A Travellerspoint blog

Our new digs in Old Town

A little change of scene

sunny 18 °C

Since we've been back to France, I've obviously begun my new job...about an hour from Nice by bus, and perhaps a 30 min drive depending on the traffic. One of the schools where I work is quite far and a little tricky to get to by bus, so we thought it necessary to get a car. This is our new Peugeot 306:
IMG_6306.jpg After driving for a week, I decided that the bus is perfectly acceptable, and I'll continue to take the bus 3 days a week, as it's cheaper and much more relaxing, even if does take a little longer. Traffic and cost of gas aren't worth it!

It's parked in our new neighborhood: Garibaldi Square in central Nice, just on the corner of Old Town, a great place that's close to everything (except work). It's closer though, to the bus that gets me to work :) This is our new apartment:
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It's bright, now that Luke has fixed the broken lights: IMG_6298.jpg
and it's somewhat lacking in all functional kitchen appliances, but we're adapting and improvising: IMG_6296.jpg

We have some nice neighbours: a couple of cafes right outside, and a pirate themed bulk candy store right next door. We are on a central tourist thoroughfare, but we also have many butchers, fresh pasta makers, and bakeries all around us. IMG_6299.jpgIMG_6300.jpgIMG_6308.jpg

And on top of that, the new Promenade de Paillon, the park that they've been working on for over a year that runs down the centre of town, was finally opened last Saturday, and is steps away from our door:
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The only downside is that we're in very close proximity to about 4 churches which start ringing their bells at 7 each morning. But other than that, our new place is great!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 11:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

Cinque Terre

overcast 19 °C

For the first stretch of holidays this year, (now working full time for French schools), we decided on a jaunt to Italy's version of the Cote d'Azur to visit Cinque Terre, a series of 5 coastal and very picturesque villages connected by mountain pathways (and by train). We stayed in Manarola at the top of a very steep hill: nothing at first, but after each outing and a long day of hiking, it became tiresome. Each night, we had the choice of 3 restaurants or 1 takeout place for dinner, or visit another village - that's how small these places are. IMG_5947.jpg
On our first afternoon, we took the train to see Riomaggiore, the next town over. At the top of the village, lightening and thunder announced a storm coming from the water, and not giving ourselves enough time to get back down to the shelter of a cafe, we got almost entirely soaked scrambling down these steep and tiny staircases, hoping one would lead to a cafe. Finally, it did and we waited out the storm over some red wine.
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On our second day, we hiked the path that connected the remaining 4 villages: about 14 km, with stops at each one for a glass of beer or gelato. The scenery and the views were incredible; some of the terrain reminded me of northern Vietnam with the terraced agriculture. These villages are built on aggressively steep hillsides and yet, every inch is used. Life in these villages seems dependent now on tourism, but also relies heavily on fishing and this sort of farming. And then other parts of the trail felt like we could've been wandering through a BC forest, lush as it was with moss, ferns and vines. Particularly pleasant though was wandering though the olive groves high up on the mountain sides with sea views the entire way along.
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The mountain pathways were supposedly closed due to risk of landslide....but not for us! This actually meant that no one was collecting fees for using the trail :) (this wasn't a reckless decision; there were quite a few people hiking these sections, and there didn't seem to be any apparent danger of anything)
IMG_6106.jpgIMG_6134.jpgIMG_6135.jpg This is Monterosso in the distance, our destination for the day. IMG_6204.jpg Looking back at the distance we'd covered, our village in the background.

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Monterosso is the largest of the 5 villages and has a beach, so this was the plan for day 3, but unfortunately the weather wasn't warm enough for a swim. Instead we explored the town and then investigated our own village a little closer before finding dinner. IMG_6278.jpg
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Of the highlights were the caprese salads and cappucchinos; and panna cotta on the second night after dinner: wow, heaven in a bowl! IMG_6268.jpgIMG_6269.jpg

We were woken the last night to the loudest thunderstorm we've ever experienced - seemed like the thunder was constant for at least an hour and was so loud we felt like we should have emerged to a bomb sight the next morning. We're back home now and resting our very sore calf muscles after all that hiking and preparing to head off again tonight to Indoor Championships in northern France this weekend.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 00:04 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Tour de France

sunny 28 °C

The Tour de France was in Nice on July 2, on it's way from Corsica and then on to Marseille. This was the only point in the Tour where they did time trials. Richard, wish you'd'a been here! They began in town and took the Promenade out by the airport, then north in a big loop and then back again to finish on the main drag of the Prom.
I was supposed to attend a faculty meeting that day out of Nice, but it quickly became clear that almost all transportation routes going in and out of town by road were shut down for the day. Instead of buses stopping in their usual spot, the team trailers were set up instead:
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I met some friends and we all spent some time wandering around taking in the buzzing atmosphere. As the actual race time approached, we tried to make our way through thickening crowds to a place by the course, and were forced to pass through the narrowest section right at the starting line (where everyone wants to stop and take photos). The worst was that people had bikes with them! This made getting though this section quite a frustrating and claustrophobic experience for everyone trying to get from one side to the other. Got back finally Nick's place for a good vantage point to see some action - his window looked directly onto the course - before we had to brave the hellish gauntlet once again on our way to work.

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Posted by Meghan.Gardner 03:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

Barcelona

Birthday weekend

sunny 30 °C

Because we both turned 30 this year, we decided to splurge a little and take a trip to Barcelona for a long weekend - both to see the city and for Sonar, the music and arts festival there.
We flew in on Thursday, and made our way to our host's Elsa's apartment. She didn't speak any English, and we don't speak any Espangnol either, so we got by with "Hola" and "gracias" and that's about it all weekend. Next time we'll pick up some phrases before we go! I realized how little I know of the Spanish language, and how far I've come in speaking and understanding French since we've been over here.
Elsa's neighbourhood was a beauty - small little streets lined with shops, cafes and trees. Little squares with benches, and very few cars. The walkways and streets were all tile and well maintained, and the buildings were really nice. Our first stop after we regrouped was the small pub around the corner. This was one of many beer stops :) IMG_5272.jpgIMG_5275.jpg
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Again, we were impressed with how well-maintained the buildings and walkways were compared with other cities we've visited - not to mention green!

We spent the first part of Friday doing a Gaudi tour - the Sagrada Famiglia, and the two well-known Casa Mila and Casa Batlo. I wished we could have gone inside but the line up was way too long at the church and the other 2 buildings we felt we overpriced. Anyway, we were quite happy looking at the outside and wandering around in the sun.
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After a fair bit of walking, we decided to head to the beach for a little siesta before dinner.
We headed back out from the apartment with a couple of goals - find some sneakers for me to dance in, and get dinner before we got the Sonar bus. Luckily, H&M came through - quick stop, and off for dinner! Found a place on La Ramblas, a bustling street with many restaurants, markets and vendors, where I ordered some paella - a very common dish here. It was alright - good hearty meal before partying all night - but not the best. I think I'll have to try it again at a more reputable place; it was a touch dodgy.
And then, to complete our awesome day, we were off to Sonar. The place was absolutely enormous - 2 (or 3?) arenas, each with stages, and stages set up in between. When we got there, there was so much space around that it felt hard to believe that they would fill it. At the peak of the night, every space was jammed with people, and the energy was crazy. I think we got the bus back to town at 6, slept until about 12:30, and then went for a breakfast beer (for me, the coffee had to come first), and slowly made our way to the beach, where we slept away the afternoon in the sun. Terrific was to spend a hangover!

I made us get up in the early evening to do one last stint of sightseeing before we left; had another beer break:
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Had a look at my shoes from the night before: yikes! IMG_5452.jpg
And then, to Place Espanya and the olympic village part of town. This was a nice area to visit at sun down because we caught the right timing for the Magic Fountain to come on for a show. The light was also quite nice for photos.
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Had a few hairy moments at the Barcelona Airport on Sunday morning going home to Nice - long lineups and then not being able to find the gate....but we got there, and we weren't even the very last passengers on the plane :) We vowed once again to arrive earlier next time!! But we made it, and it was a fantastic weekend. There are so many things we wanted to see but couldn't make time for that I'm sure we'll be back.

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 13:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A day off

She works hard for the money

sunny 16 °C

Today is a rare day: I have the day off (of both jobs), and Luke is away at a tournament, so I have no plans for my afternoon and only a couple of overdue skype calls later tonight. Free time - time to finally go back on here and update this after...wow, 3 months! Time seems to be flying.

I have been balancing working a couple of mornings each week at school and some additional subbing hours with working nights full time at the bar. Sometimes I have a couple of tutoring sessions thrown in as well - keeping even my days off busy. Of course, I compensate by staying out with colleagues after work for drinks...and before you know it, it's 6 am. This morning was one of those nights (days?). The number of times I arrive home when it's light out, along with coffee consumption, has gone up dramatically. (so has my alcohol tolerance...)

Luke has also been working - he's met some people in Antibes who need boat work done, so he bought himself a polisher and some tools and has been taking the train to Antibes for his freelance work. Some days we don't see each other except for the hour or 2 that we happen to be in bed at the same time. There have been some long days - working during the day, and then night, and sometimes it's almost a full 24 hours away from home. Makes this day off very much appreciated!
Despite being busy, (or, more aptly, because of it), life is grand.

I just learned Friday that I do in fact have a job for next year if I want it - full time with a great salary, teaching middle school English lit. So our year in France is lengthening to 2 years - and after a visit home in August, we will likely move to Antibes, as both of our jobs are there. We'll also be buying a car, because one of the schools where I'll be working is fairly out of the way. This is making next year look quite exciting! I will have weekends off, which will be nice because going away for weekends right now is almost out of the question because of work in a bar. We will have money, and every 6 weeks or so, I will have 2 weeks' paid holidays. So with a car and paid holidays, we can do some more of the travelling that we had in mind when we came here in the first place.

Speaking of travelling, in 2 weeks Luke and I are flying to Barcelona for Sonar - a giant music festival - to celebrate our 30th birthdays. Still don't have lots of money, but at least we're working now, and we only turn 30 once. Time to live it up! I hear nothing but incredible things about Barcelona so I can't wait to explore the city!

Posted by Meghan.Gardner 04:54 Archived in France Comments (0)

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