Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009: Doors to the Imagination

I have always been fascinated by doors. If you looked back through my photos taken on trips during the last 15 years you might notice a heavy amount of "film" dedicated to doors. Everything from the age, the color, the size, the upkeep, the location and the surroundings of doors can create a really cool view. But, I think I really like them because of what just a quick glance can spark in my imagination. I begin to wonder if the door owners know just how cool a door they really have? Or was their awesome door created by a poetical mix of weather and neglect? Do they know the flower box to the right adds just the right amount of color accent to the rusty iron door handle? Do they ever stop and take pride in the beautiful gift that their door presents to passerbys? Did the owners of the the door know that over centuries, all that would be left was the door frame and minor portions of it's surrounding wall? Why does their door have a iron grid at the level of a person's face? How hard did they look for what appears to be a 200 lb wolf door knocker? Did the ornate door numbers get passed down over generations or have I been fooled and were recently acquired from Frontgate Magazine? And then of course, most importantly and interestingly, who has lived behind the door and what is their story?

I could go on forever about my fascination with doors and I bet a few of you share the same interest. But I am particularly thinking about this topic today because of the adventure that we took this past weekend. My sister Kris has been visiting from Indiana and to get her a good taste of the French country-side and non-city life here in Caen, I thought a nice trip away would be fun. So I very randomly selected a trip agenda and we all loaded into the CTA bus on Saturday morning and started towards Domfront, France.

Domfront, France is called the Cite Medievale (aka. Medival City). I wasn't totally sure what that meant, but I had expected to see a really old castle when we arrived. Indeed, it was quite the contrary. The city itself appeared to be scattered with ramparts or remnants of an old city fortress that was huge in diameter. You might see bits of a tower from the 12th century that are now integrated into a restaurant or an old 11th century fortress wall that now forms the back of a homeowners garage. And if you keep walking up an old cobble stone street, you will run right into a large chunk of this fortress that still remains from centuries ago. Huge fortress walls tower over you, mazes of underground and above ground passageway are visible to you as you enter what is called Chateau Domfront. But most interestingly to me were all of the doorways that remained. Instead of the doors spurring my imagination, it was now the doorways themselves that made me wonder. All of the adults (Kris, Andrew and myself) were truly amazed by this visit. The girls were surprisingly unphased by the monster fortress walls and the spectacular view from the Chateau look-out, but that is the behavior you learn to expect from little kids - unpredictable!

We left Domfront around 4:00 p.m. and started driving to our next stop: Bagnoles de l'Orne. Now how I came to have this be our next stop is that I knew on Sunday I wanted us to end up in La Ferte Mace. And the only hotels I could find suitable for the six of us were in Bagnoles de l'Orne which was about 10 km away from La Ferte Mace. So I knew from a bit of reading that we might find some place for dinner and that a nice, pretty walk would be available to us around the lake. And that this place is popular with the elderly and the sick around France due to having a spring with supposed healing properties. And in retrospect, I should have sent Andrew to the spring immediately upon arrival as he was sick as a dog with a sore throat and chills. But I hadn't expected the fun we really ended up having.

Andrew took a nap when we arrived and when he was ready, we all started off on a walk. The walk was around the pretty lake and over a floral bridge. It was so pretty, in fact, that we probably saw about four sets of marriage parties taking pictures and tons of "just married" cars and caravans driving by beeping their horns. We continued to walk by the hippodrome (horse track) and around the
neighborhood deeply embellished with pretty, old mansions, bed and breakfasts and other shops. Quite by accident, we came upon a forested area that had signs for some kind of path. With no other entertainment in mind for the evening besides dinner, we decided to follow the path. The path ended up being a fitness trail,
but much more fun and interesting than any you have ever seen. This fitness trail took about 1 hour and I truly think the girls (and Andrew) could have done the circuit 3 more times because it was so fun.

The stations on the trail were various things such as wall climbing, hurdles, rope swinging, etc...It was an unexpected diversion that actually ceased all fighting, whining and any other animosity from the girls for a whole hour straight and it was something that Kris, Andrew and I noticed - and truly appreciated. We ended the night with pizza and pasta from a local italian restaurant and then a comfy night sleep at the Hotel du Beryl.

On Sunday after breakfast we started for La Ferte Mace, France. It was just about 15 minutes away from Bagnoles. So the great thing was that the drive was short. The not so great thing is that an annual vide-greniers (imagine the whole town packing up their wares for a garage sale and then taking them into town and having their garage sale on a card table along the main streets of town) was occurring in the town's center. Roads were closed, traffic was backed up and our GPS was utterly confused by our lack of direction-taking. I had planned on having nice weather and a slow-paced town at my disposal for figuring out where and what to do in this town but all I had was the nice weather. I had read about a big park with tons of stuff to do on a lake and after some searching we did find this park. And though we did manage to spend about 3 hours at this lake, it was only due to a sandy beach and a park. All of the other activities never opened. The park was very fun for the girls as it had lots of unique structures and the emergency sand toys I keep in the car also came in handy. So the morning and afternoon had the potential of ending in disaster, but it ended just great. Before starting back to Caen, we stopped for a picnic in Falaise.

Our adventure weekend was so much fun and I was so pleased to share it with my sister. I will be forever grateful to her for helping entertain the girls and for her patience and flexibility. But especially I am grateful for the pictures and memories that we will have to talk about for the next 40 years of our lives. We can recall the great doors we saw and imagine what it must've been like to live in a grand fortress in Domfront, France five centuries ago. When the fortress had doors and the walls had ceilings and the rocks were still stacked atop each other to make a moat. Most likely, we will laugh about how stubborn Mia was when she was 4 years old, how adventurous Ella was at 6 and how cuddly and cute Grace was at 4. Today, my sister Kris and I can only imagine what the girls have in store for them years from now. I wonder what doors they will open and which ones they will close...


  1. what a beautiful blog - just when I think there will not be an entry and check one more time - there it is and I feel close again!!!

  2. What fun! LOve all the pictures and the blog! I love those old doors, too!!

  3. Keep doing Gracie's hair like Drew B. It is just too cute!!! You should enter her into a look alike contest!