31 October, 2006

The Calanques, Marseille

I took this past weekend to go to Marseille with David's friends Jeff and Carole. We stayed with Jeff's brother Pierre-Remy who has a cute little apartment overlooking the town and the sea. Paradise anyone?

The climbing in the Calanques was crazy. It took over two hours of pretty tough freaky hiking/traversing to get to the base of the climb we did on the second day. Relieved to finally be at the climb, we proceeded to climb 4 pitches of really runout but beautiful climbing. It's so runout that most of the local climbers treat it like a mixed climb and place gear in between the bolts. I had some nuts...which i was really glad to have on many occasions. Of course I was really scared but the fact that we were basically climbing right out of the sea often distracted me into euphoria.

After the day I was so dehydrated and starving that all I could think about was food. We went back to Remy's and made a whole fish. We had bought it fresh that morning. It was the most amazing fish I've ever had. So fresh. It was a little odd to just have a whole fish laying out on the dinner table...but I got over it. I was also forced into trying fish eggs. Our fish was pregnant so lucky us right? I don't know, they're weird. I'm going to get a little detailed here, but they're kind of a big mass and obviously don't look like eggs anymore. Instead they kind of look like a mushy brain. Mmmmm. But they eat brain here too so that wouldn't gross them out too much :) They're really strong. Not horrible but I won't be feinding for them any time soon.

After two days of climbing I have to admit that my body was exhausted. But it was ok because there was of course a giant sea within 10 minutes walk from Remy. So we sat on the beach all afternoon, read, swam...the things you do at a beach. And yes for all of you that were wondering, most of the women do actually sunbath topless. Oddly, it is way more common to see someone over say 35 or 40 topless. In the younger generation it's becoming obsolete. It was different I'll tell you that.

We had a little accident with the other camera. It took a fall from the first bolt of our climb last week. Unfortunately, the climb started on a ledge that was already 40ft off the ground. And then there was the big rocky hill it bounced down. So I'm working on getting that fixed for the next trip. I do have pictures from this trip they're just on Jeff and Carole's cameras so I'll have to wait a bit to get them.

Well, that's all the news from Lyon. I'm leaving for Austria and Slovenia in a few days so it may be a week or two before you see anything new.

23 October, 2006

Rappelling in France

And then there was that one time in France when David's friends called me and asked me if I would break into their kitchen window to unlock the door. Hmmm, never a dull moment.

I'm minding my own business one morning and I get a call from Loris and Bene. "Jenn, this is Loris. Um, so are you busy? We are locked out of our kitchen and we can't get in but there are two windows and they're both open. You climb right? And do you have a rope? Could you come over and see if you could rig something with the ropes to get into the kitchen?"

Apparently in France conventional solutions don't fly, it's all about the creativity.

Loris and Bene live in an apartment building with a stereotypical European courtyard. Their apartment is built around one corner of the courtyard, so there are two windows that are adjacent to eachother. They could get into their apartment, but the door to the kitchen broke and they couldn't get it open from the side they had access to. The windows are so close it looks as if you could step out of one and into the other...but looking down three stories I was not even close to wanting to find out if that was a feasible solution. I looked around to see what we could do and I figured the only thing would be to rappel down into the window from above. It would involve neighbors and therefore I firgured this solution would be dismissed and I'd be off the hook. No, they thought it was a great idea and off we went knocking on doors. Erin, a small Rhode-Islander teaching english in Lyon, opened the door to 4 people she didn't know asking if they could rappel out of her living room window. She looked completely caught off guard and didn't completely understand what the heck was going on but opened the door and let us take over.

We wrapped the rope around the inner part the apartment so that one end of the rope was out one window and the other end out the other window. (see picture below) And out I went. It was a little wierd stepping out of a window. In fact, I was pretty freakin scared. Stepping off a cliff is one thing, that's the whole point of climbing, but out of a window?! It just feels wrong.

I felt kind of like some burgler or something. Good practice if I decide I need to make a career out of breaking into to people's houses.

Anyway, since then, Erin has hung out with us a few times and I'm more than a little excited to have met someone who is from the US. I'm sure there will be more to come about her. Her boyfriend is coming soon and he climbs...so you can imagine where that will go :)

Loris watching closely...making sure I make it into their open window two floors down

16 October, 2006

Sienna, Rome, Naples & Pompeii

Well, I'm back. The trip was spectacularly enlightening. Funny how a country so close to France can be so different.

From Florence I went to Sienna. Sienna is about and hour southwest of Florence (which is in the northwest). I had some stunning shots of the city from but proceeded to lose my camera in Rome :( so sorry guys, no pictures from Italy. But anyway, i'll get a new camera and i can use david's until then. Sienna is just what it sounds like, completely the color of sienna, and for those of you that don't know your crayola crayons...it's kind of a pale dusty brown. They have a very famous Duomo and you can climb to the top of the Facciatone (not really sure how to explain that one but anyway it's really high) and take pictures of the city. Sienna is really hilly, so the city dips up and down and up and down...when you're walking it's a neverending journey uphill and downhill. From the top of the Facciatone the hills textured the city which is filled with stereotypical italian houses/buildings all in sienna, narrow streets, and mountains in the background. Yeah, that view was worth it. To get to the top of the Facciatone, there is a single file spiral staircase...all the way up, there is no way to pass on the staircase; only room for people going one direction. People at the top would be yelling down the staircase like ok here we come and then all of a sudden you'd hear people yellingback...no sorry here we come. This was funny.

After Sienna, I travelled to Rome to meet David. Rome kind of screwed me over the minute i stepped off of the train. I walked around for awhile and then took the train to meet David at the airport who I missed by probably 10 minutes because no one would help me find the arrivals. The backup plan was to meet at the hostel if we missed eachother at the airport. Easier said than done. Rome is really big and my map didn't cover the area my hostel was in. So like an idiot I stopped at a little store, took one of their maps and wrote down some pretty vague directions of what to do after my map ended. HA! And then I walked and walked and walked....and got really lost. I walked right past the hostel like three times and couldn't for the life of me see it. In my defense, Rome is really poorly marked and way more confusing than the other areas i'd been too. Now I am an hour late for when we were planning on meeting and am about to ask this man at a gas station (or what they call a gas station) where the heck I was when I see David walk up the street. Whew! Rome is like Disneyland. There are tourists everywhere. It's really loud, really crowded, and really really dirty. But more on the dirt later. The sights were obviously stellar. The sistine chapel is worth the trip alone, along with the roman forum and colloseum. So much history.

We left Rome a little early...I wore David out trying to see too many things in too little time...and we went for some rest in naples which sits right on the mediterranean coast. Mostly Naples was a lot of sleeping and going out for nice leisurely walks by the sea and quiet dinners. We didn't do anything touristy in Naples but I did take a day to visit Pompeii. Pompeii is simply vast. It's the size of a small city and i took the "short tour" which was 3 hours. It's filled with the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii which was instantly destroyed in 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted and buried it. Eventually excavators came upon the city and dug it out of the ash. It revealed an entirely preserved city...inhabitants and all. After the bodies of the people naturally decomposed, there were empty cavities left in the cooled lava. One particularly smart excavator realized this and began filling the cavities with plaster, which ultimately revealed a human form. Not just a human form either. You can tell what these people looked like, and even more disturbing the horror on their faces. It still dumbfounding to me that we were able to dig out the city and damage so little. There really isn't an trace of an eruption...it just looks like ruins from an old city.

So that's it. Back in Lyon. I need to get some sleep so i'll finish this up tomorrow. Bonnuit.

07 October, 2006

Firenze, Italia

So here I am, finally in Florence. Quite a trip for me to get here and no way to show you pictures until i get back to Lyon.

I left for Florence, making a stop in Milan but having no ticket from Milan to Florence. Well, it all turned out well but I had the 'must have a plan' paranoia big time. I stood for a half hour in the wrong line to buy tickets with a guy from London and another american girl. We finally found the ticket counter and at 3pm, the next available train to Florence wasn't until 8pm putting me in Florence at a whopping 11:30 pm. This made me even more nervous as I was going to have to walk 20 minutes to my hostel. I meandered around Milan for awhile, I even got gutsy and took the metro to the Duomo to sight-see before my train. And then there was a metro strike! Like what the heck is this crap!!! Here I go with my little map running my butt off to get back to the train station. I was 45 minutes early and proceeded to get on the wrong train. Luckily it was at least going to Florence. Yes, this is me in Italy.

I got to my hostel and was so worn out from just not knowing where i was that i wanted to immediately go back to Lyon. David warned me of this...actually his exact words were 'you're going to get to your hostel, you're going to cry in your bed because you're lonely, and then you're going to wake up the next day and have a good time.' and that's pretty much exactly how it went.

Florence is so beautiful i can't possibly do it justice with words. I had a salami fromaggio sandwhich for breakfast by the Arno River crossed the Pont Vecchio, lined with classic local jewelers and spent the day wandering around. Somehow I struck some good luck and got a ticket into the Uffizi (it was sold out for the weekend and the next available time to get in was Tues). I went to reserve a ticket for Tuesday and the guy had one extra ticket for 1pm. The Uffizi is officially my favorite museum so far. Maybe more than the Louvre because I burnt myself out trying to do too much at once. But the Uffizi has some pretty cool stuff in it.

I did a bunch of other things too but I can't really tell you because my internet is going to run out in five minutes. Ciao!

05 October, 2006

Des Photos Avec Sandra et Pierre

Sandra, Pierre, David, and moi

Pierre and David hanging out the window with their cigarettes after dinner...at least over here they are courteous enough not to smoke indoors

oh, the nice picture after dinner...sandra has cooked twice for us now and it's the best food i've had in france, she

Sandra outside climbing with us....she bought her first pair of climbing shoes a few days later...yes! another addict in the making

Me on nice big jugs...the way i like it.

02 October, 2006

Life in France thus far

Things are going really well here. We stay up way too late and get up the same way. David hasn't realized i am an old woman yet..this won't last long for me. But it's fun for now anyway.

My french continues to improve but it is pretty hard i have to admit. Sometimes i get a little homesick for you all who i can so easily express myself with. Most conversations with the people i've met are pretty superficial because that's all my knowledge of the language will permit so far. I'm so excited to even be able to do that. It's a tad frustrating though when you don't understand what the heck is happening around you. Anyway, David is totally uderstanding and supportive of my frustrations. So that makes it a lot easier.

I am feeling a bit culture shocked too. Wierd because on the surface, things aren't really all that different. We have an apartment, transportation, food, water, bathrooms. It's the subtle differences though. They are actually really nice subtle differences but adjustments all the same.

And i know some of you are reading this going...ok we don't feel bad for you, you're a traveling fool and have been on vacation for so many months we can't even count so just be quiet. So I will.

We've been climbing a crapload. I have pictures up from the Alps. Incredible climbing. The pictures speak for themselves.

Oooh, but the new people I have met. I guess I'll give profiles of those who have pictures so far.

So the two boys in the bed...Jay and Chupette. Ah, just good friends...things are quite different here.

Jay: Jay was amazing in Paris...he is completely fluent in English. He grew up on the an island off the southeast coast of africa called Mauritius where all the schooling is in English and the language of the country is french. After David left for Lyon, he saved me when no one could understand me and i couldn't understand them. He went to the same college as David and Chupette and they all do computer stuff. He is working in Paris right now and is staying at Chupette's until he finds an apartment.

Chupette aka Julien: But no one calls him Julien...his nickname means lollipop and i'm still not quite sure why they call him that. The last nights i stayed in paris were usually spent trying to sleep but dying of laughter because of the conversations he and jay would have late at night sleeping next to eachother...mildly amusing on its own. He was also wonderful trying to speak english with me. We spent a whole day together climbing at Fontainbleu...communicating was pretty entertaining.

Nini: Oh wonderful Nini (Nicolas)...another climbing/table tennis friend of David's. Nini is buying a house with his girlfriend and is taking classes and the french version of Home Depot every week on carpentry/electric stuff/plumbing etc to get ready for the new house. I'm going to the wallpaper class next week! Ha...that'll make a good story. Nini also really loves soccer...i mean really really loves soccer, so he's also going to take me to a soccer game.

Isabel: No pics of Isabel yet but she's been very present in our social scene so i can't leave her out. She is the girlfriend of Nini. During long dinners when i have no idea what is going on she is always the one to make conversation with me. So patient...she speaks really slowly and clearly and constantly complements me on my french even if it's horrid :) She has also started climbing with us and led her first route the other day. I think she's probably been climbing 5 times total...the girl isn't afraid of anything.

Xavier: Xavier has two kids and a wife and is still having as much fun as anyone of us around him. In fact, I think he's having more fun. He is one of the most lively and inspiring that i've met so far...his children are amazing, his wife, Cecile, and his relationship with her are dumbfounding. Heloise is probably 4 or 5 and Emerick is probably 3. The funniest thing is how they reacted to my speech...they couldn't stop staring at me and everytime i opened my mouth and spoke french they kept looking at their parents like who the heck is this lady? why can't she speak correctly??? Yeah that was funny. Cecile does some kind of accounting and Xavier works in an ER lab. They have a gorgeous apartment that they completely built from the ground up. They have a little photo album with the pictures of the progress over time...at the beginning it looked like an unfinished basement, just a big open space, i don't even know how they had the hope to envision what they were able to do. It looks hopeless at the beginning. I'll have to get a hold of some before and after pics and post them.

So that's the crew thus far that you can see. There are some more but i'll save them for later.