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Montillou B&B (old photo)
More photos HERE.

Dordogne to Seguret

22 May 2000
Montillou Bed and Breakfast, near Domme, France

The couple who runs this place feel like old friends and make life like a funny English sitcom. Mary teaches painting, but my participation got askew the first week as I was wrapped up in leftovers of the robbery and getting the car repaired and trying to figure out what I can do with my niece in northern Spain for a week when she gets here the 16th of June. (I'd not realized it's next to impossible to "do" Barcelona on notice shorter than about a year.) Alan is remodeling a stone cottage so they can rent it, and between the two of them, there's always something amusing going on.

This place is right on the Dordogne river, only a few miles from Sarlat, Domme, and many other prize towns of this region.

One night the phone rings and Alan says it's someone from Vienna for me. Huh? A man identifies himself as some law enforcement bureaucrat in their version of the DEA in a tight, Viennese accented English and proceeds to explain to me that they'd intercepted my box of hundreds of little ziplock bags of Chinese herbs so they could do drug tests on them.

Seems that because the name of the friend whose home I sent the box to was Morrissette, they figured she might be related to Alanis Morrissette, who because she's a rock star, must have drug using relatives. And would I like him to send the box to me now? Sigh. At that point, given the complexities of my schedule, I declined his offer. When I called my friends, I found to my dismay that the cops had been to their house two or three times, apparently unwilling to believe they were no relation to Alanis Morrissette. I felt terrible. So much for mailing pills overseas!

While updating this travelogue in 2013, I see that Mary and Alan no longer own Montillou, and apparently whomever they sold it to apparently no longer operates it. Sad.

6 June 2000

Manoir du Soubeyrac, Monflanquin, Lot

Greetings from my very own medieval stone cottage in the Lot!

I arrived at Manoir du Soubeyrac Saturday evening, a lovely place in the Lot countryside, surrounded by the songs of nightingales. On arrival, I discovered that my host, Claude, who speaks only French, insists that I am to make NO phone calls from the phone here in the house, but could only RECEIVE them.

I discovered, however, that I AM able to get online with my toll-free AOL France number, so I don't feel quite so isolated as I was going to without option to call anyone or send or receive any email. I'm not going to try and explain it to him, as he's an anxious, tho very sweet and decoratively flamboyant gay fellow who's got his mind set that outgoing calls are trouble. But I am pleased to be able to download and respond to email. I was feeling a little lonely.

I just came here from a wonderful B&B in the Dordogne run by an English couple who felt like old friends. My painting "course" w/Mary got askew the first week as I was wrapped up in fallout from the Antibes robbery & trying to figure out what I can do with my niece in northern Spain for a week when she gets here the 16th. I'd not realized it's impossible to "do" Barcelona on notice shorter than about a year, that getting lodging there is hell, etc, and my sister already planned her flight home on the 30th departing from Barcelona. They apparently don't have the plethora of gites & B&B's there which France does, enabling one to "wing" it. So, we'll see. Anyhow, I did get some initial instruction and participated some in the classes, and, now here, am beginning to paint--water colors, as that's only sensible when traveling.

I started my first watercolor since arriving here, today, which was a study--overly studied for my taste--cluster of tomatoes on the window sill looking out of my lavender French Blue windows to the grassy field and main house beyond.

This little cottage is so charming...I've been seeing medieval stone villages and houses now for weeks and weeks, and have finally landed in my own. Like I said, Claude's decor is a bit much--I thought I was the queen of floral cabbage rose prints, but his take the cake, far surpassing mine. And, he uses them on the stone walls in swag tie-back drapes on long dark wooden rods to soften the stone, presumably. Dear lace curtains with birds on the kitchen windows, little dried flowers and massive silk flower arrangements here and there, lots of old looking art on the wall, and stone crannies and nooks with interesting pots, pitchers and the like. Karen Brown would approve. Overall, it's a sweet find.

I'm disappointed, however, with the weather. My first and only naked swim in my amazingly beautiful and private swimming pool with a tremendous view of the purple Perigord happened on my arrival Saturday night, when it had been a godsend on a hot day. Yesterday, Sunday, I was down with a terrible headache all day and night and stuck with no Excedrin equivalent, and the whole day was overcast with interspersed rain. One cannot simply buy such things at the grocery store here as at home--only at a pharmacy. You get a measly 30 tablets for about $5. And, the pharmacy is closed on Sundays. Today I also woke to heavy rain, and it stayed cloudy most of the day.

Physically, I was commiserating with my friend who wrote about her aching body from gardening that my lower back is developing chronic discomfort when I move at night in bed; I have a searing tendonitis in my upper right arm-shoulder from the computer probably, and there are times when I fear my esophagus is not feeling right. But, to rush in to get an endoscopy wouldn't necessarily make sense, as what would it tell me? If the cancer's back, I'm a goner anyway, so why not just let go and enjoy myself.

The medications I had my friend Joy send never arrived, so I imagine they met the same fate as the books and supplements I'd sent to Vienna--ie: landing in a customs office, stuck there for the crime of non-declaration. I did find a gastroenterologist to get the equivalent here of Prilosec to the tune of about $300 a month. Pricey, but available.

2006 Addendum: My best friend from high school, Melissa, came to join me here, soon followed by her hunk of a husband and their daughter. Soon thereafter came my 18 year old niece, Megan. Melissa and I took some wonderful country road drives through the Lot, stopping for many photos along the way.

One day Melissa and I came upon this woman working in her garden

In our fractured high school French, we asked her if she would mind if we took her picture. She said something I didn't immediately understand, but was happy to sit down on her green bench where we took the shot. When we got back into the car after profuse "Beau jardin" and "Merci, madame" exclamations, I asked Melissa if she got what the woman had said she told me the woman said "If you take my picture, you take a piece of my heart with you". We sat in silence for quite awhile, half teary.

Coullioure Alley

18 June 2000
Collioure, France

I'm presently in Collioure, France--a little coastal village built around an ancient medieval structure which I have not yet investigated...another tourist-filled casualty of Rick Steves' attention. My neice and I drove here yesterday from the little stone cottage in Monflanquin. It is great to see her, and to have her help with driving.

I've begun to have sensations in my esophagus for the past few weeks, and although it probably only means a build up of scar tissue, I've decided to bag going to Spain, and instead head north in France earlier than expected, to go to Lyon for an endoscopy/dilation. It's better to know what's going on than to worry. Meg will come with me, and then join her folks in southern France; and will go to Barcelona by herself for a few days before she flies home.

We went out into the village yesterday, and I had my second Beardie encounter of the trip--went bonkers over Humphrey, a beautiful "blue" Beardie boy, with an English couple in a street cafe. They live in Germany and tell of having had a previous Beardie who died at 5 years, when they got Humphrey. He was a doll, and I was totally absorbed in fuzz-butt hugs. Megan said after, "Auntie Karen, you needed that!".

The Beardie thing is something only those of us who adore these dogs can get. It's something about what, in the psychological world, is called, stupidly, affect hunger. What it boils down to is that some of us short on early affection and warm body contact warm up to animals in later life who scratch the itch, so to say. And Beardies, along with their incredibly long, silky, hairlike coats, have a whimsical, playful way which counters the coldness of early life for some of us. So we get these shaggy dogs and get obsessed with them, and enjoy their gifts to our lives.

5 July 2000

Hi, all.

Thought I'd send you an update regarding my goings on over past weeks, as I'm about to close a very comforting chapter of the trip--I've been at the home of my dear friend, Gisele, in Seguret, France, for about 2 weeks, where I came with my neice Megan after we visited the charming but touristy coastal town of Collioure for three days. It was nice visiting with Meg, albeit a bit challenging for this aging soul to manage, what with au currant styles of bare and pierced navels.

Being with Gisele, my sweet congenital French mother, has been like being at a home away from home. I have done so much resting and sleeping that we've decided to call this my vacation from my vacation. I think I've been more exhausted than I realized from all the events of the past couple of years, and while the trip has been wonderful, it's also tiring to be driving all the time from this place to that, needing to be "on". Gisele says I'm resting because I'm "home", and can finally relax from many things. Tis true.

Sadly, I leave her this Saturday for a jaunt up through the Haute-Savoie area...Through a valley called Chartreuse, to a stopover in Annecy, across the French Alps to an overnight at Chamonix-Mont Blanc, and then on to the road around Lake Leman (Geneva…) to a quaint village called Yvoire. Then I go to Beaune for a couple of days in Burgundy before heading north to Paris, where I expect to stay till about July 26, when I hope to visit my friends Kathy and Greg for a few days before heading north to Sweden.

I've changed my date of return from September 15 to August 31st. And, I just found out today that the pottery which I thought I lost will in fact be mailed next week. This is a big relief, as there were items there of great sentimental value.

Hope you are all well, and altho I don't really deserve emails since I've been such a lousy traveloguer of late, I'd sure love to hear how you are doing.

xoxo Karen

P.S. My health, except for tiredness, seems to be fine...the symptoms I was having are no longer there, and I'm not sure if I will go to get a scope or not.

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