Δήμος Αγίου Κωνσταντίνου

– first point: two consecutive full days of travelling is exhausting. but when you’re on vacation it just doesn’t matter nearly as much.
– you always know it’s a good day when you say “that’s going in the blog!” more than once.
– i have NO idea what my title says
– mussolini’s fascist eagles still adorn the mausoleum that is the milan central train station. kinda… cool?
– breakfast at italian hotel: sugar croissants, nutella, espresso. time to eat before shuttle: 2.5 minutes.
– who needs hobbe’s state of nature when you have easy jet’s no-seat-allocation policy?!
– most embarrassing thing i did today: sprayed alex’s cologne at the duty free on my book. it’s almost like he’s here every time i read!
– relatedly, sometimes i think alex could actually read greek since everything looks like a complex math equation
– every time in the past two days that i’ve fallen asleep in a moving vessel, i’ve drooled all over myself (in other words, make that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most embarrassing things i’ve done in the past two days)
– in greece, they have BACON FLAVOURED BAGEL CHIPS
– 33 degrees in the shade is hot. also, the bus we took from athens airport to the intercity bus station had a giant piece of… bus… falling off the side of the roof. safe?
– apparently not everyone in greece is friendly. the woman who sold us our bus tickets to the port town, upon my asking her how far the drop off point was from the ferry (since we would have very limited time to catch the last one of the day), told me in an extremely irritating way that she didn’t know, didn’t know anything about the ferry, didn’t know. when i asked her if she could direct me to someone who knew anything about the ferry, she said “no” and when i repeated, incredulously, “no one here in this entire bus station knows anything about the ferry?” she said “no.” five minutes later a nice woman who worked at the information desk told me everything i needed to know about the ferry.
– mean woman also neglected to inform us of the “express bus” option to the town, and instead we were given the slow bus, which stops (at the side of the road in seemingly the middle of nowhere) at every small town along the way, which resulted in us missing the last ferry of the day to the island and having to stay in this random hotel overnight
– this lead us to getting a fabulous greek dinner in the konstantinous town square on the patio (still 23°C at 10pm). cheapest, best octopus, calamari and prawns i think i’ve ever had. and tzatziki. oh tzatziki!
– classy = being so full after dinner that you actually undo the button of your jeans at the restaurant…
– greek red wine is not at all like what i was expecting. alexFAIL for not preparing me ahead of time. i mean, why did i have the fantasia image of bacchus (dionysus?) pouring deep, exceptionally full-bodied red wine all over himself if i’m just going to be given rosé?!
– i think i’m going to choose to just ignore the large cockroach in the bathroom… which is more than i could say for my 7 year old self back in the good ol’ days in florida… slight improvement?
– on the list for tomorrow, other than getting the 10:30am ferry, is to try some greek byzantine coffee. speaking of, tomorrow arrives swiftly. time for sleep.

ciao!

hello again, italy!

every journey is an adventure.

mine always seem to be more adventurous than most…

also, france likes to test my patience.

yesterday i had a fabulous day. i woke up early, talked with alex. then i visited with cait, josh and brianna in the kitchen drinking coffee while caitlin baked banana bread. cait and i then went in to town to do some errands, and she left around 2 to go pick up her boyfriend, naz, from the airport. i got a tonne of administrative things done, which is an epic accomplishment if you’ve ever spent any time in france, and i was feeling great. although my bike got a flat tire, i got in a great ride beforehand, and managed to check off nearly everything on my to-do list. it was hot, beautiful, and i had finished my exams (hopefully successfully). in the evening, everyone went in to town and got crèpes, then we wandered around, got icecream, and then we got sushi.

i should have known it was too good to be true.

i started packing after a good chat with mom, and then i got a message from caitlin informing me that the french rail company was on strike – again – starting that day and going until the 28th of may. as in, encompassing exactly the day we need to leave on a french train to get to milan, from where we’d be flying the next day to athens, from where we’d be taking a ferry to the island of skiathos for a post-exam-pre-2nd-try-exam-period vacation. curse you, SNCF, and charles de gaulle, for conditioning the french people to strike ALL THE TIME! (just wait, it gets better).

we left as planned, and our first train was merely delayed 25 min. no problem, except the ticket stations were all closed, due to the strike, so we couldn’t print our tickets out because foreign cards don’t work in the auto-machines. not even the conductor knew what to do about it, so he essentially ignored us on the first train. we got to nice, and the next train was delayed an hour. still couldn’t print tickets. and we find out claire’s flight to athens is cancelled because the air traffic controllers are on strike. so we hung around in nice for a couple hours. and what did we watch on the street at the café while we waited for our train, that was “perturbé” by the strike? we watched a parade of strikers. not just one group, but many groups. there was even a union of unioners group striking. ONLY in france could this be possible. un.be.lievable. (incidentally, many of the groups were chanting “an-ti sar-ko, an-ti sar-ko” – anti sarkozy. elections coming up you know…)

we finally made it to the small italian town of ventimiglia, just across the french border, from nice. and because of the french strike and us not having tickets yet, we missed the connecting train while we waited in line to get them printed. so then we had another two hours to kill until the next train left, onward to milan. let me note, also, that this train left on time and we have pretty tickets in our hands. and only a couple hours later than planned.

in the end, the strike has actually mildly worked in our favour, and i can’t say it put us out too much. it’s hard to say you’re being inconvenienced when you’re killing time at a café in nice, or eating snacks on the mediterranean coast, or drinking apéros on a patio in a small italian beach-town. particularly when you’re not actually missing a flight due to the delays.

so now i am sitting on the last train-leg of this journey, 4 hours to milan. once again extremely blessed to be travelling along the breathtaking mediterranean coast and through the italian countryside, eating candy and hanging out with two really cool people. we’re in a hotel overnight near the airport and fly to athens in the morning. from there we have to figure out how to get to the island, but i’m on vacation baby. no worries. though i think i shall take a nap, seeing as i am running on two hours of sleep and have been up travelling since 6am.

it’s a hard-knock life…

downtown aix

cait and naz

brianna!

clairey and josh

cait and naz ❤

la rotonde, late afternoon sun

ordering crèpes!

cathedral tower at sunset, aix

waiting in nice

watching the strikers

beach in ventimiglia

ventimiglia

ventimiglia

french moments


france is bombarding me with moments lately, as if to say, “mais non, écoute, we might be difficult to deal with a lot of the time, but you are going to miss this. voilà!”

– yesterday i walked in to town in the afternoon to meet the girls. along the way, a large stage and bleachers have been erected at the end of the cours mirabeau, next to the statue of roi rené, where various acts are performing all weekend. i happened to stop and watch at the time when there were ballet dancers and a six-piece jazzy band playing with an incredibly typical french male singer, crooning in the half-singing, half-speaking way. the dancers were dressed in black capri leotard, with black and white ballet skirts and either black or white tops, and stark red berets. i’m not entirely sure it could have gotten more french than that?

– after i finished writing one of my exams the other day, i sat outside the school building waiting for my friends to join me. to my right is a café i often frequent (‘the enchanted flute’), behind, the cathédral saint saveur, an impressive old church. when i couldn’t hear the powerful and ominous chords emanating from the giant pipe organ inside, i was listening to the accordion player just down the alley.

– my friends joined me, and we went down to the hotel de ville square where we had iced coffee and pastis on a café terrace in the afternoon sunshine, listening to the 3-piece classical guitar band’s upbeat tunes and the patio chatter.

– i had about three or four crèpes last week from street-side stands.

– the prof examining claire and me for our ethics and politics class left halfway through the exams to get an espresso and have a smoke…

– i stopped at the market on my way to an exam to get some vegetables for dinner. trying to make small talk, i asked the old lady at the stand where i was purchasing basil if the wind that had been blowing the past week was the ‘mistral’ (a famously cold and blustery wind that comes annually down from the alps), to which she replied “oui bien sûr”. i asked if it was finished blowing now, and she gave me the french weather prediction mantra: “if it blows for three days, it will blow for three more, and if it blows for three more it will blow for three more. but if it stops before three days then it is finished”. supposedly, weather comes in threes here (they think the same of rain). and you know, she was right!

– bottle of rosé for 3€95???

mais non, écoute, écoute….

retroactive

i’ve finally gone back to my last couple travel posts and added photos to them. not that i expect you to read those monsters over again, but the photos make the posts so much better and you can see where i was when i talked about the places… anyway just an FYI!

more than that, though, i entirely forgot to blog about my trip to lyon for the mumford and sons concert! this was a fabulous overnight trip taken just after we all arrived back from travelling. the concert was on friday night (the 23rd of april), so claire, cait and i took the train up to lyon in the mid-morning and josh, stu, and two of stu’s friends (jude and rebecca) met us there from paris. we had a hostel booked way up on the hill, so after a bit of wandering we checked in there, then headed back in to town to grab dinner (kebabs) and get to the concert.

the concert was just fabulous. johnny flynn opened for mumford, and we all liked his band so much we bought cds. mumford was incredible, one of the best concerts i’ve been to. the talent… and the harmonies! anyway, it was a great night.

the next day we basically kept wandering around lyon. we ate pastries, got coffee, and had a late and long lyonaise lunch (gastronomic capital of france, so some say) – which was incredible. then we laid in a park for awhile in the sun, josh and i ran around in a fountain, and we eventually made our way back to the train station to be back in aix for the late evening. all in all a really fun two days! photos:

view of lyon from the hostel
a really big cathedral in lyon (don’t know the name)
josh in the fountain
me in the fountain
basking
basking…
josh, me and stu at lunch
claire, cait and jude at lunch
my amazing lunch
i like this pic of me, thanks josh!
girls
josh, cait and stu on the rhone river

okay, back to studying for me!

le mois de mai


well okay if brier updated, i suppose i should update as well. it’s been a few weeks, after all….

as mentioned briefly in one of my recent travel updates, when i arrived back in aix after two weeks of gallivanting around more northern parts of europe, spring was in full swing here. all the flowers and leaves were out, the air smelled of lilac and honeysuckle, and it was hot. unfortunately, although the leaves continued to green up, the warmth didn’t stay. we just recently had about a week of kinda crummy, rainy weather, and although it is sunny now, it’s very windy and not quite warm enough to break out the summer clothes. soon though?

i’m in the middle of exam time once again (which, undoubtedly, is why i’ve only now found time to write a blog entry…), though this time around i’m less stressed given that i only have three exams to write whereas my friends have between 5 and 7 each… (!). i write two at the end of next week and my last one on the 25th. on the 27th, myself, claire, caitlin and her boyfriend naz (who’s flying in from australia) are going to the greek island of skiathos for six days!!! i’m TERRIBLY excited, we planned this ages and ages ago as a reward for getting through two semesters in a french university, and to relax before we have to start re-studying for the exams we (cough) didn’t quite pass sufficiently last semester. here’s a link for where we’re staying on the island, in case you feel like getting really jealous: http://www.skiathosgardencottages.gr/

after that, i’ve finally been able to make tentative plans to go out to bordeaux and visit john howard (owner and proprietor of megalomaniac wines, of john howard wines of distinction. not to be confused with the former prime minister of australia), at his recently acquired château there, called “château la confession”, in st. emilion near libourne. i really hope it works out, i would kick myself if i didn’t make it there considering he made the offer a number of times before i left for france. and you just don’t turn down stuff like that, y’know?

recently, my good friend erik came over here from niagara to visit, prior to taking off with his girlfriend to travel all around europe. although quarters in my room are already comically small, we managed for the six days he was here, even with all the rain keeping us inside. it was so much fun showing him around the place i’ve been living in the past nine months, like a “worlds collide” type situation. aside from initiating him into our pretty laid-back lifestyle of market going, café sitting, dinner making, etc., we made it down to marseille for a day, hiked up to the cathédral notre dame de la garde, with its amazing view of marseille and the mediterranean, and walked all along the port, stopping at the end to sit by the water at the end of the day and eat some raspberry tarts (my favourite). i took advantage of the fact that erik was now the newbie there with his camera, and didn’t even bring mine. my shoulders thanked me.

we also did a day trip to nice! i’d never been, so it was a great opportunity to see another stunning water-side city. nice is the second most visited tourist city in all of france, so i’m told. i’ll spare you the over-used nice is nice jokes (it’s pronounced ‘niece’, anyhow!) by telling you that it’s in fact very pretty, very quaint, easy, interesting, and full of things to do. we managed to grab lunch, sit on the beach, and hike up the château hill for a view of the city before it started to rain. after that we just wandered around… and i wondered why i didn’t decide to study in nice instead! still with the south of france feel, but more of a beach-side vibe, yet not as rich as monaco or pretentious as st. tropez, and a lot cleaner than marseille. what more could you want? after killing some time out of the rain at a café, we headed to another part of town, the cimiez area, stopped briefly (as it was closing) at the marc chagall museum of art (which immediately became my favourite museum of all, so far), and to the cimiez monastery with its gorgeous gardens near the matisse museum and some ancient gallo-roman ruins. by then it was time to head back to the train station. we tried to get a drink at a pub along the way, but were ignored so long we ended up just leaving. shocking? not really.

erik in nice
nice beach
from above
coloured tile roofs
me! (credit: erik)
les chutes
typical street view
fleurs at the monastery garden
one of my favourite chagall pieces (credit: erik)

erik was lucky enough to be privy to our last IEP party held at my university (always a raucous and interesting time), got to eat some pizza at the famous pizza capri, and get a pain au chocolat from the 24hr bakery. he of course was made to try the brioche glacé at my favourite bakery in town, and we definitely had a couple coffee beverages at l’unic. he was also around for the celebration of the lovely caitlin’s 22nd birthday! although we had intended to have a fabulous picnic in the park with pastries from the bakery, the rain forced us indoors, and so instead we had a fabulous hors d’oeuvres meal in cait’s room, replete with champagne (okay it was crémant, i feel morally obligated to specify the difference now), foie gras, prosciutto, wine, and of course pastries! so a great week, and looks like he and heather are having a fab time on their own travels as well.

erik, claire, benji at l’uniccait and me, l’unic (credit: erik)
the fabulous spread for cait’s birthday (credit: erik)

well i best get some photos on here and then get back to ‘work’. but before i go, can i just remind you that i will be home in 38 days???

cheers all!

mum’s the word

first things first, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY MOM!! i’m not sure why i couldn’t find a better (or newer) picture of you and me, but there you have it. 🙂 i hope you know how much you’re appreciated every day of the year, and not just today. especially considering this isn’t the first, and won’t be the last mother’s day i’m away for it…

mom and me, florida 2008

just so everyone knows, i have the most amazing mother out there, and i’m not biased. she’s also my close friend, and knows me better than i know myself (which comes in handy a lot). most days i don’t know where i would be without her, and not just in the “not born” kind of way… i would go on, but being so far away makes it a little harder to not get homesick.

also, i have an incredible sister who is celebrating her 2nd mother’s day as an incredible mom now too. this is another old picture, and there are certainly many more recent ones, but not ones which i have on my harddrive. regardless, beautiful mother, beautiful daughter. both goofballs. both of whom i love and miss very much!

brier and branwyn, florida 2008

so happy mother’s day to you both, you deserve to be celebrated.