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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.  ♥

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.

 

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…

Buuuuuut still you probably shouldn’t. =) So Monaco is not actually part of France, it is a very small sovereign city-state surrounded by 3 sides by France (the 4th side faces the coastline) with a castle and everything – it is also one of the wealthiest countries in the world! People there mostly speak either French or Italian. I have been there three different times now, and I really love it. =) The first time I went was on a whim back in September- had talked to a girl I had just met that day who was going with a few friends to Monte Carlo to celebrate after finishing an exam, and they were going to get on the train in Antibes around six, so after I got home from school I literally ran around trying to decided if I wanted to go, asked Hazel but she was thinking that she didn’t know if she wanted to pay 20 euros for just the train ticket(it ended up only costing 9) and then whatever it would cost at the casino and for dinner, and she would rather spend the money if she was going for a whole day and not for 5 hours. Very valid point, and I was struggling with this too but in the end I tried to find something to wear and ran out to catch the bus. Luckily I remembered to grab a pair of under-skirt shorts on the way out and some flip flips for when my high-heels started to eat my feet. Basically if you are in the vicinity of the Monte Carlo square, everyone is dressed up – and if you wear shorts after five in the evening you won’t be allowed in anywhere. They really try to keep a certain appearance about the place. (Sidenote: Has anyone ever seen that BBC show – “Keeping up Appearances” with Mrs. Bucket (Bou-que) it was kinda funny, always felt sorry for the poor husband for being married to her). The train ride to Monaco is one of my favorites because the train hugs the coast, giving you a front seat view of the Mediterranean as it zips in and out of tunnels in the mountains, each view more magnificent than the last. Monaco at night was still very illuminated and there was this huge yacht show. However you would have to pay 6o euros just to look at them. Hah, I just took pictures from above stalker-style and foiled them! There was this neat mechanical-looking dragon so I took a picture of it for you, Alex! So we walked up to the square where the Hotel de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino are. Dinner was nice – we ate outdoors at a restaurant nearby and I decided to try anchovy pizza (I didn’t want to spend too much money that night) because I had never had anchovies. They are saaaaaalty….  reeeeaally salty. Anyways, so we headed over to the Monte Carlo and parked directly in front of the casino was a row of ferraris… very nice.  And there were some other pretty awesome cars too, I liked the blue Ferrari California. =)  And there was a really neat concept car on display: VERITAS – which I had never heard of, I just know it means “truth” in Latin. The car in question is the Veritas RS III – and although I have pictures of it you can probably see it better if you just google it. So the Monte Carlo is pretty amazing inside as well – you have your rooms for roulette, for blackjack, and private rooms for the high-rollers, which you can get into for a pricey entrance fee. They have a room for slot machines as well, which is where I went! (I didn’t want to put down too much money, I just wanted to see if I was lucky. Lol, I only won 15 euros but it was pretty sweet!) Oh sidenote: There is a story that floats around CERAM because all the teachers know it too, but this one student went to the MCC and won 300 euros – so guess what he did: Paid for a helicopter ride back to Antibes! Sweet. As beautiful as the casino is on the inside with all it’s old world ambiance and detailed decor, the exterior is even more beautiful and intricate, every sculpture, every motif. I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the casino, but I do have several of the outside and in the daylight as well. The second time I went to Monaco was during the day to visit several gardens. There was an “exotic garden (Jardin Exotique)” which had some pretty cool cacti – a lot of what I had seen in Arizona but still very neat. They also had caverns but I just missed the tour. The cool thing about Monaco is that when you are trying to get somewhere and you start from high up you can see where you need to go and follow it all the way down. That’s how I got to the second garden – you just weave in and out through and down the streets. You can also see what people do with the rooftops! They have gardens on them! I would like to imagine having a rooftop tea party there =) So the next place that I went was a rosarie in honor their Princess Grace, and it had some very interesting names for the roses (not their real names, but I suppose the names of people and things she liked) For example, Elvis was one name… hehe. There was a fountain there and I filled up my bottle of water and it even tasted like roses!  I have pictures of the roses and the Japanese Zen Garden I went to after that as well, I put them up one post ago.  On my way down to the rosarie I came across a cemetery of families of Monaco since long ago. The sculptures are amazing… I am beginning to notice that my favorite form of art would be sculptures… they just capture so much, every curve, every edge… in marble, granite, etc… and their expressions…  hmm. The gravestones were gorgeous, and my favorite was an angel watching over the grave of two families with her finger to her lips for silence (tread softly and let them rest in peace is what I take from it). I walked to the harbor after that, and saw a pretty sleek speedboat and it reminded me of something Jonathon might like (color scheme being black and orange and it makes me think of a James Bond sort of feel… not that he’d like it  for the second reason, but yeah, pretty sweet). I headed up a crazy huge hill to get to Monaco’s castle which is still very much in use today. Of course when I got to the top I found the elevators. heh.  For lunch I found this amazing Asian Tapas place named ZenZen – a chain sort of fast food place, but it being Monaco and all it didn’t seem like a fast food place to me. They have the cutest macot hee hee. Man, I had really been missing buffalo wings…. yum. HAH. Yes, I know, I am in France and I miss buffalo wings – go figure. Oh, and I know I haven’t been putting much of anything up involving food that I have made while I have been here, but a lot of that was me not wanting to spend a lot of money or having the time. But recently I had decided to take the time, eat a bit healthier, sit back and enjoy.  The third time I went to Monaco was to meet up with the roomies after I spent my day in Villefrenche Sur Mer (my favorite views are from that city- I will do that post as well) and it’s funny, Monaco is pretty easy to get around, find your way after only the second time. Enjoy the pictures, and enjoy your day!  =)

… was what I saw on a t-shirt in Cannes… these people really love them some Obama… or are appealing toward American tourists… In any case it made me smile.

So! I have been really busy! Who would have thought that I would actually have schoolwork to do!

So quite a lot has happened, and I have many pictures and places to tell you about! We shall start with Cannes! This is about a 40 minute bus drive away and you may have already heard of this place for the famous “Cannes Film Festival?” Cannes has many theatres, hosts many concerts, famous orchestras and musical talents perform in the various domes and stages around the city. While there is the very luxurious side of Cannes (pronounced Kann) that boasts high-end shoppes like Gucci and Armani around every corner on the main street, there is also a very quiet, quaint side. There are sailing races – which even after only a few lessons I can begin to appreciate the effort, skill and intuition that one has after years of sailing – and you use all of that – your gut feeling when you are in the wind, on the sea, using many little signs to help you navigate and use your surroundings to your advantage. It is really fascinating to me to watch people race – the wind can change pace, direction at any time and you have to know exactly what to do to bend it to your will. When you catch the wind just right, you just take off – like a motorboat! But that is what is so amazing – that it is a sport that people have done for centuries with just their intuition, experience and how in tune they are to all the influences on the sail, and the boat – and the engine is you. So I would love to race with someone one day – any takers?

So the French don’t really do many sports, but I have seen gentlemen play mini tournaments of this game called Boules I think, and from watching them I could try to guess what the concept was but I could be way off and you can wiki it if you like. It would appear that you get a few tennis-ball sized metal balls and you take turns doing one at a time, trying to get it either as close the marble in the dirt, or actually hit it. Cause when I saw one guy actually hit it, they shook hands and the game was over… but for some reason I thought that they tried to purposefully drag the game out and take longer to hit the marble. It seems to be a little like shot-put and a little like horseshoes to me. Yes, Collin, a little bit from column A… a little bit from column B…

Beyond the harbor, there is a small church castle with an amazing view of all of Cannes and the Mediterranean. There are windy roads with beautiful Provençal colors and cute painted art-nouveau-ish doors with hand knockers that are actually hands! How neat is that. They have streets that wind up and around, not unlike San Francisco and there are adorable restaurants lining the stone walkways. One of the days I went with Olga and Hazel and we just wanted to sit at a café, but you have to buy something so we got the cheapest thing on the menu which was a café (coffee) for €1,80. And so the guy comes out with them, and they are really just tiny tiny cups of coffee, not espresso. And if you want milk it’s extra, but they give you sugar and a biscuit or cookie for free (gratuit).

So we walked around and found an antique market which was pretty awesome – they had little gadgets that Alex would have appreciated, old fashioned signs and ads selling anything from travel destinations to Orangina, skeleton keys (Dani I would have gotten one but the one I wanted was 300€ and we did not look like one for bargaining!!) and they had old tea sets and Louis Vutton purses and this one guy had a whole collection of Elephant things! So apparently there was also a huge flower market but the only day it is not there are Mondays, and guess which day we went on. C’est la vie. Someday I would love to see the lavender fields.

So then we walked around old town and we ran into the most beautiful thing in Cannes. A Macaron and chocolate shoppe. In case your life has not yet been deliriously brightened by the discovery of these delicious French desserts, allow me to spread the wonder: They are little cakes, there are two puffy flavored biscuits with a very yummy slightly gooey filling. They kind of resemble a mini hamburger, but all one color and they taste better than a hamburger, most days. This shoppe had samples and they were very willing to cut up more to tempt us. Yeah, it worked, we caved, we devoured, repeat. They had flavors like violette, rose, citrus, nougat, caramel beurre sel, differing percentages of chocolate, pistachio, lavender, figue, pear, chestnut, blackberry, apple liquor, apple tart, and the list goes on… they only last a week though.. so now I need to learn how to make them and perfect them. =)

HaHa something funny today – in Van Luipen’s Advertising class he was talking about when they were marketing Heineken beer to Japan, and they test group got back to him and was like “Um.. yeah it’s not working so well, since our target market is men.” Luipen “Yeah, so?” TG: “Well it turns out that the color of your bottles is the problem. Green is considered a girly colour in Japan, so they men aren’t really buying it.”  Lol and this is what Luipen came up with: A hilarious commercial of a sumo wrestler looking at one of the bottles wondering if he should drink it or not, and this song comes on in English “I knew you’d never understand… what’s floating in the air…”  heh heh cute.

A few sidenotes: I am writing this in the pc lab at school cause my internet is sloooow and I hear sawing, drilling… it’s a little weird. Another side note: I really wanna go somewhere cool for Halloween. My roommates have the week off for holidays but apparently not me cause I am in a different school technically… agh. Pretty much everyone in Europe will have that holiday period off next week… They are going to Bruxelles and Bruge starting Sunday but I can’t go cause I have class.. I was really sad cause I really wanted to go… haha especially after seeing “In Bruge” but really, it’s supposed to be very beautiful especially during the holidays so maybe I will go around December. So this is the question: Should I meet up with them in Amsterdam for Halloween weekend or am I just asking for trouble considering I know the habits of my roommates… will I be able to enjoy myself? Keep in mind it does cost a pretty euro cent.

♣  You can view the pictures from Cannes on the left bar and the first should start with me holding my delicious macarons!

Imagine about a mile of outdoor cafes and bistros set upon their own private beach just thirty feet from the water, their intoxicating smells drifting out to welcome you in on this particular balmy evening. The atmosphere is very hospitable, making you feel light and calm, taking your worries and woes from you and checking it at the door. You are engulfed in a sea of very well-dressed beings who frolick in their summer playground. I wonder how these people make plans for dinner- “Sure just let me park my yacht on the Mediterranean and I’ll take my speedboat to shore and we can have dinner on the private beach in the moonlight.” Yeah, no I am not kidding, there is an army of yachts on the Mediterranean and they are enormous (some of them have helicopter decks!) – they look like they are battleships ready to attack you where you stand!

The beach at Juan les Pins is beautiful – it is so clear and blue-green in colour, however tops are pretty much optional. Oh well, you get used to it eventually. So things I like in Juan les Pins: Ferrero Rocher and Creme Brulee gelato/ice cream mix that is presented/spooned into the shape of a flower (I’ll post a picture soon), the Italian father and son duo who sell me my pistachio and cafe soft serve ice cream for 1€, and the best display of fireworks I have ever seen over the Mediterranean. We were all sitting in our residence and suddenly we heard them – fireworks. And suddenly we were on our feet, running through the streets of Juan les Pins towards sounds not unlike titans crashing together in the night sky, illuminated by streaks of brilliant colour rising and cascading over the Mediterranean Sea. They were being blasted off from three different ships, and the show was amazing – it was set to music too, such as The Can Can song (we have a great video to post on facebook of it!) and 007 film soundtracks, Queen, and other traditional French songs. It was beautiful! Oh – and there are crêpe shoppes everywhere. Sasha and I shared one from a Grand Marnier shoppe, where the chef cooked one right on the street for us and let Sasha pour (more like drench) the poor thing with Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur) but I have a pretty awesome picture with her barely being able to lift the gigantic bottle with a huge smile on her face (and the GM dude put his chef’s hat on her head for the photo, he was pretty fun).  You know what is really disturbing to me though? In most of the clothing shoppe windows there are dog purses. I don’t mean purses that look like dogs, I mean that they are purses literally meant for women to carry their little dogs around everywhere with them, right under their shoulder. So…. weird…  Oh! but there was a metallic living statue dude – he put on a brilliant performance, which by that I mean he stayed in one position for… forever. Oh you know what’s kind of funny? Johan called the day after I told him off and said that he decided to lower the price for all of us to 1800€, and I declined, and so he said that we should call him when we don’t find a place and come back to him. And then he said we should all go out for drinks cause he is lonely. And I am not a mean person, and I usually give people the benefit of the doubt and try to trust people first and then if they have wronged me, I pass judgement… so I don’t feel so bad for the fact that it was reeeally hard not to burst out laughing when he said that, I actually bit my lip holding it back. Glad Sasha didn’t hear, she would have laughed for sure. But I did say “well I’ll call you if we decide to, thanks for the offer.” People keep saying I am too nice for my own good… is this true? Hazel has also called me a “sorry” whore – I give it up (the word) too easily. Basically, I apologize way too much, which could definitely be true, I have noticed this. You know what is interesting? Is that people who are almost strangers to me can see a lot of my traits right away and have no problem informing me of them – which I don’t mind, I actually like it, this blunt honesty. I have gotten compliments as well, but I like hearing how they analyze me in every aspect.  So next post I will tell you about our new place! And hopefully post pictures! But guess what! We have a lime tree!!! You know what that means, right?? Mojitos forever, baby! Well… now all I gots ta do is go plant some mint. And you know, grow a Bacardi Limon rum tree. It’ll work – really. =)

 

Crème brûlée & Ferrero Rocher gelato flower

Crème brûlée & Ferrero Rocher gelato flower

 And of course this is Sasha… being Sasha. Hahaha. The guy was pretty cool too – he let her try on his Grand Marnier chef hat!

 

Sasha drenching our crêpe with Grand Marnier

Sasha drenching our crêpe with Grand Marnier

 

Now this is the life: You get to sit on a beach in a big comfy chair/couch and eat your dinner casually while watching the setting sun.

Couch Café in Juan les Pins

Couch Café in Juan les Pins

Yes. For all you out there that had any doubts, British people are very British. I know this is my first post of me supposedly in Southern France, but I will get to that later. I figure that because this was my first real encounter overseas it ought to be my first post. So I arrived in Great Britain (Heathrow airport) and it was pretty crazy as far as airports go. To keep this part of this post short, here were a few interesting things:

-Every high-end designer you’ve every heard of has a shoppe in this airport and people actually walk in the shoppes and come out of them clutching a bag or two (very confidently so, I might add) containing what they have just purchased, and quite frequently too! I would know because I waited at a cafe called “pret” (kind of like a eco-friendly, fresh foods cafe) for an hour waiting for my next plane, and so I observed… people. Which not to sound creepy, but is actually an activity that I enjoy. And where best to observe than an airport? That and I didn’t want to carry my suitcase of a carry-on plus my laptop everywhere so it felt good to rest.  Well anyways.

-They of course have many candy and confectioner shoppes, with many tea gifts (and pretty interesting tea flavors!) and many tea cookies. And they had a giant liquor shoppe. Make that several liquor shoppes… And no, Collin I did not inquire further.  But none of those items surprised me. What did catch my attention were the chile-chips! Well, I mean they had more than a few different assortments and they were like our doritios, but in my opinion, better… and probably most definitely a difference in the level of heat.

– They are so British. Maybe it’s because I am used to many people mocking the British, imitating the British peoples, or the fact that whenever I meet someone with a true British accent it is rare occasion, that I don’t know how to handle myself surrounded by them. As in… I laugh. I mean, they are quite hilarious! They have such an off-the-wall sort of humor I got to see and hear in person, and then coupled with the accent… I don’t know, I didn’t even mind that I was being searched in customs and it took a half hour to look through my bags because the woman found my little cotton stuffed turtle, picked him up surprised, and said something to the effect of “well oh! And this little guy, well he’s rather cute in’t he? And just squeezed in like this to the bottom compartment. We ought to find ‘im a better home. Here, you pack the rest of your bag right up and I’ll find a suitable place to put ‘im in your other one.” And then she started talking to a Jason Statham double(just add a diamond stud on his left ear) about him and let me tell you. To see Jason Statham holding a tiny cotton turtle and say “well that’s right cute” is… well now you see why I didn’t know how to handle myself.  But the thing that made me laugh the most was when I was waiting to board the plane, and the announcer called for the flight crew for British Airways to board the plane. I looked over and literally laughed out loud. These men and women were walking side-byside in that epic walk/strut that you see the Astronauts do in movies (think Armageddon) but with these goofy grins, just chatting away very loudly in their accents with their very sleek flight attendant dress attire and mini suitcases, like they were the shiz. Our pilot said right before take-off, “I am very excited to be flying this Boeing 777 for you all today!” in a way that made me think this may have been his first time… or he was just really cocky. And then the flight crew .. they were all very bubbly… yet professional. I felt like I was aboard the party plane. I also took a look at their “shop!” magazine and there was a sonar mosquito repeller to “keep the mozzies away” as it said. I might actually get it later on. By the way they have the best airplane food for non-first class fliers, it is so cute and everything is individually packaged and it actually tastes good. I had basil-mozzerella balls in my side salad. One flight attendant asked me if I would like some tea and I said no thank you and he just stood there with the look in his eye like “that wasn’t a question.” So he asked again(comically) and I said “of course.”

Le Calendrier

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In Discovery of Ourselves

Photographies

Fragonard Parfumes for the girls!

The Streets of Grasse

Olga smelling the pot pourri

Pot pourri

I almost sat on this bench, er Fountain...

Galimard orange chocolate parfume... yum.

Galimard bath stars

Love Louise's attire

Louise being... louise. lol.

ZOMG hand.

More Photos