Grasse, France. Known best for its concentration on creating scents and parfumes, for the fields of flowers they use for the infusions and for the working parfumeries located there. It’s relatively easy to get there by train, even bus if you know where you need to change busses, This was a place I was very interested to see (and smell!) and several others had the same intentions so we made a trip out of it. I would definitely say this was a girly trip. In a good way! ha ha It started with us trying to find the parfumerie on our own. Well, ok. So with about seven girls thinking that their way will get us where we need to be.. it gets complicated. To say the least. But fun! Somehow still fun. We had heard about a parfumerie where one could make their own parfume! With this as our goal, we set out to find said place. Sort of. We walked through winding paths up a ways until we found what should have been the tourist center but no one was there, so we stole some maps and tried to make some deductions on our own. Eventually we just winged it. We went to the Parfume museum which I have to say, was very well presented! It was interactive and fun, there were headsets everywhere so you could learn and there were all these different scents to smell. There was one room where you walked in, sat down (it was fairly dark) and closed your eyes as pictures flowed onto the screen and you started to SMELL what you were seeing. My favourite was the juicy cantalope. The next rooms were done up in a sort of greenhouse style. You walked through it and you were able to touch and smell the physical plants, flowers, everything involved in creating scents in parfumes. Then you could walk through and see the process of making parfume step by step, while viewing the actual machines. There were rooms upon rooms of parfume containers – sold to the individual – dating all the way back to ancient times, and then towards more recent 1920’s Chanel Number 5, etc. Finally, you could try and make your own scent combination on a computer, (you picked a base, a middle scent, and something for the top notes of the parfume) and it wafted out to you to smell your creation. Pretty neat, I say! All this for 1€50 with my student ID card. Sweet deal. From there we went to the famous Fragonard parfumerie, where we received a tour of the facilities by a lovely tour guide. The process for making parfume is extensive! And very intriguing. I’m glad I went – there was much to learn and to see with your own eyes. Taking in exactly how much time and effort goes into such a small bottle, how many thousands of jasmine flowers are delicately hand-plucked from acres upon acres in the countryside of Grasse. The coolest part was when we stopped right outside this room that reminded me of that thin walkway with the single chair in Xmen – Dr. Xavier’s awesome room where Cerebro is held. The chair had a half-sphere  sort of desk displayed before it, all filled with tiny bottles of scents. Hundreds. In this chair sits the “Nose.” They talked about “noses” like a smelling genius – there are only around 50 in the world, you have to be born with the gift, most of them are men, because their (smelling) system is usually better. And someone who is born with the gift can recognize/memorize 50 smells whereas a normal person can only really do 10. And then if they train at a special school they can memorize 300, and if they go professional, they can learn up to 3000. Gooodness gracious that’s amazing. Hahaa… the lady who was doing the tour said that if you become a nose, you work for only 3 hours a day and you become very very rich. Some people have insurance on their noses. How crazy is that. The tour very purposefully and somewhat tactfully led us to the gift shoppe, where our tour guide gave us a few sample sniffs of some of their greatest achievements. They all smelled reeeeaaally good. These people are pros. The complexity of the parfumes is astounding. I chose one for myself called Emiliè which incorporated scents of rose, violette, sandalwood, jasmine and amber almost magically. I spent over an hour in that room just letting my nose indulge. I found a really nice cologne that instantly made me think “TJ” so I splurged and got him it for Christmas. Now I’ll just have to smell him all the time. That’s not weird at all…  Anyways the scents are nutmeg, clove, pepper, leather, and juniper. They smell sooooo good together. I also purchased several little intricate bottles of very delightful parfumes for some of the girls back home. After I finally resurfaced from the aromatic chamber I realized that I did indeed smell like a walking parfume factory. It seeped into every inch of my clothing, hair and skin. Not complaining too much.

So from there on we went to this sort of exhibit/mini museum that had paintings of ladies with rose petals for lips! How creative! And how obvious was it (of course) for us to copy this. The following pictures are from us finding a rose and mimicking the idea with just a little more… um, outrageousness. Of course that is an actual word. Flair. That’s the word I was looking for. Ha ha ha Olga and Sasha looked like they were MADE for it. Ha ha ha Louise went for the leaf moustache. Love it. Anyhow, back at the museum there were also the cutest little country girl outfits – adorable. I would totally have worn those back in the day… if I was, you know, French.  After touring through alleys and alleys of shops selling wonderfully scented soaps and potpourri we eventually found that one parfumerie that lets you make your own parfume. the only problem is that you have to have a minimum of ten people choosing together the same scents for a pretty price. So we decided to focus our efforts on finding some gelato. We wandered around the city for a bit getting lost before we found an excellent gelato place with the most delectable flavors. Of course by that time we noticed it was getting to be about the time that we were, um, late… for the train. So we took off running in the direction where we thouuuuught the train was… and we all thought we knew the way back… which got us lost a little… but arrived Just. In. Time. Because France wanted us to get home in time for dinner, I am sure.  ♥

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The most delicious French pastries

So this morning we woke up with a bit of determination. Hazel had a meeting planned with someone from the international school her uncle asked her to check out. Right now his son is going to a school in Hong Kong, and apparently he does very well in his academic studies. He is currently taking French classes, but he would like to study French in France. So we were off to an area around Marseilles starting out from Aix on a shortbus. Well, it was a very short bus, kinda cute.  Anyways we traveled for a while, and finally came closer to where Hazel had approximate directions for. It was an international school, and she described this to the driver, asking him to let us off there, so after a while of traveling through some really nice, green neighborhoods reminiscent of Illinois, we came to the stop, got off and walked towards the school…  however, it took us a while to figure out that it was the wrong one. heh. So we were late for the meeting, and Hazel was freaking out, so we got directions from someone inside that school that told us where it miiiight be. So we started walking back towards the town, over an interstate, traffic circles, where finally the woman with whom Hazel was supposed to meet called her cell phone. So after describing where we were, the woman laughed and said we were not close. Very polite of her, she offered to come get us or give us directions to try one last time, walking. I thought Hazel was going to suck it up and try to walk (she has a lot of pride and doesn’t like to be an inconvenience) but thank god she obliged. I feel like such a wimp around her sometimes, ha ha. So The woman pulls up to us in a traffic circle (looking back on it now, methinks we should have moved away from a traffic circle to be picked up from. ha.) and is very polite, even to me whom she needn’t try to impress. The dirt road winded around for a while through the french countryside before arriving at the school. The school seemed new, yet full of character – something that I don’t usually see so quickly. The woman gave us a tour of the facilities, and knew many of the students by name – there were certainly not as many as my high school had. However, during the visit I was able to see the appeal of a private school, when compared to a public high school. The visit really made me start to think about how I would raise my children. Schooling affects a certain amount of what the child learns (and aside from actual educational material). I made a few mental notes that day based on what I saw, experienced. I don’t think I would homeschool my children, I believe that they need more structure and complexities, interaction with others (social intelligence of sorts). Basically, I couldn’t give them everything they needed. Public school can be harsh sometimes – some people have very good experiences, some have some really bad character-altering experiences. I’ve seen some people change so drastically because as children they soak in so much – good and bad and all the in between. They are so easily influenced without always having the experience to understand everything they are taking in. I know, it is a risk that every parent has to take, and you can only do so much… and I know that it will better prepare them for the world and the complexities of it.  However this… the idea of a sort of “in-between” school, it has its upsides and downs. For one, it is a great learning experience to have a great ratio of teachers to students to help foster creativity and focus. They have a lot of choices for extra-curricular activities and teachers who won’t have too much stress because they are overloaded with students teaching the same thing to five different classes a day. I have seen kids be able to form tighter-knit groups, too. Although some of the children who attend private schools tend to rebel against their parents (sometimes the situation at home is not the best, therefore they act out in ways meant to attract attention, not always the good kind)… and if my children were to become friends with other children who rebelled, etc… they might get into some not-so-great activities or take on some unfortunate characteristics. The funny thing, or maybe ironic? is that you never know how things will turn out – sometimes you worry for nothing. Sometimes a child might have a very grounded moral, or clear-minded personality to begin with that they can carry with them throughout their whole lives, sometimes. Then again, sometimes people don’t get rounded out as they get older, more mature- they can get worse, further down the road that you can’t follow… that others can’t follow. And that must be one of the worst situations… but you know, that’s stepping waaaaay ahead of everything. Of course any loving parent wants the best for their child, but I believe that you have to be able to know when to take a step back, when to let them make their own decisions, and when to play a part in them … but most of all, to just be as loving and supporting (knowledge, experience, actions, character, morals) as you can and know how to accept… many things. Change. Wow. Watching your children throughout all the stages of their lives. That will be a very wonderful part of my life, when it’s time.  So… Here’s to the future, come what may.

P.S.     I’m totally gonna rock those maternity clothes.

Almost. What a better way to start the morning off than to come out of the shower seeing a room filled with smoke. I mean, THICK smoke. I mean, first I’m thinking This is a lot of smoke. Right after that I am thinking Do I really have to run out of here in my shower towel? Hope not. Haaaaazel???! “It won’t STOP…”  O_O  What won’t stop?? “The microwave is forever spewing out smoke!” What did you DO?? “I tried to cook breakfast.” Translation: she tried to reheat the leftovers – Au Flambé. Lol. Don’t know why I was laughing, considering this may very well set off the fire alarm soon and I don’t really wanna know what happens to people who force-evacuate a hotel. And I didn’t want to stay long enough to find out. So we opened the windows all the way, turned on the fan, grabbed our stuff and headed downstairs real quick-like. By this time the smoke had started to roll out into the hallway of our floor and it smelled really really bad.  So as we ventured downstairs. Actually. You know what? Let me tell you about some great customer service. No I am not being sarcastic. Yes, this was  in France. So the guy at the check-in desk had tolerated our amazing Frenglish and helped us to find a place to go to for the day, train times, routes, etc – we decided on the Mediterranean seaside town of Cassis, south of Marseille. The main attraction here are the Calanques – these great, huge cliffs against the water that you can view from boats in the water, and where people climb.  It is supposed to be beautiful, so we all discussed times in which to head out and take the train, which train, which way. We also needed a place to stay for the night but this place we had just stayed at was just a little more pricey than we would like, and we mentioned this to the man but there was not much he could do… so we said Merci and bid him farewell and started heading down the road with all our things when we hear behind us “Excuse meee! Mademoiselles!!” And we see the check-in man (who in all the kindness in the world, is not very fit) running after us. Lol, so we stop and listen and he says that he has just spoken to his boss, and explained that we were two young ladies on a budget and he was able to procure us a low-price room for another night! Which means we could put our stuff back in our room and not have to carry it around at the very least, and we were grateful. He explained that this was his last day working for the hotel, and he showed us the hotel that he would be working for next, very proudly. It was gorgeous and we were very happy for him, and said that although we would love to stay there, it seemed a liiiiittle out of our price range.  So as his last day/request he called in a favor as he was going out- and how many hoteliers do you know would run out after you to make your day with a sweet bargain price? Not many. Okay and yes he was also trying to make a little more money on his last day, but his efforts were appreciated.

So! We head off to the TGV (superfast train) station in the Aix village and head about an hour or so to get to the Marseille switch-over station. Trains are actually pretty fun, especially when you get to pick up some pastries to take on the train before you head out (and almost miss your train for sake of snacks). hmmm.. what happened on the train ride… Hazel and I talked and I defended marriage. It is pretty interesting to talk to someone with such a differing viewpoint, on a lot! We have fun, ha. They become more like debates, not extremely heated ones, but fun ones. So finally we reach Cassis, and step out… walk a little out of the station and think we have made a very wrong move. There is… nothing there. One dirt road, some brush, a few little houses here and there… where ARE we. So we think for a little bit, walk along the road playing the “smell this plant – is it a spice?’ game – which was fun. I brought back a bunch of wild rosemary for dinner that week. Anyways, we decide to not go towards the direction of the dark tunnel with no pedestrian walkways and head down until we come to an actual road! From there we are starting to feel a little more hopeful, ha ha. We end up passing by a vineyard and walking to the house where we think it says they sell their wine. But, no… we get very weird looks indeed when these people wonder why we are coming up to their house (sorry! maybe you should take down your sign if your vineyard is not functional anymore!) but we saw some olive trees and a few grapes – not sure what varietal. There was this pretty cool pathway between two rows of trees for a while that we followed until we got to an actual vineyard where we got to taste the wine (and buy a bottle!). From there we figured we were very close to Cassis as we came across more and more evidence of civilization (cars, a small store, some bigger houses… SIGNS!). Cassis has a lot. In the way that as you walk through it, the atmosphere changes as it goes from flat rustic vineyards, up windy hills to bigger houses with views of the village below, then down to the fishing village by the water, where you can see the high cliffs right up against the water nearby.  Another thing… it was very cold and windy once you got closer to the water when the sun was just beating down on us as we walked through the vineyards. The fishing village was beautiful, boats docked right up against each other, and the little shoppes lined up in a similar way. Hazel and I decided to take an hour boat tour to see the calanques as we were told that it was “the only way” to truly see the high cliffs was from the water. We took space at the front of the boat (I love speedboats) and felt the refreshing breeze blow by us as we headed towards the calanques. What was really interesting was how we were able to see the people climbing the cliffs! crazy. The calanques were magnificent, they make you feel so small, yet so great to be able to witness such a marvelous creation so much bigger than yourself. By the time we were back on land we were chilled, so we stopped in this hot chocolat place … they had every. flavor. Sooo… so good. It’s like the hot chocolat from the movie chocolat, with the extremely thick, delicious… that just poooours into your mouth… hit the spot. There were these really delicate candies, and assorted colorful gift boxes, very cute.  After that it was out the door and a race to get to the train… so we hiked up the hills, over the mountains, across the vineyards, and back on the train to Aix just as the sun was setting.

Moustache!!!

Oh I will get to “Moustache” as he is affectionately called from his co-workers, funny story. Aix-en Provence started off as a trip that was put together by CERAM’s sort of “adventure task-force.” Ha ha, but really they plan trips for students to participate in for a less expensive cost if they were to go on their own. For example this one was headed to Aix-en Provence which is above Marseille, and we started out towards there from Antibes which took around 4 hours I believe, but we all took a huge charter bus type for only 10 Euros. The only issue that I have with groups is that sometimes you have to settle for what the others want to do, but you also have time to go off on your own. Hazel and I had other plans – the excursion was only supposed to be a day long, but Hazel’s uncle had asked her to check out an international school for his son around the Marseille area. You really do spend your day differently when you know you have more time, and everything slows down… much more relaxed. Which makes me realize again and again that to truly experience a place I want to make sure that I allow enough time, more than enough time… to immerse yourself in it, see and experience beyond the surface.

Aix-en Provence or “la ville aux mille fontaines” – City of a Thousand Fountains is near to several thermal springs, in which the Romans laid down their influence and made Roman bath and named Aix “Aquae Sextiae” … so Aix has been referred to by many names, changed hands a few times, you get it. The first thoughts that came to mind of what I saw in Aix was that it had a very Autumn feel to it – I loved it. It had those endless streets with the tall white bark trees with Autumn leaves lining the sides and the air smelled like Autumn, it looked like Autumn, and the atmosphere felt like Autumn. Just so you know, my favorite season is Autumn (late summer, early autumn to be exact) and let me tell you, this was Autumn-town. Beautiful, with the air crisp and the breezes gently blowing, the feeling of peace and reflection. Yes, it feels like this. The turning leaves swirling around you, landing lightly in the streets where time seems to slow down, people walking calmly and joyfully, the smell of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon in the air… okay okay you get it – it was beautiful.  Not to mention the amazing and ornate architecture. There is an obvious Roman influence on almost every street.  I went to an art museum, where the paintings were indeed unusual, but what caught my attention the most (what always does) were the sculptures in the basement floor… there was one of a maiden that was just awe-inspiring. I wanted to take a picture but the guy was watching me like a hawk – and I decided that I would just commit it to memory and true to this day I remember her very clearly. When you walk down the streets, every so often you look down and see a sort of shiny bronze plaque with a letter and perhaps some inscription on it – these were in several of the villes that I visited. The particular one for Aix has a “C” for “Cezanne” as in the famous artist Paul Cezanne for which there is also a museum that displays many of his pieces.

There is a definite medieval feel to this city, and in fact when I went off to explore I ran into a small festival where they had chestnuts roasting, (very tasty!) homemade delicacies such as marron jam (chestnut jam – really really good. Several weeks later at the Christmas market in Monaco I had some churros served with the marron jam… so good.) and lavender honey, pastes and spreads and many others. They had little tasting spoons so I had the chance to enjoy several of each with some baguette – and I bought some as well. Ha ha they don’t look too fondly on you if you eat their samples and just move on…  anyhow they had a musical group come through playing various instruments which added to the atmosphere.  So by then I figured I would head towards the place that everyone else would be gathering at, so I had a little time and wandered over to the main street called le Cours Mirabeau. There were cafés all up and down this spacious street and I stopped in one to get a café crème (coffee with cream, you guessed it) and just sat and pondered for a while, making notes about the experience. Then with the rest of the group we toured downtown and entered a beautiful church where a woman was playing the organ, and it had that old world musty smell that I actually love very much. I think it was getting to be around the time that the rest of the group had to go back and Hazel and I had some time before we had to find a hotel for the night, so we said goodbye – not without first walking by a pizza shoppe handing out free pizza! One thing I can say after returning to the states is that (yes, everyone really does just call the U.S. “the states” and it gets into my head too) “why on earth don’t pizza places have fresh basil??”  is it too much to ask really? and for some tomato? the simplest pizza is a margherita and I ask a pizza place here and they’re like “basil? why? tomato and mozzerella? oh well, we can sprinkle a little ground basil spice on it…” man. I do honestly miss that about southern Europe. we had some pretty crazy pizzas. The night before Jonathon left to go back to the states we were in Nice (it would have been hell to try and get to his super-early flight by then from Antibes- and really expensive too) anyways a few things actually made that night: The heavy rain, how we got lost because the bus went too far, the surprisingly huge room they gave us at the hotel (called the Picasso room… don’t know why) annnnnd the pizza. We basically had run out of food options at that time of night and we walked down and found a take-out pizza place with a huge variety of pizzas (the put anything you want on a pizza) and it was delicious. But, the rest of that story for another time. It is a good one, trust me, possibly the best night in my experience over there.

Right, so I got way off topic there. So after running through the town we just got a little better at figuring out where everything lead to, because left Hazel’s bag on the bus thinking we would get it later as to not have to walk around with it all the time… and realized.. ha, wait. wasn’t your bag on that bus? hahaha priceless. Luckily we got it before they left, sweet. After visiting the tourists office we found out that there was a concert scheduled that would be playing on the other side of the city, a cover band for The Who, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. We still needed to get dinner and find a place to crash for the next two nights, so we walked in the general direction of where some hotels would be, saw a few sketch ones, and eventually we had to walk across the bridge that went over the A8 (sort of like their interstate). I actually said to Hazel “wow. this is bad, but I actually miss this.” “what- traffic?” “No… I dunno, just the sound of cars whizzing by, the lights as it gets darker… I know, it’s strange.” “Yeah, you’re weird.” ha ha I don’t know I guess in a way it reminded me a little of Northern Virginia. We both agreed that it didn’t feel like France anymore in this section of Aix and the feeling was indeed.. out of sorts.  We ended up finding a hotel that we had looked up the night before that had a fair price, set our things down (it was actually a really nice room!) and then ventured back out to find food. We finally stopped at this… well, for lack of better description, it was an Italian place/ it served more Italian dishes than anything else. So we were seated and our waiter comes later and I swear I was half “I should probably pull my jaw up from the floor…” half about to straight out ROFL. This gentleman who was about to serve us had the thickest French accent and it was like he had the pure essence of a true blue French maître d’ – complete with the most impressive moustache that I have ever seen. We sort of glanced back at each other in awe, minds syncing “This is really happening, please don’t laugh or I will too.” He was very sweet, very genuine and very professional – he had a twinkle in his eye and called us “mademoiselles.” We felt like princesses.  I ordered the penne carbonara (best. dish. ever. In an Italian restaurant).  I can’t remember what Hazel ordered but she liked mine better. As she should, it’s penne freakin’ carbonara afterall.  So we were enjoying ourselves and noticed these two men at the table next to us, both around 40 years old or so. They started talking to us, and offering us some of their bottle of wine – which I accepted (later Hazel said “what were you thinking it could have been rufied!” which was strange because she is the daring dangerous one afterall). So then they proceeded to talk to us, and we started a discussion about… American real estate. Commercial real estate. (Here I was thinking “man, I come all the way to France to get away from this sort of blather and they want to talk about commercial real estate in America” woo. ) So it was basically Hazel and I trying to understand their Frenglish and not getting their concepts of building structures and flats and pricing strategies…. yeah. So finally they started going on topics that I would have gladly gone back to hearing about real estate. I think I tried to pretend like I didn’t understand what they were getting at but let me tell you body language is a dead give-away sometimes. So Hazel caught on faster, that they were asking us to go dancing with them after dinner. Annnnd they asked where we were staying – which could have been just wondering where to pick us up and see how far we had to walk. In the very least they wanted to give us a ride back. And so there started the elaborate schemes of Hazel and I to elude them and their invitations of a night of half-drunken dancing with men that were old enough to be our fathers and still ok with the fact that we could barely understand a word they were saying and their intentions were unclear… Veeeery sketch. At least Canada and America can agree on one thing, eh Hazel? But at least we enjoyed our crème brûlée, hmm? Ha ha when we finally bid farewell to the two gentlemen and their sorrowful faces we wanted to find our waiter and say goodbye, but we couldn’t find him so we asked the other servers at the door and we couldn’t think how to ask so I said “S’il vous plaît, Moustache! Où est Moustache?!” lol. Which asked where Moustache was and they exclaimed “Ah! Moustache!” And they called out for him throughout the restaurant! “Moustache!” Which almost made us giggle, (almost) for the fact that they too, called him that name. So he came out with his glorious pair of moustache and smile combo and we asked him for a picture with us, and he obliged very happily and wished us bonne nuit.

We walked out into the night with our spirits high and stomachs filled to the brim, later to learn that our night was not over. I won’t bore you much longer with all the details, but it involved: Walking in the night alongside the dimly-lit roads hopping from traffic circle trying to follow the signs to where the concert would be. We were stopped for directions, (nope, not the other way around) we ran after a hedgehog, we got lost, we got lost again. Finally since it was getting a bit chilly we decided to head back and get some sleep. So we did not get to see the band after all, however we were pretty content with the night, we learned a lot about each other, and still more yet to come. And then in the morning Hazel almost smokes out the hotel microwave-style…  but more on that later. Ha ha.

A Monaco Christmas

 

Merry Christmas to all!!!  I don’t have many pictures of Christmas sorts from France, but we went to a Christmas market in Monaco that was really nice. So I have included videos: Go carts… on ice… haha could’ve been a little more bad-ass, and then “put your children in a ball” according to Sasha is the “best babysitting device ever.”

IN COPENHAGEN, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is ending today. It started two Mondays ago on December 7th. Leaders from 156 countries came together to reach a much much more concrete goal for climate change. Developing countries are required to come up with “actions” instead of just talk. It’s about time. A great many people are excited about this… economists, environmental groups, developing countries, developed countries, countries who have already been on the road to sustainability for years, just waiting for everyone else to come aboard as well, and everyday people like you and me. We need to be excited, and we need to have hope. On the left side of my website you will find two new things: First, I have put up pictures from the Christmas Market in Monaco – I felt that they had the right idea. They had a “Save Our World” tent, and beyond the alluring exterior, there were some very creative ideas and innovations dealing with renewable resources. The theme is “Closing the LOOP.” It’s not exactly saying “save the world by redecorating your living room with colorful oil barrel seats,” or that by “putting a bottlecap dresser in every home,” you are making the world a better place… But what it is doing is igniting a spark in the everyday person’s mind to get them started on thinking creatively, thinking renewable, thinking wisely. I walked away with a smile.

Close the Loop

I want to share something with you – something that has become close to my heart. I wrote an essay (a loose essay – semi-professional: just like me) which consists of my feelings compiled onto a page on the left side under “In Discovery of Ourselves,” called : “On HOPE”

I didn’t write this for a class, and it was not a required project. I wrote this for me, and I wrote this for you. I’m not trying to preach, but I am very passionate about this. Right now, awareness is our greatest ally in combating climate change. So please, take it or leave it but I hope sincerely that you read it.

 Set your playlist to the song “Marchin’ On” by OneRepublic while reading. Yeah, I’ll admit it could be more epic – but this is me, and you’re looking through my eyes here ♥ Or not, it’s as you like.

I can only tell you in so many words how beautiful our Earth is, but sometimes you really need to see it to believe it… to be reminded of what is worth saving: A 4 billion year-old legacy. Please take the time to watch this video before or after:  HOME

Thank you.

References for facts and figures are available upon request. =)

Arctic Fox

So, the “first” being that I’ve never really warmed up to animals, most of you know this… but I was doing research for my paper on drilling in the Arctic and I found this adorable guy… I think I would love one! But you know, trust me to find one of the few species whose habitat is disappearing (the Ice caps are melting…) so I don’t think he would survive too well in the states. Unless I get a giant freezer with some sea ice (Sea ice is warmer than Land ice and they survive better there). But still, I’ll leave him be. But I actually really think he is adorable!  =)  Fun fact for the day ♥

 

Just Wow.

 

I first came across this beauty when I was on the train to Monaco, staring out the window as it zipped through the tunnels in the mountains. I knew I was supposed to be going to Monaco, but when I caught sight of this village hovering above those crystal blue waters, I seriously almost shouted something like “Stop the train!” ha. Kind of, I almost got off at the next stop… but I waited until later and I am glad I did. The first part of the day I went with Sasha, Olga, Raquel and Andrea to a village nextdoor called Beaulieu Sur Mer, and it was very nice but I fell in love once I set my eyes on Villefranche Sur Mer. It means “Villefranche on the sea” but I am not entirely sure what villefranche means except that it has something to do with a city/town/village on the sea. 

The rest of the girls went home (poor Raquel was sick – I have a cute picture of her pouring honey on a lemon slice) and I continued on to do some searching for a room with a seaview. =)  And to explore. The way you get around is similar to Monaco – there are no real bee-line ways to get from the top of the mountain down to the beach, you must zigzag throughout the streets! But it’s actually pretty fun, and I went reeeeally close to the top just by hiking. And it was HOT outside that day – but very worth it. The view was breathtaking, literally. The pictures you see looking down on the water are from that spot. I love the one where you can see the other cap of Beaulieu sur mer just a stone’s through away.

So pretty much, Villefranche sur mer is my favorite village in France (that I have seen thus far), and I just felt a connection as soon as I saw it.  It’s peaceful, and clean, and the water is the bluest I have ever seen. I also love the colours of the villas and the way they all climb up on top of each other. I can’t wait to show you the Cinque Terre because that is such a prime example of what I mean, but every place I have seen is just as beautiful in its own way.

Sweeeeet!

Yeah, we went for the 10 scoop bucket of Gelati. This is the story of when Hazel and I went to Nice.  Saying she “loves” ice cream would be a huge understatement. When we first got our place I happened to be the first one to bring home a pint of ice cream, I stuck it in our freezer and went on my merry way until Hazel came home later that day, opened up the freezer to get a pizza. The next thing I hear from her is “WHAT have you DONE?!”  me: O__O eep? “Who put this… this… thing… in here?”  hah… what thing?  “This… temptation! I can’t even look at it but now that I know that it’s in there I won’t be able to pass by the kitchen without having this overwhelming desire to finish the entire thing off in five minutes. And believe me I have done it in less. How could you do this to me?”  so by now I am having a real hard time trying to determine if she is serious or not but I went with it and offered her a bowl. Apparently it is really that she doesn’t take anyone up on offers for some of their ice cream because she will just keep eating it. Lol.  SO. Anyways. This should serve as a successful transition to what happened next in Nice.

We walked through the older part of Nice where there was a Gelati place that offered as their maximum “The Bucket” which fits 10 scoops – 10 flavors. So she said “We should get that!” to which I stupidly replied Can we really finish all that? Hah. So yeah, It was sooooo tasty. There is one picture on the sidebar where behind me there is a giant ice cream cone with all ten scoops piled on. I WISH it was physically possible to do that, it looks AWESOME. So these are the flavors we got: Pistachio, Toblerone, Citrus, Pear, Chestnut, Stracciatore (cinnamon-y), Chili chocolate, White chocolate, Banana, and Violette. YUM. 

We then walked around the city, and worked our way up to the cemetary that looks over all of Nice. We walked through the gravestones… and I noticed that people put stones on graves kind of like how we lay down flowers. Then up to the view of the Acropolis – the city really is huge. I love how the city reaches throughout the mountains that come rolling right against the shore. You have the mountains, the city and the ocean all there for you. And further up there was a waterfall – it is so beautiful with the way the glittering water stream seems transparent when you can see the ivy crawling on rock wall behind it. The rainbow was an added smile feature.

The Russian cathedral… was amazing. I would love to see more of those turnips… go to Russia… =) The architecture is gorgeous. The weather was beautiful that day… with a warm breeze and the ocean was such a beautiful blue… I am going to miss that when I come back. I wish I could share it with you all, but in a way I am. =) You know what I also love? When people hang their clothes to dry on clothesline outside their windows and you can see them from the streets below. Little details like that just make everything all the more beautiful.

Ma Cherie!!! Here are the glowing, floating color-changing naked men I was telling you about!! They exist!!! I really need to find out the story behind them…

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In Discovery of Ourselves

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