The French Riviera

Now that we are back in the States, I’m finally getting to our last Olmsted blog.  Luckily, we went out in grand fashion which eased the pain of leaving, finally visiting the Provence region and the French Riviera.  When researching the area to find the best places to see, Bobby came across a whole list of awesome places – Baux de Provence, Arles, Cannes, Nice, Eze and of course, Monaco.

The first stop, Baux de Provence, is home to a unique museum called Carrières de Lumières.  The Carrières was an active white limestone quarry around the turn of the 20th century.  It was built for the large-scale stone production need in the Saint-Rémy area and a nearby chateau.  In 1935, the quarry closed.  However, the Carrières was given new life in the 1960s when Jean Cocteau decided to film “The Testament of Orpheus”.   The transformation continued in the 1970s, when Joseph Svoboda, a famous scenographer, decided the large, smooth rock walls would be the perfect backdrop for sound and light shows.  The museum now shows famous artwork from around the world, combining the visual part of the show with custom complementary music…. [Read More]

Tour de (Southern) France

Someone lost their shoes

I haven’t blogged much lately because Bobby and I have been spending most of our last few months of our Olmsted journey here in Firenze.  We officially have just 4 weeks left.  Yikes! Last week, however, we took our last “international trip,” a five-day trek through southern France.  Initially, I wasn’t very excited about traveling again (I’ll admit, I’m a little traveled out), but looking back, I’m thoroughly glad we decided to go through with it.  We had previously driven through southern France three times without ever stopping to take in the sites, so it was nice to finally get to see the area.  We started out in Nimes, visited the Pont du Gard (a dream of mine ever since architecture school), and then stayed a few days in Aix-en-Provence.  We then traveled along the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) back to Italy, which I’ll blog about in the next segment, so stay tuned!

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Flying South

Beautiful

After almost two weeks of some pretty darn cold weather, we were excited to be heading south to (hopefully) some warmer weather.  That didn’t actually work out, but we loved our last stops nevertheless.  We made a pit stop in Luxembourg and it actually snowed overnight, which made it pretty difficult to venture out and site-see.  We did head over to the American WWII Cemetery though and the snow made it even more beautiful.  After that, we made it to Strasbourg, France and got to spend some time with another Olmsted Scholar, Maureen Tanner (OSC ’12), her husband, and lovely little daughter.

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D-Day in Normandy

View to Omaha Beach

Being an American, and especially an American who has a family member in the military, there are several historical/military sites that are sacred.  These places give us perspective, give us a better understanding of our past, and allow us to be thankful to live in the best country in the world.  One is the Normandy region of France.  (Others on my list include Pearl Harbor, Arlington National Cemetery, Ground Zero, etc.)   Spending a few days in Normandy was well worth the out-of-the-way travel.  We had the opportunity to see several WWII battle sites: Pont du Hoc (the site where the Army Rangers first took the French coastline), Omaha Beach (the famous beach where 3,600 Americans were killed), Longues-sur-Mer Battery (an essential site for German artillery), the American Cemetery and Memorial, and the German Cemetery.

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Lyon and the Champagne Region

Cool (but touristy) street full of restaurants and bars

Our two week tour of France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and western Germany began in Lyon, France.  First off, we want to give a big “thank you” to Paul Rogers (OSC ’11) for letting us stay at his wonderful apartment in Lyon, while he is off interning in Paris for the semester!  It was a wonderful place to see the city from.  Lyon is France’s third largest city and due to its cultural and architectural landmarks, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The city is also known as a culinary capital, boasting some of the best Michelin-starred chefs in the world.  Additionally, there is a great film museum (which we got to see!) in Lyon because the two men, Auguste and Louis Lumière, who created the “cinematographe,” or motion picture camera, spent most of their life in the city.

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Basque-ing [and other French travels]

Rosaries

While in Biarritz, Bobby I and I decided to take a couple day trips to neighboring towns near the French Basque region.  Lourdes, the first of the two cities, sits at the base of the Pyrenees mountains an hour and a half south of Biarritz.  It is known as a pilgrimage site for the Catholic faith.  Over a span of time (beginning in 1858), “Our Lady of Lourdes”, better known to us as the Virgin Mary, appeared to a young girl 18 times.  Now, some 5 million visitors flock to the town each year to see the grotto where the apparitions took place and drink its holy water, which is said to have natural healing powers.

The second of the two cities, Bordeaux, is well-known for its vineyards.  According to some sources, Bordeaux earns 14.5 billion euros each year with its wine sells/exports alone.  The city is also a large university town, which boasts a young vibrant culture with many bars, shops, and restaurants.

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Basque-ing in the Sun…..

Beautiful Biarritz water

I haven’t written much in a while, mainly because Bobby and I took several weeks off from traveling so that I could go back to language training and he could start on the daunting process of sifting through books for his PhD.  However, when we got a great offer for a week on the French coast (in the Basque region), we could not pass it up.  The Basque region spans the French-Spanish border on the Atlantic coast.  We visited San Sebastian (in Spain) last month, so we stuck to the French side of the border this trip.  We met up for a week of fun and relaxation with other Olmsted Scholars from the area (Tim Gallagher and his wife Meaghan and son Tim from Paris, Paul Rogers from Lyon, and Brian Hensarling and his wife Jen from Brussels).  After a very short 14 hour drive from Firenze (yes, we are crazy sometimes), we reached the beautiful coast. The Gallaghers found a wonderful home to rent in Biarritz for the week, so we used this as our base camp.  It was a week full of surfing, sun-bathing, eating, cooking, beach-side runs, and great conversation.  Turns out, Bobby and I aren’t really surfers (we left that to the other Olmsted professionals), so we decided to take a few side trips in France as well.  We figured that if we drove all the way to the Basque region, we might as well enjoy it and it’s neighboring city of Bordeaux (more on that in the next post). … [Read More]

Christmas in the City of Light – Paris, France

The tower boring a hole in the sky

This was our first Christmas without family or friends nearby, but Bobby and I wanted to make the most of it.  After opening up our Christmas gifts a few days early (Santa came to Florence on the 22nd this year!), we set out to spend the holiday in Paris.  Paris is a city that both Bobby and I had always wanted to visit, but never got the chance and we were very excited to see the city for the first time together…. [Read More]