Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bonne Annee!

Bonne Annee! Or Happy New Year (A few weeks late)! The week following Christmas was excellent, thanks to my trip south. The Tuesday morning before the New Year, I boarded an airplane, destination: Nice. Olivier picked me up at the airport and we went to his parents house where I stayed for almost the next week. I must admit that I was really nervous...first time meeting the parents of a new boyfriend is hectic enough...add the fact that they're French and I wasn't sure how much I would understand, and you can see why I was especially nervous. Let's just say my hands were sweating...a lot. Olivier assured me there was nothing to be scared of, that they were nice people. Lucky for me, it was true. They were very nice and welcoming...even the dogs. I arrived, took my bags upstairs, and right away, got to know the family. Thank goodness I am in France for this, the country where no event is complete without a little wine, champagne, etc. We sat around the coffee table, talking and sipping kir royal (champagne with raspberry or current liqueur). The lunch was served and the talking continued. I couldn't help but continually glance at the perfect view of the Mediterranean out the back windows. And thus began my week on the French Riviera. Here is the view from Olivier's bedroom window.

Olivier was a marvelous tour guide of his native region, driving me all along the coast and through the hilly terrain. Throughout the week we visited Antibes (where his parents live), Nice, Monaco, Cannes, the medieval village of Eze, and the medieval village of Saint Paul de Vence. These medieval villages are situated at higher elevations, as was necessary for protection back when they were established. They had great views of the riviera. This is a picture from Antibes at sunset. 

And here is a picture of Antibes that I took while on a walk in the city. 

This was taken from the top of Eze. However there was so much fog that day that we missed out on one of the best views of the French Riviera. Oh well. I liked the fog...I thought it was mystical. 

This is Cannes. It was so windy that day we only went for a short walk. Our ears hurt from the cold wind. 

These are taken from Saint Paul de Vence. 

I truly enjoyed spending time with his family. I was not uncomfortable around them, except for the nervousness in the very beginning. His mom cooked several delicious meals for us. I was able to try several traditional French dishes for the first time, as well as many desserts and drinks. I loved the scallops, coquille St. Jacques, which was my first lunch there. I think my favorite dessert was the Tarte Tatin, which is a special, upside-down apple tart. Yummm! I enjoyed my coffee and toast in the morning looking at the Mediterranean. The last morning there it was warm enough to comfortably sit outside in my pajamas and enjoy the sun. 

Another exciting point of the trip was New Years Eve in Italy with Olivier's friends. No, not Rome, Florence, Venice, etc. I'm talking about the Alps. We stayed at a tiny summer cabin in the mountains. I don't even know the name of the town. I guess I can describe it best by calling it "rustic." It was charming, however there were some issues that make our NYE a good story. We got there just at nightfall and walked from our cars to the cabin for ten minutes in the snow carrying all of our supplies, including our suitcases, food, and lots of champagne, wine, etc. Once we were finally there, we were pretty cold. No worries, we thought, we'll start the space heaters and the fire and things will be warmed up in no time at all. Haha. Here is my little NYE equation. Space heaters on = blowing fuses => no heat in bedroom = very cold night. Luckily the fire in the fireplace and drinks warmed us up before long. Next news of the night: the toilet was frozen and we had to go to the bathroom outside in the snow. How Fun! Just like camping, but a little more rustic and definitely colder than what I'm used to. We ended up having a wonderful night despite the cold and outdoor facilities, or lack thereof. We came back the next evening, after the guys cooked shrimp outside on a stone slab over a fire. The shrimp was amazing... and HUGE! I think shrimp is bigger over here. However, I really do not know, since I had never tried shrimp before my arrival in France in August. Here we are bringing in the new year. 

Saturday night arrived way too quickly. I had to leave for the airport the next morning before 6 am. I will definitely be taking another trip to the region before long. It was a wonderful way to start 2010. 

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