Category: France

Me And Frenchie Housesits In City Of Montpellier

By , August 22, 2011 3:00 am
Nightfall From The Corum Montpellier

Nightfall From The Corum

When our friend, Leyla, asked us to housesit for her in Montpellier, you know Boris and I happily obliged. Our task for one week was to keep her plants alive. We’re moving to the city!

Montpellier is a one of the fastest growing cities in France and a pretty awesome city to live in. It has a great vibe with all the university students and also a very diverse mix. I read somewhere that there are more international students in Montpellier than in Paris so why be up north.

Our pad for the week is on the top floor with high ceilings extending into the roof. It’s been recently remodeled and they did a great job with the steel spiral staircase leading into the loft. The exposed wooden beams and white walls makes this place feel very comfortable, but as always, my favorite features of a French home are the wooden window shutters. As I stand out on the balcony, I’m staring down into an empty private garden and no one can see me (you can only assume what I’m wearing).

HDR Sunset Montpellier

HDR Sunset

Apartment We Housesit

View Of The Apartment From The 2d Floor

We couldn’t be in a better location, as we are right next to all the shopping, restaurants, and public transportation. In the morning, we put on our ‘I look like I just woke up, but still looking very sexy’ outfits and in two minutes, we are walking through the Place de la Comédie (center plaza). It is mostly tourists snapping away with their cameras or folks trying to get to work (I have forgotten how that feels like). The smell coming from a nearby bakery is too strong for us to resist so we give into their chocolate croissants and pick up some Colombian coffee beans for the house.

Boris even meets his dear friend, Gaëlle, at the free city zoo!

Baby Zebra zoo lunaret Montpellier

Baby Zebra

Caiman zoo Montpellier Lunaret

Caiman

Red Ibis zoo Montpellier Lunaret

Red Ibis

At night, everyone is out walking in the park or having dinner outside. In the central plaza, there are crowds circling the break-dancers and the city is pumping with music.

Night Life On The Place De La Comédie Montpellier

Night Life On The Place De La Comédie

For the entire week, we just enjoy the sounds of the city again. We had no expectations and no things-to-do list. This was a great way for us to explore and get to know Montpellier. Thank you Leyla. And she will be happy to know her plants are still alive!

Stationnement Interdit

Stationnement Interdit

Female White-Faced Saki zoo Lunaret Montpellier

Female White-Faced Saki

Place De La Comédie @ Night Montpellier

Place De La Comédie @ Night

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Paris For The First Time {Part 4/4}

By , August 10, 2011 4:49 am
Versailles

Versailles

We are all having a great time so far on my parents’ first trip to France. The south of France has been spoiling them with perfect weather, wonderful dining experiences, and breathtaking landscapes. Then on our road trip up north, everything is going according to plan. If they left France right now, I know they would have only great things to say about France. But before they leave, we have one last city to see, Paris.

With only one and half day in Paris, it’s my job to make sure my parents see what the entire buzz is about Paris. What would be the first place you would bring your parents to if you were me? Would you get Disneyland Paris tickets?

My Parents At Versailles

My Parents At Versailles

If you said Versailles, you are correct. I have many warm memories at this place:

During college, my girlfriends and I took what began a yearly all-girls trip, to Paris. We roamed the gardens of Versailles for hours and laid on the grass talking about our futures.

Then many years later, I returned to this place to experience it again with my Frenchie. It began snowing and I should have been frozen in my sandals, but being with the guy of my dreams, it felt like springtime in the park.

Then to repeat the experience all over again with my parents, I happily oblige.

First Time In Versailles Ages Ago

First Time In Versailles Ages Ago

Second Time In Versailles With Frenchie

Second Time In Versailles With Frenchie Years Ago

Versailles Today

Versailles Today

It's a HOT DAY!

It's a HOT DAY!

As we are standing inside the city of Paris, my parents are in awe. They love all the pretty buildings around us. Everywhere we look, there is an even more impressive building, including the Louvre. There is really not one ordinary or ugly building in sight.

The Louvre

The Louvre

Opéra Garnier

Opéra Garnier

La Madeleine

La Madeleine

We stumble upon this cute restaurant to try for their first dining experience in Paris. The wine pairing is excellent and the food is unforgettable. We are very happy with our pick and when then the bill arrives, we are charged for 5 people, but we are only 4. Boris informs the waiter, who is drinking wine at every chance, and he apologizes for the mistake. Always double check your bill folks, even at fancy restaurants!

I took down the name of the wine and now it’s one of my favorites: Domaine Duseigneur Lirac Antares 2009

Bistrot du Sommelier Restaurant in Paris

Bistrot du Sommelier Restaurant in Paris

In the morning, we join the long lines of people eager to see the Eiffel Tower. During the three hours of waiting, we meet two wonderful Canadians in line. Thanks George and Charlie for making time fly by!

When we do make it to the elevator, it brings us only to the second level. We wait about another hour to get on the second elevator that brings us to the top.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Note to self for next time: make reservations two months in advance for the Eiffel so you don’t have to wait in line at all. If not, walk the stairs to the second level of the Eiffel and then buy your tickets to the top.

Parents At The Top Of The Eiffel

Parents At The Top Of The Eiffel

Grand View From Eiffel

Grand View From Eiffel

When we finally reach 80 stories high, we are greeted with champagne (not free of course). With zoom lens, we can see inside the courtyards of all the buildings in Paris.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Trocadéro in Mini Mode

Trocadéro in Mini Mode

Les Invalides

Les Invalides

I’m not sure if it is only my family that does this, but we have to see every Chinatown in all the big cities we visit. It’s not much of a Chinatown as there is maybe ten Asian restaurants in total, but the area feels like the new cool place to live.

We couldn’t resist the yummy smell and join the long line wrapping around this Vietnamese restaurant. Folks, stand back as we have found something worth coming to Paris for, besides the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. The pho (Vietnamese noodle) at Pho 14 is better than the pho we had in Vietnam (and California)! The other dishes we try are mediocre.

Pho Banh Cuon 14
129 ave de Choisy
Paris

Pho Vietnamese Noodles In Paris  (Pho 14)

Pho Vietnamese Noodles In Paris (Pho 14)

Now what I have not told you is the drama that unfolds during our time in Paris. We use Hotels.com to book our stay in Paris. Even after receiving confirmation of our reservations, we come to learn about a computer error upon check-in. It seems like they have overbooked hundreds of people and ALL the hotels inside Paris are full. We are on the phone with the rep for four hours before finding us one hotel to sleep at.

We drive about one hour outside the city to a random place that got booked for us. Whenever Boris and I are faced with extreme bad luck, it’s remarkable how some good does come out of it.

Arial Shot of The Moat

Arial Shot of The Moat

We check into the gorgeous Chateau d’Esclimont, a Renaissance castle set on 150 acres of gardens built in 1543 for the Archbishop of Tours. Me And Frenchie’s room is situated in one of the rounded towers with a private balcony overlooking the moat. The interiors are completely adorned for a queen and my king.

While Boris is away to check on my parents and use the Internet, I pamper myself with a bath and the sounds of the castle at night start to be intimidating.

Chateau d'Esclimont

Chateau d'Esclimont

Keys To Me & Frenchie's Room

Keys To Me & Frenchie's Room

Frenchie Feeling At Home

Frenchie Feeling At Home

While our stay at the castle is a very cool experience, the drama while in Paris still lingers.  My parents want to visit their friends in Denmark after Paris, so I use Orbitz.com to book them a flight. After getting what I thought was a confirmation, I get another e-mail 24 hours later from Orbitz that the flight is overbooked. Luckily, I’m able to book direct with the airline and also get a lower price! Then I get tempted by the flights to Tenerife.

orbitz

On our way to the airport, we are stuck in terrible traffic. We listen to the radio to find out what’s going on. Not only do the strikes with Air France continue, they are facing some IT issues with their computers so it is another chaotic day at the airports with ongoing delays.

As we continue moving inch by inch on the highway, we run into a group of taxi drivers who are telling us to drive around them. Then we hear on the radio that there is a taxi strike so that is what we are seeing.

Folks, if you want to have a strike that is fine. But when it starts to endanger people, like deciding to have a strike on the highway, you should be thrown in jail.

Thank you for accompanying us on all this drama. Don’t let our bad luck stop you from coming to Paris or France, but just be aware this can happen, especially during the busy seasons. My parents had an amazing trip and they want to see more of Europe on their next vacation.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Candlelit Hallway

Candlelit Hallway

Stained Glass Window

Stained Glass Window

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Slow Travel Through France {part 3}

By , August 8, 2011 1:34 pm

To get from the south of France to Paris, we decide to take a road trip with my parents. Usually on family trips like this, the car would be packed in with my siblings and the only sounds you can hear is all of us screaming (how we like to talk to each other). This time around, it is a lot quieter with just the four of us, my parents and Me and Frenchie.

Slow Travel Through France

Slow Travel Through France

The south of France is known for its endless fields of lavender during the summertime. Once we crack open the windows, the aroma of lavender quickly finds its way in the car and this is all we can smell for the next twenty miles. We make a photo stop and sneak a piece of the lavender in our pockets to save it for later.

Lavender

Lavender

My Parents In A Field of Lavender

My Parents In A Field of Lavender

In appreciation of Roman architecture, we visit the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge. It is nice to get out of the car and do a little walking. As weekends are extremely busy, the place is filled with international tourists. There are also lots of folks hanging out in cabanas by the water. With the sun blazing, the rocks are absorbing all the heat so it gets really hot in this region.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Our next stop to see Ardeche is something new for both my parents and I. At a scenic viewpoint, there is a goat greeting us outside our car. Yes, this is very random. We drive in closer to the Ardeche River to get a upfront view of the Pont d’Arc. It is an impressive natural arch right on the river. There are lots of swimmers and canoers and I can see why this is a popular camping spot.

Nice Goat

Nice Goat

Ardeche

Ardeche

Pont Arc in Ardeche

Pont d'Arc in Ardeche

In addition to the pretty villages in the south, the cities are also very interesting, so we spend a night in the city of Lyon. The old city is buzzing with nightlife as everyone is out having dinner and drinks. Eating in Lyon is always yummy as there is so much variety. We try pork knuckles and white-skinned Lyon sausages, which are all very tasty. To walk it off, we do a late-night stroll up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere for a complete view of the city.

Pretty City of Lyon

Pretty City of Lyon

Lots of Chimneys

Lots of Chimneys

In the morning, after making a stop at the bakery for chocolate croissants and coffee, the fun begins as we visit the various traboules. Back in the day, silk manufacturers and merchants would transport their products through these passageways so they can get from their house to the river faster while remaining sheltered. Traboules are one of the highlights of Lyon and it is well worth seeing as it unique to Lyon and a few other French cities.

Traboule (source: petitesandrine @ flickr)

Traboule (source: petitesandrine @ flickr)

A Famous Staircase

A Famous Staircase

Another Nice Staircase

Another Nice Staircase

Notre Dame De Fourvière

Notre Dame De Fourvière

View From Notre Dame

View From Notre Dame

My parents are very pleased with their trip to the south of France. Some of the things they pointed out, that I thought is worth mentioning, is how many of the places we went to see are free. In the US, we have to pay to see everything, including state parks. And even amidst a busy summer, many spots are not packed like it would be in the US. But they are most impressed with the landscapes and how they are so different from one place to the next. Then the dining experience is unforgettable each time. I think my parents like the south of France as much as I do.

Sky of Lyon

Sky of Lyon

Everything is going well in the south. As we make our way north, everything changes when we get to Paris. We will return to drama in our next post.

To be continued…

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Visiting The South Of France For The 1st Time {Part 2}

By , August 4, 2011 1:24 pm
Navacelles in the South of France

Navacelles in the South of France

Boris and I are hosting my parents for a week for their first time in France (and first trip to Europe). I have not been given many opportunities to observe my parents do things for the first time, but when it does happen occasionally, it is always entertaining.

As Americans, we usually greet one another with hugs or a handshake. But while in France, French customs call for kissing so how did my parents do? They were very stiff in their greetings, but my mother did well overall. As for my father, I couldn’t believe he opted for the handshake when it came time to greet another male!

Both Families Together For The First Time

Both Families Together For The First Time

During their first meal, my mother gets a little tipsy after having champagne. My father, on the other hand, is really enjoying all the courses of a French meal, down to the digestif. Since he is insistent on trying everything, we give him really strong smelly cheese, called Roquefort, to try. His reaction is quite memorable as he says, “There is a problem with this one.”

Roquefort Cheese

Roquefort Cheese (green stuff is mold)

There is so much to see in the south but with just a few days here, we manage to squeeze in a few lovely villages. Our first stop is St Guilhem le Desert, which I always enjoy visiting. Along our walk to see the gorges, there are lots of children jumping off the rocks into the clear blue water. Then we make our way to the medieval village where there are lots of little pathways filled with shops. Our visit to the monastery is free and I am surprised to learn that part of exterior courtyard was shipped to a museum in NYC (The Cloisters).

Gorge of St Guilhem le Désert

Gorge of St Guilhem le Désert

Gellone Monastery

Gellone Monastery

Cloister of The Gellone Monastery

Cloister of The Gellone Monastery

My parents appreciate different landscapes and we want to show them something they will never forget. While making our way through the windy roads to our next stop, we come upon a open field of Cardabelle flowers. These flowers are only seen in this region and they help predict if it is going to rain.

Cardabelle Flower Not Fully Bloomed

Cardabelle Flower Not Fully Bloomed

Dried-Up Cardabelle Flower Out in The Wild

Dried-Up Cardabelle Flower Out in The Wild

We finally arrive at a scenic viewpoint of Cirque de Navacelles where we have an impressive view of a limestone plateau that has been carved out from the Vis River that once flowed through it in an oxbow shape. Now that the river has taken a different course, it has left behind a small island in the middle, an oasis of green with a picturesque village, a waterfall, and many natural swimming pools.

Navacelles

Navacelles

Our next point of interest is the place that actually convinced me to visit the south of France with my Frenchie for the first time. As a lover of architecture and all things pretty, the Millau Viaduct is not only the tallest bridge in the world, but an impressive one by sight. The seven pillars that help support the bridge are each anchored with metals cables and make it more aesthetically pleasing. However, my favorite part is how the bridge bends over the town of Millau.

One of The Seven Pillars of The Millau Viaduct

One of The Seven Pillars of The Millau Viaduct

Town of Millau

Viaduct of Millau

As my parents are really enjoying their trip in the south, it’s time to make our way north to Paris.  While we have the option of taking a train up north, we decide to do a road trip (cheap car hire france).

To be continued…

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

The Adventures of First Timers in Europe {Part 1}

By , August 1, 2011 3:29 am

First experiences are always memorable no matter if good or bad. On a last-minute decision, my parents decide to come and visit us in France. It is going to be their first time ever in France, but also in Europe! I would like to share their story with you because in all my travels, I have never experienced so much bad luck all at once, as they did. My poor parents.

They are all packed and eager for their trip. As they arrive in the airport to check-in in the US, they are informed that their Air France flight has been cancelled, even though they were able to successfully check-in online a few hours ago. As it turns out, Air France is experiencing a strike. Luckily, they are able to get on a new flight, an indirect flight from Boston through Canada to Paris.

And how helpful, 15 minutes before their original flight was supposed to take off, they get an e-mail from Air France:

Air France Cancellation E-mail 15 Mins Before Departure

Air France Cancellation E-mail 15 Mins Before Departure

They arrive in Canada and all the other passengers trying to get to Paris, along with my parents, make a run for their connecting flight. Successfully at the gate, they try to board. Oh, they can’t find them on the flight. What!?* It looks like there is another bleep and the Air France rep in Boston didn’t successfully book them on the connecting flight. They are advised to go back to the main departure terminal and have it straighten out. Oh my goodness!

In short, after hours of waiting to be rebooked, they board another flight to Paris. There is no spare time to get food, so they are starving at this point. Ah, this is when the great reviews for Air France start to be true. Shortly after boarding, they are served food and alcoholic drinks, for free! And the thought of seeing me in a few hours made them forget all the craziness that occurred a few hours ago and they are able to laugh it away with the other passengers onboard.

Wine onboard Air France

Wine onboard Air France (source: njee1979 @ Flickr)

And finally, they have their first smell of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. But this is not their final destination. To make it to the heart of France, they have a connecting flight to Montpellier, which of course, they missed because of the error in Canada. No biggie, they will just take the next flight, six hours later.

About ten hours after their original arrival time, I’m able to greet my mother and father in the south of France. I want to show them everything and have them fall in love with France as I have.

And yes, my parents are still awaiting an apology letter from Air France.

… To be continued as their bad + good luck doesn’t end here.

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