Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pâques chez Cazeaud

Once again the Cazeauds welcomed me into their home to celebrate with them.  I spent Easter weekend with them taking walks around the countryside, eating (a lot!) with the family.

Easter egg hunt
 They dont have the little plastic easter eggs like we do in the US, s easter egg hunts go a lot quicker, as it is basically just a hunt for the baskets. I brought an Easter Basket for the boys, mostly filled with toys rather than chocolate, as I was pretty sure they were still full to capacity on the chocolate front.

Easter dinner at Sandrine's; Antoine, Emelian, Me, Marielle, Papi, Mamie, Patrick, Charlaine and Lilian
We went to Marielle's sister's house for Easter (she was kind enough to let me come as well).  I think we spent about 5 or 6 hours at the table!


Charlaine perched on a rock.
 After lunch we went for a stroll which included some beautiful overlooks.


 We also passed by the edges of farmland and these sheepies.
La famille (and Sandrine's dog snuck in too)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Parade! Part 2 of Boeuf Villé

The festivities continued Saturday night, though sadly a poorly formatted schedule meant we were confused on the fireworks time and ended up watching from our apartment, rather than at the river. Not to be mistaken again, we arrived very early to the parade route on Sunday and enjoyed some sodas outside in the sun before it started.

The parade mostly consisted of musical groups and some performers with some livestock thrown in, but most of all, it was fun, and nice to be in the sun.


Lots of kids were dressed up in costumes- I was even more impressed with the parents who wanted to dress up with them!



This lady was such a graceful dancer.


The samba group
Costumed!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Confetti Fight! Part 1 of Boeuf Villé

Every year Montlucon celebrates "Boeuf Villé" which theoretically celebrates the start to spring here. While we showed up a bit late due to confusion, and we were heads and shoulders taller than most there, you can see from the photos that we enjoyed the confetti fight all the same. 




I think I was too excited

The aftermath

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Maria had friends visiting from Spain, so of course we had to have a dinner all together! Some of the people from the Foyer des Jeunes Travaillers joined us as well. 

The whole crowd!

James, Paolo, Jorje, Jose Roberto, Naomi, Sarah, Alex, Me, Maria and Maria


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vichy

I didn't have swim team for the first two weeks after vacation, so I took advantage of having nothing to do for a Wednesday and headed to Vichy. Despite the ridiculous amounts of transfers and time to get there, considering it's only a 40 minute drive, I was really happy to go. 

I was extra lucky to have Caitlin (another American assistant, I traveled with her over Toussaint) there as my personal tour guide as she lives in Vichy. She met me at the train station and showed me where she lived. En route to getting lunch we stopped and I got to taste the famous waters of Vichy (Vichy is known for two things; being the seat of the Petain government in WW2 and the thermal springs that make this spa town). I had to agree with Caitlin though, the waters tasted a bit like they had baking soda in them, though it was amusing to fill up my water bottle with sparkling water from a public tap. 

After lunch we walked around, enjoying the seldom seen sun. Caitlin also showed me one of the churches in Vichy. It's distinction is that the inside contains mosaics that decorate it. 


Vichy has always been a resort town (even Napoleon, settled in for a while he liked it so much) and thus the town is very pretty with lovely architecture. 








Sunday, March 17, 2013

Puy de Dome

Though I wasn't able to make it to Puy de Dome when my parents were here- the weather stopped us from a lot of stuff- my roommates, Naomi, James and I were able to make a trip this weekend. Alex has a car and she is a lovely chauffeur and kind enough to make these kinds of excursions happen. We drove up to Puy de Dome, near Clermont Ferrand and parked the car at the upper lot. There is also a train that goes up to the top, but it doesn't run this time of year.


The hike to top only takes about 40 minutes, according to the Frenchman we met at the bottom, though with all the photos we took, we managed to make it a solid hour and a half. In fairness it was more of a photo shoot than a hike.


Despite all the fun photos I took, I spaced out and deleted them off my camera, thinking they had already been transferred to my computer. They had not been transferred  Luckily, everyone took lots of photos, and I was able to get some that Maria took to share with you.


We decided but shots in different locations were really funny

Good views, huh?

It was so cold our snot froze.
In the evening we headed to Minda's to celebrate her birthday! She cooked a wonderful meal and we had a lovely evening.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nuit Americain

While we did celebrate Thanksgiving in Montlucon, another American dinner was needed to show what American cooking is like. I didn't want to do hamburgers, as that's the stereotype and isn't that interesting. On the other hand, a lot of what we eat in the US is stolen from other countries, or is a simple meat, carb, veg plate. 

I was able to come up with a wonderful menu of... 

Sloppy Joes and veggies! 
and for dessert- cupcakes!
and rice krispie treats! 

nice decorations, right?
Sarah and Minda tasting marmite for the first time.
I'm not sure there will be a British night coming up any time soon... 

One of the things I enjoy most about Montlucon is being able to have dinners and people over at our apartment. Good company and good food are always a wining combination (and failing that, lots of drinks and good people make for just as good of a night as well)


Friday, March 8, 2013

Brussels

After our lovely time in Bruges (which was helped a lot by finally seeing the sun) we headed out for bigger fish in Brussels. Sadly, the nice weather didn't travel well and we ended up with a LOT of rain coming down on us, though we did get some sun on the first day.


While Brussels is very pretty in some parts (The Grand Place!) It's hard to forget that it's a functional city with lots of people working in it. Again, we seemed to strike out with the restaurant choices BUT we were able to sample the quadrature of Belgian gastronomy including cherry beer, chocolate, fries and waffles. The restaurants might not be fantastic, but they play their strengths well.

The Grand Place was our favorite spot of Brussels. It's absolutely gorgeous AND there's lots of waffles and fries for sale nearby- who could want more?



We tried french fries again, this time I had onions on them, which I'm not if it was good or bad- just different.




The waffle I had was AMAZING. I felt like Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. It was all whipped cream :)

We also managed to see the Mannkin Piss aka the peeing boy fountain. However, it was the celebration of some (student?) group and the statue was dressed up for the occasion.




Brussels gets points for being fun, easy to navigate and yummy snack food but loses points for restaurant meals, and let's be honest not too many cities can live up to Paris.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In Bruges

Dad had to head back to the States, but Mom and I had a free schedule, so we didn't let his absence stop us and we continued on to Bruges, Belgium.

Bruges is also the location of a popular film called "In Bruges" in which one of the main characters is stuck in Bruges and absolutely hates it. His partner keeps encouraging him to enjoy the town, as it's like "a fairytale." The grumpy man's reply is that he might like it if he "grew up on a farm and was retarded, but (he) didn't and (he) is not. So (he) don't like it."

The belltower 
I have to agree with the non grumpy man. Bruges is small, with not too much going on beyond some nice shops, lots of chocolate, some fries, a pretty canal and bell tower. However, that's what makes it so appealing. It truly is picturesque- like a fairytale, and we were lucky enough to get some sun and to really enjoy walking around and the little boat tour we did as well.

on the canal

Mom did a fantastic job getting a deal on very lush hotel room. The hotel was beautiful, as was the room and the staff the were lovely as well. It made for a wonderful trip.

On the main square

The one downside we found, especially coming from France, was the quality of restaurants was really not up to par with that of those in France. It was funny to see people walking around with food eating, to even have restaurants that serve food outside of a set seating for lunch and dinner ("non-stop service as they like to call it here) and even more, eating snacky foods like french fries! It made me think about how much I've adjusted to France to see these cultural differences.

Market day

Beers and a vespa, what a combo 

me!

aww, horsey 

Swans; look pretty but are just pretty evil


I love the style of architecture  I took way too many photos of the buildings






Bruges was a calm, lovely, and wonderful place to visit. I'm so glad it made it onto the itinerary.