Nice, in photos

We heard the news after we got back from the fireworks. We probably would have gone to bed and slept in ignorance until the morning, but Hugo gets news alerts on his phone.

On Friday, there was an outpouring of shock and grief over the attack in Nice on social media. But at least in Lyon, there doesn’t seem to be a public space of tribute and mourning, like there was after the Paris attacks, where people leave flowers and messages. The public reaction is different this time. Maybe it’s because the possibility of more attacks has been hovering in the background, especially during the Eurocup. But that doesn’t diminish the magnitude of this tragedy.

I dug up my old photos of Nice. I haven’t been there since 2012. I thought it was only two years ago, but then I did the math. I meant to go back this summer, but time is short. (By “short” I mean “hurtling along at rogue rocket speed.”)

Continue reading “Nice, in photos”

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Lille: First Impressions

I have spent next to no time in Lille. Maybe two or three hours, total. The first time was when I was 22, changing trains on the way to Brussels. This is all I remember:

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Here I am, seven years younger and really tan after a summer in France, pretending to be Thumbelina.

So for years, Lille was to me “the city with the big flowers by the train station.”

Continue reading “Lille: First Impressions”

San Sebastián Favorites: Sun, Shopping, and Pintxos

The good thing about #slowblogging is that the buzz of the trip has died down in my mind, and the highlights stand out against the blur of my memory. I don’t remember why I wasn’t excited about visiting San Sebastian when I planned my trip to Spanish Basque Country, but I am glad that I decided to stay two nights instead of making it a lightning-quick trip from Bilbao.

Continue reading “San Sebastián Favorites: Sun, Shopping, and Pintxos”

Take me back to Puerto Viejo

I think it might have been this post by Christine in Spain that fixed Spanish Basque Country in my mind. It’s about Puerto Viejo in Algorta, just a metro ride north of Bilbao.

Continue reading “Take me back to Puerto Viejo”

Lyon: La Fête des Lumières

Every year, Lyon hosts La Fête des Lumières, an elaborate festival of lights with colorful and dramatic installations all over the city. I’ve shared some photos from my first Fête des Lumières in 2013, but it’s impossible to do justice to the gorgeous moving lights and cinema set to music.

December 8th is the official day of celebration, so the festival always includes the 8th and extends over four days including a weekend. The population of Lyon supposedly triples during the festival, and I believe it. Streets are blocked off, security guards herd pedestrians like cattle, restaurants are booked solid, and you have to queue just to get down into the metro. Accommodation prices are astronomical, even to rent a student loft on Airbnb.

But this year the Fête des Lumières was cancelled two short weeks before it was set to open. Continue reading “Lyon: La Fête des Lumières”

Getting cozy in Oxford

Did I ever tell you that Hugo lived in England for most of last year? He got offered a job in Oxford, and the French economy being what it is, we both agreed that he should take it. I’m so glad that he moved back to France this year, but it did give me an excuse to make a couple visits to Oxford and London.

I visited Oxford for the first time almost exactly a year ago. I know because it was the Toussaint vacation, which was right after my birthday. It was the same temperature as it was in Lyon, but it felt colder. Chillier.

We spent the weekend galavanting in the crisp fall air, visiting really old colleges covered in ivy and crunching golden leaves underfoot.

Oxford

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The colleges are beautiful and charming and imposing all at once… but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you which one is which. Tall stone walls, enchanting courtyards, impressive towers, smarty-pants students coming and going… they all started to look the same after awhile.

Oxford

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The town isn’t too big, but it isn’t too small either. Bikes are clearly the preferred method of transportation.

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Hugo lived a bus ride away from the city center, a fifteen-minute bus ride down Cowley Road, if you know the place. The buses confused me horribly. They’re run by a few different companies, but seem to cost about the same, and you have to buy a ticket every time you get on (unless you’ve got a return ticket) and the price depends on where you’re going. It didn’t seem like you could buy a week pass or a monthly pass or anything like that. And really, it was quite expensive – all those £3 tickets add up fast. Everyone seemed to say “cheers” to the driver when they got off the bus, but it sounded weird in my American accent.

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No one gave me a particularly hard time about being American, but my accent felt clumsy next to all those Brits, and broader, but in a warm way. England feels just as foreign to me as France. I marvel at some things (cocktails in a can? Pear cider at the supermarket? All the cookies! – I mean, biscuits) and puzzle over others (what is a bap? Why are there beans and mushrooms with my breakfast? How early is too early to have a drink at the pub?) I thought we would be able to have private conversations in French, but it turns out that French is not a secret language and there are tons of French people in Oxford.

Two of my favorite English things are both terribly cozy – pubs and cream tea. I freaking love cream tea. I thought it was just tea with cream in it, but NO, it’s tea with scones with jam and clotted cream. I do not know what clotted cream is exactly, but it’s better than butter and I piled it on my scones on a near-daily basis. It’s a good thing that it’s not readily available in France or I might not live to see 30.

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During the week, Hugo had to go to work, so I divided my time between grading translation exams (yay vacation) and wandering the city. I even stopped getting lost after awhile.

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Stuff I loved in Oxford

Alternative Tuck Shop (for their chicken tikka panini – I was OBSESSED), Blackwell’s Bookshop (to cuddle with books on rainy days), Oxford Covered Market (for English breakfast and wandering), Yeti (for an amazing dinner), Vaults & Garden Cafe and Queen’s Lane (for a cozy coffee or cream tea), The Ashmolean museum (for art, archaeology, and a view), and the Modern Art museum (for the head-scratcher that is modern art and the gift shop.)

Family friends told me again and again to eat at The Trout, which they held very fond in their Oxford memories, but I forgot to go. If you try it, let me know how it is!

Oxford has more than a few cool cafes, but instead of racking up £3 for the bus plus a cafe bill every day, I worked chez Hugo and wandered in my free time. I find that I like the idea of hipster coffee shops more than I actually enjoy cramping myself in a noisy wooden cafe and suffering from heart palpatations because I’m not hardcore enough to properly appreciate “good coffee.” If you’re cooler than me (and let’s be real, it’s not hard to be) hotspots seemed to be The Missing Bean, Quarter Horse Coffee, Zappi’s Bike Cafe, The Jericho Cafe, and The Jam Factory. (Did I get it right, Oxford-dwellers?)

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Blackwell's Oxford

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I’ve thought a little about why I decided to write about Oxford, so long after visiting. (#slowblogging). It’s mostly because I love these autumn photos and I wanted an excuse to share them in season. I’m no Oxford expert, and there’s no crazy story here. Just us, wandering this historic English town, crunching the yellow leaves.

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Have you been to Oxford? Are you having a golden autumn this year?

One Day In Santander

“And are you going to Santander?” my dad asked when I told him about my trip to Basque Country.

I didn’t know anything about Santander except that they have an airport there. “Should I?”

“It’s a beautiful town on the coast. It was your Abuelita’s favorite city in Spain.”

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Holy crap, Santander is beautiful

Santander was one of the best surprises of my recent trip to Spain. I didn’t really know anything about it except that the Spanish royals had a summer palace there. I was not prepared for the long stretches of breathtaking ocean views and expansive beaches. (Although, hello, I guess that’s why the royals had their palace there.) I don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about a place so beautiful.

Just look.



Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

 Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

Santander La Vie En C Rose

The foamy waves crashing on the rocky coastline reminded me of home. Doesn’t it look a little like Big Sur? Well, except for the busy beaches with blue umbrellas. I don’t know if it gets hot enough in central California for that very often.

I’m writing a longer post on getting around in Santander, the blue cafe I liked so much I went three times in one day, and the storm that rolled in at the end of the day, but I had to share some of these photos first. Partially because I think they’re so beautiful they deserve their own post, and partially because I took so many photos in Santander that they won’t all fit in one blog post. (But seriously.)

Have you been to Santander? What did you think?

Postcard from Bilbao

Hi there! Guess what? I’m actually in Bilbao right now! Usually it’s “Postcard from somewhere I was weeks ago” because I am a nut about editing photos, and I’m also just really slow at blogging most of the time. (Don’t worry, more slow blogging posts will be coming your way. Eventually.) 

This region of Spain is breathtaking. I’m so glad I decided to come here. The weather is perfect! I’ve spent one day in Getxo, just north of Bilbao (I might have liked Getxo better than Bilbao itself) and today in Santander, an hour and a half west in the Cantabria region. (Did I spell that right? Cantabria?) 

Yesterday I just walked around Bilbao for hours and took a million photos of the Guggenheim. I know the spider sculpture is art but it still freaks me out a tiny bit. (#arachnophobe)

There’s a giant festival going on here this week, and last night kicked it all off. The streets of the old town (Casco viejo) were overflowing (sometimes in an alarming could this crowd crush me to death kind of way). Then it started absolutely pouring down rain – the build-an-ark kind of pouring down rain that stays in permanent downpour mode. I was stuck in a Carrefour grocery store entrance and the security guard wanted everyone taking shelter from the rain to clear out, but he didn’t insist because this wasn’t the kind of rain you send people out into. The guys next to me opened up their purchases to make the most of the situation – ice in a giant cup, filled halfway with red wine, and then topped off with lemon Fanta soda. Is there a name for this drink in Spanish? 

Anyway, here are a few photos of Bilbao and Getxo. Some of them are edited, some of them are straight off my iPhone – I’m getting crazy here. 

Puerto Viejo, Getxo
  
  

  

Feet selfies are the only kind of selfie I like taking
  
  
Over the bridge to the big beach in Pletzia
  
Guggenheim, spider art, and a beautiful morning
    
   
My first pintxo in Basque Country.
  

  
  

   

         

   

Instagram postcard from Seville

Remember how I wanted to travel more in 2015? I wasn’t about to waste a week of school vacation sitting around Lyon!

The problem was April. In April, you never know if it will rain or shine, regardless of the destination, it seems. With Easter and school vacations, prices often spike in April too.

For weeks, my travel destination for April fluctuated from Seville to Florence to Rome to Istanbul to Girona to Brussels to Paris.

So, after much, much, much deliberation, I wound up in Seville after all. (And it rained.)

But when the sun came out…

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It wasn’t half bad.

Continue reading “Instagram postcard from Seville”