Friday, June 30, 2006

Nice Nice

Nice is quite nice. I didn't try to see everything. In fact, I spent more time in the casino than anywhere else. It was so nice and cool in there so I gave a lot of money to the roulette table. Initally, I thought it would be nice to go to Monaco and play with the high rollers but there wasn't enough time. However, I am pretty sure I saw George Clooney in his nice yacht, waving me over to him but I had to run and catch a train.

Although timely, the train ride was quite nice along the riviera. You could see the beautiful beaches and swanky places quite clearly. Definitely an area I will come back to with more time and planning. There were many, many tourists, lots of Americans (no nice comment) laid out on the beaches there.I didn't really 'get' why they chose to lay there since the beaches there, although lovely, were not so nice to walk on... some, who chose to walk without shoes, seemed quite pained.

To avoid the heat further I took my culturally-deprived ass to the Musée d'Art moderne et d'contemporain. I thought of my brother, Jason, who has shown some painting ability in the past.

J, if you want to duplicate this Yves Klein, just get Terri to roll around in blue paint and smush her up against a canvas like he did. I'm not the biggest fan of contemporary art. I don't appreciate the toys plastered to tiles, especially the dolls heads that cut up (I found that disturbing). And the blue dress made of water bottles? What's with that? There were some nice pieces there though and an overall nice experience.

This car reminds me of the last time I saw the nice Ford Tempo I once owned.

Ialso took a stroll around Vieux (Old) Nice - pretty colours and nice market. Yep, Nice is nice... I mean nice. Ilsa recommends.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Je ne comprende pas!

A few nights ago I went to the Théàtre de la Mar. It's an old Fortress converted into an ampitheatre. I didn't understand much - even the title told me nothing. It was called Act III - the guy at the Information office said last year was Act II and next year will be Act IV. But the audience laughed a few times so it must have been funny. It didn't matter though. The ambiance and costumes were wonderful.

Below is another shot from the viewpoint of the sea.
I took a little boat tour, again en français. I spoke to the guide in French just to get the info and pay and asked him if he spoke English. He said a little - I wasn't expecting much of course. But once the tour started, I was incredibly curious about what I was seeing since I had been seeing all these industrial structures and machinery, etc for many days.

When the tour started he gave a written guide in Dutch to a German couple so halfway through the tour I went up and interrupted his continuous French dialogue to ask him about an English written guide. He explained he thought I could understand French since I spoke in French (what do ya know?) but apologized profusely for not giving me the attention. He didn't have an English written guide but tried, unsuccessfully, to repeat en anglais some things.

There was a story about a seal but I have no idea what the gist of it was. All the other tourists were laughing at us because he made such an effort for me and tried to act it out, yet I was getting nothing. I have a feeling his french wasn't that clear either. We all had a good chuckle and the Germans bought me a beer afterward.

Here's a ferry that goes to Morocco every day and takes 36 hours (I learned that prior to the tour).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sur le Pont, d'Avignon...

I used to sing the nursery rhyme Sur le Pont, d'Avignon in much the same way I am communicating now while in France. Gibberish. I think I made up words like ... lonny's dancing, lonny's dancing... I didn't know any Lonny but it just sounded right.

Yesterday, I was in Avignon and visited the Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) and the famous bridge - Pont St Bénézet. I even took one of those petite train rides like a true tourist. There was much more to see there; however, I ran out of time and by then my feet were aaaccchhhiiiiinng. I wish my feet could keep up with the rest of me.

I wasn't actually all that impressed with the Palace. I had an audio guide which gave a lot of description but only really saw the rooms in a big stone palace. All the luxeries were taken with them when they left but it was easy to imagine the little Popes running up and down all the stairs in the narrow passages. They must have had strong legs and great butts. This photo includes the church with a golden Madonna. I didn't realize that there were 9 Popes there over a course of almost 100 years in the 14th Century.

My favourite part of Provence so far is the aroma from the herb fields all around. As my mother could attest (since she switched places with me at the Riders v. Stamps game to sit next to the man with bad body odour) I am blessed with a big nose for a reason, that being I have the most sensitive sense of smell ever. As you could imagine, this can be a curse as well as a blessing.

I picked some lavender and carried it around with me just in case... but now all I can smell is lavender.

Before Avignon, I was in Nimes (pardon, I can't find a way to put that little ^ on the i). Nimes seemed much cleaner and more polished than Séte but I could smell the disinfectant so they must pee on the streets there also. By the way, what is it with men here? Do they need to mark their territory or something? I remember my brothers peeing all over the place when they were little kids but I'm almost certain they have grown out of that phase. I hope! Possibly its because they have to pay 50 cents for a toilet without paper or a seat.

Enough about that. If you are an architecture buff you would definitely want to check this place out.

Sorry J, I didn't get to the Pont du Gard but I did take a stone from this Roman temple, Maison Carrée, which was built in 1st Century AD. It's in my backpack. I'll carry it around for a while and maybe post it to you later. Check out those nostrils!

Here's another famous ampitheatre, Les Arénes, where they still use it for bull fights, etc today. Also built in 1st Century AD and in amazingly excellent condition. I didn't take the tour as I only took 100£ with me that day and was considering the challenge of going on to Nice and seeing how far I could get along the French Riviera with only that amount.

I changed my mind after the cab ride to the train in which I could have walked in 10 min but got lost in garden before hand and didn't want to miss my train but ended up missing it anyway cost 15£.

Here's the 18th Century garden I got lost in... quite spectacular! It's like what you see in all the romantic stories... Romeo and Juliette or Wuthering Heights.

I was getting bored with scenery shots so had to give you some of myself. That expression is the same look you might see after I smell dirty diapers on trains, dog shit, or... you might be able to guess it. Yes, that's it -urine on the street!!

Many great places to stop and look at here. I love seeing the white horses and castles while on the road. Ilsa recommends... but would suggest a drive in a car instead of train.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bonne Fete Papa!!

Happy Birthday Dad. Check your email.

Here are some photos around Séte. Isn't it beautiful?

Sétois Style

I had the great fortune to be hosted by Ambassadeur Blanc and his daughter Sophie last night. He is the Rotarian I met last week. Sophie is visiting from Miami so I thought it was quite generous of them to give up their limited time together for a stranger. They were sure to make me sample all the authentic Sétois dishes and the best wine. His son has a cognac vineyard in Cognac, of course, so later we stopped at their villa for a sample to 'aid in digestion'. The ambassador is probably the most interesting person I have ever met. He has lived and traveled all over the world and had many exciting stories, like when he lived in Ottawa and had to travel into Quebec. He packed his skis and and stopped to ski along the side of the road wearing his suit and tie. Apparently he still skis in the Alps every year. Sophie said they let him go for free because of his age. They gave me great insight to the Séte culture and suggested the best places to see. Mérci Beaucoup Sophie et Mr Blanc.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm in Love!

It's true. It all started with casual glances then escalated to longing looks. We meet every morning for an espresso and its amazing. His name is Pain au Chocolat and we first met at my favorite patisserie. It was love at first bite!

Why I had never thought to put bread and chocolate together before is baffling. It makes perfect sense.... but then I strayed.

I don't know why I did it. I just got caught up in the sweet smells. I stayed too long at the Patisserie window I guess. But you can hardly blame me. When you get a good wif of something around here you really need to savour it. You never know (well actually, I do know) what is likely to be around the next corner.

It was bittersweet - I can't even remember his name now - something to do with pommes and sucre. Anyway, I swore I would never leave him again and PC took me back without hesitation.

But then a red flag. I discovered it a block from the train in Carcassonne - a duplicate of my favorite patisserie. A chain? Am I that stupide??

But when came back to Séte I found an original patisserie and this one was closer to my place so back I went again with Pain au Chocolate.

Tragically, this is a love was never meant to be. I had been trying to be like all the french women...taking home a baguette or two in the evenings, having a cheese sandwich for lunch. My body simply wasn't built for this lifestyle and I will spare you the details as to how I know this for sure.

Désolé Pain au Chocolat - it's you or me at 300 lbs!! I'll miss you but I will be sure to say hello (that's it - no physical contact) the next time I pass by.

Au revoir my sweet croissant!

Monday, June 19, 2006


This Mediaeval (it's not my spelling this time, its the way they spell 'Medieval' in France) Cité is the largest Medieval fortress in Europe. The Cité's defences are the culmination of many centuries of fortifications built on this spot by the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks. If it sounds like I'm copying from a text, I am (Lonely Planet France 1st Edition 1994). The only train didn't arrive in Carcassonne until 1600 hrs and I opted to walk the half hour to from the train instead of taxi so I ended up being pressed for time to discover everything. The Cité is very impressive and amazingly well kept. The girls from Montreal who I travelled there with were staying in a really cool hostel right inside.

I spent an hour walking aound inside and between the outside walls (where the knights used to joust). There was a map with the highlights but I was getting tired and knew I wouldn't retain anything so my sore feet took me a little pub where the World Cup game between Australia and Brazil was starting. There were only a few seats but some Aussies let me sit with them as long as I cheered for their team. It was the first match I watched and I really got into it. It certainly takes a lot more patience to watch than hockey... such an effort to score one goal.

The experience was a little surreal, watching a plasma sceen situated in front of huge chestnut tree which was shading us sitting in a courtyard with high stone walls. Our team lost but the we never could have matched the spirit of the Brazil fans when the game was over anyway.

On the way though was a little remeniscent of West Edmonton Mall's Bourbon Street... I can't imagine there being dozens of dress boutiques and gift shops in Medieval days!

From walking on those stones I have unbelievable blisters on my feet today. I look like I have a sixth toe on my left foot!!

Anyway, Ilsa recommends!

Apparently above is the view featured in Robin Hood, Prince of Thiefs from 1991 (but you won't find that in their brochures)

The photo to your right is a Basilica - very intricate stained glass all around and piped choir music. I sat in awesome wonder against a cool stone pillar to take it all in (that was before the 3 beers)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lazy Days

Above is the veiw from Johnathan's apartment. There is something about the colours of the old building accross the street that draw me to it. It's like looking at a painting when I look outside. On the right is the park across from his place.
I've been taking it easy the last couple of days... going to the beach and taking photographs. The beaches here are awsome... I still don't know how long the stretch is but many km and not very crowded. Since my lazy days helped me recoup from the cold, I walked up Mt St Clair, which is close but very steep... what a short but great workout (I will be sure to have buns of steel if i do that every day)!!
On my way up there I thought of my #1 nephew, Adam, who turns 14 today. It's amazing how quickly the mischievous, hot-tempered little redhead has turned into this tall, handsome young man with the most beautiful curly hair and blue eyes you ever did see. Joyeaux Anniversaire Adam!!

Here's the view from Mt St Clair.
I met some young backpackers from Montréal, who were equally unimpressed with the view of the old Dutch guy wearing only a t-shirt and underwear walking past us. It was a great to communicate openly in English again. They are going to join me tonight at the Rotary fundraiser to help translate and eat appetizers... they also understand the budget constraints of the Canadian dollar holders here in France.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rotary Around the World

Finally I figured out how to post photos on here.. its been an ordeal with the new camera and the blog instructions in French. This week children have been racing with these row boats down the canal every afternoon. The excitement they exuded was intoxicating and everyone stopped to watch them... far more spirit than I've witnessed at any NHL game.

Those who know me know that I belong to the Rotary Club of Calgary Millennium. It is a comfort to know there are clubs around the world that will offer camaraderie just for being a member. It's also a great organization which shares my values and allows my input into what charities we support.

Thus, feeling a bit off with inability to make connections due to language barrier, I decided to check out one of the Rotary clubs in Séte.

Throughout the week I had been admiring, or 'pondering' might be a better word, the fashionable women walking around here in high heels. How do they do it? They don't seem particularily comfortable on those cobble stone hills? Does it just take time to become accustomed to it?

So I thought I would try it out... off I went to the Rotary meeting, all decked out (in the finest attire my backpack and common sense would allow). I thought I looked pretty hot, even my crazy hair which I can't normally control in this humidity, didn't look too bad (in fact I know some who would call it 'big sexy hair'). Anyway, enough about my hair. As soon as I stepped out I saw beautiful women all over, gracefully walking around with their high heels and perfect clothes. I wasn't going to let them ruin my confidence. I held my head high and walked on... yep, right through biggest mound of dog doo doo you ever saw. And believe me, there are a lot of splats to choose from here. What is it about France? Wouldn't it be easier to ask people to have their dogs squat on the road or at least the side of the walkway instead of cleaning off the sidewalks every morning?? Je ne comprénde pas!

According the the Rotary International website, the meeting for the club was supposed to start at 8pm. After cleaning my footwear (and toes) in the grass, I managed to arrive 15 min early. The men were charming. They said they were happy to have me since it is an exclusively male club and my visit is an exception. The only fluent English speaker captivated my time. He is an Ambassadeur de France and in 1963, the diplomat was posted in Ottawa. Monsieur did not let anyone else speak to me much so I have no idea why the meeting ended at 8pm. I was disappointed as had expected a nice meal at very elegant Grand Hotel. However, a whiskey and invitations to join them for further events made the evening worthwhile.

Le Sud de France

So here I am in the South of France. I landed in Séte (if you want to check Séte out on a map - it is SE France along Mediterranean coast, near Montpellier) on Saturday but haven't travelled outside of it as yet. Turns out I came down with a bug and have not had the energy to go very far each day.

I couldn't have a better place to nurture myself, however. Johnathan's place is lovely. It's newly refurbished in an old character building. I knew I was home when I saw the face of the roman lady in front bearing my profile (poor thing.. forever in stone).

I have yet to get my camera working (a story of french bureaucracy I'll save for another day) so will post photos once that mission is accomplished. I can't wait to share the beauty of this area with you. There is so much colour and character everywhere. Séte is a fishing town of 40,000 people. I'm in the heart of city and its quite busy. There is always something to look at here. There are beautiful parks with flowers and fountains. Fishing boats and the canals bring so much colour and activities. The people are friendly and try their best to communicate despite my slaughtering of their language.

It turns out I really don't know how to speak french. The 'frenglish' thing just isn't working. At first, I would practice before going into the store or café and proudly recite my phrase. After too many attempts, the look of bewilderment on everyone's faces was more than my esteem could handle. They are happy to speak English if they can and now I am so confused that I feel I know less than when I arrived. I'm on French hiatus for a few days until I recover.

I thought a day at the beach would cure me of this nasty cold so off I went... not knowing how far. I'm still not sure in normal steps but my slow mode of the day took about 45 min, stopping to check out views, etc. I went to the first beach but I know there are bigger and better stretches (a few km long) further up the road - will check them out tomorrw. Preparing for some R'nR I found a cozy, semi-private spot to bare all and there it was... a blinding light which I later discovered to be the cause of tidal waves and Tsunami's all over the Mediterranean. You may have even seen the affects at home... No, that was no eclipse... it was my glaring white body (some thought it might be a Virgin Mary sighting). The opthamalogists in Séte are very busy this week.

So much yet to do today so will tell you a little more about Séte tomorrow.

Au revoir!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

You can't do Paris in a day!!

But you sure can try. And so I did... much to my chagrin I had to stay another night in Paris. Although I have always wanted to check it out, it was not on my itinerary for this trip, mostly due to expense. Plus, when I ended up at the Train Station (Gare du Nord) late the night before, I was unimpressed. It had been many hours of traveling... in fact, minus the time change, I spent my entire birthday in airports, on a plane, train, and train stations without seeing the light of day.

So you can imagine how much I was anticipating getting outside once I determined I would have to overnight there. There I was... midnight.. finally outside to take a deep gulp of French air... then almost vomitting due to the rank smell of urine. Turns out that it's not the best neighborhood and definitely not how I had envisioned the city of cafés and high fashion. There were homeless people and 'subjects of interest' all around me - me who was more than a little obvious with my backpack, large frame, fearful expression, etc. You've never seen a backpacker get her ass to a Hotel so quickly!!

The next day, after a few hours of sleep and discovering I couldn't get a train yet again, I knew I had to get out of that area. It was 2PM zhen I finally started my walking tour. Here are some highlights.

The Sacré Coeur was my first stop and a 20 min walk away. I never actually thought I'd get to see anything else since my feet and back were severely pained but I kept getting more and more inspired. There's a market behind there, in a cobble-stoned village. So glad I didn't miss it. Because it was close I made my way to the Moulin Rouge district... next time I may go back at night and work my way around!! Then a cemetary (can't remember name but trust me - its famous), the Eiffel Tower, and my favorite, Musée du Louvre. I knew I wanted to see the Mona Lisa but there are not enough hours in the day to see everything there, and I only had two. I highly recommend http:// By the way that painting is way smaller than I had imagined.

I almost gave up with the thought of putting my feet to rest but kept going along the Sienne... the sun was setting and I could see the Eiffel Tower behind me. It was the beautiful day and the scenery and the people were... well C'est magnifique!!

Finally, after seeing the Notre Dame from the outside only, I stopped for a bite at what I thought was an above-average cafè and food was quite good - must have been the magot I discovered mid-way through.

There is so much yet to see there so will be on my list of places to go for sure. I recommend!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Travel Tips from Abroad

First of all, three days after departure, I finally arrived at my destination. Instead of boring you with details of why it took so long, let me advise you of a few of the things I've learned so far.

1. If you ever decide to pack up and leave everything behind... leave everything behind! (my back is killing me).

2. Do not invite friends over to help you pack prior to a long journey, particularily if you only have a few hours.

3. Don't believe everything a stranger tells you, despite their seemingly kind intentions. Three hours walking around Heathrow Airport carrying 100+ pounds should have taught me that lesson right off but I've always been a bit of a slow learner... après le train station in Paris this started to sink in.

4. You don't HAVE to pay 6 Euros (approx 10 Cnd) for the smallest espresso you ever saw... just because your feet are sore and it looks like a nice place to sit .down

5. Last, but most importantly... appreciate all your mistakes... had I not had trouble getting to Séte (South of France), I would not have taken the time to explore Paris.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Before I Hit the Road

I need to say thanks to all my great friends who helped me with so many things... these hotties helped me move, along w/ Jay, Rob, and Dad (who aren't hot enough to post). You guys worked your butts off for me and I can't thank you enough.

Gib the Kid... thanks for giving me your home (and money). Diana, Cory, Nayid, my sweet cousins Carm & Carla - don't know what I would do without you all. Thanks to everyone for gifts, lunches, dinners, etc. I feel very blessed to have such great support in my life.

I'm still packing so will check in once in Europe. Bon Voyage!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Before I go

This is my first post, written by my favorite brother before I head off to see the world.

Don't forget about me!