Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Tour de France

OK, so here it is...my tour through France with my parents. We had a wonderful time together. I was so happy to see them. It was such a good feeling to be with them in person after so long apart. Once we were back together, it was like nothing had changed...like I had seen them just a few weeks earlier. It was great.

At the airport, we were surprised to find that our rental car happened to be a little better than our quoted Taurus. Hello BMW. We travelled in style :)

My Mom tested her skills among the French drivers and successfully got us to our destination, Crystal's place, for night one. We walked around Pigalle, Paris's touristy red light district, grabbed some lunch, and headed back to the apartment to try and rest up before dinner. My parents were finally able to meet Olivier and it went very well.

The next morning, we left for Normandy....first stop: D-Day beaches. We arrived in the early afternoon at the American National Cemetery in Normandy, where we went for a walking tour and solemnly gazed at Omaha Beach, once widely called "Bloody Omaha."

We decided to call it a day after a light lunch, and headed to our hotel to rest up for the next day. My parents fell asleep very quickly thanks to jet-lag. Jet-lag also influenced internal clocks, along with the help of the blinds that made the room completely dark. After my mother's assurance that my dad would wake up around 6 or 7 am, I did not set my alarm. Well, at 12:14 pm the next day, I woke up in disbelief. Haha. It really didn't matter anyway.

We headed to one of the world's wonders, Mont-Saint-Michel, an abbey started in the 10th century. This medieval city was absolutely breathtaking. My dad couldn't get over how old it was.

After Mont-Saint-Michel, we started the drive south. We knew getting all the way to the French Riviera from Normany was a long stretch, so we stayed one night in Tours. After a long drive the next day, we pulled up to our condo. It was perfect for us and in a great location. Basically it was central to all of the major cities we wanted to visit on the Riviera. Nice and Monoco were to the East, and Antibes and Cannes were to the West.

We decided to spend our first full day on the Riviera with a car tour. We didn't have any specific destination in mind, but since I had been there a few months earlier with Olivier, I sort of knew the area. My mom ventured the winding hairpin turns to our first visit in the medieval town of Eze. Eze is situation very high up and has one of the best views of the Riviera. We climbed the streets and stairs until we finally reached the eagle's nest view surrounded by an exotic garden.

After the trek back down through the village, we drove towards Nice along the water, and then through Monoco. We didn't even get out of the car in Monoco. The streets were so curvy and unfamiliar that we decided we preferred to just head back for the day. We did our grocery shopping and enjoyed a nice meal before heading to the beach to gaze at the moon. It was full, glowing, and glistened over the water. We thought of my grandmother as we always do when we see the moon.

If you know my family, you know that we love the beach. Guess what we did the very next morning. We packed up our mini cooler with drinks, lunch and a few snacks, and headed to the closest beach we could find. The beach was rocky like most beaches east of Antibes, but my mom made the best of the situation, occupying herself for hours in the hunt for the perfect stones and beach glass. She was actually pretty successful in her search. My dad pretended to help and I found a few pieces while I was lying on my towel.

After a few hours in the sun, we decided to check out Antibes, Olivier's home town. It really is charming with all of the boats and little streets. I think it is my favorite Mediterranean city.

That night, after a few cocktails and dinner prepared by me, we headed to the beach again to watch the moon rise (My dad was so surprised that I could cook. He thought I would never know how to cook a thing. I guess France agrees with me. However, I have a LONG way to go...trial and error is how I get by). The moon was absolutely gorgeous. It started off as a huge, glowing, red ball as it climbed itself up over the water. I don't think I have ever watched a moon rise like that before. It was breathtaking. We enjoyed our wine and cameras as we took countless photos, continually laughing uncontrollably at ourselves. Luckily we had a few winners.

The next day we went to a sandy beach in Antibes for a few hours, and then headed home for awhile before venturing into Nice for a dinner out. I couldn't find the restaurant recommended by Olivier, so hunger and the need of a bathroom led us to a restaurant similar to most others. It was the perfect evening for strolling around Nice. Place Massena, the main open area, was very cool and alive with night life.

My parents went to the beach for a few hours the next morning while I slept in and avoided making my sunburn worse. Then we headed into Nice to check out the area a little more for the rest of the day. We left Nice the next morning and drove through Italy and the Alps towards Chamonix. Apparently we were in the South at the right time because a huge wave and bad weather made a mess of the area just a few days after we left.

Chamonix was, unfortunately, not exactly the same as it had been the last time my mom and I visited. It had been perfect before, but this time, the weather made it a little less desirable. It was rainy and very foggy, making the amazing mountains almost completely hidden from our view. We tried to make the best of it by enjoying onion soup and a train ride through the mountains to walk inside a huge glacier. We ended up leaving Chamonix a day early because of the weather. We drove as far as Dijon, and then drove back to Paris as scheduled.

We took a tour bus around Paris for a few days, and then I led us around a little as well. They saw just about everything. The weather was really cold, but at least it was not raining! We were able to have dinner with Olivier again before they left. The last night, we ate dinner, just the three of us, in a little restaurant by Arc de Triomphe, and then headed to a bridge to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle before heading in. It was hard to see them leave, but it did help knowing that I will be seeing them in just a few short months. I am so thankful that they came and were able to share France with me. Ten years ago, I would never have thought this to be a reality. Thanks so much Mom and Dad. I love you and feel so honored that you came to spend this time here with me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Quick Overview...More to Come

Well, I haven't blogged in over a month...sorry! A lot has happened since I last blogged, so here is a quick overview of everything.

First of all, I moved. Like I said before, I decided to leave the family I was working for. It just was not working out for me, and I wanted to spend my time here enjoying it as much as possible. Luckily things ended relatively well with the family, so there was not much drama. I moved in with Olivier and have started looking for any small job. Basically, I'm looking to tutor people in English and for babysitting jobs.

Right after I moved out, my parents arrived. Perfect timing. Luckily the volcano allowed for their flight to arrive on-time. We did a grand tour of France, and I will post a few pictures later when I have time to go into further detail of our trip. It was so nice to see them again. I had a great time and had fun sharing my love of France with them. We went to Omaha Beach (D-Day landings) in Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel, the French Riviera, Chamonix (a small town near Mont Blanc in the Alps), and, of course, Paris. We rented a very fun car and enjoyed driving everywhere we went (except Paris). I was sad to see them go, but I know they were ready to leave when their 2 weeks were up.

Now I am just preparing for a long week-end in London. Olivier's brother lives there, so we will stay with him. I am very excited as it will be my first time in London and my first real trip with Olivier. Also, at the end of next week, my cousin Bonnie is coming for about a week and a half. I can't wait to see her! This must be the season for visitors :) I will write more next week when I have a little more time. Things have just been busy. Have a nice week-end!