Italia

This July, Nicolas and I had great fun venturing off to Italy before I returned to the United States for the remainder of summer. I was struck by how different the country feels from France. The difference is palpable.  This is not all that surprising as the roots, the language and the history are very different from those of France.

As I am writing this, a flood of memories is pouring through my mind. Memories that cannot quite be put into words, as they are more emotions than anything else, which have changed me for the better. These memories are the souvenirs that returned home with me, aside from the photos and the Italian edibles that have long since disappeared from my shelves. They will stay with me forever as a reminder of the carefree days spent under the Ligurian sun. I think we will be spending many holidays in Italy.

 

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Marché aux Fleurs

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Flowers are such dainty creatures, animating effortlessly the space they inhabit. Ephemeral by nature, their beauty leaves a enduring imprint on our hearts.

Oscar Wilde once said, “A flower blossoms for its own joy.”  I suppose it is for my own joy then that I constantly have flowers in my living space. The variety depends upon the season, the cost and my frame of mind, but something about having a bouquet around me makes me feel a little more alive, a little more joyful.

Among the myriad of markets Aix-en-Provence has to offer, my preference is the Marché aux Fleurs. Every day except the first Sunday of the month, various producers and vendors convene upon la Place de l’Hotel de Ville, and their selection does not disappoint!

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Le Marché aux Fleurs d’Aix en Provence
La Place de l’Hotel de Ville
Tous les jours sauf le 1er dimanche du mois.

Tea and things

Spring cleaning has me moving files from my computer onto my external hard drive. In doing so, I came across these photos from this time last year while visiting Bordeaux.

It was my last day in Bordeaux. I was visiting the city interviewing for a masters program with une grande école, to which I was accepted. I then delayed my start date and eventually forfeited my place in the program. I’m still rather bummed about the whole thing, but it was the best decision at the time. One has to believe like Sinatra says, « the best is yet to come ».

The morning was gray and drizzly, not uncommon for the season. As the morning progressed, a huge thunderstorm erupted. I spent an hour or so waiting out the storm over verveine tea and a croissant at Miremont – the most perfect salon de thé – before dashing off to grab my suitcase from the hotel to catch the train back to Marseille and then home to Aix-en-Provence.

I love the liveliness of this space. The glass chandelier adorning the salon is gorgeous and the chocolates, honey pots, pearled candies and jam jars are irresistible!

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Les Coquelicots

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Spending time in the countryside is therapy for my soul.  This period of the year is especially lovely as nature is alive with blossoms and buds. I am constantly in awe of the beauty that envelopes Provence. Vibrant green grape vines stretch for miles and contrast with fields of fiery red poppies. The lavender and sunflowers are soon to follow in due time. l feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to be surrounded by such beautiful creations.

Did you know that poppies (les coquelicots in French) have various virtues and can be used as a treatment for insomnia and persistent coughing?  The petals can be dried and consumed as an herbal tea. The flowers can also be put to use in the kitchen.  Fresh petals can be prepared into syrup and added to beverages, applied as a glaze to dress tarts or to accompany duck. The seeds are often used in baking to adorn cakes.

The other day, I went searching for a field of poppies. I didn’t have to go far before stumbling upon one.

Beautiful Bordeaux

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It rained. It poured. There were spring sun showers. There were gray skies, blue skies and sunny skies. The weather wasn’t quite sure what to do with itself. I on the other hand, spent a short weekend in Bordeaux explore new opportunities and soaking in this beautiful city.  This city has been on my bucket list for quite sometime. A weekend was enough time to get my feet wet, but more exploring is needed.  I did find great joints for oriental food: thai and homemade ramen noodles. The city has an electric vibe to it. You can feel the dynamic motion and energy which is quite different from Aix which has a secure homey feel.  The streets are huge and you can sense the sprawl around – such a contrast to my provencal alleys. It was a refreshing whimsical 3 days to clear my head and take some photos.

Summer Evening at Goudes

DSC_0998 DSC_1000 DSC_1002 DSC_1005 DSC_1019 DSC_1024 DSC_1034 DSC_1040One of my favorite places are the Calanques especially now that we are deep into summer and the water is warmer (I did not say warm) The calanques are a series of inlets cut into the coast line. These sheer cliffs and rocky slopes plunge deep into the Mediterranean Sea.  I have explored my fair share of calanques but there are many left to the unknown. I recently embarked to Marseille for an evening picnic and swim in the Goudes Calanque. This little haven is situated next to a darling village and feels untouched and newly discovered despite the families, friends and couples that have come to soak up the last of the suns rays and take in the breathtaking sunset.  The water was icy cold but we went fir a swim to cool off (ha!) anyways before we started the music and dined on the rocky slopes. It was the perfect was to spend time with friends and loved ones.

From the calanques, to the north you have the harbor of Marseille. You can see Notre Dame de la Garde perched high upon her hillside. To the west a view of Marie Island and Tiboulen Island and to the South East out in the distance lies Jarron Island, Jarr Isalnd and Riou Island.  The islands make up the Archipelago of Riou a national reserve that was once used for military purposes during the war. High above Goudes you can still see remnants of an old fortress carved into the rocky slope where soldiers kept watch on the water during war times.

Les Goudes

13008 Marseille

France

La Ciotat

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Sometimes you need to escape from the city to the sea. A girlfriend of mine was staying in La Ciotat the other week, so I seized the opportunity to pay her a visit.  The salty air and sea breeze work such wonders on the spirit.  The morning was spent swimming in the sea of Figuerolles, a small calanques surrounded by beautiful colors and rocks that plunge into the turquoise water. The swim was followed by a hike to the church Notre Dame de la Garde which was built in 1610 and is situated at the sommet of a hill. From the church you have an unobstructed view of La Ciotat. There was randomly a jazz band playing Take 5 by Dave Brubeck while we were exploring the grounds. For a secluded little chapel not what I expected! The architecture of the church and the houses next to it reminded me of the Adobe style that you find in New Mexico.  Lunch was in the port over looking the boats in old harbor of the city we went with a simple but delicious crêpe, then we wandered the streets stopping to look at an exhibit of old movie posters and for a quick stroll by the oldest public cinema in the world, the Eden Theater. We ended the day in a café before I headed back home to Aix.

De temps en temps il faut échapper à la ville et aller à la mer. Une amie à moi passait une semaine à La Ciotat l’autre semaine, donc j’ai saisi l’occasion de la revoir. L’air salé et marin produit des effets merveilleux sur l’esprit. Le matin comprenait une baignade dans la mer de la calanques Figeurolles, une petite calanques encaissé aux couleurs merveilleuse et aux roches qui plongent dans un eau turquoise. La baignade était suivi par une randonnée qui a abouti à la chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde. Cette eglise a ete constuit en 1610 et se situe au sommet d’une colline. De l’église, vous avez une vue imprenable sur tout La Ciotat. Il y avait des musiciens qui jouaient Take 5 par David Brubeck pendant que nous explorions la site. Pour une chapelle retirée ce n’était pas ce que je m’y attendais! L’architecture de la chapelle et des maisons juste à coté m’a fait rappeler du style d’adobe que l’on se trouve en Nouveau Mexique. Le déjeuner s’est passé en face du vieux port avec une vue sur les bateaux puis nous sommes flânées dans des ruelles arrêtant pour regarder un exhibition des vielles affiches de cinema et pour une petite balade devant le plus vieux cinéma du monde, l’Eden Theatre. La journée a pris fin dans un café avant que je sois partie pour Aix.

La Ciotat

Bouches-de-Rhônes

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

 

Fields of Flowers

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J’espère que le paradis est un jardin de fleurs et de plantes sans fin. La nature est comme une thérapie merveilleuse.  Nous étions crées pour y vivre entourée. J’adore la période printanière. Il me semble que le monde fleurit. Chaque personne avec qui je parle, est en train de réaliser leurs objectifs ou de les établir. Dans les mois à venir, il me semble que nous verrons des fruits magnifiques. Cependant, pour le moment, je vais sourire chaque fois que je regarde ce champ de tournesol.

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I hope heaven is a garden of endless flowers and plants.  There is just something so therapeutically wonderful about nature. We were made to live with it. I adore this time of year. It seems that the world is in bloom. Everyone that I talk to seems to also be in the process of accomplishing or establishing ones goals. In the coming months I feel we will see some awesome fruit! But for the moment, I’m going to smile each time I see these fields.

Le Lac de Sainte Croix

Il y a six ans, j’ai eu l’occasion de visiter la région de la France que j’appelle actuellement chez moi. Je ne pourrais jamais imaginer a cette époque, toutes les évènements qui se passeraient dans ma vie entre ici et là. Quand je suis venue pour la première fois il y a six ans, pas seulement était-il mon premier voyage international complètement seule, mais, j’avais décidé de faire réaliser quelque choses que je voulais toujours faire. J’ai économisé mes centimes et j’ai trouvé un vol au bon prix. Je suis reconnaissante que la valeur du travail et la croyance que je peux réaliser mes rêves fussent inculqués dans moi-même depuis j’étais petite. Il a exigé du discipline, mais après tous, j’ai passé quelques semaines dans un endroit que je rêvais toujours de visiter. Apres ce voyage, je savais que je voulais y retourner. C’est ces mêmes principes qui fait en sorte que je puisses créer ma vie aujourd’hui. Parfois, il devient une habitude de voir seulement la situation actuelle, et on oublie, ou on ne se rendent pas compte qu’il y avait du sacrifice, du travail et du développement personnel avant que les choses qui existent, soient réalisées. Parfois, on juge la surface, sans avoir compris les profondeurs. C’est mon intention de chercher la valeur dans toutes choses et de ne pas faire des jugements irréfléchies pendant que j’apprécie même les choses simples qui saluent les yeux. Quand je cherche la beauté dans la vie c’est comme si tous deviennent tout de suite plus beau.

Une telle beauté que j’ai rencontré pendant ce voyage, était la Gorge de Verdon qui est très impressionnant. Jusqu’à ici, elle reste toujours l’un des endroits le plus magnifique que j’ai pu visiter. Cet été, une amie et moi sommes allées au Lac de Sainte-Croix. Ce lac se trouve à la bouche d’une côté de la Gorge de Verdon. Nous sommes passées la journée en reposant sur la plage et en mangeant une pique-nique. C’était un samedi bien passé et la meilleure façon de prendre une pause de la quotidienne. J’aime comment une sortie de la ville ou même l’appartement pour aller chercher du pain, puisse, si on la laisse, décaler notre perspective. Pour moi, les choses me semblent de me réaligner et je retrouve l’énergie de conquérir la vie.

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Six years ago, I had the opportunity to come visit the region of France I now call home. I could never have imagined then, all the events that would take place in my life between the there and now.  When I came that first time six years ago, not only was it my first international trip completely alone, but I had decided to make something happen that I always had wanted to do. I saved up my pennies and I found a flight I could afford.  I am grateful that the value of hard work and the belief that I can make my dreams a reality was instilled in me from a very small age.  It required discipline, eating ramen soup for many meals and not buying those new cute shoes, but after it all, I spent a few weeks in a place I had always dreamed of visiting. After that trip, I knew I wanted to go back to. It is those same principles that enable me to create my life surroundings today.  Sometimes, it becomes a habit to see only the situation that exists now, and we forget, or we dont realize that there was sacrifice, work and personal development before the things that exist came to pass. Sometimes, we judge the surface without have understood the depths.  It’s my intention to search for the value in all things and to not make rash judgments as I appreciate even the simplest things that greet the eyes.  When I search for beauty in life, its as if everything becomes all of sudden more beautiful.

On such beauty that I came upon during that trip, was the breath taking Gorge de Verdon.  It is to this day one of the prettiest places I have visited.  This summer, a girlfriend of mine and me went to the Lake of Sainte-Croix.  This lake sits on one side of the Gorge de Verdon.  We decided to spend the day relaxing on the beach reading and eating a picnic.  It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday and take a break from the day to day.  I love how getting out of the city, or even the apartment for a few hours can shift your perspective. For me, things seem to realign and I find the energy to conquer life.

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Le Lac de Sainte-Croix

France

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

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Faisant partie des plus beaux villages de France et du Parc naturel régional du Verdon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie se situe sur un escarpement rocheux environs une heure d’Aix-en-Provence. Au sommet du village se trouve la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir qui date au XIII siècle. La chapelle exige un grand effort pour atteindre à pied mais à votre arrivée, elle offre un immense panorama sur la vallée de la Maire et le plateau de Valensole. C’est ravissant et je vous conseille d’y aller. De plus, vous verrez l’étoile qui est suspendue entre deux roches pendant que vous montrerez, c’est parfait et j’adore cette idée. Elle est une idée de simplicité mais qui incite un sentiment d’expansion. Le village lui-même est pittoresque. Il y a des fleurs partout et une chute d’eau qui coule dans une rivière. Il faisait plutôt chaud ce jour-là et je suis tombée sur un glacier où j’ai pris une glace à la lavande. Ce village vaut vraiment la peine de visiter. Il est charmant et à quoi vous pensez quand vous imaginez un village provençal. Il y a des magasins d’un style désuet partout aussi – un endroit parfait pour déjeuner et se balader.

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One of the most beautiful villages in France and part of the Verdon National Park, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is situated on a steep rocky slope about an hour away from Aix-en-Provence. At the summit of the village is the church of Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir, which dates to the thirteenth century. The church requires a large effort to reach on foot, but upon your arrival, there is an immense panorama of the Valley of Marie and the Plateau of Valensole. It’s gorgeous, and I suggest you go. Even more, you will see the star that is suspended between two rocks as you ascend. It’s perfect, and I adore this concept. It is an idea of simplicity, but it incites a feeling of expansion. The village itself is picturesque. There are flowers everywhere and a waterfall that flows into a river. It was rather warm the day I was there, and I stumbled upon an ice cream shop where I chose a lavender ice cream. This village is really worth a visit. It is charming and exactly what you think of when you imagine a Provençal village. There are quaint shops everywhere too -the perfect place to have lunch and go for a stroll.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

France

Une ville d’eau

Aix est connue pour ses fontaines qui parsèment la ville. En fait, elle est surnommée la ville aux mille fontaines.  Vous pouvez trouver une fontaine sur presque chaque rue, presque. Une ville d’art et une ville d’eau, le terrain est bien préparé pour des photographes comme moi-même et des balades. Je suis partie en ville pour une sortie entre filles lors d’un après-midi récemment pour prendre des photos de justement, ces fontaines.  Voila quelques-unes de mes souvenirs..

Aix is known for the fountains that speckle the city. In fact, it is nicknamed the city of a million fountains. You can find a fountain on almost every street, almost.  A city of art and a city of water, the stage is set for photographs like myself and strolls. I went out for an outing with some gals one afternoon recently to take some photos. Here are some of my memories..

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Les Grottes de Calès

A leisurely day spent exploring les Grottes de Calès, caves which date back to the middles ages, was a welcome change from the pace and buildings of the city.  After a short stroll uphill to the the ruines of the castle, which was constructed sometime during the 12th century, we stopped for lunch before wandering around to look at the caves. There are 116 caves in sum which were hand-carved by the inhabitants. From what I gleaned from various sources, the caves were originally dug out in order to provide stone for the castle and later served as safe havens for the inhabitants of the village.  We spent the afternoon under the trees and sunbathing next to the caves.

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Grottes de Calès
13113 Lamanon

La Sainte Victoire

Having lived in Aix for nine months now, an outing to the Saint Victoire, the acclaimed mountain featured in many of the artist Paul Cézanne paintings was long over due.  The skies came through allowing us to scale the rocky slopes with ease. Although, the descent proved to be slightly trickier than the way up.  Stopping along the way to catch our breath, you can’t help but notice the thyme which grows uncontrollably and just happens to perfume the trail as you walk along.  The views of Provence were breathtaking from the summit. I love the vineyards that speckle the country side as well as all the wild flowers. So whimsical.

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Barcelone

En Avril, j’ai eu l’occasion de voyager en Espagne à Barcelone.  C’était la premiere fois que j’ai voyagé dans ce pays. Je n’as pas pu visiter beaucoup d’endroit vu que je n’y restais que pendant un jour et demi, mais j’ai pu profiter de même de la ville. De plus, j’ai découvert des bons plans pour ma prochaine visite.  Nous sommes passés nos derniers moments sur la plage. L’eau n’était pas encore le bon temperature pour se baigner, mais j’imagine qu’en été cette plage sera magnifique. Au futur, j’aimerais bien me balader en ville pour prendre les photos des coins inconnus.

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Lisbonne, Portugal

La semaine dernière j’ai voyagé au Portugal.

C’était une belle occasion de profiter des derniers jours des vacances en parcourant un nouveau pays. La plupart de temps je me baladais dans les coins différents à Lisbonne sur les rue toutes pavés au charme désuet. Toutefois, je suis aussi parti à la compagne pour voir la ville de Sintra, très bonne idée.  Là, il y a un palais tricolore en jaune, en bleu et en rouge. Situé en haute d’une colline avec vue sur l’ocean, le palais était immense. Loin de mon rythme et mon perspectif quotidien, j’ai bien réfléchi et mis en lumière les pensées et les sentiments auparavant cachés. Voila des photos..

Porte Portugal

Les brouillards

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Rue Portugeuse

Crepuscle

Crespuscle

Berne, Switzerland

I recently spent a week in Switzerland. One day, I descended upon Bern, the capital. The city, situated on a peninsula, is bordered on three sides by the river Aare, and is not far from the Swiss Alps. The first thought I had on arriving: I need to learn German. Alas, I’ll leave those language lessons for another day.

I accessed the city on the BLS, the local train that was quick and easy. The train dropped me off on the west side of the village. Upon exiting the station, I found myself amongst medieval surroundings. The buildings were constructed of grey stone each in the same manner except for the color of the shutters and the various flowers that filled the window boxes. Swiss flags blew in the wind here and there. I was captivated by the grandness of the city even if her size is rather small. The roads were of the cobblestone nature, as is found in France, but the way in which they were constructed made sure I knew I was not in France…

Turquoise Bern

Cafe Bern

Bear Park Bern

Bern

Cafe Fleurs Bern

Einstein Haus Bern

Rouge Bern

J’ai profité de mes vacances en allant en Suisse. Un jour je suis descendue à la ville germanophone Berne, le capital de la fédération Suisse. Berne est traversée par la rivière Aar et n’est pas loin des alpes suisse. Ma première pensée qui m’est arrivée en tête, était à tel point je dois apprendre l’Allemagne. Mais je laisse ces leçons de langue pour un autre jour.

J’ai pris le réseau BLS pour aller à Berne ce qui était facile et rapide. Le train m’est déposé sur le côté Est du centre ville. En sortant de la gare, je suis tombé sur un environnement médiéval. Les bâtiments étaient construits de roches grises, ils étaient tous identique sauf les volets qui étaient de couleurs différents et les jardinières qui tenaient des fleurs variées. J’était hypnotisé par les grandeur de la ville, même si elle était relativement petite. Les rues étaient pavées ronds comme en France, mais les pierres étaient conçus différemment, cela n’était pas du à l’époque mais à une histoire différente.