Category Archives: Travelling

Day trip 2: Lyon

By   February 29, 2008
Another day trip! This time it was to Lyon, the former capital of Gaul.

As soon as we arrived, Jessica & I jumped on the over-priced tramway (1,50 €) and headed straight to Le Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation. We were there for over two hours and didn’t even hear the gas explosion. It happened just after noon, not far from Gare Part-Dieu, where we had arrived an hour earlier. We didn’t even know about it until hours later when David called to make sure we were ok.

The museum was cheap (only 2 € for students / 4 € regular price), but it was mostly plaques on the wall that took forever to read because the lighting was so bad. There were some exhibits that had no explanation as to what they were – not as confusing as Mozart’s Geburthaus in Salzburg, but still… I like to know what I’m looking at and why.

Lyon was considered the center of the resistance movement during WWII. The maquis (resistance fighters) were able to hide in and move about Lyon thanks to the three hundred traboules (tunnels) that connect buildings in the old town. The historical center is the site of the old Gestapo headquarters, where Klaus Barbie tortured thousands of prisoners (including famous maquis Jean Moulin) earning him the nickname “The Butcher of Lyon.” He was finally arrested in Bolivia in 1983, sent back to France, and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987. The trial was actually filmed and you can watch some of the footage at the museum.

The most interesting part of the museum was the large book listing every French Jew who had been deported from France. The day before, I had finished reading Hélène Berr’s journal, and I knew exactly where to find her name. She and her parents had been deported March 27, 1944 – her 23rd birthday. She would die in April 1945 at Bergen-Belsen, shortly before the camp was liberated. Anne Frank also died that same month at Bergen-Belsen.

It was strange finding her name in the book. I can’t really explain it, but finding that one name among 76,000 was a little surreal. It somehow made her journal and her life more real for me.

After an inexpensive lunch (4,50 € student menu), we walked across the Rhône and Saône rivers to Vieux Lyon. Going back much further in history, we wandered around the two amphitheaters built over 2,000 years ago when Lyon was called Lugdunum.

Continuing up the hill in the Fourvière district, we stopped at the famous basilica to take some photos of Lyon from above. The only skyscraper is a hotel close to Gare Part-Dieu, and that nuclear power plant you can see in the background is 30 km away.

La Tour Métallique is next to the basilica. Today it just serves as a TV tower and is not open to the public. I think it looks much prettier at night with all the lights on…

This cute guy is at the entrance of the museum of miniatures in the old town. Lyon’s old town is full of pretty colors. All of the buildings were shades of pink and orange and it seemed so clean.

So Chamonix and Lyon were my big travels for the February vacation. Let’s compare the prices for these day trips, shall we?

Chamonix: 24,70 € train tickets + 38 € Aiguille du Midi + 8,80 € lunch = 71,50 €
Lyon: 21,60 € train tickets + 1,50 € tramway + 2 € museum + 4,50 € lunch = 29,60 €

Chamonix & Mont Blanc

By   February 23, 2008

Lucy & I decided to take a day trip to Chamonix yesterday. We’ve lived in the Alps for a year and a half, but still haven’t actually seen much of the Alps… So after two hours and three trains, we made it to Chamonix, which was surprisingly warm for February. Then after another hour of searching for a bathroom and the Tourism office, we finally found ourselves at the télépériphique to go up to the Aiguille du Midi.

After having a mini heart attack upon seeing the price – 38 € ! thirty-eight freaking euros !– for the privilege of going up to the top, we handed over the small fortune (well, for us anyway) and climbed into the cable car. About 25 minutes later, we were on the terrasses overlooking Chamonix and the snow-covered Alps.

The Aiguille du Midi takes you up to 3,842 m

We stayed up there for about 3 hours, taking pictures and videos of the mountains. The highest level of the Aiguille du Midi gives you a great view of Mont Blanc (the tallest mountain in Europe!) You have to take an elevator up there, but it is free even though the sign down at the office in Chamonix says it costs 3 €.

Mont Blanc – latest measurement puts the summit at 4,808 m

The restaurant on the Aiguille du Midi is only open mid-June through mid-September, but there is a small overpriced cafe. FYI, their croque-monsieurs aren’t so good.

We both got bad headaches (I think the glare got to us) and sunburns on our faces. We didn’t actually forget to bring sunscreen, but we did forget to put it on. ::sigh:: Climbing the staircases to go from terrasse to terrasse will make you get out of breath easily – but don’t worry, you’re not out of shape, it’s just the thin air (or at least, that was my excuse…)

You can also buy a one-way ticket for 35 € and then ski/climb/hike all the way down. But man, that’s a long way.

Look how close I am to Europe’s tallest mountain!

Other highlights of the day included tricking the automatic public bathroom (no way were we both paying 40 centimes!), marveling at the “British Foods” section at SuperU, and being lucky enough to sit way across the aisle from a sick little girl on the train. The woman sitting directly across from her was not so lucky.

One last piece of advice – if you buy your return train ticket at Chamonix, make sure they sell you the right one. I bought my ticket at the machine, and Lucy bought hers at the counter and since we both have the Carte 12-25, they should have been the same price. But somehow she was charged 5 euros less. Apparently the lady sold her a période bleue ticket when we were leaving in a période blanche, even after asking Lucy what time we were leaving. If we wouldn’t have noticed this and changed it right away, Lucy probably would have been fined on the train even though it wasn’t her mistake. Never trust the SNCF!!

Work and Holiday Visas

By   January 12, 2008

For those who cannot afford to study abroad or who cannot do a teaching assistantship in Europe because they don’t have foreign language skills:

Travel and/or work in Anglophone countries: Work and Holiday Visas are a way to travel to a country for more than 3 months, and possibly work (legally!) to help fund your travels. The only problem is that many of them have age restrictions (for example, between 18 and 30), you cannot bring your dependents along with you (if you have any), and you must have enough money to begin with to prove that you can survive and go home in the end. Some also require that you still be a student or a recent college graduate.

Anywork Anywhere allows you to choose your country of origin so you can find out which work and holiday visas are available to you. For American citizens, the only actual work and holiday visa agreements are with Australia (though the site hasn’t been updated to indicate this yet – it was just created October 31, 2007) and New Zealand; but there are other work and travel programs in the UK, Ireland, and Canada.

BUNAC is another site for work and travel programs in Anglophone countries (but only for those from the UK, Ireland or USA), as well as volunteer and teaching opportunities.

Christmas in Michigan

By   December 29, 2007

Christmastime Emotions

Happy. I honestly do not like Christmas in France, so going back to the US this year was wonderful. I need decorations everywhere and 6 foot trees and Christmas carols playing 24/7 on the radio. I have to watch the Grinch and Charlie Brown and even Rudolph with those creepy dolls that surprisingly never gave me nightmares. I want turkey and stuffing and potatoes, not disgusting seafood and goose liver.

Grateful. My family gave me useful gifts and mommy even made stockings for David and Canaille. High school friends came over to meet David, and we hung out with some university friends too. I love that whenever I leave my camera lying around, I find pictures of Bradley on it like this:

Cheerful. If you ever need some Christmas spirit, go to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth. It’s the largest Christmas store in the world. And Frankenmuth itself is a pretty cute little Bavarian town. Frankenmuth and southern Germany always remind me of Christmas, at any time of the year.

Proud. David was not shy about trying new foods and experiencing real American life. I introduced him to ultra-modern inventions such as garbage disposals, cruise control, and drive-up ATMs. The only cheese he ate was (bright orange) cheddar. He drank Sam Adams beer instead of wine. He finally remembered to leave the door open when he left a room.

Warm. Furnaces and fireplaces and kerosene heaters! Though I did have to share the heater with the dog.

Relieved. Being so far away from work (and the commute to work) was the best gift. Vacation was definitely needed! I still have 12 more weeks of work – plus two more 2 week vacations – so we’ll see how I feel again next week when I go back.

Thrifty. The exchange rate is awesome if your income is in euros and you want to spend dollars in the US. Prices were so incredibly low! David bought so many things (size 13 shoes in every store! whaa?!?) we had to buy extra suitcases to bring it all home.

Ashamed. Unfortunately we had to go shopping at Walmart one day. But that’s not even what I’m ashamed about… can people please make an effort to not look like total slobs when they leave the house? Do you really have to wear sweatpants and T-shirts that don’t even match? How about running a brush through your hair once in a while?

Disappointed. The snow melted the day we got to Michigan. No white Christmas again.

Stressed. Packing and airports and flying stress me out so much. Lufthansa is stupid and does not assign seats that are next to each other when people book tickets together. I tried to check-in & choose our seats online, but it wouldn’t let me. Luckily we managed to sit together in the end, but still… annoying. Trying not to exceed the 23 kg / 50.6 lb weight limit drives me crazy. Wasting hours of my life waiting while dealing with a constant stomachache and backache does not help.

Angry. This was the sixth round-trip flight for me this year (Dublin, Barcelona, Cairo and Michigan three times!) I am going to try to not fly at all in 2008. I am so sick of the awful border and security controls. Do they really think I snuck liquids or whatever into my carry-on between the airplane and the gate at my connecting airport? Yes people, you do have to remove your coat, and everything metal that you have in your pockets. It’s called a metal detector for a reason. ::sigh:: Why should I have to be separated from David just because we’re different nationalities? Do you really suspect every French citizen of bringing wine & cheese into the US? What is the point of showing my passport to someone who doesn’t even bother to look at it?

Calmer. We talked about immigrating to Canada again, which always puts me in a good mood. I don’t know when it will happen, but the thought keeps me happy. Staying in France for now isn’t so bad either; I just needed some time away. I’m hoping that finding a job won’t be the most difficult thing ever, though almost everything I’ve done in France seems to be that way.

Exhausted. Eighteen hours of travelling is enough! I’m going to sleep!


By   July 30, 2007

I am back in Haute-Savoie. And I am freezing here, even though it is 20 degrees. (It was 36 in Vaucluse!) I have over 200 photos to sort through and upload. I miss Provence terribly already.

Annecy is a beautiful place, but I’m anxious to move somewhere else. David told me he is too. I need sun and heat, not mountains and rain. I used to think I wouldn’t want to stay in France forever, that Canada or Australia would become my future home… but experiencing life in Provence made me fall in love with this country all over again. The thought of staying here forever doesn’t bother me, as long as I live in the south.

However, I still think about Quebec a lot. My bilingual, bi-cultural heaven in North America. I would like to live there someday, regardless of the cold winters. I just don’t think we can afford to immigrate anytime soon.

A close friend whom I admire sent me a postcard from New Caledonia. She studies in Sydney at the moment and I’m dying to visit her and Australia (plus New Zealand & New Caledonia, of course). But I can’t. Not yet anyway.

The world is so big and I feel a need to experience it all. I’ve been to a lot of places already, but it’s nothing major, nothing like a tour du monde. My love of geography, history and languages will not let me rest until I’ve seen everything.

Vaucluse Photos

By   July 27, 2007

I love this vacation. It was so nice to not worry about airport workers rifling through my bags, or going over the weight limit, or bringing too many liquids. After 25 € in tolls and 3 hours of driving, we arrived in Provence. Everyday we get up and go to a new place, return to the house in the afternoon to go swimming, and then have a typical French dinner that lasts 4 hours and has 5 courses. There are so many interesting places in Vaucluse, all within a 30-40 minute drive. Here’s where we’ve been so far:

Avignon: Le Palais de Papes and le pont St. Bénezet (pont d’Avignon)

In 1309, the French-born Pope decided to move to Avignon and build a huge palace. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is also the world’s largest Gothic structure. It costs 12,50 € to get in, so we just wandered around the gardens instead. The pont d’Avignon is famous because of the cute song “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…” Most people don’t realize the bridge doesn’t actually traverse the Rhône today. You can go on it for 4 € but the view isn’t so great since a highway runs under it.

Fontaine de Vaucluse: Vallis Clausa

Beautiful clear water! The source is at the bottom of a cliff that you can literally climb into (after jumping the fence, which everyone did, even the tour guides). And it was free!

Roussillon: Les Falaises d’Ocre

We left Fontaine and took la route touristique through Gordes to get to Roussillon. Both of these villages are considered some of the most beautiful in all of France. The red and orange color of the soil here isn’t unique to only France though – it’s found in Africa, Asia and the US too. For only 2 € you can walk through the cliffs and get your shoes completely covered in the rust-colored sand.

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: Antiquités

Antique capital of France, L’Isle is known for its canals around the centre ville. Similar to Annecy, it’s also called a small Venice. We walked through the market (Thursday and Sunday mornings), and had lunch at La Gueulardière, a restaurant/hotel owned by friends of David. They have a large collection of vintage memorabilia related to school and France and I probably took 30 photos of pictures hanging on the walls. The old maps of France, showing the former provinces, were my favorite.

Orange: Le Théâtre Antique

This Roman theater was built over 2,000 years ago and is still used today for plays and concerts. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of three Roman theaters with the back wall still standing (the others are in Turkey and Syria). I was a little disappointed at the amount of lights, speakers and other modern objects that were everywhere inside the theater but the admission fee of 7,70 € also includes the museum across the street and an audio guide for the theater.

Another Roman vestige: aqueduct near Carpentras

And one last picture of the countryside (the sunflowers were too shy to face the camera). Mont Ventoux is in the background.

Tomorrow is Vaison-la-Romaine and we return to Haute-Savoie on Sunday.

Les vacances

By   July 23, 2007

I am currently in the département of Vaucluse in the région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA). I am in the south of France for a week-long vacation. :)

David & I are staying at his uncle’s house in a small commune of 5,000 people. It’s so quiet and peaceful here. Plus there’s a pool!

This place is heaven. The weather is gorgeous. And there are so many interesting places to go in Vaucluse: Orange, Carpentras, Avignon, Roussillon, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, etc. As soon as I saw the flat landscape and beautiful architecture of Provence, I knew I was going to love it.

David says we will live here someday. The cost of living is definitely cheaper than in Haute-Savoie, and he knows how much I miss the countryside. I wasn’t made for mountains or apartment living. Annecy is beautiful too, but it’s just not the same.

Why I hate flying, reason #214

By   July 18, 2007

Does anyone else think it’s completely unfair that airlines have the right to change your flight itinerary at any time they choose? David & I bought our Christmas tickets to Michigan way back in January through Orbitz. Since then, our flight itinerary has been changed three times – always to more inconvenient times, such as arriving 4 hours later and leaving 3 hours earlier than we had planned and increasing the layover between flights to 7 hours…

I paid (a lot) for the certain times and flights that we wanted. Why can’t the airlines respect that??? I’m already not liking Lufthansa even though I haven’t flown with them yet…

Le retour

By   June 7, 2007

I’m back in France, once again. I feel really tired even though Egypt was only an hour later than France, and I still have this weird stomachache that is not going away. I definitely think I’m done with travelling for a while. Wasting time in airports and on planes is not how I want to spend my life, especially when it makes me so sick.

Egypt was a great experience though. The pyramids, the mosques, Coptic Cairo, modern Egypt… I saw it all. Though if I had to describe Cairo in one word, it would be chaos. I’ve uploaded my pictures to the Travel Photos section, and I’ll type my journal when I’m not so tired.

So now it’s back to regular life here in Haute-Savoie. The weather is being a pain (rain, then sun, then rain, then sun…) and we are still waiting to get into our new apartment. We’re staying at David’s parent’s apartment until Sunday morning. Luckily they have internet.

Unfortunately, we may not have internet in our apartment for a few weeks. I will have no idea what to do with myself.

Greetings from Egypt

By   June 2, 2007

I’m in Cairo!

It’s hot and there are a bazillion people everywhere. But I’m liking it. Even after an 11 hour wait in Milan and Alitalia losing my luggage (which I still haven’t got back.) It’s so chaotic and crowded, and the gap between rich and poor is ridiculously wide, but it’s still interesting and fun. I guess there’s just something about being in a place where you can’t understand the language or read any of the signs. I feel giddy like a little kid discovering something new and so different from what I already know.

Tomorrow we go to the PYRAMIDS!!!