Château d’If

Today we got up early and went to Marseille.  We had plans to go to Château d’If. Château d’If is a fortress (later used as a prison) that was built in the late 1520’s to early 1530’s on the island of If.  It is the smallest island of the Frioul archipalego about a mile off the coast of Marseille in the Mediterranean Sea.  Alexandre Dumas made the Château famous in his popular novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.  This is the reason for our wanting to see the Château d’If.

We were all in the car by 8:45am and made it to Marseille in less than 2 hours, quickly found a parking spot and headed to the Vieux Porte.  We walked up to the ticket counter and posted on a white piece of paper that looked like it had just been torn out of a notebook, was a handwritten note, “No chateau d’if today”!  Aaron lost his cool a little bit with the lady.  Customer service does not exist in France.  This woman could have kindly said, “We are so sorry for the inconvenience!”  But instead, she just said, “No, it’s closed.” She didn’t give us an explanation, except that the wind was too strong.

French websites are terrible!  No explanation needed.  If you have experienced it, you know what I am talking about.  I had checked the Château d’If website and there was nothing about weather conditions or a possible cancellation because of wind, etc.  I looked at it in French and then I did the English version so I wouldn’t miss any important information.  Clearly, there was nothing posted about closures.  We were disappointed and irritated to say the least!

Well, what to do on a hot day in Marseille!  We took the ferry boat to a different island, Frioul, and passed right by Château d’If.  We walked around Frioul, had lunch and enjoyed the beautiful views.  We did not pack any bathing suits or towels so none of us swam.  It was a bummer because there were beautiful coves where people were swimming.  Over all we made it into a fun day, but we were disappointed that we didn’t get to visit the famous Château d’If!

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Marseille has a beautiful Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille.  It is a church that sits atop a hill that overlooks all sides of Marseille.  Aaron took me there on our honeymoon many years ago!  It is beautiful!

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This is the Old La Major Cathedral.  I have never been inside, but it is an amazing site.  It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral that seats the Archdiocese of Marseille.

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AJ was the most disappointed in not being able to get to Château d’If.  We still got pretty close, just at a distance!

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After we arrived on Frioul we walked around a bit and then found a little restaurant for lunch.  Alexis ordered a plate of petits poissons, little fish, thinking it would be a little sampling of a few pieces of fish.  After she ordered it and asked the waiter a few questions about it I realized it was not what she was going to be expecting.  She then ordered a salad but we kept the order of fish.  The fish plate arrived and as we expected it was a huge mound of little deep fried whole fish.  Alexis still ate a few, but AJ and Austin enjoyed most of them.  Jack and Tristan both tried one but they could only eat the tail side, not the eyes!

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While walking around Frioul we came upon a sculpture.  It was a metal rhinoceros with a clear plastic box in its’ open stomach area.  Inside the plastic box were books.  It was a little library for those who would dock their boats and needed something to read.  It was the coolest, yet oddest of ideas.  I guess the oddity comes from the location.

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We had a fun day in Marseille, even though it wasn’t what we had hoped to see and do!

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Dinner on the Seine

John, Jenn, Aaron and I took a dinner cruise on the Seine when we were in Paris.  It was another thing Aaron and I had not done before, so we were looking forward to the experience.  My first trip to Paris as a teenager my family and I took a river ride on the Seine, but it was not a dinner cruise.

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We had a great time!  The waitress was so surprised when we told her we would not be having champagne or any alcohol.  She asked us quite a few times if we were sure we did not want something more than water and/or soda.  By the end of the evening she told us she was very impressed that we did not drink alcohol.  It is a very hard concept for the french to understand and respect.

We arrived at the boat around 8pm and we left the dock at 8:30.  It was a two hour cruise up and down the Seine.  We had a menu with 3-4 choices for each course.  We ordered our food at the start of the cruise and the courses, 4-5 total, kept coming until the ride was over.  We started with an apéritif, cheese/cauliflower puffs, with our drinks, then we had soup or a salad, our main dish, a cheese tray and then dessert.  I tried the duck and Aaron had a plate of veggies.  Their mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes were so yummy!  We all really liked our food!

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It was fun seeing some of the sites from the boat.  For example, the Eiffel Tower was beautiful as we rode by.  When the sun goes down the Eiffel Tower has a light show on the hour and we happened to be passing by right at 10 pm.  It was so neat!  Also, Aaron was able to capture the Statue of Liberty, with the Eiffel Tower in the back ground!

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We loved being with friends and we had a night of laughter, good food, fantastic ambiance in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

Paris with Alexis

Last week I enjoyed taking Alexis and her roommate, Rebecca, to Paris.  Rebecca was leaving for America and, of course, Paris was a must see.  We visited all the popular sites.

The Eiffel Tower

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The Louvre (the below pictures are of Napoleon III Apartments)

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Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie (I didn’t get many photos.)

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Ladurée

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No photos:  Versailles, Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, Place de Concorde, Tuileries Gardens, Metro, RER, delicious restaurants, crêpes, Arc de triomphe…

Great Roman Games

Saturday, May 2nd we had the chance to go see a reenactment of the ancient Roman Games in the Arènes de Nîmes.  The Nîmes arena is a Roman amphitheatre dating to 70 AD.  We have visited the arena on a few occasions but this time was awesome (despite the mile long line and heat)!  Jenn and John were still in town so we all got to have a new experience together.  The spectacle is performed by 500 participants from around Europe. When we arrived at our seats, each person received a colored program with a red handkerchief.  This “red” was our team and whoever was in the arena competing, the respective color would be waved in the crowd.  The team colors were red, green and white.  This Roman Games was based on the famous military commander, Hannibal. Hannibal was considered one of the greatest generals of antiquity.  He played an important part in the history of the Mediterranean area.

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The Games lasted 2.5 hours.  It was a long time to be in the sun, but we did eventually get cloud coverage and it cooled off a little.  This was a performance I am so happy we were able to participate in.  I don’t know if we will ever get a chance to see a reenactment quite like this in a 2000 year old structure!  We were all interested as chariots came roaring out in the arena and started “fighting” each other, or seeing the “fights” against the barbarians of different lands.  It was very entertaining and we had a fascinating afternoon imagining life in times past!

Versailles

One of our favorite places to visit in Paris is Versailles.  Aaron and I love going and spending an afternoon in the gardens.  We took Jenn and John to Versailles and we spent quite a few hours there.  The grounds are massive, around 1,976 acres of land!  We all had a fun time visiting the Château, Marie Antionette’s hamlet, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the extensive gardens!

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Sainte-Chapelle

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Aaron and I traveled to Paris two weeks ago to spend a few days with my best friend from college, Jenn and her husband John.  We were so excited to finally have family and/or friends come to visit.  We spent 2.5 days with them in Paris.  Aaron and I went a day early so we could spend a little time together too.  It was a fun few days in Paris and then we all took the train south so they could spend a few days with us in Sanilhac.

One of the places we visited while in Paris was the Sainte-Chapelle.  Aaron nor I had visited this cathedral before.  The Sainte-Chapelle is a medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the late 1230’s-1240’s.  It was erected under the commission of King Louis IX to house his collection of the Passion relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns.  The chapel was damaged during the French Revolution but it was restored in the 19th century.  It has one of the largest 13th century stained glass collections in the world.  It was magnificent!  My iphone did not capture the vibrant colors of the stained glass.  It is not a large chapel, like Notre Dame, but it is beautiful!  The ceiling of the chapel is a vibrant blue that did not show up in my photos.  The Sainte-Chapelle is a few blocks away from the Notre Dame.

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Another view of Sanilhac

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This is another view of Sanilhac from the south side of the village.  Some of our favorite trails converge at this location!  I feel so grateful to have been able to enjoy all 4 seasons here in the south of France.  It is beautiful at any time of the year, but right now it is absolutely lovely!  I took the above photos a few weeks ago and already the vineyards are heavy with green vines, the countryside is greener than I have seen it all year!  Plus, there are wild flowers everywhere!  I am going to have a hard time leaving this place! :(

La Baume

It is that time of year again when we set out for La Baume!  It is “right in our backyard” with just a few miles of hiking in between.  We all love going down to the river.  The weather is getting warmer but the water is still freezing!  I don’t think the river ever changes temperature.  It has always felt cold, even on the hottest of days!  The kids LOVE the river, especially the three older boys.  We wanted to show Becca one of our favorite spots.  It was a beautiful day for a hike, plus, it helps that the summer crowd hasn’t appeared yet!

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Cannes

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We spent the weekend in Cannes, France with our friends the Serrano-Milone’s.  Aaron had a business meeting Saturday afternoon, so we all decided to make a fun weekend out of it.  We really wanted to get to Spain and Portugal, but the older boys had youth conference at the beginning of the week and Alexis comes tomorrow (YEAH!!!)!

The Côte d’Azure is beautiful!  Cannes is known for its’ Film Festival:

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The Cannes Film Festival takes place in May so we did not spot any Hollywood stars! That’s okay, because the boardwalk is so crowded anyway without celebrities nearby.  We enjoyed driving through the hills and neighborhoods of Cannes.  Aurore lived in Cannes when she was a little girl and her mom is buried there, so we got to see the “real” Cannes!

We spent saturday on the Med.  Aurore, myself, Noami (the wife of the Serrano-Milone’s friends) and the kids all hung out on the beach while the kids enjoyed the sand and water. It was an overcast day so our kids were the only ones swimming.  It was fun!  Our kids have a great time together!

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When the sun began to fade away we all loaded up and went to Noami and David’s house near Saint-Raphaël.  They live in the beautiful hills/mountains between Cannes and Saint-Raphaël.  The city lights of Cannes could be seen from their backyard.  They had a potato farm just beyond their stone “fence”.  Also, on our way up the hills/mountains we saw a group of wild boar grazing in the fields. It was so cool!  Noami made a delicious spread of food (I wish I had taken photos)!  We didn’t start eating until 9:30pm.  I love how the french take their time in preparing and planning their meals.  She made a few fresh salads, homemade “french” fries, a delicious olive tapenade, sausages, hamburgers, homemade mayo, a cucumber salad…  It was awesome!  We enjoyed great food and great company.

The next day we went to church in Cannes and met Noami’s father.  Fun family!  Her father has one of the largest “The Cure” memorabilia in all of France!  Aaron “died” (the last area he served) in Cannes on his mission.  It was so awesome for him to go back and see the church building and see some familiar faces from 25 years ago.  We had a fantastic weekend!

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