Monthly Archives: June 2011

Feeshing.

Fathers’ Day was spent in Hackberry, LA.

I really doubt any of you know where that is, unless you are from that area. It’s near Lake Charles, LA. If you still don’t know where that is, may I refer you to Google Maps?

We went down to fish in Big Lake / Lake Calcasieu to catch red fish and speckled trout. It was going to be windy, we knew, but wanted to try our luck anyway. So we hitched up our bay boat and headed south.

We woke up before the crack of dawn on Saturday, bought some live shrimps (‘scrimps’ as I like to call them), waited in line at the docks and set off. The sun was coming up as we left. My brother and I sat quietly at the front of the boat and looked at all the shrimpers and other boats around the camps in the bay.

I’ve been fishing before, obviously, and usually my mom is the one who catches the most fish. I don’t know why… I mean, I guess my dad would probably be the champion since he goes with his buddies all the time, but he often spends most of his time tying different kinds of lures on our lines or getting us free from snags in the marshes.

This time, though, it was my turn. I came out on top as far as number of keepers we brought in. The first day, I caught my limit of red fish.

They’re fun to catch. They fight pretty hard.

We also caught a bunch of sheepshead, croakers, white trout, black drum, but no speckled trout on the first day. Where were those elusive beasts??

We took some time towards the end to drive around the bay, then we drove the truck out to the wildlife preserve and over the Holly Beach. Let’s get real for a sec… Holly Beach used to be the “Redneck Riviera,” but for whatever reason, now there are extremely nice beach houses and fishing camps on a coast that resembles that of the coast in the movie The Road (which, if you didn’t see it, is very muddy, gray, and rough). To each his own, I guess.

We stuffed our faces with seafood while we were there: boiled crabs, seafood gumbo, crawfish poboys, etc.

The next day we set out again, this time without my camera so I have no visuals to give you, but let the records show that I caught two beautiful speckled trout, the only ones we brought in all weekend.

We even caught some eels (or ribbon fish… something…! LOOK at this thing!!!)

That’s my brother, smiling with the jagged-toothed creature attached to his line…

It was a successful Fathers’ Day indeed. And all week, we have been eating fish.

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Last Day in Nice

I was sad when I woke up on Saturday because I knew it was my last day to enjoy Nice. Claire and I had made grand plans to visit Monaco again and do all the things we didn’t do when we saw the Grand Prix: the Oceanographic Museum, the Palace, and whatever else we decided. We were meeting at 9:30 at the train station, and I arrived right on the dot and went to the meeting spot. But when I didn’t see Claire or Leanna or Khylee, I decided to get in line for tickets and figured they would walk up any minute and get in line with me.
     But at 9:50 there was still no sign of anyone so I hopped out of line and began to pace, wondering what to do since Claire didn’t have a cell phone and I wasn’t sure what had happened. It was our last day and I didn’t want to waste it! Finally at 10, I saw her walking up in her new romper; she had gotten to the train station early and then realized she had left all her money by her bed and had to walk all the way back to get it. SO we got back in line, bought tickets, and went to Monaco.
     The first stop was the Musee Oceanographique, which was SUCH an awesome place. The building could have doubled as a second palace for Prince Albert II; it was incredible. The first two floors were the actual museum, with collections of marine fossils, skeletons, and maritime exploration tools, models, etc. Did I mention that the building was beautiful? Mosaic floors, high ceilings, big chandeliers, and a huge octopus installation in the grand entry room that took up the entire ceiling and had tenticles wrapped around the columns to the floor.
The bottom two floors made up the aquarium. I love aquariums.
     And French people love sharks. I’ve been hearing about this place all month and each time when a French person was talking about it they would exclaim something about the sharks (!!!), and I mean… yes, there were a handful and yes, I agree, sharks are pretty cool but… I didn’t really see what all the excitement was about. Maybe I’m just jaded because I see sharks every summer swimming in the ocean with me.
     Afterwards we bought our last French lunch and ate in the Princess Grace gardens (side note: the French are obsessed with Grace Kelly), saw the cathedral where she was married, and walked towards the palace. First, we went into the palace museum, which was filled with collections of things that belonged to Napoleon (I saw his hat and gloves from Waterloo!!) and artifacts that had been given to the principality, letters signed by Louis XIV, diamond guilded swords, and all kinds of stuff. And after that, the palace, which was extra cool because it’s still where the Prince lives. We walked through one wing that was set up for visits and had lots of grand salons (and I saw the throne room! Cool…), but the rest of the palace was not open for visits because it’s still the working government offices and private residence of the royals.
     We had actually not planned on going to see the casino in Monte Carlo, but due to a mix up of buses, we ended up there anyway. I wasn’t too sad about it though. Obviously, we couldn’t go in because we were not wearing gowns and did not arrive in a Bentley, but I couldn’t stop thinking, “James Bond! James Bond! Daniel Craig was here…..” Monaco is so cool.
     Naturally, it being our last day, we headed straight to Vieux Nice for gelato when we got back. And we went all out, getting three scoops each. I got Bananatella, Tiramisu, and Kinder. As we ate, we decided we had to come back again the evening, and get crepes. I mean, what would be the point of coming back with 10 euros or so anyway? Might as well spend them.
     My last dinner with Nicole was almost a three hour affair. She had gone to the “biologique” festival (organic foods) out in Place Massena and bought some salmon and mozarella, so we had mozarella first, then salmon and stewed tomatoes and vegetables, then yogurt, of course. Her daughter and her daughter’s friend joined us and talked with us for a long time (very, very quickly, might I add). And after dinner, for the last time, Claire and I made one more journey to “Gelato Place.” We walked in, and the guy who had served us earlier (remember, people know us at this point) held up two fingers and looked incredulous. Two times in one day? Oui. Bien sur. I asked for one scoop, and was told, no, it was my last time, I must have two scoops. I hesitated, but agreed, and when I tried to pay for both scoops, they wouldn’t take it. When we left, they said with conviction, “See you next summer!”
     We ate our glace in Place Massena under the multi-colored, illuminated statues of Buddha-like men, thinking of things we would miss: gelato, public transport, eating tarts and pastries every day, speaking French to everyone, going out every night, making friends from all over the world, our favorite bars and bartenders, making day trips, taking the train, rose’, the guy who sang drink options on the beach, our host families, Vieux Nice, macarones… the list goes on.

Eze

Claire and I went to “le Wayne’s” last night expecting to meet some of our friends from school. Instead, we made some new friends who were part of the French Foreign Legion.

So, that was awesome. It was definitely one of the best nights we’ve had on the trip. Then today, we went to Eze.

I can say with a lot of confidence that Eze is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. Several times while I was there, I was almost frustrated while taking pictures, simply because I couldn’t completely capture how gorgeous it was, and because I couldn’t record all of the senses we were getting: the wonderful smells, the cool breeze, the panorama. Eze is on the sea, but it is perched high above it on rocky cliffs. We started our visit there by grabbing a focaccia legume (focaccia bread with olives and bell peppers… fantastic) and then climbing up into the ville and visiting the exotic gardens. The gardens had lots of cacti, and had cute poems scattered throughout. It also had the best panorama of the coast. You can admire the pictures, but understand that they just can’t show how gorgeous it really was…

Walking through the streets was really cool. The city is built into and on top of the rocks of the mountain. Some shops’ walls or ceilings were simply the mountain itself, and the streets were small and windy and made of stone. We saw some beautiful paintings as we walked around, and looked into the shops and tried on big sun hats and admired the buildings that were grown over with flowers.

After we perused the ancient city and visited a Baroque church, we made a tour of the Fragonard perfumery. There are two in Provence; the one in Grasse makes the perfume, and the one in Eze makes the soaps and cosmetics. They had some of their perfume-making equiptment set up, though, to show us how it works, and had built a model of the lab where the Nose works.

We learned about how they make perfume, watched them make soaps, did some smell testing, and sampled their products. And, of course, had a minute to shop. I just can’t describe how great it smelled there. Imagine the natural good smells of flowers and mountains that would be in the air anyway, then add to that the smells of expensive perfumes wafting through the air on the wind coming from Fragonard. As we approached, Claire and I passed a big lavender plant and grabbed a sprig that just made us melt. The conversation went like this:
Claire: I just want to eat it….!
Me: I just want to rub it on my skin so I smell like it.
Claire: I just want to rub it on my tongue…!!
I think we were a little too excited. Also because it was a taste of where we will be on Monday, touring the lavender fields of Provence outside Avignon.

Wow. I love you, Eze. The smell of perfume stayed in my nose for a little while, and my hands smelled like lavender for the rest of the day. It was perfect.

Life in Nice

We’ve had a couple nice, relaxing afternoon/evenings lately and took another excursion today.

I’ve realized recently that the ONLY thing I’ve spent money on is food, drinks, and travel/excursions (museums, churches, buses, trains). At home, I would be ashamed of all the treats and carbs I have been consuming lately- crepes, gelato, pastries, bread, nutella, Kinder, Orangina, Oasis-, but we walk so much I don’t care at all, not to mention the fact that I can’t get such delicious things at home.

Yesterday after school, we had a crepe and coffee lunch in Vieux Nice. I had a crepe with apricot that reminded me exactly of something I used to eat at my grandmother’s house, and a hazelnut coffee that was strong, strong, strong, and so yummy. We were also approached by a beggar in a wheelchair at this restaurant, whom we refused, and who then sat around at the cafe and ordered a beer and talked on a cell phone… yeah… As we left the area, we found a beautiful macaron stand and each got one. That is another one of my new favorite treats. Macarons. Mmm.

We also went to a movie yesterday and saw the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris, which was SO wonderful. I didn’t want it to be over when it ended. I sat there musing at how beautiful France was in the movie, then delighted myself by remembering that I’m in France, watching a movie about Paris. What a good feeling. The theater was also super nice, and very, very quiet; no popcorn smacking or pesky whispering. I think the four of us got a little more out of the movie as well because it was in English with French subtitles, and often we laughed when other people didn’t. Things get lost in translation, I suppose.

The movie ended and three of us ended up back in Vieux Nice sitting on a fountain with gelato.

Nicole made a great dinner, starting with fresh mozarella drizzled in olive oil and pepper, with an omelette made with lots of potatoes and other herbs.
Now, today began with a bus ride from hell that was long, stinky, nauseating, and involved me sitting in front of two people who couldn’t stop kissing each other, a guy who had the Black Lung, and then a girl who decided to listen to music from her phone but must have forgotten her headphones at home, or else she just thought everyone liked listening to French female pop stars.

But I recovered as we walked the streets of Antibes, which smelled so good, like fresh bread in some parts and flowers in others. We found another market (our new favorite thing) and one of the sellers let Claire and I taste test lots of different kinds of honey from the Provence region. There were macarons, soaps, flowers, etc. We walked down the streets that were filled with Artisan pastry stores and made mental note to stop on the way back. We were heading to the beach. Can’t have food babies at the beach… well, you can, actually, but we didn’t want to today.

Unlike the beaches here in Nice, Antibes had a sandy beach that was incredibly beautiful. We were there for hours. When standing on the wall near the beach, you could see straight through the water, as well as see the snow-capped Alpes in the background. The pictures hardly do it justice.

On the way back to the bus, we stopped at one of the pastry shops. I got a palmier, a chocolate eclair, and an apple tart. No, I didn’t eat them all at once. I have a happy little box in the fridge for later.

My evening was capped off with a shower and a nice repose on the couch watching the French Open, in French. The announcers are great and, without understanding everything they say, I can appreciate their enthusiasm. There was frequent expulsions of air into their mics, making a loud WWWOOOOSSSHHH sound when something great or bad happened, and a handful of “Oooh la la!!!”‘s (yes, they do say that here). I sat there giggling by myself just at the commentary.

There is a great band out in Place Massena right now that I am really enjoying through an open window. I love that this is my life right now.