Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Exciting Day

Sunset behind Notre Dame. Waiting for the inauguration.

I know there in the states it's still mid-day, but it's the end of the day here in Marseille and we have to say, it was an exciting day.

We went to the local grocery to pick up some food for dinner. We also decided that if there was a day to drink Mumm Champagne (our favorite), then today would be the day. Our next stop, was the boulongerie to get some bread. The female owner asked us if we were excited about today, and we said "Yes". She said she had bought a copy of La Provencal newspaper to read about Obama. She seemed excited as well.
After going to the vegetable and fruit stand, we stopped and picked up our own copy of La Provencal to see the news. Two pages were devoted to the inauguration with the title saying "The Immense Hope".

Chris did some work, as did I, waiting for the inauguration to be shown on CNN. We got our bottle of Mumm ready for when they played Hail to the Chief for President Obama.

Being here in France and watching the inauguration was really amazing. The two of us held hands and toasted the newly elected President. How exciting to witness this amazing day in history...our first African American President to take office only one day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. To watch President Obama take his oath and give his speech on TV really instilled a feeling of hope and happiness.

We were impressed with President Obama's speech and are interested to see what happens in the next four years. Being here in France, we know the hard times many are facing back in the states, and we keep thinking that positive things are to come. We know there is a lot of problems that need to be fixed, and that it is not going to be easy for our new President, but as his slogan says, we have hope!

Toasting the new President of the United States of America.

Oreo slept through most of the event. Being half white and half black himself, he knew that this day would come eventually. :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fire at Notre Dame

This morning, while eating breakfast, I looked out the window and noticed black smoke in the air. I asked Chris if the smoke was coming from a chimney, but he couldn't see from where he was seated. So he got up, looked out the kitchen window, and said "It's coming from Notre Dame!" I jumped up and looked out and saw the smoke.

Chris looked online, thinking that sometimes Catholics will do smoke if the Pope has died, but I didn't think that was the case. Sure enough, nothing on the internet told us what was going on.

I grabbed my camera and took a picture so I could zoom in and see where the smoke was coming from. It was coming out of a window near the dome. I asked Chris if we should notify someone about it, but he figured that everyone in the city would see it too and call the fire department.

The smoke stopped before we even finished breakfast.

This afternoon, we looked on the Provencal news website, and found out there had been an electrical fire at Notre Dame. They had to evacuate some people, but no one was hurt, and very little damage was reported.

Tonight, Notre Dame is dark. It's very strange looking out and not seeing the glowing lights.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blog bug bites Chris

Chris has been bitten by the blog bug. He is working, I promise, but he needs something to do for fun besides game (even if it does involve gaming too).

If you are into computer gaming or cooking, check out his blog at http://eremitegames.blogspot.com

His wonderful chicken cacciatore recipe is on there. :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Walking in a winter wonderland...in Provence!

I woke up this morning around 9am, and fed Oreo his food and then looked out of the window to see something quite odd. SNOW! It was pure white outside and we couldn't see very far at all. I had to make sure I wasn't dreaming! Chris thought I was joking when I exclaimed "There's snow outside!"

Not just snow, but LOTS OF SNOW covering everything. It was snowing so hard, we couldn't see Notre Dame on the hill, or the mountains out our bathroom window.

According to the news, it started snowing this morning around 6:30am, after people had already started going to work and dropping their kids off at daycare. The news said that the whole area is under snow, and even over in Venice, Italy. All the trains, buses, plains, metro, and taxis are not running. The Mayor here in Marseille had declared that everyone should stay put, to not drive, and that your kids would be fine in daycare until later on.

I sat around all morning asking Chris "Can we go play in the snow now?" I finally got him out of the house and we went for a little walk around the neighborhood after the snow stopped falling around noon.

We were quite surprised to find that everything was open. Since a lot of people had already gotten to work before it snowed too much, they just kept a lot of the groceries and boulongeries open. There were people out and about everywhere. We saw two snowmen on the sidwalks, and a few kids having snow ball fights.

Chris attempted to build a snowman on the sidewalk, and it was so funny watching kids and adults stare at him as they walked by. I guess they had either (1) never seen a grown man make a snowman or (2) never seen a grown man make a snowman the way he was doing it. The snow was so wet, that he just took a small ball and kept rolling back and forth to make it bigger. He only made the bottom ball before deciding it was time to keep walking.

We bought some groceries and baguette, took a few pictures, and we came back home. Chris' shoes are not conducive to walking in snow, but thankfully, I have my Ugg boots so it's no problem for me.

Oreo tried to walk out on the balcony earlier and he got snow on his head. We thought about letting him out on the balcony to play, but figured he better not get use to doing that.

I measured 6" on our balcony, but I bet we got more than that.

The rest of the day we spent inside. We would have loved to walk to the port, but it would have been a long walk, and Chris probably wouldn't have been able to do it easily with his shoes. It's so nice looking out at the snow covered rooftops. Some of the snow has melted now, but it's still white.

It's a good thing that Carolyn and David flew home yesterday and not today. Our friend, Jaclyn, is stuck in Paris tonight because there is no way to get to Marseille until possibly tomorrow afternoon. Luckily, Air France is putting her up in a hotel tonight.

See our pictures here http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.5dyuafrn&x=0&h=1&y=-f4w0te&localeid=en_US

Monday, January 5, 2009

Invasion of Avignon (1/3/09)

Whoever said that traveling by train in France is easy, hasn't truly been on a train ride....

Today we go up early and headed to Gare St. Charles (the train station) to go to Avignon. For this trip, we needed to reserve our seats at the train station, since we hadn't done it earlier. We went to the ticket area and purchased our seats for the train.

We went to the track and waited for the train to arrive. It was quite cold there in the open air station, and we all hoped it would be warmer as the day went on. I hadn't dressed as warmly as I should since the day before had been in the 50's.

The train arrived, and we hopped on board. We were making jokes that we were once again, in car 13 and that it was a train coming from Nice (we had been in car 13 for our crazy adventure home on New Year's Eve).

When we got to our seats, we found two young men in our seats. We told them those were our seats, and they promptly got up and moved and one hopped off the train (obviously he didn't have a ticket).

We got comfortable and waited for the train to load. A couple with a young boy came over to us and said we were in their seats. We got out our tickets and compared them with their's, and it all appeared to be the same...the car, the seats, the destination, the time, all the same. We couldn't figure out what was going on. We were about to get up and give them the seats (since they had a child with them and shouldn't have to stand the whole way), but they went to find a conductor instead. We figured we should do the same to figure out the whole mess.

Chris looked closer at the tickets, and realized there was a problem, it was dated for January 6th, and not the 3rd! The ticket guy had sold us seats on the wrong date.

We found a conductor and told him our story. He was very nice and spoke in English, saying that we would have to go to talk to the ticket counter or pay more for the correct tickets aboard. He asked if we were American, and we said yes, that we were from New York City. He smiled and said not to worry about it, he would take care of everything. He said we would have to find seats somewhere on the train and that it would be fine this time around. The conductor also told us to get our return tickets fixed once we reached Avignon.


Always say that you are from New York City when traveling in Europe...no matter if you are from there or not. People treat you better when you say you are from there. If we had said "Indiana", I very much doubt the guy would have been as nice to us.

Back to the story....

So we hopped back on the train, in car 13, and there was one empty seat next to the couple and child, so we let Carolyn have it. Chris, David, and I sat right inside the door by the baggage rack. There was 3 seats that you could pull down from the wall to sit on. Here we had paid for 1st class seats, and we were stuck in baggage next to the toilet! When the train started going, we just had to laugh at the whole situation. Chris was still really mad about it all, but I told him things could have been worse, and we may have ended up missing our trip to Avignon. David was joking about his "window seat" since he was right by the door to the train car. There was one guy standing in the area with us, and he just kept looking at us like we were crazy as we laughed and laughed.

The train stopped in Aix, and we had to move a bit to let passengers on and off. One lady asked Chris if he would watch her suitcase since it wouldn't fit in the baggage slot. He said yes, and later said he should have asked for a tip.

We made it to Avignon in about 30 minutes, which was good. Our ears hurt a bit from the pressure in the train (when you go through tunnels, your ears pop, and it was worse being by the door).

We found the ticket booth and Chris got the return tickets changed to say the 3rd instead of the 6th.

Walking out of the train station, we found the bus stop to go to the center of town. We only had to wait about 5 minutes or so for a bus to arrive, which was great, because it was VERY cold outside. I was really missing my long coat, mittens, and hat.

The bus ride only took about 10 minutes to get into the walled city of Avignon. Once inside, we got out at the bus stop and walked down the main road filled with shop after shop. We found a candy store and went in. Chris found some gellied fruits he has been wanting to try.

For lunch, we went to Cafe Lou Mistraul. It was a bad choice in the end. The salmon was way overdone, Carolyn's chicken was blah, and Chris wasn't that pleased with his sausage. The sausage he ordered had tripe in it. Tripe is intestines, for those of you who don't know, and man did it stink and look disgusting! About as bad as the blood sausages we have had in the past. David was the only one who had a good meal...mushroom and chicken gravy over noodles.

Our next stop was the Palace of the Popes. Chateau Neuf de Papes (Chateau of the 9 Popes) was very intersting. We had to pay 11 euros each to get in and that included an audio guide. I'm really not one for those audio guides, and the British guy on there could "put a horse to sleep" as Chris said. I ended up listening to it on and off, but preferred to have Chris explain things to me.

The inside of the Cheateau was very bare. The ornaments, paintings, and decorations have been destroyed over the years, so it's rather plain now. Only two rooms are having their walls restored with copies of the original paintings. I had been expecting a palace like Versailles, but it wasn't like that at all.

After we finished our tour, we came out and walked up the hill to the cathedral. We went inside for a little while. When we were coming out, we heard people yelling. When we got to the edge and looked down, there was a mob of Palestinians with flags, banners, blowhorn and they were all coming to the area right below the cathedral. We stood there watching as more and more black wearing Palestines came in. They were chanting in French that "Israel murders". There wasn't a cop in sight, which was odd because if this had taken place in Marseille or even in the states somewhere, there would have been cops all over.

I took some videos of the rally for you to watch. I'll upload them soon.

The rally was loud, but peaceful, and after a while, we moved on and walked towards the Pont de Avignon (bridge behind the chateau). It was a long walk and we probably didn't take the most direct route there. We were all so cold! Our tickets to the Chateau also covered entry onto the bridge. We walked out on it, Chris danced a bit (I have a video of this too, and will upload it soon) because of the song "Sur le Pont Avignon".

We checked out a few shops on our way back to the train station, and stopped off to buy some bread to take home with us. We ended up getting to the train station early, and we were able to change our train tickets to an earlier time so we would get home faster.

Our trip home was uneventful, thankfully, and we got home in time to cook dinner. Chris made an amazing dish of pork chops with a white wine, apple, and apricto sauce and I made salads and mashed potatoes.

Pictures of the day can be found at http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.9l5hsf6b&x=0&h=1&y=u4qwe6&localeid=en_US

Walking around Marseille (1/2/09)

Chris & I wanted to take Carolyn and David around Marseille today to see a few things. We walked down to Castellane because we wanted to take them to Pizzaria Magia for supion. It was closed though, so we went into Cafe Messena on the corner. It's always packed, so we figured it would be a good choice.

It was actually a WONDERFUL choice! We ordered the plat de jour...Chris & I had mussles with Roquefort cheese on them and fries, Carolyn and fish with a cream sauce, and David a steak with Roquefort on it. The food was the best we have had yet! For dessert, we all had profiteroles and Chris had a citrus tart. While eating, we saw a lot of people around us eating coquillage (a plate of raw seafood...mussles, clams, oysters, and urchins). Chris & I are definitely going back there again and ordering that!

Chris splashed some Roquefort on his shirt, so we had to head back to the apartment. We spent some time taking care of the missing debit card (see "Crazy Train Strikes Again" blog post), and then we were off to the Cours Julien.

I wanted Carolyn to see the Savonnerie soap store since it's one of my favorite shops. We got there just in time for the tour to see how the soap is made. It was all in French, but David and I still enjoyed watching the guy make soap with very old hand machines. Chris translated some of the information to me so I had an idea of what the guy was saying. We came back out into the store and loaded up on soaps. The soap there is the best! I am going to have to ship a huge box full back to the states when we move. The soap is pure and made with olive oil. The guy had told us that some soap places say they have soap made in Marseille, but it's not true and those places will use french fry oil in their soaps. GROSS! The soap at the Savonnerie is so clean and has really done wonders for our skin.

On our walk, Chris found a game store that had lots of board and cards games in it. He was in heaven!

It was getting dark, so we decided to forego going to Notre Dame de la guarde and just head home for dinner. We ordered pizza from Le Verdi downstairs. Since we ordered two pizzas, we got a bottle of Rose wine for free.

Crazy Train Strikes Again (1/2/09)

After having lunch at Messena Cafe (wonderful cafe at Castellane...which is just a short walk from where we live), David realized that his debit card was missing. We came home and searched jackets, pants pockets, and his wallet, but the card was no where to be found.

Everyone was going back and forth on whether it had been left in an ATM, stolen, or had fallen out of David's pocket. We checked online, and found that the card had been used by someone the last 2 days on 5 different purchases which added up to about 100 euros. David tried calling his bank, but it cost money to use our phone to call, so we had to use Skype to call the customer service line.

We continued pondering over what happened to the card, when it hit us...it was probably the "drunk" guy on the train!

When we had got on the train from Nice to Marseille, there was a guy who reeked of alcohol who kept talking to us in French. He was sitting just one row behind Carolyn and David, although he really didn't sit much because he kept going in and out of the train car. He kept asking us if we heard the announcements, and Chris would leave the train car to go out and listen...but wouldn't hear any new information.

We were all pre-occupied with reading and waiting for the train to go. I noticed the "drunk" guy going through his bag in the overhead rack a couple of times, but didn't think anything of it since he was just acting odd anyways.

When the others started running towards the train and loading up, that guy was no where to be found.

Thinking back, David remembered that his coat, which he had put in the overhead rack, was in a different place than when he had originally put it up there. When he first got on the train, it was on the other side of my backpack, closer to him. When he got off the train, it was on the opposite side of my backpack, closer to where the "drunk" guy had been. He also had thought it odd that his wallet was in the opposite pocket of his jacket than he usually kept it.

Obviously, the guy was not drunk at all, and was quite the theif. He probably had splashed alcohol on himself. He kept distracting Chris and getting Chris to leave the train car, since Chris was the only one facing him and paying any attention to what was going on around us. He moved David's jacket near his own bag, so he could rummage through it...finding David's wallet. He took out the debit card, since it was the only card in there that he could use, and put the wallet back in another pocket. If he had taken more than one card, it would have alerted us immediately, but taking one card didn't really stand out for a few days until David went to an ATM.

We had been told earlier by a waiter that debit cards can easily be used to recharge phones, so they are usually good targets for theifs. Sure enough, most of the charges on the debit card that the theif had done were for France telecom (phone company).

We all learned something from this adventure...keep your coat with you at all times and do not keep your wallet away from you. Also, beware of seemingly drunk men on trains...keep an eye on your baggage, and don't travel on a holiday.

Taking the crazy train home along the French Riviera (12/31/08)

Our last day in Nice was rainy and cold. Despite the weather, Chris & I went for a walk on the beach after breakfast and collected more sea glass. He also found a marble and a ceramic bead for me.

We met up with his parents for lunch at Le Bistro. We wanted to get the plat du jour, which was steak with gorganzola cheese sauce and potatoes. Since we got to the restaurant later (1:30pm), they were out of the special. David and I ordered steak and french fries with onion soup, Carolyn and a salade nicoise, and Chris the carpaccio (he really wanted to see what the fuss was about). The food was good, but we were disappointed about not getting the special.

We went back to the condo to pack, and Jean was nice enough to pick us up and give us a ride to the train station. Getting there an hour early was no advantage to us. After waiting for about 20 minutes, the trains started showing delays, and eventually, ours was also delayed "indefinitely". They announced over the intercom that there was an electrical outage in Abergine that was affecting all trains heading West. We sat in the waiting room, thinking that we may end up having our New Year's celebration at the station this year.

A track was announced for our train later, but the boards still said delayed. Chris figured it would be better to go sit on the train instead of the waiting room. We were on the train with two other guys, one guy was quite drunk, the other just smiled.

We figured we had time to kill, so we started playing Hearts. Afer a few games, a crowd of people started running like mad to our train and hopping on board. They took whatever seats they could find. We had asigned seats since we had first class tickets, but everyone else just took what they could. We couldn't figure what was going on. Chris was worried that they had changed the train, but when he asked the others who were on board, they all said we were heading in the right direction.

The announcement said that we would be leaving soon, and everyone cheered. There was a group of teenagers in the back of our train car acting up and playing in the bathroom.

The next announcement said we were waiting on the police. We couldn't figure out what was going on, but we were ready to get home. We were already an hour and a half behind schedule, and we had not had dinner yet.

The police hopped on and continually walked up and down the train. They seemed to be looking for something or someone.

The train started moving and everyone cheered again. It was crawling, and stopped off and on with announcements for people to stay away from the doors, and to stay in their seats. It seemed to take forever to even get to our first real stop.

The rest of the trip was slow and annoying. The kids in the back were driving us nuts with their antics, and I was getting hungrier (I'm always hungry). The police continued walking back and forth through the train. Chris needed to use the restroom, and I told him to go further up the train and not go to the one next to the kids in the back. He came back from the restroom saying it was awful, and that it seemed people were taking out their hostilities by messing up the bathroom. That told the rest of us that we would just have to wait until we got home (whenever that would be).

At one point, we saw a train controller walk briskly through our train car towards the front. After a few minutes, he returned with 13 cops following him! They were running now and some were hurridly getting on their jackets.

The next thing we knew, they were escorting two guys in handcuffs to our train car (of course) to the area by the door. The 2 guys had to sit on their knees for the rest of the trip. The other cops kept going back and forth still, so maybe there were other guys in another train car. It was absolute craziness!

We never did find out what those guys did, but it sure made the trip intersting to say the least. I was ready to jump off the crazy train when we hit Marseille. I was tired, hungry, and ready to get away from stupid kids.

Unfortunately, we ran into more stupid kids down at the metro station. There was a group of boys trying to jump the turn stiles without paying and a controller was telling them they couldn't do it. We had to push through the hooligans to put our tickets in and get down to the metro.

I was SO HAPPY to get home at 10pm last night. We made some soup and waited to ring in the new year with some sparkling wine. We were all exhausted from our trip and ready to go to bed. We stood by the kitchen and counted down the time by looking at our wall clock. We said our BONNEE ANNEE's and then we looked outside to see if there was any fireworks. We only saw a few flares go up.

In an apartment across the way from us, there was a group at the window looking for fireworks too, and they started waving at us. So we waved back and forth and raised our glasses. Marseille, being the 2nd largest city in France, really doesn't go all out for New Year's.

We said goodbye to 2008 and said BONNE ANNEE to 2009 and then went right to sleep.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Monte Carlo, Monaco (12/30/08)

We got up this morning and Chris & I got some food from the marche and the boulangerie for breakfast. We cooked eggs, and had the most amazing croissants...the best I have had in France so far.

We thought we could catch a train to Monaco around noon, and according to the train station's website the night before, we would be there in time for lunch since the trip was only 20 min. We walked to the train station, which was a good distance away. It probably took us 20 minutes to get there walking at a regular pace.

We bought our tickets at the station, and walked over to the time boards to check on our train. We were very unhappy to see that there was a strike going on (of course), and there wasn't another train for 2 hours. We really should have looked at the schedule board before purchasing the tickets. Since we had time to kill, and the Russian cathedral wasn't far away, we decided to walk over there for a little while. We used our Garmin GPS to figure out the best way to get over to the cathedral.

The Russian cathedral wasn't as big as I had imagined it. It was beautiful, but we couldn't go inside since it was noon. When planning things here in France, you really can't do anything between noon and 2pm since everyone eats lunch during that time.

We thought it would be a good idea to grab some sandwiches to eat while waiting for the train. We stopped at a boulangerie and bought ham and cheese sandwiches to share. When we got back to the train station, we couldn't find a place to sit. In the main hall, there was only a few seats, and people were like vultures with them...one person would jump up, and someone else would swoop in and take it before we got a chance to take a step.

Eventually we had Chris go and ask if there was another place to sit, and he found out that we could go further into the station, near the tracks, and there were benches there. (Later we found out that there was another waiting room further down the track that was indoors and had pay toilets which cost 0.50 centimes).

We sat down and ate our sandwiches while watching trains come and go. The pigeons started coming over and we fed them our scraps. One pigeon was missing a toe on one foot, and missing the entire other foot. We named him Stumpie and we fed him more than the others.

After waiting and waiting, inhaling others smoke (even though the train station was supposedly smoke free), we found out our train track and we got on board.

Our train to Monaco was very fast. When we arrived, we found our way out of the station and walked over towards the port (there are actually two ports in Monte Carlo). We really didn't know how to get to the palace or to the casino, so we just walked around aimlessly for a little while. We could see people walking up the hill, so we thought that would be the way to go if we wanted to see the palace. After some searching, we found the path and walked up the hill.

Our first impression of Monaco was "this is it?" It wasn't nicer than Nice (ha), and didn't really fit our idea of ritzy Monte Carlo. However, when we got up to the Palace and walked around up on the hill over looking the nicer part of the area (the 2nd port), we started changing our view. We couldn't go into the palace, since Prince was actually there (we knew this by the flag flying high above).

Wandering around the tiny streets, we found a small cathedral and the larger cathedral. We also found a lovely garden to walk through with breathtaking views of the Med.

We had a couple of hours, and figured we should check out the Musée Océanographique. It was well worth the money to go through this museum. Outside, there was a yellow submarine that I just had to pose in front of!

The downstairs was an aquarium with a variety of fishes and animals. I really enjoyed the baby dogfish and the loggerhead turtle. The upper floors were part of the oceanographic insitute of Monaco with exhibits talking about global warming and exploring the arctic. There was also a room of death, as I called it, that was filled with whale bones and dead animals. Apparently, Prince Albert was quite fond of studying the ocean, but he was also into harpooning whales to research them.

It was getting late, and we wanted to get back to Nice for dinner. We decided to skip the casino this time (since I couldn't have gone in wearing jeans, and it costs money for you to go inside and gamble). We took the train back to Nice, which was easy and smooth.

For dinner, we went to Bistro Romain, which is a chain of Italian restaurants here in France. The food was excellent...I had the truffle and roquefort ravioli and Chris had the salmon gratin. The restroom was kind of scary, downstairs and unisex. There was a family next to us that ordered the carpaccio. For those of you who have never had carpaccio, it is a dish of raw beef, veal, or tuna, and at this restaurant, it was served with french fries. The mother ordered 3 dishes of this, one after the other, and the man and son ordered about 5 each! We couldn't believe that anyone could eat that much! The family wasn't overweight, nor did they look like they could eat that much food. They just acted like it was no big deal to eat that much. It was really wild.

You can view our pictures at http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.bb4o6uyr&x=0&h=1&y=606xhl&localeid=en_US

More pictures here http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.59zoq3pf&x=0&h=1&y=iiwxci&localeid=en_US

Nice: Day 2 (12/30/08)

Saying that "Things are nicer in Nice" is so cliche. Things are downright WONDERFUL in Nice! I really do love this area...and who wouldn't. The wide beaches filled with rocks and sea glass, the beautiful Med right there, mountains, colorful buildings, no parking on sidewalks, and no dog crap everywhere!

We got up and had breakfast at a cafe down the block across from the beach called Le Jardin de Capitole (if I remember right). For 11 euros, one could have 3 eggs, croissant, baguette, jellies, coffee or tea, and orange juice. This is what the French call "le petite dejeuner anglais" (American breakfast). It was good, but overpriced for what it was.

Chris & I took a quick walk on the beach, filled our pockets with sea glass and rocks, and then we were off again. We took the small tourist train around Nice, which went through old town, around the port, and up to Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill) and the Parc du Chateau. Amazing views on the way there and even more on top of the hill. I would love to return when the weather is warmer and spend more time exploring the park. The train took us back to the Promenade de Anglais (next to teh beach).

We had a late lunch (at 3pm) at Le Saleya. I had the gnocchi nicoise (specialty here) which was very good. Chris had salad nicoise (another specialty).

We spent a little bit of time walking around the antique market while they were closing up. We were not too impressed, since things seemed to be rather overpriced.

We walked along the beach at sunset back towards the port, and then turned around. It was time for dessert, so we went to have gelato at Pinnochio. Our waiter was wonderful, so funny, and saying everything in multiple languages. The gelato was so creamy...much better than regular ice cream in the states. Chris & I split the tiramisu, which was 3 scoops of gelato of different flavors with chocolate and cookie crumbles on it.

With our tummies full, we walked back to the condo and David taught me how to play Hearts. We spent the rest of the night playing. I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Carolyn beat us all.

Becks Invade Nice and the French Riviera: Day 1 (12/28/08)

Today, we got up early to get to the train station for our trip to Nice. This time, we only took small bags, which was much easier than bags and a suitcase. I highly recommend to anyone visiting France, to bring either a backpack or duffle bag with you for mini trips.

The train was on time, and we hopped aboard in no time. Our seats were all together this time around. The train ride was GORGEOUS! Views of the Mediterranean, mountians, vineyards, so many things to see on the way. The ride was about 2 hours, which wasn't bad.

We pulled into train station, and got a taxi to take us to our condo. The condo was only one block from the beach, and we could even see the water from our windows. The apartment had 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and full bathroom. It was very nice and comfortable for us. It even had a cute balcony with plants and a lime tree.

Jean, the caretaker, met us at the door. He was very nice, giving us tips on what to see and do. David had found this place listed on a rental site. The woman who owns it lives in Virginia, and Jean lives in France.

We were very hungry (I was starving), so had lunch at Le Gourmet which was only one block away. I had ravioli with a creamed truffle sauce that was delicious. The atmostphere was very cozy...almost had the feel of a lodge restauarant with the decor and dark wood paneling.

After lunch (eating here takes about 2 hours), we went to the beach. The beach in Nice is very long, spanning the length of the city. It is a pebble beach, so just a little bit of sand that has been brought in. The pebbles range in size and color, and are just so much fun to look through. Chris & I could have spent the entire time just treasure hunting on the beach. There was a lot of sea glass (glass that has been tumbled enough to look like little stones), so we started collecting it. I reached for a piece and a wave smacked right down on my feet...half way up my leg. I was soaked through my shoes! There were some guys up near the boardwalk laughing hysterically at me and yelling things to us in between laughs. It was quite funny, until later when it got colder outside.

We watched the sun set over the horizon.

We found our way over to the older part of town and found a holiday market, ferris wheel (seems like very French city has one except Marseille), and a small ice skating rink. We shopped around, and bought some marrons grille (grilled chestnuts) to snack on. The chestnuts are SO GOOD here!

We made our way back to the condo, since we were all tired. My feet were numb from the cold and I was ready to sit and do nothing. The guys ran downstairs to a Kebab/Pizza joint to get dinner. The pizza was probably the worse I have ever had (even worse than Sabarro's and Papa John's). It was like cardboard with greasy stuff on top. Tasteless. I have to say, when it comes to pizza, I'm very picky now that I have lived in Little Italy and even in Marseille (our pizza place tops some of the one's in Little Italy even!).

We relaxed the rest of the evening.

Check out the pictures here http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.cavebqmb&x=0&h=1&y=b6mqwp&localeid=en_US

**There are 3 albums to view at the above location.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bonne Annee!

Happy New Year!

As Beck tradition, Chris made crepes this morning for breakfast. We slept in to about 10am, and slowly got ready for the day.

Chris thought it would be fun to do a la galette des rois today instead of on the traditional day of January 6th. La galette des rois is "King's Cake". You buy a cake from a bakery (the cake is made out of almond paste), that has a small porcelain figure inside of baby Jesus or a bean. The youngest person gets under a table and tells the person slicing the cake which piece goes to which person. The person who finds the bean or baby Jesus is the King or Queen for a day and has to wear a paper crown on their head for the day and buy everyone a round of drinks. You can read more about this tradition at http://www.askoxford.com/languages/culturevulture/france/galette/

They do this even in office buildings, which would be quite hilarious to see!

Chris & David kept going back and forth on who would be the one to wear the crown. When we started eating, Chris found a porcelain Mary in his piece, so he got the crown. We figured they had just run out of baby Jesus or something. After laughing and making fun of Chris, we had a few more bites, and David found a bean in his slice! We passed him the crown and told him that is what he gets for making fun of Chris. He was suppose to wear the crown to the veggie market, but he wouldn't do it.

The rest of the day has been spent playing games, and cleaning things around the house. I have also been working to get this blog updated and upload photos. Oreo is just happy to have us all home again (he didn't like his French kitty sitter while we were away).

Wishing all of you a BONNEE ANNEE (HAPPY NEW YEAR!).

PICTURES HERE http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.brk8b3hf&x=0&h=1&y=gqfmau&localeid=en_US

Paris Invasion Day 4: Eiffel Tower, Napoleon, and our conquest over Gallerie Lafeyette (12/22/08)

Our last day in Paris was a whirlwind adventure (much like the rest of the trip). We got up and had breakfast, which consisted of cheese omelletes and croissants, at Cafe Daguerre down the street. The metro station was right outside, so we hopped on and went to the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower is impressive, probably more so than the Statue of Liberty. The day was cold and dreary, and we didn't really want to wait in line to go up into the tower, so we just spent time walking around the base, taking pictures. The line for the elevators were very long, but if you wanted to walk the stairs, it wouldn't have taken much time at all. Chris & I will do the stairs next time we go. One of the sides was not in order, so the lines were probably double what they would be if all the elevators and stairs were in working order. We also think that we could buy tickets ahead of time instead of waiting in line for tickets there. I want to go back at night and go up inside. I'm sure Mom will want to climb the stairs with us when she comes to visit in May (right Mom?). :)

Our next stop was Hôtel des Invalides, which I found out was not a hotel at all, but rather Napoleon's Tomb. We didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets, which was very nice. Chris was so excited about seeing Napoleon's tomb, and if he had had his way, we would have seen it on the first day. His tomb was very impressive. The Hôtel des Invalides also had an arms and armor exhibit, which Chris & I really enjoyed. The detailed suits of armor were incredible, and I didn't know they made small one's for children. We also went through the war exhibits. By the time we made it to the WWII part, I was done with the whole thing. Too much for one day really.

From there, we stopped off at a restaurant nearby for lunch. Then we took the metro up to Galleries Lafeyette for shopping. There was a mass of people out shopping and looking at the store windows. Reminded me of NYC this time of year. The inside of the women's department at GL was so beautiful and just grand for a department store. It felt more like a cathedral with it's domed ceiling and stained glass. I found a cardigan sweater there that I have been looking for, so I was happy. No one else bought anything there.

We came back to our neighborhood and stopped at La Creperie for a snack. We had savory and sweet crepes.

Eiffel Tower Pictures can be found here http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.aiy2msa3&x=0&h=1&y=2csuv9&localeid=en_US

Hôtel des Invalides Pictures http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=3saykfvv.3ai3qs8b&x=0&h=1&y=-dsoxp&localeid=en_US