Monday, September 21, 2015

Annecy et la Genève

This weekend we went to Annecy, France, and Geneva, Switzerland! Annecy was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s a small, Germanic town on the border of Switzerland and France. It was very chilly; I needed to wear layers and it was too cold for my Tevas. The town reminded me of Colorado; it was very sporty, people were running, biking, and rollerblading all over town. The town surrounds a huge lake- Lac d’Annecy- and it was so beautiful with the crystal clear water and the French Alps in the backdrop.

DAY 1:

The first day we got there, Friday, we went paragliding! I can’t believe we did that. We did tandem paragliding, so I drove up this huge mountain in a tiny bus and jumped off a mountain with a man named Eddy strapped to my back. We sailed around the mountain, dipped in and out of the trees, and sailed over the lake. It was so incredible and surreal. I couldn’t believe it. At the end, we even did some tricks when I thought my head was going to explode. After paragliding, we were so exhausted even though we didn’t do anything. We went back, relaxed, and went to a cheese shop, bakery, and Monoprix for a picnic in the park. We had delicious rosé and laughed until our stomachs hurt. After, we walked around the lake for awhile as the sun set, then went to a bar called “Beer O’Clock”, where you can pour your own craft beers.

DAY 2:

The second day, Saturday, we got up early to take the bus to Geneva. For some reason, we got the bus ride for free, and we loved the scenic 2-hour ride. When we got there, however, it was very underwhelming. It’s around a giant lake, Lake Geneva, with the famous Jet d’Eau and a few statues here and there, and it’s all very pretty. But the city is made for billionaires. We passed Céline, Prada, Gucci, Rolex, Louis Vuitton. There were barely any stores even somewhat in our price range. So, we meandered about until lunchtime, when we went to a recommended fondue place. Besides the fact that I had thick, creamy dressing literally dumped on my salad, we asked for fondue for 6 people and were charged 150 SWISS FRANCS! Which is 150 dollars for melted cheese. We laughed out loud and said no. We ended up ordering two people’s worth and it was more than enough. It was also incredible. After our cheese, and seeing some naked old women swimming in the lake, we walked to the United Nations, which was cool to see but closed. We also saw UNHCR, Unicef, the Red Cross, and basically every single other organization. We wanted a water or a coffee after, but small coffees at Starbucks were 8 dollars. Water, 5 dollars. We ended up getting some (admittedly great) Swiss chocolate and returning back to our love, Annecy. We got a FABULOUS dinner of create-your-own stir fry, and then we went back to the beer bar, where a woman held a kitten next to us and fed it sausage. Ah, the French.

DAY 3:

On Sunday, I woke up early to go to the markets to get some fruit. I ended up getting some delicious spice bread, pain d’épices, along with figs, the best apples I’ve ever had, and some fresh yoghurts. After the markets, we rollerbladed along the lake, which was so beautiful and fun. After that, we walked around and got some souvenirs before cleaning up and going home.

We loved Annecy, and I think it’s going to be hard for other places to measure up.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Snapshot: Cassis

Last Sunday, we went to Cassis. Cassis is a beautiful seaside port city that is famous for its jagged white mountains called Les Calanques. We took a boat ride out to see these famous mountains, and I was awestruck in front of them. They are so big and so blindingly white. The water was also the clearest water I have ever seen. We were in 100 feet of water and I could see straight to the bottom of the ocean. There were entire schools of blue Dory-from-Finding-Nemo fish. It was incredible.

The town was also very cute. We had an amazing lunch on the water and I had a Provencal specialty, l’aioli, basically garlic mayonnaise that you dip cod, potatoes, and vegetables into. Besides the fact that I smelled like garlic the whole day, it was incredible.

We changed into our bathing suits and sunned ourselves on the rocks for awhile, which was very relaxing and beautiful. It’s a hard life, relaxing on the French Riviera.

Snapshot: Markets

The markets are incredible. Aix is known for its markets, which are every day of the week! There are also special vintage markets and clothes markets on certain days. Every single product is from Provence, or at least France, and they are incredible. Let me repeat. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Every single thing that I put in my mouth is the best thing I’ve ever had. The freshest and juiciest peaches. The ripest figs (not counting the ones I picked off a tree along the street). The tangiest, freshest chevre. The best wine. Everything! And everything is extremely cheap! People who live here actually come to the market every day in order to buy their food for the day. The bread that comes from the bakeries doesn’t have any kind of preservatives, so you have to buy a new loaf every day (and at 50 cents a loaf, it’s not a problem).

I have been living off of goat cheese, bread, and fruit. I sincerely have not had anything else to eat. Is that wrong? Because it feels right.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

aix marks the spot

Wow. So I am officially in France. It feels unbelievable to think that I have been looking forward to this my whole life, and now I am finally here.

I’ve had a whirlwind of a year. Sophomore spring to Dublin to Aix… I don’t even feel like the same person anymore.

On the plane over here, I had so many expectations, anxieties, hopes. What would it be like? Would I love France and want to stay? Would I feel at home here? I had no idea.

I’ve only been here a week, so I can’t say for sure, but it is both much better, and also different, than I expected.

My program is through Vanderbilt, and the classes are taught in French with Vanderbilt-hired teachers. However, they are all actually French, so we really are taking college classes in quick, dizzying French. I am taking the History of Provence, Art and Literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, Advanced Conversational French, and French Cinema. They all seem awesome and I love the teachers.

It is very exhausting speaking French all day! I’ve definitely improved a TON but it is hard to keep up and concentrate all day. Sometimes I just want to lie down with a pillow over my head and not talk to anyone. But now I can understand basically everything that anyone says, and I can actually speak back, even if I stumble through words.

I really like the girls in the program! It’s interesting seeing what Vanderbilt students are like. Some are super Southern and confirm all the adorable stereotypes. They have monograms, wear Jack Rogers, carry Longchamp bags, and have similar styles.  I also have a roommate from Monaco who is 17 and is preparing to apply to the French version of the Ivy Leagues. She is awesome!

The best part of this program so far (besides the amazing markets and the food) is our host-dinner mom, Manuela. Each night, Monday through Thursday, we eat dinner at this little 60 year old woman’s house. She cooks a 4 course dinner for us every night! And it is so fantastic. Tonight, we had a tomato salad with sea salt from her garden, then les moules frites, mussels with French fries (which were incredible! I had no idea I loved mussels!) then the cheese course, which is always le pain et le brie et le gruyere et le brebis, and then fruit. Figs and nectarines. Yum.

This city is so beautiful and so charming. There is so much history and everyone is so happy all the time. It is always sunny and warm. Always. I love it.

à bientot!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Giant's Causeway

For our last weekend trip, we went to Giant's Causeway!

Giant's Causeway is in Northern Ireland, which is another country, in case you didn't know.

I didn't at first! Short explanation of the two countries:

Ireland has been historically oppressed by the British since the 1600s, arguably, even longer. It was ruled over by the British king, and the vast majority of Irish people were poor, Catholic, and farmers. The loyalist British population was wealthy, merchants, and loyal to the crown.

The Irish potato famine in 1845-1852 convinced many Irish people that British oppression was not working. Many Irish left for America, and there are still theories that the potato famine was actually an attempted genocide by the British government.

Irish Republican organizations were powerful in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and following a period of war, Ireland got its independence- all except 3 counties in the North of the country. That, today, is still known as Northern Ireland, and still belongs to the Crown.

The question of a united Ireland is still extremely debated, and even violent at times.

Despite this tricky background, Giant's Causeway was one of the most fun trips that we have taken. The weather was absolutely amazing, which complemented the scenery perfectly. We had two amazing meals at classic inns, and we spent Saturday sightseeing.

Saturday night, we went into a nearby town to experience the nightlife. It was so interesting to see a rural Northern Irish town- everyone we met was fascinated by the Americans, and their accents were so funny!

Sunday, we visited some scenic monuments, and even got to go horseback riding!

One of the Shanahan daughters was pretty experienced, so she and I got to canter and gallop up the hills, through streams, and through forests. It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I've had.

It was a beautiful, relaxing, and calm weekend that I won't forget!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Last weekend, we took a trip to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. It was our first overnight trip, and we were all so excited!

Friday, after work, we went to Heuston station with all of our bags. The trains in Ireland are really efficient, clean, and quick. Two hours later, we arrived in the quaint town of Galway. Classically, it was raining. 

First things first, we went and bought alcohol from a little window that opened into the street. I bought two bottles of wine. Very authentic.

After dancing to Beyoncé and Kanye West in our room, we headed out to a bar called the Quays (pronounced "key" and it means an area next to the river). There was an excellent band that played "Sex On Fire" by Kings of Leon and a bunch of American music. We met some guys from Galway who told us all about the farms they lived on. 

Afterwards, we ate pizza in the street!

After getting a solid 4 hours of sleep, we woke up and ate the hotel's free breakfast, which was one of the best I've ever had. All-you-can-eat yogurt, homemade granola, and fruit, as well as anything you wanted off the menu. Yum. 

To get to the Aran Islands, we took a bus (1 hr) to a ferry (1 hr) which was so rough that people were throwing up everywhere. I was lucky that I don't get motion sickness, so I was able to go outside and look out over the freezing Atlantic sea. I was being blown around like a doll. After an hour, we finally got to the Aran Islands. It was pouring and freezing. We were very underdressed and miserable, and some people didn't have rain jackets, so we went to get soup. 

We ended up getting really good bread and soup, and we got to dry our hair under the dryers. We were happy and we dried off a bit. Then, we got in a big white van driven by an old man. Haha. It was a bus tour all over the island and we trekked up this huge mountain in the rain to a fort that was so beautiful. I was so delirious from my physical discomfort that I didn't care about how wet and cold I was so I started running around and having a great time. 

That night, we went to the Quays again, followed by a bar called Busker Brownes. There, we danced and crashed a 30 year olds birthday party, ate his chocolate cake, and danced for like an hour downstairs. After, we went and got a slice of the same pizza, then walked back to our hotel. We were going to go back, but there was a huge party there! We danced for another hour, and it was so fun! We danced to ABBA, Taylor Swift, and old bands, and there were older people dancing who were so fun!

The next morning, we walked around Galway and shopped at the markets and listened to street performers. It was such a beautiful little city, and I wish we had more time there. Instead, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which was beautiful but a tourist trap.

So far, Galway has been my favorite part of Ireland!

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Hi! I blog at Brunch and Bijoux. Celebrating les belles petites choses in life.
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