Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best of the Best

My parents are officially flippin' adorable.
I just had the wonderful opportunity of spending 10 days with them here in my current home, SwitzeFrance, and Italy. Honestly, they're cuter than I ever remember.
I don't remember them being so kind and warm towards each other. I don't really remember thinking of them as a 'team'. I don't remember them being affectionate towards each other. Now, I may not have ever noticed these things simply because I'm selfish and I was always preoccupied with whatever was going on in my life or because I didn't really have an idea of what marriage ought to look like... could be any number of things, whatever it is, I'm glad my eyes were opened and I can see my parents for the amazing duo they are.
I wish I had written this sooner, as I'm forgetting some of the things that really tickled me... The biggest thing that really opened my eyes was when Mom came out into the living room with Dad and me and announced she had had a revelation: something needed to change with Dad's appearance. Haha. You can imagine his anticipation to the rest of this revelation. Turns out, she decided Dad should grow his hair out (he had LONG hair before they were married) and wear it in a pony tail. She could keep his beard trimmed so she could see his face and he'd be content as well. She went on about how she had been the selfish wife who just wanted him to be clean cut, but then he was unhappy, which in turn, made her un happy... so when the idea came to her for him to grow a pony tail... she ran with it. --and for that, I'm grateful. :)
Love them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Italia with the Parentals

DAY 1:
Napoli, Pompei, Sorrento and Capri were on our list of exploration at the beginning of the week. It didn't take long for us to realize things weren't going to play out like they had on most of our previous vacations. We left my apartment to find a traffic jam. Got to the airport to find we really didn't need to be rushing around as there was a mysterious delay. Flew through a thunderstorm (or something of that nature) and experienced our first ever borded landing. (The landing gear was pulled down then pulled up!) Once we were on the ground the whole plane started applauding (all but my mother who was holding her 'barf bag' in her hands.) We found out later from some new friends in the AirForce that in spite of the rain, the pilot had 'overshot' his landing. Yikes. Anywho, the weather that day was fitting for the mood. Naples is... let me think... scary. Chaos is the best definition. We flew into Naples hoping to arrive in Pompeii in the early afternoon. No such luck. The train station was taken over with construction and not employed by very helpful employees. We stepped on our train only to be directed OFF our train. The FFSS informed us that we couldn't get there by our train. We got to a stop somewhere between Naples and Pompeii and sat in the rain (under an awning) for... a while. We sat and watched the train we wanted to be on zoom past us. A half hour later we were on the wrong train, headed to the wrong side of town. Once we made it to the 'Circumvesuvia' we were famished - this is a great part of the story, just FYI - we walk in the sprinkling rain to Zeus's for some stone-fired Italian pizza. Our waitress was delightful *heavy sarcasm here, though she did warm up before we left*. Once we place our order the rain was coming down in SHEETS. I'm talking heavy Iowa thunderstorm rain. It was intense. But we were warm, dry, sitting and anticipating some of the best pizza in the world. We enjoyed our pizza... a lot, and pressed on to find our hotel. (Remember how we were on the wrong train, headed for the wrong side of town?) Somehow the directions we'd printed out from the hotel weren't getting us where we needed to be! We waited for the bus for two hours, occupying ourselves by finding GINORMOUS lemons and peeking in at the ruins.
The bus never came, so we started walking, and walking, and walking, and walking... then I got ice cream...
took some pictures of the architecture in the center of Pompeii... and then we walked some more. Dad then took matters into his own hands, asked a cop where our hotel was, then continued on our hunt. We peeked around every corner. We read every hotel sign. We were ready for defeat. Then finally, the glorious moment had arrived, HOTEL DIANA.
We entered to find the most delightful individual we'd seen all day. We sat in the courtyard to regain our bearings, made our way into our great room with a bidet/foot-washer) and continued to explore Pompeii by way of grocery shopping. A great bottle of wine, Celtic beer, chocolate and a banana. You wouldn't think it would be a difficult purchase, but after the day we'd had why would we expect anything less? The gal behind the register threw (no exaggeration here) the banana back at Mom and made some less than friendly commentary to her in Italian. Much to Mom's surprise, you're to weigh ALL your produce before getting to the counter... hmm... back at our hotel we met a lovely couple from Britain. They sat with us enjoying their Brandy and tea while we enjoyed our Italian Merlot.  
Day 2: The breakfast at Hotel Diana is nice. Ace juice, milk and cereal, croissants and rolls, peaches/nectarines and grapes and the best cappuccino I've ever experienced. Dad and I went on a search for an ATM only to find you have to be a part of the Secret Service to enter a bank in Italy. We then retrieved Mom and were on our way to Sorrento. In Sorrento we got lost on our way to the port... things like this happen when there are no straight roads OR street signs. Apparently Mom passed as a part of the Secret Service and she stood in line at the bank for a good 20 minutes before she was able to cash her travelers check. ONWARD. We made it to the port! We were able to meet some of the other guests who were residing at Hotel Diana. We found out the price of the ferry to Capri was not what it had been advertised as online. Mom and I purchased some lovely Pashminas. We had to wait to actually buy our tickets, so we had a DELICIOUS lunch.  
The server at this restraunt was really great at his job. We watched as the restraunt kitty corner from them got turned down time after time while the restraunt we ate at reaped all the benefit! We did catch the ferry to Capri. It looked like a ship headed for America... cars and LOTS of people. Once in Capri, we took the feniculars to the top of the mountain. Gucci, Armani, Dolce & Gabana and stores of the like lined the streets. Finally we got out of the crowded 'downtown' area of where we were and found ourselves on a path along the coast of this mountain, walking through trees and resorts and brilliant homes. TBC...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Buffalo Grill

Today has been fun. :) Mom and Dad arrived from their long journey across the world. Mom was loopy as ever and Dad was ready for a rest. Mom joined me for church this morning where she was able to shake hands with a few of the important people in my life here in Ferney-Voltaire.
This afternoon we all ended up taking naps. It was the perfect Sunday afternoon. :) When we woke up we had some fruit, cheese, bread and wine, of course. For dinner we ended up at a restraunt called "Buffalo Bills" because EVERYTHING this side of the border is closed on Sundays... including restraunts. The food was not very good... in fact, I still smell like it. :-/ But the service was highly entertaining. We had, by far, the funniest French man as our waitor. He came to our table and was GOING OFF in French. Apparently he had a special bit of information he's to share with people as they sit at their table... Dad asked him if he spoke English. He wanted to know if we were on holiday - note to self: just say yes. "You live in France and you don't speak French?!" Not the first time I've heard that, and I admit, I HATE being the ignorant American... but I don't really have the time, energy or resources to just whip the language out at the moment. There was a point tonight when Mom and I were looking at the menu and he had gotten in the booth behind us, popped his head up between ours and said, "You need help?" It was fun. My brain's escaped me, it's nearly midnight... we leave for Italy in a few hours! :) Yahoo! 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

12 September 2009

Still don't have a phone... but learned yesterday there have been 23 suicides of FranceTelecom employees since February 2008. I've decided to be thankful I'm on this side of the mess rather than that side. :-/

Nice! Beautiful South of France...

*sigh* First, I have to apologize in advance for the detail... part of the reason I wanted to create a blog was so I could look back and recall memories and lessons I've learned... so, I'm going to try to get as much captured as possible. :)

This summer has been really great... but it's also been tiring. The time I spent with the family I work for was, for the most part, really successful. I was able to spend more time and one-on-one time with Aedan (he'll be returning to school when they get back from Iowa). I met some really lovely people. I experienced le Tour de France. I got to go to the pool a fair amount. I moved into this amazing apartment and was able to spend lots of Sundays with good friends. Looking back, I had a really good summer. How better to end a really good summer than with a really good holiday? ...make that the perfect holiday.
The picture above is my favorite beach photo taken in Nice. Everything was perfect. I went with my friend Amanda, from North Carolina. Thankfully, we were in the same mindset of what the holiday needed to consist of: relaxation. And that's exactly what we did.

Wednesday morning we got up at 5 and drove to the airport to catch our flight at 6:40. Little did we know, we had to leave from the French side of the airport (as opposed to the Swiss side). Makes sense... just didn't cross our minds. So we get to the EasyJet kiosks and our flight wasn't an option. After hunting someone down to explain why our flight wasn't available we discovered we needed to be on the French side. We get to the French side and have the same problem, only this time, there's no one there to help us. Argh. The lady we asked to help us told us we were too late (EasyJet doesn't wait if you're late) we explained to her we had been there for 15 minutes trying to check in (obviously unsuccessfully). She must have had pity on us or something because she then helped us get checked in and we did make it to our flight. (We weren't the only ones who had this trouble.) We thanked God for getting us on the flight and on our way down to Nice. We were fully expecting to just have to catch a bus or make fun here in Geneva.
The flight was the first perfect thing of the trip. I hadn't slept much the night before as I was excited and had lots to do (wrapping up other things I had been doing the previous few weeks), so when I dozed off and woke up over the coast of the French Riviera, I was on cloud nine. We got to the airport and had a little trouble finding the bus to get us into town. We did eventually and asked the driver which stop we needed to get off at to get to our hotel. He told us and we were on the lookout, but didn't register until after he'd pulled away from the stop. He stopped the bus in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD and told us this was where we needed to get out and that our hotel was just up the road (just know this is NOT something that would happen in Geneva/France - here the drivers don't even wait for you if you're right outside the door!) We were so impressed and pleased.

We got to our hotel and had to ring the doorbell. The man who runs it answered the door with sleep lines all over his face and definitely disoriented. We couldn't check in quite yet as it was only 8:30 or so, but he did let us leave our bags while we went to the market.
The market was great. There were probably 50 different salts! (Even lavender salt! ^ Lavender is HUGE in the South of France.) I have been looking for whole nutmeg for months and finally found that down at the market. During the day there's a produce and flower market and at night the old town comes alive with an arts and crafts market! Both are amazing and beautiful.

After the market we explored the beach. With little sleep the night before we decided a café crème was appropriate. (Above: the lovely Amanda!) We found a little cafe across from the beach and enjoyed our coffee and talked about how amazing it is that we're living in France. Needless to say, this was a highlight for me.

We made it back to our hotel and settled in then set off to explore the beach! It is so beautiful!! The water is this breathtaking blue - unreal! We went sea kayaking and then swam in the water. Did you know the salt helps you to float? It was so much fun!
Wednesday night we went out and ended up having dinner at this cute Indian restaurant. On the way we met Michael from Belgium (blonde in the front) and he organized a super random photo as you can see. One of the best things of this holiday was that everyone there was on holiday... so everyone was happy! People didn't mind being bothered just to chat. :)

Thursday was a great day for meeting people. We met some Canadians on our way to the market. Some delightful Brits (above from left: Carole Ann, moi, Jim, and Dot) at lunch and a cute Irish couple at dinner! Then we met up with a friend from chruch who was biking through to Corsica with a friend of his from home (New Zealand).
We had so much fun Wednesday sea kayaking, we decided we'd go back for more. Only this time we decided to parasail... it was AMAZING! It was like a dream! We had the most incredible veiw of the coast and of this breathtaking water I mentioned earlier. Just cruising. The driver of the boat dipped us in the water every once in a while, which I enjoyed, but Amanda was just being dragged across the water... less enjoyable. :-/ At one point we were sailing up there and a cruise ship was beneath us, so we waved while the whole ship waved back at us... it was like we were in a movie or something! *sigh* Did I mention it was amazing?! Haha. Then we just enjoyed the beach and eventually made it to a lookout for the sunset. For dinner we found a restraunt called "Pasta Basta". YUM. Amanda and I both got gnocchi, Amanda had hers with a 4 fromage sauce and I had a basic tomato sauce. This is where we met the couple from Ireland. They were super cute too! After dinner we met up with our friend Michael and his friend Jeff, we introduced them to the famous Finocchio's ice cream shop. They've got more than 100 flavors of ice cream including avacado, black olive, tomato basil... seriously. I didn't try any of those... but I did have my fair share. :)
Friday was kind of bittersweet. We were still in paradise, but we knew our return to reality was approaching quickly. :( We made the best of it. We had these yummy salads for lunch, just chef salads at a little place called "Granny's". We made our way to the Marc Chagall museum. It was really great, unfortunately I didn't have my ID on me, so I couldn't recieve the under 26 discount OR the audio commentary. I loved that the photos they had of him and his family they were all smiling. I think of Frida Kahlo and Picasso and the depressing lives they lead, but this Chagall seemed to really enjoy his life and used his gift of creativity to share that joy with others.
This is a photo of his piece called "L’Arche de Noé " or "Noah's Ark". Chagall chose to paint the inside of the Ark rather than its construction. "The meaning of this biblical episode is in the gathering of humanity and its delivery, arranged by God, to a new life, cleansed by the anticipation of a baptism: the Flood." I think it's so great how he focused on the new birth of humanity after the flood. I love a change of perspective. :)

After the Chagall museum we made our way back to the beach for a final farewell. We also made a pitstop (or two...) for some more ice cream before returning to reality. Here's a photo of my favorite place we found ice cream. It was fluffy and perfectly delicious... not to mention beautiful!
Goodbye, Nice. Until next time. :)