Oh France…

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We’ve made it to Menton, our ‘home base’ for the next 3 months. Referred to as the “pearl of France,” it’s busier & bigger than I’d expected.

We’ve spent the last week or so traveling between Azille & Menton, covering much of France’s country side. One quickly passes by acres & acres of vineyards to then arrive in yet another beautiful, quaint French village always consisting of a patisserie, boulangerie & cafe.

Almost a month in I’ve, of course, made more observations:

Contrary to the reputation the French may have, I’ve encountered very friendly & helpful people.

France’s well signed highway system & its use of round abouts has made navigation relatively painless even with my severe lack of a sense of direction.

This trip consists of a very tight budget as we’re both (at least for the moment) without paid employment. Therefore, we’ve been very strict about meals out. A majority of meals have been consumed (& created) in hotel rooms, the rental car, or parks & have been delicious.

Restaurant meals have largely been underwhelming save the aforementioned meal in Paris & my birthday dinner at La Fourchette in Avignon where everything from the service to dessert was fantastic.

High quality raw ingredients are readily available & for a decent price making dining in very enjoyable (traveling with a chef also helps) but clearly venues for meals out need to be chosen more deliberately. Simply being in France does not guarantee well prepared food! On this same note, I’m still waiting for a really great coffee & croissant.

Finally, my French skills need work. I can handle basic, short conversations but would really like to improve. It’s difficult when most people default to English. However, advances must be made as there have been some translation mishaps. Turns out I’ve been telling people like restaurant servers & my brand new French tutor that I’m “sexually aroused” not simply (& innocently) “excited” as I thought! Oops. First lesson’s scheduled for tomorrow.

Menton is situated on the water & right near the Italian border making for an interesting mix of people. The next challenge is to acquire accommodation at a reasonable price, which may prove difficult as it’s entering its high tourist season.

Time for more photos!

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One week in…

Where to start? Our travel to France, though long, was surprisingly tolerable. Sleep has never come so easy though than after approximately 30 waking hours & we arrived to our Air B & B reservation. Paris is a busy city, you can’t help but keep a quick pace. But there’s so much to see & one is struck by its sheer magnitude of history. Roughly four hours of walking the first day meant a handful of sites, including the Eiffel Tour, had been seen. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we enjoyed an exciting & tasty meal of tapas turned out from a shockingly small kitchen at Mary Celeste. Quite the hipster crowd with a friendly buzz, it was perfect.

Now we’re in the south of France house & dog sitting for a lovely couple we connected with via TrustedHousesitters.com. I’m doing my best to master the French way of eating while taking in all the sites & pleasures this trip has afforded me thus far.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) I revel in the ability to swiftly & gracefully manoeuvre my luggage. Hiking backpacks don’t really allow for this.

2) Packing is a true art. I’ve both over & under packed.

3) Paris is a sick city meaning that it exposes you to many viruses. We were warned & then both succumbed.

4) Little things become very important to travellers. The kindness of (relative) strangers & internet access have never been so important.

Until the next post…hopefully with photos!

One week today…

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One week today…

And I’ll be en route to Paris! As I start the daunting task of packing, I’m recalling previous trips I’ve been on. I wrote about my travels to Chicago & Suchitoto, El Salvador on the new Rickshaw Magazine. Check out my recounting of these two amazing cities here:

http://rickshawmag.com/2013/chicago-getaway/

http://rickshawmag.com/2012/el-salvador-a-friendly-affordable-destination/