Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nice, France

After a 7 hour train ride yesterday, I'm finally able to relax and enjoy myself these last couple of days. Nice seems to agree with me more as a French city... maybe it's the familiarity of the beach or the relaxed and safe atmosphere, but I'm pleased that this is where I'll be wrapping up my European journey. The hostel vibe takes me back to Freshman year in a good way and has eased my tension.

 One of the the hundreds of flowers I've photographed.

I've spent the day wondering around Nice, laying by the beach, a dip in the French Riviera, watching the boats go in and out of port and flights landing and taking off just off the coastal airport, a touristy train tour, as well reading in a coffee shop along the narrow streets of old city Nice. Funny I have most of these things within a mile from where I live in Fort Lauderdale, and I fully appreciate that a lot more now. I realize I have it made in the shade at home and fully intend to have days like this more often in my own town.

Fountain at the Grand Trianon of Versailles, France.

Marie Antoinette's Farm at Versailles.

Of course, the question of what next when back home looms in the air? But I'm excited and ready to embrace it. I may even be able to commit to a piece of furniture now too, seeing as the fantasy to restore an old French farmhouse is completely dead at the moment. But at least now I know. Blogging from London seems like so long ago, and this has been an opportunity of a lifetime... though every minute wasn't perfect, it was life and I appreciate every moment of it good and bad.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Dordogne

I'm setting out early this morning, leaving the Dordogne region for Nice, a long day, and hoping to return my rental car in early for a train ticket to avoid the drive, so I can relax and read while enjoying the rest of the journey. (And because the tolls and gas alone will be more than my monthly car payment! - Yes, I highly underestimated the price of a rental car here... with the crappy dollar conversion... Americans need a 2nd mortgage to drive abroad.)

I'll be staying at my first hostel - yikes! Supposed to be one of the top rated in Europe, but still after my first bed and breakfast, chateau, Paris apartment, and London flat, this will be a change. I will remain optimistic though! :)

House outside Beynac.

Beynac Castle.

 My evening writings at Les Quatre Pins.

As excited as I am to be home and not living out of a suitcase anymore, or rather unpacking and packing again every week... it gets harder to leave each place and I'm overcome with emotion. It will be especially hard to leave this little place of bliss and my memorable evenings in the warm French sun and delightful company.

Happy 30th Birthday to my sister-in-law Jen!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Checking In

 A cat in Beynac watches a bird.

I apologize for my absence, but I've been in Dordogne since Wednesday, and not spent much time on the computer. I have so much material to share, but first I will let you know that I've decided to make this my last week in Europe. While it's been quite a memorable experience, I've found it to be much too long to be away from home. It was a difficult decision, but I reached the point where it was the right thing to do...

 The chapel in the Jardins de Marqueyssac.

So after a week in the Loire Valley, then 5 days in Dordogne, I will conclude with a few days in Nice before returning home. It has been a lot to handle on my own, and though I couldn't be happier with the hospitality I've been shown both in Dordogne and Loire Valley; both accommodations will surely get their spotlight soon; when I have time to sort through all photos. But for now, I'm taking advantage of every moment I have here, and the past few days have been magnificant to say the least, after a year of researching and day dreaming about the area. But it's taken a lot of nerve to drive these windy narrow roads along cliffsides and navigating a map. Plus imagine pulling over roadside in the picturesque vineyards and French farmhouses, me in my long magenta dress trying to shoe a bee out of the car with the road map. It's been fun... but I'm ready to get home.

 My first evening in Grojelac, France outside my B&B terrace at Les Quatre Pins.

I'm already thinking Isla Fisher would make a good lead for this comedy of  American Girl in Europe movie for all the things I've encountered and couldn't even make up if I wanted to. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

L'Entrecote in Paris

Good Eats Wednesday

My favorite meal in Paris was at L'Entrecote. After reading mixed reviews on TripAdvisor I debated trying this restaurant... good thing I don't listen to reviews. Because in my opinion their World Famous Sauce was one of my best encounters in Paris... which tasted like a gourmet blend of mustard and butter; heaven on their traditional seared medium rare to rare tenderloin beef which is kept heated at your table. Though the fries were perfectly crisp, the ones that were smothered in sauce were oh so good. I'm going to have to try to replicate this sauce at home. They even brought me a second serving of it after witnessing me scraping every last bit, and it was comforting to see many 'business lunchers' rather than tourists when I went.

 Bon appetit!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

R&R in Loire

An Honest Post

The past few days I've been attempting a little R&R in the countryside. I've been doing my best to show you the good things, but not everyday has been peaches and cream, and while I've tried my hardest to leave most negativity off the blog and save for the travel diary, I was told that some like the " honest stories of exploit". Maybe it will help therapeutically for me to get it off my chest...

So I'm going to put all the bad out there once and for all, and hopefully be done with this spell of unfortunate luck lately. I've mentioned some things already but not all...

It really started with difficulties on my flight, which should have been an indicator --breaking my favorite camera lens in London, leaving my camera in Les Duex Magots in Paris (retrieved), getting pick pocketed at the Eiffel Tower (cash not retrieved), living with hives this week from an allergic reaction to a simple apricot pastry for a boulangerie breakfast, someone asking me for the time then exposing himself (I think that's considered assault), remaining calm as my laptop and passport carried on to Wolverhampton, England without me on the bus (also retrieved), and driving a manual through the Arc de Triomphe and streets of Paris. Yes, I handled all this with a deep breath until the breakdown came on my drive to Chenonceau via windy back roads and small villages, getting the car stuck on a very skinny road in the village, and after trying to manuever the stick, dirty looks, language barriers and a Frenchman who was kind enough to offer backing my car out for me, (while I prayed he didn't drive off with my belongings after the previous day's 'exposures' but not wanting to offend someone by grabbing my purse 'just in case' who was only trying to help). Fifteen minutes later I found solace in familiar McDonald's Happy Meal, brought out my phone which has hardly seen the light of day since I've been in Europe and when I heard my sweetheart's comforting voice broke down in tears as I plucked 'un-French' fries into my mouth and wiped drippy mascara with a golden arches napkin
I had finally broken down.

I know one day this will be a funny story... maybe even it's own National Lampoon's vacation story.

Which is why I'm so lucky to be in the perfect place for recovery...

 My bedroom view is beyond peaceful.

 with simple evenings in the garden

 & peaceful rivers.

Whenever I tell people I'm traveling alone, I get mixed responses of generally surprise, sometimes admiration, and other times pity. Sometimes it's frustrating that it just can't be seen as normal. What I thought was independent, others saw as brave or even weird. But I'm beginning to see after four weeks that things are better shared with others, which is why I'm grateful for the kind people I've encountered along the way, angry at those who've preyed on me and unfortunate a woman can't enjoy a simple dinner or photography outing without feeling uncomfortable, but thankful for the opportunity I've been given to experience everything, and now wise enough to appreciate what is in my own backyard.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Driving in Loire

Allow me to introduce you to my little car in France. We've been through so much together already and seen places I've awaited for so long to see. It's been beautiful and warm, the red poppies, and roses in bloom along the French countryside, and where my chateau awaits me in the evening in a village amongst many local vineyards along the Loire river. We've driven through Candes St- Martin (one's of France's most beautiful villages), Azay le-Rideau, and visited the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau yesterday. 

Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend! 

P.s. Happy Wedding Day to my friends Sean & Kristin!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011


Guest Post

A quick update from me...

Cinderella made it safely to her chateau! The driving went great, I just kind of threw myself into the heart of Paris and followed the herd and quickly exited. Though I'm going to have a word with Orbitz for not providing a direct address for the car rental. After googling, then discovering by cab that it was shut down due to a fire, which had a note on the door with the new address. So I'm glad I opted for a cab and not the metro, because the driver was my saint. I can't wait to show you some photos of my drive and my palace, where their motto is a "place of calm" in the heart of Bourgueil wine region. It's beyond fantastic!

But in the meantime, I have Kristen from Behold the Metatron guestposting for me today about her recent trip from Barcelona for Travel Thursday.

Barcelona is a fantastic place to visit. Every district has it’s own style and culture. From the Gothic Quarter’s narrow streets and old school architecture, to the Ramblas, bustling with street vendors and performers, you are bound to find a surprise around every corner!

Dine on the classics… like Paella, fresh seafood, and Patatas Bravas.

Sip Cervasas and cold crisp wines.

   And remember, always have the camera ready to capture a moment!

Be sure to check out Behold the Metatron for more adventures, great recipes, 
and adventures in NYC dining!
If you missed my guest post over at Kristen's blog a few weeks ago on asparagus & proscuitto wraps, you can check it out here.

Happy Traveling!!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Au revoir, Paris!

I'm leaving Paris tomorrow! :( I won't tell you how I really feel, not today anyway. Though I am quite emotional to leave my friend, Mimi, who is the first blog pal I've ever met in person, and we had such a great time, and the afternoon girl chats at cafes were nurturing to my soul.

But I am leaving by rental car to the Loire Valley where I'm staying in a chateau! Will tell you where afterward... this is the internet after all, and with my luck this week, I will do no such thing. Yes, I've been nervous for the past few days, because if anyone has ever been to Paris and seen the mass chaos of the Arc de Triomphe (I took a photo of it from the tour bus a few years ago, because I found it to be the craziest thing I've ever seen at rush hour). Well, I will be throwing myself right in the middle of it, within the first few minutes of driving in a foreign country in a manual car. Remember the movie Clueless, when they emerge on the freeway for the first time... let's hope it's not an episode like that. Pray for me... or pray for the Parisians.

Regardless, THIS is the part of the trip I've been most excited for... the next few weeks in the French country, and spent a year obsessing over.

Au revoir!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Louvre

Part 1

Some people love art, others find it boring. I didn't start appreciating it until only a couple years ago. In museums, I'm one that likes to look at the painting and read about it below. I don't sit and study each painting, but if it's one that speaks to me, I really like to read the time frame, the description, and if it has people in it who they were, and I think of their life back then. The fact that the paintings are so wonderfully preserved and survived from centuries ago, adds to the fascination.

 Many of these were from the Holland & French painting collection.

Do you have a favorite kind of art?
Ever been to the Louvre?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Sunday in Versailles

Greetings! Well after uploading so many pictures of Paris, I have so much material for it will be coming for awhile and some delayed. My main focus the past few days has been to do a Julie & Julia themed tour on my own, which I do a post for you later. This has been rather exciting for me to see Paris the way I like to see it, not swarmed with tourists. Which I'm on my 9th day here, and may be officially convinced that city life is not for me.

I'm also really interested in history, particularly French history, so touring Marie Antoinette's footsteps has also been another theme of mine. Which is the reason I spent yesterday at the Conciergerie which is an old prison on the Ile-de-la-Cite (near Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Palais de Justice), so I saw her jail cell where she was held for 76 days before hauled off in the tumbril carts to the guillotine. (Full post on the Conciergerie later.)

Today, I spent the day at Versailles. It was a cold day, and the sun was not a photographer's dream. But since I've been in the palace, I opted for the Gardens (or the Musical Gardens) in the morning, and in the afternoon the Grand Trianon, Petite Trianon, and Marie Antoinette's Estate and hamlet where she played a peasant when she wanted to escape Versailles. This was something I longed to see, since one of my favorite scenes in Sofia Coppola's, Marie Anotoinette, shows her frolicking the gardens, retrieving fresh farm eggs, and living amongst modest farmhouse means...one of my dreams. (Full post later as well.)

Have a good week!

All photos taken in Versailles.


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