Sunday, November 19, 2017

Riviera Addict

I'm currently sitting at the Warsaw airport and on my way home for Thanksgiving! While I'm waiting, I wanted to recap the rest of what we've been up to in November.

Last weekend, we drove an hour west to St. Tropez. 

Pain au chocolat is my bae

St. Tropez is a typically glamorous, colorful Riviera town. It's claim to fame was a Brigitte Bardot movie from the 1950s. I haven't been there for over 10 years!

Even though it had been a while, I still remembered my French hosts (the Porchers) pointing out this restaurant where (then) president Jacques Chirac liked to eat.

Visiting St. Tropez in November was a big change from my previous visit in August. Most of the streets were deserted. I love visiting places in the off-season!

We walked towards this bright bell tower and eventually found ourselves in a pretty little square.

After continuing up the hill to the citadel that overlooks the city, we were treated to these views.

Since it was Veteran's Day, we also stopped by the Rhone American Military Cemetery on the way home. About 800 American soldiers who died liberating the south of France are buried here. 

A lovely French town for me and a dose of America for David... perfect day! 

The previous weekend, we drove an hour east to Beaulieu-sur-Mer to visit the neighbor of VIlla Ephrussi.

I've decided that Beaulieu is my favorite part of the Riviera. I mean, this was the view from the parking lot. It's a ridiculously beautiful place.

Villa Kérylos is a mansion built in the early 1900s in ancient Greek style. It was fun to be transported to Greece for the afternoon. 

Besides the running water and electricity, every detail and piece of art was 2nd-century B.C.-inspired.

 The views from the terrace weren't bad either.

We haven't been able to plan trips away from home lately since we've been waiting to hear from immigration, but I've loved exploring more of the Riviera. 

Speaking of immigration... David's visa appointment in Paris has been scheduled!

We'll be heading to Paris less than a week after I get back from the U.S. He will have his visa soon after the appointment, by mid-December. 

Unfortunately, he won't be able to get out of his work contract right away. The whole 2-weeks' notice concept is not a thing in France. Per his contract, he's supposed to work for 2 more months. That means we'll come to America at the end of January. It's later than we wanted, but it feels great to have a timeline.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanksgivings Abroad

I have spent the previous 4 Thanksgivings out of the country and have had some interesting experiences in lieu of the traditional American holiday.

Thanksgiving 2013 was a normal work day for me in France. I took the train from Strasbourg to the small town of Barr and taught English lessons to French kids- mostly Thanksgiving-themed! The following is a summary of my lesson written by some 8th-graders (cute misspellings and inaccuracies included).

"The first Thanksgiving was in 1620, when George Washington decided. The Pilgrims are came at America but they haven’t food. Because of it, a lot of them are diing. Fortunately, the Native American persons helps them, and the Pilgrims are given many food. The Pilgrims, they were thankful, so they created the Thanksgiving. Today, people do a big feast, they are eating a turkey and pumpky puy while watching the American football. Every year there are Macy’s Parade in New York with marching band and Santa Claus. And the day after Thanksgiving you must buy a Christmas tree and make shopping because it’s got good sales. On Friday, is very black, the shops are oppening and the prices are broken, so everybody come and will buy. Thanksgiving is an important tradition in America and it represents the solidarity."

My job was fun, but I definitely felt a little homesick when I went home and had dinner alone. I don't usually struggle with homesickness when I'm abroad, but holidays can be tough.

Thanksgiving 2014 was supposed to be a school day for me in Israel. Instead, I hopped on a plane to surprise David in France. He'd come to visit me in Wisconsin in August- the trip when we officially became "boyfriend and girlfriend." We had tentative plans to see each other again in January. It felt weird to have barely started dating someone and not see them for 5 months.

David was going to be in my former city, Strasbourg, for the opening of the Christmas markets. I found myself browsing flights online, and before I knew it I was on a plane. He had no idea.

During our pre-arranged video chat, I showed him the view from my hotel room window. He replied "Wow, Israel looks a lot like Europe." It took a little while for him to catch on, but I think he was pretty excited. We spent the weekend walking around beautiful Strasbourg. Actually, we even walked to Germany together (because it's that close to the border). I believe this weekend was the first time I thought I might love him. It took me much, much longer to fess up to that to him, however.

Thanksgiving 2015 was a normal school day in Israel. The next day, I had Thanksgiving dinner with the Galilee branch. All of us Mormons in northern Israel (15 of us?) met up in the Tiberias church building and had a pretty authentic American dinner cooked by Sr. Hopkins, a senior missionary. The highlight for me was the pumpkin pie- I think she had someone in America mail her a can of pumpkin. After dinner we helped put up the Christmas decorations. 

It was a very complicated situation to get the members of branch to church on Saturday. They hold church on the Jewish Shabbat to coincide with most people's school and work schedules. That means there is no public transportation, and most of us didn't have cars. To avoid repeating the difficult carpool situation the next morning, several of us slept over in the church building. It was a unique experience. I liked waking up to this view of the Sea of Galilee.

Thanksgiving 2016 was a little less than two months after our wedding and move to France. We didn't have a functioning oven or access to most of the typical Thanksgiving foods, so we couldn't really celebrate. We were enjoying newlywed life but were both disappointed to miss out. It was my fourth consecutive non-American Thanksgiving, and David has never had the chance to experience it. We got through it knowing we would be home the next year...

Don't have any pictures from the day, but this was from 3 days later.

Well, that didn't happen! Immigration is delayed and we don't expect to be in the U.S. until January. We have reached the last step of the process, so that's encouraging. David's file was transferred to the Paris embassy. We're now waiting for them to schedule his interview appointment and are anxious to find out when it will be.

Thanksgiving 2017 hasn't happened yet, but as of this weekend I have some big plans. Since we won't be home for Christmas and I haven't been home since January... I'm coming to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving! I am very very excited, but it's a little bittersweet because David can't come along. He isn't able to take off work and it's pretty likely customs officials wouldn't let him enter the country anyways (since he has a pending immigrant visa).

My plans for my trip home are as follows:
-spend hours of quality time with Buttercup (and my family)
-eat everything pumpkin-flavored
-watch the Macy's parade
-Black Friday shop
-help put up the Christmas tree

I head home in 5 days. In preparation I got my coat out of storage. It hasn't been worn since my last trip to the Frozen Tundra.

Fingers crossed that by Thanksgiving 2018 we will be all settled in America and me and David can have a big American Thanksgiving together.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Provence Addict

The first step is admitting you have a problem. I've lived in this part of France for over a year now, and I can't stop obsessing over all of the tiny, quaint, charming villages. Give me some old stone houses, ivy on the walls, and narrow cobblestone streets- and I'm sold.

Happily, David didn't have to work last Wednesday (due to All Saint's Day- a Catholic holiday). We took the opportunity to visit the Haut-de-Cagnes, a medieval village overlooking the beach town Cagnes-sur-Mer.  

Side note- it's a little confusing that in this one small area we have Cannes, Cannes la Bocca, Le Cannet, Haut-de-Cagnes, and Cagnes-sur-Mer. The originality is lacking.

We were glad we took the advice I read online to park in the modern town below and ride the free shuttle up to the medieval streets. Everyone on the little bus was holding on for dear life around the hairpin turns and tiny one-way streets.

The shuttle dropped us off at the Château Grimaldi, a castle built by ancestors of the ruling family of Monaco.

We wandered for about an hour and especially enjoyed the views of the Mediterranean and surrounding mountains.

Since seeing the old village didn't take long, we decided to spend some time reliving David's childhood. His grandparents had an apartment in Cagnes-sur-Mer, and he and his family used to stay there every summer for a beach vacation. We managed to find the apartment, and visited the beach they always went to. He had a lot of fun reminiscing. 

That child is not young David. He is a random stranger that wandered into my picture.

Our original Saturday plans got changed at the last minute. I still wanted to get out, so we decided to go for a short drive and see some of the villages near Grasse.

I was so surprised that this beautiful place, Auribeau-sur-Siagne, was only about 15 minutes away from our apartment! I had no idea it existed. 

Our GPS couldn't find the road to drive up the hill, so we contented ourselves with checking it out from below. My pointy-toed sequin shoes didn't want to make the hike up.

In the next town, Cabris, I was surprised again. Number one, because the temperature dropped significantly as we went up in altitude. Number two, because there were changing leaves and evidence of fall (not ONE leaf has changed colors where I live). And lastly, because of the views.

Who knew that I could see fall and feel chilly fall weather if we only drove 30 minutes away from home? I was on such a fall high that I wanted to keep exploring. We decided to check out one more village- St. Vallier de Thiey. 

It ended up being a great afternoon, especially for something completely unplanned. I have no idea how long we'll be living in France (I'm looking at you, American immigration), but I do know that as long as we're here I'll be making the most of my time.

For more small-town Provence, click here or here. I swear, it's a real addiction!