Monday, May 04, 2009

Spring Break - 3rd & 4th (final) Stop

OK - If blogging were my job, I'd have long been fired. I WILL finish with Spring Break today and then I'll only be one week behind in trips and almost caught up before the next.

May is our holiday month. We just had the May 1st holiday - a day for the Socialist's to have their parade and declare the democratic capitalist's to be the 'evil ones.' Then, a small minority of them (who happen to come from other parts of Europe, non-Swiss) create street havoc. Bart call's it "Hooligan Day" which got a chuckle from about half the Swiss in his office. This year, not only was the KPMG office building assaulted with paint and windows broken, it was also set on fire. Thus why all the business capitalists must go on holiday. So as not to be present when Rome burns. No lasting damage and really, their building is chosen in part because of it's convenient proximity to the 'hooligan' neighborhood. The Banks in Paradeplatz are standing unscathed.

So we were away again and I will have to share later this week as I am compelled to finish Spring Break. Or my mom will be upset that I have not posted any Villefranche pic's.

Our final stop as a group (reminder that there are still 2 families travelling together) was Villefranche sur Mer which is located on the coast of France between Monaco and Nice. We had been 2 years ago and loved it - very pleased to return. It was a long travel day from Cinque Terre and we were very happy to reach our final destination. The train had been delayed in Genoa but fortunately that was the last major train and we knew we could catch a commuter from Monaco onward.

Once in Monaco, my friend exclaimed "Hmmm, this train station is definitely different than the Italian train stations." That is true. It has air conditioning AND escalators - no dragging bags up and down full flights of stairs. It also caters to the Riviera crowd and that is evident in the upkeep and facilities.

I must share one incident - as I seem to attract the oddballs in life - we met a very friendly Iranian man who was headed to Nice and catching a boat to Corsica. He really wanted to talk with J and I in English. Explained how he had traveled to Los Angeles as one of the Shah's body guards back in the day and then realized I spoke German too, so insisted on speaking German with me as well. Then he proceeded to tell us how we must watch the children if we go to Nice (yes, I know, and no, we won't be going this trip), and how can you (me) be old enough to have such children (pointing at my husband and yes, they are mine, I am OLD enough) AND that he speaks 12 different languages (none in school, all by ear) including the language of Jesus. ???? Aramaic. Okay. Fortunately, our stop was next.

I did complain that I do always seem to attract weird, drunk men in public - this goes way back to an experience S and I had at a bus stop in Jr. High. J & Bart questioned "He was drunk?" Unfortunately, years of public transport developes in one a keen sense to those who are are habitual drinkers. "Yes - if not drunk, he had started at the lunch hour." I need to develop a meaner look in public.

Enough of strange encounters.

Here are our kiddo's enjoying the sun and sea at the beach. By now, everyone had proper bathingsuits except for the grownups. And no - we did not go all French Riviera - rolled up jeans and t-shirts had to suffice. The water was freezing but the kids didn't care - it was nice and warm on the sand. A great day. See that reddish/orange house there in the middle (purpley trees behind it) - with the Cypress', olive grove and extensive gardens. That's my house. S tried to claim it but I told her I saw it first - 2 years ago - so first dibs. We then decided it's big enough to share. That way we could split everything and it would be more affordable. hahahahaha
Our monkeys. When we weren't at the beach or eating or walking around the little town, we were at the city playground. On the last afternoon, B, who by now was miserable without his skateboard, saw some boys on their behind the park. So J offered one of the boys the 1.50 euro he had in his pocket to let Blake ride for a few minutes - what a dad! Cracked us up and B was happy.
I know I often mention how expensive things can be here when traveling. We don't eat out much when we're home because there's the cost of eating when you're traveling. "Fast" food here isn't the same (not to mention a meal at McD's is much more expensive here) and you can't always find a quick place for food - not to mention, many shops are closed during the lunch hour - so you find yourself at restaurants for lunch. Which on average can cost the equivalent of $50 - 60 for a family of 4 (the beverages alone cost $12 - 15 - and you can't ask for tap water unless you've ordered some other kind of beverage). At this point of the trip, I think we were all glad to be in an apartment vs hotel. We had lunch out/sandwiches and then were able to barbeque and make our own dinners in Villefranche. We have found Apartment rentals in Europe to be very easy and for our family, the most convenient for any stay lasting more than 2-3 days.
We had a nice view of the small bay of Villefranche. Looking toward Cape Ferrat. And then, it was time for our friends to head back to CA while we headed off to London......
We stayed in London for the weekend because the flights were cheaper through Heathrow and we used the extra $$ saved from flying Nice - Zurich direct on a hotel. So we saved but didn't all at the same time. Makes sense? We had wanted another weekend in London anyway and it just worked out. So,

I have no words for this picture (in front of Buckingham Palace) other than it makes Bart & I laugh. So I hope you get a chuckle but not in an offensive way. I never even noticed the Jewish man to the right until we were looking at the pic's at home - I was more fascinated by the young ladies outfit when I took the pic. I guess it's the contrast that makes us giggle.

We love the parks in London and it was soooooo incredibly beautiful with all the trees in flower.
Not our typical Easter Sunday dinner but here you have it: Hard Rock Cafe London. We have traveled on two occasions that hit Easter Sunday and while it is never the same as being at your home Church, we remember and recognize the significance and celebration of the Resurrection in spite of our location. And the Westminster Abbey bells were RINGING!
So, yes, here we are at the Hard Rock. This is our family treat when we are in cities that have a Cafe - we've been in Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rome (not Paris) and now London. Where it all began. Yes, the Hard Rock Cafe was started in London and attracted it's clientele for the 'American' style food served. They started the memorabilia collection with Eric Clapton's guitar seen below. It was supposed to 'reserve' his spot at the Cafe. Pete Townsend wasn't going to let that pass and reserved his place also with a guitar (bottom left). There you have it - Hard Rock history if you didn't know it.
Why do we bother? Bart and I like some rock & roll (I think I mentioned the girls danced at the table to Switchfoot in Copenhagen? - Yikes :) AND we can get fajitas, or loaded cheeseburgers, American hot dogs, Barbeque ribs, salads other than an 'Insalata Mista' with Italian or French dressing and oh, it just feels good even though it's kitschy American. Because we don't get 'home' much and it's fun.
The Fam in front of Big Ben.
So we ended our Spring Break in England - listening to English. We went to the British Museum as well - one of the original intentions of this trip - which was huge and fantastic. You need several days to do it real justice and save your legs. But we did a surface run in several hours which is all the girls are really up to anyway. The great thing is - it was all in English! Picking up on the 'English' part yet?
It was wonderful to be able to read the signs and descriptions in our native language. Usually we are looking for an English translation card or simply figuring it out with logic. Logic goes far but sometimes you lose a bit in translation. And your brain has to work harder.
We returned home having had a great time but realizing the house was much quieter now our guests were gone. I still miss them. I am so happy they were able to take time out of their lives and travel here. There are still things I would have liked to share with them. Never enough time. They are probably happy to be home and not worrying about making noise on top of the neighbors. :)


Jolyn said...

What a great trip. Certainly makes our spring break in San Antonio pale in comparison! I went to Monaco once, in college with a girlfriend. I think that's a nice house you have picked out there;)

Sarah said...

I love that you take pictures of outfits to share with us. That picture is a winner! :)

Susan May said...

I also loved the knee-high outfit photo! Good shot!

I have fond memories of a rainy day at the British Museum. I need to go back - we barely scratched the surface.