Monday, July 19, 2010

Ah, the joys of travel!

Our road to Nice and Cinque Terre was a little bumpy at first...but the second honeymoon we ended up getting was more than worth it! The morning we were all packed and ready to leave on our trip (first Barcelona, Spain, then onto Nice, France then lastly Cinque Terre, Italy and back home again) my sweet dear husband offered to get us, and our host, some pain de chocolat and get a little cash for the road. My husband returned, white as a ghost and sweating already at six am. It seems that the bank had thought that our spending overseas seemed a bit unusual and the $300 + we had spent online on train tickets put our account and card on hold. So, when Alex went to get cash at the ATM a notice came up saying that they were "capturing" the card and it would soon be destroyed, it's vital to know that it is impossible to get your train tickets without the card you bought them with. Super. Naturally, the Brantome bank and our bank back home were both closed. When the Brantome bank opened we convinced them to take our card out of the ATM and hold it for us, quite literally, the bank manager was holding it in front of us gesturing with it. I can't tell you how strong the urge was to snatch it from his hands and run for the border...logic outweighed that instinct.

After hours on the phone with U.S. after hours help, to no avail, we decided to drive the hour + to Bordeaux and pray that they would let us board the train that we were just in time to catch.
Of course they wouldn't let us. So, we had lunch and a little tour of Bordeaux to make it slightly less depressing and went back to Brantome to re-group. Alex remembered that if we canceled our train tickets ahead of time they will reimburse you, thankfully we were able to do that for a portion of the money. We decided to leave the next morning, bright and early for Nice and just skip the Barcelona part. We left very, very, very early and were off. After a long, long, long, train ride we arrived to our hotel I had booked online at five am just before leaving, and despite the beginning of the adventure the hotel actually ended up being adorable and gorgeous!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Champs de Elysee, Le Arc de Triumph and me stuffing my face a little...

I got a bit of a late start to my last day in Paris, but I was still able to squeeze in a few things. You know, like Musee de Orsay, climbing Le Arc de Triumph, walking the Champs de Elysee, getting some treats from Laduree and relaxing in the Jardin de Tuileries. So, not a total waste of a day.

The Musee de Orsay was cool, there were so many different famous paintings and artists that one hears about and it's incredible to actually be able to see them in person. However, it's no Louvre, and the price of admission, plus the headset (twice because of a special exhibition) was more expensive than the Louvre and the fact that you can't take pictures there was a little annoying, but c'est pas grave. The best part about it in my opinion, was the special exhibition they had. It was called "Crime and Punishment" and it featured an actual guillotine that was used, decapitated heads from said guillotine that had been frozen in time with some combination of formaldehyde and a wax-like substance, crime scene photographs, and former torture devices. What, not your cup of tea? Well, it appealed to my morbid self that had one day thought I might be a crime scene profiler (sorry I couldn't take pictures!).

After the Musee de Orsay I decided that having chosen to save the Eiffel Tower for my next trip
I better climb at least one Parisian monument, so Le Arc de Triumph it was! As you can tell from the pictures, it was rather windy up there! It was amazing to see how
elegantly the town had been laid out, you can see nearly all of Paris and how intentional everything was.

When I was done admiring, and resting after the 283 steps up to the top, I headed down the
Champs de Elysee. There are so many beautiful shops and sights, I loved getting inspiration from all of the interesting window displays too! One of my favorite shops was the very famous Laduree. They have gorgeous macaroons and other confectionaries. I bought some macaroons and a cafe flavored eclair. It was INCREDIBLE, and I don't even like eclairs!

Before heading back to the metro and my temporary home, I took a little rest at the Jaridin de
Tuileries to let my intense sugar high burn off a little. There are several large pond/pools where you can sit around and contemplate your life. Quite wonderful and a great end to my first Parisian adventure!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Second window design for Les Bohemians

The second window I did for Les Bohemians (Kim's boutique) was inspired by the name of the shop and the image that it envokes. The thought was the window would have a free spirited, worldly, gypsy type feel to it. This window was a lot less time consuming than the tissue birds, but it was very rewarding in the fact that it was done with items that we shopped for and assembled on a budget and using items that had came from many different former uses.

Night tour of the Seine

After Versailles Addy and I went to Notre Dame (not up though), saw Le Arc de Triumph, the Obelisk (big Egyptian pillar, in the square where they used to do the beheadings), the outside of the Louvre (I would actually go a few days later) and even a VideGrenier where I got a cool vintage painting and vintage Paris photo postcard booklet! By the end of this day Addy was perfectly cool, whereas after carrying around a painting (yes, in frame and yes, it was worth it!) and walking all day with little food I was a little exhausted and might have even snapped at a tourist family that were bickering in the street. Maybe.
We ended the day perfectly with a night boat tour of the Seine. It was so beautiful and we went at the perfect time where the sun set and we got to go right up to the Eiffel Tower and get pictures of it all alight. That was probably my second favorite Paris activity, however there are

SO many, and I barely even scratched the
surface that I am already looking forward to the next time I visit (hopefully with Alex next time too) when I can see even more!

Versailles...this photo montage works!

For some reason last time the Versailles photo montage was the same as the Louvre one, so this one should work and is actually different! (Also, excuse the song, it picked it and I was too annoyed to go through and try to change it, feel free to mute!)

My favorite place in Paris was Versailles. I could live there, and it's so big that I probably could actually hide somewhere and attempt to go unnoticed! Versailles is slightly out of Paris and has the Versailles palace, ponds, acres (or hecters) upon acres of gardens, different amazing buildings and apartments, Marie Antoinette's house, "mini Venice" with running gondolas and all! There is still more than this too. Addy (my friend from back home) and I spent over five hours there and I could have stayed for days to really see it all. In an attemp to be able to narrow down the hundreds (literally) of pictures I took there here is a montage:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Louvre

The Louvre was incredible. I did however, as always, have a few mishaps getting in. I may have even waited almost an hour for the audio tour headset to be available again then immediately accidentally exit the museum and walk all around the exterior and almost not be allowed to enter again all while wearing platform wedges (they were walking ones! But cobblestone is a little hard on the ankles in those puppies!) and almost burst into tears after walking in an hour long circle only to find myself at the exact same point again! But, maybe that didn't happen... After any little hiccup it was still incredible, I think I was there for six hours or so? By the time I got home (I was staying with close friend's of Kim and Johnelle's in their Paris flat at this point, they were wonderfully welcoming and I hope to host them someday when they visit!) I thought I'd just rest for a minute and ended up passing out for over an hour. I can't wait to go back again! I think I'll just make a little photo collage here because there was such an abundance of amazing sights!

Friday, July 9, 2010


My favorite place in Paris was Versailles. I could live there, and it's so big that I probably could actually hide somewhere and attempt to go unnoticed! Versailles is slightly out of Paris and has the Versailles palace, ponds, acres (or hecters) upon acres of gardens, different amazing buildings and apartments, Marie Antoinette's house, "mini Venice" with running gondolas and all! There is still more than this too. Addy (my friend from back home) and I spent over five hours there and I could have stayed for days to really see it all. In an attemp to be able to narrow down the hundreds (literally) of pictures I took there here is a montage:

BBQ and Petanque

A few days before I left for Paris Kim and I were invited over to some friends of hers for a lovely BBQ. I ate pate for the first time, had some Peche (peach) apertif that I have been craving ever since, sausage, a spicy mustard that I'm going to have to find in the states, and ate so much I was nearly sick and couldn't even eat dinner that night! I honestly had never seen so many courses. (This is their dog "Rock" as in "and Roll", fabulous.)

I also got to play a popular French game called Petanque (I don't know how, nor do I care enough to look up how, but there should be accents on most of these French words. So, sorry.) for the first time. You have
teams and each round the two members of the teams each try to throw metal balls (you each get two) as close as possible to a small wooden ball. Whoever at the end of the game (which seemed to be whenever you felt like stopping) gets the most balls over all the rounds the closest to the small wooden ball wins!

The team with the ten-year-old clinched it at the end and won, he was amazing and for whatever reason he loved to say my name over and over again, but because it's kind-of hard to pronounce for him he kept saying, "Webekah, Wabekah, Webekah!" and whenever anyone else said it he would correct them, "Webekah! Wabekah!" I loved it and I'm already trying to scheme how I can somehow raise our children to have French accents...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I made it! (Paris)

(Partially written while in Paris three weeks ago)

I was slightly terrified about taking my three trains from my beloved Brantome out to big city Paris! After having a little potty folly (I still think I might have done it wrong! I went to a pay bathroom at the train station and when I went in there was no toilet...just a hole...and a wet metal ring suspended from the wall that you had to was very weird and I basically just ended up standing. Okay, enough about toilets!) I thought that might be a sign of things to come. However, after Kim so patiently waited for my first train to take off safely, and with me on it, I got to the airport (not the best way to get to Paris, however that was where I was meeting Alex in a week, so had to make sure my departure was from there) bought my RER ticket, met an American who had no idea where to go (I could relate), helped him find the correct RER, then metro train (thank Kim for the fact that she gave me a really good metro map, and it was in French so I looked less like a tourist which got extra points for me!) and the direction of his hostel. I then miraculously was able to find my own flat where I was staying and later on meeting my friend from Oregon.

After I met with my AirBnB host and checked in, I walked up to Sacre Coeur, which was just a few blocks away and explored the Montmartre area a bit and spent some time people watching (which could be done endlessly most anywhere in Paris!) and got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

My friend arrived that evening and we went to a cute pizza bistro and enjoyed the scenes of joy for the Cup fans who were watching the French play that night. Perfect timing and something not to be missed.

Caves et Musee de Brantome...

Many apologies for not blogging for so long, but Paris, Nice, Italy and my love were all worth a little more focus. I am back in Brantome and Alex is back in Berkeley now, so I will be a better blogger again. I've got lots of catch up to do, but thankfully I had a few drafts so I won't have to start totally from scratch...

Before I left for Paris, Kim and I took a rainy day as an opportunity to explore the caves and abbey of Brantome that are just down the street from her house. The church that is attached to the abbey is one of old stone with stained glass
windows and benches that have been prayed on for hundreds of years. One of
the most interesting facts about the church is that there is a holy relic with a piece of bone said to be from a child slain by Harrod's hand! The abbey is now used mostly for the city offices. There is also a library, and a belltower that we really wanted to see, but of course they are open every day except for Tuesday!

The caves, like all caves in my opinion, were very interesting. What I feel makes them even more so is the fact that they aren't just caves in some remote location used only for tours. These caves can be seen from most anywhere in Brantome and there are shops, restaurants and even homes that have been built into parts of them.

My favorite part of the day however was not the caves, it was in the art gallery where bizarrely enough there is an animatronic replica of a local artist from the late 1800's I believe. When the "attraction" would buzz on the artist's hand would fly rapidly across the page he's drawing on whilst he whispered in French, "Oui"..."Non"...It was the best kind-of tacky there is! The story behind the artist was that later in his career he began to have an interest in the occult and
participated in seances where he met several spirits who would tell him what to draw when he was in one of his trances. I feel like I could believe it too, the before work of the artist were mostly basic landscapes and scenery whereas the "possesed" ones were these beautiful etheral people, women with yellowish glows and flowers in their hair. They didn't have postcards of those paintings, but I did sneak a picture of the animatronic artist himself! (Sorry it's so dark.)