Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jo's Next Vacation

Italia is a beautifula! Although we only traveled less then a 200 miles east of Nice there are so many differences between these two place.

It felt as though time, and our trip started to slow down a bit when we arrived in Italy and it was a good change of pace.

We woke up earlier than usual because our friend, and as she likes us to call her now, our Italian Sister, Emma offered that we take her car and go to Eze (an old city on the boarder of France and Italy). As we got ready to leave she invited us to come with her to go to a street market that they only hold once a month. Andrea was expecting her usual artisanel market that she had to go to at every chance but this market was much better, it was an antiques market.

I often wondered as a kid what was so special about antiques. I remember hearing my grandma talking about going antiques shopping and would think to myself, "Why would you buy someone else' old stuff?" obviously I knew nothing. This place she took us to was amazing! It was set up in the middle of the mainstreet in Albenga which is a village that was started around the 4th or 5th century A.D.

Walking down this street was like taking a walk back in time. The people that were selling were not necessarily collectors, although some were. Most of the vendors appeared to be locals with very old things and just getting rid of them and selling them at really reasonable prices. We saw some pretty crazy stuff like an ivory horn that was hollowed out but also had elephants carved into the hollowed out part. World War Two gear like Nazi hats, knives, American helmets, old Italian uniforms. There was old cameras and camcorders, original vinyl records from way back it was really interesting. We wanted to buy somethings but we know nothing about antiques so we probably would off ended up with junk. We kept saying how cool it would be if we bought something for a few bucks and than took it onto antiques road show and it turned out being priceless, but we didn't. So after making the full street walk and Andrea touching the absolute smallest and most fragile thingson each vendors table (I don't know why but that always makes me so nervous) we decided it was time to go.

Emma's car is a little 4 door Volkswagen hatchback, perfect for driving in Europe. I will be completely honest when saying that I was extremely nervous. It didn't help that she told me several times that cops are crazy about the speed limit and then wanted to make sure that I understood this by telling her friend in Italian and having him retell me in English. So I was the tourist driving the speed limit while every car, tourist bus and semi-truck drove so fast past us that it felt as though our little car would blow off the side of the road.

The road to Eze from Albenga was very easy and familiar considering that it was A-8, the same road that we walked on for three hours in Antibes thinking that this was a walking road. After exiting A-8 we started to make our descent to Eze. This road is out of control! I don't know how high we were but honestly driving on this cliffside and going around corners where there is nothing in front of you seems as though you could be flying your car with only a bit of road and the rest of the view being the Mediterranean and the blue sky. I thought drivers were nuts but cyclists have drivers beaten by a long shot. One corner we came around a cyclist was doubling a car but in the middle of the road rather than on the right, very frightening.

As we twisted and turned down this cliffside we came to a valley and in the middle of it on its own hill there it was, Eze. It is an incredible site with this old village in midst of littlerally cliffs. Eze was a strategic military stronghold in the Franco-Turkish war that was unable to with stand the Turkish attacks and fell in the late 1500's or early 1600's.

Parking was a bit difficult but luckily we had a tiny car to fit into a very tight space. As we walked through this old village it was cool trying to imagine what life would have been like when this city was alive with street vendors, soldiers and little shops. The city has now been converted into a tourist attraction with restaurants, an insane hotel at the top and a garden planted amongst ruins. Walking through the alley ways in the city you can see how they built the city into the mountain where parts of homes walls are the rock cliffside. There are tunnels, small bridges and paths going in every direction around every turn, it was very cool to discover. I couldn't help but thinking that I could see Jo staying in a place like this.

Wandering around the village and going every which way we ended up on the top where a garden was made about 60 years ago. The garden was mostly differnet kinds of cactus but there were statues placed all thoughout with small quotes of what each represented along with names. Andrea's favorite was Hannah who placard read, "Follow me and I will tell you all my secrets...almost" (that seriously was her favorite one). The view from the top was incredible, you can see the old village of Eze and down the cliffs into the deep blues and turquoises of the Mediterranean, it is something to be experienced. Apparently Eze used to be a hot spot for celebrities, royalty and the theorist Friedrich  Nitchze (random) who said of Eze that it is one of the worlds most serene places with its location and view.  

After about 2 hours it was getting hot and the sea was looking really good. So we drove down the cliffs and made it to the seasid. Something that I never knew or even thought would be a problem was getting to the sea was not easy. I realize now that the hardest part about driving in Europe is the parking. This is obviously why relatively no one drives SUV and when you see one it just looks ridiculous on these small streets. So we drove seriously for about an hour and a half looking for parking along a 5 mile stretch with no luck in any parking. Again, I was the tourist who was driving super slow down these tiny streets hoping, praying someone would pull out. This is never a good thing, especially when the guy behind you continues to throw his hands up on the air and ride your tail to make go faster. We finally found a spot and I'm guessing because the beach was not the nicest, although to the bum that had set up a make shift house out of scrap wood on the side of the cliff leading down to the water it was probably prime real estate.

Slipping and slidding on the rocks as we made our way into the water was not very easy or what we expected. It was even more of a suprise when the water was so warm and salty it felt thick. I'm not complaining but the people on the the 200 foot yacht with a massive waterslide leading into the sea looked as though they were enjoying themselves a bit more than we were. After getting our fill of the water and rocky dirty beach (maybe thats why we found parking) we headed back to Albenga.

When we got back to Albenga Emma was preparing dinner for us which was a nice suprise having not really eaten all day. Italy is known for its Prosciutto and she had bought this kind that was beef (most common is pork) and had squeezed lemon over it. Emma is an awesome woman who speaks good English with the thickest Italian accent where every word in her sentence ends with an a. When she asked if we liked the food she said, "You-a like-a the-a Prosciutto?". The meat was amazing (it was from a Prosciutto shop that is famous and has been on TV in Italy) and I would have never thought to add lemon to something like that but it made it too good. We ate it with a salad that had full cherry tomatoes, fresh goats cheese and artisanel olive oil from her friends olive oil press (the first one in Albenga which is old) and balsamic vinegar. Whenever Emma introduces us to a product local to the region she says, "this-a is-a special to Albenga". Because the town is so small everyone shops as locally as they can supporting local farmers so everything is really fresh.

Albenga has been great and everyone has treated us as if we were locals. You know you've found a good place when you come to a town where you fell like you are coming home, Albenga, who would have thought.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Artisanel Antibes Market- Andie

Shem insists we must go back to the market and I was not about to impose! Today we leave France and head to Italy and our first stop is home sweet Italia home Albenga. My sweet Italian sister Mucci Pucci will be awaiting us at her home which is situated in the Old Village of Albenga which orgins date back to the Roma Era and is between the Mediterranean sea and the mountains. It is a beautiful setting with even more beautiful people. The people are all so kind and love to see a foreign face. I knew we would be in for a treat for the next few days of our visit , spoiled with all the specialties of Albenga and toured around to see all the fascinating surroundings. For the next few days we are going to feel like royalty and be her little new puppies that she has to introduce to all her friends and family and spoil to bits and pieces.

After our visit to the Antibes market to get shems market fix ;p , we head to the train station to head to Italy. And oh ya I run into an old high school friend in this little market... How random is that ?? That was pretty fun and bizarre.

 Any way... Our first stop was in Albenga where I spent three weeks last year doing my graduate internship this time last year. We would be staying with the same lady I lived with this time last year. She and I became really close and I remember being like a new puppydog to the neighborhood and being introduced to every second person passing by in her village and it was no different when I arrived with Shem. Italians seem to love their guests and really know how to host. She had her loft all set up with a tray of swiss chocolates of all sorts and sparkling pink wine to great us and of course we could not be rude and we drank up and thought mind as well indulge... Just kidding just kidding! She knew from last time (which was a huge shock to her family) that we did not drink- water with some crazy special rocks sitting in the bottom that made the water a little sweet would be the special drink of the night:).

That night she insisted on treating us out to eat and so she took us to the best pizzeria in her village and it was delicious. When you see pictures of italy and see little cafes and restaurants outside with people drinking wine and eating, chattering amongst each other  and there is live music in the background (which I guess you cant see in a picture, but you know) that is exactly what to imagine. Here that feeling is so alive and inviting. She instantly loved Shem and it was a very nice dinner getting acquainted.

After dinner she took us to Allassio which is 7 km away and is a much more alive and bustling city on the Italian Rivera. This is supposedly where all the rich and famous flock to in the summer. Its a pretty cool place because although its a place known for its famous visitors it still has a very cheery and inviting atmosphere.

We walked through the streets where you pass shops that are all glass windows and showcase the stores items in the most fashionable way imaginable and then if you go along the coast it is restaurants back to back for a mile with a peer that jets out into the ocean which is alway nice to visit and have a moment and take a break from the liveliness for a second. And guess who we saw... Leonardo Dicaprio and Micheal Jordan were there on vacation together! It was so bizarre!!

We were all in all filled with excitement to be in a new place and country and visit an old friend that I never thought I would visit again and introduce part of my family (and of course see Leo and MJ). It was all together another great day and we ended it in a great way- Italian gelato (shem's first try). Bonne appettite! And à tout à l'heure.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

2 Servings of Gelato 8 Flavors Later! -Andie

I just finished reading shems entry and he left out the one highlight of the day. First of all the other reason we were going to carrefour was to buy some food. We hadn't eaten since breakfast and were getting a little hungry. After 3 hours of unexpected walking through what could have fooled me as the swiss Alps -who knows at this point... My stomach was growling and i could feel a beast in me wanting to come and strangle something- anything- even a tree would feel nice to strangle at this point. Call me a diva but i fought that beast from coming out for another three hours because we ended up getting to carrefour and leaving without any food because the lines were too long and the last bus of the night just to get half way would have come and gone. When we get off the last stop (in the ghetto of antibes) everything is closed and my hopes of eating this night are dwindling.

That is when with all desperateness i stop shem and make him promise me we will eat something -anything from the first place we see.  He gives me his word and we march on. As a little background info on shem , he tends to be quite indecisive when it comes to eating sometimes passes place after place and ends up walking away with nothing. This cannot and will not happen tonight or i will cry.

20 more minutes of walking and there glowed in the distance a sign lighting up the whole whole street- maybe the whole sky- a pizza place was still open. We ordered a ham cheese artichoke pizza and a niçoise salad ( tuna, anchovies and egg; options were limited). It was amazing and with a full stomach while sharing a snickers bar from a vending machine we marched on happily, making it home in less than hour and zonked right out. The beast is gone and hopefully never returns.

So we wake up feeling good and are greated with our usual two eggs and bacon croissants and fruit. Today we had breakfast with another couple who was staying in a room on the main floor. They said that they were going to try and wakeboard that day and we thought that sounded like a great idea and decided we would try and do the same. As we head out the door Anu reminds us to visit the market in Antibes for it is a must. I was so happy she reminded us because that was something I was really looking forward to. Shem thought it was something to pass and we should just get on with the day. It was obvious that he had never visited a real market from that comment. I had expressed a few times that I wanted to visit a real market but Shem didn't seem to realize that this was a strong attraction for me.

You see to me a true market is a place bustling with locals selling their region specialties, fruits, vegetables, olives, pates, meats and cheeses of all kinds and all sorts of goodies. Mixed with that are the people busy chattering and doing their daily shopping. The whole atmosphere is cheery and lively. It is a great place to get a real sense for a culture and sample some of their local cuisine. But if shem doesn't want it, it ain't gonna happen; maybe he's the real diva ;).

Well guess what - after going to the wakeboard place and reading the sign that stated 10 minutes of watertime equaled 29 euros and 50 minutes was a wooping 120 euros we decided to just wakeboard in our minds and skip that activity. Its too bad because the sea is so still and crystal clear that wakeboarding would have been glorious!

Lucky for me old antibes, which is a medieval village on the coast, was right down the street and shem wanted to check it out, and guess what... That is where the market is! You know what shem did the whole time we were in the market? He filmed and took picture after picture because it completely captivated him and caused his creative film junkie juices to start racing! Yahoo! This is fantastic.

At the market we tried all sorts of neat things such ad fig sausage, lavender honey, truffles, olives and tomato pates, all sorts of cheeses and a few other types of meats seasoned in a variety of spices. Everything we tried was something for the very first time.

I had one euro on me and asked how many figs i could get with it and the guy started filling a paper bag ( i was confused because the sign said 10 euros per pound). He then hands me the bag and refuses my euro. I gesture for him to take it again and he refuses and says in French to kiss his friend as pay and I laugh, point to my ring finger and then to shem and say " no way!" and they both bust up laughing as i walk away with my 10 euros worth of figs. Suckers.
It was a lot of fun and shem tells me he wants to come back tomorrow! Woohoo what an accomplishment! Time to head to Nice. Nice is 9 miles away but takes 45 minutes to get there. It was blazing hot but we were lucky enough to get seats and pass out for almost the whole ride.

We immediately head to the sea to go for a dip and cool off but it was so crowded it became a little unappealing. We saw a little cove in the distance that looked a little less crowded and decided to check that out. Over there local boys were jumping the cliffs similar to what the kids do at waimea and so we decided to join them. For me it was actually pretty scary and the only thing that was motivating was how clear and refreshing the water looked and so I launched myself off and it was so refreshing and fun! Shem went next and he walked up all submissive but then turns around and does a backflip. All the local boys were really impressed or they just kept staring because he is so dang handsome ;).

Anyway we did that for a while and it turned into a bit of a competition between the kids who could do the fanciest dive. It was alot of fun but it was time to move on. We climbed up to the top of these palace grounds that overlooks Nice and the sea. It was beautiful and cool how up there you were distanced from the fast pace of the rest of the city.

When we were up there shem cut his leg pretty bad and this japanese man saw it happen and immediately called for his wife to fix him up and she whipped out her little first aid kit and fixed him up. It was really sweet. Its people like that that inspire me to be a better person!

After shem was all bandaged up i got hit by a car. Just kidding- just seeing if you are still paying attention. After that we went and ate at a little cafe in Old Nice. I got fish and yellow rice and shem got mussels and steak frites. We finished the night with a stroll through Old Nice downing two servings consisting of eight flavors of our staple food group- gelato. Our experience in Nice together is complete and we hop on the last bus of the day and head home for the night. Bonne Soir!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our Way of Taking it Easy- Shem

So after a full needless 24 hours of traveling we made it to Anrtibes. It really shouldn't have taken that long but that's just how we roll. If there is a few words of advice for traveling and reserving tickets it's #1 that nothing is certain and #2 if youre trying to save money over time don't, its a loose loose situation and that's just ok.

Antibes is an small city on the Mediterranean with the old village (the original city) right on the sea and another old village of Biot in the mountains. Although extremely tired after we had an impressive 3 hours of sleep on the Marseille train station floor next to back packers and cigerette rolling and smoking bums we decided that we needed a little more adventure. So much adventure that I thought going barefoot might be a good idea to give my feet a break from shoes, STUPID!

We checked in to our B&B with Anu, great lady with lots of info. I took an hour nap while Andrea went for a swim in the pool. After she came back is where the walking started and it didn't stop for a long, long time.

We first went up to the old village of Biot, really cool little town. Apparently this town is known for its verriers (glass blowing) so we stopped in at a few of the galleries and took some really cool footage.There was aslo a festival going on for Sophia-Antipolis and there were more tourists there than we had expected. We walked around a bit and looked in a few stores and the most suprising thing was that no one said anything about me being barefoot all day, it was great. I had a pretty good story to tell people if they did though, I was going to say that I am traveling through Europe barefoot for three weeks to raise awareness of children around the world who don't have shoes. I never got to use it.

After taking way too many photos and being barefoot long enough we deiced to go to Carrefour (fact: 2nd largest retailer in the world to Walmart) because we had seen a sign down our street for it. This is where our awesome bad planning came into play. The sign just said Carrefour and the street to go down which was the intersection a few blocks away. We being naive thought that because there was a sign it must not be that far away and it was good marketing on their part because the sign did not say how many kilometers away it was, that should have been the first red flag.

Prior to going to Carrefour we thought it would be best to take it easy this day because we didn't get alot of sleep the night before and we were still exhausted. Needless to say we embarked on this unknown distance to to get a pair of slippers. We wanted to go specifically to Carrefour because there are these white plastic sandals that I had when I was in Tahiti and they were sold at Carrefour so I thought if any one would have them it would be Carrefour.

The roads were narrow as we walked, as all roads in Europe are and it was not easy walking barefoot, nor was it a short distance. As we passed bus stop after bus wanting to wait for the bus we just kept saying to ourselves, "It's got to be close, let's just keep going."

If it was not already ridiculous seeing these two tourists walk along what we found out later was a highway and seeing one of them barefoot but it became even more ridiculous when there was nowhere else on the highway to walk. As we came up to a bend on a hill literally equivalent to the LikeLike in Hawaii (it turned into a four lane highway) I told Andrea, "We've come way too far, to turn around right now" she reluctantly agreed. In my defense it was my idea to wait at 2 of the bus stops that we had already passed. So with nowhere else to go on the road we veered off onto a trail that went into the trees that seemed to follow along side the road.

By this time my feet were really hurting, how could I be so stupid, barefoot? Why are we walking in the forest right now? Why didn't we ask anyone how far this place was before just going? I'm allergic to poison oak, I wonder if there is poison oak in these woods? These were just a few questions I contemplated on our sojourn. I felt as if we were getting further and further below the road as our path was making a slight decent and the road was still inclining. With our path looking as though it would not join back with the road I suggested that we go through the brush to get back to the road. As we did so the vines had thorns on them that covered the ground and trees, we both got scrapped up pretty badly. I can't even imagine what the drivers who saw us coming out of those bushes might have been thinking.

By this time we had been walking well over two hours, what a waste. Andrea kept saying, "We're in one of the most beautiful places in the world and we are walking on a highway right now". We took the walk in the first place thinking that we might see some nice landscape and get some good photos, we didn't. We finally saw a car stopped on the highway and we asked how far Carrefour was from where we were and he assured us it was still aways away but that we were headed in the right direction.

After a total of 3 and a half hours of walking and passing 5 bus stops we made it and of course they didn't have the sandals we had gone there for, in fact they didn't have any kind of sandales. Luckily there was a little shoe store right outside where I bought a pair of slippers. Again no one said anything about my extremely dirty , by this time , barefeet.

We wised up after leaving Carrefour and waited at the bus stop, only to find out that that buses in Antibes and Biot stop running after 8:30. We caught the last bus to where we would have made the change to the bus that would have taken us home, which was about half way. This walk was much easier though because it was along the cost with no hills, there were sidewalks and I had slippers!

We left the house around 4 for Carrefour, got there around 7:30, caught the last bus at 8:30 and didn't get home until close to 11. This is our way of trying to take it easy. The walk was good though, it gave us some great time to talk and even kind of plan for our next adventure.

A Full 24 Hours Of Travel- Shem

It was bitter sweet leaving Biarritz because we really enjoyed our time there but we wanted to continue on with our trip. Sylvie offered to take us to the train station which we were very grateful for because we didn't want to chance our luck with the bus in the morning when our train was leaving at 8:10.

Two days prior to us leaving we reserved tickets insuring that we would have a spot on the train this time. As we traveled through the french country side Andrea slept the whole 4 hours which is not common. The scenery was beautiful and going through the mountains was gorgeous. One town that I would like to see and visit that we passed through was called Lourdes and seems like an amazing village. A conversation that I overheard on the train is that the village was made famous in the Catholic church hundreds of hears ago by people being healed there.

We made our first of three changes in Toullouse where we just hung out in an insanely hot room that smelt like really bad B.O. I felt bad for this pregnant lady who had to sit behind the culprit of the smell who not only smelt bad enough to stink up the whole room but he had to have constant conversation. Once someone had stopped talking to him he would immediately strike up another conversation with another random traveler. It got so bad he tried coaxing one girl into a conversation three times making small jokes but she just kept looking forward and acted as though he was not there. This was our first introduction to some of the interesting characters you will find in train stations.

Our next train headed for Montpellier. The scenery was not as nice as the first but still good to see the countryside and small farms. Time seemed to be going by fast and we felt as though we would be in Antibes in no time.

After arriving in Montpellier we did what we always do and first found out what time our next train left and the platform it would be leaving on. Everything seemed in order as we waited the 2 hours for our departing train. The train we were to take was 25 minutes late but it was not going to cause any conflicts with our future stops and changes because we had about 2 hours of wait time between each stop.

The train arrived and we got on thinking that we were headed to Marseille as our tickets say the platform and the assumed time indicated. We were traveling for about a half an hour when the ticket man came by to check our tickets. he looked at our tickets and then with incredibly fast french he demanded us to get up with all of our bags. I spoke to him in French but for some reason he felt that communicating in French and English both at the same time would be more effective which actually made the whole process very confusing. He began to tell us that our tickets said Marseille and that the current train that we were on would not pass through Marseille, which it wouldn't, and that we had to get off immediately. This didn't make any sense because we had reserved these tickets days prior and there was no problem then. He then showed us a map of where the train was headed which was Lyon, this is where our day felt like it was about to unravel.

What had happened is that when we reserved the tickets the man who reserved them for us missed one change somehow. There should have been a change between Montpellier and Marseille and that change should have been at a station called Avignon. The train that we were currently on was going to pass through Avignon but our tickets showed Marseille so the train man insisted on us getting off at the next stop so we can get a train to Marseille instead of letting us stay on the train to Avignon and getting a train from there.

As we got off the train and watched it leave we were still really confused at what was happening but we knew we needed to catch the next train possible train so as not to miss our connection out of Marseille. I went down and spoke to information and the guy took one look at the same ticket the man on the train looked at and he said that we were on the right train. The frustration and confusion was burning inside me but knowing there was nothing that could be done now I asked how long to the next train and will we still be able to make it to Antibes (our final destination) before the night ends. He turned his screen towards me which showed we would only be able to make it to Marseille that night and he said, "C'est impossible.". I now had the challenging task of explaining all this to my little wife who was still waiting with our bags on the platform.

When I first told Andrea that we were not going to make it to Antibes that night she didnt't believe. When I told Andrea again that we were not going to make it to Antibes that night she still didn't believe me, I guess that's why you shouldn't joke around too much. I then had to break down what all had transpired when we were forced off the train and that, that one act had a rippling effect on all of our other trains and that we would miss the connecting train out of Marseille to Antibes by an hour. Now she believed me but it was probably better when she didn't because she was as upset and frustrated as I was.

We got onto the next train to Avignon and then from there we made the connection to Marseille. By this time it was around 11:30 at night and the station was clearing out after the last trains were departing for the night and none of which were going in our direction until 5:30 a.m. We went to the information and asked about possible buses going to Nice which is just 20 minutes past Antibes and there was none. The distance between Marseille and Antibes was over 70 kilometers so a taxi would have been extremely expensive. Even the thought of a renting car came to us but the rental places were closed for the night.

The reason it was so important that we get there that night is because we had already booked and payed for a bed and breakfast so if we didn't arrive that night we would be throwing away close to $100. Furthermore, we were incredibly tired and all we could think about after fourteen hours of traveling was sleeping on a bed.

Exhausting all possible resources and refusing to spend more money on another place to stay we decided we would sleep in the station.

It was late and and everything was closed except McDonalds, of course. I didn't think the Big Mac could get worse but it does. Maybe they make the Big Mac taste so bad so that you buy a McFlurry or an ice cream to get that taste out of your mouth, good business sense I guess. Another reason we got McDonalds is so that we could use their free wi-fi without getting the boot.

We got online and told our B&B lady that we had missed the last train out and that we would not be making it to stay our first night. Trying to to keep our minds off the fact that the next 5 hours could get crazy we stayed at McDonalds (it was in the station) and online as long as we could.

1 a.m. came very fast and things got very interesting. The Marseille station during the day I'm sure is very nice but at night it is creepy. I feel that the most interesting people come out at these hours. There were about 30 people left in the station which comprised of 4 or 5 bums who tried bumming cigarettes off us and everyone else at least twice. There were a few groups of backpackers and then people who might of been like us and missed their train.

Things started to get weird and kind of horror filmish when they (the security guards) wrangled us (the survivors in the station) in a small area with about 6 small benches, clearly not enough seating for 30 people. As one guard stayed watch of us the other two went around the station doing two things, bringing in the stragglers and LOCKING the doors (even the bathroom doors), no one comes in, no one gets out. Andrea and I had secured our post by one of three double doors that are entrances during the day. We had bags against the wall and used them as pillowish supports.

As the night drew on we layed  on the floor which was really dirty and Andrea actually at one point said, "I wish we could lay on that floor over there." as she pointed to an area where a man was buffing the floor that was just beyond the security guard. Our makeshift bag floor bed was seemingly comfortable but our realistate was poor. We had thought we picked a good spot until we heard a pull and a jerk on the doors, they were trying to get in! It was like those zombie movies where the survivors are locked in the this random building and zombies are constantly rattling on the doors and windows. Even when the people outside realized they couldn't get in they would hit the door or give you a dirty look like 'I'm gona get you'. Maybe it wasn't that dramatic but it felt like it at the time.

Sleep came surprisingly and we managed to get a solid 3 hours, maybe. We woke up right at 5 somehow and my first thought was, we made it through the night, no bags stolen, our bodies were still in tact, we're doing ok. We got on our train to complete a full 24 hours of travel, what a feat!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End of Week 1- Shem

A full week has come and gone and it has been jam packed. I will be completly honest in saying that I have a hard time keeping up with Andrea. She has some incredible energy thoughout the day and I get most of my energy at night. So of course she pushes me throughout the day to keep going so that we do not waist a minute.

After yesterday; aquarium, surfing and fireworks you would think that we would want a day to relax and just kind of take it in but we didnt or at least we tried not to.

We went to surf early but it was ruined by the tides. Biarritz is very tide sensitive with windows all throughout the day. For example I paddled out in a fairly high tide and within an hour there was more than 50 yards of new beach that was not there when I paddled out, really bizzare. This killed any chance of surf for the next 5 hours.

After comming home, We had read a brochure for these caves (Les Grottes) that seemed really cool because there are cave paintings that date back to B.C. along with arrow heads and small sculpted bison that have been found here. It is also home to a creature not human nor animal called the Laminik (If I remember right) that kind of cought our interest as well. which is also the home of over I think 70 different kinds of bats, the most found in any part of the world, oddly enough that's one of the reasons Andrea wanted to go. We actually made plans to do this the day before but when asking about the bus and how to get out to the caves (les grottes) everyone told us to stick around in town because of the free concerts and fireworks.

It ends up the buses out to the caves are very infrequent, like twice a day infrequent with only 1 returning bus after 5 pm. Needless to say we had missed the bus that would have taken us to the caves and back in time in order for us to return our rented bikes and board so, we were not able to go, so if anyone ever goes out there they'll have to let us know how it was.

So we decided on plan 'B' which was to go to Hossegor home to one of the biggest surf contests in Europe, also said to be the Pipeline of Europe. So we looked at bus schedules and this may be of help to anyone coming out here, the bus system in Biarritz is very limited if you want to go anywhere out of Biarritz.

Although Hossegor is roughly less than 25 kilometers from Biarritz you would think with 2 people that just did 80 kilometers 2 days prior would be able to handle this small ride. WRONG! Our skinny little no butts were so sore from Sunday it felt as if out butt bones were bruised, seriously! Just ridding down the street I had to adjust myself several times on the rock hard seat to minimize the pain, it was pathetic. Plus with a surfboard in hand and cars zooming past it seemed that the bus would be the best option. Come to find out the only bus that was going to Hossegor was leaving in an hour and it had one transfer in order to actually get there making the trip over an hour long. Also, the only bus coming back from Hossegor would be roughly 30 minutes after we would have arrived there. The guy that was explaining the hours to me (it was very confusing) just looked at me and said, ''Ah, don't go it's not worth it''. This was obvious but maybe he felt like we were the kind of Americans that wanted to push the limits and do it anyways. Though motivated to go we didn't.

With all of our best layed plans put to rest by obvious bad planing, I guess that's one good reason to have some kind of itenerary, we decided to just surf and hang out. We had a very relaxing rest of the day with small waves, really good weather and great water temp.

We decided to eat out our last night and give Biarritz another chance in the restaurant area as our first experience was just ok. So we walked for quite a bit until we saw a restaurant with a ton a of people. In fact the restaurant was so busy they actually owned the building that was across the alley way just so they could use that location for more seating. Andrea had the Basquise chicken (grilled chicken with a tomato sauce on top) with fries and I had Paella. I had never had or even heard of this before but it is kind of like spanish rice with mussels, shrimp, a full chicken leg and chicken bits that were super moist, bacon and bits of saussage. They served it with lemon wedges that you squeeze over it, it was so good! The best part is that Andreas meal and mine both came out to 19 Euro which has been unheard of on this trip unless we make our own food. The restaurant is called the Palmier, in fact I'm going to yelp! it right now.

The day was topped off with a gouffre (waffel) which was amazing. French waffels are not like what we have in the states they are made with a thick dough that is alomst like bread dough which they spread across the waffel iron with a spatula and this is typicaly eaten for dessert not breakfast. I had mine with nutella, whip cream and pralines, very good.

This was our last day in Biarritz and with everything we had planned or not planned we would not have changed a thing.

Biarritz Parties Tonight- Andie

Days have a way of developing. They seem to all have a unique personality that is waiting and available to be explored and discovered to what ever depth one is open to accept. Like most every day we wake up with no immediate plans or agenda. The only thing that we count on is a quiant breakfast waiting for us on the veranda each morning. It is there we ask each other, "what would you like to do today?" and the other replies, "oh I don't know, what do you feel like doing?"  This may seem to invite for a very casual day but it does not seem to ever pan out that easy. The day has another pace it is wanting to move and as soon as we step out the front door (with our swimsuits on hand and a pocket full of change, our camera and if we are lucky a baguette and maybe some fruit) we are swept away in the current of the present day that awaits us to kidnap us and take us on a new and unexpected (and always appreciated) journey.

In front of the aquarium
We ended up deciding to start by biking down to check the surf. Which is not just a quick down the street event. It is more of a commitment to wind up and down and up and down tiny streets , weave through people and moped heads, peddle over bridges and through tunnels, passing castles and down the coast type of event. And not just to check one spot but many surf spots that poka dot the coastal line. For us it is a one of a kind fresh experience for checking the surf. And guess what... We are in luck- there are waves! We lock up our bikes on the promenade and a moment later shem is in the line up waiting to catch his first wave and i sit on the beach waiting to catch on film doing wait he does best- smacking the lip and getting barrelled out of his mind ;). One minute, then ten minutes and then 30 minutes later Shem catches nothing worth praising. Within minutes of him paddling out , the tide drops drastically and ruins the surf that we first saw when we first pulled up. Awh well 3 hours later it will return so lets go do something else.

The 1st surfboard brought to France from Hawaii.
Every idea that was tossed around was rejected with fickle bus schedules and so  biarritz has us for the whole day. We get back on our bikes and stop at this famous chocolate museum and figured why not... Too bad is was 6 euros each ( which is way too rich for our blood) so we decided to spend some of those euros on the chocolate and eat it instead! That was a good decision because it was some goooood chocolate!

Anyway time to move on and back on our bikes which I should mention was not done with as much finesse as our first day on the bikes. Our butts were so sore they felt bruised. We thought we were pretty cool by accomplishing our intense bikeride and hike the day prior but not so cool when we woke up the next morning feeling like old farts who complain about getting up from a chair too fast!

We decided to lock up our bikes and go for a nice stroll along the coast and take it easy. We came across a really cool aquarium that really intrigued me and heard was only three euros to enter so we decided to check it out. We wait in line, hand over our card and the lady announces 26 euros is your total- dangit! It was the science museum next door that was the three euro entrance. Okay so lets really go enjoy this and make it a time to remember and oh was it ever a good time. Turtles and sharks and fish never looked so good. It was absolutely fascinating.  Okay I am being a little fastidious but in all honesty it was a good time. It was nothing in comparison to what we were soon going to witness though.

It's more people than it looks.
Oh but first we passed the surf and it looked really fun so we go get our boards and jump in the water. I should probably mention that this was a bit of a hard decision to make because the beach was so packed it made sardines look spaced. We were like what on earth is going on -this is insane. There is seriously thousands of people on the beach. But then we noticed something... No one is catching waves. No one even knows how to surf- the waves are pretty much open for costumers and long story short we spent the rest of the light of the day surfing fun waves in beautiful biarritz. After we ran home and showered and then based off of an empty stomach start eating everything in site... Chips, candy, icecream, junk junk and more junk which for me unfortunately came back to haunt me during the most exciting and potentially the most romantic part of our day which maybe I will metion later.

You see the reason for the extra excitement in the streets was because it was a big holiday for the europeans. It is the holiday to celebrate the day the gates of heaven were opened for saint mary. So of course this has to be celebrated in the most elaborate way possible with music and entertainment flooding the streets and a firwork show that was so elaborate you kept laughing in awe every time you think you just saw the grand finale and then it just keeps getting better and better and more and more crazy. It was insane and something to be witnessed. Its too bad after the first 15 minutes i spent 5 minutes puking my guts out behind this corner. Which was quite the scenario because there was literally over 50 thousand people dotted along the cliffs of the coast and 10 feet behind everyone I'm having this episode. Not one person is facing my direction and notices (thank goodness) because the firework show was just that impressive that every single person was completely captivated. Try to use your imagination and then give up because you cant imagine how amazing this firework performance was! And lucky for us we managed to pick a good spot to stand and were so close to the fireworks that the debris was falling on our heads. And also lucky for me personally i felt much better. Shortly after my episode and could enjoy the rest of the night.  I dont know why i thought my lactose  intolerant self could handle 6 flavors of icecream mixed with all that junk. Just plain foolishness i have to sheepishly admit.
1 hour long fireworks...
literally bursting over our heads.

Anyways it was almost another perfect day of excitement and experiences to add to our european adventure!! Nothing should be perfect because then what will you aim for the next day right?? Shem my lovely husband... I couldn't have picked a better match to march through life with...Mmmwwwwah.

There were people everywhere!