Friday, November 18, 2011

Anne's Family Trip to France

So I am back in San Francisco now, back to my temporary home again after two weeks visiting family in southern France. We saw both of my father's sisters, who we haven't visited in 16 years. Joelle and Erwin have a 16-year-old daughter, Laura, who was born shortly before we arrived in Belgium during our last visit. I remember going to the hospital to visit Joelle while she was waiting to be released with baby Laura. They also have a 14-year-old son, Thomas. My father's other sister, Chantal has a 13-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who we had never met before.

It was great to visit with family and explore places that I'd never been before. I am grateful that we were able to see what life is really like there, and not simply have the tourist experience. Some photos from our trip:

(left to right) Joelle, Erwin, Nina (my mom) and Daniel (my papa) at the market near Regusse, France

Joelle, Laura and Daniel at a lookout point

Joelle and Nina shopping for famous French dish towels from the Provence region

Overlook of a village near Regusse
Driving from Regusse to Arles, heavy rain and flooding. We hadn't seen the worst of it yet.
The Arles clean up crew, pumping water from the streets into the Rhone River
The Rhone, taken at about 7:00 pm
The Rhone, taken at about 9:00 am. You can see that the water level rose significantly over night. Look closely at the tree second from the left.
The Arles amphitheatre, built in 90 A.D. by the Romans. Today it's used for bull fights.
Inside the amphitheatre. You can see they added seats at the bottom level. It's currently under renovation.

The Roman theatre. You can see it was still raining.

Walking through Arles. These narrow streets were no joke. It was not fun trying to navigate through them in a car.
The ubiquitous door knocker. Very common in France.
On our way from Arles to Limogne-en-Quercy to see Chantal and Charlotte. That is the Millau Viaduct in the background.
Dinner and Foosball at The Galopin in Limogne-en-Quercy. Papa and I beat them by a long shot.
Trying to speak French with Charlotte. Lots of laughing and little understanding.
Chantal and Charlotte love animals. These are a few of their pets.
This is what most of the roofs look like in the villages of southern France
Me, smelling lavender–a very popular crop grown in the Provence region of France
This is Charlotte's grandfather showing us how to make a "brick" out of paper. First you soak the paper over night, then you tear it apart and put it inside this press. Push the two levers down and away from one another, let it dry out over the warm summer months and voilá, you have a paper brick that will burn in the fireplace for 2-3 hours.
Dinner at Chantal's, can you see some resemblance between us cousins?
A day trip to a place called Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, built straight out of the side of the mountain
An excellent photo taken from the car window by my mom. A real snapshot of what most of the small villages in southern France look like.
Charlotte, myself, Chantal and Daniel
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, supposedly one of the oldest villages in France
Another view of the village
Charlotte and I walked to the top of this viewpoint, while the elders stayed at the bottom
Stone walls with moss. This is France!
Chantal, Charlotte, Daniel and Nina
This is common in public bathrooms in France. They call it a "Turkish toilet." Pretty much just a hole in the ground. I wouldn't have expected this outside of third-world countries...
This speaks for itself. WTF
A French twink

Interesting spelling and all-around strange item. I don't imagine anyone would be wearing these during a game of strip poker. Only in France...
We went to Villefranche-de-Rouergue for the weekly Thursday market
Overlooking the Aveyron River, a beautiful city
The scene in place Notre-Dame, the main hub of the market
Lots of cured and smoked meats. Lots of cheeses.

Berets and baskets
Olives and some sort of cured lemon
Dried fruits. I got the kiwi.
A French dish with sausage and a quite cheesy mashed potatoes. It was almost more cheese than potatoes. Yum...
Drinking Pastis, a favorite aperitif
A castle wall
The rental car had a glass roof
The Devil's Bridge in Cahors
Close-up of gargoyles on the Cahors Cathedral
On our way to the Pech Merle cave, where we saw cave paintings from 25,000 years ago
Driving back to Nice with a stop at Aix-en-Provence
You put money in that thing on the left and the silver stopper in the middle of the
street goes down and allows a car to pass through. This is Aix-en-Provence.

Tiny marzipan desserts made to look like different breads
Finally eating some French onion soup
In the Nice airport, waiting for my flight
Do you see the Golden Gate Bridge? I'm home.

Unfortunately my backpack did not make it on my flight back, and was delayed for the last couple days. I started to get really worried and spent most of the last two days on the phone with Air France representatives. Fortunately my bag was delivered last night, so I'm ready for the big trip! Only three more days left in San Francisco...

To see more photos from France, click here.