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Voici Le Soleil


Ania is bringing a year of American sunshine & sass to Lyon, France

This town is so fan(ne)cy, you already knowwww

That title was ALL for you, Daly.

Annecy was Lindsay and I’s first solo trip. Granted we were only going for the day, it was nonetheless without a guide and on our own. I researched places to see and things to do in Annecy the night before, made a list, figured out I had booked a bus instead of a train, and had probably 3 mini panic attacks before I realized that whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. Prayed to St. Christoper, set my alarm for 5:45 am (our train was at 7:08 am) and slept terribly because I was convinced I was going to miss my alarm.

Alarm goes off. I look at the time. Wonder why I am doing this. Stumble out of bed. Try not to make any noise and end up running into just about everything. Throw on high top Converse for good luck. Grab bag and sack lunch that Fabienne packed me and creeps out the door.

The streets of Villeurbanne are pretty quiet at that hour but, like usual, there’s quite a few people on the metro. Some are going to the train station with me and others are coming back from a long night out. I had to wait a bit for the metro (sometimes they come over the loud speakers and tell you to have patience because there’s technical difficulties) but soon enough, I was meeting Lindsay under the departure board in Part Dieu. We printed our tickets that we had already bought, walked to the back of the train station to the large parking lot where the buses meet, found our bus, panicked because Lindsay forgot her Carte Jeune, praised the Lord when the bus driver didn’t ask to see it, and plopped into our seats.

We spent the ride talking, dozing on and off, glaring at the two preteens sitting 3 rows behind us that were incessantly loud, and ate part of the sack lunch Fabienne gave us. She is just the sweetest. She made us an egg and ham quiche, packed two cookies, two apples, two mini on-the-go apple sauces, and two mini sandwiches. I will never go hungry while living with the Forests.

Getting off the train in Annecy, it was about 50 degrees and I was wearing a tank top dress with a light scarf. Also we had no idea where “centre ville” was so we just followed some signs, asked a lady for directions who happened to speak English and be from San Francisco but was taking a weekend in Annecy before her husband starts his MBA program in France (let me live your life), and the found a cute little cafe so we could warm up and Lindsay could get some coffee in her veins (yes, I am still denied of my favorite drink because of my stomach problems and yes, I still crave it).

After getting a hold of the other student who is living with Madame and Lindsay who was also coming to Annecy with her program, we decided we were going to jump on their tour. With about an hour to kill, we walked around the enormous market and tried just about every cheese and dried meat piece that was available for us to try. I almost impulse bought a cashmere because I was so cold but I decided against it. Go me!

Her apartment-mates finally showed up with their group and we hopped on their “tour” which actually ended up just being a girl who lives in Lyon who had been to Annecy a couple of times. We probably would’ve ended up seeing the same things that she showed us without her help BUT it was nice to meet some new people and connect with other students that were also doing the CIEF program at Lyon 2 with me. Oh, and yes, it’s quite beautiful in Annecy.

The famousPalais de l’Ile - seeing places I’ve seen on Pinterest or on a postcard still feels unreal.

The Château d’Annecy….

And more of Annecy…(this town is just SO photogenic)

After the “tour”, the group had free time for a couple hours before their boat tour which we couldn’t go on. So Lindsay and I walked around some more (honestly love that little town so much)….

…bopped into a couple of churches…

…returned to a couple of places because one time wasn’t enough…

…and then….THE LAKE! This lake is one of the best lakes not only in this region of France but in the whole country because of its clear water which is mainly because most of the flow of water into the lake is melted snow from the mountains in the winter. The perimeter of the lake was a beautiful promenade, with les Jardins de l’Europe on part of its perimeter.

sat and ate the rest of our picnic lunch and some of Lindsay’s and a bag of chips….

explore les jardins and laid for a bit in the grass. We even saw the most stereotypical French man wearing a beret and carrying two baguettes!

saw the famous “Pont des Amours” which was a small bridge but hey, we saw it and fell in love (with the view) on it!

Then I spent the only money (other than the postcard I bought) on a two person paddleboat which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far in France. For 9 euros, we cruised around the lake and IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL! I took a couple of pictures in the beginning and then had to just put my camera away because it was too overwhelming and I wanted to ingrain that image in my mind for eternity.

After our boat trip, during which I lost the feeling in my upper thighs because I had been paddling for both LIndsay and I because she was too lost in the view, we laid in the grass, waltzed around the town in search of water for me and some ice cream for her, and then waited by the lake (couldn’t get enough of it) for the bus. Our train back was 13 euros and since the lady in charge of their group offered to take us back on their bus, we decided getting back to Lyon two and a half hours early was worth it. I prayed to St. Christopher that he would take reigns on Sunday and take the reigns he DID. And then God was like “oh hey Ania, look at my masterpiece of a sky - isn’t France amazing?”

And I thought to myself, “oui, c’est vrai”.

A simple Saturday

Today was just a simple day. It’s kind of funny when I talk to friends in the States and the concept of being in France is so insane to them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s JUST as insane (if not more) to me. However, sometimes I think people think that just because you’re abroad, every moment of every day will be so jam packed with crazy experiences and life changing moments. The fact of the matter is, even though those moments happen quite frequently, you develop a routine just like you have at SLU, home, or anywhere else. The adventures come more frequently but now and again, there are days like today that I could very well have had back in the States. And it’s healthy for me to realize that that’s okay. Simple Saturdays are OKAY because this is my new home, not a vacation for a couple of months or a place to jet from every weekend to somewhere else.

So, this morning I woke up, caught up on social media (that honestly takes me about 20 minutes every morning), and ate breakfast at the table in the backyard. Fabienne invited me to go to the market down the street with her that happens in Villeurbanne three times a week, every week, all year and I answered with my go to response: “oui”. So her and I headed out to the market.

Turns out, that was a great response (it always is) because it helped me get my bearings on Villeurbanne since my first tour was the first night I was here in France and I honestly couldn’t have even remembered my name that night so it was good to get a refresher. We went to the boulangerie first for bread…

and then to the store with all of the dairy products (mainly cheese, let’s be real)…

and finally hit up the market for fruit and vegetables!

After we loaded up on raspberries, strawberries, eggplant, carrots, lettuce, apples, grapes, and melons (there’s proabably more but I lost track), we headed back home. In France, everyone has a wheely grocery tote that they bring with them everywhere because Europe is ahead of the “green” game and everyone uses reusable grocery bags. I haven’t seen one plastic bag here. Come on, US. We could get super trendy rolly bags - I’ll start it when I get back.

I then went on a fabulous run in the park and then came back to a delicious lunch spread waiting for me on the table. Keep in mind, my program doesn’t even ask the parents to provide lunch and not only did Fabienne and Jean Marc TELL me to come home for lunch, but then he literally made all this food for me specifically to dine on. They’re the best - and that dried pea spread thingy he made was DIVINE.

After lunch (a very BIG lunch), I headed over to my friend’s apartment to plan a trip and then we went to mass together at a church near my house. I think I like St. Nizier, the place I went to first, better but it’s nice to have a place that’s only ten minutes away by foot from the house!

After mass, I came home, tried to make some arrangements for tomorrow, and ate dinner with Jean Marc and Fabienne because Audrey was at her friend’s birthday party (which she invited me to but then I had to cancel since my bus is at 7:08 am tomorrow for Annecy). Keep Fabienne’s father in your prayers because he’s been suffering from intestinal cancer for 3 years now and it’s gotten really bad recently.

Well, I have to shower, call the parentals, and pack for tomorrow so stay tuned…..

Dates with myself, new friends, & two married men

The end of this week was a bit of a struggle. Thursday morning we had our second to last day of our language courses for le stage until noon, then I can home to eat lunch and then met up with the group at the “Centre d’Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation” which is where the Nazis had their headquarters and where many were tortured for information. The reason that that’s all I know is that I got about 20 minutes into the tour and did not feel well at all. So I excused myself, walked home, chugged water and laid around the house until everyone got home. I think I may have been dehydrated or something but they had told us at the beginning of the tour that we could come back and tour for free with an electronic device, so I’m definitely going to go back and do that one day on my own. It was fascinating but nothing is fascinating ENOUGH when you feel like you’re five steps from the surface of the sun and your tongue feels like a piece of jerkey. Date with myself commenced after I threw on my overside Polo shirt and a pair of Nike shirts with my hair in a top knot.

Friday morning, I went to school at 9 am for our last day of le stage. Class didn’t start until 10………you could say I was a little aggravated.

At 10 am, I skipped class to go to my meeting to get my schedule for my courses this semester. I am a little frustrated at this point with CIEF (oh, European education systems, what a joy) because of my placement versus other students’ in my programs placements. So on Monday I have to go talk to a couple of teachers about moving which is a little bit stressful since I’ll not only have to do that in French but I’ll probably be very intimidated. It’s hard because the way it is in France (and probably just a lot of countries in the world besides the United States) is that there is an attitude of “I am right, and you can try to prove me wrong, but until then I am still right” whereas in the US, it’s more of an attitude of “proven right UNTIL proven wrong”. Teachers, academic advisors, and simply just friend relationships are more open to challenges and change in America whereas here, mostly seen in this education system, you take what you get and you don’t really ask a whole lot of questions. I love to talk (in general too, I know) to my professors and work with my advisors but to do that here will be almost a dig at their intelligence. They will probably be offended, it will probably be extremely awkward, and I will probably end up leaving school on Monday en route for the nearest patisserie for a large croissant. But I’ll keep ya posted….

After a very frustrating morning, I met Lindsay to catch up by the Rhone which was MUCH needed at that point and then we met up with three other friends (Emily, Michelle and Mackenzie). We walked around a bit looking for a place to eat and while Emily, Mackenzie and Lindsay went to Claire’s (yes, Claire’s is international) for a sock bun, Michelle and I found a boulangerie because we were both hangry (hungry + angry = hangry).

After lunch, we went and sat in the grassy area (I don’t know if I should call it a park) in front of the ONLYLYON sign and just chatted, shared stories, and got to know each other better. It was much needed and with the shining sun, it was the perfect temperature.

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After our lounge session, we all headed off to our respective houses for dinner. I NEVER miss a dinner at my house…or really any meal for that matter. I live with a chef - why would I? ALSO I had a date to get to….

I got home, organized some things, bought my train ticket to Annecy for Sunday (that’ll be an adventure - two girls go to Annecy with vague plans and the mindset to YOLO) and had dinner with Jean Marc. It was DIVINE like usual - I am truly spoiled with the food I eat here. They eat fresh and well, just like the Sullivans.

AND THEN IT WAS DATE TIME! Yes, ladies and gentleman, I had my first date. Just kidding - Jean Marc just asked me to go to the soccer game with him and his friend. So his friend came over, we chatted a bit, bonded over the fact that we were both wearing high top Converse, and then the 3 of us took the metro to the game.

When I say I was the only girl on the metro, I am (for once) not exaggerating. It’s quite obvious that girls are not very interested in soccer here which makes sense since girls don’t play.

Here are the men of the night:

The metro was PACKED and we all flooded into the stadium which is super old on the outside with this super cool architecture but they redid the inside. There is actually a new stadium in the process of being built but it won’t be done for a couple more years - Jean Marc is very excited about it.

The game was a blast. I love watching soccer live and it’s awesome because I understand everything. Also, there was an adorable little boy who was probably one of the team’s biggest fans who was standing on his stadium seat for the whole game. French children are beautiful and then they start talking and you just can’t help but smile at their little kid French - I am obsessed (but hey, what’s new with Ania being obsessed with small children).

Lyon scored, the Monaco, AND THEN LYON AGAIN!!!!! All 34,099 people were just insane for the team and I’m so glad I got to experience it - I was called the good luck charm by Jean Marc and his friend and they wanted to know if I wanted to come to another game. :)

After the game, I was too tired to even fathom going out and it was already 11:30 so I decided to plop into bed after a long week and catch some zzzz’s.

And today on the menu, we have chocolate & crepes

This morning I woke up to the best alarm of all time:

Yes, I went on a chocolate tour this morning. We went to the Bernachon chocolate shop which is the best place for chocolate in Lyon. Also, side note, but Monsieur Bernachon’s daughter ended up marrying Paul Bolcuse’s son. Paul Bolcuse is the best chef in France and probably in the world and Monsieur Bernachon was of chocolate AND THEN THE TWO FAMILIES JOINED. Life is not fair. Here’s the man himself:

We first looked around at all the chocolate you could buy and it was beautiful.

Then, our guide took us back into the place where everything is baked and created and artistically designed and it was UNREAL. The pastries were all fresh out of the oven and I still smell like chocolate because it was SUCH a heavy scent in there. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and I didn’t hate it.

There were people doing every part of the pastry/chocolate process from rolling the dough…

and HUGE canvas sacks of the cocoa beans that are crushed to get the insides which is the chocolate. We got to try some and it just tasted like really bitter dark chocolate because it’s essentially just dark chocolate with sugar!

The machinery was super loud so it was hard to hear him but essentially the part inside is smashed up and heated to make a creamy mixture and then the different special items are added such as milk to make milk chocolate and of course, lots of sugar! It was heavenly to try the pure mixture.

I was also distracted during the tour because there was a man making these cakes that Jean Marc had told me about that look like porcupines. He would put a fine strip of chocolate into the machine and then it would come out like crepe paper, which he would then twirl into a flower shape and put on top of the cakes next to him. Un. Real. I borderline almost asked him for his autograph.

Then there were people making the tiny chocolates which they dipped in melted chocolate and then quickly scraped away the excess, and patted the top with their tongs to make the marks we see on top.

After the tour the group of 10 of us got to eat this whole tray of chocolate…the first piece I had was so delicious that I contemplated (for a second too long) stealing the tray and running back to my house with it…

it did NOT take long for us to make it look a little cleaner…

It was a delicious tour and after, I bought a box of chocolates for my family to thank them for the wonderful last two weeks and especially for the weekend vacation they took me on. They were so kind and surprised when I gave it to them (Bernachon chocolate is a wee bit expensive) that it warmed my heart. It felt good to give back!

I spend the afternoon blogging, uploading pictures, chatting with the sis, and running in le Parc! I also got my French debit card and checks today so I can finally access the money the Centre Oregon program gives me each month that I use to pay my family for rent/food and the rest of the money each month is ours to use typically for lunch, but since my family stuffs food down my throat and told me to eat lunch here, it’s mine to do with what I want! Aka SOMEONE IS GOING TO ZARA! :)

Tonight Jean Marc had me invite a friend (Lindsay was the VIP) over for a crepe party. Alexandre, their son, came too and Audrey also invited her best friend which I was happy to meet after hearing so much about her! We all sat and chatted and drank to vin rosee that we had bought this past weekend. Then Jean Marc taught Lindsay and I how to make the crepe mixture and we found out that he attended a culinary school for 3 years, worked in a hotel restaurant and in a patisserie (cake shop/bakery). IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW! He said he got a different job because being a chef or a baker isn’t conducive to raising a family - just shows what a great man he is.

Then we brought the mixture to our table in the backyard (I love eating outside) where he had set up a crepe flat top burner. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. There, on the table, was a hot plate with 6 circles to make mini crepes and it was plugged into the side of the house. From there, we made crepes and put cheese, salmon, ham, onions, creme fraiche, and herbs on them for dinner. Then, for dessert, we topped them with Nutella, sugar, honey, powdered sugar and apricot jam (yes, Jean Marc makes the jam too). It was such a nice evening and great company - it’s so fun talking conversationally in French and the cider was absolutely delicious.

I’m not supposed to eat chocolate because I have some stomach problems so during dinner, I started to feel that Bernachon tour a wee bit. But other than that it was delicious day! I truly am SO blessed with my host family. Even after having everyone over, Jean Marc and Fabienne helped me order a sim card online so I can have a French phone number to text other Frenchies/study abroad students with which I am SUPER excited for because communicating outside of wifi is close to impossible right now. And Audrey invited me to go out with her on Saturday to her friend’s 19th birthday party - it’s so fun living with her! I said yes because I want to be her bestie/older sister so WHY NOT!!!

Now I am in a food coma (what’s new) so it’s off to brush my teeth, pop in those beautiful pink retainers, and catch some zzzz’s!

Musée Lumière

So basically Lyon is known for two things: food and films. Do those two things also happen to be some of my favorite things? Yes! This city is my soul mate.

Tuesday’s activity was a visit to the Musée Lumière which is a museum in recognition of Auguste and Louis Lumière, the inventors of all things film.

The house was breathtaking but after my tour, I found out that this was “small” for the brothers and they also had house(S) on the beach, in the mountains and in downtown Lyon. You could say they did well.

Our tour guide was a HOOT and cracked more jokes than gave information. He was so knowledgeable though and it was evident that he was very passionate about the history of film. And why not be! It’s such a cool timeline! He showed us the first film cameras, explained to us how the first “3-D” experience was just two holes spaced apart with two separate images which then created the sensation of the image being 3-D, and explained to us how their quality of color pictures was so good that they’re still preserved today - see below for the originals! (My iPhone camera doesn’t do it complete justice)

After, he showed us where the first video was taken and we took an action shot to mimic it. It was actually a really cool moment (nerding out) to know how I was standing where the first film was taken. Walt Disney came there, spread out his hands, and say thank you to the Lumière brothers because without them, he wouldn’t be a millionaire.

After the tour, I came home to freshen up and change for the Oregon Centre welcome reception. Fabienne came home from work and we rode together in her little green car. She is such a lady. I really like her a lot. She couldn’t find her garage opener for forever and we were laughing because then she found it in the most obvious moment - it was good to have some “mom” time because Lord knows I miss my best friend more than anything.

The reception was super interesting because I got to meet all the other host families. My host family is really good friends with another and they all vacation together and have been to the States twice together. Everyone loves Jean Marc and Fabienne and Audrey. They’re such a gem of a family. When Lindsay came over to say hi, they got so excited because tonight (EEK!) we have a “crêpe party” because I had mentioned that I wanted Jean Marc to teach me how to make them. Naturally, they loved the idea and Lindsay was over that night having dinner with us, so they invited her and Fabienne just came in to tell me she put le cidre in the fridge - they always know the best alcohol to pair with meals and with sweet foods, it’s really popular to drink cider with the meal. I love how in France, it’s very casual and it’s always in moderate portions. The Forrests don’t drink at every meal but when they do, they like to get something nice and they always chat about why they chose it. So, au revoir because I have to get ready to cook! Oh, and I had a tour of the most famous chocolate shop in Lyon but you’ll have to wait for the next post to learn about that and Jean Marc’s first cooking lesson - stay tuned!

I hope you like the posts - it takes a lot of time on my end but it’s my way to keeping friends and family informed! Let me know when there’s things you liked or even have questions about…that’s my favorite thing to hear! Have a good day, readers! :)

Cooking class in the gastronomic capital of the world: check!

Monday morning, I got up, went on a run in le Parc, showered and mastered the directions to my cooking class like a champ. This is the last week of activities for “le Stage” and I’m enjoying all of them SO much!

Today’s event was a cooking class in a studio with this adorable, petite lady who taught the 5 of us how to cook some of the traditional foods of Lyon. Our menu was:

And these were some of our ingredients:

And of course we wore aprons, which made me feel super legit and kind of like Colleen Day:

She was such a character and so gentle - she reminded me a lot of Mama Sullivan. She just flitted around the room, helping us but really let us do a lot of the cooking. I really started to love cooking this past summer so it was so fun to learn how to make some really yummy dishes.

She first had Natalie and I wash the lettuce while some of the other students ground the pralines for the tartes aux pralines, which is the famous dessert in Lyon since pralines are grown here in Lyon. While we finished up drying the lettuce, they cut the chicken in small pieces as well as the onions.

Then she gave me the job of making sure the bacon got cooked and I’m not sure if that’s supposed to imply something but hey, I wasn’t complaining! Yes, I did sneak some pieces, sue me.

Natalie rubbed garlic on bread slices and then cut them up in squares in order to make croutons. After I was finished with the bacon, we poured out most of the grease and the made croutons on the stove. THEY WERE SO GOOD!

At one point, I was boiling the eggs and one of them dropped from my greasy hands. It rolled out of sight and after we searched the floor for a while, we still couldn’t find it. About 20 minutes later, we found it under the door of the fridge. Madame laughed and laughed and joked around with me about it.

Then she put Ellie to work cooking the chicken which was combined later with honey, sun dried tomatoes, and onions…

…while we rolled out the dough the other 3 students had made earlier and filled the mini tins in order to make the crust for the tartes.

After that, we finished up the Lyonnaise salad by combining the lettuce, eggs, bacon bits, and croutons along with a vinaigrette Tony had made. We then dined with that as our first course and I had four servings….whoops…

Next, she served us the chicken which she paired with rice. Wouldn’t have eaten that much salad if I had known there was going to be sticky rice, but hey that didn’t stop me.

Then she showed us how she poured the praline mixture into the tartes, let it cool and then added finely chopped almonds on top. I finished mine before the girl next to me even got a spoon. Have I lost my infamous appetite? No, not at all.

A couple of the girls and I are looking into the prices for more classes because we enjoyed it so much so stay tuned.

After dinner, I zoomed home, tried to breathe around my food baby, and then met Vince’s (my sister’s fiance) step dad, Brian, at the Part Dieu train station. He bought a small business in Lyon a couple of years ago and now comes every couple of months to check in on things - and now, check in on me! We wined and dined and wined so more in Vieux Lyon, where I ate even more despite being SO full, and then tried out a famous ice cream parlor that he loved. It was so odd to have someone from that “world” in this “world” but he was outrageously generous per usual and I had a lovely night. After all that eating, I came home, did some photo editing with Jean Marc on his photos from the weekend and then hit the sack. What a delicious day!

French Riviera: Day 3 - Sanary

Sunday morning, we took it easy and spent the morning at the pool. Jean Marc posed for a photo in his red and white striped swim trunks because he has the same ones as his friends. He is such a goof.

After the pool, we packed up and checked out of our room. We were headed to Sanary, which is a small, typical sea town that I have absolutely fallen in love with. Sainte-Tropez is BEAUTIFUL and SO elegant and luxurious, but the pace was a little slower and more genuine in Sanary. This is where my host family has been coming for years and Fabienne has been coming every since she was a little girl. It was so endearing how excited they were to show me everything. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures.

They were considerate about the fact that I wasn’t able to attend mass because they didn’t know what times the masses were and came in with me to say a prayer in the church there. I know they felt bad and it really meant a lot to me. After spending some time with the Big Guy, Fabienne paid for each of us girls to buy a candle and we each said a quiet prayer. She’s really in tune with how I feel and I can’t explain how much those little moments mean to me when I’m so far from my own mom.

We wandered through the town, looking for a place to eat, taking our sweet time….

Sampled some sardines….

Looked at artisan bread….

And then finally picked a place to eat! The Forrests vacation very similarly to how the Sullivans do - make dinner most nights and then splurge for one great meal. And splurge we did. We ordered an enormous plate of seafood complete with vegetable, mussels, calamari, fish, and eggs and then also ordered two entrees of a salad with salmon on toasted bread. IT WAS UNREAL! I lived in Washington for the first half of my life and I can say that this put some of those infamous meals to the test. It was so fresh and delicious and they served it with an aioli sauce that is famous in that region and I just could not get over how amazing it was. We were all so happy and giddy and they were teaching me how to eat mussels (I like) and calamari (not as much - definitely like it better fried). OH MY GOODNESS! I know there are SO many run-on sentences but really, my feelings about this meal are STRONG and REAL. I felt like royalty.

Before:

After:

After lunch we bought gum (absolutely necessary) and I joked that I felt like Papa Noel (Santa Claus). I thought Fabienne was going to cry she was laughing so hard. However they all agreed they felt the same. :) Then there was more wandering through the streets because we just couldn’t get enough of it.

Men playing ball in the market square:

We finally left the streets of Sanary and headed to the beach. It was super small and REALLY hot so we only ended up staying for about an hour.

We all said “au revoir” to the water as we drove off to the highway. It was a beautiful weekend because of the location but even more so because of the Forrests. The more I get to know them, the more I am completely convicted that all of the prayers my family sent to my host family when we didn’t know them were heard by the Big Guy. They make everyday so enjoyable and are really showing me a different and so joyful style of living.

Merci beaucoup.

French Riviera: Day 2 - Sainte-Maxime and Ramatuelle

Yes, there’s more. I’m sorry for the jealousy that is inevitably kicking in but you’ve just gotta see all these pictures - they’re STILL unbelievable to me and I was the one that went there!

We went to Sainte-Maxime at some point but those pictures are mixed in with the Sainte-Tropez ones so refer to the last post! :)

So after the beach in the afternoon, we took to the streets again and zoomed over to Ramatuelle which is a small medieval town up in the hills. It was beautiful in its quaint, small town feel.

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The view from Ramatuelle to where we had spent the day at the beach…breathtaking….

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We were about to look around the church until we realized we almost waltzed into a wedding (cue the jokes about how this would be like my future wedding and how the search for my husband is on - they will most definitely be invited to my wedding, whenever/wherever it is. Jean Marc and Fabienne would be the best guests). We passed a boulangerie that was selling la tarte Tropezienne which is the dessert that is known in this region, especially around Sainte-Tropez. Fabienne had REALLY wanted me to try some but the tartes had been huge everywhere else we looked. LUCKY ME there were mini tartes at this shop so Fabienne whipped out Jean Marc’s wallet out of his green backpack and was in the store buying a pack of 6 before I could realize what she was doing. Naturally Audrey and I ate two. ;) The parents are constantly letting us choose what we want first, giving us the most, and it’s so endearing. It gets me everytime. They truly are the kindest souls.

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After our little afternoon sweet stop, we meandered through the streets. It was so cozy in this tiny town and stunning at this time of the day. This particular store in the pictures that follow had the CUTEST little man working in it and it just was simply itself. I don’t really know why but I just really loved it. It reminded me of my mom and smelled like lavender.

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The rest are pictures from the rest of our self-guided tour!

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On our way back to the hotel, the whole family started talking about vin rosé and I caught that we were going to get some but I had no idea where. Then, all of a sudden, we whip down this random side street in the middle of this vineyard where there’s a small cottage looking shed. I was so confused but followed them (I do this quite a bit - good thing I trust them).

It turned out to be a little store that sells wine from the vineyard. They let us try a couple of different kinds and a superb champagne. We chose one bottle of vin rosé and pranced back to the car, happy as can be. Honestly, this trip felt like such a magical adventure - who stops the car in the US to taste wine with wonderfully nice strangers just because why not? I. Love. France.

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After they bottled up our wine, we headed home. We were all super tired from a full day. On our way back, Fabienne (bless her heart) exclaimed, as we were passing a beautiful mansion in the middle of a vineyard, that Jean Marc and I should take a photo because the lighting was perfect. So naturally, Jean Marc pulled off the side of the road into a ditch and him and I bounced out of the car with our cameras.

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FINALLY we made it back to our little place, Audrey went off for a quick dip in the pool, we all took showers, and then sat outside on the porch, drinking a special white beer (that Jean Marc was laughing saying the name of and was practicing saying it super German) and then enjoying a dinner brought from home. After cleaning up, I wrote in my journal and then joined them to watch The Voice (for Kids only which made it even better) French edition. It was a lovely lovely lovely day.image

French Riviera: Day 2 - Sainte Tropez

RISE & SHINE, IT’S BEACH TIME!

Fabienne woke Audrey and I up at 8 am, we scarfed down a quick breakfast of Jean Marc’s homemade jam (I eat it from the jar when they’re not home - it’s unreal) and breakfast bread, and packed up for the day, laden with towels, swim suits, and snacks.

We first drove to Saint-Tropez. I don’t think I have ever seen so many beautiful buildings, people, restaurants, cars, flowers, boats, and stores in my life.

I felt like a celebrity because everyone around me was dressed like one. You could tell everyone was SUPER wealthy as we passed families dining on yachts while being served food by men in polos, had to step aside for Ferraris and Aston Martins as the women in the passenger seats held their head scarves in place and gawked at the stores like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dior. We just walked along as Jean Marc and I snapped photos. I accidentally deleted some of the first ones but was luckily doubling on my iPhone as well, so instead of me rambling about the beautiful sea, pastel buildings and the market, here are some pictures that will do it WAY more justice.

This cafe is a hotspot in Saint-Tropez and people have been sitting here since the 30s, watching people walk to and fro, especially celebrities!

Jean Marc showing me how to photograph an arch:

And then we saw all the luxury shops and the Dior cafe/boutique and I was basically speechless…

Following our tour, we went to the market to get lunch and look around. Yes, the following picture is of young, rich men looking at vintage Louis Vuitton travel bags…I mean, day in the life, ya know?

Following our trip to the market, we headed to the beach and ate our lunch on the sand. Yes, beaches are basically all “tops optional” in France. At first I was super aware of it but then I honestly just kind of stop being surprised when and old woman would turn around and smile at me, completely free and just living life. To each their own. The beach we went to, Plage de Pampelonne, is one of the most famous beaches in France. I didn’t appreciate the big sandy beach until we went to another the next day that was mainly cement and was absolutely tiny. This beach was clean, relaxed, and absolutely stunning. The water was so clear and blue and clean and Fabienne, Audrey and I waded out to the deeper water and stared at the yachts. I joked with them that I was going to get married there and it was a joke for the rest of the weekend. (They love my sense of humor, it’s great. So yes, I am funny in French. Ania: 1, France: 0) Audrey pretended to swim off to this giant gray yacht where she claimed her husband “Antonio” was waiting for her. At that moment a seadoo zipped by and she yelled “ANTONIO!” and the guy actually looked over. We all lost it and it was just pure fun. We spent the afternoon in and out of the water, laying on the beach, and getting our bronze on.

After we left the beach, we headed to Ramatuelle and Sainte-Maxime but I’ll save that for the next post because I’m going to be late to the Oregon Centre Welcome Reception - au revoir!

French Riviera for the weekend: Day 1 - St. Raphael

This weekend I went to the French Riviera.

The end.

Okay, not the end but really - that opener is enough for an entire post. I MEAN IT’S THE FRENCH RIVIERA THIS IS BUCKET LIST STUFF WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE!

I got back from class on Friday to the Forests all packed up and ready to hit the road. After throwing my cosmetics in my backpack, I was in the backseat of their little Ford before I knew it. Jean Marc was sporting his fedora and had his TomTom (GPS) set for our destination: St. Raphael. After four hours of me regretting not bringing my iPod but enjoying the time to stare aimlessly out the window/doze, we got to our little condo. It was simple and had a bunk bed for Audrey and I, and two small beds for the parents that doubled as couches. They brought a lot of groceries with us to make our own meals in the kitchen of the condo so we loaded up the mini fridge with those and then headed to the pool. I love how the instant we got there, they dropped their stuff and it was complete vacation time. Everyone was happy and we all jumped in the moment we were in our swim suits. Jean Marc loves the pool and he just zipped around, happy as a clam. Audrey tested the water, and told Fabienne and I we were good to go. Fabienne reminded me of my own mom and was hesitant to get in the water, afraid it was cold as the sun was setting. I loved that this whole weekend I was constantly reminded of how my own family vacations from the simple abode, to bringing groceries, to the quiet nights after full days of exploring. It made me feel right at home and I seemed to know their rhythm without having to try.

After swimming we made dinner and had some cherry beer as a nightcap. We went into the city in search of ice cream but after not finding any, settled for a night walk along the beach. I was blown away. At night, with the sea lit up by the mansions on the coast, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I could’ve walked along that beach for hours. Since we had a full day coming up on Saturday, we headed back to the condo for the night and crashed in our tiny beds (I’m way too tall for France).