Friday, May 29, 2009

Exploring Marseille with Mom

May 18th

Today, Mom, Chris and I walked around the port over to the Abbey. We took Mom through the Abbey and down into the crypts, which I am not sure she enjoyed very much being that it was underground. :)

Afterwards, we walked over to Fort St. Nicholas, which Chris & I had yet to explore. After hiking all the way up to the entrance (which was quite a walk up the hill), we found out that the fort was closed to the public. So we just walked around the top and took pictures of the port and the sea.

We walked down to the port and took the ferry across. The ferry is free and it only goes the width of the port. A little lazy, but it was fun seeing the port from a different vantage point. When we got to the other side, we found a cafe and sat down to have drinks. Watching the people walking by and the boats coming in and out of the port was great. There was one lady that walked by that really caught our eyes....she was at least in her 50's, and was wearing a red evening gown, spiked heals, and lots of makeup. The way she walked was definitely a "notice me" kind of stride. We couldn't figure out why she was so dressed up, but it was fun coming up with ideas. :) We later saw her walking back with a small bag of groceries. hahaha

We went to a few shops so Mom could by souvenirs. We ended up shopping around the mall too and again, picking up groceries to take home.

Hiking in Luminy with Mom

May 17th
Today, Mom, Chris and I went to Luminy to hike. We took a trail that Chris & I had been on, but this time, took it further along the Calanques. It was a beautiful day, and a lot of people were out hiking, having picnics, and down at the beaches. Mom really enjoyed the views of the Med and it was such a gorgeous day to be out hiking! We had a great time out there!

To see pictures, go to

Parc Boreley, Beaches, and THE DORADE!

May 16th
Mom and I took off for the day by ourselves and let Chris stay home to do some work. We took the bus down to Parc Boreley and walked through the park towards the beaches. It was a beautifully sunny day and warm. Mom and I walked the beaches around the corniche towards the Calanques. We stopped along the way to sit in the sun and chat, and watch people pass by.

For lunch, we found a string of restaurants on the beach to choose from. One of the menus had dorade (which is sea bass) for, what I thought would be, 6 euros for a 100 gram fish. Good deal, right? So we went into the restaurant, grabbed a table, and relaxed. I ordered for the two of us in French, which was a bit nerve-wracking since I had NEVER done that before without Chris' help. I was pretty proud of myself and only messed up once or twice while ordering. The biggest mess up, though, will be revealed momentarily.

I ordered the dorade for Mom and moule frite for myself, plus a half bottle of Rose wine. The food was excellent! We sat somewhat inside in the shade, but close enough to the beach that we could watch people. Kind of interesting sitting and eating at a restaurant, looking out onto the mobs of people on the beach, and noticing what people were doing. Lots of topless ladies sunning themselves...some of them not very young either. Quite a few pregnant ladies on the beach, and lots of kids running around having a blast in the water and sea.

I told Mom when I ordered the dorade, that she may end up getting an entire fish on her plate, head and fins included. She said she would be OK with that. And, I was right. The fish was intact, gutted only, on the plate staring at us! Oh, and it had teeth! Mom was a trooper though and ate it. It was really good too.

I asked for the bill and when I looked at it, I was FLOORED! My meal had been 12 euros, which for moule frite, that is not bad. Mom's meal, on the other hand, was 24 euros!! I had to stop, re-read it, and make sure I was seeing things correctly. I had thought it would only be 6 euros! I wondered if they had charged us correctly, or were trying to be sneaky since we weren't French, but I didn't know enough French to ask what was up with this incredible fish bill. Mom went ahead and paid for it, and we stopped by the menu posted outside to double check the price again. It said "Dorade, les 100 grms, 6 euro". I called Chris and found out that it was 6 euros PER 100 grams...meaning that the bill was correct and I was in need of some additional French lessons! Mom didn't seem to mind too much, and it was an experience we will never forget.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mom arrives in Marseille!

May 14
Chris and I met my Mom at the airport here in Marseille. We were a bit late getting there, and didn't mean to leave her standing outside worrying about us. We jumped off the Navette (bus) and ran to greet her! I was so happy to finally have her here in Marseille! It was her first trip to Europe (actually, the only other time she had been out of the country was a trip to Mexico when she was a kid).
We took a taxi home and sat around talking, eating lunch, and catching up. Mom eventually had to nap as she was exhausted from her trip. Her flight was rough on her physically with not being able to sleep and it made her ankle swell up, but she had a good time chatting with a couple of 30 year old guys sitting next to her.
We didn't go out the first day since Mom was tired.
May 15
Mom's first day in Marseille was pretty easy going. It was rainy for the earlier part of the day, so we walked over to one of our favorite Provencal restaurants (Le Resto Provencal) in the Cours Julien for lunch. Afterwards, we took her to our fave soap store just down the street. We came back to the apartment and relaxed until the sun came out around 4pm.
We went down to the Vieux Port and walked around so Mom could see the Mediterranean. We took her around the port, over to Notre Dame de la Major, but it was closed so we couldn't go inside. We walked back over Fort Jean and towards the mall to pick up food for dinner at the grocery.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I love Paris in the Springtime

We only had the day of May 6th (Sharon's Bday) to explore Paris. For only havin gone day, we were able to see a lot!

The first thing we did after having breakfast, was go to Notre Dame. I didn't take very many pictures, since I had seen it on our last visit. We didn't go inside, but we walked around so Sharon could see it.

From there, we walked to Saint Chapelle, which is a church with incredible stained glass windows. I really didn't know anything about the church prior to going in, and I'm glad I hadn't looked it up beforehand. It was such an experience to walk in and realize that the walls were all made out of stained glass and beautiful columns. The main room was quite small, but the decorations made up for it. I was very impressed with the tiles, the columns with medieval castles on them, and, of course, the tall windows of bright colors and images.

Our next stop was a small park that had a tomb inside. We couldn't go very close to the monument, but were able to get some pictures around it.

For lunch, we stopped off at a nearby cafe. It was very nice, and the food was delicious.

After lunch, we walked down the Siene and looked at the sidewalk stands filled with old books, posters, and paintings. Chris found a book on the legends and mysteries of Provence, so I bought it for him as an early bday present.

We walked around the outside of the Louvre, and then into the tuileries garden. We enjoyed looking at all the statutes. For a snack, we bought some ice cream and sat down to watch the ducks playing in the water.

Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower. On our last visit, we did not go to the top, so this time, Chris, David, Carolyn and I decided we needed to do the elevator up. Sharon decided that it would be best if she waited below. The elevator to the top was a little strange, and it took me a few minutes at the top to feel grounded enough to walk around and look. Not sure why it bothered me, considering I have been to the top of the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower, but the openness of the Eiffel Tower was different. The views from the top were incredible!

The only thing I did not like about the Eiffel Tower, was all the men standing around the bottom trying to sell you key chains and other junk, plus the women asking "Do you speak English?" then proceding to beg for money. We did our best to ignore all of them, but there were SO many! The police were doing their best to scare them away, but they would just come back and harrass more people.

We were very tired from walking around and decided it was time to head back, have some dinner, and then relax for the rest of the evening back at the Best Western. We found a cafe near our hotel to have dinner, and I enjoyed a plate of salmon carpaccio (raw salmon).

Pictures are at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Northern France (May 3-5)

From Munich, we flew to Paris where we took a train to Caen to spend the night. We stayed at a very cute Best Western there. The next day, we saw a little bit of the town as David, Chris and I went to get the rental car. We were a bit suprised to get a manual instead of the automatic we had requested, but David did an excellent job of driving through the crazy streets.

Here are our pictures...

In Caen, we saw William the Conqueror's grave, which David and Chris really enjoyed. We walked around looking at some of the sites, before taking off to Bayeux to see the tapestry. The tapestry was really incredible! I wish I could have taken pictures of it to show. It was very long, and displayed embroidered pictures of medieval times of William the Conqueror. We listened to an audio tour while walking along so that we knew what each part was about. My only complaint was that the audio tour went too fast, and I would have loved to have had more time to really look at each part of the tapestry. The museum where it is held talked about how it was actually made. Being a knitter, I had a deep appreciation for the work and time that went into making it.

After the tapestry, David, Chris & I walked over to the cathedral to go inside. It was beautiful and it even had a crypt that we could go into.

Pictures of Bayeux here...

From there, we drove to Omaha beach. David did a great job driving with Chris navigating. Our GPS kept getting confused as a lot of the roads were newly built. Our GPS (we named her Gretta) wanted us to go off onto some strange country roads, so Chris would use a map to double check and keep us on the right path to the beach. The small towns were very cute and lots of flowering apple trees could be seen next to fields of canola. Most of the time, when I was in the car, I would fall asleep, so only got to see bits and peices of the way.

We got to Omaha a bit late in the day, but had just enough time to walk around to see some of the monuments and the beach. We were not the only English speakers there. We heard a lot of Americans and British around the area talking. Chris & I walked down to the beach and Sharon, Carolyn, and David went to look around on the hill. Standing at the water, it was hard to believe that troops had once disembarked from their ships and ran up the hill carrying guns and ammo and wearing wet clothing. It was quite a trek up the hill and I was breathing hard simply walking up on my own! How did they do it PLUS win the battle??

Chris & I walked over to the American cemetary, and that was really unbelievable. Rows and rows of crosses, all lined up perfectly, as far as we could see. Some of the crosses had Jewish stars on top. No names could be seen from where we stood, since we were not allowed to go directly to the graves. A wall was built with all the names of the dead on it. I found a man named Wright, but found out later that there is no relation. I couldn't believe how many people were buried in the cemetary.

Pictures are here....

For the night, we ended up at the Best Western in Ducey which was the BEST hotel we stayed in! It was an old mill that had been converted into a hotel. The room that Chris & I had was right where the mill wheel would have been, so underneath our room, the river flowed! We looked out our windows to see the river going by and it was just picturesque. I wish we could have stayed there longer. We went around the corner to a lovely restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, my stomach ended up being quite upset by the end of the meal, and I had to leave early. I did enjoy the monkfish and crab pie that I ate!

Pictures here....

The next day, after breakfast, we drove to Mont St. Michel. This medieval town is built on an island. Driving to Mont St. Michel, we were captivated by the floating city in the distance, as we got closer, and the city came inton view, we were so excited to get out and explore. Chris & I could have spent all day there, but we only got a few hours.

The winding streets as we entered had lots of crappy tourist shops with things that were probably made in China and not France. Once you bypassed that mess, there were incredible views out over the sand, water, and pastures. It was low tide, so people were out on the sand walking to another small island. Brave or stupid? Not quite sure since people have died when the tides have come in unexpectedly. Sharon was unable to make it up too far, so we left her on a bench, and the rest of us hiked upward to the abbey. We walked all through the abbey and really enjoyed seeing all the different rooms and halls.

After we finished walking around we found Sharon and went to a restaurant for lunch. It was packed with tourists, mostly Asian, and served some decent food. We could look out the window over the pastures filled with sheep.

Pictures are here...

We went back to the car and drove to Rennes, where we dropped off our car (an ordeal I won't go into) and got the train to Paris.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day in Munich

May 2nd

Sebastian & Sina surprised us with our own private walking tour of Munich (Munchen is the true name). I guess Sebastian's Dad purchased the tour for the Beck's to thank them for taking care of Sebastian back in high school (Sebastian was a foreign exchange student in Salem and that is how he met Chris). The tour was wonderful. Our guide walked us around the city, telling us the history of each place as we stopped. The tour ended in the market place where she brought us a plate of bread and sausage from one stand, some beers from another, a plate of pickels from a different stand, and last was a plate of cheeses from yet another stand. It was quite a lunch, sitting in the market, tasting local foods.

After our tour, the rain started again, so we went into a large store and bought chocolate bars and wandered around waiting for the rain to stop. The rain passed quickly, and we were able to get out and explore more of Munich on our own before getting tired. On our way home, we bought some strawberries and cakes to eat as a snack, before going out for dinner.

All of us went back to Sebastian & Sina's to snack and enjoy some time on their porch. For dinner, we went to a nearby restaurant that was very good. The owner gave us a huge pretzel and was very friendly. After we had stuffed ourselves with food and beer, we ordered some fruit schnapps to drink. There was an assortment to choose from, pear, strawberry, orange, etc. A very nice way to finish the meal.

The next day, Sebastian & Sina prepared a lovely breakfast for us at their place. We made them dress up in Bavarian clothing afterwards to show off for us. :)

Traveling around Germany was a great experience. It just went by too quickly! It was difficult for Chris and I adjusting to the new language. I kept wanting to respond to waiters in French, and Chris would go back and forth between German and French (he at least knew some German). It made me realize how much I have learned here in France and how comfortable I feel here. Going to Germany made me feel very out of my element. How funny!

Pictures of the day can be found here

and more pictures here

Dinkelsbuhl, Rothenburg, and Nurnburg Germany

May 1st.

Sebastian and Sina took us to three German villages...Dinkelsbuhl, Rothenburg, and Nurnburg...all in one day.

We went to Dinkelsbuhl for lunch. The village was very cute, exactly what I had in mind when thinking about a German village. Colorful buildings, A-frame houses with windows to the very top, and very charming. We found a lovely outdoor restaurant for lunch, and ended up spending a few hours just sitting, enjoying the sun, and eating wonderful food. I had a salad with chicken, and Chris enjoyed sausage and kraut. Dessert was apple strudel...which was amazing!

Pictures can be found at

Rothenburg was next and it was a little different from the first village. It was larger, walled in, and we got there a bit late in the day, so only a few things were still open. Sebastian, Sina, Chris and David went for a quick dungeon tour, while Sharon, Carolyn, and I went to the Christmas shop to peruse the 3 floors of Christmas decor. I'm not one for dungeons as the energy from tortured victims long ago really affects me, and I don't care to see replicas of the horrible things done to other human beings in the past.

We walked around the city and enjoyed the colorful flowers in the park. Walkign along the wall of the city, we could see rolling hills in the distance and little houses dotting the land.

Pictures can be found at

Our last stop for the day was Nurnburg for dinner. It was raining when we got there, and we had a difficult time finding a place to eat without a reservation. We were all quite tired and it was getting late. We luckily found a beer hall that had seating and we were happy to sit down and order. I had macaroni and cheese with fried onions and some local wine (should have ordered the beer). Sebastian, Chris, Carolyn and David orderd the meat plate, which was enough food to feed 8! It included sausages of different kinds, loads of pork in a variety of styles, two kinds of kraut, potato dumplings and I'm sure other things that I can't even remember. It was an insane amount of food on one plate.

Pictures are here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Off to Germany!

**Haven't had much time in between visits to blog, but want to finish blogging about our travels with Chris' family before my Mom comes!

April 30, 2009...

Chris, Sharon, Carolyn, David, and I hopped on an early TGV train to Paris. The trip was uneventful, which was good. No strikes, no delays, just a smooth trip North. I slept most of the way, but awoke to see fields and fields of bright yellow flowers. We thought they were mustard, but later found out (thanks to Sebastian) that it was canola! I wish I had a picture to show you how beautiful it was. It looked like this

The TGV took us straight to the Paris airport for our flight. It was a bit difficult navigating Charles de Gaulle airport (the place is not set up logically), but we managed to get everything checked and ready to go with about an hour or so to spare.

Our flight from Paris to Munich was smooth and fast, only about an hour and a half total. Chris & I had seats in the very last row of the plane, which was strange. I usually choose to ride close to the front, but we didn't get to pick our seats until right before the flight. It was fine though and we arrived in Munich right on time.

Our good friend, Sebastian, was there at the airport to greet us. We had ordered a rental car from Dollar Rental (supporting US business abroad), and after we couldn't find their kiosk, Sebastian called and found out that the rental place was not at the aiport as they had advertised. It was actually quite far, in the middle of nowhere! They told us they were sending a shuttle to take the gang over to the rental car services. Note to self: use google maps when a rental company says "airport location". We figured it would be easy, and have had good luck with Dollar in the past, but were very disappointed with their services. Next time, we do Europcar or another European car company.

Chris & I rode with Sebastian, and David, Carolyn, and Sharon rode in the rental car, which was a Mercedes. We went to the apartment where the fam was going to stay (Chris and I planned to stay with Sebastian and his girlfriend Sina). The apt was quite nice, and the landlady was hilarious. Very particular about her place...having us take off our shoes before going in, and freaking out that there were so many people (she wasn't expecting to see Sebastian, Sina, Chris, or I).

Sebastian & Sina have a lovely apt not far from where the fam was staying. They have only been there a few months, but the place was nicely decorated and quite comfortable.

We were all tired and hungry from our travels, so Sebastian had set up reservations at Augustina Brew House for dinner. We walked in, and it was a HUGE beer hall with long wooden tables to share and waiters and waitresses running around in Bavarian clothing. It was loud and people were clanking their beer mugs every few minutes before drinking back their brews.

We sat down at a table with a bunch of young guys and one girl who had already been drinking for quite some time. They were very friendly and enjoyed chatting with Sharon and Carolyn. We all ordered a round of beers and our food. The pork, potato dumplings and sauerkraut were excellent! I usually don't like sauerkraut, but this was quite good. The beer was also so good and much better than most I have tasted. We ate, we drank, we chatted, it was so much fun! After the meal, we ordered a round of Williams Pear shots, which was a nice finish to our heavy meal. A few of us ordered some more beer as we continued to hang out in the noisy place. One of the guys near us said it was his birthday, so he bought a Williams pear for Carolyn and him to drink together. It was hilarious! One of the guys showed her how to do the shot properly, and they did it together. I was impressed and we all had quite a laugh over it! It was so much fun and I would love to go back there again someday!

The end of the night, we went back to our separate places and crashed.

I didn't have my camera at the brew house, so waiting on pics from everyone else to show. I only have a few from that day, which can be seen at

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ship in the Port

Thanks to Carolyn Beck for providing me with more info on this ship we saw at the Vieux Port!

Friday, May 8, 2009

April 29th, 2009

After eating breakfast with the family, we walked over to the Vieux Port to catch the mini tourist train up to Notre Dame de la Guarde. We figured it would be the easiest way to get up there, without having to go on the hot, smelly bus. Plus, Chris & I had not yet taken it, so we were curious to see what it would be like.

The trip started around the Vieux Port, and then headed up into the tiny streets towards the sea. It drove along the corniche up the hill to Notre Dame. The view of the sea on our way there was beautiful, and we saw lots of interesting houses along the way. We disembarked at Notre Dame, and Chris & I showed the family around the cathedral. It was a sunny day, so we could see for miles all around the city.

We took the train back to the port, and were a bit late in finding a place to have lunch. The restaurants only usually serve between noon and 2pm, and it was already 3pm. We were lucky to find a place that would serve us! I can't recall the name of the restaurant, but it was only a block from the port. The food was decent, and we enjoyed ourselves. Although I did learn a valuable lesson...never go to the bathroom without Chris.

I had walked up to use the restroom on the second floor, and asked a waiter up there where the toilettes were located, he pointed to a door, and said to me, in English, "Where are you from?" I told him the US, and he asked where, and I told him New York City. He smiled and said it was a pleasure to meet me. I walked into the restroom, and found that there was only one stall and it was occupied. I stood there for a few minutes, and figured I would just wait and walked out of the restroom. The waiter was still there and said "You are very beautiful." He grabbed my hand and kissed it, then pulled me to him and said "let me give you a kiss" then proceded to kiss both my cheecks. I was shocked, and stood there thinking "is this for real??" I smilled, and quickly returned to the table downstairs and recounted what had happend. Chris was livid, but I told him it was fine. We all had a good laugh over it and left the restaurant to go walking around.

Chris & I took the family over to the other cathedral, Notre Dame de la Major, and then we headed back to our apartment to sit and relax before dinner.

For dinner, we went to the Cours Julien neighborhood nearby and took the family to our favorite Provencal restaurant, Le Resto Provencal. We were still full from our lunch, so didn't eat very much, but enjoyed the meals.

Pictures can be located at

April 28th, 2009

Today we decided to head out of town with the family and go to the city of Nimes, which was a train ride away. Nimes is a beautiful ancient city dating back to the Romans. The ruins there were similar to the one's we saw in Arles, but the city itself looked more modern. There were shops like in Aix en Provence, and lots of places to eat. We found a very nice cafe where we could sit outside to eat lunch. The food and service was excellent.

After lunch, we walked over to the Roman colloseum. The setup was more touristy than in Arles. More lights, signs, audio tour, and lots of people. Chris & I left the family and climbed all the way to the very top so that we could see out over the city. They still do gladiator and bull fights in the ring during the summer there. Hard to imagine the amount of inhumane cruelty that has occurred within those walls.

From there, we walked towards the Roman tower, which was a long walk through Nimes. We stopped off in the gardens where there was ruins of a Roman temple to Athena along with statutes spread out throughout the gardens. A bubbling spring ran right underneath the park and created a small river that flowed through the city.

While standing in the garden, it started to rain, and none of us had brought our umbrellas. Chris & I started walking up the tall hill to the tower in the rain, while the rest of the family decided to stay behind and take cover at a local cafe.

The walk uphill was a bit of a hike, and we got pretty wet doing it, but it was worth it to get to the tower. We climbed the spiral staircase inside to the top where we had quite a view of the city.

After meeting back up with the family, we went over to the Roman theater where they had an indoor 3D movie of the history of Nimes. It was only 20 minutes long, and pretty cheesy.

We got back to Marseille, and Chris cooked dinner for everyone. Walnut encrusted duck breasts, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and chocolate lava cakes for dessert, along with a bottle of sparkling wine. It was delicous!

Pictures can be found at

more pictures at

Family Returns to France

Chris' parents, Carolyn & David, along with his Aunt Sharon, arrived on Sunday, April 26th. They were pretty tired from their flight, so they came over to our place first and relaxed and slept during the afternoon. Chris & I helped them get their bags to their hotel, which was right off the Vieux Port. The location was perfect, as there was a metro station right outside. We dropped off their bags, and took them over to a Brasserie for dinner.

On Monday, April 27th, we met up with the family at the Vieux Port. It was a bit cloudy, so we walked around the port trying to decide what to do for the day. The boat to Frioule and Chateau d'If were not running, so we couldn't do that. So we walked around the fish market, which was an experience. Fishermen would go out for the morning, and bring in their fresh catch right up to the port, right to a small table where they would display the fish. The seafood was still alive sitting on the table, and when someone would purchase one, they would kill it and clean it right there in front of you. I had a very hard time witnessing this and now know I will not be purchasing any fish from there.

There was a massive sailing ship pulled into the port. I don't know how they managed to get that ship in and out of the small port, but they did!

The sun started coming out, and we decided that we should grab some lunch and then do the Calanque boat tour. Lunch was at Collins Cafe, the place where Chris & I ate for the first time after arriving in Marseille.

We hopped on board the tour boat and took off into the Mediterranean for the Calanques. The sun was shining bright, and the clouds cleared away. On the first half of the trip, I was feeling a bit quesy, but was enjoying myself. The tour boat took us around the coast of Marseille, all the way over to the port at Cassis. We were able to point out where Chris & I had hiked the Calanques to the family. The views were beautiful from the boat and it really gave Chris & I a different perspective of where we hike. There were people hiking along the paths of the Calanques, and some sunning themselves on the beaches. We even saw one topless woman who displayed herself right near the water.

On the way back from Cassis, on our three hour tour (cue the Gilligan's Island theme song), I started feeling very nauseas. I had to close my eyes and put myself into deep self hypnosis to make it back to shore without being sick. I imagined myself on the NYC subway rocking back and forth, which worked like a charm in relaxing me. Usually, I'm fine on the short boat ride to Frioule island, or on a boat going around the island of Manhattan. The small waves of the Mediterranean ended up being a bit more harsh than I had imagined. I did get sick when we did our whale watching tour in Maine, so I guess 3 hour tours on the sea are not so great for me. Oh well, will just have to do some hypnotic preparation next time I want to do a boat trip.

Everyone else enjoyed the whole trip and we took lots of great pics along the way. When we arrived back on shore, we went for dinner at Le Daube, a Provencal restaurant just of the port. The food was excellent! I had oysters gratinee, and a delicious fish of some kind. David had bouillabaisse soup, which is famous here in Marseille.

Pictures can be found at