Sunday, April 29, 2012


{Hilltop village of Èze}
     Over the last two years, we have pretty much hit all the major 'must-sees' with-in driving distance of us. Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Marseille, Cassis, Saint-Tropez...check, check check, you get the point. But there has always been this little village called Èze that I have heard of but never really knew anything about. So we did some inquiring around and some research on the internet and came to the conclusion that is was indeed a 'must-see' we hadn't checked off yet. So with the weather finally warming up and the weekend off, we headed that way yesterday for a leisurely day at Èze and figured with it's close proximity to Monaco (5 km) and Nice (7km), we could double up and enjoy a few other places as well. We were a bit worried when we got up because Toulon was grey, and I mean really grey. We didn't really have anything better to do so we took the chance and were pleasantly surprised when the sun made an appearance and the temperature slowly inched up the closer we got to Èze. It turned out to be a warm 80 degrees or so and the kind of day where the night is just as warm as the day so it begged us to eat outside. My only semi-gripe was the wind, which we have had for over 2.5 weeks now and it is getting a bit tiresome. But I digress, I'll take what I can get.
{Cobblestone paths}

{One of many little alcoves off the paths}

{Me being an usual}

{Shaun had to duck going through some doorways, and it's not like he is some giant either}

     Èze is often referred to as an 'eagle's nest' since it sits high (1401 feet to be exact) above the Mediterranean. Due to it's charming cobblestone paths (it looks like a movie set), quaint art galleries and hotels with jaw dropping views, Èze has become a popular honeymoon sidekick to it's larger friend, Nice. Finding parking was tough so we went by the old motto, 'when in Rome' and parked on a sidewalk just outside of the village. And as far as we know, barring anyone being 'cheeky' and taking off the ticket from our windshield, it worked out for us. We spent a few hours eating, browsing and walking around trying to find the 'best' vantage point of the Med below. Turns out, it is at the top in the botanical gardens where we spent an hour or so taking the obligatory self pictures of us until people took pity and offered us a hand. And the church, what a surprise at how beautiful it was. Most churches over here are amazing but this one had that little something extra, see for yourself in the pics below. After we were sure we had covered every cobblestoned inch of Èze, we made the decision to head towards Nice with the thinking that we are most likely going to be heading back to all 3 areas soon since my mom is here in less than a week. So Monaco got the rain check this time. Nice was packed with locals and tourists alike enjoying the first 'warm' day in a a few weeks by strolling along the Promenade, sipping cocktails with friends and laying on the beach. We sat and people watched (Nice is tied for my favorite people watching spot with the Atlanta airport), enjoyed a drink or two then settled in for dinner before heading back to Toulon late at night. I don't know if it was the weather or exploring a new city but yesterday felt like we were on vacation. Nice has a way of doing that to you...
{The view from the botanical garden in Èze }

{Some US tourists took our picture, the wind decided to get going just as they took it}

{Notre Dame de l’Assomption built in 1764...The most beautiful church I have seen in a long time, filled with chandeliers, gold guilded columns and vibrant pastels}

{The promenade in Nice}

{Enjoying a cold one in Nice}

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Look what we found...

      Since our time here in Toulon is quickly coming to a close (we are out of here in less than a month) we decided to get a head start on getting some of our stuff together. Nothing too major, more like going through old papers and boxes and tossing the stuff we don't want/need anymore. With my mom coming to visit and us doing a little travelling before heading back to the states, we figured it would be a good idea to get some stuff out of the way now as opposed to later. And we have a lot of stuff...25 boxes or so. Hey, that is what you get for living in the same country for 11 years. Sometimes I think we are way more settled here than back in Atlanta. I envy those who come over here with their two bags and manage to not buy anything while here so packing up and leaving is a breeze (truth be told this is the only time I envy them, since I much prefer having things that I want or need all year long). But as anyone knows, the first step of packing often takes way more time than needed since you find things you haven't seen in a while and, in my case, curiosity always gets the better of me. I stumble upon cooking magazines I had packed away, holiday cards or old blank CD's and I need to look through each of them before chucking. I will take this time to say this, I am not a hoarder, nor will I ever be, I am just thorough and a bit sentimental. I am sentimental until I have to pack up, then things get the 'ax' real quick.Well, today I hit the jackpot, or what we consider the jackpot. Sitting in the bottom of our 'entertainment' box was a CD titled 'photos'. I set it aside and finished up with the rest of the boxes all the while wondering what 'photos' were on this CD. So when I finished, I popped the CD into our finicky laptop and figured if it worked, it worked. But if it didn't, I would throw it out. Well, it worked and I was so surprised to find loads of old pictures of Max and Bella, our 2 Jack Russells we lost this past summer. Seeing these pictures reminded me of what characters they were and I am so happy I gave the CD a second shot. It's hard to say I would of been devastated if I threw it out with out looking at it since I never really knew it existed in the first place, but fortunately it worked and made my day to boot. See...there is a method to my packing madness after all. Some of these pictures are old (8 years ago old), some are in the US, some are in France but all of them made me smile and a few made me laugh out loud. Enjoy!!
{Shaun and Max aka. Maxy, Bubba, Bubby, Bubs, The Bubbinator, White Fluff and my friend called him Ben since she thought he looked more like a Ben than a Max.....}

{Me and Bella aka. Boogie, Boogie-woogs, Belly, Tinky, Tinky-bear, Princess Boogie-woogs, Donkey, Peanut ...the list goes on and I am getting embarassed as I type this....not really}

{Made a Christmas wreath in France and Bella was subjected to posing with it... notice Max getting in on the action in the bottom left hand side. Although more probable, he was trying to get out of the action.}

{My mom sent this gift for the dogs in a care package to France and it quickly became Max's best friend, and I mean best friend. He would drag it (its nearly as big as he was) outside to go to the bathroom, he would sleep with it, he would fight with it.....and no, he didn't hump it for all you sickos out there, kept it purely platonic}

{Having a little birthday fun}

{Not one to ever be left out, Bella joined in on the fun}

{The crew}

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Le Castellet

     After our little excursion to the boulangerie the other day, Fatiha and I decided to visit Le Castellet. It is a typical Provencal village filled with lavender, soaps and pottery shops perched on top of a hill overlooking many vineyards and the Mediterranean Sea. We find it is a great place to take out of town guests since it is so conveniently located near us (about 15 minutes) and irresistibly charming due to the cobblestone streets and sections of the ramparts still remaining. Being so close to the sea, the views are amazing and on clear days you can see the mountains in the opposite direction. Typically, we spend no more than a few hours there since it is pretty small but each time we go, we discover some little hidden treasure we had never seen before. This time, we strolled through the streets pausing to take pictures, purchased some bath soaps at one of the little boutiques and contemplated buying a crepe from a man who was making/selling them by the meter (FYI, a meter is over 3 feet). Just a suggestion though if you go, bring cash since there are many little shops in the village but not a bank to be seen. And from personal experience, I can tell you pan handling for coins to pay your parking (they only just started accepting cards) is a quick way to put a damper on an otherwise great afternoon. I even offered American money in exchange for some euros when we were in a bind last year, and you know what?? People took it in a blink of an eye. Oh and little fun fact, Le Castellet is the location for the 1938 french film La Femme du Boulanger (The Baker's Wife)...kind of found that coincidental considering we had just gone to La Fille du Boulanger earlier in the day to ask questions and take pictures.

{View of vineyards below}

{Little boutique store front}

{Cobblestone streets winding through the village}
{Some of the ramparts still standing}

{View from outside the ramparts}

{The many local products sold}

{Lavender galore}

{Even ran into our friend Marie as we were heading out}

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birthday shout out!!!

    Gotta give a birthday shout out to the coolest funniest toughest little 7 year old dude around. Of course we may be biased just a wee bit since he is our nephew, but even non-relatives have been known to use those words to describe him you be the judge. Ty turns a whopping 7 years old today!!! So let me break it down for you...Why do I say the coolest? Ummm, because his dancing to Taio Cruz, Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO puts some people on So You Think You Can Dance to shame. In a few years, we will all be doing the 'Ty' and saying 'Dougie' what?? True story, last year we shared his 'The Time/Dirty Bit 'video with one of Shaun's teammates and no lie, when the song would come on during warm-ups or half-time, they would look at each other and do some Ty inspired moves. Why do I say the funniest? Well a few summers ago, I was sitting playing with him at his house in Pennsylvania and I said, " whatcha talkin' bout Willis?" And he turned to me and said, "my name is not Willis, it's Ty. So it should be whatcha talkin' bout Ty." And finally, why do I say the toughest? Well because this little stud had previously hurt himself on the playground and not until a few weeks later when his foot wasn't getting any better, did the doctors do an x-ray and found he had a broken bone in his foot. Yep, that's right, he had been walking all over the place on a broken foot. And unlike kids who like to be hurt and coddled (I wouldn't know anything about smuggling my mom's neck brace to school in 2nd grade to try to get sympathy...nope, nothing at all), Ty wants to get that boot off asap. Now, that's one tough cookie. Happy Birthday bud and can't wait to see you over the summer!!!

Friday, April 20, 2012


{One of our favorite travel pictures (Aruba) because it shows how clear the water really is}

  I am not a huge going in the ocean person. Correction... I wasn't a huge going in the ocean person until we went to Aruba for our honeymoon 5 years ago. That seemed to be the turning point for me (pretty sure the crystal clear water had something to do with it). Over our 8 days there, you couldn't drag us out of the water, and to be honest, I was surprised we never fully made the transformation into a prune during that trip. But from that point on, I actually liked going into the water, and it always didn't have to be crystal clear water either. Take for example when we visited Shaun's family in Cape Cod last summer, my niece and nephew managed to convince me to get in the ocean there too, seaweed and all. So for the last 2 years here in France, we have been blessed to be able to live so close to the water, and pretty clear water too I might add. At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we spent nearly every day at the beach and even bought some snorkel gear. We did some paddle boarding and have been looking forward to the weather warming up so we can take advantage of it all once again before heading back to the concrete jungle otherwise knows as Atlanta, for the summer. Why do I bring this all up you might ask? Well Shaun made a huge mistake yesterday. Just casually in conversation, he mentioned something about seeing a shark on the cover of or paper here but in typical Shaun fashion, he was very vague with the details. I could tell though that as soon as the words left his mouth, he knew he had made a mistake. Wait, a shark? How could that be? Everyone (or at least all of our really smart friends here) said that there are no sharks in the Mediterranean Sea, so maybe Shaun read the paper wrong. Being the spaz I am, I checked the paper on-line right away and sure enough, they found a shark in the golf of Saint-Tropez. Mind you, they didn't find this shark a few miles off shore, they found it in the bay...the same bay we ate overlooking a few weeks ago while visiting Saint-Tropez for the day. And while that is still 30 miles from us here in Toulon, there were also sightings of a large shark a few weeks ago around Porquerolles. Porquerolles... the same island I wrote about earlier in the blog. The same island we visited and swam all over earlier this year. I know it is a big sea/ocean out there and it is unrealistic to ever be 100% safe but knowing that there might have been a shark swimming in the exact spot where we were snorkeling makes me a little uneasy. So for the time being, I am enjoying this cooler weather and wind, (it gives me a built-in excuse to not go in the water) and hopefully by the time it warms up again, I will have toughened up. Hopefully...although I know it won't happen if I keep looking at this picture.

{The sharks is obviously not a great white, however, it was over 16 feet long. Photo courtesy of Var Matin}

Thursday, April 19, 2012


{May not look like much from the outside, but in our opinion, it may have the best bread here in the Toulon area}
        There are many French stereotypes that I have found to be a bit of a stretch..the hairy armpits, the berets, the awesome mustaches that curve up at the end are just to name a few. However, at any given time during the day, you are guaranteed to spot someone walking with a baguette on the streets or riding their bikes with one in their front or back basket. So that stereotype, I'll give you. Bread is a way of life here in France. I don't know how to describe it other than....well, you just have to experience it for yourself. Most stop daily at a Boulangerie (french bakery) to pick up bread for dinner or for a late lunch. While I find that most breads are good, there are some that are superior to others, and we have found our favorite. For the last 2 seasons, we have made an almost daily stop at La Fille du Boulanger for our daily bread fix. Some days only half the bread makes the 1 mile car ride home, other days, we barely use it. But, in our household, there is nothing worse (ok there are worse things but roll with me here) than not having bread at night for dinner, even if we only use half of it. Besides, the leftovers make great breadcrumbs. And don't get me started on the salted may be the one thing I am willing to smuggle in my bag on the way home and risk jail time for. It is that good. So, with our time coming to a close here in Toulon, I wanted to stop by La Fille du Boulanger and express our undying love for their bread and maybe take a few pics if they allowed me. Turns out, they were more than happy to indulge a crazy American with a bread fetish and her trusty side-kick Fatiha for some pictures and questions.

Here are some of the things I found out:

- La Fille du Boulanger translates into the Baker's Daughter and the business has been in the Levilly family for 7 generations.

-The location that we go to has been here for around 8 years but they have another across town, with both doing very well.

-They start baking their breads at around 4 in the morning.

{Huge oven}

-The first customers usually come in around 6 am, and they also provide bread for restaurants.

-They make over 20 types of breads, and that is just the breads, not the pastries. Some examples are traditional baguettes, Pain de campagne (country bread often made with whole wheat flour), banettes (similiar to regular baguettes but made with different flour), batards (half of a baguette), ficelles (thinner baguette which must be eaten semi-quick since it dries out faster), olive breads, brioches (sweet bread great for french toast), sesame breads, multi-grains and fougasse (similiar to Italian focaccia) sometimes stuffed with sausage and cheeses. Whew..that was a mouthful, sorry.

{Different types of bread...sesame, campagne etc.}

{Banettes (left) and traditional baguettes (right)}

{Ahhhh, sweet brioche}

-They make around 200 baguettes a day.

-The traditional baguette is still the most popular.

-They make croutons with the un-sold (rarely happens) baguettes at the end of the day.

I am off to plot how I can successfully smuggle both the butter and this girl with all the baking secrets in my bag back to the US. I just might be willing to part with a few pairs of shoes so they can fit. In the meantime, here are some other mouth watering photos. Enjoy.

{Some of the many patisseries...}

{Buttery flaky croissants which make a mess in your car, on your clothes, on your face, in your hair...but worth every crumb}

{They almost look to pretty to eat...almost}

{What more do you need...sweet bread, creme filling....}

Monday, April 16, 2012

Things that made us go hmmmm...

   I don't know what it is around this time of year but there always seems to be things that either make us shake our head or laugh...or both. I chalk it up to the fact that we haven't been back stateside since August so we are getting a little stir-crazy here, usually happens around this time. (Driving, cutting in lines, standing in your personal space... the usual suspects that semi-bother us seem to really bother us around this time.) Or it could also be that we are dealing with a club that does things so off the radar that if you don't see it for yourself, you wouldn't believe it actually happens. I will take this time to speak for the current team and teams of the past here at HTV, this stuff happens, no exaggerating needed. However, we make a concerted effort to not let it bother us anymore than it needs to by finding the humor in it all. Besides, we can never be prepared as to what is about to happen since we are not familiar with left-field, which is where all of this stuff comes from. So here are a few things that have made us laugh this past week.

{I don't know what to feel about this drink.. maybe scared?}

{Nothing like squirting some creamy green sauce on pizza...keep it mature folks}

{Questionable slice of pepperoni on our pizza, I felt weird eating it, Shaun didn't}

{Gotta love the Real American Cranberry Sauce in a squeeze tube)

     In addition to the above, there has been a few things that have not only had us going hmmmmmm, but also had us saying WTF. While most are things related to basketball here and the club, the weather has had us constantly on our toes, and not in a good way. ( I will refrain from airing all dirty laundry until we are outta here...hey, I might look dumb but looks are deceiving). But this weather has been misleading, I like to refer to it as a big tease. It was great late March but since then, we have had wind, rain, sun, thunderstorms....all in the same day for the past few weeks. I look at our pictures from last year and we were already at the beach by now. I know I said a few posts ago I would happily give my boots and sweaters one more go around, but enough is enough, it's mid April.

{Hopefully this means sunnier days are on the horizon}