Sunday, June 12, 2011

Going Out With A Bang

These last days in the Rivera have surely been memorable.  We took a ferry from Cannes to St. Marguerite to do a little bit of sun bathing and sailing, went to the club in Juan Les Pins, had several group dinners with AT LEAST 3 courses, drank big cappuccinos, visited Nice to go shopping, went on a dinner cruise and just enjoyed Antibes.  
Sailing was interesting to say the least, there was absolutely no wind.  So to entertain us the dock boys towed us around using motor boats in chains of 3-5 hubby cats all attached to one another.  We ended up doing more tanning than actually sailing.  The night followed with a decadent dinner at a traditional french restaurant.  

A group of about eight of us went to Juan Les Pins, which is about a 20 minute walk, to hit up the club.  From the outside it looks like a casual bar.  Sherri walked right up to the bouncers and talked them into letting us all cut the line.  We danced for hours and got home right before the sun came up.  It was by far one of the best nights out we have had here in the Rivera.  Abby, Meghan and myself decided to wake up early the following morning and go to Nice, which is about a 15 minute train ride.  We went shopping and bought new dresses and some jewelry.  Then we headed to the beach on the English Promenade.  There we had the coldest, most satisfying diet cokes we have ever experience.  For lunch we bought giant watermelon slices that a little man was walking around selling.  It was a relaxing girls day out.  Once we arrived back to Antibes we quickly showered and put on our new dresses for the dinner cruise we had planned.  It was 30 of us on the catamaran where we had rum punch and seafood paella.  It was a festive night full of dancing and a great way to spend time with one another before saying goodbye to the Rivera.  
On our last day (sunday), Meghan and I went to a cafe for breakfast.  She got an omelette and I took a chance with some gluten and got a crepe with bananas and Nutella, and of course huge cappuccinos.  we enjoyed the city of antibes and walked around, visited some shops and reminised the trip.  I spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool with the group and packing.  We just had a pot lock dinner with all of our left over food and wine.  I, of course, had no food besides 3 mushrooms and a bar of chocolate (typical).  

I am so incredibly sad to say goodbye to Antibes and members from the group.  I have grown so close to Meghan and Abby, I don't know how I will spend the summer without them!  It would be amazing to remain close to the people that I spent so much time with this trip.  On a second note, I am excited to return home and Ocean City to see everyone I have missed so much. BEST! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bellet Vineyard & More

On monday we visited a local vineyard in Nice where they make White, Rose and Red wine.  It was the first time I had been to a winery to do a tasting so I was pretty excited.  We drove up a windy mountain road where we arrived at a large stucco manor filled with art and gifts.  The view from the top was spectacular.  It looked down not only on acres of grape vines, but also the city of Nice.  In the distance you could see the snow capped mountains.  It was 11:00 am when we began tasting, which is not early for the french.  I did feel a bit strange consuming three glasses before lunch, but you are only in france once...and it was FREE!  After the tasting we headed to lunch in Nice.  Nice is beautiful. It embodies everything you imagine when you think of the french riviera, with the large flamboyant buildings and luxury stores and restaurants.  We walked down the promenade after lunch and enjoyed not only the view of the ocean, but the atmosphere and the people of the city.  We want to go back and go shopping before heading back to the states.  

Monday night we had my favorite dinner yet.  It was a small restaurant on a dock over looking the water.  For appetizers we had calamari, octopus salad and a caprice salad.  For my main course I had salmon with zucchini, everyone else had pasta.  It was a wonderful ambiance and we enjoyed the view with a couple glasses of wine.  That night while out Meghan, Abby and I were talking to a couple of yachties and we found one that actually LOVED Americans.  It was the first encounter we had with someone who raved about our accents, our ringtones and our culture.  
Yesterday I took a break from the group and spent the morning sitting at a cafe reading my book and sipping on cappuccino.  Then I visited the open air market where I bought some fruit.  Then I spent the whole day relaxing by the pool.  Today we had class in the morning then headed to the beach until storm clouds appear.  It stormed like crazy and I finished my book. I miss you all and cannot wait to see you soon! BEST!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rome Pisa & Florence

Roma Day 1
We Flew into Rome on Wednesday night and stayed at a hotel 20 minutes from the airport which cost us an 80 Euro cab drive.  We were all tired, cranky and already feeling broke.  We passed out within minutes of checking in.  We woke up early, showered had hotel breakfast (which always includes Nutella) and then headed to the Hilton where we were spending our second night.  Abby's parents have a ton of Hilton points and they were nice enough to let us use them to stay in one of the nicest hotels in Rome.  If you have never been to Europe, most hotels are small with hard beds and no AC--not the Hilton!  
Sistine Chapel
Seafood Risotto

Our first day in Rome we spent two hours in the Vatican.  It was crowded with tours but still an amazing experience.  It is gigantic and the Sistine Chapel was something I will not forget.  After our holy education for the day we were famished so we went to one of the thousands of outdoor restaurants.  I had a seafood risotto that may have been the best meal I have had since arriving in Europe.  This meal set the tone for the rest of our trip, meaning Abby, Meghan and I were having a bottle of wine with every meal.  When in Rome.  We justify it with the fact that Wine is cheaper than soda in Italy.  After Just we walked around all the shops and visited the Parthenon and Trevi Fountain.  Rome is very touristy and full of people trying to sell you junk.  I found a pretty green dress for 20 Euros and could not say no. At one point it rained for about 30 minutes so we took cover in the awnings of the outdoor markets.  One of the street markets had a dried fruit stand with every fruit imaginable.  They even had dried limes, ginger, Kumquats, melon, etc. I bought 7 Euros worth and ate half of it while walking around.  Come dinner I was not very hungry but I knew I wanted some Italian Tiramisu.  Our waiter kept joking that he was "Dessert".  This was not joke for me, I just wanted my Cafe Tiramisu and a glass of wine.  

Roma Day 2
Today was much more stressful because after we checked out of the hilton we had to lug around our backpacks full of all our belongings for the weekend.  So with 30 pounds on my back we headed to the Coliseum.  The crowds and lines to go in were so ridiculous that even with a pass that allowed us to skip the line it took about twenty minutes of pushing through crowds to get inside the structure.  We walked around and took a ton of pictures then sat on an old column and people watched.  Tourists are weird people, no matter where they are from.  
Abby & I inside the Coliseum

Next we made our way in search of lunch where I had a DELISH Nicoise Salad.  This is probably one of my favorite dishes I have had in france and Italy.  It is a salad with tuna, anchovies, capers, olives, tomatoes, cucumber and sometimes eggs.  After lunch we went to see the Ruins in the Forum.  This was breathtaking.  We walked around and enjoyed all of the different landscapes and views until our backs were so sore from our bags we decided it was time to rest again at an outdoor cafe.  We found a lovely little place covered by ivy and plants full of shade.  Meghan and I got Margaritas while Abby had an Irish coffee with some mousse cake.  After our snack we headed to the train station to catch the train to Pisa where we spent our third night.  

We arrived in Pisa at 8:30 pm and checked into our hotel which was a block from the station.  It was on a sketchy street full of people I would not want to run into while alone at night.  Our hotel was old and covered in bright blue carpet and the walls were decorated with light blue sponge paint.  Our room was large for 3.  We spend 40 less Euro and opted to share a bathroom with other guests at the hotel.  The shower was tiny but it was definitely worth the extra euro.  

Since it was just getting dark as we arrived we headed to the leaning tower to take pictures and see a little night life.  We took pictures and met up with about 10 other people in our study group.  We all watched a contemporary dance show that was taking place in the streets and exchanged stories from our trips.  At around 10 pm we headed to a Pizzeria for dinner and drinks.  After leaving dinner we were hoping for some night life but Pisa seems to be a pretty dull town so we went back to the hotel and crashed.  Non of us got any sleep.  The room was 80 degrees and the streets were filled with crying babies, cackling women and barking dogs until the sun came up.  

We woke up slow and had cappuccinos and hotel breakfast, which of course included Nutella (they love that stuff here).  Next we headed to the train station leaving our bags at the front desk at the Pisa hotel so we would not have to carry them around all day.  The ride to Florence is 10 Euro round trip and takes about 45 minutes.  We arrived in Florence around noon and began exploring the streets.  Florence was definitely my favorite of the three cities.  It is not as large and tourist filled as Rome but is still buzzing with life unlike Pisa.  It was the perfect balance of activity and leisure.  We went shopping and saw all of the beautiful buildings and churches.  

While heading down an small side street we saw a large camera crew and immediately knew that the it had to be the JERSEY SHORE CAST.  As we approached I saw Pauly D standing on the Pizza shop stoop waving a T-shirt while Vinny sat beside him in a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses.  As we walked by Pauly waved a shirt in my face and I asked him if they were available for purchase.  He said they were and then began fluttering the shirt in my face jokingly.  He ushered us inside where Abby, Meghan and I all bought one.  I got one in green in a size XL for YOU DAD!  On our way out a man told us we were going to have to sign releases because we may appear on television.  I saw Sammy inside making Pizza as well.  On our way our Pauly asked us where we are from and I followed by telling him he had DJed at the party block across the street from our family beach house.  He responded by plugging his upcoming appearance in Florence.  We were so excited to see some of the cast.  Abby got a great picture of me talking to Pauly.  

After all that excitement we went and found lunch and did some more shopping.  We all got new bikinis that we were hoping to wear as soon as we got back to Antibes.  At 4:30 we took the train to Pisa where we picked up our bags, got a cappuccino then hopped on the train to Ventimiglia where we would stop before heading to our final destination...ANTIBE!

The train ride home we met up with two more members of our group where we got a little private cabin. The train ride went by quickly as soon as we broke out some limonchello we had bought in Rome.  When we switched trains at Ventimiglia there was a delay due to a storm which caused rocks to fall on the track.  We made small talk with an older women from Ireland who was also waiting.  Abby, Meghan and I sat with her the whole way back to Antibes where she shared stories about her life since her Diplomat husband died last month.  She had lived in 19 different countries in her life and had plenty to share.  

Needless to say I am thankful to be back in Antibes, it really feels like home.  Today it has been storming all day but luckily I was able to squeeze in a  7 mile run right before it began to downpour.  Meghan and I are starving but do not feel like running through the rain to the market.  Today is a day to relax, and I am doing just that.  Our last week here in France will be busy and I want to be full of energy so I can enjoy every moment of it! 

Ill post pictures soon!  Sorry It was so long but I had so much to say!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Port Cros Island

On Saturday we woke up at the crack of dawn to catch a ferry over to Port Cros Island.  Port Cros is a Nationally protected island full of old french forts once created under the order of Napoleon.  The island is completely cut off from technology and the outside world.  No one lives on the island but you can take short visits and sleep in forts.  The fort we spent two nights in was used by the Nazis in World War II.  I found this to be completely eerie but a fantastic way to experience the weekend.  On the first day we arrived at the main port where there is a small "town".  It is mostly little restaurants, cafes and gelato  stands.  We hiked up to our fort and had a cafeteria style lunch that was less than appetizing (we were on an abandon island so I tried not to be picky).  
We spent the rest of saturday and sunday hiking around the island.  By the end of the two days we had hiked a total of 26 kilometers (most of which is uphill).  The hike was probably the most challenging I have ever encountered.  It was full of extremely steep cliff like trails followed by a almost vertical downhill.  However, the views were spectacular and unlike anything I have ever seen before.  On sunday we took two stops to snorkel.  The first was right off of a cliff full of sea life.  The water was so cold it took your breath away.  The second snorkel was right off a beach where they had a little obstacle course set up that took you through the most scenic areas of the cove.  
In the evening we would have dinner then take blankets to the roof of the fort with countless bottles of wine.  Here we would just lay and count shooting stars and constellations.  The weekend was long and tiring but worth the lack of sleep.  We got down and dirty with nature and you all know I love to be outside.  I must say that coming home to civilization was pretty amazing as well.  Five of us were pretty excited to get back into the nightlife here at antibes and went out last night and closed the bars. 
Tomorrow we are waking up at 6 am to hike the Alps.  Then after a long day of hiking and traveling we are catching the 9:50 pm flight to Rome where we will stay for 2 nights before we train to Pisa then Florence.  I will be back on Saturday afternoon and look forward to catching everyone up! BEST!      

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ventimiglia Italy

Today we took a 9 Euro train into Ventimiglia Italy.  It was about an hour train ride and definitely worth the trip.  We originally decided to go to Ventimiglia because of the huge outdoor market that lines the seashore on fridays.  The market was visually appealing but most of the items for sale were junky and all the same.  I would equate it to walking down the ocean city boardwalk.  You go in one store and you have seen everything. So a group of us went into the town of Ventimiglia and got cappuccinos and chocolate cannoli.  It was definitely worth the risk eating that gluten.  When you are in Italy having a cappuccino you might as well have a freaking delish cannoli.  

We went into a bunch of liquor stores because all of their bottles were so entertaining.  They had the biggest bottles of liquor I have ever seen.  I took a picture with a big Grand Marnier for you DAD!  We also had to get a bottle of Absinthe. 

Next we made our way to clothing stores where I bought a little something for Maddie and Karly.  It took all the will power in the world for me not to go crazy with the cash I had just exchanged.  For lunch we went to one of the many cafes in the city.  I got a caprice salad and of course...Abby and I got another cappuccino ( since they are cheaper than water in Italy).  On the train ride home I also saw a Super Yacht with a big Banana Republic logo on it! It was pretty exciting :0)

Tomorrow we are going to Port Cros for the weekend and I am SO excited.  Our weekend is filled with Scuba Diving, Hiking and absolutely no technology.  I can't wait to be skipping showers and wearing makeup.  I won't be blogging for a couple of days but I should have an update on Monday night (unless we decide to go out!).  BEST!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Relaxing in the Riviera

Since my last post we have had a lot of downtime to do as we please since going to Monaco (which is gorgeous!).  The past couple nights we have been going out.  Tuesday night Meghan, Abby and I got hissed at by a homeless man with a limp and we ran down the ally away from him.  Abby also had a guy try and "climb a tree for her".  He fell down and scrapped up his legs.  We seem to cause a storm of American entertainment every time we venture out.  We also got a lesson on the "Yachties" that work on the Super Yachts here.  He told us that the guys from New Zealand  are called Kiwis.  He gave us a lesson on the culture and then bought us drinks.  Yachties seem hospitable.  
Monoco From the Train Window
What I have learned so far when it comes to going out, we never have a dull moment, it is always a blast.  Today we had a free day so we woke up and went to the market.  On thursday there is a huge Market in Antibes that sells clothes, jewelry, sunglasses, bathing suits, purses, etc all at a much better price than all the boutiques.  I bought a gorgeous turquoise scarf with tiny white polka dots.  Then we went to the open air food market.  I got fresh olives, flat peaches, apples and then Meghan and I split a half kilo of shrimp with the heads still on for dinner!  

After the market we went to the beach around 12:00 and stayed until 5:00.  The beach we went to is about a mile walk and a nice change from the beach right next to where we are staying. The whole beach is a pebble beach which sounds uncomfortable but it is actually nice to lay on.  We all got to much sun but had a blast.  I swam as far as I could offshore before I felt like the swim back would be too tiring.    There are no waves or current and it is so easy to swim far out.  The water here is so clear and you can see underwater with your eyes open.  I have been taking runs around the fort and through the marina.  I stop at all the benches and do jump squats and think of you MOM.  The view is so pretty that I keep tripping over rocks.  

In our hotel there is a little fish pond running through the courtyard.  It is full of coy and big goldfish.  One is so fat and pregnant that it looks like it could pop.  We named her Marigold.  When we were leaving this morning she was belly up on the bottom of the pond.  Then when we came back 7 hours later she was just swimming around.  I think she came back to life because we had a moment of silence for her....haha

Tomorrow we are going to a town in Italy that has a huge market that lines the shore from 8-1.  We have to take the 7:52 am train so we are resting up.  I am officially sick of wine.  They drink it all day everyday.  I will Blog tomorrow night then I won't be on my computer again until monday because we are going to Port Cros where we will be roughin' it; scuba diving, hiking, snorkeling and of course eating delish french food! BEST!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Canyon Forest

Today we took a bus to a nearby forest area to do a high ropes course.  I had done high ropes and zip lining before so I was feeling pretty confident.  I decided to do the hardest course out of four levels, I began questioning my decision on the first obstacle...This course took us 2 hours to complete and took all of the physical strength I had.  We were climbing up the side of the canyon, moving up and down trees, monkey baring from 180 meters in the air and of course zip lining up to 330 meters.  I wish I could have managed to take pictures up there but I am surprised I came down alive.  My arms are extremely fatigued.  Even though I was shaking with sweat rolling down my face the entire time, I could not be happier with my decision to go through with it.  I honestly would not have been able to do it if Natalie and Abby were not motivating me along the way.  Before I started I was so hungry I could faint, so Xandra came to the rescue with a Lara bar.  I love having another Gluten Free Biddie on the trip with me! BEST!