Sunday, November 23, 2014


Natali and I have been home from Europe for over a year now, yet we still have not blogged about the last few days of our trip. Natali is super busy lawyering (I'm sure that's a word!) and I have been on Blog strike (I learned it from the French). I guess it is time to wrap up the Europe Trip posts so that we can talk about our regular, boring, monotonous, daily lives in the big D. So, try to imagine what you were doing September 25, 2013 and imagine you are reading this as the younger version of yourself that you were over a year ago.

We flew into Paris on Wednesday. Natali's face lit up just being back in Paris. She fell in love with the city years ago and she still loves it. She practically glows the whole time she is there.

We get around by using the Metro. Some of the Metro signs are kind of creepy with creepy writing and scary light inviting you to walk down into a dark hole under the city. Yet, we do it anyway.

We stayed in the city that night so we could enjoy a night in the city. The first reason was so that we could go and see the Rodin sculpture Museum at night which we heard was better than during the day. Below are a few pictures from the museum.

The most famous sculpture here is "The Thinker." The sculpture is pretty massive and really inspired me to think more (although this inspiration has since dwindled so most things I do without thinking still).


Another reason we wanted to stay in Paris was to eat Raclette and potatoes once more before we headed home. Natali's whole day seems to brighten when she has a good meal and this was great.


But the main reason we stayed in Paris at night was so Natali could enjoy her most favorite thing, the Eiffel Tower at night. She couldn't even narrow down the pictures down to less than 4 so I will just keep all 4 of them.



One thing Natali has always wanted to go and see is Palais Garnier, or the Paris Opera House for us normal people.  This opera house was the setting of the famous novel and play "The Phantom of the Opera."  The inside is amazing.  Natali was dying over all the details and kept asking "Can we have this in our house someday?"  We took a bunch of pictures so I will just let you enjoy the pictures without much explanation.  It is definitely something worth seeing if you ever visit.


Natali loved this staircase. The details everywhere were incredible.







We had some extra time so we returned to one of Natali's favorite places, the Sacré Cœur. It has a great view of the city and lots of entertaining things around it. There are always performers entertaining the crowd sitting on the big steps in front of the church. Well the performer "du jour" was  this guy doing amazing things with a soccer ball. He could balance it on any part of his body, spin it around his shoulders and head, and bounce it without dropping it the whole time we were watching. One of the most amazing feats he did was climb a light pole while balancing the ball on his head. He then began kicking the ball while balancing on the top of the pole. It was very impressive and earned a good tip from us. Here are a few shots of him.

Notice the soccer ball is still trapped in his left foot.
And here is the Sacré Cœur.

We love going here because there are always painters and other entertaining things to see. We love looking at the art, especially while they are painting.



In all of our time in France, we have never made it to Mont Saint-Michel. We actually drove past it once and could see it from the car, but didn't have time to go and visit it. So the Lemarchands were nice enough to let us borrow their car for a day and go and see it in our limited time before we had to leave on Monday. On the way we passed through Liseux and Natali snapped this picture of these very French buildings that she loves.


In Caen, we also found this cool Abbey called Abbaye aux Hommes (the Men's Abbey). It wasn't open and we didn't have much time so we just snapped a picture before getting back on the road.


We finally arrived at Mont Saint-Michel. It is an island that is a kilometer (0.6 miles) off the coast of Normandy. Because it is so close to the shore, the island is accessible during low tides, but becomes surrounded by water during high tide. This made attacking the stronghold very difficult which is why it remained unconquered during the 100 Years' War.


The streets inside Mont Saint-Michel were very narrow but lined with all sorts of colorful signs and plaques. I am sure most of this was done for the tourist attraction it has become and it probably wasn't so colorful and cute when its main use was as a prison.


Although I look grumpy, I was really having a good time. Natali just told me my poses were becoming predictable so I decided to shake it up a little bit.


A road trip in France wouldn't be complete without cheese and baguettes.

 Our very last day in France we spent with the Lemarchand Family. We really cannot express how great this family is. They let us stay with them whenever we are they, they feed us, they take us to so many amazing places, but most importantly they are just great people and they have become family to us. Thomas and Christine  opened up their home to Natali many years ago and it changed our lives. Their kids are very entertaining and there is never a dull moment around the Lemarchand house.

They decided to take us to the Monet Gardens in Giverny. This is the house the famous painter Claude Monet lived in for many years and eventually died and was buried there. The gardens he created around the house are amazing.









Sunday, August 31, 2014

Southern France

Let me warn you now and tell you that this post is going to be long, it will probably be boring, and it will almost definitely have horrible jokes in it that nobody but myself will find funny. If that sounds like a good time to you, go seek help.

So, we left Istanbul and flew into Marseilles in the afternoon. We grabbed our rental car and drove around Marseilles for a while, looking for anything entertaining. We were having the craving for a cold, chocolate eclair so we spent most of the day trying to hunt down the perfect eclair (we came close but the best eclairs that we had were in Evreux).

We stayed in a town called Toulon, a little ocean-side town between Marseilles and Cannes. On our way there, we stopped at just the right time for some great pictures of this monument right on the ocean. Natali probably spent 20 minutes deciding which of the pictures she wanted to use below before deciding on this one.

So before I talk about the rest of our time in Southern France, I need to tell you about Michel and Jeanine, the Amazing French Family that we met in Salzburg (Here is a link to our Salzburg post how we met them). They told us to call them so we can get together so we thought that they would take us out to dinner and that would be it. Well we called them that night and we were just blown away by them. They told us that they had pretty much our whole weekend planned out and they were personally going to show us all around on Saturday and Sunday. They are just amazing people.

So they gave us their address and we drove all along the coast on the way. We saw some amazing views. The water there is sooo bright. It is blue and green and just so great for pictures. Natali was loving it.

We went to Michel and Jeanine's house and left our car there and hopped in with them. They took us out to eat at a nice local restaurant and then they took us to the Mougin's Museum of Classic Art. They wouldn't let us pay for anything! They were soo nice and just amazing the whole time. The art was very interesting but it was really fun to go with another couple.

Michel and Jeanine then took us to Natali's favorite little town that we visited in Southern France; Saint-Paul-de-Vence. The streets were just little stone paths between buildings and were lined with little art shops. We probably went in 15 of the little art shops and Natali wanted to go into more. Luckily we didn't have any money or we would have had to figure out how to get some French art all the way back home ;-). Below is a picture of Jeanine and Michel with Natali on one of the cute streets. Below that is one of the art pieces in one of the little shops.

These streets were so great. Natali was in heaven. She could have just walked around there all day and been the happiest girl in the world. The following are a bunch of pictures of the town, but pictures just don't do it justice, so if you are ever int he South of France, visit St. Paul de Vence for sure and you will see for yourself.

That night we went out with their daughter and some of her friends. They took us out to an awesome local restaurant in Nice where we had some Awesome Italian food (and we waited too long to write this blog so we cannot remember the name of the restaurant). They took a picture of us in the city square. Notice the floating blue and green statues behind us.

On Sunday (Yes we are Sabbath breakers, but they had the whole day planned and it was their last free day to spend with us, so judge all you want) they had told a friend we were in town and they offered to take us out on their boat on the ocean! It was amazing! We drove around for a little bit before we anchored to swim and eat. The water was so clear around us. You could easily see the bottom even though it must have 20 or 30 feet deep (or more). I was excited to take a swim and Natali caught my perfect dive.

After lounging about and having a bite to eat on the boat, they took us to an island only accessible by boat to see an old church there as well as climb the tower to get some great views of the surrounding area. Natali had to photobomb my picture, but I guess I can't get mad since it is much better with her in it.

We drove around some more to get some more views of the coast. We drove past this sweet ship and had to get a picture.

Here is a picture of all of us. They were so nice the whole time and wouldn't let us pay for anything the whole time we were with them. Michel and Jeanine told us that the next time we were in Southern France that we better not get a hotel because we had to stay with them. I really can't explain just how amazing they are and we loved spending time with them.

 The next day our friends had to go to work like normal people so we had to continue our touring alone.  But Jeanine planned out our full day for us just the same so that was pretty lucky for us, we really didn't have to plan anything in Southern France.

Our first stop was Villefranche Sur Mer.  It was a beautiful little coastal town.  We still hadn't found the perfect eclair so our search continued, wherever we went.

While walking around we found this very strange mess of yarn strewn across a bunch of trees.  We have no idea what it was for but it was weird.

Then we stopped for lunch in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and saw some really neat statues like these dolphins and the bull below.

Most of our time that day was spent in Monaco.  This is a small but very wealthy glitzy-glamorous country where you'll find the legendary Monte Carlo Casino.  The coastline is covered in massive yachts and the city is covered in outrageously-priced hotels.  It's really neat but we felt a little out of place here haha.

The Monte Carlo Casino...

Natali took this picture out the window of our moving car without even looking, she was pretty pleased with herself.

After Monaco we hurried to take a quick walk through the villages of Eze and La Tourbie before sunset.  We were very happy that we did.  Eze is a charming little village up on a hill top with narrow cobble-stoned walk-ways and vines and flowers growing all over the buildings.

Most beautiful spot in Eze:

We were pretty tired by the time we got to La Tourbie so we just snapped a few quick pictures and then headed home.

The next day was pretty relaxing.  We started the day off exploring the town of Gourdon, another old hill/mountain top village.  We love just walking around villages like this because they all have their own unique charm.  Some tourists need to have constant adventure and entertainment, but we are perfectly happy just to walk around a quaint little town observing the locals and kissing on benches where signs say "place des bisous" :-) ("place of kisses").  Natali thought the little blue and green shutters were particularly cute.

We then took a little stroll through Valbonne.  It's hard to capture the beauty of this little towns though so we didn't really take many pictures but it is certainly worthy seeing if you are in the area.

Once we had our fill of "strolling" we took a little time to just relax at the beach in Antibes.  Then I must have made Reed drive towards Nice just so I could get a picture of these cool apartments that kind of look like a cruise ship.  They were built this way so there would be more apartments with balconies that you could lay-out on.  Pretty cool idea right?

We stopped for lunch in Mougins, another really cute town that's definitely worth stopping in for a meal.  And here is a random picture of Natali's lunch.  It's a very popular salad dish in France where they melt different types of french cheeses on toasted bread that you can cut up and eat with your salad...kind of like cheese covered croutons.  It is very yummy.

And here I am eating my favorite soup to order in France: french onion soup.  Yum!  Oh and here is a cool/strange statue.

Off to dinner in our new Italian leather jackets!

We spent our last night in Southern France eating dinner with our wonderful new friends.  Sure are happy we me them and hope to see them again!