Friday, November 18, 2016

Livin' for the weekend

Our weekends have been pretty busy since we've arrived in France. David usually takes pity on me and travels with me because I tend to get bored while he's working all week. We decided to lay low this weekend, but looking ahead I realized that my Saturdays for the next month and a half will be pretty exciting.

11/26 Gap- to get the car... after dropping it off to be fixed OVER A MONTH AGO. Only in France.

12/3 My mom will be here! We're planning a trip to San Remo, Italy on this day.

12/10 Lyon Festival of Lights- something I've wanted to see for years and years.

12/17 LONDON! Me and David are going on a quick weekend trip. So excited because I haven't been since 2005.

12/24- Christmas Eve! We'll be with David's family. I'm hoping to maybe stop by midnight mass at the local cathedral.

12/31- New Year's Eve! Believe it or not, I'lll be home in WI. I need to go home to get my French visa. I'll probably be home for 2-3 weeks while that gets worked out. Sadly, David can't come with me... but I'm trying to focus on the positives. It will be fun to be back in America and see my family and puppy. And my sister's puppy.

She's not quite this tiny anymore :)

Can't wait for the fun things to come!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

200 posts and counting

First of all, happy 200th blog post to me!

I started this blog in April of 2013 when I was leaving to live and study in Jerusalem for the summer. Fast forward to November of 2016, and I've lived in Israel, France, Israel again, and now France again (this time, with my brand new husband!). These have been the best years of my life, and I'm so happy to have this to look back on.

So now onto this weekend. It was a pretty great weekend, especially since I got David for an extra day. November 11th, Armistice Day in France/Veteran's Day in America, is a day off from work here.

For Veteran's Day on Friday, I did some research and found out about an American military cemetery not too far from here. We've both been to others in Europe (for me, in Normandy on Memorial Day 2010 and Luxembourg on Veteran's Day 2013), and agree that they are such peaceful and beautiful places that are worth visiting. 

Do you think if we submit this along with his visa application it will expedite the process?

This particular cemetery is in Draguignan, and has the graves of 860 American soldiers that died liberating the South of France. That was our American moment of the weekend.

We spent Friday afternoon CHRISTMAS SHOPPING. We started stocking up on decorations and it was fun. Benefit of living somewhere with no Thanksgiving=longer Christmas season. Don't hate. I don't get to eat my pumpkin pie, so let me have Christmas in November.

On Saturday we continued our streak of seeing a new city after Avignon and Grasse the previous 2 weeks. This week it was all about Aix-en-Provence.

Similarly to Avignon, it was a bit of a nightmare to find parking, but once we did everything worked out great. 

Our first stop was this mansion and garden, the Pavillon Vendôme.

Next, we headed over to the Saint-Sauveur cathedral, which was actually even better than expected! There was an organist playing which provided some great theme music in the background. Another interesting feature was the baptistery- which was unique among all the cathedrals I've seen in France. There was actually a font from back when the Catholics did baptism by immersion.

After a nice lunch we went on a long stroll through Aix-en-Provence to reach our last stop of the day, the Caumont Centre d'Art. I've heard that Aix is nicknamed the "city of 1000 fountains." I doubt there are quite that many, but there are certainly enough to make it a charming place to visit.







There's a sampling, at least! This is the main street, the Cours Mirabeau.

A happy surprise was stumbling across a bookstore near the Cours Mirabeau where everything was in English!! I do read in French, and it's very helpful to improve my French, but it's just not quite the same or as relaxing as reading in my native language. It didn't take me long to find something to buy. I'm about halfway through All the Light we Cannot See, and I highly recommend it!

The Caumont Centre d'Art is a 17th-century mansion. There are a few rooms that are completely restored that you can tour. 

The mansion also hosts art exhibitions- the current one is a photography exhibit about Marilyn Monroe. It was pretty interesting. My favorite part was when there was a traffic jam and we couldn't understand why the whole crowd was suddenly stopping. When we finally walked past we realized it was because there was a naked picture. Oh France.

That about sums up the day we spent in Aix and a pretty great weekend! I would definitely recommend visiting Aix-en-Provence- one of the prettiest cities I've been to in France!

If you're interested, I went to Nice on election-results day last week. Link: President Trump??

Also... for fun, here's my 100th blog post- reflecting on my year in Strasbourg and Jerusalem with lots of beautiful pictures.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

President Trump??

Well, plot twist! I don't know what happened in America this week. I really didn't think it was remotely a possibility until I woke up early on Wednesday morning. I was going to just check my phone quickly and try to go back to sleep... until I saw the headlines "Trump wins Iowa!", "Trump wins Ohio!". At that point I just got up and watched the live election coverage for about 2 hours until Hillary officially conceded and Trump gave his victory speech.

Didn't see that coming!! I'm not a fan at all of the guy... but I guess fingers crossed that he's a lot better president than he was as a candidate. When the news officially announced his victory and they said "first time in history that we'll have a president who's never held political office or served in the military... I felt a little worried haha

Last January I posted this picture of me visiting a beautiful mosque in Akko, Israel and joked that someone should remind me to delete it in case President Trump became a thing. I have to say, at that point, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that it would never happen.

Oh, how wrong I was...
Anyways, I eventually got burned out reading and watching election coverage and decided to hop on a train to Nice. 

The last time I was there it was August in the height of the tourist season. It felt so different this time. It's a big city, but in the touristy section of Vieux Nice it felt pretty dead and empty. That also might be due to the fact that it was the coldest day we've had so far this fall on the Riviera- a "frosty" 55 degrees... something that I very much enjoyed! It was so joyful to wear a cozy sweater.

Place Masséna

Streets of Vieux Nice

Christmas is coming!!

As a bonus, I took a picture of the sunrise on 3 different days this past week. Every morning it's pretty much spectacular. By the end of the year I could probably publish a calendar "Sunrises of Mandelieu." The sun rises at about the same time that David's alarm goes off for work every morning, so I usually come take a peak out the window before crawling back under my blanket for a little while.

So anyways, I guess it should be an interesting 4 years. I definitely remember what I was doing when I heard who won the last few elections too. This one will be even more memorable because 1. it was such a surprise, and 2. I have pictures.

Fingers crossed for America! I'm pulling for you, even though I'm a little weirded out that so many of you are fans of Trump. Not that the other choice was that appealing to me either. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Local Castle

Perk of living in France: having a local castle. I've talked about the Château de la Napoule before- it's hard not to because we can see it from our balcony.

Last week David had Tuesday off for All Saint's Day (the French like to not work on Catholic holidays despite the fact that they're the least religious people ever). We took that opportunity of a day off to finally do a visite guidée (a tour!) of the building we've been staring at for the last month.

On one of my first days here in Mandelieu I took a walk in the lovely castle gardens for free and didn't realize for a few weeks that it wasn't magically free and I'd snuck in without paying. This time we did things legally and forked over the 6 euros.

Basically, the castle was a pile of ruins with 2 towers still left over from the Middle Ages when 2 filthy rich Americans bought the place in the early 1900s and renovated and rebuilt things. Henry and Marie Clews (the filthy rich Americans) were some pretty interesting people. Henry was an artist and sculptor, and his artwork is all over the chateau.

The Clews named the castle "Once Upon a Time-" inscribed above the door.

The best room is the dining room, done in Gothic style. All of the carvings above the door and even the stained glass windows were done by Henry.

We were super entertained by Henry's workshop, which is filled with whimsical sculptures that were fun to mock. This one was our favorite.

Apparently the Clews were very much in love... as evidenced by the way they had their medieval-style crypt designed. By their request, the tombs are propped open (not a bad place to visit for the day after Halloween). Above the crypt is a tower with a sealed room that can't be accessed by doors or windows. They plan on their souls meeting in that room and spending forever together. Ok then.

I still think the best part about the castle are the gardens! 

And you can't beat that Mediterranean view.

A big merci to the quirky Clews family for this chateau. The cherry on top of our first day of November was a visit to the beach after the castle tour. The temperature was in the low 70s but the water was a little chilly. I waded a little bit but David was determined and made it all the way in for a swim. He's very proud of himself. We both enjoyed some time laying out on the sand and had a hard time believing it was actually November.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Smelling good in Grasse

This Saturday we drove 30 minutes away to a city called Grasse. Not like grass. Please don't call it grass. Pronounced more like Grahsse.

Grasse is the perfume capital of France. Which, bien sûr (at least according to the French), is naturally also the perfume capital of the world. David took this opportunity to make several jokes about how the French only invented perfume so they could avoid bathing. #worstfrenchmanever

Grasse is home to at least 3 perfume factories you can tour (Fragonard, Molinard, and Gallimard). Rumor has it that the flowers used in the famous Chanel No. 5 are grown exclusively in Grasse.

We toured the Fragonard factory and learned a little bit about how perfume is made. One of my favorite things I learned is that in French perfume makers are called 'nez,' which means 'noses.' They have to study chemistry for several years and have perfect memories to remember thousands of different scents.

Another funny fact was that Fragonard refuses to make cologne for men, they only make eau de toilette, which is watered down. They do that because they think men aren't capable of judging when they put too much cologne on haha

I had to indulge and buy a small bottle of my favorite scent. Very conveniently, this visit to Grasse happened to coincide with my current perfume almost running out. I wonder how that happened... 

Cute little bag

I chose a scent called "belle de nuit." It was fun because it comes with an info sheet that tells you everything they put in it- mine is mostly made up of roses and violets. 

Our last stop was a tiny museum called Musée Fragonard. Didn't have anything to do with the perfume, besides the fact that this perfume company named themselves after the painter of the same name, since he was from Grasse. Jean-Honoré Fragonard was one of the most famous artists in the last years of the French monarchy. I like his paintings because they remind me of the "Marie Antoinette era."

There was just 1 room of his drawings and 1 room of his paintings. The one below was my favorite. There were also 2 other rooms featuring 2 other artists from Grasse. It was worth visiting, especially since it was free! Touring the factory was free too. I'm guessing because they make all of their money from the perfume boutique at the end of the tour.

"Young Girl Freeing Bird from Cage"

We've had bad weather luck lately. It's beautiful, perfect, and sunny all week... and then it rains on the weekend. Since it was rainy we didn't get to do any walking around town. I want to come back when it's sunny and walk around a little more. David doesn't understand why because he thinks it looks boring since the colorful streets are pretty similar to his hometown. 

So foggy!

It's too bad it was foggy, because on my only previous trip to Grasse I remember lots of sun and beautiful views, since it's up on a hill. Can't believe this was 9 years ago!!

All in all, despite the rain, it was a fun and delicious-smelling day in Grasse.

For more about what we've been up to, check out this about touring a castle and swimming in November, or this about what French Halloween was like.