CLAIREINPARIS's SparkPeople Blog CLAIREINPARIS's Blog on SparkPeople, home of free diet plans and a healthy living community 18 Things to do in 2018 Happy New Year! (I know, it is a bit late, but in France we send our New Year cards until 15 January or even until the end of January sometimes!!!). I hope 2018 started beautifully for you. Please let me know how you are doing, I would love to hear from you! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I visited friends in the Netherlands for the last couple of days of the year, and very much enjoyed the walk we had in the ... Fri, 5 Jan 2018 13:36:42 EST Visit to Belgium – Part 2, Beervelde In my previous blog I shared about Ghent, Belgium, where my Dutch friend Cora and I had a lovely time last Saturday. The day before though, we had already had a great time at the Beervelde Flower Show (‘Journées des Plantes’ in French), which had been the original aim of our visit to Belgium. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> As some of you may know, I bought a house at the end of March. And I have a big near-empt... Sat, 14 Oct 2017 10:18:45 EST Visit to Belgium – Part 1, Ghent Do you know Ghent, in Belgium? I suspect that if you have been to Europe you haven’t been to Ghent! Yet it is a beautiful city. I love Belgium, so close from Paris, yet so different! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> On Friday, I met my Dutch friend Cora near Ghent at a Flower Show called Beervelde that is taking place this weekend. I’ll have to write a separate blog about that later this week... it was enchantin... Sun, 8 Oct 2017 10:26:12 EST A hike + a museum + a garden! What do you do when you are hesitating between going on a hike, visiting a museum, and touring a garden? You don’t choose, you do all 3 of course! ;) <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> The Vexin area I often mention in my blogs (a National Park North-West of Paris) has so much to offer... Countless castles and lovely villages, several interesting museums, lovely paths through the fields and woods... I love it all! ... Mon, 25 Sep 2017 14:59:00 EST Morienval Rose garden and Saint-Jean-aux-Bois In my previous blog I shared about Pierrefonds’ castle and my hike in the woods around it... An enchanting afternoon! Earlier on Sunday, I went to nearby Morienval, where a rose garden opened a couple of years ago (and which also has a beautiful church from the end of the 9th century which you can see on some of the pictures... the rose garden is on the grounds of what once was Morienval’s abbey). <BR> <BR> <img src=" Thu, 7 Sep 2017 03:00:08 EST Pierrefonds - a fairy tale castle and forest! My smile says it all... I had such a beautiful Sunday!!! I will have to make 2 blogs to share it all with you I think! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> But let’s start with my hike, which really was the highlight of my day. I went to Pierrefonds, in Picardy (about 1 hour North of Paris), which has a fairy tale castle! <BR> <BR> <img src=" Mon, 4 Sep 2017 06:40:44 EST Hiking in the Vexin... again! I know, I know, the Vexin area, again! But I love it there. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Old orchards, corn fields, winding paths, makeshift wooden fences, little hills, atmospheric villages... What is there not to love? <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> And it is so close to my home in the North-West of Paris (between 20 minute... Sun, 27 Aug 2017 13:38:29 EST A day of friendship and beauty in Chartres Last Friday I drove to Chartres (about 80K/50 mi South West of Paris) to meet with my English friend Carol and her family, who were on holiday in the area. Carol is a special friend I don’t see very often so I knew it was going to be a wonderful day with nice chats and lots of laughter! And in the beautiful city of Chartres I hadn’t visited in decades... that was an extra treat! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> W... Wed, 23 Aug 2017 02:20:19 EST Labbeville, Ménouville, Frouville – hiking in the Vexin Oh how I love these late summer hikes... or is it mid-summer? <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It feels like late summer, with the smell of the oregano crushed under my feet... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> ... and all the ripe berries and golden dwarfs and the grass often all yellow and sun burnt... <BR> <BR> <img src="http:/... Sun, 20 Aug 2017 15:21:29 EST My mother’s violin I would like to share something with you that is a bit different from my usual hikes. But those of you who have read my blogs for a while know that from time to time, I share something a bit more personal... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> My mother, who died last March after several years of a very sad fight against Alzheimer’s, played the violin. She was a very good amateur violinist. As I played the piano, w... Fri, 11 Aug 2017 03:53:12 EST Up the hill! Rain was in the forecast for the rest of the week so yesterday, which was the first day of my holiday, I decided to go for a walk. I just put my shoes on and walked up the hill from my house... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I love the village where I live, 15-20 minutes away from Paris... There are some nice ... Tue, 8 Aug 2017 15:27:55 EST I am back! I am hiking again! And back on Sparkpeople! Forgive me for being MIA for so long... A mixture of having a lot to do with decorating my little house and trying to do something with my garden... whilst still struggling with grief at times and missing my mother very much. It was 4 months yesterday that she died, but it sometimes feels like it was just yesterday. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Yet I realise now it ... Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:17:20 EST 40 things about me! Borrowed from POLSKARENIA (hers is here: <link><BR>urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=6339257 </link> ) <BR> I thought it would make a perfect Friday night blog. :) <BR> <BR> 1. Do you like blue cheese? <BR> Oh yes, I LOVE blue cheese, especially roquefort. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> 2. Have you ever smoked cigarettes? <BR> No. <BR> <BR> 3. Do you own a gun? <BR> No, it... Fri, 26 May 2017 17:13:16 EST Iguaçu Falls - Brazil and Argentina I am in Brazil! It is my first time in South America, so it is quite exciting for me. I arrived almost one week ago now for a series of meetings which will take until Tuesday (getting home on Thursday)... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> But, lucky me, I had two occasions to leave the meetings so that I could g... Sat, 20 May 2017 18:39:00 EST Back from Kiev! I came back from Kiev, Ukraine, last night. I had last been 20 years ago, and remembered a city with gorgeous churches. I wasn’t disappointed, they are still just as gorgeous, with their golden roofs shining in the sunshine... or, like here, as the night was falling on Kiev and the monastery of Pechersk Lavra... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> The main difference I found is that there are now lots of shops in Ki... Sat, 22 Apr 2017 15:44:09 EST Monet’s garden in Giverny As promised, here is a special blog with the pictures of my visit to Giverny last Tuesday with HOLLYM48. Monet designed and painted his famous garden in this little village of Normandy where he lived between 1883 and 1926 with his family. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Here is a map of the garden to give you an idea... <BR> <BR> <img src=" Sun, 16 Apr 2017 15:08:58 EST The light at the end of the tunnel... Sparkfriend Holly’s visit to France!!! Yesterday morning, I took Holly (HOLLYM48) back to the Charles de Gaulle airport after her wonderful one-week visit. And my heart is full of gratitude to Sparkpeople that enabled me to have such a fantastic friend, the best friend I could ask for!!! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> We had the most lovely week. We didn’t go to Paris once, focusing on my area (the suburb North-West of Paris) and also Normandy, whic... Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:24:23 EST 'What a gift that smile was' Dear Sparkfriends, <BR> <BR> I know several of you have loved ones struggling with Alzheimer’s. You kindly mention it sometimes when I speak about my mother here. And I know some of you are also having a very hard time seeing your precious parent or sibling or spouse becoming such a different person. This blog is for you, for days when you feel so discouraged... and please do feel free to share also of times that are little gifts to you. <BR> <BR> I visited my mother on Friday. She was fast... Sun, 5 Mar 2017 14:18:19 EST A peaceful afternoon hike in Boran-sur-Oise The weather forecast was strange for today, but I decided I needed a hike and was ready to brave the rain if needed! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I went to Boran-sur-Oise, about 30 minutes from where I live and roughly 1 hour North of Paris. As its name shows, the village is built by the river Oise. And just as I parked and started my hike, the sun came out of the clouds! <BR> <BR> <img src="http://photosaw... Sun, 26 Feb 2017 16:32:19 EST Foggy to sunny! Sometimes it is a bit difficult to be excited when your hike starts like this... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> (Médan’s castle) <BR> <BR> My hike yesterday started in Villennes-sur-Seine and nearby Médan, North-West of Paris. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> By the Seine, I could hardly see the boats on the river! <BR> <BR> <img src=... Sun, 19 Feb 2017 06:43:47 EST 1 hike and 3 jewels So, all I needed was a hike. And my good mood is back. Phew. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I had been a bit gloomy lately – just like the Parisian weather, very grey! The picture above I took this afternoon towards the second half of my hike, and as you can see, the gloomy mood is gone!!! The magical effect of a hike through the countryside never ceases to amaze me! <BR> <BR> <img src="http://photosaws.spark... Sun, 12 Feb 2017 14:28:40 EST Come and visit Dijon with me! Dijon is a beautiful town, and I hope you will enjoy getting a glimpse of it. I first discovered it on Friday night... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> (View on 'Place de la Liberation' from the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy) <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> (The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy) <BR> <BR> <img src="http://photosaws.sparkpeo... Tue, 7 Feb 2017 16:17:18 EST A hike and a great weekend! I had such a beautiful weekend, despite the very grey weather! My Dutch friend Cora was visiting, and we went on a hike on Friday, woohoo!!! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> (My beloved wild clematis were everywhere!) <BR> <BR> I can’t wait to have a car again (end of March, after my move... counting the days!) to resume my usual weekly hikes! Because let’s be clear: nothing makes me feel quite so wonderful as a hike ... Tue, 31 Jan 2017 04:14:37 EST Visiting the Rodin Museum with Sparkfriend METOBE! Happy New Year dear Sparkfriends!!! Apart from the more traditional health and happiness, I would also like to wish you lots of beauty in 2017, as it is so good for the soul... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> And here is a full blog packed with beauty to start the year wonderfully! <BR> The Rodin Museum of Paris is one of the most popular among tourists, and rightly so (tip: try to go off season if you can, and... Sun, 1 Jan 2017 11:31:12 EST Happy Birthday, Holly! Happy Birthday to my wonderful Sparkfriend HOLLYM48! I thought I would write a blog to wish Holly a happy birthday, because I think friendships made on Sparkpeople are such a big part of the success here... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> When I joined Sparkpeople, almost 6 years ago, little did I know that it would bring so much into my life!!! A new perspective on health and fitness, a love for hiking, of cou... Thu, 29 Dec 2016 08:25:45 EST Christmas in London - Part 2 I hope you had a beautiful Christmas! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> For me I spent Christmas Eve with Sparkfriend METOBE and her husband! It was a very special time, and it was way past midnight when I left the beautiful little studio apartment they are renting, which overlooks the Town Hall! Then the highlight of Christmas day was when my two lovely little neighbors knocked on my door on the morning to bring... Mon, 26 Dec 2016 13:12:28 EST Christmas in London - Part 1 It's Christmas! I was in England this week for my own Christmas celebrations (now back in Paris)!!! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> But I want to ask: <BR> "Which one of my colleagues thought I deserved to be given a reindeer hat as part of 'Secret Santa'?!!!" <BR> It is quite ugly in reality (the material is very uncomfortable), although it does have 2 eyes!!! But I decided to be a bit less French and take my... Sun, 18 Dec 2016 17:09:15 EST My belated birthday hike! A hike at last! Life has been rather busy lately, and yesterday I was starting to feel like things were falling into place... apart from the fact that I was missing my hikes so much! And today it was going to be very sunny (and cold!), so I decided I really had to go on a hike... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I extended the rent of the car (I haven't had one since mine was vandalised last September) for a day ... Sun, 4 Dec 2016 15:20:12 EST Hiking near Ecouen My hike yesterday was almost on my door step, only 5 minutes by train from home, i.e. 20 minutes from Paris. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> As I still don't have a car, hiking is complicated: I cannot reach the beginning of my hikes, which are usually in the middle of the countryside. But this hike I could reach by train, woohoo! Actually I had never done it simply because it is so close from home it all looks ... Wed, 2 Nov 2016 08:21:33 EST Dancing in the rain! So I came back from Ghana on Saturday... I didn't see a single thing about Ghana, apart from the airport (nice airport in Accra though, well organised, what a pleasure!) and the hotel. Sigh. But it doesn't matter, some trips are like that: they can be wonderful, but I don't get a chance to leave the hotel. And after all, I have to remember I am there to work! ;) <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> There is a memory ... Wed, 26 Oct 2016 11:30:24 EST Armenia Part 2 - Going to the mountains This blog says a lot about how strange (yet exciting) I feel my life is right now! I am writing this second blog about my Armenia trip in my hotel room in Accra, Ghana, where I arrived last Saturday (flying home tonight). <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I wanted to write it earlier but it was just too hectic during the week I spent in Paris between Armenia and Ghana, so here I am finally! <BR> <BR> <img src="... Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:23:34 EST Back from Armenia Part 1: Yerevan As often after my trips, my heart is full of emotions, my head full of memories of people I met, places I saw, food I ate, stories I heard... Armenia was, as I had thought it would be, an unforgettable trip. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It all started with this view of Mount Ararat. Mount Ararat once in Armenia, now in Turkey. <BR> My Armenian colleagues decided I needed to do 'touristy' things on my first ... Sat, 8 Oct 2016 16:20:20 EST Greetings from Stuttgart I am actually back from Germany already! But I was inspired by this heart-shaped gingerbread for the title of my blog... :) <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> "Gruss aus Stuttgart", i.e. "Greetings from Stuttgart". <BR> <BR> I was in Stuttgart last week for work meetings. Stuttgart is only about 3 hours by fast train from Paris, very convenient! <BR> <BR> <img src=" Sun, 25 Sep 2016 05:50:50 EST A long late summer hike It was a beautiful late summer day yesterday in Paris! Time for a long hike! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I had been wondering about this hike for a while. My booklet said it was 'physically demanding', because it was constantly up and down... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> ... for 5 hours! (17.5 K/11 miles, which should take a... Sun, 11 Sep 2016 13:33:33 EST When the lights go on again... Omaha Beach Part 2 I went to Omaha Beach the first time many years ago, around Easter time, as I was on vacation in Normandy. I had seen a couple of movies about WW2 of course, and studied the allied landings in high school. So I was ready for a bit of a live history lesson that day. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Well... I don't know what lesson it was, but not the one I had been expecting. I got there on a very grey and windy a... Sat, 27 Aug 2016 17:17:33 EST A meaningful hike - Omaha Beach It is probably the one beach in France all Americans have heard about... Omaha beach. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I don't know how it makes you feel, but its name only raises many emotions in me. Gratefulness, admiration, sadness, humility... but more than anything, being French, gratefulness. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> ... Fri, 26 Aug 2016 04:34:06 EST My walks in Southern Normandy The part of Normandy I usually show in my blogs is Northern Normandy, as this is the closest to my home. On the way back from my vacation though, I stopped in Southern Normandy, in Verneuil-sur-Avre. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Let me first tell you about my 21K hike around nearby Saint-Lubin-des-Joncherets yesterday afternoon though. <BR> <BR> <img src=" Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:58:50 EST Brissac, a fairytale castle in Anjou I left Angers this morning and I am near Vendome tonight (that is South West of Paris too, but further East compared to Angers)... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Before I left Angers, I wanted to see Brissac, the tallest castle in France (it has 7 floors!), which is South-East of Angers. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It was fir... Thu, 11 Aug 2016 16:49:27 EST Hiking in Anjou I am loving the area around Angers! Yesterday I decided to go for a hike a few kilometers South of Angers, starting in a hamlet called La Pointe. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It started right here. I was so excited I saw these two cyclists passing by... Remember how I usually never see anybody during my hikes? Well, it wasn't the case yesterday, and as I saw this picture of the cyclists on the evening, I laug... Wed, 10 Aug 2016 06:56:16 EST On vacation! Discovering Angers I am on vacation! On Sunday, I left Paris for Angers... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> And yesterday it was my first proper discovery of the city. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I am staying in this neighbourhood, called the Doutre, which is West of the Maine river (here, seen from the castle). Let me show you around! <BR> <BR> ... Tue, 9 Aug 2016 05:02:54 EST Further progress! A 24K hike I went to the Oise area for my hike yesterday, about 60K North of Paris, in a lovely village called Tillard, which only comprises of 15 houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I wanted a hike just a bit more difficult and longer than last week's! It was perfect. 24K/15 mile... Mon, 25 Jul 2016 07:02:03 EST My longest hike yet 21K (13 miles). It was my longest hike yet... Not very impressive by 'proper hikers' standards, but for me, it is definitely progress! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Lately I had been stuck with my 3 or 4-hour hikes (10 to 16 K roughly). Even though my plan is to be able to hike for the whole day (over 30K), I was nowhere near. So I decided to increase the length a bit. I have to admit yesterday's hike was mos... Mon, 18 Jul 2016 09:12:35 EST Around Commeny, a perfect day for a hike Perfect hiking weather! We haven't had much sunshine in Paris so far this year, but yesterday was definitely perfect: sunny and warm, but not too hot, with a lovely gentle breeze and enough clouds to make the pictures interesting!. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> I went to my beloved Vexin area, North-West of Paris, which never disappoints... It is the heart of Impressionnists' country, between Giverny (Monet) a... Mon, 11 Jul 2016 09:58:25 EST It's a bad day, not a bad life - on rainy summers and breaking up I am home for the summer, with no work trips until September. I love being home! But it is one of the rainiest spring/summer we have had in Paris for a long time, so far, so it is difficult to make the most of it... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> (One of my summer traditions... each year when I stop my work trips for the summer, I buy myself a pot of basil! here it was on my chimney a couple of weeks ago!) <BR> <BR... Sun, 3 Jul 2016 12:00:32 EST Hiking in St Clair - with wild orchids! I wasn't too far away from home for my hike today, roughly 30 minutes... at the border between the Paris area (Ile de France) and Normandy. Indeed, it was in St Clair that Normandy was created, in 911... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> And it was so green! Well, it was the first day without rain I have seen in a llllong time! No, wait. The first afternoon without rain, it rained this morning! ;) <BR> <BR> <im... Sun, 19 Jun 2016 17:42:30 EST Tallinn (Estonia Part 2) I had hoped to go to Tallinn, capital city of Estonia, one day, and so I was delighted when I was asked to attend meetings there! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Even more so when I remembered it was home to one of my favorite contemporary composers, Arvo Part... Here is one of his pieces that touch me the most, 'Spiegel im Spiegel', to accompany you if you wish on this discovery of Tallinn. :) <BR> <link>www.... Tue, 14 Jun 2016 07:11:42 EST Lahemaa National Park (Estonia Part 1) This is my last day in Estonia, and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this work trip ! Great meetings, great atmosphere, great food and great country. <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Moreover, yesterday, with 4 other colleagues, we had decided to stay for an extra day in order to get to see a bit more ... Sat, 11 Jun 2016 18:55:38 EST Sat + Sun (Minnesota Part 3) I am now in transit waiting for my flight back home to Paris. A nice opportunity with all these hours ahead to share with you my impressions and pictures of Saturday and Sunday in Minnesota! <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It was another beautiful day at Holly's! (Here lunch with Holly - HOLLYM48 -, her husband and daughters.) <BR> <BR> <img src=" Mon, 23 May 2016 15:37:02 EST Landscape Arboretum (Minnesota Part 2) This is how my mornings start here at Holly's (HOLLYM48) in Minnesota... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> Hard life, hey? <em>211</em> <BR> Every morning, among the many options, I choose low fat Greek yogurt with berries and pecan nuts, with a latte. All that in the garden in the sunshine. Ahhhhhh I could get used to this!!! <BR> <BR> <img src=" Sun, 22 May 2016 19:58:03 EST Como Conservatory (Minnesota Part 1) After my crazy but wonderful time in Philadelphia for a work conference, I flew to Minneapolis on Wednesday night and was welcome at the airport by HOLLYM48 and her husband, whom I had met in Paris last year. Then on Thursday Holly and I met WILDASTER (Annette) at the Como Conservatory... <BR> <BR> <img src=""> <BR> <BR> It was a PERFECT day! So sunny and warm, not at all the way we tend to imagine the North of t... Sat, 21 May 2016 15:20:26 EST