Archive | July, 2012

Day 28: Nerves, Heat Waves, and Compliments

31 Jul

Due to the lapse in posting, y’all get two-for-one today – hooray!

Today was crazy. I’ve been going back and forth about heading to London. I was supposed to go with someone, but it just didn’t work out.
Hotel is booked. Now, I going to a new country. On my own. *Glup*  At least they speak the same language.

Constantin has been really sleepy lately so he watched more movies and TV then I’ve ever let him watch.
He did the story activity, wasn’t really feeling it today.
Then we played soccer and went to the library.
Today was a high of 32 Celsius. Check your converters people, that’s a hot mess.
And keep in mind buildings in France DO NOT have air conditioning. Thought we would cool off in the library, not so much.
Constantin wanted to do a puzzle with me so we spend some quality bonding time.

So we headed home and ate dinner with the family on the terrace.
That’s a big thing in France. To eat on the terrace. It’s just like a porch, but the furniture is SUPER nice. It’s not like this plastic table that is an easy cleanup for hardcore weather.
And the French LOVE to eat on the terrace. Whenever they can.
My family even brings a music player out there. It’s so fun.
I tried Mint Chocolate Yogurt-type cream thing. IT WAS DELICIOUS.
SO different than yogurt back home.

During dinner I talked with Au Pair mom and dad about Constantin’s advanced learning of English.
She told me that Constantin really enjoyed learning English whereas Léa never really liked it, as it felt like a chore.
Au Pair mom told me – You have a “dot” for inspiring and motivating students to learn.
Dot means gift in French. We say that in English a lot, “you have a gift for something.” But ever since I learned about the word “dot” It’s always been much more powerful than the word “gift.” I can’t really think of an English equivalent. When you know another language, this happens a lot. There is no exact way of translating a certain intent in a phrase.
I’m so happy that Constantin is progressing. He’s so happy to be learning another language and to be able to speak it better.
What a great feeling it is to have helped someone learn.

Constantin and I will continue to speak in English and to improve his speaking, but also visiting his English-speaking cousins in MI will really help him.
I’m gonna take a shower and then what’s on the agenda for tomorrow? THE POOL.

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Day 27: Pool Party with Melinda

31 Jul

IT IS SO HOT.
Constantin and I did our normal English studying routine and then headed to Melinda’s for some exercise and cooling off.
I talked with Melinda and the kids played.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before but France children have lice. Like all of them. Have it multiple times in their life. And it’s no biggie.
Melinda was telling me how her kids had/have it and give it to each other.
her Au Pair mom gave her some lice be gone and she’s been putting it in her head as a precaution.
I’M SO GLAD WE DON’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM IN THE STATES.
I mean, we do. But people put the stuff in their hair, wash all the clothes and freeze stuffed animals.
In France they just put the stuff in the hair and let the kids roam free.
Melinda taught me how to look for lice and what they look like.
(NEVER had it as a kid, I was totally clueless when I found out about this my THIRD day in France. Just put never wore my hair down in the house.)
Léa has had lice, Sofia too. Courtney’s been here 3 months and didn’t get it (we’re convinced that the girls just had dandruff though. I didn’t see any bugs moving in any of their hair.)
Ugh gross, gross. So far Lice-free!

Apparently Constantin is REALLY tired from the weekend (as am I, Nice was crazy!)
So he was a little crankier than usual. And didn’t really swim as much.
When we got back he slept forever. Poor boy.
Tomorrow will probably be a lot better.

Day 26: South of France – The Voyage Home

30 Jul

Courtney and I originally planned to go somewhere else since our plane was leaving at 9pm, but we stayed put. (wise descision)
Courtney and I PACKED everything into our bags, had to leave a few things behind because it wouldn’t fit. (Easy Jet has strict baggage rules)
We picked out our outfits ahead of time as to layer our bulkiest clothing.
Check out time was at 10:30am and chez Pat would not budge with the time. (Or let us take showers after a day at the beach)

After we left our luggage at Chez Pat, we relaxed along the beach, I tried to catch up on some much needed sleep. (The combination of ice-cold air conditioning in Nice + the train ride here, really had me not feeling so good.)
I took a few naps. It was a HOT day. Perfect to get that last-day-in-Nice tan.
We met some people from Switzerland and they were super nice. We gave them some of the stuff we couldn’t fit in our bags.

This was Courtney’s last full DAY in France. She was leaving the next morning for Canada!
She was so sad to go but so incredibly happy to see her family.
We had a last supper at Subway, it was delicious and we had a coupon.
Then headed to the airport in our beyond crazy outfits.

At the airport we had wifi for 30min so I checked email, FB and instagramed a photo.

We arrived in Paris at 11pm, just missing the last train to Courtney’s Au Pair household.
So we rushed to the Noctelien bus (which was free) headed to another RER, Waited for about an HOUR for the RER to move.
Due to the WORST transportation ever in France. We ended up getting back at 4am.
So, it was a long night. Courtney didn’t sleep at all because she had to be up at 7am for her flight and still had to pack a few things (I don’t know how she does it. )

I had such a wonderful time with Court, she was such an awesome travel buddy and I’ll miss her SO much!
Best wishes, chica!

Day 25: Princess of Genovi—Monaco

29 Jul

Courtney and I got up early to visit this lovely town entitled St. Paul.
Unfortunately no one in Monaco knows the bus/tram/train to get to St. Paul so we hopped on the bus to Monaco instead.
Although Courtney really wanted to visit Monaco, I was more interested because of Princess Grace Kelly’s history.

We hoped on the 1 Euro bus again, this time the distance was significantly shorter, or at least it felt like it because we got to see BEAUTIFUL scenery on the way. We stop at the bottom of this hill and make our way up to see the Palace.

After we climbed the super steep steps that many amounts of tourists had to take a breather from, we made it into the town square. It was so beautiful.
We even saw some royal driving away because there was a police car in front and back of this really nice black car.
We got to the Palace where there was a guard outside strutting back and forth, protecting the castle to this day.
There was a tour that costs 8 Euros (4 euros for student fee) to see the palace, so I jumped at the chance! We had a tiny audio guide in British English and the voice-over man proceeded to discuss the royals/palace of Muhn-ack-oh.
So apparently that’s the correct pronunciation, always thought it was Mahn-oh-co
Pictures were not allowed in the museum which was the biggest bummer, but we got through it and took pictures elsewhere.
We went back down the castle steps, got some lunch and sat over looking the marina.

70% chance of rain, my bottom.
It was gorgeous!

We then made our way to the famous casino Monte Carlo, it didn’t open until 2pm so Court and I had an hour to kill. We did that by laying in the shade (SO HOT) and taking pictures.

Monte Carlo is extremely classy. It wasn’t huge like other casinos now but it looked like you were gambling in a palace. I felt completely underdressed in my sundress but most people were tourists and looked like, well, American tourists.  We ended up spending 5 euro on a slot machine, just to try it. (Courtney and I are not hardcore gamblers by any means, we honestly had a hard time working the slot machine.)
We were winning at first but slowly cut our losses at 55 centième (cents) So long, Monte Carlo!

We then tried to find the beach but were told it wasn’t that great and after St. Marguerite yesterday, I don’t think more rocks will be what I’m looking for.
So we headed back on the bus JUST as the storm was starting to brew. Whew!
Went back to Nice and ate at La Pizza Cresci on our final night.
As we walked home there was this beautiful quartet of 2 violins and 2 accordions playing wonderfully. Court and I stopped for a little to watch them then we headed back to the hostel.
That is when this slightly drunk Mexican guy asked us if we wanted to go to a club with him and his friends.
They were about our age so we decided to follow them and see what was up. These guys were SO nice and funny. There ended up being 2 Pablo & 2 Courtneys. An ever-lasting bond was formed.
So we spent the night walking on the boardwalk and talking with them.
I asked them a lot of culture questions about Mexico City, it’s really interesting to hear what’s true and what’s not.
Finally we headed back to Chez Patrick and got ready for our last day in Nice!

Day 24: CANNES you believe it?!

28 Jul

So to start off the day, Courtney and I almost missed the 1 Euro bus.
Apparently the clock on my phone is 8 min late. (How did I JUST find this out?)
No wonder I’ve been missing trains left and right!

We took the bus (totally inexpensively awesome) to Cannes. It was an hour and a half trip.
I finished Blue Like Jazz and poor Courtney had to stand for most of the ride. I offered to switch with her but she wouldn’t do it.
She totally got cool person points because she gave up her seat to an elderly lady with heavy bags. Way to go, Court!

We arrived and headed for none other than… The Cannes Film Festival of course!
We looked at the hand prints, only a few famous American stars, most were French.
Then we headed to Monoprix because I forgot my towel and had to get a new one.

Courtney had planned to meet up with her friends, Mazen, Neal, Tybalt. (Yes, like the character from Romeo & Juliet. I may have freaked out. Just a tad.) Apparently Tybalt is a popular name in France, go figure.
They took us to the ferry and we headed to St. Marguerite!
…and then I found 2 Euro. No seriously, totally did on the dock before boarding the ferry. SWEET.

Anyways, St. Marguerite is one of two islands near the coast of Cannes. It is INCREDIBLY beautiful.
Here’s a photo that does not do it justice.

So explored the caverns a little while and swam (still super salty water.)
Feeling tired from not getting the best sleep at the igloo room at Chez Patrick, I just rested on the beach. I ended up reading Premiere, a French magazine with a bunch of movie reviews.
I so have to buy the subscription for this, I just ATE those movie reviews up.
This month was about the new Spiderman and now I TOTALLY want to go see it.
It’s directed by the guy who did (500) Days of Summer!

The guys and Courtney went jumping off the rocks while I napped, but I got this lovely picture of them!

We stayed until about dinner time then Courtney and I headed back to Nice. We had a nice night out exploring.
We went shopping and bought some great stuff for super cheap. Just the way I like to shop!
Nice is beautiful at night and during the day!

Tomorrow’s plans? St. Paul and Monaco!

Day 23: NICE to meet you :)

27 Jul

I wake up around 7am on the train to this GORGEOUS view of the sunrise over the mountains.
Even though I’m a tad tired, the guy behind me keeps kicking my chair and when stops people who walk by carelessly bump it, I think I’ll stay awake.
I grab a packet from our stash of Belvitas (BEST SNACK EVER) and continue to read Blue Like Jazz which I started to read the night before.
As I’m trying to read I take very small breaks to look out and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The South of France is amazing. A lot of people RAVE about how wonderful it is and I didn’t really buy into it. (Didn’t want my expectations to be too high.)

When we arrived in Nice (after getting so see glimpses of Cannes, Antibes, Juan Des Pins and others) we made our way to the hostel to check in.
We stayed at Chez Patrick’s Backpacker’s Hostel which was recommended by The Lonely Planet, MTV, and various other credible travel sources.
Patrick at Chez Patrick was sitting at the desk, promptly ready to greet us. He knows a few words in English but mostly spoke understandable French, which was awesome!
He gave us a map and drew on it where the bus stop was and some other place we’d like to visit. I love Patrick.
We got changed and headed to the beach which is about a 10min walk.

Walking down the main street (Jean Médecin) we saw SO many shops and restaurants. This hostel was in a marvelous location.

We spent the whole day at Opera Beach which was full of nice, smooth rocks. Not sand, rocks. Granted this part of the beach was probably the comfiest of the others, because the rocks were sharp, small and pointy.
The water was so blue but also EXTREMELY salty, like I could feel the salt on my skin. It was so nasty when the salt got in my hair.
Nice was full of palm trees and kind of looked like a mixture of Italy and Florida.
So we got obscenely tan, I put sunscreen on twice or 3 times. Ah, a nice day to relax.

We walked down the boardwalk and saw all the shops and people sunbathing. Although Nice was full of people, it was never overwhelmingly packed.
We also visited the Marché des fleurs which is a small market that takes place nearby the water. Lavender soap is a huge export item. It smelled wonderful.

Today was kind of relaxing then at night we went out to this place Courtney’s Au Pair mom recommended,which indeed did have the best pizza I’ve had in awhile.

Courtney and I had a wonderful time walking around and exploring Nice but then being able to plan our trip tomorrow to Cannes! SO EXCITED!

Oh and this happened sometime during the day:
“Life’s a beach when you’re in Nice! Wait… that doesn’t rhyme.” – Courtney 1 (I’m Courtney 2 according to the kids we Au Pair)

Day 22: Traveling Across Paris with Constantin

26 Jul

Okay, so we (meaning I) have a full agenda today.
I’m taking care of/teaching Constantin again and we’re going to the museum of Natural History in Paris.
After our trip there, I will be picking up my backpack for Nice from my Au Pair Mom’s office (she’s so nice!) and heading to Nice with Courtney.
Whew, are my feet going to be tired.

Unfortunately I left my memory card back at Villennes so there are no pictures to go along with this post 😦
So I spent most of the morning packing, printing out my reservation info, and getting ready for Nice.
Constantin spent most of the morning watching an English DVD, Probably Ice Age, I really don’t remember.
Needless to say, I was freaking out. Not the most prepared for this trip.
11am rolls around and we needed to leave to meet Au Pair mom for lunch in Paris.
So we arrive at the train stop (huge backpack, coats, purse and all) around 11:30 for said 11:40am train and it’s delayed, UNTIL 12:20pm.
No matter, I only had a million other things on my agenda before meeting Au Pair mom for lunch at 1pm.

We get on the train, Constantin and I run to get some snacks for Nice, then rush over to the metro. Made it around 1:20 (well at least it’s still 1ish)
We had a lovely lunch and Au Pair mom took the obscenely heavy backpack from my shoulders so I could pick it up after the museum.
Constantin does that thing  little kids do (WALK INCREDIBLY SLOWLY unless they’re getting ice cream) and we FINALLY get to The Paris Museum of Natural History.
The main attraction for Constantin is the Paleontology museum – dinosaurs!
We make our way through the Plantes des Jardins which is a huge outdoor exhibit housing rare & exotic trees and plants from all over the world.
I think I’ve said before that I’m not really a flower/plant person. But this was pretty sweet.
After getting lost a few times, we were finally on our way to see the dinosaurs.
Before the dinosaur exhibit, there was this beautiful long pathway of flowers and that helped to put my mind at ease. (Stop stressing about Nice, Courtney!)

To all you travelers out there, The Paris Museum of Natural History is free to anyone under the age of 26. BONUS.
So Constantin and I got in for free and looked around at fossilized remains of various sea-life on the first floor. 2nd floor was dinosaurs and the 3rd (less exciting) floor was a bunch of shells and clams and whatnot. I translated a lot of the names and would repeat them in English. Constantin is definitely improving, he enjoyed hearing all the names in English and would often repeat them after me.
The museum was really awesome but I was EXHAUSTED from carrying that backpack and dragging Constantin everywhere.
Wasn’t exactly in the best mood for a long trip to the museum. I was worried about traveling later that night.

Constantin was hungry around 4pm so we went to MacDo (MacDonalds) and shared a happy meal for a snack.
Is it my imagination that happy meals are most extravagant? Maybe it’s a France thing but Constantin got Apple Juice, Applesauce, Fries, a McFish for kids and a toy. And he had all these wonderful choices that I asked him 3 times for memory’s sake.
Shoot, in my day we had toy, burger/chicken nuggets and fries. Done.

After our snack, we wanted to go back into the exhibit but everything closed at 5pm. Ugh. Everything closes so early in France.
So we headed back to Au Pair mom’s office to drop off the kid and pick up the backpack that weighs 5 times as much.
I grabbed a crepe and sat at the Tuleries waiting to hear the call from Court to meet at the train station.
We got there and I waited in line to get our official tickets.
Courtney and I didn’t have the best meet up plan so we had a slight panic moment, but then met up outside the train platform.
We took the night train and skipped out on the beds because there were 70 euros extra.
Aside from the annoying neighbors who kept kicking my chair, it wasn’t that bad. The chairs were nice and comfortable to our pleasant surprise.
Courtney slept like 11 hours, I’m happy one of us got some sleep.

Tomorrow we arrive in Nice at 9am!