Sunday, November 25, 2018

The One with the Alps, Fog and Italy

Coucou à tous et à toutes ! It’s your favorite mountain goat here back from vacation — my housemates’ friends came to visit these past 2 weeks so I’ve been tagging along on all their aventures. 

The first trip was to Monaco for a few hours (what is my life!?) It was fun to see the casino and walk around Monte Carlo for a bit before hopping back on a train to Nice! That’s wild to me that so many places are a short train ride away. 

let's Mona-go!

Our next trip was to rent a car and head to the Alps to faire une randonnée (go for a hike)! We hit a few bumps in the road with renting the car (turns out you need 3 forms of identity!) but we headed up the route to school and then turned to a different part of the Alps. The drive up was stunning with views of the mountains and the autumn leaves. We stopped at the town close by to grab some snacks before heading to the national park. The scenery kept getting prettier and we started to drive by some neige on the ground ... 

Alp us out!

We left a little late for our hike and it took a bit longer than we thought as we were trudging through lots of slippery mud in the rain. But the views made up for all of it - the trees were so yellow it seemed almost photoshopped (#nofilter). We got about halfway to the lake when we realized we were maybe underprepared for this hike with our sneakers and lack of winter jackets and late start. So we ended up stopping at a waterfall and taking pictures before turning back. All in all, definitely a good decision since it was almost dark when we got back to the car! 

Always stopping for the perfect shot // Housemates tackled the mountains!

Our drive down is when it got a little harrowing - I’d never believed the expression “fog as thick as pea soup” until this moment when we were driving down switchbacked, narrow mountain roads barely able to see 3 feet in front of the car. The car of 4 girls was completely silent for about an hour until we could see again! Something to write home about for sure. 

We returned the car with only making 2 laps around the airport to find the car return section. We went back home and had some well-deserved pasta and wine to end our very long day! 

School was low key this week - highlights included reading horoscopes and doing quizzes from the newspaper with the teachers Monday evening and this conversation with one of my secondes:
Me: “what is your favorite food and why?” 
Student: “you” 
(The class and mostly me are cracking up) 
Student: “uh no I didn’t mean that - it was a question - you?”

But we all know I’m a snack ;) 

School views -  pas mal!

More pals of the housemates are here this weekend so we set off to Ventimiglia on Friday morning par train to see the Italian markets! The first city in Italy is only about 1 hour away from Nice and we always talked about hopping over for a day. On the train Melissa and I ended up talking to a cute older woman from nice who goes to the markers a lot- she ended up giving us so much advice and even led us into town and to where the markets are. 

Ventimiglia has a fruit and veggie market and a clothes and goods street markers downtown. Usually, the fruit markets close around 12/1 pm but since it was Friday they were open until 4 and we decided to go to the clothes market for a bit before grabbing food. There was so much leather and winter jackets and it was so nice to walk around and window shop (and listen to the mix of Italian and French around). 

Lunch was a huuuuge helping of homemade Italian pasta! Mel and I split a truffle mushroom cream dish that was to die for! 

There wasn't mushroom in our bellies after this meal!

After lunch, we slowly pulled our stuffed selves off of our seats and walked along the beach for a bit (and took some pictures bien sur). We stumbled back upon the fruit and veggie market and peeked around. Some purchases included phallic-shaped pasta, a cactus, and a sampling of pistache liqueur. 


We walked back to the ocean just as the sun was setting and climbed up to the old town to catch the last rays climbing down below the sea. Ended our day in Italy with some gelato as we hopped on the train. Grabbed a drink with another assistant I met in Budapest to end a lovely Friday! 
running out of pistache puns ... 

Saturday afternoon, we headed to Villefranche-sur-Mer for a seaside stroll ... which ended up being quite a randonnée. Katie and I were underprepared for this rocky walk with our heeled boots and jeans (comme d’habitude) but we still had a nice time with lots of good pictures! Saturday night I stayed in with Melissa and Hallie which was definitely needed after a busy weekend. 

every good photoshoot includes bread - bien sur !

Sunday we tried to go to Tete de Chien which is a hike in Cap d’Ail but we didn’t realize how long it would take to get there. So I left and headed back to Nice so I could make dinner before I crashed early (girls gotta get up at 5:45 on Mondays). The train station was questionable so I ended up hiking through the hilly town to catch the bus back (and a killer sunset). 

coucher de soleil - sleeping of the sun 

I’m wiped - these last 2 weekends were not a time to relax but lots of fun quand même. Katie and I hosted some other assistants over for Thanksgiving and it was a blast! Besides an old man yelling at us that the party needed to be over by 10 pm (it was only 8 pm when he knocked on our door), there was lots of fun, food, and friends! A perfect way to celebrate. 

À la prochaine, 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Les vacances de Toussaint

Bonnes vacances ! Happy break! After a solid three weeks of teaching (one of which was just introducing myself) we totally deserved a two-week break. So, Friday I took myself to the beach to celebrate the start of vacation. Saturday morning, I woke up and headed to the airport to fly to Madrid to visit some of my college girlfriends. Kristen met me at the airport and we metro-ed into the city. I miss being in a bigger city a little bit and being able to hop on the metro (the tram in Nice is not the same!). The chicas and I grabbed brunch at a cute café near their apartment before wandering around Madrid in the afternoon.

Avo-gotta have some brunch!                 Back to taking pics of the calles

Dinner was back at (one of) my favorite places I’ve ever eaten – Takos al Pastor! I missed tacos and seasonings so much … don’t get me wrong French food is très delicieuse but Lele needs some spice in her life! We came back and they had some friends over before going out to a bar in their neighborhood. We didn’t get back until 3 am – classic España!

Taco-bout true love ... <3 

The next morning we got up a bit early because we went to see the running of 1000 sheep for a parade to celebrate the harvest and fall. Sadly, the sheep were about an hour late (perhaps they had a late night as well?). But it was very cool to see them! After a homemade breakfast, Kristen and I walked around Madrid and found a cute rooftop garden for a cerveza. Late lunch/early dinner of jamon & tomate meant churros for dessert!

O-vey-jas !                        Was garden my beer very closely!         I'm churro glad I got some dessert!

Monday morning, I had the apartment to myself as the Spain pals went off to work. I went to a cute café and got breakfast (and ended up doing everything in Spanish – my [fake] Spanish heritage is paying off)! I wandered around the Parque de Retiro until Kristen and I met up for a pique-nique back at Retiro since it was a lovely, sunny day.

Retiring in Retiro doesn't sound too shabby                         Piquenique - españa style!

There was a tapas festival happening so we grabbed tapas for dinner (with cerveza of course) and had a last night in calling our other pal from Skidmore. Spain was muy fun but it also made me miss not being in Paris with the metro and parks, as well as being away from my college friends/roommates.

Tapas for all, and to all a good night! 

Tuesday was spent at the airport or in the air or on the Prague metro to get to my next break location – the Czech Republic! Had a sandwich quite late in the day so two other assistants (who I was travelling with in Prague) and I grabbed beer from a local brewery and went to a dog bar. (That’s not actually the name but there is a grand chien who wanders around the bar so that’s what it’s known as). The bar was super cool and the drinks were delish (and cheap!).

You better beer-lieve we had a great time in Prague!

The next morning, we got up and grabbed coffee and pho since it was a dreary, cold matin and then headed into the Old Town to see the Charles Bridge. It was cool to see but super crowded with tourists (I don’t even want to imagine what it looks like in on-season). We walked over to the Lennon Wall where we had a mini-photoshoot and listened to a group of French teens sing “Imagine.” It was pretty funny seeing as all three of us work in high schools and were technically on break from them. Coffee break at the chic and famous Café Savoy and then a trtlnik (chimney cake) after (side note: this is the only world I retained from my trip to Prague, Czech is a wild language)!

 The sign says it all .... // Czech-ing new countries off my bucket list!

just Lennon against the wall // Trtlnik with a view (the first of many)

Dinner was traditional Czech food at a beer hall before going back to our AirBnb for a little repose before heading back to our favorite dog bar for the night. I snuck out earlier as I was getting up early the next morning.

Soup-er good meal! // We <3 the dog bar! 

Thursday, I left the apartment and hiked to the castle since my travel pals had already seen it.

Castle on a hill ... was Ed Sheeran singing about Fall break?

Met them at the bus station for a day trip to Cesky Krumlov! Cute, little town about 3 hours south of Prague. Our first stop was coffee (and another trtlnik – that makes 2 in one day & no other food for those who are counting) and then we hiked to the castle after wandering around the town. It was a beautiful view … except for the tourists who were aggressive and pushy, literally. We ended our time in Prague back at the beer brewery with some wings and an early night in.

Castle & Monestary on the hill? // Anotha one! 

Highlight of the break was this fairytale town 

The next morning the Prague pals split and I headed to Vienna. Little did I know that the construction around the Prague train station would lead to me almost missing my train! I literally sprinted and was pulled on the train by an attendant as it left the station! After that drama, the 4-hour train ride flew by and I was in Austria before I knew it. Turns out I had arrived on Vienna National Day and so public transport was kind of a nightmare as most tram lines were on reduced service or not running. But I finally made it to the apartment and the other assistant who I was traveling with for the rest of break. We grabbed gyros for lunch/dinner and explored Vienna near our apartment.

Vienna crosswalks are really all about that romance ... 

Saturday morning kicked off with apfelstrudel for breakfast – when in Vienna, right? It was cold and rainy so we did the Mozarthaus museum which was interesting. Lunch was classic Austrian food which helped warm us up. We rested back at the AirBnb before heading to a bar and meeting up with 2 other assistants who teach in Avignon. They were super cool and one of them also turned 21 at midnight, so of course we had to celebrate with her!

A strudel-ly delish breakfast // Tater-ly in love with this lunch! 

Sunday was sunny and slightly warmer so after a breakfast of Austrian chopped pancakes with stewed fruit, we headed to the castle. It reminded me of Versailles and there were cool gardens and Gloriette which had an amazing view of the castle and the city.

I flipping loved these pancakes! // Another day another castle 

Dinner was wiener schnitzel and Sachertorte which hit the spot after a long day of walking. We tried to get cheap, standing seats at the opera, but sadly were too late. Instead, we just walked around the city at night.

This dinner sure was a Wiener!

Monday was a new week and a new city! Before catching a bus to Bratislava, I snagged a käsekrainer, or a cheese-filled sausage for one last Vienna treat. We checked into our Airbnb after a quick hour bus ride and went off to explore the castle before it got dark! The town was very cute and small and within some fortified walls which was a nice surprise. We were still full from our traditional Slovak lunch so we just grabbed a beer for dinner.

These noodles with sheep cheese & bacon weren't baaaad // Castle day = another leg day

Tuesday morning, we got breakfast at a cute modern café before hopping on another bus to Budapest. We got to Budapest in about 3 hours and checked into our super nice AirBnb! Dinner was some tasty, cheap Hungarian food and cheap cider at a bar near our apartment.

This stuffed chicken with tomatoes and feta left me stuffed 

We headed up to the Fisherman’s Bastion the next morning (to try to avoid the crowds) and snapped some cool shots of the Danube and the city below. After breakfast, we hiked up towards the castle again (3 castles, in 3 countries, in 3 days – just Euro things). We spent the rest of the sunny afternoon exploring the city and seeing Parlament, the Shoes by the Danube memorial, and (of course) getting another trtlnik … or kürtoskàlac in Hungarian.

What a Buda-ful view!

Castle #3 - this cancels out all the food right? // Had to compare chimney cakes ... obviously

Dinner was a tasty falafel (my body needed some veggies!) and then we got ready since it was Halloween! We met another fun assistant from Nice and her boyfriend at a bar crawl and had some Halloween fun in different bars and clubs! I was happy to do something fun and American on Halloween since we usually go all out back home.

Check meow-t in my costume!

A pistachio croissant and cappuccino was the perfect start to November, and to our day. It also fueled us to climb 365 stairs (one for each day of the year!) up to the top of the basilica in Budapest. What a killer view from the top – and a nice little workout for the day. Lunch/dinner was an all you can eat buffet … of Hungarian food! Highlights included sweet chili chicken, stuffed cabbage, goulash, creamy pumpkin soup and desserts galore! So much good food and I almost fell into a food coma, but had to wake up for our night cruise.

Pleased with the pistachio // Views from the Basilica (not pictured - my panting from the stairs)

The views from the boat were killer and it was so nice to see the city lit up at night. The other assistant invited us to go out to a ruin bar with her and her boyfriend and we had a fun night exploring the cool bar.

Parlament & Chain bridge lit up at night

Our final full day was at the baths! It was so relaxing and my poor, aching, blistered feet needed some time soaking in the mineral waters. We found làgos (fried dough with sour cream and cheese) for lunch and I, of course, had to have one last kürtoskàlac before leaving Eastern Europe. We all met up to climb the Citadel and catch the sunset on our last evening in Budapest. We came full circle and ended up back at the first bar and I had a killer pear cider – gosh I’ve missed fall foods!

Bath time - bubbles not included! // Langos land

Changed up my chimney cake order for the last time // Doheny St Synagogue

Our flight back to Nice was uneventful and I ended up actually helping an Italian guy navigate himself to the bus station in Nice before grabbing a much-needed salad and crashing back in my own bed. Break was super awesome – but sadly not that much of a break as I was running around seeing (and eating) all of Eastern Europe. Melissa brought her pup back with her when she came back and it was nice to meet her! I’m back at school right now after a full day of classes. Turns out 2 weeks without any French really does a number on my vocab and speaking and I’m struggling a little bit to find des mots to talk to the other teachers. Here’s hoping it comes back soon!

Caught a killer sunset on the flight back

Love & chimney cakes,