I’m a month into the new year, and realized that it’s been probably six months since I’ve posted anything on here. This makes me sad because I really do enjoy putting up a bit of what’s been going on!
There was just a little too long where I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting going on in my life. I’ve pretty much been rotating between work, working out, curling, and being a bum, with a few fun adventures with friend thrown in. Too many small little things to cover, but I’ll get the big ones covered.
Let’s start with curling. That’s always a pretty big thing for me, right? Well this season we worked our butts off and traveled a TON. Sadly, we seemed to have this curse where we couldn’t win more than one game per event. The crazy thing was the teams that we were beating! Some of the top teams out there, many of whom went on to crush the rest of their games to qualify in the same event we beat them at. Oh well. The end result is that we missed the Continental Cup Qualifying, and have opted out of playing in US National Championship. With no hope of qualifying for the Women’s World Curling Championship, we decided to save our time and money and apply it towards next season.
This year I also got to play in the US Mixed Doubles National Championships in Denver. This is an event where, this year, you sign up with your teammate and you go to Nationals. Nationals does not have a set number of teams. There’s a good chance that the qualifying format will change after this year, as there were over 30 teams playing for the one spot. There was a bit of a team boom due to the inclusion of the Mixed Doubles discipline in the upcoming 2018 Olympics. My teammate and I made it all the way through the A side of the event, only to lose all three qualifying games. Therefore, we’re out. The upside of making it through the A side was all of the cool things we got to see in Denver. I’ll add some pictures once I get them fixed of the struggles that come with having taken them on my phone.
In other news, I’ve been really enjoying my workouts lately. I’m pretty much down to kickboxing and running. Only now I’m signing up for more and more races, and they are getting longer and longer… therefore I’m trying to stick to my training schedule I designed. So far I’ve been getting 2 or 3 runs a week. On top of that I’ve been getting 2 or 3 classes in at ilovekickboxing.com. My one run a month has been going well, I’ll get them all added to a side panel here so you can all keep track with me!
As for kickboxing, I’m happy to say my push-ups are getting better and better and my punches are getting stronger and stronger. There is a contest I’ve entered, which is called the 45 day body transformation contest. It was going great for a little while, but recently I’ve had a horrible run of low blood sugars, which require eating some of those not-so-great-for-you fast acting carbs. Delicious though. Lucky Charms have been my go-to recently. YUM! Weight loss or not, I’m proud of some of the new habits I’m gaining.
And last but not least, work. I’ve been working at Dick’s Sporting Goods through the USOC Contenders program. It has been great, especially through our crazy travel and competition schedule this fall. They have been great understanding that I was going to be unavailable a lot of the busy shopping weekends. And man was it a crazy thing to be back working retail over a holiday season! The biggest struggle by far is that I already owned a lot of nice work out clothes… but I never seem to actually have enough if my continual purchasing of more says anything.
In the collection of other things I’ve been doing to stay busy, I took a trip out to Milwaukee to visit friends, stopped out to watch some of the Junior National Curling Championship, played in a couple fun spiels, and have been playing around with my new camera (Christmas present!). In the up and coming short term, I’ve got a trip to Florida to visit my dad (and see some sunshine) and some more races and fun curling events.
I know, I know, this is taking me forever to get this updated. It continues to amaze me how long it takes to write and get the pictures up and looking nice. More to come soon!
I started off my day with another free walking tour. I continue to be amazed at how useful these are. The tour started at Plaza Mayor, which happened to be right next door to my apartment. We even walked past my apartment on part of the tour. Perhaps the most entertaining part of this tour was when we (the tourists) stood in for the royal family and their different marriages. It was a hilarious way to understand what happened to the Hapsburg dynasty of Spanish rulers (they bred themselves out of existence! yay inbreeding, it really can kill).
After the tour, I tried to grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants that was recommended by my airbnb host. I successfully found the restaurants, but the two I’d decided to check out were both closed due to the August holiday. I just kept wandering and found another place which had a menu del dia. Sadly, I couldn’t eat any of that menu, but my super rusty Spanish did manage to order food I could eat!
Next up was a trip to one of the major parks in Madrid. Parque del Retiro. It is located pretty much in the middle of Madrid and was a very easy metro ride. There is a decent sized “lake” in the park and there were a ton of row boats out. I say “lake” because it was clearly man made, and really not all that large. But for some place that doesn’t really have natural bodies of water near by, I could see how it would be exciting. The rest of the park has a lot of nice wooded areas with a lot of paths and benches. Actually a very relaxing place to hang out.
The park is near the Prado, so I figured I could take a leisurely walk past there and back to the apartment to see how long it would take me. When I got to the Prado, I saw that after 6 you could get in for free! So I sat and waited a little bit. By the time I got up, I hadn’t realized there was a huge line forming for this free entrance. I took a look and decided it was not worth it and I would come back in the morning and pay.
When I got home, I was looking up to see what else I wanted to do during my time in Madrid, and when I should do it. During this research, I decided I should definitely go to Toledo, but I also found that there was a festival going on right where I was (there had been some things being set up when I was wandering around for lunch but it took some effort to figure out what for). The festival is the Virgen de la Paloma festival in the la latina neighborhood. Not surprisingly, it has a religious based history. Now it is a celebration of Madrid and Spanish culture.
Everything was very festively decorated and there were a lot of people out. I got to see some traditional dance displays and have a few glasses of sangria or vino tinto (which is chilled red wine with sprite/soda, cheaper than sangria and pretty much the same thing). There was some great people watching. It looks like the same deal as festivals at home, where it’s really just a reason to wander around with your friends eating and drinking.
This day I took a day trip to Toledo (toe-lay-doe). Interestingly, Toledo should have been the capital of the Spanish monarchy. It fits the rule for a European city that there must be a Cathedral (a very nice one which I visited). However, Madrid didn’t have a Cathedral until the last 100 years! Madrid was originally a moorish town, at the very southern end or the moorish ruled area. Toledo was a classical catholic town. My tour told me something about how these ended up not being that way, but I can’t remember any more.
Toledo is a short train ride from Madrid. The station in Toledo is in the surrounding flat area, while the town is on top of the hill. I wasn’t positive about how this walk would go, but I decided it wasn’t that far and I had plenty of time.
I started off by heading to the Alcazar (which is an old fortress) now the majority of the building is a library. But the internet (which is never wrong) told me that there’s a cafe on the 5th floor and that it gives you a good view over the town. I agree with the internet on this one. This view really showed you that the town was “organized” before cars. There is absolutely no logic to the layout and you can’t even tell where the roads go from above.
Back down the tower, I took a walk around the outside just for fun. Then I headed over to the Cathedral, one of the biggest attractions of the town. Interestingly, they have a souvenir shop across the street from the entrance which is where you have to go first to get your ticket and audio guide. The audio guide was totally worth it. Mine stopped working after the first number, so I had to go back and get another one, which luckily was not a problem at all.
I took a nice wander around town, looking for a good place for lunch. I ended up eating at a super cute place that was down a dead end road (which a lot of roads are). They had a great menu del dia, which I could eat all of it! I’m pretty sure I will never have a better lunch deal than these menu del dias. I got a glass of wine, two courses and a coffee for 11 euros. You can pick a desert instead of coffee if you want as well. It’s amazing.
Some more wandering around town after lunch, heading over to one of the other gates of the town. The gate still had the doors from shortly after it was erected! Pretty amazing. They are wood covered in thin pieces of iron. The gate now serves as a road entrance into the town. Amusingly, the road is two ways except for the small portion going through the gate.
A bit more wandering around, and then I headed back to the train station. On the way back, I had to stop and obey the sign on the side walk. Definitely amusing to me.
I started the day off with a trip to the Prado. Sadly after this trip, I probably never need to go to another art museum. I was rather amused by the translated captions on the paintings at the Prado. I almost got myself in some serious trouble trying to retranslate the original Spanish using my phone and a translate app. No phones allowed. Oops.
After the Prado I was planning on going to the Casa del Campo, which is the second park in Madrid. It was originally the royal hunting grounds. However, upon studying the metro map, it would be quite an adventure to get out there due to the construction currently going on. So instead I headed back to the Parque del Retiro. A nice relaxing time with a book and some food and some wine.
I took my standard approach to visiting popular places by heading to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) a bit before it opened and got in line. The Palacio is a rather new building as the previous one was burned down in a fire. There is some debate as to if it was an intentional act or not, as it burned on Christmas Eve when no one was at the building. It was interesting, but as it’s new, there wasn’t a lot of history to see in the building.
The most interesting bit I saw at the Palace was the armor display. It’s in a side wing of the building that was used as offices and such previously. Now it’s a huge two floor display of riding and personal armor. It is a super extensive collection and really cool to see. Some of it was parade armor, some of it was combat armor.
Some down time, then I had a late night train to catch. Originally, when I had been looking at train options at home there had been both an over night train and a day train. I had been planning to take the day train as it’s a way to see other bits of the country I wasn’t going to be able to visit. By the time I got to my trip, that day train was no longer an option. Therefore, I needed to take the over night train. This was the first time that the train I wanted to take I couldn’t. I ended up having to take one train, then get off, wait an hour, and get on the Hotel Train. And I was only able to get the classic second class seat reservation. I had tried to book the train earlier in my trip, but I wasn’t able to due to a variety of reasons. Not the best sleep I’ve ever had, but not the worst either. And in the end, it got me where I was going when I needed to be there.
Remember: I’m home now, just finishing up the details of my trip. I hope you enjoy!
I got up “early” to head to the Picasso Museu which is in the Gothic area of Barcelona. I didn’t pre-purchase tickets, so figured opening time was a good time to show up, and they opened at 9am.
It was an odd museum. The building is a combination of a bunch of buildings all mushed into one, so the flow through the galleries was not stellar. With the lack of crowd though, it wasn’t a problem. There were a lot of things to see that I hadn’t realized Picasso had done anything in that medium. Can you say pottery? Weird. They had a lot of the Las Meninas interpretations on display, which I still don’t quite get the connection between the original and the Picasso version, but maybe some day I’ll have an epiphany.
Back to the hostel for a nap. Sometimes you just need a nap. My roommates were still sleeping from getting home late, so at least I fit right in.
I headed over towards Sagrada Familia for a late lunch, as I had a ticket for the afternoon. I waited a while for a table outside, and got to enjoy a nice glass of wine while doing so, so really not a problem to wait. I got paella for lunch! It was delicious and I’m so glad they were willing to make it for me. Usually its a two person minimum to get it, but as I was not at the lunch rush time, they made me one.
Off to Sagrada Familia. Mostly pictures here for you. Totally worth the trip, and if you can, go when it’s sunny, the light through the windows was my favorite part. The structure isn’t set to be complete for another couple tens of years, so no avoiding the construction.
After all the admiring, I headed back and did some laundry. Everything gets so sweaty so quickly, no matter what. My plan of being able to wear things more than once before needing to wash them hadn’t been working in Barcelona. Luckily with the bit more space from sending things home, I could add a couple more light weight pieces to my clothes collection, but even then, everything is gross so quickly.
Today was spent at Mont Serat, which is a monastery in the Mont Serat mountains. So named because of the serrated look the mountains have.
To get there you take one of the regional Catalunya trains, and then have the option of taking the rack rail train, or the cable car. I opted for the cable car. You can get an entire package for your trip which would include all your tickets and other extras, but with my rail pass, I didn’t need some of the things, and buying the tickets separately proved to be quite simple.
The cable car would not be my suggestion to anyone who is even slightly afraid of heights.
It took a couple minutes to get from the bottom to the top. You have a pretty great view of the valley once you get up there.
At this point, you are at the main monastery area. There are a few shops and a museum and a couple places to grab some bites to eat. If you go, I suggest packing food though. None of the places to get eats were very appealing and all were (not surprisingly) very expensive. From this level, you have the option to go a little bit back down the hill to see some more things or up to the top of the mountain to see more things. I went up.
You could chose to get a return ticket, or to walk down. Looking back, I would have chosen to walk down, but that is not what I did. (You could also walk up, if you’re in for some crazy exercise or something)
Up at the top there are some trails and they lead you to a couple different small churches, and some areas where the Monks apparently lived. The housing areas were in the sides of the rocks. I’m not sure if they were natural spaces or if they had been carved out, but either way, they were kind of terrifying so I didn’t make the entire trek to all of them. With better planning, and a buddy, I would definitely recommend hiking around the top for a couple hours! I spent quite a while up there and still wish I had gone farther on the hikes.
After my trip to the top, I headed back to visit the monastery. It is only open during a small range of hours as they do hold services there.
I wandered down another path I found after this, but in the end, it didn’t lead to much. There was a side trail to another small church, but I didn’t want to risk it with the time it was getting to be and miss my train back.
Overall this was a fun day and lots of things to see. Totally worth the trip, just be ready for lots of walking!
My only plan for this day was to check out Park Guell, another Gaudi creation. The original goal of the park was to be turned into a high end residential area. The park has a great view over the city. However, very little was ever actually constructed. The park is a very nice bit of green space in the city. It was not the easiest to get to via public transport, but not too bad. It required more walking than most areas though. I was very thankful for the outdoor escalators that got you up to the entrance. It took four or five to get there.
To get into the part with the majority of the Gaudi structures, you have to get a ticket, and entrances are timed, only so many per half hour. So even though it was close to 10 when I got there, the next time slot was 12-12:30. Not too bad. I spent a good chunk of that time wandering around, the rest was spent chilling with a book.
I definitely didn’t think this was worth the money or the wait to see. All over Barcelona are things with a mosaic lizard on them. This was on the stair case leading to the room of columns, and wasn’t even worth my stopping to take a picture.
Overall, I would say hit up the park if you have extra time, but don’t bother paying to go into the small fee for entrance area. Or better yet, skip the park and go to the beach another time.
After this I spent some time wandering around and doing some shopping and getting a few things for my next train trip (mmm food).
Off to Madrid. Another enjoyable train ride. However, in Spain, they actually scan your bags to make sure you’re not carrying a weapon. Not that I think they looked hard enough to catch anything, but they scanned it. And for the AVE trains (Spain’s fast trains) there was a weird queue to get down to the platform. They didn’t open it until a set time before the train, and everyone was in this crazy line, all worried and annoyed. Seemed very different from all my other train experiences.
In Madrid, I opted for an airbnb. This was because all the HI hostels were full, but I’m sure I could have found another hostel to stay at, just didn’t look before leaving. My apartment was very conveniently located, and I found it easily. What was not so easy, was that it was on the 5th floor, with a slightly terrifying staircase and I had lots of things.
The person I had been messaging with over airbnb wasn’t there to let me in, instead it was one of his cleaning people. The upside was that it was in fact nice and clean. The downside was that she only spoke Spanish, and mine was very rusty. Ended up getting it sorted out okay. But definitely not my favorite experience.
I decided to pick one thing that for my evening in Madrid. I chose to visit the Plaza de Toros as it wasn’t located near anything else I was planning to see. If you can’t tell by the name, this is where they do bull fights. It was cool to see and is a huge arena. The audio guide tour was appreciated.
Some how I didn’t take any pictures of the entire ring from the outside. Too late now! I stopped to grab some food to cook on my way home and enjoyed having space to myself again for the evening.
I hopped the train off to Barcelona. This whole train riding thing isn’t new anymore, but I still loved it. It’s so nice to hop on and it’s all calm and you can picnic and check out the sights out the windows.
I got to Barcelona and the first thing I noticed was that it was HOT. The AVE train station has all of the platforms underground, and they are very much not ventilated. The upside is the train station generally did a good job telling you how to get to the Metro. However trying to find the tourist info place on the way was much more difficult.
Found my hotel without too many problems. And most of the problems were how sweaty I was. If the train platforms were poorly ventilated, the metro had zero ventilation.
I then spent my afternoon and evening wandering around different bits of Barcelona, starting with Barcelonetta. It’s a super cute area, where interestingly all of the streets run in logical blocks. That’s because it was rather recently filled in land, so the streets were planned more than the oldest bits of most cities.
After wandering around and grabbing a bite to eat I headed over and up to the Olympic Park area. I spent a lot of time looking for the Olympic rings that were on my map…. Only to figure out that that was simply their way of saying all the things here are the old Olympic venues. Quite the adventure. To get up to the park, you can drive, walk, or, as I did, take the funicular. Barcelona has actually done quite well turning their old venues into currently used places. The pool was in the middle of being re-tiled, which you could see through the windows, and a couple of different arenas are used for different sports teams now.
After all my wanderings, I headed back to the hostel. This hostel had a big bar area, and I figured I should stop up there and see if there were people to meet. Turns out they also take a trip to a club every night, for which most people gather for drinks around 8-9 and you leave for the club a tiny bit before midnight. The hostel had sangria on a tap… and it was pretty tasty. But most importantly, it was beyond reasonably priced, especially compared to the drinks at the club (which they actually did warn us about, very nice of them).
Everyone was playing beer pong when I got up to the bar, and I couldn’t pass it up, so I decided to join and head out for the night. I hadn’t realized that beer pong is still a very American thing to play. One of the bar tenders was American and had been teaching everyone. Always fun.
Turns out I might be too old for this whole late night club thing. I’m certainly not capable of staying out until 6am.
My first full day in Barcelona, and I bet everyone can guess the first thing on my to-do list. Walking tour!
The Barcelona walking tour centers around the gothic area. You get a lot of different history, some Spanish, a lot Catalunya, which in English is Catalonia. Which unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you’ve seen the region making plenty of political headlines. Hearing the history, some of the politics started making a lot more sense to me.
After my tour, I headed out to the beach! I had no interest in the Barcelonetta beach, as it’s generally packed. Not something that works to well. I hate being afraid that someone will swipe my stuff while I’m in the water. So I hopped on the train for about 40 minutes to a different beach north of Barcelona. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any of the beaches. Perhaps it’d be worth putting some more thought into if you’re planning on staying in a town out there.
I had picked up some food and wine for my beach adventure. This was where I learned another way to open a wine bottle… If you let the wine get warm enough, the cork will start coming out all on it’s own! That wasn’t my intention, but the sand was warm, and there was no shade. I tossed the bottle in the hostel fridge when I got back, and it turned out okay to drink the next day, but I certainly wouldn’t be trying to keep it for later.
After my low key day the day before, this day was packed with lots of things to see. I started off by heading back to the gothic area to take a peak into the Santa Maria del Mar church. Just a very pretty old church. The church is in the gothic, and so in the process I ended up wandering around some more. It’s just a very cool area with lots of shops and restaurants.
After all the wandering, I headed up towards Casa Mila because I had bought my ticket online the day before. This is something they always recommend that you do, but it wouldn’t have actually mattered because there was no line.
Casa Mila is one of the many Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, and the first one that I visited. It’s an apartment building which is still used for that purpose, they’ve just opened up the roof top and attic as well as one apartment for touring.
I definitely thought this house was cool to see. The apartment was a little unconventional, but it was also designed for a different time, when you had a servant and your kids were supposed to stay away from the adults.
After the house, I headed over to check out the old hospital de la santa creu. Sadly, by the time I got there, they were closing soon, and I would miss my tapas tour if I went and looked around. What I got from the signs is that the buildings were designed to be a self supporting area. Now it’s a museum, and there’s a new modern hospital right near by.
I went on the tapas tour offered by the New Sandeman’s group here. I was a little concerned about signing up for a food tour with the fact that I can’t really eat everything. Luckily, the started the tour by asking if anyone had any food allergies. And then they adjusted the food accordingly. Most of the food were gluten free to start with. The couple things that were substituted were totally delicious as well. The tour also came with drinks, and wine is still tasty.
After the tour, we got dropped off at a cute bar that had pool tables and just a fun atmosphere. It was a nice small place. While there and we were all chatting, we decided we should head over to the beach area (we were already near by) and go to a club. Please don’t as why I thought this was a good idea after my last adventure. We got there a bit before midnight, which allowed us to get in free, but they don’t even open the dance floor until midnight. Also, don’t try to get into the club wearing tennis shoes or sleeveless shirts (if you’re a guy). Pretty much, they have a legit dress code and they will enforce it.
Barcelona is smart, knowing they have a large club culture, and run the metro all night on Saturdays. So heading home from the club I just hopped right on the metro. Quite a busy day.
The trip from Nice to Nimes was a couple hours, so I figured I had time to stop somewhere on the way. I chose Toulon because it’s a smaller town that’s home to the French Navy. I’m not exactly sure why I thought that was a must see, but it ended up being cool.
When I got off the train, my first goal was to find the lockers to leave my things for the day. Turns out, Toulon is a station that doesn’t actually have lockers… however, a bar half a block away does luggage storage. It may be the most sketchy place I’ve left my luggage, but they had a good system so I went with it. Most importantly, you had to be back by 6:30 to claim your things. Not a problem as I was intending to leave before then.
I headed down to the bay area, and over to the tourist information near by, as I had found that if you buy your boat tour ticket from the tourist office, it’s cheaper! Always good when it’s super easy.
The tour went around the bay, showing you the ships in port and a bit more about the coast line. However, the entire description was only in French, so I’m only slightly sure what we were looking at.
After the tour I spent some time wandering around town, and then ended up at the Navy Museum. I was very impressed with the museum overall. It explained how Toulon became to be such a prominent port as well as a bit of the history of ship evolution. I loved the explanation of how ships were built and repaired before the invention of the dry dock.
Perhaps my favorite display in the museum was the large picture of the harbor, which must have been taken from a helicopter.
Near the museum they still have the building that was used to make ropes. It’s a super long building, no longer completely visible from the outside. Sadly, you can’t go in it, as I’m sure it’s been re-purposed by now.
After the museum, I headed back to the train station to catch a train to Nimes (ignore the s, it’s pronounced Neem). I was so happy to have not even half a kilometer to walk after I got off the train. I was staying in the Ibis Style chain, which totally fit the bill I was looking for: close, my own room, air conditioning. Pretty simple.
I only had one day to fit all of the Nimes must sees in, so it was a busy day.
I started the morning off by checking out the Amphitheater. It’s from the Roman times and went through many different uses through out the years, including houses, as weird as that seems.
After the Amphitheater I headed over to the square house, another roman thing in the city. This wasn’t so interesting, and is essentially all new now anyways. They show you a video which was a slightly hilarious roll play version of history. Not worth the stop in my opinion.
Continuing my trip through ancient things, I stopped at the Temple of Diana, which is at the base of a park. It was cool to see just because you can wander around. And because there was a hilariously translated sign which stated that you could “not escalade the walls”. Which obviously L’escalade would best translate as to climb, and just didn’t make the translation very well.
Next up was the hike up hill to check out the tower. This used to be part of the walls of the city, but is now just a stand alone thing which they added a staircase in the middle so you can climb up to the top.
I always feel better about being tired of walking up the hill and the steps when I finally get to the top and realize that this really is rather high above the rest of the city.
After this climb up, the climb down was quite nice. They have some nice little paths through the park. I headed back towards the center of the city to grab some lunch before heading off for the afternoon. And this is proof that the US even loses at food when it comes to salad. I think we just need to change what we consider a salad.
If you look hard, you can find the lettuce, under the awesome pile of meat and cheese. Ignore those breadsticks, I didn’t eat them, but they sure looked pretty. This wasn’t my first mostly meat salad either. I just don’t do well taking pictures of my food because I’m usually hungry and half way through before I remember.
After lunch I headed over to the bus rotary to grab a bus to the Pont du Gard. For such a draw, you’d think it would have been a bit simpler to figure out what bus I needed to take and where to get it and when it leaves, but in the end, I figured it out. After you get off the bus you walk for a while down the road, which had no signs. All this difficulty to figure out where you’re going would have made more sense until you get there and see the fact that there are buildings and well paved paths all over.
It was a very cool thing to see. The aquaduct spans the river, which had even by that time, clearly worn it’s way through the surrounding land. There are three levels of arches in order to make the top level with the surrounding hillside. This is what makes this section of the aquaduct so gorgeous and interesting. Even very near by it could have simply been a canal in the ground.
At the lowest level of arches, there was a secondary bridge built right next to the aquaduct which is what you use to walk from one side of the river to the other. They did an amazing job building it though because it’s actually pretty hard to tell that it’s way newer.
And perhaps the most unexpected part (except that I read it online before hand) is that this is the best place to swim for a long way around.
It was like a giant beach party. But the water was very nice. The bottom was rocky, so I was once again wishing for those nice beach shoes I saw back in Nice. I think that I have very tough feet too, so it’s been crazy to be walking all wonky over the rocks.
After a swim I walked back to the bus stop. It was crazy hot, and I had soaked my shirt in the river before walking back, and it was totally dry by the time I got on the bus.
This was a fun filled busy day, and all I wanted to do was sit. And being that I had a room to myself, I intended to enjoy the calm alone time and relaxed in my hotel.
So the train to Monaco stops in Eze sur Mer, which means to get to Eze, you have to take the bus. Luckily, I’m pretty sure nothing will ever surpass the terrifying bus ride on the Fjord Tour from Bergen, so no biggie. You get some amazing views over Nice (pronounced like “niece” for those unfamiliar, yay French!) and the ocean. After this bus ride, I do wish I could have done the bus to Monaco, with the stop in Nice, just to see the trip. But I wasn’t about to go back to Monaco again.
Anyways, bus drops you off at the “top” of the hill. Sort of. It’s the top of normal places for now-a-days, but the old hill top Eze is still up hill. Stopped at the tourist info office, which here, must be the worlds most boring job. “We are here. *circle on map* Go up this street, up these stairs, and there’s the entrance to the old Eze. *draw line along the path*” And then the person leaves. Repeat.
I headed up the hill, found the village without a problem. It’s free to enter until you get to the exotic gardens, which cost 6€ and also encompass the very top of the hill. Well worth the fee. Overall I thought it was very cool to see the old village area and the insane ability of people to construct things on the side of a mountain. Thanks to my Step-mom and Dad for suggesting this one.
Super fun town to walk around. If I never see an uphill street with steps though, I’d be fine (I passed on the meditation gardens because they were down the stairs, then back up to leave). No wonder these Europeans are so skinny/in shape/fit. It’d be hard to be anything else when you have to walk and hike to get where you’re going!
I caught the bus from a stop I found while walking around killing time. This bus isn’t like a city bus that runs every 20 minutes. More like every 2 hours. So I was ready to leave, but hadn’t planned well and the next bus was in an hour. So I decided to walk around the rest of the town and see what there was. Not much. But that’s how I got those awesome views of the town. The bus was supposed to be in town at 12:10. So I figured it’d be at my stop at say, 12:09. It wasn’t far. So when 12:10 came and went… and then 12:20…. and then 12:30… I was about to walk to town to catch the bus to the train station. Thank goodness I was as patient as I was, because a bus pulled up right then. I was happy to be on a stop before the town, because I got a seat by the window!
Wandered around the old town for a bit, looking for a couple things. Why is it when I decide I want something, I can then never find it? Oh well. I had plenty to mail home as it was. Which was the next stop. Picked up a box at the French Postal service. 5kg for 45€. Not too horrible in my opinion. Carrying the filled box back to the station, I’d swear I was over weight. Put my box on the scale; and nope, 2.6kg. Well then. Still a lot out of my pack (it was 12kg when I started – per Iceland Air). Which meant more space for future shopping! They said delivery is normally 5-8 days and I was floored.
Next up I caught the bus to a Nice beach. I, once again, didn’t want to be packed in so I headed down the beach a bit. The Nice beaches are pebble beaches, in case someone hadn’t heard of the famous Nice beaches before. Amusingly to me, this was actually the most comfortable beach I’d been on. Probably because the “pebbles” don’t stick to your feet when you walk through them. I had a brief picnic then spent the time watching people. Just such a pretty beach.
People pretty much left when the sun left the beach. It sets essentially right behind the beach, and so the sunlight on the beach is gone a long time before the light. I enjoyed the calm, and luckily, the buses ran for another hour or two, but only once or twice an hour.
This is a good time to mention how annihilated my shoes are. It’s amazing what 5-15 miles a day, every other day, for two months will do to shoes. If you look at the ball and heel of these Toms, you can see that they are worn totally flat. This has been making for interesting walking if it rains, or the ground is otherwise wet, as a lot of towns pave with smooth stones. **Thinks to self, I will not repeat the fall in Amsterdam** Overall, loving my shoe choices. Other than the amazingly solid tan lines that only two pairs of shoes is creating.
Caught a bus home. I got to the stop, and thought that I had just missed the previous bus by around 10 minutes. But after my earlier adventure, decided I really couldn’t stray too far as maybe I didn’t really miss it. That happened to be the case. And I probably looked like an idiot waving down the bus. I wasn’t quite back to the stop yet, and you have to wave down the bus even at the stop, so I really wanted to be sure it didn’t miss me! Waiting another half hour wasn’t sounding exciting.
When I decided to stay in Nice, I was mostly interested in being on the coast and seeing some of the places around Nice. Don’t get me wrong, I’d heard nothing bad about Nice, but really it seemed like nothing more than a giant vacation town.
So in the morning I was off to Monaco. I had planned to take the bus to Eze, then to Monaco, but turns out that on Sunday, the bus doesn’t run, so I had to change plans. Not a big deal. Train to Monaco it was.
The train runs past a bunch of smaller towns between Nice and Monaco, which I was scoping out for a good beach. Super easy train ride with really nice views on the way.
Luckily, Monaco is a tourist hot spot to arrive via train. The tourist information is right in the station, making getting a map very simple. I figured out the route I wanted to take, heading to the harbor right away. The station is in the middle of the hills around Monaco, so the walk was all down hill. A great start, never fun to know what you’ll be hiking up on the way home.
The boats in the harbor were insane. I mean, maybe to see one or two, okay, but tons of them. And the water was absolutely clear. Some of these boats had their little attached/stored on deck run-arounds that are bigger than the boats most people own.
I wandered around a bit. My original plan had me here in the afternoon, which probably would have been preferable. The town is a bit dead in the morning (I think it was 10 when I got there). Got up to see the famed Monte Carlo, and was sadly unimpressed. Good thing I was there in the morning though, looks like there’s a dress code to enter when people are playing. You have to pay to enter the casino, which is stupid, but I had to see what all the fuss was about.
The rooms are pretty, but nothing to write home about (so I’ll full fill that statement by writing nothing here as well).
Wandered around a bit more. Really found nothing of huge interest to me, so I headed down to where the Monaco Grand Prix starts. Mostly just for shits and giggles. A lot so I can tell my cousins I was there.
Then I hit up the grocery store, because anything is cheaper than buying food and drinks AT the beach. Normal food wasn’t so bad, but they had a huge section of imported food. I guess they want all of their super rich clients to be happy. Because they’re all obviously shopping at the grocery store.
Food collected and I headed back up to the train station. For anyone ever looking to improve their calf tone, take a trip to some hilly place and walk a lot. It’s doing wonders.
I decided to stop at Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Don’t ask how to say the first part, I have no idea. The second part means that the train stops at the Mediterranean part of town, not the hill side where lots of things are. Which is a huge deal, not something you want to mix up if you are aiming for one or the other. It’s quite a hill. Luckily, when looking for the beach, the sea is where to be.
Mostly I was aiming for a beach outside of the main town because I hate when it’s super packed. This fit the bill just fine. Definitely not empty, but it’s not like someone was within touching distance on either side.
Turns out I should have taken a better look at the wine I grabbed. I completely missed the dry to sweet scale. I’d grabbed a very sweet wine. Absolutely not what I was looking for for my picnic and chilling on the beach. Probably won’t do that again.
Everyone owns these umbrellas (top picture above) and brings them to the beach with them. I didn’t get it when I got there, but after an hour or so, it makes perfect sense. If nothing else, it will shade your things for you.
This was my first encounter with the topless-ness I’ve heard so much about. I was a tad shocked at first, as American culture (or perhaps English speaking culture) is very anti-topless-ness. Anyways, when in Rome…. which is all fine and dandy but I’ve grown up with no sun exposure to such areas. And can you imagine getting sun burn on such sensitive areas?! Sounds very painful and therefore I’m rather cautious.
This was where I gave up on my awesome Enlite sensors. The one I had in had been rocking for a couple days, but with the sweat and water, it just wasn’t really holding on, which sent it off to crazy number land. I thought about putting one in the next day… but how was that possible, I was always (really, always) sweating. That doesn’t make for good adhesive contact.
Caught the train back to Nice, hit up my hostel for a quick shower, then headed off to find some place with wifi and air conditioning. It’s surprisingly rare to find AC, even for some place that gets plenty warm, and my hostel definitely didn’t have it. And the room was TINY. So I decided my next stop, which was only two nights in Nimes, should be moved to a hotel in the center of town. The hostel wasn’t particularly convenient, and I needed a break from the lack of space and sweaty nights. That and other chores completed, I headed back to catch some sleep.
So it turned out that we really only ended up with one day in Lyon to see all it’s wonders. That made for a busy day!
We started off the day by checking out the Basillic, which was on top of the hill by my hostel. You can see it from a large portion of the city, and it has great views over the city.
A pretty impressive place over all.
Next we headed over to the Roman Ruins. I hadn’t know that Lyon was a Roman city until we got here… turns out Lugdnum was one of the largest Roman cities that has ever existed. The ruins are two theaters and some public buildings on the hill side. They actually updated the theaters and use them every summer for outdoor concerts (seems strange to me to use 1000 year old ruins for concerts, but hey).
It was fun to hike around the ruins. Pretty much nothing was off limits, which seems so strange to me. I’m sure at home everything would be blocked off, because there were areas where you could fall quite a distance, etc.
There is also a Roman History Museum near by. It was giant, but certainly didn’t seem that way at the beginning. I think there were five floors of displays. Everything in the Museum was found in the Lyon area at some point in history. The whole city is so on top of the old Roman city, that anytime someone wants to build something, or dig anywhere, they now perform an archaeological dig first. I was floored by some of the stuff here. There were a lot of burial epitaphs, which isn’t surprising they survived as they were designed to, and this was a city of importance. (Of course I find those none too interesting, so pictures are of other things, and never very many.)
But even crazier, was when we got to the bottom of the museum (you start at the top and take a circular route down). There I saw this room, which is just blocked off by fences. Shelved upon shelves of additional things they could display.
After this we ran some errands. I needed to get my reservation for my train to Nice, and Amy needed to print her boarding pass for her flight from Paris. Luckily, mine was easy. Line was short and it was decently simple. Not the train I’d hoped for, but still getting there the right day. Amy’s luck wasn’t so good. Apparently printing things in public locations isn’t a thing. We stopped at the library, which would have worked great, except you need a library card to login to the computer. Oh well, we’d figure it out later.
We then headed off to catch a boat cruise around the rivers. It was scheduled at 2… and we got there at 2:03 to see the boat pulling away from the dock. It was a bit farther away than we’d planned for, and even with super speed walking, we were too late. This made for a decently calm lunch sitting by the river. Not a horrible trade off. While we were eating/drinking/chatting, this giant group of swans swam by.
Next on the adventure plan was a trip up to the silk workshops. So glad we took the metro for this one, it’s on top of the other hill in Lyon. The internet hadn’t made it clear that the demonstrations (two) were in different buildings. So we got to the first one at the appointed hour…. only the demonstration was in a different place, a 5-10 minute walk away. We boogied.
There was a couple there who had just started the demonstration. The explanation was in French, and the man was translating to Dutch for the woman. They shortly figured out we spoke English, and he offered to translate to English instead. Well, turns out they could provide the tour in English, if that’s the language we all understood. Yay!
After that tour and demonstration (silk ribbon weaving, using punch cards), we headed back to the place we first stopped for a demonstration of cloth weaving. Overall very cool. And they totally won out because what’s better for souvenirs than locally made products? Exactly.
Next on the list was dinner. However, I’d seen somewhere on the GIANT map they gave us, that Ampere’s house or something was here. Well I’d torn that bit off, and it was too late for anything like that to be open anyways. However, there is a metro stop Ampere, and Ampere Plaza. So being the good electrical engineers (we did meet in an electrical class at school…) we headed off to check it out. Turns out Ampere spent most of his adult life in Lyon.
We then headed off to find a spot to eat. Along the way, we found a couple hotels. We decided we should really duck into one and see if they offered printing (boarding pass, remember). The first place we stopped did! Yay! And they had a book with places to eat. Even better. The receptionist told us that really, there no place to do public printing in France, it’s just not a thing. Good to know now. After that food, then home.
Whew, that was a lot in one day.
Day 45 – Back to being alone
Amy had an early train to Paris, so I was back to being alone. I hadn’t been able to get the morning train to Nice, or the afternoon train, so I was stuck with the evening option, leaving at 6 something. Not the end of the world, but I did need to fill my time during the day.
So what did I do? I hit up the stores. Knowing I was already planning on mailing something home, I figured this was the time to shop.
At the demonstrations the day before, I’d found that they also did silk screen printing demonstrations in town. Since I had the time, I decided to head there to check that out. It was pretty interesting. The only trouble was a wandered in at the beginning of a demonstration for a large group. Oh well, I could hear fine.
I caught my train, picnic in tow. The woman across the aisle was giving me weird looks, and eventually said something to me, in French, which I have no idea what it was, but she didn’t seem too happy. Oh well. It was the 1st of August, and mostly families heading off for Holiday. I should have known, and known I needed to make this train reservation ASAP. Oh well. Pleasant trip for the most part.
Pretty much the only reason Lyon was on my original trip plan was because it made for a nice day trip to Annecy. The fact that it was a very interesting city in it’s own right, I didn’t know until we got there.
Today was the day for the trip to Annecy. It’s about a two hour train ride from Lyon to Annecy, so we left around 8:00. The ride was quite pretty as it goes along another lake on the way.
We got to town, and saw one sign for tourist info, and then couldn’t find it. Luckily the hotel we popped into didn’t get too mad and had a map. Once we figured out how to get there, we set off for the city center area, which is along a few canals/rivers and not too far from the lake.
We quickly ended up by the lake, looking at the boat rentals. We saw a lot of sailboats out, and both knowing how to sail, went off to try to find how to get one. Turns out, you can rent catamaran boats (which neither of us have sailed before) and you need to know how to rig them from nothing. There were little boats which I’d say are similar to sunfish which I’ve sailed plenty, but they were only for the sailing school/camp. So that didn’t happen.
One of the things both Amy and I had found as a “thing to do in Annecy” was to check out the prison. I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of this, but the signs and explanations going through were pretty good. Especially for still being in France, the fact that anything was in English was a huge plus.
The tour covers some of the cells used to hold prisoners; the kitchens, which at one point in the buildings life were used to mint coins; the courtrooms and judges areas; additional cells which were used during WWII when the area was Nazi occupied; and the courtyard and chapel. Perhaps I missed an area in the naming, but I was surprised by how large the place was. It certainly didn’t look it from the outside. The toilets in the building were holes that simply fed directly into the canals. Ew.
On that note, we were off to lunch. One of the blogs I found in my search for things to do in Annecy listed restaurants. And food to try. This caught my attention:
Tartiflette – Your waistline’s worst nightmare and your stomach’s dream come true. A large dish of potatoes, onions, and bacon melted into heavy cream and Rebluchon cheese. Just pretend it’s fat free and shove it in your face.
Also listed was the restaurant Le Chalet which she ate this at. Luckily it’s a small town and at some stop we found wifi and looked the place up. It was right on the canal. And even though it wasn’t winter, it luckily wasn’t a sweltering day, because Amy and I were both set on this dish. And when in France, with someone else, a bottle of wine with lunch is a must. And believe me, we both followed the instructions above. These dishes were empty when we finished.
After lunch we hiked up the hill to the Chateau. I was hoping there would be some stuff about life as it was lived here, but it’s actually museums. One of which was an aquarium, one which explained bits of the history of Annecy. A weird bit about the discovery of some mermaid remains…. Ah legends.
However, the Chateau was on the top of the hill (I’m no longer surprised by this choice for locations).
We had been debating renting bikes to see around the lake a bit farther, but they were expensive, and a paddle boat was a similar price and got us onto the lake. The lake is an insane teal color, that my camera refuses to capture. And man, we had both forgotten how much work a paddle boat is. Thankfully we both enjoy exercise. It’s like biking, with a really poorly sized bike.
We lucked out that they said our time out was shorter than it was, so an extra half hour for free!
After this we wandered around town a bit more, checked out another park, finally wandered past the tourist info spot, and then decided to head back to Lyon. Being that our train ride was going to be around dinner time, and that lunch had not been cheap, we opted for the, ever fabulous, train picnic. (That is not a sarcastic statement. I love this.)
This was a full day, so we each headed home when we got back to Lyon. I would definitely go back to Annecy again, or one of the other towns nearby on Lake Annecy or the other lake the train went past (which might be a tad bit less touristy).
I caught my train to Lyon, with time to spare. Got there, and was oh so happy I had found the directions that were given in my reservation. The hostel was half way up the giant hill, Fourvier, in Lyon. Way easier to take the metro and funicular like they suggested than simply getting off at the metro stop which looks very close to the hostel. It would have been 500 meters, but all of them very steeply uphill. I took transit quickly to drop my things off at my hostel, and then headed right back to meet Amy at the train station.
I was a little late to meet her train, so meeting was a tiny bit more difficult. Made most difficult by the fact that the lockers at this station were in a weird ass place. We had both looped through a couple times before finally finding the right spot. Oh well. Eventually we connected and man was it nice to see a familiar face!
We headed off in search of lunch. The train station is located right by a mall, which we ended up wandering by. Trolling the streets we ended up finding a little cafe where people were eating food that looked good. Stopped there for lunch and ordered salads. Man, probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Really more like some leaves to go with awesome meats and cheeses. Not sure why I didn’t take a picture. Was probably too hungry.
Then we wandered around for a bit, which lead to me doing a bit of shopping and dragging Amy along. I was in need of a few things, and just fell in love with others. I guess a package will be getting sent home soon.
Stopped by the tourist info, always a good stop, which was in this giant plaza. These spaces are always green on maps, which makes me think they’re a park, or at least grass. Nope.
We headed over to check out the old part of town, including the cathedral. Nothing too special there, but we did find these ruins outside the cathedral. If only I could remember what the sign said they were.
One of the things suggested to us to do at the tourist office was to check out these passage ways between the buildings. They were all listed on the map, so we gave it a go. Turns out most of them are locked. And the two we did manage to get into, weren’t anything special. They are really just the entrances to apartments, that just happen to all connect through the buildings with some small courtyards along the way. Don’t waste your time.
We headed back to grab Amy’s things from the train station and meet up with her Airbnb peeps. Lots of stairs. But I guess no different than my giant hill! Followed by dinner, which was so nice to have someone to chat with! Then headed home in preparation for the following day.
This was the first Hostel which I have really not enjoyed. Funny, because I wasn’t spending much time there. Amazing how much a bathroom and shower can make or break my opinion.