Friday, February 28, 2014

Les Trois Corniches

     Last weekend the stars all aligned perfectly. We had great weather, a day off, and nothing but time on our hands to explore. I got a little giddy when I checked the weather and saw low 60's and sunny but didn't want to get my hopes up since the weather is pretty unpredictable, or the forecasters suck…one or the other. Either way, there have been many bubbles burst in the Fein household when it comes to weather but lo and behold, it was a beautiful weekend. We decided on 1 thing, whatever we did, we would end up in Ventimiglia Italy for dinner at our favorite place, Pasta e Basta. So with the French Riviera our oyster, we headed out with a semi-plan of driving up the coast all the way to Italy (which sounds so far but is only around 40 miles). But this time we would do something different, we wouldn't take the highway which cuts inland, we would take our time and take 1 of the 3 Corniches along the coast the entire way and stop if and when we felt like it. Now let's back track a bit and describe the 3 Corniches. Each is a coastal road all at different altitudes running from Nice to Menton (the last French town before the Italian border), with the lowest being The Basse Corniche, then the Moyenne and last but not least, the highest/white knuckled drive being the Grande Corniche. Each has spectacular views that many consider to be some of the best in the world and I wholeheartedly agree and each has their perks. If you wish to visit all the seaside resorts on the way, then the Basse is the one for you. But if you would like to teeter on the top of the mountain and have a view of the Mediterranean on one side and a view of the snow capped French Alps on the other, then it's Grande all the way. Since we wanted to be able to stop and enjoy a more leisurely drive and had already done the Moyenne, we chose the Basse since both the others are a little more of a 'keep your eyes on the road and hands at 10 and 2' drive, which I don't find relaxing even though I wouldn't be the one driving. We made the mistake of letting our 'cravings' get the better of us and stopped in Nice for a Philly Cheese steak which itself wasn't the bad idea, but more the fact that the Carnival is going in Nice so traffic sucked. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as we thought and were in and out in no time with full stomachs ready for the drive. We stopped in a few villages on the way, (Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze, St. Jean Cap Ferrat) to take some pictures and have a few drinks. We rolled the windows down, turned the radio up and belted out tunes, which I'm sure humored Shaun's teammate that was in the back seat. Hell, I did notice a few cats running after our car so he must of been singing in the backseat too. We took a detour and weaved in and out of Cap Ferrat and could not believe the houses that had the most beautiful un-obstructed views of the sea. (After we got back, I googled it and saw that in '12 Cap Ferrat was the 2nd most expensive residential location in the world behind….Monaco, which is just a few miles down the road). It's so crazy that these little villages are sometimes over-looked for the more well 'known' places like Monaco, Cannes, and St. Tropez. While all those places are beautiful in their own right, I am very thankful to be able to have the time and the ability to discover these so called 'hidden gems' as well. We left Nice around noon and had reservations at 7:30 in Italy in which we just barely made. It's a shame to think of all those times in the past we took the highway and missed out a great experience. 2 Corniches down, 1 to go.

**The Grande Corniche has been featured in many films and is a very popular car commercial location. Both James Bond's 'Goldeneye' and 'To Catch a Thief' with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly were filmed on the Grande Corniche and coincidentally, Grace Kelly died on a winding road connecting the Grande and the Moyenne in 1982, not far from where she had filmed the movie.

{Leaving Nice looking back towards Antibes}
{Villefranche with Cap Ferrat in the background}

{There were people in the water…in February}
{Little port in St. Jean Cap Ferrat} 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Long Time Coming...

{My little jewel I found on the street, it's got great lines}

     Confession...I love DIY's. I come from a family of DIY (ers) and not the 'paint the frame a different color' kind of DIY, but the kind of 'build a house entirely yourself' DIY. While I have no real ambition or patience to do that, I do like to dabble in the PG rated kind. It's not a money thing, although I do have a hard time spending money on something I can do myself, it's just more of a personal preference thing and let's face it, who doesn't like to color and bedazzle the crap out of something? At our place in Atlanta, I have boxes upon boxes of hot glue guns, paint, mirrored tiles, jewels, not to mention tool sets that could make contractors green with envy, basically pretty much anything you would need for most DIY's. Over here in France, that's another story. I've accumulated things over the last 10 years from throwing baby showers, decorating our places each year and just overall accumulation but let me tell you, the French make it hard to DIY. I first noticed the difference when I decided to do these 'tissue paper pom poms' for a baby shower and after searching many places, found the cheapest tissue paper packets were around $2 for 5 sheets. I yearned for a Michaels or even a Hobby Lobby. Shoot, I would settle for a Target craft department which I normally turn my nose up at. I found a few stores that came close with options but they weren't anywhere near the price of our stuff back in the States. So last year when I spotted an end table on the street near our apartment, I hesitated. I continued on my run and figured if it was there when I got back, then I would make a decision. 45 minutes later, I rounded the corner and not only was it still there, it seemed in better shape than I had remembered and the kicker, it was being eyeballed by 3 or 4 other people. That was it, I wanted it. It was as if it was an overcast day but only the sun was shining on this little end table. What happened next I am not proud of. I walked over to the table, picked it up, made no eye contact and went home. I figured if someone has a problem with it, they would say something, which was a 'win-win' for me since I was wearing my headphones. Shaun was a little surprised when I walked in with an end table in hand but indulged me anyway when I told him of my grandiose plans. I won't bog you down with the details of how I did it, since that is not the point but I did immediately take it apart and borrow a sander from a friend and went to work. Well that was last year and I finished it…today. It has been sanded and ready for paint for almost. an. entire. year. In my defense, I searched and searched for ideas and paint colors that I liked but each time I walked out of stores shaking my head. At our local Castorama (Home Depot-esque), they were selling pints of paint for 25 Euros. That is almost $35 dollars for basic colors, not even custom colors, or if I wanted a gallon, I could pay 65 Euros/$85!!!! And we haven't even talked primer, or paint brushes. So I put that sanded bad boy in our guest bedroom and forgot about it, until last night when a light bulb went off. I remembered I had a set of small paintbrushes and a few tubes of acrylic paint in our storage downstairs. Fast forward 14 hours later, and it's finished. Shaun likes to say it took me almost a year to do it (wise-ass) but I like to think of it as an overnight project, forever the optimist (cough cough). I love the way it turned out and wish it would make it back to the US with us, but we'll see. Until then, I will enjoy it as much as possible and who knows, I still have a few tubes of paint left, might just have to put them to good use.

{That pint of paint for 25 Euros I was talking about}

I am also thinking about doing these as prints either in our place back in Atlanta, or here. We'll see how long it takes me to get around to that...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Remember the Time

     A few weeks ago, while Shaun and I were laughing/ shaking our heads about a current situation, we started reminiscing about all the 'times' we have had here in France; good, bad or indifferent. And a light bulb went off. We make yearly photo books so we can look back at all our experiences, why not jot down some of our most memorable moments we've encountered over the last 13 years. Initially it was tough to dig deep to the early days but once we got a few, they seemed to come easier and easier. So instead of listing all of them in one blog post (way too many anyways, after all, it has been 13 years), I figured a re-occurring 'Remember the Time" blog series sprinkled in amongst the regulars may be the way to go. Since each day we remember a few more, I am not going to even try to organize them in any sort of dates/team configuration, so just sit back and take them as they come. I will try to even it out equally with both experiences from Shaun and I but let's face it, I'm like a 'shit magnet' sometimes and it's my blog, so I'll write what I want to. Here goes...

--that time when Shaun's team played in the Ukraine and he noticed that there were 'women of the night' everywhere in the hotel. When I asked him (with one eyebrow up) how he knew they were 'women of the night',  he replied 'trying to read the book upside down was a dead give away'.

--that time when we were at a dinner party at a coach's house and Shaun excused himself after dinner to use the restroom. The restroom was located directly off the dining room and as soon as he 'got underway', the room fell silent, it sounded like he was peeing from the roof into a bucket and things got AWKWARD. And I'm not good with awkward silences so I rambled on about something like 'fire hoses'. I still cringe when I think about it.

--that time where I had to excuse myself from a dinner party at a teammate's house because I had tried to keep up with one of the players drink for drink. Shaun thought I had it all under control until after 10 minutes in the bathroom, he heard the shower turn on. Think that's when he knew it was time to go. Meanwhile, I still thought I was as 'cool as the other side of the pillow'. I will never live that down. (RIP Thierry)

--that time Shaun's coach asked him if he was Jewish and when Shaun said 'no', he said 'are you sure'?

--that time when we went to Moulin Rouge in Paris..with my mom. Pretty sure Shaun never imagined bouncing boobs could be so uncomfortable.

--that time when a coach invited us over to his house for dinner and while having a drink in the backyard and I spotted a hammock and promptly gave it a whirl. It promptly flipped me over and spit me onto the concrete with a skinned knee, bruised ego and a rip in my pants.

--that time I was pulled over in the wee hours of the morning on the way to pick up Shaun at the gym from a road game. Apparently, I only had my fog lights on and was driving 'erratically' so the cop gave me a sobriety test. In my defense, I had just woken up and didn't know how to drive stick. Oh, and the team bus passed me all while this was happening. I could see Shaun's teammates faces pressed against the bus window.

--that time Shaun came over to medically replace someone for 2 weeks and they put him in an apartment with a bed and well, that was it.

---that time the coach invited us over to dinner for Fondue Bressane, where you cook your own meats in a fondue pot filled with hot oil. He proceeded to scrape raw chicken ALL over his plate before cooking it. (Our goodbye was extra heartfelt that night since we truly believed he was going to die of salmonella and we would never see him again).

--that time said above coach invited us over for 'Salmonella night' and had a large picture of himself lying on a rug hanging over the dinner table, shirtless...and there was not much distinction between his chest and the rug.

--that time our 'carbon monoxide' detector went off and we had to immediately open the doors, shut off the gas, vacate the property and call the firefighters (oh FYI, 'that time' was last thursday). It was at that same time, I realized Shaun and one of his teammates may be of no help in emergency situations.

{The firefighters rolled up 5 deep, sirens blasting and in full gear and all I kept thinking was 'do you guys have one of your Antibes firefighter calendars with you'?  I had heard Shaun was Mr. October and I have still yet to see it, fair thought}
--that time at one of my very first games over here, I was in the stands and 2 women near me began yelling at each other. Not able to understand French at the time, another teammate's wife explained to me it was the coach's wife and mistress..finding out about each other. C'est la vie.

That's it for now, folks.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Spotted Dick

{The Tower Bridge}

     Did the title get your attention? Thought it would. And if it didn't, you're weird. And if that is a common phrase in your vocabulary, sorry about that and maybe get that checked out. So since Shaun's team is, umm how do I say this…., not good right now, they didn't qualify for the Leaders Cup this weekend which gave them 2 weeks between games. Obviously, we would like the team to be doing well but since we are trying to find the silver lining in things, we took advantage of the 3 days off they were given and decided to head to London. This time it was way more affordable and since it's only a hop skip and a jump over the English channel, it was a no-brainer. We braced ourselves for the notoriously 'crappy English weather' and headed out with a teammate, Tim, and his fiancĂ©, Muriel, for 3.5 days of fun, laughs and exploring. It had been a good bit since my last trip to London (5 years) and since Shaun had never been there, a real good bit for him so we were both excited to see something 'new' and I can't lie, to be able to speak English. The funny thing is that even though they spoke English, to Shaun it was as if they were speaking a different language because of their accent. (Which I find funny since we have British T.V. so he hears that accent on a daily basis…now I know why I kick his ass in trivia game shows, he must not even understand the question.) Although as soon as we landed, he did say 'you sound like you're from London' a gazillion times in an ode to this movie quote and upon seeing Big Ben for the first time, we both couldn't help but think about this movie scene. Maybe we have been in France too long, but we found the Brits to be 'over the top' nice. Don't get me wrong, the French are very nice, especially since we speak French, but they are a little more 'guarded' than what us Americans are accustomed to, especially in the 'customer service' department. In the 3 days we were there, we saw the major sights, took a bus tour and ate all the foods that we have craved for the last months. (I'm talking to you Burger King.) Speaking of foods, I was on a mission to find 'spotted dick' and sadly never found it. (Disclaimer: I didn't try that hard but it was a topic of many of our conversations since the other 3 didn't believe that it was a 'real' thing so I was left asking waiter after waiter if they had 'spotted dick' which then led to uncomfortable looks, laughter and a whole other conversation.) And as for that notoriously 'crappy English weather', it turned out to not be the case for us. Who would of thought we would have to leave the French Riviera and head to London to find good weather? Surely not me.

{Our view of the Southwark bridge at dinner}

{Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace where we ran into a 'fan' of Antibes basket who asked for a picture with Shaun and his teammate Tim…which then led to them believing they were 'internationally known'. Seriously.}

{London Eye}
{Backside of Westminster Abbey}

{Big Ben and Parliament…which led to many jokes from the National Lampoon's European Vacation movie}

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Rare Afternoon Off

{The beach in Cannes with the cliffs in the background}

     I laugh when I hear people ask the question about what we are going to do after basketball, you know 'when we have a real job'. They must not know that teams often practice 2x a day (for 2+ hours each time not including any treatment needed before or after, stretching, extra personal work, shooting, lifting etc…). All that factored in, and Shaun can be gone 8-9 hours a day. Oh and all this happens 6 days a week, not 5. Don't know about you but that sure seems like a real job to me. Not to mention, unable to call in and take 'vacation' time when wanted. Sure, they have 2 months off in the summer, but so do teachers, right? As if that is not argument enough, take for example, the 'ever changing' schedule. You are expected to be available at all times, because after all, this is your job. The team decides to change practice time to later/earlier, you gotta be there. The team decides to add a practice, you gotta be there. The team decides to tell the players that they are leaving in 12 hours to spend the week up in Belgium for no reason besides the President living up there, you gotta go. For us to get an afternoon off with out a change of plans or something else random happening, is rare. So last week, on a beautiful sunny day (which is also seemingly becoming more and more rare here since we have had rainy day after rainy day), we headed to Cannes to eat outside and hopefully catch the sunset from the cliffs past Cannes. We lasted until about 6 minutes after the sunset because it got cold and let's face it, pictures of watery eyes and runny noses aren't flattering for anyone. Or as I like to say 'ain't nobody got time for that' (I'm sure my mother is so proud of my education level after reading that). We had actually visited these cliffs last year in this post but since it was overcast, it seemed like a completely different place as opposed to this time. As I'm sure it will be even more striking when it warms up since for some reason, it seems that the water is clearer in the warmer months when the sun is shining. And the water is clear here, let me tell you. I can only imagine the contrast of colors (blue waters/red rocks and the abundant greenery) being more prevalent in summer/spring. Now if only the sun could could make an appearance, we'd be on our way.

*Disclaimer: I am not complaining about an athlete's life, after all I was one myself. More just attempting to enlighten those who think it's a walk in the park since most have zero idea what the 'behind the scenes' look like. Having said that, it is never a bad thing to be paid for doing what you love, no matter what it may be.

{The contrasting colors of the rocks and the water}

{Even the sand is red}

{Don't know why this picture looks fake, but I promise it's not}

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Years in Rome/ Felice Anno Nuovo!!!

{The Colosseum as the sun sets}

      Yes, I realize it has been many moons since the New Years and this post seems a little 'late to the party' but instead of sending pictures individually to family and friends, I figured this would save time. And although I have nothing but time on my hands, I like to think of myself as being efficient. (At least that is what I would like to think, I'm sure my old professors would beg to differ). So for New Years we decided to get outta dodge, not because we don't like dodge, but because who doesn't need a change of scenery from time to time? Nothing like having multiple days off in the season and feeling like you did nothing with that time…(see... back to that efficiency thingie). We contemplated London but she turned out to be such an expensive b@tch and since neither Shaun nor I have the 'at all costs' chip embedded in us, we looked elsewhere and Rome it was.  Fast forward a few days and voila, the lodging, the flight and a loosely based 'itinerary' was in the books. We decided to rent an apartment smack dab in the middle of one of Rome's most famous squares, Piazza Navona. What drew us to it was the accessibility to everything (we walked everywhere) and the fact that we could somewhat blend in as locals. Don't know why, but the whole 'walking into an apartment building as opposed to a hotel lobby' makes me feel…more authentic. If that makes sense? Truth be told, that 'authentic' feeling flew right out the window as soon as we realized that we were 'geographically' challenged and turned a 2 block walk to the Pantheon into a 20 block excursion complete with arguing, multiple beads of sweat and some minor cursing at our map. All in all, we spent 5 days in what could possibly be my new favorite city (sorry Paris and NYC). We hit all the major sights; Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps and tried as many authentic restaurants as possible. Unfortunately for Shaun, he came down with a nasty head cold that left him unable to taste food for a good day or so. Instead, he would eat and ask me how it was which I'm sure humored anyone with-in ear shot as I described in detail how good it was. We spent hours at the Colosseum where the words 'are you not entertained?' passed Shaun's lips more than once and lingered in the Roman Forums admiring the amazing architecture all done with out the modern technology that we know now. We ogled the opulence of St. Peter's Basilica and giggled at the fact that Vatican City is the country with the smallest birth rate…zero (or at least should be zero.) And just as we are pondering life and how much of this vast world we have yet to see, we run into a fellow Georgia Tech basketball alum playing overseas in of all places…The Sistine Chapel. (He is not actually playing in the Sistine Chapel, we just ran into him there…) The only semi-bummer was due to a time mix-up, we missed Pope Francis papal speech, which I'm kicking myself for. Fortunately, Shaun was just as disappointed so I guess we will just have to make another trip…..

{Inside of the Colosseum. Still hard to believe that people were killed for sport all the while spectators cheered and celebrated. The cross on the left hand side represents where the Emperor sat and gave the thumbs up/thumbs down that Joaquin Phoenix did so well in the movie Gladiator}
{The floor is no longer there but you get the picture with the replica floor on the far side, with the underground part being cages for holding the animals and gladiators before the fights}

{Entrance to the Roman Forum, the heart of ancient Rome, located next to the Colosseum}
{View of Roman Forum from entrance}

{View of Castle Sant'Angelo from the across the Tiber} 
{St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City}

{Gold guilded entrance to St. Peters}

{Amazing interior of the Pantheon…which I found out can be used for weddings…could imagine sending out invites with the address of the ceremony being The Pantheon}

{Taking a break from the Vatican Museum to get a pic with the dome of St. Peter's in the background}
{One of the many beautiful frescos in the Vatican museum}

{Trevi fountain..we did the obligatory throw the coin in the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder so supposedly…WE WILL BE BACK}