Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parc du Ch√Ęteau, Nice

{The view from the park overlooking Nice and it's promenade}

    In all the times we have been to Nice, we have only been to the park that overlooks the city and the 'Bay of Angels' twice. This being partly because we figured after one visit, there is not too much else to see and the other part (going on a limb here and saying this is the numero uno reason) is that is up a lot of stairs, and I mean a lot. Nice is already a walking city so if you don't hit the park early, you most likely won't want to muster up the energy to tackle to stairs later. But, repeat after me, 'it is so worth it'. The views alone are breathtaking and the feeling that you are not in the city is rare to find...in the city. And it seems like every time I go, I discover something else I didn't see before. Like today, I spent the day in Nice alone just wandering the streets and had no plan in mind (except that I needed to hit the park early because I knew fatigue/laziness would set in later). Well that last sentence is not totally true. The soldes (France's equivalent to America's Black Friday sales) are going on and Nice does have good shopping so that might have been a contributing factor also. So I headed to the park with camera in hand and followed numerous cobblestone paths etched out of the mountain towards what I thought was running water. And if I'll be darned, the last path led me straight to a waterfall overlooking the city. A waterfall we had never known existed. How could we have been up there two times before and not seen this? Knowing there was no way to answer this question, I moved on and gave myself credit for braving the stairs this time and went with the old proverb, Better late than never.

***Little Disclaimer...Maybe the reason we had never seen the waterfall before was the first time we went to the park with friends visiting from home, we reached the top at around 6:30 pm only to be told that the park was closed by a not so nice park ranger. This ranger followed us and herded us like sheep all the way down in record time. FYI, check what time the park closes before ascending.







{Vibrant colors of the 'old town' and the snow capped alps in the background}


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seeing red...in a good way


      We are almost back to normal..well almost. I've been anything but normal my whole life so I guess I should re-phrase that. We are almost back to our old selves here at Chez Fein. Shaun has been given the green light to jog and the surgeon is happy with his progress saying he is at least on schedule, if not ahead. Needless to say, we are happy with that. And while that is our biggest priority here, a little side perk if you will, is that now we are beginning to get out and explore again. If you remember in this post, I made getting out and exploring one of my New Year's Resolutions so I am feeling extra smitten in getting back to my old self and semi-fulfilling a resolution. So today, we decided to head towards Cannes and just follow the coast with no end point in mind until we decided to turn around or Shaun got hungry, whichever came first. On a side note, I feel a little bad. Cannes is like that weird family member that you feel obligated to spend time with but while doing so, you are knowing that there are more fun relatives out there, with Nice being that fun relative. It is a great city, don't get me wrong, but other than when family visits or the film festival, we never venture over there...and it is only 4 miles away. It is beautiful in all the ways it should be but Nice offers more to do, more places to eat and just a better ambiance (in my opinion). But hey, I'm all for a change of opinion, just not today. So, we shot by Cannes and followed the road that curved along the ocean. We passed through little villages that were so small they weren't even named on our GPS and began to notice a trend. As we got further from Cannes, the terrain grew a little rocky, craggy and the cliffs were vibrant red in color. If I didn't know any better, I would of thought we had crossed the pond and were in Arizona with the red rocks and all the the cacti, cactuses or cactus (figured I would throw all 3 in there in hopes that one of those is the correct plural form of cactus). We pulled over and took some pictures and vowed to return in the spring for a picnic or two, or at least I did, Shaun agrees anytime I talk about food, so we'll see. When we returned back home, I did some research and found that we had stumbled upon the Esterel Masiff, a mountain range consisting of volcanic soil and rocks, overlooking the Mediterranean. I am sure when most picture the French Riviera, jagged volcanic cliffs and oak forests flanking the sea is not what is imagined but I guess that is what makes the French Riviera so special, and special it is.






Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Strike a pose...

{All photos by Romain Robini}
     Before having family visit for the holidays, Shaun and I talked about trying to get a picture with all of us together. I know that sounds easy but it's not. There is always the 1 person left out who is taking the picture or the ever obvious, long armed self portraits which I am convinced is a sure fire way to check if we have any 'bats in the cave'. So we got to thinking and decided to ask our friend/photographer guru Romain who takes the photos for the team if he was free for an afternoon in hopes of getting a few shots of all of us together. He was more than available and even gave us run down of suggested sites with rankings based on accessibility (Shaun's surgeon told him to avoid walking on sand like it's the plague), lighting and views. We made a tentative date and hoped the weather would cooperate. And boy did it ever. We spent an hour or so mugging for the camera and laughing all the while, I was trying to be realistic in that we might get a few good shots with all of us together. There is always that 1 person with a wanky eye or lame smile (me) who screws up a good picture and with 6 of us, the likelihood of that happening was pretty high. Well, I guess we all brought our 'A' game or more probable, Romain was a genius because when we received the DVD, we had so many great shots to choose from. Each picture surpassed the last in terms of being our favorite and I am so thankful for Romain taking the time to make their trip special. Thanks again Romain.



{Props to Uncle Shaun and my niece Jack who went all out and really sold the funny faces even if it sacrificed looking good}


{Shaun seemed to enjoy the acting out of this picture the most...wonder why?}


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Au revoir Christmas...decor

{Until next year...}
   If there is one thing we are known for to our teammates present and past, it is that we love us some Christmas decor. We have wreaths, garlands, poinsettias, trees, you name it. My motto is, if a little holiday cheer is good, then why not really amp it up, can't hurt right? And it makes us happy, so in the words of the 'got it together' Charlie Sheen, 'WINNING'. We, (I'm gonna say we since Shaun has not protested in the 12 Christmasssss we have been together) love it to the point that it stays up for a good bit. And by a good bit, I mean A. Long. Time. Disclaimer...1 year it stayed up until mid-March because we (there I go again with that we) liked the ambient lighting the tree gave off. It got so ridiculous that my mom suggested we remove the ornaments from the tree and add some Easter eggs and embrace our year long spirit, which I am sad we didn't end up doing. So fast forward 5 years or so to last Thursday night when we had our friend/teammate Trevor over for dinner. I don't know what made me look at him at the time I did (maybe I could actually hear the wheels spinning in his head as he looked from wreath to garland to tree to poinsettia) but for some reason, I knew it was coming. And by it, I mean a wise ass comment about our Christmas decor still being up. I beat him to the punch and told him not to even say it, we were on it. So sadly, I think we are going to part with our Christmas decor this weekend. And while I'm sad to let it go, I had a realization that I can keep the twinkle light up in some form and that would curb our 'ambient light' craving. So I hit the trusty internet for inspiration and found many great ideas. Seeing if they actually come to fruition, that's the kicker...

{Credit: homeandfurnituregallery.com}

{Credit: housetohome.co.uk}

{Credit: Apartment Therapy}

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Year's Resolutions Update

{Bonus of organizing photo is finding ones that slipped through the cracks. This is the view across the water from Antibes to Nice with the Alps in the background}

     Thought I would update on how my resolutions are going since this is the about the time that all of them go out the window...if they were ever in the window in the first place. Back in this post here, I made my resolutions known. If you want to read them in detail with some witty commentary and a little explanation, be my guest. If you don't, these are them in a nutshell. 1-Improve my French. 2-Explore more. 3-Exercise more. 4-Organize photos on computer and make a photo book. 5-Learn how to use all functions on my DSLR camera. 6-Cook a lobster. Pretty simple, not too complicated. So this is how they have gone..

1-Improve my French
    While purchasing fromage (cheese) at the grocery store, I described to the lady helping me (in French I might add) how I did my nails. She seemed to be interested in my glitter nail polish and wanted to know how I did it. Or at least that is what I assumed she wanted to know and let me tell you, she was going to get my best explanation in my best French. After 5 minutes of talking and a little game of charades (no conversation is complete with out it), I walked away smiling and completely confident she was now hip to my nail jive. Later, when I walked by the counter, I noticed her reaching over to some one's hand very similar to the way she had reached to mine earlier which got the whole nail conversation going. But this time, she did something different, she just grabbed the paper number from the next person in line to wait on them. Hmmmmm...

2-Explore more
     On Saturday we took a road trip to Marseille...for Shaun's game. Not to sound ungrateful, but Marseille is not my favorite city so instead of treating it like an 'exploration', we used the 2 hours on the road to hone our singing voices and find our perfect 'karaoke' song. We were in and out. We arrived, watched the game, grabbed a quick Kebab and hit the road. Turns out, Shaun is more of a The Fray, The Calling, and Five for Fighting Guy and I am more of a hummer. Quote of the night...Shaun turns to me, dead serious, after singing for 30 minutes straight and says 'I don't know how these singers do it, my throat is already hurting. You can already hear it in my voice.'

3-Exercise more
     I ran...twice. BUT I have a whole plan together to train for a half-marathon starting...tomorrow. I'm good like that with the planning, not so good with the executing.

4-Organize photos on computer and make a photo book
    Check and mini-check!!! Got pics organized and ordered a photo book credit and made a picture day planner instead. Smell that? That is the sweet smell of success my friends (at least in my opinion).

5-Learn the functions on my camera
    After hours of on-line prowling, I have done some research and realized that in order for me to fully understand my camera, I need another lens. And as much as I tried to convince Shaun that this is true, he called my bluff and smacked my head back out of the clouds. Guess, I'm back to square 1.

6-Cook a lobster
     The closest thing I've come to cooking a lobster was eye-balling a lobster sweater on Forever 21's website. I am going to use the excuse that the fish market near our house has been on an odd schedule lately and every time I have walked by (once), it was closed. Bummer, next time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Laduree

   



  While in Paris for New Years, we made, not 1, but 2 stops to Laduree for both their coveted macarons and some good old-fashioned, window drooling. I have come to realize that they are very smart to install sneeze guards and not for the obvious reason, but more for catching the drool hanging from men and women alike while in line gawking at their multiple confections. We discovered the Laduree on the Champs Elysees about 11 years ago (wow, writing that makes me feel old) and it has been a go-to for us ever since. We also always suggest it to anyone we know (or even strangers) who are visiting Paris as a must-taste and must-see. Since then (no correlation with us recommending it), we have seen the popularity of the macaron skyrocket with bloggers taking pictures of their jewelry inside Laduree boxes, multiple pins on Pinterest and even a store opening up in New York. Americans no longer mistake the french macaron with the coconut macaroon we have been familiar with for years. It has, for a lack of a better word, become mainstream. While there are many stores that sell macarons here in France, even the grocery store, I still think Laduree's macarons speak for themselves. Not to mention, the pastel colored decor gives it that certain, I don't know, je ne sais quoi. Since moving down to the south of France, I have resigned myself to thinking Laduree was only for when we visit Paris or if we ever get back to NYC (weird thinking that in order to eat a macaron from a French place we must go to NY) but on a little afternoon drive last week, I spotted with my 2 brown eyes a Laduree in Cannes!! So from now on, a macaron at Laduree is only a 10 minute drive away....ahhh, sweet sugar.





{The many flavors include Vanilla, Chocolate, Lemon, Coconut, Hazelnut, Praline, Coffee, Rose, Raspberry, Licorice, Almond, Red Velvet, and my two favorites, Caramel with Salted Butter and Pistachio}




Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paris, Je 'taime

{Arc de triomphe and it's surrounding streets where I am convinced the original Frogger was set since 12 streets converge into 1 round point}

     With risk of sounding too cliche, "Paris, Je t'aime." I love your cobble-stoned streets, your haussmann architecture, your hot crepes on street corners, your endless cafes and brasseries, your fantastic monuments (I'm talking about you Tour Eiffel and Notre Dame), your holiday twinkle, your clear skies. Oh, wait did I go too far with that last comment? Yeah, I thought so. Well at least you had clear skies the last time I saw you so just like the sports phrase 'you are only as good as your last game', I will only remember you as clear and crisp..until the next time I visit and you will most likely prove otherwise. Instead of speaking I will just let pictures do you justice. After all, rumor has it, they are worth a thousand words.

Oh and little fun fact...I had Shaun's wedding ring engraved with 'Je t'aime' since France means so much to both of us. When it arrived, I checked it and it was indeed engraved. However, it said 'Je t,aime' instead of 'Je t'aime' which means 'I love t' and not 'I love you'. We never changed it, figured it gives it a little character.

{New Years Eve on the Champs Elysees} 
{Typical Parisian architecture}

{View of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine during a boat tour}

{The Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background}


{Notre Dame}

{While it is impressive from the front, the sides and back of the Notre Dame are equally impressive}

{Inside the Notre Dame}


{Prayer candles}

{Chandeliers}

{My niece and nephew praying}

{My nephew Ty after lighting a candle}

{Bikes for rent}
{No matter what the age, 4 or 34, they all toe the line...}