After our three weeks in France, just what are my travel tips for you? What did I learn that might help you?

#1. Global Entry


This is one wonderful program. By signing up and being accepted in the program, you become a “known citizen” or “trusted traveler”  and thus can bypass the customs lines when returning to the States. And, more and more foreign countries will start to accept this program in the coming months and years.

How to do it? Go to the Global Entry site. Set up an account on line. Follow all the instructions and answer all the questions. Pay $100. Then wait about two weeks when you will receive an email saying you have been approved and to set up an appointment for an interview. These are conducted, generally, at airports. Yes, you may have to travel some distance for this 10-minute interview. They take your picture and your fingerprints and you are then registered with the system for five years.

What does it do for you? Well, when we returned two weeks ago to Raleigh airport the customs line would probably have taken at least an hour. I’m guessing. But it was long and had one desk open. We scooted ahead to the Global Entry kiosks (there were five) where we were the only people, scanned our passports, placed our designated four fingers on the screen, received a print out and when straight to baggage claim. It took less than five minutes.

I can’t recommend it highly enough! We can skip the lines, always, at any domestic airport and many foreign. It is one wonderful program!

#2. Technology

Remember my post about The Dulla Portable Power Bank? It is just as good as I thought. I used it to charge both our phones numerous times before I had to recharge the actual power bank. It worked every time; I used a European adaptor plug; it’s not too heavy or large to carry in a day-trip bag; I never worried about running out of a charge in a long day on the road.


Then there is the camera issue.
I definitely was not going to take my large Canon DSLR. I planned to use my iPhone 6 for all my pictures. But at the last minute I threw in my small point and shoot camera, “just in case.” Well, I should have left it at home. The iPhone is just SO good at all kinds of pictures. I did several videos to post on my Instagram “stories” and it is so easy to do. My recommendation: just take your phone and leave the others behind!

#3. Back Pack

What happened with my (new to me) backpack idea? Ah yes…..I took the
LLBean Ridge Runner Tote


As seen in this post


It was awful from the start…It felt like a huge bag of rocks on my back. It moved around. It was awkward. It’s impossible to get on, or off, easily. It was enormous and clunky under the seat. It’s one big space inside, so very difficult to find anything while on the plane where space is at a premium (even with our upgraded ‘Comfort’ seats.) 

We decided to try taking the RER into Paris from De Gaulle. All was just fine and I do recommend it:  for 10€ per person it is a huge bargain compared to any car service. But oh the backpack! I ended up putting it on top of my suitcase where it would slide off and then pull the suitcase over etc etc. A mess.

#4. Carry-on Vs. Check

I’m back to checking a suitcase! Oh so much easier. My carry on was under 40 lbs but even so, that is HEAVY to lift up high. Maybe we’re getting too old for that? A possibility!  I really don’t mind waiting for luggage on the carousel; it’s a great time to observe other people and just begin to come down from the hours in the plane. For a direct flight I do think the risk of lost/delayed luggage is very minimal.

Once over there I knew I wasn’t going to use the backpack returning. And, as it turned out, once we bought the ceramics in Grignan and then added other goodies I decided to buy a small rolling suitcase as my carry on and check my larger suitcase. It worked perfectly! We found a black hard side four-wheeled roller for less than $30 and it was just about full with all the extras. It also allowed me a little more room to shop while in Paris…always a good thing, right?

#5. Miscellaneous Helpers

Have you ever seen or used
Plastic Pill Pouch?


This is no small item! I take Calcium and Vitamin D every day. I’ve tried them in small food bags, in their bottles, and in those daily pill boxes you can buy. Nope. These small pouches are fabulous! You count out how many pills and seal it up. So easy. And write the contents on outside. Husband is in love with these too!!  They are also very helpful for jewelry…

A small purse/carry all for short trips:


I wanted something very small and lightweight, cross-body, for short walks or early morning exploring and taking pictures around the village. It only had to hold a few euros, pen and small pad and most importantly, my iPhone. So I went to Etsy and found this
Smartphone Purse
(this identical fabric is no longer available)

It was perfect. Easy to reach for the phone/camera, has one zippered pocket, held all I needed for short walks.

I hope you will let me know if any of these help you with future planning. And, if you have any other good suggestions for us please do comment.




Let’s pause with the travel posts (although an information-packed one is coming next week!) and talk about getting the garden ready for next spring.

Southern-States-Carrboro img_4130

Southern States in Carrboro, NC my go-to garden center.

#1 Suggestion:

Fall is, of course, THE time to do any planting. Your shrubs and perennials will thank you for getting them into the ground in the fall and NOT in the spring. By planting in the fall the plants have time to establish roots (below ground) before putting all their energy into flowering and growing (above ground.)  It’s tempting, of course, to buy buy buy in the spring when you can actually SEE the pretty flowers on each plant. But horticulturally speaking, it’s best if you buy in the fall when the plants look half dead and dormant. Believe me, they are not!

#2 Suggestion:

Let’s order some tulips!
If you have been reading my blog for a while you know how I love tulips. I order at least 100 bulbs each fall. And…..yes…..I pull out each and every tulip after it has bloomed. I do this for several reasons:

1)You can never know what is going to make it for the next year. No matter what your climate, from Chicago to North Carolina, many bulbs will not make an appearance a second year. It’s very hard to plan if you don’t really know what is going to come up, right?
2) If you do leave bulbs in the ground then you have to “deal” with them all summer. Every time you dig or plant in that garden you are continually running into bulbs.
3) Most importantly (for me) I get to plan an entirely new color scheme each year. It is pure joy.
4) And now, in my village, I have people who look forward to my display each spring! This is important, y’all!

Here is a quick tour of past years:


2013 is totally missing from my files…hmmmmm




You can read and see much more detail about my 2016 tulip garden HERE.

I have ordered from many and various sources over the years.

This year I am trying Longfield Gardens. I’ve seen several garden bloggers talk about them and order from them…and yes, they do a nice job of self-promotion. They had Alliums on sale last week, so I looked over their selection of tulips. I had been thinking of an all pink, or shades thereof, color scheme. Now, mind you, this is in my main front and center garden. But I also have two others areas, one directly ‘en face’  and another in an interior courtyard. I don’t plant tulips outside of our fenced area as the risk of deer is too great.

They have many videos on the site. This one explains nicely just how to plant tulips.

I won’t reveal yet my actual choices; I will also be adding more. So far I have about 75 bulbs which, of course, is not enough!
For those of you in my growing area this is the perfect time to plant pansies and snapdragons. Most of them will make it through the winter although they will go into a sort of “hibernation” with snow and ice. But generally, come March they perk up again and by April you have more color in the garden.
Happy weekend and I hope you will get out there in the garden!


Every trip has at least one event, one moment, one experience that stands out above all others. Do you agree?

Whether the trip is a weekend long or several weeks or even months there are one or two experiences that become THE memory forever. Many things can make this moment or event stand out, and those things can vary greatly. For me, on this trip, it was our day excursion to the town of

grignan france

Let’s start with this short video I did and had posted on Instagram that day:

The town is built around, and famous for, the Château du Grignan. I first encountered the name when, in studying French with a tutor in 2003, we (very slowly and haltingly) made our way through the book of Madame de Sevigné’s letters to her daughter in the mid-1600’s. It is definitely an uphill climb to read them in French (English versions are available!) but the “story” is fascinating. The loneliness, the isolation, the separation and, more than anything, the Mistral wind sweeping down the Rhône Valley was enough to cause depression and physical malaise in anyone.

We had been there years ago…maybe ten years?…. but it was rainy and cold that day so we hadn’t been into the château or done much exploring. I just remember having lunch in a lovely cafe and knowing I wanted to come back.

So off we went. This year we had gorgeous picture-perfect weather. And by early October the crowds are gone.

If you noticed the last few photos in the above video you can see the outside of the shop we discovered….

 my find of the day:
Poterie Du Chateau
poterie-du-chateau img_2823_wm



I fell in love with almost every piece here. I did know, from past experience, that it is just about impossible to have anything shipped from any small retailer in France. It’s such a shame. Anything you want you must hand carry home…or arrange, i.e. pack it yourself, for direct shipping. Ten years ago we had brought home eight dessert plates, pitcher and bowls from a small shop in Dieulefit but somehow I just couldn’t deal with doing that again. So we bought a few small pieces, and spent time in the shop with one of the owners. We watched her work at her wheel, with me overwhelming her with questions and not knowing the vocabulary in French for such technical work! It was a challenge and I loved it!




We were looking for un sucrier (sugar bowl) with une couverture (top) but with a cutout for a spoon. This almost fit the bill, but not quite.



I am loving my pitcher filled with my gorgeous red dahlias. And the packing paper made a perfect backdrop.


There were other defining moments on our trip, bien sûr, that I will write about. But next up here, I will give you some travel tips and some of my dos and don’ts for what I ended up taking with me, what I found useful, and some new discoveries.

P.S. To read more about Madame de Sevigne’s life and her relationship to her daughter, whom she adored, here is a brief summary.