Friday, May 30, 2014

The zoo, St. Emilion, and Arcachon

   So I finally found a chunk of time to finally write about our actual time here in Arcachon. The first day arrived we were so exhausted we really didn't do anything. But that next day was a Sunday and a beautiful sunny day! So that afternoon we decided to go to the beach and just see what it was like. Once we got there we couldn't believe it! The sand was so soft, there were great sea shells, and since Arcachon is in a bay we didn't have to worry about huge waves that would take William out to sea.  We let William wade in the water and at one point a little wave came and knocked him  off his feet! I caught him in time so he didn't drown but he basically got soaked. His face was priceless. :) I on the other hand made it my goal to collect as many sea shells as possible. My own little free souvenir from this place. So basically that has been the only sunny day since we have been here. That Monday through Saturday it rained and poured and rained some more. BLEG. William and I were going crazy being coped up in our hotel room when we were in FRANCE and there are AWESOME THINGS TO SEEE! So thankfully our friends we came here with called us up and asked us if we wanted to go to the Aquitaine zoo. So obviously we went. We were really worried because it looked like a tiny zoo and no one was there ( probably due to the rainy weather. I guess we are just some crazy American people!) We were SO glad we went though! We were so much closer to the animals then we would have been in the states! We couldn't believe it! They also had a good verity of animals and there weren't so many that we were overwhelmed either. We saw a baby orangutan right next to the glass. Heck if the glass wasn't there we could have touched the sweet thing. Anyway. It was amazing. And of course William and Tyler liked it too. It was a great thing to do with kids.  
    That night we decided to go on a date. (It was our first one in about 3 months) We went to a beachfront restaurant and it was wonderful except for a few things. For our appetizer Tyler got basically oyster on the half shell, wells (sea snails) , shrimp, and a baby lobster. I couldn't really eat anything other then the shrimp and lobster. I have texture issues with the other two. Then Tyler talked me in to getting Fois Gras. Which is a French delicacy.  It's basically fattened goose liver whipped into a spread. Then you spread it on toast with fruit on top. It was GROSS. Definitely not my thing. The whole time I kept thinking all I am eating is fat. Ugh. The main dishes went much better. Tyler got salmon and I got duck breast. (I can't get enough of duck! Why don't we eat it in the states again?) Then of course creme brule. The best I have ever had.
   The next day we decided to take a train to St. Emilion. It was one of the best decisions we could have made on this trip. It was FANTASTIC! Basically St. Emilion is a medieval city from the 12th Century known for limestone. The city itself has catacombs and tunnels under the city where they mined the stuff. So naturally the whole place is made out of limestone. The cobblestones, buildings, and city gates. It felt like we stepped back in time. Around the city were acres and acres of vineyards with beautiful chateaus and unique wines to try (which we didn't do obviously because of religious views). The only downside is it was at the top of this hill and the train station was at the bottom of the hill. The hike was a little tiring but definitely worth it. One of the first things we did when we got there is go up into the citadel.  It had tiny stair ways with spiral staircases to get to the top. (which Tyler had a little bit of trouble with with a baby carrier) But once you got to the top it was gorgeous. You could almost see to the ocean. They originally built it to protect themselves from the Aquitaine kingdom (including Arcachon) from attacks. After that we found a cute little restaurant to eat lunch. Pork kabobs with french fries and zucchini salad. So good. After that we went on the tour of the catacombs. We learned about the religious leader that started the city who was actually originally from the north of France. He liked solitude and so he lived in a cave in St. Emilion. (before it was St. Emilion) Well he performed miracles of healing to those around him and once the word reached people St. Emilion was born. We saw the cave where he lived and he must have really hated people because it was cramped and little with a little spring and bed carved out of stone and a chair carved out of stone. Anyway, after that we went under the city where the rich and famous were originally buried in the catacombs. (no bones now sadly ) Then we went under the giant church into a separate little chapel under the main church. All carved out. There were flying buttresses with angels ahead carved out of stone. Some paintings and of course the whole place was still in working order. Heck people get married there! (?) It was a little spooky but pretty cool. After that we looked at the main church with it's stained glass windows and 12th century paintings on the walls. It was gorgeous. I wasn't as overwhelmed as Notre Dame but it was almost calmer and more secluded which added to it's beauty. Then we looked at the abbey where the nuns made the recipe for macaroons. Sadly it is all collapsed now but it was still worth seeing. We ordered some of those macaroons and they were delicious. Almond and lemon. mmmm. Next we saw the old city wall and of course the city gate as we left town. If you ever come to France I would make this City a PRIORITY! I just couldn't believe how well preserved everything was and how gorgeous the landscape was.
   Ever since this little day trip we have just been hanging around Arcachon. We went to the Dune de Pyla which was pretty cool. Basically it's the biggest sand dune in Europe. BTW there are stairs which we took on the way up but not down. Went to the beach again, poked our head in some cool shops. I got William some cool wooden trains and train puzzles and Tyler got a knife with Arcachon carved in the handle. (I on the other hand have not found anything yet. But I will for sure! ;) ) We have been eating LOTS and LOTS of pasteries, ice-cream, and crepes (don't forget baguettes!). In fact we have been eating so much good food I'm pretty sure I have gained at least ten pounds! It doesn't matter that I have been walking everywhere! The food it just SO GOOD! Well anyway I think that's everything for now. Until next time! 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Notre Dame, The Louvre, and our Journey to Arcachon

        Hello All! Time  to update the rest of our time in Paris as well as our journey to Arcachon. When I last left off I had described my experiences on the Eiffel Tower. The day that I finished my last post we decided to visit Notre Dame. We took the metro from our hotel to a stop nearby and walked to the square. We got to cross the bridge over the river (if you didn't know Notre Dame is on an island) and get a fantastic view of it. As we approached we noticed there was a giant tent inside the square. Later we found out that they were having a bread competition. Sadly the prices were so high we decided not to buy any of the contestants delicious breads but it was fun looking at the different varieties of breads and the different names for the bakeries. Once you exited the tent there was a long line that you had to wait in to get inside of Notre Dame. The line seemed to move pretty quickly and so it wasn't a long wait. The only downside is the area is known for pickpocketers. So we had to be on our guard. There was a strange man that randomly got in line between Tyler and I and Tyler thought it suspicious. So Tyler put his hand in his pocket with his money and ID in it and the man left. We are pretty sure he was trying to rob us but thankfully Tyler lived in Europe for two years and so he was looking out for that. In front of us was a man from the states that was an architect. It was really interesting talking to him and hearing about his travels through Europe to of course study architecture. When we finally got close enough to see the outside of the building I was astounded. I couldn't believe the detail of the peoples faces, even the door had major detailing. I didn't realize what I was about to walk into until I crossed the threshold of the building. It was more beautiful then the pictures that I have seen that depicted it. People spoke in hushed voices and so it helped with the beauty of the place. The building was huge! As we slowly walked the perimeter of the chapel the thought hit me "This was made to worship God". I then thought in my mind how they used the best things they could at the time to show God that they loved Him. It was a humbling thought especially since I am not catholic. The stained glass window were fantastically detailed and we even sat for a minute just looking around. After we walked around Notre Dame we decided we need to have a crepe for a pre dinner snack. We got lost trying to ask French speakers in English where the closest creperie was. Finally Tyler saved the day again and found us one. We decided to have a savory crepe with egg, ham, and cheese. It was the best thing I have ever eaten. I am now a crepe-a-holic. I love them and CAN'T GET ENOUGH!
        The next day Tyler's Father came into town which I was very grateful for because I got to watch another little boy William's age which his mother was translating for class. William and Wayne ( Tyler's dad) had so much fun at the park playing peek-a-boo and chase. After that William took a nap while we waited for Tyler to get out of class. Finally we took the Metro across town to the Musee d'orday But sadly we had just missed it by 30 minutes. :( Which was a major bummer because that was on the top of my list of things to see in Paris. It is where the impressionist artists keep their work. Like for example Water and the Lilies by Monet ect. But hopefully next time we will be able to go! After missing that museum we decided to go to the Louvre. We walked throughout the beautiful gardens and saw the fountains, flowers and statues. When everyone thinks of the Louvre they think of the glass Pyramid but what people don't realize is it was a palace first. The Palace was HUGE! I was overwhelmed by how much paintings, statues, and other things were stored there. In fact we were there for 2 hours and we only saw the highlights. Thankfully my father in law was there because he had been to the louvre before and let us know what was worth seeing. After the Louvre we went out to dinner which was delicious. Wayne sadly had to catch a plane back to Germany so he had to speed though his meal but he was very kind and payed for our dinner and a dessert. Instead of getting desert and the restaurant we decided to get another crepe. But this time a Nutella crepe. Soo good!
        The next day was Saturday and sadly we had to leave Paris. We packed up our things and basically ran to the train station. We then took a bullet train for 3 hours down to Leborn. I know why the French countryside is so famous. It is definitely a beautiful place. Then in Leborn we took a bus to Bordeaux from there we took a smaller train to Arcachon. Once we got here we walked up a VERY STEEP  hill up to our hotel. Ville Regina was a hotel from 1889 and absolutely beautiful. Once we entered our room I already felt more relaxed. It overlooks the pool, it has a kitchenette, separate bedroom and a separate soaker tub from the toilet. So much space compared to our hotel in Paris! After that we went to Casino (a local grocery store here) in which Tyler was in heaven! He loved all the European ingredients and because of that he has been the one who has mostly been cooking. (which I love) So far Arcachon has been much more relaxing than Paris and much different too. We pretty much love it here. We've been here a week and I would go on about this weeks adventures but this post is already really long. So until next time!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Paris the City of Love

Bonjour! How are you all!? I've decided it is about time to write about my adventures thus far on this fantastic journey Tyler, William, and I are taking. So I will begin my story on last sunday. Tyler and I decided to go to sacrament meeting that morning but because of our procrastination (oh man we are bad at that one!) we had to skip out on the rest of church to clean our house and finish packing. We were able to finish around 3:00 so we ended up leaving around then to drive to Chicago. We found out that if we stayed in a hotel near the airport we were able to save big bucks on parking. We slept pretty well given the circumstances (hello we were going to fly to paris tuesday night!). The only down side to the hotel idea is we had to check out by 12:00. Which meant we had to take a shuttle to the airport and wait way longer than was necessary to get on the plane. We arrived at the airport around 1:00 and we checked our bags and went through security lickety split. So we had about 3 hours of waiting time before we could board the plane. So we ate some yummy oriental food and waited. Thankfully William loved running all over the airport so all we had to do was chase him around while the other parent watched the bags. So after we had waited those lovely 3 hours the stewardess made an announcement that basically our plane was late. So we had to wait an additional hour to board the plane. After we boarded a huge thunder storm decided to appear. So we had to wait that out too. They actually closed the airport for about 2 hours. There was also another thunderstorm coming in right behind the other one so we were worried our flight would be canceled but thankfully around 8:30 we took off!
    The actual 8 hour flight was decent. They had a baby bassinet for William to sleep in and the food was decent all I have to complain about is when people are trying to sleep shut your freaking mouth! Sadly there was a group of college students going to Africa sitting right behind us and the talked very loudly the whole 8 hours. UGH. I got about 2 hours of sleep which I guess was better than nothing but was way less then I could have gotten. So instead of arriving at 8:30 am paris time we arrived about 11:30. We were able to go through customs was fast because of baby William ( who knew you could get perks like that if you have a kid?) and we got our luggage caught a bus to a stop around our hotel. From there we walked about 5 blocks to our hotel. We were so exhausted all we wanted to do is get to our hotel! Thankfully a very nice frenchman stopped and gave us directions. Once we figured our the way of course the sky decided to rain. And it sure did rain. We had no jackets on and all our luggage got wet. Thankfully we came across a covered bus stop and waited the rain storm out for about 10 minutes. (Rainstorms come and go quickly here it's kind of weird) Thankfully after that we found our hotel and our Friends Eric and Emilee Brazel was waiting for us.
     We then checked in and went to our room. Wow things sure are smaller in Europe! Thankfully then we dropped off our stuff and went to lunch with the our friends. We found a small cafe and had a  fun time. I had a emmental cheese sandwich was basically butter and cheese on a baguette and Tyler had a sausage sandwich which was sausage on a baguette. Both were amazing! The bread here is to die for! Then William and I headed back to take a nap while Eric, Emilee, and Tyler walked around. It sure was hard to wake up after two hours of sleep! The Law group was having diner that night though and I didn't want to miss out! For the first course I had goat cheese salad then the second course I had Roast Duck in a cherry sauce which had delicious scalloped potatoes and then for dessert I had a meringue which a yummy creamy sauce toped with caramel and nuts. MMMM. The french sure do know how to eat! ;)
     On wednesday the law group went on a bus tour looking at all the sights the city has to offer. The Opera house was by far my favorite! It was BEAU! BELISSIMO! GORGEOUS! I only wish we had enough money to actually see an opera there! Maybe next time! :) After that we got dropped off at the paris law school and had two hours for lunch. During lunch I ended up getting a french phone ( no i can't call internationally ) and metro tickets. This took up the WHOLE TIME!  So I ate another sandwich after ward and all the law students went to class. The wives on the other hand went to tour the city! We decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We were going to take the stairs but because we had little children and aching backs and feet already we decided to take the elevator. It was fantastic! You can see for miles and miles! It was very crowded but almost everyone I have run into has been very kind to me. (maybe its another perk of having a baby) so that lovely and wondrous experience took 2 hours. We then met the husbands and took the metro home. Ate some delicious pain et fromage et pomme (bread with cheese and apple) and crashed for the night! I absolutely love paris and I can see why people fall in love with this city so easily. The french understand all types of beauty and it definitely comes across! Well I am off to go see some more beautiful things the city has to offer now! But I will write soon! Love you all!

Au Revoir!