Summer travels: France

I went to France and England earlier this month with Gene and Lydia. (I must acknowledge here how privileged my life is. It amazes me sometimes how easy I truly have it.)

I went for two weeks and I visited amazing places and I was in the midst of true history and I tried not to worry too much about money (but that can’t really be helped, now can it?).

We started in Paris, France and ended in London, England. We went to Mont Saint Michel and Dinan in France and we went to Port Isaac and Broad Chalke in England. We ate a lot and we almost never stopped. We encountered obstacles which led us to meeting some very nice people. It was exhausting but exhilarating. The memories and happiness that came out of it were worth every sore muscle, every bit of stress, and every penny.

If I were to write about the many things we did, even if I just stuck to the main attractions, I would have some very long blog posts. So long that I can’t imagine anyone would read them. So I will try to be brief and hit on topics that I do not have pictures of in my google plus albums (France and England).

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Succulents!

Gene and I arrived in Paris Sunday morning. We found our hotel, checked in early, and then walked around for a bit with not much of a plan. I was jet lagged and therefore sleepy and sluggish so we took a one hour nap back at the hotel before heading out to look for an open air bird market. The market had pretty much closed by the time we got there but I did get to see a few birds and some great looking succulents.

The next day we met up with Lydia at the house boat, our new home for the next few days. It was a lot of fun to live on a boat, although it did rock a bit vigorously from time to time. So many tour boats drove by that the waves were almost constant. Still, it was a great way to experience Paris and having a kitchen meant a break from restaurants, making the boat worth it. And now I can say I’ve spent time on a house boat.

We were in Paris for Bastille day, the holiday that celebrates the beginning of the French Revolution. Although we didn’t get up early enough to get a good spot for the parade, we had an amazing view near the boat for the fireworks show in the evening. It was the best fireworks show I have seen. The show lasted for forty minutes with minimal pauses. Fireworks were being shot off of the Eiffel Tower as well as over the river. It was fantastic.

During the rest of our stay in Paris we saw Napoleon’s tomb (the thing is huge, is he compensating for something? ;P), went to the Louvre, looked at all of Paris on top of Montparnasse, and walked through the Luxembourg Gardens.

Montparnasse Tower.

The Luxembourg Gardens were one of my favorite parts of France. I love the gardens and parks of Paris. The majority of them are free and they are filled with flowers, green grass, and trimmed trees. I love the fact that people utilize these spaces as well. There is always someone walking around or eating lunch. The Luxembourg Gardens are part of the Luxembourg Palace, a palace that Marie Medici (widow of King Henry IV) had built for herself. The palace is surrounded by flowers and is near a little pond where children rent boats and push them around. It was a lovely place and I wish we could have stayed there longer but vacation does not lend itself to much rest.

Luxembourg Gardens

We had to leave Paris at some point so we rented a car and made our way to Mont Saint Michel, an abbey and small “village” (aka tourist stores and restaurants) on a hill on a small island. We stopped at Monet’s gardens and house beforehand, which is another of my favorite parts of the trip. The gardens were breathtaking. It might have held the most variety of flowers I have ever seen in one place. I really liked the bamboo forest there too. His house was neat in itself as well, especially his kitchen and dining room which were blue, yellow, and filled with brass.

Monet’s water lily pond

We made our way to Mont Saint Michel where I was greeted with a lovely view of the abbey and surrounding buildings. The view is impressive and a bit daunting.

Mont Saint Michel at night

We slept in a hotel right below the abbey and were therefore able to take a tour of the impressive structure right when it opened the next morning. The abbey is impressive, but what’s more impressive is that one can walk through a great portion of it. It does cost money (what doesn’t in France) but for the amount of the building you can see, is well worth it.

We ended our day in Dinan, a fairly large town in the Brittany region of France. It was very cute and had many old and interesting buildings. We found ourselves at an art showing of some sort and wandered around paintings and photographs. We got a chocolate chip cookie before finding a restaurant for dinner. And in the morning we walked along an old fortress wall where I attempted to open the door that led to Rapunzel’s tower but sadly was met with failure.

From here we got on a plane and made our way to Southampton, England for the second part of our journey.

City Bakery Cafe

Yesterday I went to the doctor and the dentist for my annual and semi-annual exams. To celebrate that I seem to be in good shape I then had lunch with Gene. Yay.

We ate at City Bakery Cafe, a cafe behind Gene’s building. Neither of us had been there before but Gene’s coworkers had and we wanted to try it out. Super glad we went. I got the Mediterranean turkey sandwich with turkey, olive pepperocini relish, and rosemary aioli. Gene got the French dip sandwich. Pure deliciousness. I tried Gene’s sandwich too and I think it’s the best French dip I’ve ever had. I’m tempted to get that the next time I’m there.

My sandwich was quite huge but I was hungry enough to finish it all. The prices are decent too, you get a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a small cookie for $8.

And when the woman who brought us our food found out this was our first time here, she gave us a free loaf of bread! How amazing and sweet is that?! Took me by surprise and made me love the place even more. They have so many great-sounding sandwiches that I have to go back so I can try more of them. Doesn’t a ham, brie, and pear sandwich sound fantastic? That was one of their specials for the day.

I think I have found the new place to eat when I’m near Gene’s work.

 

Camping trip to Gross Reservoir

I went camping this past weekend with Gene, Kaitlin, and Kevin. The last time I went camping was right after high school so I’m thankful we took an easier route and camped 100 feet from the car. It meant camping wasn’t too intense and we could bring more items.

We camped near Gross Reservoir, a little over an hour away from Kaitlin and Kevin’s house. The scenery was full of wildflowers and hills. It was beautiful.

When we got to the camping area, however, all the camping spots were taken so we ended up having to camp in an illegal spot (although at the time we did not know it was illegal). We also later found out that we couldn’t actually swim in the lake we thought we’d be able to, so a 2 night trip turned into a 1 night one.

The time we spent there was still fun though. We played a few games, went walking, and had a campfire where we cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows.

Before we left on Saturday we went on a hike to the lake. On the way there I fell and scraped my knee. I haven’t had an injury like this in a while and was quite surprised I hadn’t been able to compensate and rectify my balance. It wasn’t too bad, my knee just bled a lot. It’s a bit stiff now but give it a couple more days and I’m sure it’ll be back to normal.

Along the hike I saw many awesome mushrooms. I even saw the quintessential mushroom, the Amanita muscaria, which made my day. Looking for mushrooms and wild strawberries makes hiking more interesting and helps me notice nature more.

Camping this past weekend has made me slightly more interested in doing it more often. I’m going to have to look up camping sites once I get back from my next vacation (England and France!).

 

Elisabeth comes for a visit

Melting Pot goodness

Elisabeth spent an entire week with me a couple weeks ago and it was awesome.

We went to The Melting Pot, hiked at the Rocky Mountain National Park, took a tour of the Capitol, visited the toy exhibit at the History Colorado Center, learned about astronomy at the Chamberlin Observatory, and walked along Dinosaur Ridge among other things.

Elisabeth had never been to The Melting Pot before and since she helped Gene and I move the day she flew in, we figured it was a great reward for all of us to treat ourselves to a four course meal. That place is delicious, and although it is expensive, it’s worth the price once or twice a year.

The next day we then went to the Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park side) and hiked for 6 miles before dipping our feet in the Alluvial Fan’s cold waters. Thankfully, Elisabeth came at a time during the year when the park isn’t covered in snow. Sadly, the last time she visited, I took her up there and the mountains were still in winter mode. Not this time though!

Lego cars!

On another day we took the free tour of the Denver capitol, had lunch with Gene, and then went to the History Colorado Center where we learned about a now non-existent town in Colorado’s past, read about the use of water in the state, and, most importantly, enjoyed the new Toys exhibit. That exhibit was by far the most awesome because it had toys from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Somewhat surprisingly, we saw many toys that we recognized and played with as children. It was so much fun to walk around and see slinkys, a barrel of monkeys, barbies, and many familiar board games like Sorry and Mouse Trap. There were even multiple scenes that were set up like living rooms with TVs playing commercials of that time period. They were so interesting! We then ended the trip by building our own lego cars. That was an exceptionally great day.

Another day we went to the Chamberlin Observatory where we learned about astronomers selling time to people, different types of telescopes and some quick history of astronomy and astrologers. We ended the evening by looking at the moon through the 28-foot long telescope. Many of the building’s original features, built in the 1890s, are still in tact today, including the pulley system to open the roof. The ladder used to look through the telescope is also an original and has held up quite well in the over 100 years it’s been in use. I really enjoyed the observatory and plan on taking any future guests to it.

On Friday we went to Dinosaur Ridge with Kaitlin where we walked along the paved road and learned about the past. Did you know that there was a mountain range BEFORE the Rocky Mountains we have today? Perhaps I had learned that previously but I had forgotten, and it amazed me. This planet is truly a wondrous place.

I am so glad that Elisabeth got to visit for an entire week. We played games, we watched movies, and we just hung out. I hope these trips happen more often. Next time it’s my turn to visit her!

Fun package from Katie

A few weekends ago I checked the mail and was surprised to find a shoe box filled with awesomeness from my friend, Katie. Lo and behold she had been collecting items for me and ended up using the same box I sent her fun package in to send one back to me.

I was not expecting it at all and it was wonderful. The package and the love behind it made my day.

I now have some fun hair rubber bands, a cute notepad, some stickers, a reusable bag, an adorable owl piggy bank, and lipgloss.

I am excited to paint the piggy bank and will have to show you all what it looks like when done. I tried the lipgloss almost immediately after I saw it and I like it. It’s pretty much perfect for me, it’s not an overwhelming color. In fact, it seems to highlight the color of my lips, make them stand out slightly more. I’m going to have to start wearing make-up more often so I can use this.

I was just talking to a friend the week before about how old my reusable bags are and how I need to throw them away, so it feels like Katie somehow heard that conversation and sent me a new one. I like that it’s not black like all my old ones either, this one is more fun.

Thank you Katie, I loved getting your package!

Moved into the house

Last Friday, Gene and I moved into our new house. Yep, we ended up buying a house. I didn’t tell many people as I figured the deal could fall through, but it didn’t and here we are now.

Last Friday we closed, moved, and picked up Elisabeth from the airport for her one week vacation with us. It was a long, non-stop day but the end result was that everything was moved over. Saturday we rearranged furniture and began to unpack. Most stuff was in place by the end of that day. It meant that I could enjoy my time with Elisabeth more.

I will post later this week about what we did as well as an awesome care package I got from Katie a couple weeks ago, today is all about pictures of the house.

Here is our den. This is where our couch and TV are. Our plan is to get a new couch in the next couple of months but we’re really busy right now and we want Pippin to get used to the place in hopes that when something else new comes in he won’t tear it up. He’s been a bit crazy this past week so hopefully with everything in its place now, he’ll calm down.

The garage door leads to this level. We also have a bathroom (toilet and sink) and door to the basement on this level. The basement is unfinished and just has a washer and dryer in it so there’s not much to see there.

Here is the kitchen and kitchen table. We have way more counter space and cabinets. It’s so nice because all the large appliances like the rice cooker and the bread maker fit in cabinet space, no more taking up the counters!

We will eventually get a nicer island/shelf for the end of the counter but for now the rolling cart works just fine.

 

Here is the computer room. This is the room you enter when you walk through the front door. We have Pippin’s cat tree in this room and he seems to like the location so far. It’s by a window and near us so that works out.

There is plenty of room to bring down the folding table for puzzles or extra guests.

 

Here is my craft/sewing/piano/puzzle room! This is my eclectic room that I do whatever I want. My parents gave me house warming money and I used it to buy the keyboard piano. I have been wanting to get back into playing the piano for a couple of years now and it’s finally going to happen.

I just need to figure out what Gene can do up there so we can spend time together. Although we do spend plenty of time together already so perhaps it is good how it is.

You can see more photos (as well as obligatory cat photos) on my google + album here.

Detroit and London

Yesterday I went to see Detroit, a play that my friend Dana helps run. The play revolves around two couples, one of which just moved next door. They interact, struggle with their lives, and meddle with one another. It was actually quite dark and the longer I think on it, the more odd and twisted it seems. I won’t spoil the story but drugs, alcohol, and plain unhappiness all played a part.

I’m not quite sure if I liked it or not. I thought I liked it when it was over but now it seems too serious and dark for me. I think it could have used more comedy to help lighten the heavy tone. I suppose the writer of the production  meant for it to be a look at the secrets suburbia keeps, but it was possibly a bit too much for me. The set design was amazing though, there was so much detail, I loved it.

After the play, Dana and I went to Pints Pub, a British pub in downtown Denver a few blocks away from the theater. We got some homemade potato chips, split a warm turkey sandwich, and shared a piece of amazing chocolate cake at the end. The food was delicious. Those potato chips were great, there was some kind of vinegar on them that just made the dish. The turkey sandwich had these delicious sauteed onions; add to that a small kick from the mustard and it was a great combination. And of course the chocolate cake was fantastic, the frosting was more of a fudge that made the whole thing. I need to go again to try some of their other offerings.

Dana also surprised me with some birthday and Christmas presents. Since she’s moving to Florida to work at Walt Disney World in less than a month she decided to give me presents early. How sweet. I got some lotion, soap, and a Doctor Who apron. So fun.