Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ooh la la

Moment of the day yesterday:

I was on the train to Cannes. As I stood up to get off, I was face to face with a French guy who'd been chatting with his friend (in French, of course) the whole ride. When he saw me, he stared awkwardly and told his friend in English "Look, she's so beautiful." As if, since he said it in English, I would have no idea that he was checking me out.

I'm sorry, dude, that your plan backfired. It did make me smile, although I pretended not to understand at the time. I have enough French amour in my life, so I didn't feel the need to engage you in conversation.

Seriously, ladies, if you're feeling under-appreciated in America.... you might want to come to France ;)

In Cannes I went on a mission to find a bookstore. I found FNAC, a chain here in France. And I found what I was looking for- Harry Potter en français. I've been gradually collecting and reading the books in French, and Halloween week seemed like a festive time to start another one.

While waiting for the train (the schedule is annoying and there's only a train to Mandelieu once an hour), I walked down the Croisette- the area by the beach and the red carpet and palais where the film festival is held. 

To paint you a picture, here's the kind of people you usually see on the touristy Croisette: rich Russians with Louis Vuitton bags, British senior citizens on holiday, well-dressed French couples out on a stroll with their little dogs, and Asian tourists traveling in packs.

I walked down far enough to see the fancy Carlton Hotel- which I believe is the most expensive in Cannes- up close and personal.

I also couldn't resist some shopping on the Rue d'Antibes, which has every store I could possibly want to buy clothes in. I finally realized my years-long dream of owning a cozy (and bonus: sparkly) sweater dress. Now if only the weather could cool off enough to facilitate wearing it. 

From one of my fave French stores, Promod

The Local Volcano

 Rumor has it that this hill/mountain (depending on your standards) right next to our apartment is an ancient volcano. I found out about it thanks to the handy website Tripadvisor, which I consulted to find out whether there was anything to do in this little village we're living in. One of the top-rated things to do (and let's be honest, one of the only things to do in Mandelieu), is climbing San Peyre for the beautiful views.

Since I live on the 8th floor of our building, I didn't realize quite how high it was. From our balcony it doesn't look that high, because duh, we're already up pretty high. One day when I was walking through the village I found stairs going up the hill and I thought- why not? 

After getting to the top of this tall and narrow staircase, I walked through a neighborhood of $$$$$$$$$ houses before finding the San Peyre park. There was a trail leading pretty much straight up, and I didn't realize how much of a hike it was until I was about halfway to the top.

Stair from the bottom and from the top

I'm usually very anti-hiking. When I was 14 and still full of youthful energy I was forced to climb Y Mountain (that's in Provo, Utah for those of you lucky enough to have never been there), hated it, and promised myself I would never climb a mountain again. Thankfully, my ability (and motivation) to hike goes up significantly when I'm in foreign countries because I'm more excited. And less lazy, I guess.

The views of the sea and the mountains got better and better as I got closer to the top. If you weren't aware, here on the southern coast of France we're still in the Alps! The département (rough equivalent of a state) we're in is called Alpes-Maritimes.

Port of La Napoule

That's Cannes across the bay

I mostly took this so I could pause to catch my breath ;)

A few ruins of a medieval church and some uneven medieval stairs that made climbing more interesting.

Trail that looks like it's leading to nowhere.

In the end, I got my exercise for the day... and I think the view were worth it! For perspective, here's San Peyre from the ground (the pointy one on the right). Now every day when I see it I can feel proud. And weirded out that I did that on a whim. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Picasso and a police chase

After being in France for 3 weeks, it was time to discover a new city! I chose Antibes because it looked promising and was close and easy to get to.

Antibes is east of Cannes, and is also along the coast. It took about 20 minutes on the train to get there from Mandelieu. Price to get there: 3 euros. I'd honestly never heard of it until this summer when we came very close to living there (David had 2 job offers- and the one he didn't take was there).

Right away as you exit the train station, you're in front of the yacht-filled harbor. There are thousands of shiny, expensive-looking yachts. That's not even an exaggeration- apparently Port Vauban is the biggest marina in Europe. 

Behind the harbor, you can see the medieval Fort Carré. Part of a James Bond movie was filmed there.

I headed straight for the main tourist attraction in Antibes, the Musée Picasso. The Picasso art itself didn't interest me per se (not really my style), but the history and location of the building did. The museum is located inside the Château Grimaldi, and the royal family of Monaco lived there during the Middle Ages (royalty is more my style).

In the 1940s, Picasso called the chateau home for 6 months. He left some of his art behind... hence the reason why it's now a museum. I spent about half an hour looking through the smallish collection of his drawings and paintings, and then spent a while hanging out on the balcony. It's right on the water!

This was definitely my "favorite" Picasso sketch I saw. It really reminded me of the things my dad used to draw during church on the back of the program. Dad, maybe there's still time for you to become a famous artist!

Right next door to the museum was this colorful cathedral. Gotta love how colorful the south of France is.

I spent most of my time in Antibes walking along the ramparts for some views of the Mediterranean and the old town.

I liked Antibes because it had an older feel than most Riviera cities I've been to. I like being able to feel the history and really feel like I'm in Europe. I'm sure I would have been content living here.

My final impression of Antibes is that you can just feel the wealth of everyone around you. I've come to notice that most cities on the Cote d'Azur are full of rich old people. We don't fit in that well.  ;)

Here's one last shot of the beach on my way back to the train station. A few people are still swimming towards the end of October. Lots of people still lay out on the beach on nice sunny days like this. The locals, however, are bundled up in their winter coats when it hits 60- just like in Israel.

My last little bit of fun in Antibes was watching a police chase in the train station. A couple of 12 year olds were being obnoxious and knocking over things (not sure if they did anything worse than that). A police officer was trying to force them to leave, but he was a slow and chubby middle-aged man who couldn't keep up with the kids. 

Do you know how funny it was to watch an incompetent French police officer swearing and huffing and trying to run after them? It was like watching Inspector Clouseau in action. The kids ended up locking themselves in the bathroom and refusing to come out. Eventually the police officer gave up and left, so I guess the kids won that battle.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Husband's Hometown

So I have had a husband for 3 weeks now. Still a little bit weird to say that.

Last Friday we headed 3 hours north to David's hometown of Gap for the weekend. There was a problem with the car we needed to get fixed there. Because of course in France you can only get a car fixed at the place you bought it from (eyeroll).

It was terrible stormy weather during the drive on Friday night, but thankfully we made it in one piece. For reference, it costs about 18 euros in tolls to drive from Mandelieu to Gap. So now I understand why the Rubinos were marveling at the $1 tolls in Chicago.

On Saturday morning we took the car in... only to have the people at the shop be confused because they forgot we were coming. They asked us to come back in a few hours. Instead of waiting around, me and David drove a few minutes away up to Charance to do a little sightseeing. After a short walk we had this great view of Gap.

Pas mal! I was hoping to see some more fall colors, but I guess I still have to wait a few weeks on that here. This is the peak of the mountain Charance, which you can see from David's house.

He thought I was pretty weird for making him take pictures of me while I pretended this fountain was my balance beam, but I'm pleased with how it turned out ;)

The petit château on top of the mountain:

After lunch we set out with David's mom to see more mountains. That's kind of the thing to do around here- it is the Alps, after all. We drove about 30 minutes out in the country. Like, really out in the country. There were way more sheep than people.

It is at times like this that I'm really sad that I can't sing like Julie Andrews.

The rest of our day in Gap was a string of failed errands. Seriously, I love France, but they do not make it easy to adjust to life here. You just have to be verrrrrrry patient and take things slowly. Despite being promised an automatic car to borrow while they're fixing his, that didn't work out and David had to very quickly remember how to drive a stick shift (thankfully, he did!). We tried to get his wedding ring resized because it's slightly too big, but the jewelry stores in town don't work with that type of metal. We've been trying to find time to buy a mattress pad because our mattress sucks... but of course when we go to the mattress store in Gap their sole option was 170 euros and it wasn't that great. 

The night started looking up when we spent hours doing a wedding picture slideshow with David's parents, since I got the pictures from the Wisconsin photographer. They look great, and I can't wait to see the professional New York pictures soon. Wonderful memories to relive!

It was nice driving back home on Sunday afternoon since it was light out and I could enjoy seeing the mountains and little Provence villages between Gap and the Riviera.

This might not look exciting, but the trees remind me of my Wisconsin!

All in all, it was nice to spend time with David's family and do a little traveling... since I've been itching to start having European adventures. This week some plane tickets have been purchased- I'm meeting my mom in Paris at the end of November to sightsee there, at the Strasbourg Christmas markets, and around the Riviera... and then in December me and David just bought some cheap flights to have a weekend in London. It's starting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

So, what now?

Every new person I meet in France asks me what my job is here. Um, none of the above?

I won't have a work visa for another few months (and even then, the odds of me finding a job in this little town are honestly pretty slim). I have to amuse myself finding things to do and see in the area... and of course, try to profit from living in France!

On one of my first solo walks around town, I wandered into the La Napoule castle gardens, which are just about a 5 minute walk away from the apartment. I found out later that you're supposed to pay to get in, but I accidentally enjoyed this visit for free ;)


I got some major Secret Garden vibes. 

Notice that "Once Upon a Time" is written above the door- it's in English because the castle used to be a ruin and was restored by some super rich American socialites who lived there in the early 1900s.

I plan on coming back with David to take the tour of the interior sometime soon!

On our first Saturday alone as a married couple, we slept off the jet lag and had a nice lazy morning. Then we went on a walk by the beach, and walked a lot farther than we have before... up over a hill so we eventually had a view of the neighboring town, Théoule sur Mer.

It was about 75 degrees, and we got hot on our little hike. After looking at the beautiful water, we came home and changed and jumped in for a swim. There were a few others taking advantage of the sunny day, but for most locals it was way too cold to swim. I'm glad we gave it a try, because it was probably our last swim until it gets warm next spring!

Later that week, the sunny days were gone and it became rainy and chilly fall (no complaints here, loving it). I'd been cooped up inside for a few days until I got bored and hopped on the train to Cannes to visit the cathedral and buy new tights. Something about fall weather gives me a strong desire to enrich my tights collection. It's how I prepare for winter. 

I have a tights store I'm obsessed with in Europe- Calzedonia. They're so cute, long enough for me, and they're good quality. Putting tights on makes my feet do ballet, so don't mind that.

There are my new favorites, so it's killing me that the holes aren't even in this picture!!

The Cannes cathedral (Notre Dame de Bon Voyage) was nothing to get too excited about if you've seen more than a few in France before, but it was still a nice getting out of the house activity.

Even better was seeing pretty downtown Cannes in the rain- a rare occurrence. My favorite part was that the Christmas lights are already up. They're not turned on yet, but the Christmas season starts a lot earlier here without Halloween and Thanksgiving in the way.

Cannes is a ritzy place, so I wasn't surprised to come across a designer dog clothing boutique complete with 300 euro outfits for puppies. It made my day.

We spent last weekend with David's family in Gap, so check out this for some lovely pictures of the Alps and complaints about adjusting to France life, if you're into that sort of thing.