Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Aug 7 -going home

It’s time to say goodbye to France!  We had a marvellous busy month!  You offered beautiful views, interesting driving conditions, history, fun times, various emotions...

Could I live here? 
I could get used to:

  • eating bread everyday
  • the French accent
  • the weather
  • the beautiful mountains
  • the Mediterranean sea
  • the different road signs
  • the varying speed limits for no reason
  • Sad to leave a wonderful place.... 
 I don’t think I could get used to: 

  • the motorcycles doing whatever they want whenever they want. 
  • I can’t stand the scooters so I don’t think I could get used to them.  
  • no butter with bread
  • the food

You offer so many wonderful things, but you are not Canada.
But... happy to go home

Our flight back to Toronto was uneventful until we reached customs.  We get out card on the plane, fill it out, line up with everyone else.  We get a 47 on my card.  What do those numbers mean?  We go through the first guy, he says: "Please go that way".  What? Why can't I go that way with everyone else?
We get to the second person, she says: "Where are you arriving from?" Me: "France -we were hiking the Alps." Her: "Please go over there and one of the officers will help you."  Again, What? Why?

We get to this mean looking officer.  He takes our papers and says: "Sit on the bench. I have things to look into."  That's it? No other information, no smile, no nothing.  Great.  We sit on the bench and wait for about 5 to 10 minutes I guess.  Good thing we have 1.5 hours between flights...

The officer calls us back to his booth.  The news is as follows:  Someone else with the same name is on the "wanted" list.  We match at over 90% so he had to look to make sure I wasn't her.  He also tells me this will happen every time I come back into Canada.  Great... Just want I need... more stress at the airport -as if I'm not stressed enough as is! There is nothing I can do about this.  He told me that next time I go to customs, to tell them this has happened before - and off we went to our next flight. 
By this point, I just want to get home!

The rest of the flight was fine.  Our baggage arrived just fine as well.  Now the worst part is dealing with the jet lag for the next few days. 

I've been home for a day and I already miss the Alps... Looking forward to our next adventure!  Who knows what it will be!  Until next time!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Aug 6

We started our day with a running tour with -Jean-Charles was our guide. He planned an excellent 10k route to show us what the city has to offer.  Jean-Charles is full of facts and
interesting information about Paris. It’s clear that he loves what he does!

We learned so much on this tour!  It was a great way to to be introduced to a little bit of everything!  I think what surprised me the most is the Louvres and the size of the building!  Never mind the little glass pyramid!  It’s a humongous building- that is a work of art itself!

I was glad to see Notre Dame de Paris. Funny how a building can evoke emotions... and I am not even sure I believe that we should rebuild it... thinking of all the people we could feed instead with all that money... anyways, I was moved by this building.

After the tour was done, our guide brought us back to our hotel via subway.  I would recommend you visit a city this way!  Gives you insights and ideas of what to visit.

After our tour, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and were caught in the rain.  Too bad you have to pay to go under it... it would’ve been nice but whatever. We were going to visit the Petit Palais but by

this point, we were drenched, tired and cold. We decided to head to the hotel instead.

Every night, after dark, on the hour for 5 minutes, the Eiffel tower sparkles.  Not exactly sure what that meant, we made our way to see what it was about.  Well! It sure did sparkle!  It was a pretty sight!

We don’t have to wake up early tomorrow- but time for bed nonetheless!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Aug 5th -Paris

At the station -keep eyes open for pickpockets! 😂 
We said goodbye to the south of France and took the train from Marseille to Paris.  When we arrived, we took a cab to our hotel and decided it would be a well deserved rest day.  On the way to the Eiffel tower, we stopped for lunch.  We then continued walking to the Eiffel tower (about 500m from our hotel) and that’s about it. 

lunch time
So far, Paris looks like a clean place -much better than Marseille!  We will see more of the city tomorrow!

first view of the tower

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Aug 4th Marseille/Calanques

Today, we are going to see one of the Calanques.  We drive as we can to the trail. We were supposed to be able to get to a little restaurant but that didn’t happen. We had to park and walk up, then doooowwwwnnnn.  Phew!  Once at the restaurant, there was about 1.5k to walk to get to our destination- a more secluded Calanques.  There is a beach at the first one, but it more like a gravel beach. Off we go.

We start combining and get to some terrifying (to me) parts. I push myself to go through, I can’t. I sit for a while to compose myself. I don’t want to let Rémi or myself down. He’s a trooper and tells me he doesn’t mind.  I mind.  I am stubborn, I am not a quitter because it’s difficult, I know I can do this, I give it a second try.  We get through this difficult bit.

The rocks here are extremely slippery.  Again, it’s like walking on ice.  Another problem is that once fear has a grip on you, it’s very difficult to shake it off. You lose all your power and confidence. If it has never happened to you, then you can’t understand.  There is nothing you can say to help either. You, as the “victim” just have to talk yourself out of it... easier said than done.

Anyway, back on track. More dicy sections-I am able to get through with Rémi helping me through it, holding out his hand, pointing to good spots for my feet.  We get to the last straw- I turn a difficult corner and see a a very narrow and steep climb up shiny rocks. Shiny =not good. There is a little rope to help you up (or to hold on for dear life). I instantly know There is no way in hell I can do this.  Physically I could- no doubt in my mind.  Mentally is another story.  I am frustrated, crying, not wanting to quit but I have no choice. It wouldn’t be safe for me to do this.  I know this and I have to respect this. Not easy to turn around when you are 200m away from your destination and you’ve already conquered difficult sections at least 5 times.  What can you do...

We turned back, knowing I had all those difficult parts to get through a second time. Trust me, it’s not any easier the second time around!

We finally get through it all and make our way to the wild beach.  This means it’s a rock and water. I get my swimsuit on, start walking in but man!  The water is freezing!  It’s really deep here, the water doesn’t warm up like on a beach!  Neither Rémi or I wanted to go in. Brrr!  So we walked to the first beach we had seen. “Beach”.  It’s more like gravel!  Ouch!  We did make our way in. The water wasn’t any warmer though!  We had to walk another 4k or so back up to our car. The heat is stifling.  I sure was glad when we arrived at the car!

On our way back, we stopped at The Basilique Notre Dame de Garde. Up 200 stairs- wow! What a beauty!  And the view!!! It even made Marseille look pretty!  (Marseille is dirty, tons of ugly tagging and graffiti- yuck).

It would have been nice to go to the beach but every parking were full, so were the road sides so we just went back to our room to relax.  I am tired, exhausted really- all this stress wears on a person.  We had dinner at Burger King- was pretty gross but I had nothing left in me.

Now we have to pack our bags properly as tomorrow we take the train to Paris.  It’s 7:30 and I am ready for bed!  Good night!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Aug 3- St Tropez- Marseille

Wow!  I sure could get up to this view every morning!  Our bed and breakfast has a beautiful yard! Rémi and I went for a run along the Littoral this morning. We walked about 2km to the start and off we went running.  The Littoral is a nice trail that follows the Mediterranean Sea. It varies from sand, rocks, roads, and pathways. Sometimes there are stairs or what looks like tons of coconut husks. You pass beaches and rocky shores seeing huge yachts along the way.  On our way back, we stopped at a beach and went in for a quick dip.

We made it back to the bed and breakfast and jumped in the pool. Who wouldn’t love to live this life?!?

It’s already time to leave St. Tropez. We’ve done what we came to do!  We decided to drive along the coastal highway instead of the regular highway. Lots of quaint little towns with a gazillion roundabouts. My gosh the French love roundabouts!  It’s a little ridiculous...

We came upon a beautiful beach where we spent some time swimming. THIS is what I expected... white sandy beach, water so clear you can see the bottom even when you are in deep water.  Water that looks turquoise.  Warm water that you don’t feel like your toes will fall off.  In other words, paradise!  We swam for a while, dried ourselves in the sun (sun protection of course).  Afterwards, we had lunch. We had sole- interesting experience 😂. The waitress had to help take the bones out... learned something new!

After lunch, we stayed on the coastal road for a while but got tired of the roundabouts and the 50/70 speed limit. We moved on to the highway.  Got lost- what else is new?  Google maps- you suck.  Went through some sort of tunnel for what seemed like a long time- had to come back through same tunnel- costing us 4€ twice for nothing. Thanks Google.  Finally arrived at our hotel. Tomorrow, no alarm clock. We will get up when we get up. We are planning a short hike to see the “Calanques”. Some hiking, some swimming.  I would also like to see the Basilique Notre Dame de Gardes. We will see.

Marseille doesn’t sound like a very safe place.  I've been warned by three different people at different times that it’s dangerous here. One person asked if I had a bulletproof vest. The other told me not to look like a tourist!  If they hear us speak, they will surely know we don’t belong!  We shall be careful and do our best not to look like tourists! 😂

Friday, August 2, 2019

Aug 2nd- Mont Sainte-Victoire & St Tropez

We got up early this morning to go hike a mountain and miss some of the heat. What good that did! A 35 minute drive turned into a 2 hour drive.  Google maps can be pretty useless around here. It first brought us to the wrong side of the mountain- sheer rock wall!  It then brought us to the other side in tiny farm dirt road... we asked 3 people where the damn trail started... eventually found it at 9:30a already like 25 degrees.

The hike was up pretty steep trails, eventually turning into switch backs. Eventually, you end up at a beautiful little chapel that used to be a monastery. The French sure know how to restore old buildings!  Way to go!  I wish I could’ve captured the whole thing- the very scary stairs the monks would’ve taken... it’s captured in my mind...

After the pretty chapel, the trail continued to get to the summit where a giant cross was put up. There is also a little cabin where a couple of watchmen sit. What they are watching I have no idea.  This last little bit up was pretty scary. The rock here is nothing like the Alps.  It’s more like marble- very slippery...almost like walking on ice.  We got up in a little over 1.5 hours.  We made our way down much faster as we ran a lot of the way down. Walking is almost impossible it was so steep.  We enjoyed our hike even with that heat!

After our hike, we drove to St Tropez. Little winding roads and switchbacks up a mountain with scary moments- meeting transports in corners =almost shit in pants moments.   We easily found our  bed and breakfast, got changed into our swimsuits and walked about 200m to the beach for a swim in the Mediterranean sea. Ahhh!  The water was just perfect!  It wasn’t what I had imagined though. Last time I saw this beautiful sea, the water was shades of green and blue. Not here. There are buoy lines because humongous yachts are everywhere!  When I say humongous, I mean million dollar boats... like we see on tv- one boat would feed a whole country... incredible...

We walked a ways to the marina where we watched as each yacht entered to park for the night. It was like an airport. Controllers on radios, little red boats controlling who comes in when, lines of yachts waiting for their turns. This was quite impressive!

Côte dAzur is quite different than the other parts we visited. As much as I love the ocean, I think I prefer the mountains.  Tomorrow, we plan on running along the littoral for a while with perhaps a swim midway.  Time for bed!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Aug. 1st- Gard, Gordes, Aix

We got up this morning, still disappointed with le Pont d’Avignon and so we decided to go to Pont Du Gard- an ancient aqueduct built by the romans. It’s quite the beauty!  We had fun taking pictures from every angle!  We have lots to go through and delete I’m sure!

After this impromptu outing, we made our way to Gordes- another quaint medieval village.  Interesting to see how different they all are one from the other!  This one is built on rock- the view from the top is like a patchwork of fields and forests.  Another interesting thing is that the new part of the village is built to look like the old part- same rocks and walls.

In Provence, you always hear the cicadas. They seem to be everywhere!  As we were walking down the street, I could hear one at about eye level so I stopped to try and find it. Low and behold, there it was in all its glory!  I went to point out how long its wings were when it decided I was too close and it flew off, scaring me half to death!  I screamed and dropped/threw my phone!  Now I know not to get so close! 

We spent some time here, just enjoying the tiny streets then continued on our journey to Aix en Provence.  Our hotel is about 40 minutes from the hustle and bustle of town center. Nice walk.  This city is all about the arts and shopping- 2 things that don’t really interest us that much.  We really are here to ascend Mont Sainte-Victoire tomorrow morning.

We will have an early bedtime so we can get up extra early so we can hopefully get out before the heat.