then it was an hour of play and off to bed to get ready for another day.      

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Musee Departemental de Prehistoire de Solutre

We are getting to the last few days of our trip and so we are trying to squeeze in a few more chateaux and points of interest before cleaning day.  Today we went to visit Solutre, the famous archeological dig set in the middle of the Pouilly-Fuisse wine growing district. 

It was a pretty drive through the very green and grape-laden vineyards and we turned a corner and there it was!  Sticking out dramatically over the valley is a huge stone bluff and this is where Solutre is located.  This is the site of ancient human habitation--over 35000 years.

The museum at this site is an excellent presentation of the life and times of Paleolithic man.  The first room of the museum traces the occupation of the site from earliest clues, through the various cultures that inhabited the region.  

The next room displays an interesting exhibit of tools and a good video of the napping of a flint to form a sharp tool that could be used for just about any job, from digging a hole to butchering a deer.  This film inspired the boys who all had high hopes of making their own tools with their newly learned techniques.  There is a large display of needles and spear points. Other objects from the daily life of Paleolithic man were displayed so that we could get a good idea of how they lived and got their work done.

We also learned about the animals that were common here and saw skeletons and skulls of many of them.  The cave lion skull was huge, and there were mammoth molars, horse skeletons, aurochs bones.  There were many interactive screens to help interpret the displays and to understand the many groups of people who lived in the region over the centuries.

One of the big stories here is that the prehistoric men herded wild horses off the edge of the cliff and then were able to slaughter them and use the meat.  However, that theory has been debunked and now it is believed that the herds of horses were attacked and slaughtered as they moved through the valley on their annual migration.  The horses were used for meat and their hides, hooves and teeth were all harvested as well.  A huge area of horse bones and cave man tools was found near the cliff.

This is an active dig site today, but the first excavations were carried out in 1866 and many of the finds are housed in Lyon and London.  The artifacts that are on display, while limited, are excellent tools to help us understand the site.  

Finishing with the inside museum we went into the prehistoric garden where we could see examples of the plants used by the prehistoric people--Oak, birch, laurel, grasses and wild fruits. We also saw examples of the excavations and there were two big slabs of sample layers of the dig.  That gave us a good idea of how rich this area is in archeological material.

Don, Ryan, Isabella and Brendan hiked to the top of the bluff, where Grandpa was a nervous wreck trying to keep kids from falling off the cliff and joining the horse skeletons.  They saw some wild horses up there and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.  Bryce and GG stayed below because Bryce's energy level is fighting off his ear ache and GG was worried about her knee giving out.

 In the evening we went down to take the tour of the local chateau.  GG did the grocery shopping while everyone else took the tour.  It was all in French, so the gang didn't get a lot of the commentary, but Grandpa was able to intuit enough to understand the story.  The big claim to fame for this chateau is their "horde" which appears to be some kind of defensive adaptation to the typical chateau layout.

There were a lot of Roman artifacts on display as well as medieval items.  The chateau was
built in the 1220 and was owned by Renaud II of Forez, the Archbishop of Lyon.  Up until 1728 there was a windmill at the chateau, but it was struck by lightening and burned at that time and never replaced.  It was quite a long tour--almost two hours, starting a 6pm and finishing up just before 8pm.

So, when we got home GG heated up the leftover spaghetti and we had our dinner and it was off to bed.


Monday, August 4, 2014


August 4, 2014

Today, with rain predicted for late afternoon, we headed off to visit the medieval town of Perouges.  We headed out on the country roads because the peage from Anse to Lyon is always bumper to bumper.  

I took about an hour and a half to get to Perouges.  Along the way we saw an interesting cemetery and we stopped to find out about it.  The walls surrounding the cemetery are painted an adobe red and there are spikes sticking out of the spires.  This cemetery is dedicated to the Senegalese warriors who fought and died in the historic battle of June 19 and 20, 1940 in the surrounding countryside.  The soldiers fought valiantly and bravely, but eventually were forced to lay down their arms and surrender.  Any soldiers who were not killed in the battle were later executed by the Germans.  A somber start to our day.
We really didn't know what to expect in Perouges, but the town was just as advertised--a true medieval walled city with cobblestone streets and houses made of stone.  As with most medieval cities, the village sits atop a hill overlooking the plain of Ain and surrounded with battlements, high stone walls.  Early records of the city put it as an active settlement in the 12th century, but there are signs of an earlier church dating from the 900s.
Entering through the arches where protective gates once stood, we strolled though the ancient village imagining what it might be like to live here in 1100.  We had a discussion of how treacherous it might have been to walk in the streets because there was no plumbing at the time and people just  threw their waste water out the window into the streets, where it would hopefully drain via the small trough in the middle of the road.

We passed the salt store and talked about how valuable salt was in the day.  Since salt was used to preserve food it was an essential product and all distribution was controlled by the king and a significant tax was imposed on each purchase.

We entered the village square and talked about market day and how farmers would set up their stalls to sell their wares.   This was quite a large square and was probably where important news of the day and edicts from the prince were promulgated.  Down an alley we found the local prince's castle and garden.

As we were leaving we stopped at the huge church, which was a fortress church, and unusual for most medieval towns.  The church formed a part of the battlements surrounding the city.  It was built in 1440 and is quite large for the size of the village.

Many families still live in the walled city and the streets and homes are very well kept.  There are several restaurants and shops available to tourists.

We went outside the gates and found a quiet little courtyard where we ate our lunch.  

Next we headed out to the Grottes de Balme.  This is a huge cave with a big, noisy river running through it.  There is evidence of human habitation in this cave dating to 15000 bc.
We hiked along the well-marked path, exploring side caverns and waterfalls and bandit hideouts.  The bandit here was called the Mandarin and he was supposed to be like Robin Hood.  

We squeezed through narrow passages and learned about Francois I visit.  

We didn't see any bats, but we did see a film taken deep into a cavern showing  live bat activity.  This cavern goes miles back into the hillside.

We climbed up and up and up and were able to look far down into the river canyon.  As we walked along we saw pools and calcium formations and the beginnings of stalactites growing.  Some of the huge formations must have been forming for centuries.

We finally made it out of the narrow passages and back to civilization.  Then it was time to head home as the black clouds were gathering and rain would be coming soon.  Grandpa programmed his phone gps for the fastest route home and we got home just as the rain started.  We tucked into our cozy house and appreciated living in 2014.


Saturday, August 2, 2014


Today we went to visit an ancient chateau, Berze le Chatel.  This castle has been on this hilltop since 966!  We had a nice guided tour by a Maconnais girl who spoke very good English because her father is English.
The castle is still the residence of the family of the Count of Milly, although their family has only lived here for 200 years.  But, the castle has a long history.  It was erected to protect the abbey at Cluny and is a true fortress style chateau.  There are 3 walls the enemy had to get through before getting to the main building.  There are murder holes where hot oil or stones can be dropped  on invaders, and doors with huge nails poking out of them and loopholes for arrows to be launched from.  The castle was an important defense during the 100 Year's War.
We toured the grounds and the battlements and the ancient chapel while the guide pointed out the protective features of the fortress.  The family was in residence and we saw them getting into their limousines in the courtyard.  They had a cute little redheaded girl who could have been Brendan's sister.

The grounds are well kept and the exterior of the castle looks authentic and just like an ancient military fortress.  I am sure the interior has been modernized and is quite liveable in the 21st century but it was easy to get the feel  of medieval life.

After leaving the chateau and stopping for a short look at the church, we strolled down the roads through medieval stone buildings that are real people's houses.  Grandpa went back to get the car and GG and the kids continued walking down the road to the Voie Verte, the nice bike path along an old railroad right-of-way.  By the time we got to the bottom of the hill the sky had opened up and it was pouring, so we stood under a tree until Grandpa arrived with our rain ponchos.

Of course, just as soon as we opened up the packages and put on our ponchos the rain stopped and we walked along to the tunnel, which at 1602 meters is the longest bike tunnel in France, and then we went into the tunnel for a bit, just to experience it.  GG and Grandpa bicycled this tunnel in 2012 when they stayed in St Point.

The following day GG said the kids had been too patient with all of the museums, chateaux, and ancient points of interest, so she declared a day off, a free day to just relax, play and have fun.  

Here is what everyone did: