Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway....

Lyon is one of the most magical places I have been to yet. It was supposed to snow this past weekend but it was not in the cards, it was just cold. (Cue "Let it Go from the movie Frozen)   It is a huge city- not as big as Paris- but still pretty big. It is UNESCO World Heritage site... in plain people speak it means there are a TON of really really old buildings. Most of them date back to before the 17th century and were relatively untouched by the World Wars.  Lyon was the capital of Roman Gaul and has become the food capital of France. Basically this visit was heaven, old buildings food and silk.  Oh yeah, Lyon is known for its silk too.
My final research project is about fabric, so a visit to Lyon was necessary. Anna was my travel buddy, translator, and fellow foodie.  We visited Tissage Carret, which all I can say about that visit was how overwhelmingly amazing it was. It is owned by the Carret family and they are the sweetest people ever. Our tour guide was Laurent Carret, the grandson of the founder.  There are so many words I could use to describe this place but I don't have the space.. mainly because I'm not allowed--shhhhhhh---secret stuff gets developed there. I can honestly say this visit reinvigorated my passion. I was so excited, pumped, amped, whatever word you want to use, after that visit.
At Laurent's recommendation, Anna and I had dinner at Brasserie Le Nord. (Don't pronounce the "d")  It is owned by Paul Bocuse,  one of France's most famous chefs, you know michelin star status type chef. We had bellinis, white wine, sausage with pistachios in brioche, lamb with potatoes and spinach and the most amazing vanilla custard to finish off the most decadent meal I've ever had. Anna and I both agree that was one of the top three meals of our lives.    We were so full after that we aimlessly walked around till we weren't anymore. We walked into the James Joyce pub only to get sucked into watching the Dawn of the Dead and decide it was time to call it a night.
Saturday=sleeping in.  We woke up, took our time getting ready, and then walked around Lyon for a hot second to take in the sights before our lunch date with Anna's host family, from her last visit to France.  They made sauerkraut, corned beef, and potatoes, salad and a homemade apple pie/tart. Their home is a dream. You see pictures of a home like this but, never actually meet anyone who lives there. Well the Pellet family lives in a 17th century apartment overlooking the Saone River and has the most breathtaking view of the Basilica and the Cathedral.  After a lovely afternoon with them, Anna and I ventured around Lyon went sightseeing, shopping and had dinner with Sigolène and Ferrèol (the two older kids from her old host family).  We went to the Monkey Lounge for some of the best cocktails and then to the Smoking Dog for a fantastic way to cap off the night... at 3 am.  Our train the next morning at 9am came toooooooo early.
What will I remember most? The way the Saone looked like silent swirled sheets of glass moving along, the way the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière takes your breath away when you walk inside, the way white wine does NOT mix with vanilla custard (a word from the wise--just don't even try), and finally the way Lyon managed to steal my heart... if only for the weekend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Nose Knows Best.... a Journey of 3,000 Scents

I smell like I rolled around in fields of flowers all day.  Close actually, I spent the majority of my day in perfume factories. The smell of old lady is slowly seeping its way into my body, never to leave; I will smell like an 80 year old for the rest of my life!!  If said 80-yr-old-trapped-in-a-23-yr-old-body can wear Chanel No. 5, then I'm ok with that on some level.
My entire life I have struggled with smell. Not smelling, but smell... specifically the way I smell. My Mother, with her very keen--read sensitive-- nose (something my brother, Joseph, inherited, not I, thanks Dad!)  has always done a quick sniff check as I walk out of the house in the morning. Don't ask, weird family quirk. That being said, I have never found a perfume that "matched" with my body chemistry until this Christmas. Santa miraculously found a perfume that worked for me. (Estee Lauder Sensuous Nude in case any readers were curious) 
So when a trip to Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, to create our own perfume, was proposed by some girls in the program, I thought "Hey, why not!" After all how hard can developing perfume be? I've only been unable to find one for 22 years. This process requires a lot of olfactory stamina and is not for the weak nosed--aka Mom and Joseph skip out on this one.   Grasse is home to over 40 perfume factories so there was a wealth of knowledge and smells to absorb.  The sky was the most gorgeous color blue when we arrived. Juxtaposed against the mountain tree line, I had to take a picture of just the sky to remember its specific deep azure color.   After schlepping across hills and up mountains and down the beautiful cobble stone streets of Grasse, we ended up at Galimard Perfumes. 
Galimard is the oldest perfume factory in Grasse dating back to 1747.  When you walk in to create your own perfume you are hit by the smell of old woman.  Its not a bad smell by any means, its more powdery mixed with  fruit somewhere with a slight musk in the background. You are guided to the smelling station where I can only say it is overwhelming, from the task at hand and the amount of smells.   

Then comes the picking of scents and measuring the essential oils, like in chemistry class (think beakers and precise measuring). As you sift through the hundreds of different smells, you have to figure out what you like. A perfume newb, like me, didn't stand a chance.  Coffee beans clear the "nose palette" and those were readily on hand throughout the appointment. After a while, I'm not going to lie, I went with my first reaction to every smell (there were so many!) There are over 3,000 scents to pick from! But our little jars contained between 10-15 essential oils already mixed together.  And even then there are over 100 jars to sift through to pick the right scents!

Perfumes have base notes, heart notes, and peak notes. The peak notes are what you first smell right as you spray the perfume.  The heart notes are what is present on your skin after fifteen minutes. Finally the base notes are what is left over hours later. So we started with the base notes and worked our way forward. My perfume has a decent bit of jasmine, bergamot, and lilly of the valley. Apparently I'm floral?  All in all, a must-do experience if you are staying in the South of France for any extended period of time, as the entire process takes a few hours!
A very fun and smelly day overall!! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Watches and the Sea

Day two of nine hours of watches.   Don't get me wrong.  I like watches as much as the next girl, but they are not what lights a fire in my belly.  I'm not even sure fashion does as it's a little too fickle... Classic pieces made with quality and heart... thats what excites me. So when someone is innovative as Laurent Lecamp, it makes everyone feed off of his energy and become interested. These swiss watches are amazing, they have such a powerful story behind them. Check out Cyrus Watches.  The espresso haze is keeping me alert. All in all 18 hours of the last 48 on watches and brand building is a lot for me.

The amount of rain is reminiscent of a monsoon, a hurricane, and a flood combined.  My jeans were exposed at the bus stop this morning and are soaked through.  Stocking up on vitamin C will be essential. Time to visit the pharmacy!! The one cool thing about the amount of rain over the last 48 hours is how it has transformed the sea.  Since I live so close to the ocean, it is common to smell the sea, but not hear it from my apartment window.

Where we live, the sea is unnaturally calm. It looks like glass that extends to the end of the earth.  However, last night.. as I was desperately running around Juan looking for an open grocery/convenience store, the power of the sea was on display. The roar of the sea was deafening.  Initially I thought it was the cars, then I thought it was the wind. But as I got closer to the boardwalk, I realized it was the ocean.  The sound of the surf was overwhelming, and the height of the waves was insane. Had to be at least 12 feet. (Ok maybe I exaggerate a smidge, but they were taller than the restaurants that are on the beach!!!)

These waves made me think of what it must've been like thousands of years ago traveling by sea. When the Apostle Paul journeyed to Rome, or when the disciples were terrified by the storm on the sea of Galilee, or Jonah was thrown overboard to stop the storm, I finally understand the fear. It was terrifying to watch the water, much less what it would've been like to be on a boat in that storm. The appreciation and understanding that one accidental stroll can cause really gave me perspective.   

All in all it made for a happy good night's sleep--rain, warm clean bed, full belly, and perspective. Oh, here are a couple pictures from my day trips to Nice and Cannes. I have to say, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Three Days

So much has happened in the last three days. So here's a quick  semi-condensed recap of life.

THURSDAY: Woke up ridiculously excited at 6:30am to get ready for school at 8:30am . I'm still the nerd that loves the first day of school (Even though this was orientation, still exciting in my book). Got ready and headed down to the boulangerie/patisserie right near my apartment. After a sausage croissant and espresso by the sea, the group of us living in Juan met at the bus stop to head to SKEMA.

Twenty minutes away from the sea into the mountains the bus arrived at one of the most hilly and gorgeous places ever, our new school.  Who knew schools didn't have red brick everywhere?  Sitting in the most cushion-y seats in the auditorium we all settled into life at SKEMA. We finished orientation and some of us waited to go to Carrefour. Its a grocery store, however there is one near Sophia Antipolis that is MASSIVE!  Its like a Walmart mixed with a mall.  After hours of searching and countless stores, I finally found a curling iron at this Carrefour! My hair wont be frizzy now, thats excitement only girls will understand.
I laid on my bed to relax when I got home and woke up at midnight.  Casual exhaustion.

FRIDAY: First big step in establishing residency is to have a French bank account. So I set up an appointment for Monday, and headed into Antibes. The bus wasn't running for some reason, we walked. It's a 15-20 minute, hilly, walk to Antibes from Juan les Pins.  We arrived and headed to lunch. Walking through Old Antibes, we stumbled upon a place near a gorgeous old fountain.  After one of the most delicious salads, where I ate every tomato. (Big deal since I typically hate tomatoes on salads!) We had Speculos crepes and then headed to SFR to get phones. I have the most old school phone. No QWERTY keyboard here!

We went shopping at Mango and Monoprix (the French Target).  Coming back here to get ready and then we all decided to go to dinner in Old Antibes. Restaurant Aubergine is a must if you come to Antibes!!! But be ready to dedicate three hours to eating the French way. However, easily some of the best salmon, risotto, and goat cheese salad I've ever had.  From there we went to meet the rest of the program at the Hop Store, an Irish bar on the water.  After a reunion, we went to L'Ekinox which was a British inspired bar and danced the night away.

SATURDAY: MONACO!!!!!!!!! I'm convinced its easily one of the most beautiful square miles in the world. Walking around the ridiculous hills of this place will make you appreciate your calves.  The entire day felt like a dream. It was just the most gorgeous and picturesque place. (I feel like I'm going to say that a lot over the next five months.) We walked around the outside of the Monte-Carlo Casino and took pictures. Then we had lunch by the harbor overlooking all of the yachts. The shrimp risotto is banging here.  (Risotto aux Gambas at Le "M" restaurant)
Then we walked up to the Royal Palace is located. And by up, I mean UPPPPPP half a mountainside of stairs. You can see everything from this hillside. It is gorgeous.  To fulfill my lifelong obsession with Grace Kelly, we walked to the Cathedral of Monaco, where she was married and is buried. I literally may or may not have teared up at the beauty of this place.  It is amazingly gorgeous. 

After hiking down the mountain we walked back up to the Casino and went inside. I wish I had pictures but it is forbidden. Ornate does not begin to describe this place. Crystal, gold, and velvet everywhere.  We played the slots, lost 5 euro to the machines, and drank a glass of wine . (sorry Mom and Dad its an experience!!!) Dinner at Le "M' was fantastic, mumbai chicken curry.  We took the train the wrong way home. Thankfully we didn't end up in Italy, just yet. Overall, it was the most perfect day despite the wrong way train ride.  

Finding My Word

The simplicity of life here astounds me.  I slept in till roughly noon and it was glorious.  Opening my window and looking out over the sea is just spectacular.  I've needed this time to myself to just reset. Thats what a Sunday, or Sabbath, is right? Appreciating life and the beauty of everything you've been blessed with, right? And readers, I have been blessed with much more than I deserve.

 Lazy day in my pajamas means eating Nutella and pasta-in that order- drinking coffee, sitting with the window open to smell the sea, watching movies, blogging, journaling, and writing letters. Today has been good for my soul.

I watched Eat, Pray, Love today and it got me thinking. What's my word? For those of you who haven't seen the movie, its about a divorcee (Julia Roberts) who travels the world to find herself and find balance.  In the end she finds that occasionally losing that hard fought balance for love is worth it. Crap, if you ask me.  But what do I know?  I love Javier Bardem so it was a good movie in my eyes.
Throughout the movie, she is looking for one word to describe herself and at the end of the movie she chooses an Italian word, "attraversiamo"  that means "let's cross over". It got me thinking, what's my word?  I have no idea, maybe that's what this adventure is for me, finding my word too.

It's dark here now, the candlelight is fading, and Ron Pope is on repeat.

Bonne nuit readers!! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Fromage is a cooler word than Cheese"

It's so crazy to think about the concept of language.  We are all talking about the same things just using different words to speak about them.  While I haven't struggled with communicating with people in Juan les Pins too badly, (thanks Rainey for majoring in a foreign language) it's dawned on me that we are all trying to do the same thing, but language keeps us apart.

Simple phrases such as "Do you speak English," and "I speak no French" can really make the difference in how willing someone is to help you  (all said in French of course). This notorious reputation of the French being grumpy little buggers hasn't appeared yet.

Finding each other without phones has proved to be our saving grace and a mini miracle.  We spent most of yesterday walking around Antibes figuring out the phone issue so that we could communicate. And walking through Old Antibes was fantastic. The cobblestone streets somehow transport you back in time. (Minus the little cars buzzing around.) The old carousel is something out of a fairytale.

Never have I been more appreciative of my own space.  Having this little apartment to come back to and just relax is fantastic. Being in the center of Juan is incredibly convenient if I want to be social, catch a bus, eat, grab a coffee, or go for a run.

Today is the orientation at SKEMA.  We only know what time we start. Not where, not what time we end, or who is leading this orientation. Welcome to the relaxed French education system? Thankfully at least six of us live in Juan together so we are all just going to wing it. Winging it is not in my nature, I am a planner, so this entire move to Europe is going to challenge the very core of my nature. So here's to new experiences!

Au revior readers!

Old Antibes and the Carousel 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


So I was totally against blogging this experience. Until now.

Sitting here in my tiny apartment loving every second of France, (since its not even been a full 24 hours yet) I am overwhelmed with the desire to share as much as possible with anyone who is interested. I think its got something to do with my generation and the social media buzz or the fact that I'm living in one of the most amazing places ever for the next minimum 5 months.  I'm living in Juan les Pins France to be exact. Its a tiny costal town between Antibes and Cannes, you know the place with the really cool film festival?  Its the most picturesque area I've literally ever been.

Why was I against blogging? I (still do) view this experience as something very personal. This living on my own in a foreign country thing is going to teach me a lot about myself. And frankly I didn't know if I was going to like what I am going to learn.

But waking up this morning at 5am - Hello Jet Lag, Welcome to the Party!!! - really got me thinking. Whilst watching To Catch a Thief, (one of my all time favorites Grace Kelly, Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock what's not to love? OH and its in the French Riviera my new home!) I felt it a shame to only journal about my experiences and keep them to myself.  Being inwardly focused has its place for sure, but I think its much scarier to put something out there that people can comment and reflect on as well.  Changing the way a person thinks is powerful.

That being said, this is that leap of faith that you all might learn something about yourselves too. And perhaps enjoy what you learn about me as well.  Because at the end of the day, my life's journey is to see beauty, give joy, embrace my own ambition, and enjoy every moment.  Heres to the crazy ride that is my life, oh and welcome to the party readers.  

For your viewing pleasure, flying past the French Alps :)