Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mer de Glace

Yesterday, Sammy and Max took us to Chamonix to see Mer de Glace - a glacier tucked in the mountains. We rode a train up the mountain, a gondola down the other side, and then took 350 stairs down to the valley floor, which was filled in with the glacier. We were able to go inside tunnels made in the glacier - so cold and so cool!

the glacier.

the stairs down to the cave entrance

inside the glacier

Monday, April 25, 2011

Eatly and France

On Thursday night, we stayed in the middle of a corn field, in a Holiday Inn Express. It was so nice to stay somewhere we knew would be clean and nice- and had an amazing, fruit filled breakfast in the morning. With unlimited espresso (for Andrew, only one for me :( ). I sat in the morning for about 3 hrs reading in the breakfast room. It was heavenly.

Friday, we spend in Torino, Italy. First stop was Eatly, the first Slow Food grocery store in Italy...and a super cute name! It was awesome. Fresh produce, meat, cheese, fish, wine, beer. All local. I wanted to buy it all!

Then we went off to the original Lavazza cafe. Also love at first sight. We had a cream espresso - espresso you eat with a spoon- and a fruit campana. They were both incredibly delicious.

We also visited a little medieval village in Torino, called Borgo. It was built in the 1800s to model a medieval village.

Our stay that night was in a tiny town called None, where we finally got to try Italian pasta. We had pizza and ravioli for dinner. It was pretty good, but we were dying of thirst... they only sold bottled water at the restaurant, and we are far too cheap for that!

Saturday morning we made our way to Sammy's house in Megeve, France. With two detours, one because the road had a huge snow pile at the start and one because of an avalanche, we finally made it. Cutest little French town in the Alps ever. Her boyfriend Max made us all dinner and dessert last night and we are staying in the hotel he works at, which is closed for the season. I'm absolutely loving hanging out with my favorite cousin (sorry Lucas). :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday we spent the morning in Nice, France. The drive to Nice the previous day was amazing. Fields and fields of lavender! We had a little picnic on a hillside, overlooking a field of sheep. I'm pretty sure I want to be a lavender farmer or shepherd in the south of France someday.

Driving into Nice we got an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea - blue, blue, blue! We began the morning in Nice with a walk along the sea and and a coffee in a little cafe right on the beach! Next, we headed toward the city center and grabbed a fresh squeezed, locally grown O.J. :) So so delish. Quite obviously to my delight, while wondering around the city center, we stumbled upon the flower and farmer's market! Handmade lavender soaps, locally grown tomatoes, locally harvested sea salt, and LAVENDER COOKIES!

Next was Monaco - a country that could fit inside Central Park. First stop, the Botanical Gardens of Monaco! Hands down, the most unique gardens we've been to. All succulents and cacti, my favs. And built on a very, very steep hillside, rather cliff. Monaco in general is really intense and insane. VERY busy, a constant buzz of activity. And so, so tightly packed. Beautiful to look at, especially the sea, but we were happy to get the heck out. On the plus side for Monaco, almost every single building had a green roof! I don't think it was them being green though, I think they just need to utilize the space.

After Monaco, we headed to the hotel to relax- and do homework. At dinner time, well past our dinner time, around 6:30 we went out for dinner in town. To our dismay, there was not a single restaurant open. Friday night, not a thing was open. Finally we found the hours to the restaurant that was recommended to us, it opened at 7:15. We popped in promptly, at a quarter after, and the lights were still off. The waitress beckoned us in, and we were trapped. $37 USD later, we had bottled water poured from a blue glass bottle, a random lunch meat appetizer we don't remember ordering, spinach crepes, amazing gnocchi, and two very hungry bellies still. So we went to fill up on gelato. :) Lesson learned.

Thankfully, we returned to our hotel to find a huge bowl of strawberries and a bottle of champagne to celebrate our honeymoon/babymoon! Of course, the champange is packed in a suit case for later enjoyment... like say 3 years from now. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

dingy hotel, french police, yikes

On Tuesday we zipped to Spain - major bust. Our hotel was an incredibly dingy, toeing the scummy line, hotel apartment nearly on the beach in Costa Brava, Spain. The lobby was beautiful - great places to sit, on chocolate brown couches... the room however left much MUCH to be desired. And it wasn't exactly cheap either. On top, it was freezing on the beach, so no sun bathing! So we thought it'd be a great day for Andrew to get his homework done (and me to do a bunch of reading!) so we began our hunt for McDonald's - the only place we've seen with wifi. Nearly two hours later, with a false address from a McDonald's billboard, we did not arrive. The hope of their soft serve ice cream with espresso over top -Spain's McDonald's specialty- kept us going! So extremely frustrated, we went back to dumpville-hotel for the evening.
This is all so sad, because the parts of Spain I've been to were awesome! Historic, beautiful, and right on the sea. Costa Brava was not the optimal choice.

Wednesday, we decided to start afresh with a new attitude...and get the heck back to France. Our first main stop was in Montpellier - hands down the coolest town we've been to..and we're nearly ready to move there. We started out with a picnic in Jardins de Plantes de Montpellier - the botanical gardens! Then popped into the University of Montpellier - one of the oldest in the world, started in 1160. They have a medical museum and a surgical theater - but they were closed! :( Then off to one of the main squares for coffee in the CUTEST coffee shop. After our relaxing coffee, we hopped in the car, heading toward our destination for the night Hotel de Graffre, an old farm turned hotel.

photos from the botanical gardens

cute coffee shop - Cafe Latitude

As we drove through the city, we started to hear sirens. We finally figured out they were coming from behind us, so we did our best to make way as the police motorcycles flew by, stopping traffic in the intersection ahead of us, waving their arms frantically at us, or at least in our direction, so we thought we were supposed to go ahead and get out of the way... WRONG. Next thing we knew there was banging on the back of the car, we thought a police car hit us, but it was a police man, in a car, banging on our back end. I looked out my window to see a man with a black skull cap, black ski goggles, and a black AK47 pointed at us, shaking his head and making scary, mean gestures with his hand. Pause story to change my soiled underwear. I was literally looking down the barrel. Obviously we froze - I almost handed him my purse, thought he might actually be a robber, in police clothing... and they were gone. Poor Andrew couldn't hold down the clutch his knee was shaking so bad. It was nuts. NUTS.

Thankfully, just outside the city was peace. Wild horses, oodles of flamingos, marshy area. We arrived at our hotel so pleased to have a comfortable place to rest and be. We even have a little patio, where I'm sitting now. Last night, we went into Nimes. We ate at a local brewery, saw a huge Roman arena that's still in use, and Jardins de Fontaine - a huge fountain garden from the 18th century. Lining the garden walkways, buckeyes were flowering, which made it absolutely the best time of year to be there and so beautiful!

Monday, April 18, 2011

extreme rental car racing

Today we met Sammy for coffee on the shore of Lake Geneva. SO good to see my cuz. :) Then we zipped off to Lyon, France, where we saw an amazing cathedral and ruins of a Roman theater. On the way, we had a little picnic of pancetta, tomato, and cheese baguette on the Rhone River! It's the Torch Lake of rivers, so blue! We forgot to take a picture though... so google it. :)

This was followed by a nearly nauseating, yet free trip through the mountains on mostly single lane roads - not two lane, single lane yet still two ways! Yikes. With no guard rails and jagged rocks and rivers below...
The places we take rental cars. If Budget only knew!

This is a cathedral built on the top of volcanic remnants around 950 AD. Thought about taking the rental car up there, but didn't think it'd make it. :)

Tonight we're staying in a town called Millau, France, in the Pyrenees Mountains! Longest viaduc in the world - I think...

a visit with Chandni & Peter

We spent our first weekend with my dear Chandni and Peter, her Belgian husband. We had so much fun, it actually hurt. The first night we just hung out and caught up. It took roughly 14 hours for Chandni to believe that I am pregnant. The first words out of her mouth were "YEAH, when you pop a baby out of there, then we'll talk"... hahaha. She swore the ultrasound photos, prescription prenatal vitamins, and birth books were just props for my prank. Not even the plump belly was convincing. Maybe I do cry wolf too much? ;)

The second day we took a drive through the Alps to Italy and France. After passing through the Saint Bernard tunnel- where the pups come from!, we stopped in Aosta, Italy. Where we enjoyed a picnic along the river, coffee and a magician in the city center, a little fresh well water from a fountain, and amazing views of the snowy mountains. Then to another little town for pizza and lemon soda! So delicious. We took the Mount Blanc tunnel home, which was over 7 miles long!

Yesterday we took a long, beautiful walk along Lake Geneva and through the woods, to Nyon, Switzerland. Had a fantastic picnic in a castle's front yard! And returned home for a slice of Italian Easter cake and a final cup of chai - made by Peter, who officially makes the most delicious chai known to man.

We had so much fun with Peter and Boo it was hard to leave this morning! I really can't wait til they visit us in the US.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


After sitting in the Newport News airport all day, being delayed until the next day, sitting in the Washington DC airport for 8 hours the next day, and being told our tickets weren't valid... we made it! We flew in Thursday morning with the sun shining on the mountains as we landed. Definitely the most beautiful place I've ever seen from a plane. The hillsides were so green, with little squiggly roads and paths. Blue, blue lakes and snow capped mountains. An awesome first impression.

Picked up our rental car and darted out onto the roads, to risk our life... the people here actually drive really well, and carefully, but who knew a red light turns yellow before it turns green? And who knew a sign with a red border and two cars next to each other means no passing? And who knew that was a border crossing we just flew through, without blinking?? Ooops, now we're in France!

Our first stop in France was Carrefour - the Super Target of France. We grabbed some mickey mouse cheese, strawberries, and a baguette for a picnic in the parking lot, on the edge of a field of wheat. We were starving. Then off for our first cafe au lait and pain au chocolat! SO delish.

Everywhere you go in France - and Switzerland- the flowers are amazing! We had to stop in a cute little town called Evian,on the shore of Lake Geneva, because the tulips were just too much! Plus, they had these really weird flowers that I'd never seen before. Also, Evian is where the bottled water comes from.

That night we stayed in Montreux, Switzerland with a couple we met through Airbnb - a website people can rent rooms through. It was a great first experience, the couple was very kind and their home was incredibly unique. The attic of an old home that once housed vineyard workers - it was so cool. We were completely exhausted by the time we got there. We wanted to eat and go to bed. Every restaurant we looked at around town - including the cheap ones they recommended- was over $30/plate in US dollars! We spent an hour or so looking around and finally decided we'd just grab a burger at McDonald's and have Chandni help us the next day with eating out. Holy price tag shock. It would have cost us $25 for us to both eat at McDonald's. MCDONALD'S! (Chandni later clued us in that this is the token visitor mistake made when visiting Swtz, one she herself made :) ) So instead we got half of a rotisserie chicken, another baguette, and carrots from the grocery store and had a picnic on the lake.

new stitches.

A long promised post to show the tube dresses I've made!