Tag archive for » Travel «


Tuesday, 4. August 2009 20:37

Don’t go to Turin on a Monday. Everything is closed. Even most of the shops that open on Monday don’t do so until 3:30pm.

I just wanted to warn you.

Otherwise, we had a very nice, quick trip to Turin, Italy last week. We drove up on Sunday and then back on Monday evening.

Highlights of the trip included gelato at Grom and a trip to Turin’s impressive Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum). We also visited the Cattedrale de San Giovanni Battista where the Shroud of Turin is housed. It’s not on display, but they’ve got photographs of it and there is a chapel dedicated to it where the shroud is kept.

Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista

Turin is a Baroque city with lots of large buildings and lots of ornate decoration, it is also where the Slow Food movement started and is known for its chocolate and coffee. You can even pick up a ChocoPass from the tourist office (for a fee) which allows you tastings at 22 different chocolate shops!

Detail of Palazzo Reale Gate

We had a very nice time and I would love to go back.

Category:Travel, Travel: Europe | Comments Off | Autor: Erica

Old Post: Chasing Van Gogh

Sunday, 14. December 2008 12:52

My last post from our trip to Provence….

Van Gogh came to Arles in February 1888 in search of southern color and light. In the 15 months that he lived in the area he produced around 300 canvases that some say taught the world to see color in a completely different way than it had been seen before. There is a walking path in the city devoted to locations that became famous subjects of some of his paintings.

Starry Night Over the Rhone

Starry Night over the Rhone by Van Gogh

The Drawbridge at Arles
Van Gogh Bridge in Arles, France

The Bridge at Arles

Our most spectacular encounter with Vincent Van Gogh came at the Cathedrale d’Images near Les Baux de Provence. This is an old rock quarry that has been turned into an audio-visual art installation. They project images and films all over the walls, ceilings and floors of the location and have music playing throughout.

They change the theme every year and for 2008 it has been Van Gogh. They juxtaposed photography inspired by some of his paintings with early sketches and the finished artwork. It felt like we were walking in his art and could get just a glimpse of what he saw.

Cathédrale des Images - Van Gogh exhibit

The Cathedrale d’Images was a truly impressive experience that I would highly recommend. The Van Gogh show runs through January 4, 2009 and the new theme should start sometime in late February.

Category:France, Travel, Travel: France | Comment (0) | Autor: Erica

Old Post: Les Baux de Provence and Abbaye de Montmajour

Saturday, 13. December 2008 20:22

From our trip to Provence back in February….

From Arles, we drove out to Les Baux de Provence, a fortified village and ruined château.

Les Baux de Provence

In the photo above, you can see the village in the center and what’s left of the château is part of the rock formation in the upper left corner.

Les Baux is another village that is closed to vehicle traffic. There are a couple of restaurants and a print museum. Entrance to the château also includes a display of medieval war machines throughout the grounds.

The Chateau at Les Baux de Provence

Much of the château was carved from the rocks. Since most of it is now in ruins, it struck me how mankinds’ creations all go back to nature. I was also amazed at how much of it was open to exploration. There were quite a few stairs that I decided not to go up with Julien and that would have been completely off limits if this monument was in the US!

From Les Baux de Provence, we made our way to the Abbaye de Montmajour which was founded in 948 AD and displays architecture from the 12th to 15th centuries.
Abbaye de Montmajour

Cloisters at Abbaye de Montmajour

The buildings served as a stone quarry after the French Revolution.
Abbaye de Montmajour

And it has a cemetery hewn from the rock.
Abbaye de Montmajour

Abbaye de Montmajour

Category:France, Travel, Travel: France | Comment (0) | Autor: Erica


Wednesday, 12. November 2008 2:38

I knew that I was being ambitious to think that I might be able to get some more blogging in while we were on vacation. Overly-ambitious, I should say, for we are back home in France and there were no further blog posts while we were on the road.

Oh well. We got too caught up in visiting with friends and family, and that is far better than blogging.

Our trip home went fine. Julien decided not to sleep on the plane from San Francisco to Amsterdam, much to his parents chagrin. Sophia fell into a deep sleep on the Amsterdam to Nice flight so that Joe had to wake her up when we landed and she proceeded to cry all the way to baggage claim. We got a few funny looks for that.

And then the customs guys couldn’t believe that we had all that luggage and nothing to declare so they went through every bag. They were nice enough about it and we managed to get everything back into those bags, and no taxes. Woohoo!

I am now blogging at 2:35am because Julien is still awake. Sophia, however, has been asleep for a few hours meaning that tomorrow is just going to suck.

Category:France, Julien, Sophia, Travel | Comments (1) | Autor: Erica

I Love KLM

Thursday, 30. October 2008 17:05

Seriously. They were very helpful, and were able to seat us all together for the Amsterdam to San Francisco run (thank goodness). We didn’t have the bulkhead row, but Julien was too big for the bassinet anyways. The food was OK, not great, but I don’t expect too much from the airlines in that regards anyways.

We seem to be on a quest to try all of the airlines that fly to Nice. It hasn’t been intentional, but once we made the decision to try not to fly British Airways in the future, it opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. So far, KLM and Air France are our favorites. I really liked Lufthansa as well, but the possibility of having to fly on their partner airline (United) takes them down a peg.

So we have arrived safely and are adjusting to the time change with the kids. Day 1 had us up at 3:30am and now Day 2 has progressed to a 5:30am wake up. I’m hoping for further normalcy in that regard tomorrow!

Category:France, Julien, Travel | Comments (3) | Autor: Erica

Where I Try to Use Airline Miles to Travel

Wednesday, 22. October 2008 17:25

Apparently, I had a romantic notion of how airline miles are supposed to work. As I paid for travel, I imagined the airline granting me miles in gratitude for my loyalty as a customer. These miles, provided I booked early enough, would take me on a trip to some exotic location that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to go to without the miles.

I have never purchased a ticket with miles before.

I did not read the fine print.

The fine print that says that you must pay for all taxes and surcharges for your trip. The fine print that probably neglects to mention that those taxes and surcharges make up the bulk of the ticket price.

We started out trying to use our miles on one airline only to find that it was far too complicated since we were starting outside the US. Since we didn’t want to spend the night in London or NYC with the kids, we gave up on that airline.

We tried a different airline and were able to find a flight that we liked except that we couldn’t book Julien’s ticket online. We went through the motions online anyways to figure out how much everything would cost before calling to actually book the flight. The customer service person proceeded to calculate a price far higher than what was on the web. He couldn’t explain why and so I asked what would happen if we booked online and then called to say, “By the way, we’re traveling with an infant.” He said that he didn’t know but that we’d probably have to rebook it.

So, after going through several permutations of flights paid for with cash or miles, we ended up buying Joe and Sophia’s ticket online with miles and then just purchased tickets for Julien and I.

Julien and I got our tickets right away. Joe and Sophia had to wait over a month before they received their e-tickets. In the meantime I was telling people that Julien and I were going to the US to celebrate his birthday and that I really hoped that Joe and Sophia were going to be able to join us.

So this week we finally have all the tickets for traveling next week. I called the airline yesterday to request the bulkhead row and to get all of our seats together. It turns out that Julien is too big for the bassinet service so the guy wouldn’t give me the bulkhead row. He made a note that I had requested it, but couldn’t promise me anything in case there were other infants. Fair enough.

I then requested that Joe and Sophia sit with us but was told to call the company that controls the miles would have to do that.

So I call the other company to request that we all be seated together. I gave her Joe’s ticket number and she starts looking on her computer. She says that she doesn’t have seats together but that she’s got seats where one is right in front of the other. Better than nothing, I guess. We talk a little bit more before it dawns on me…..

Me: Wait! You mean that Joe and Sophia aren’t sitting together.

Airline Lady: No, they’re sitting one right in front of the other. It’s a very full flight.

Me: She’s 3!

Airline Lady, laughing: Well, I’m sure someone will be willing to change seats with you.

I’m sure someone would run screaming and request to sit in the middle of the back row as soon as they saw they were sitting next to a 3-year-old who is not with her parents for a flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco.

To be fair, Sophia was a very good traveler on our last trip to the US, but she was sitting next to Joe the whole time.

Should be an interesting trip.

Category:Julien, Sophia, Travel | Comments (4) | Autor: Erica


Friday, 26. September 2008 9:58

I didn’t get around to posting about our trip to Provence back in February. I had hoped to do it before our camping trip in August, but that didn’t happen. I’m also feeling a bit brain-dead in terms of what to post these days, and want to redesign and update the blog, and, and, and,……I think I’ll get these posts written and see if that frees me up for any creative observations.

Arles, France from the Arena

We chose Arles as our starting point for our trip to Provence. It’s pretty central to all of the other places that we wanted to see and on its own has some great sites.

Arles boasts a Roman arena that is still in use today and a Roman ampitheatre. It is also known for being the subject of many painting by Van Gogh since he lived there for a little over a year and it is here that he really started to develop his signature color style.

The Arena in Arles, France

The town center is very easy to walk since it isn’t very big and many of the roads are closed to vehicle traffic (great for traveling with a toddler). There are also several walking tours to do with markers paved into the streets that you can follow. There are four themed walks ranging from Roman Arles to Van Gogh’s Arles that take you throughout all the monuments that the city has to offer.

We stayed at the Hotel d’Arlatan in the center of town. Just trying to find it was a bit of a challenge. Since a good portion of the roads are closed to vehicle traffic, we had quite a time trying to figure out which roads we could drive on. At one point a woman stopped us to ask where we were going and then good-naturedly gave us directions that took us back to where we had started outside of town.

Since we were traveling with an infant, I don’t think we made it out of the hotel before noon the entire trip. Joe made a comment that we used to run at half-speed with Sophia and that now we were running at quarter-speed with the two of them!

Sophia running through the garden at Espace Van Gogh.
Van Gogh Garden in Arles

One of the things that I loved about this part of the country is that you can really get a feel for the Spanish influence. We live near Italy which you can tell from the food and the accent of the French speaking. In Arles, you’re more likely to see bullfighting in the Roman Arena and we were able to sit down to tapas one night. Things that you just don’t find once you drive just two hours away.

Category:France, Hotels, Travel, Travel: France | Comment (0) | Autor: Erica


Wednesday, 27. August 2008 14:50

As I mentioned, Ali and I got an afternoon with the babies in Bordeaux during our recent camping trip. Our first stop was to the tourist office to get a map and find out what we should see in the time that we had. After we had our map in hand, the guy asked us, “Where are you from?” I paused, Ali said, “England” and we were on our way.

The tourist offices keep a tally of where their visitors are from, so it’s not the first time that I’ve been asked. I am always tempted to explain, “I’m American, but I live in France. She’s American, but she lives in England.” Saying that I’m from the US sounds a bit deceptive to me because if I were coming all the way from the US, I might not be visiting some of these places. But they already know that I’m not originally from France. They figured that out the second I opened my mouth.

I am totally overthinking a really simple question.

Anyways, after a nice lunch, we were off to see the sights. Old town Bordeaux has a large pedestrian-only area and lots of shopping. If the car hadn’t been already overflowing, I think we would have spent more time there!

Instead, we headed off to see the recently renovated boardwalk and the Place de la Bourse.

Julien at the Water Mirror

They’ve constructed a Water Mirror in front of the Bourse. It’s really incredible. You can walk on it, and as I stood there trying to figure out how they did it, the misters came on to replenish the water.

Water Mirror at Place de la Bourse

From there we were off to the Esplanade des Quinconces to see the Monument aux Girondins. This monument was built as a memorial to the Girondins, a political faction made up mainly of people from the Gironde region, of which Bordeaux is the capital. Many Girondins were sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Girondins Monument

Girondins Monument

In 1942, the monument was purchased and the statuary dismantled, presumably to be melted down for the war effort. Fortunately, the pieces were found in October 1944 in Angers and returned to Bordeaux in 1945.

Our last stop was to a wine shop. We were in Bordeaux, after all……

Category:France, Travel, Travel: France | Comment (0) | Autor: Erica