I'm just a girl trying to have a cup of coffee all around the world. This is a blog about travel, expat life and our adventures living an international lifestyle, with two kids and a dog.

Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living Travel Blog

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Posts by Category: France

Adventure April 10, 2017 posted by

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!

This past winter while we were in the French Pyrenees for ski week I was offered a chance to participate in something called winter canyoning.  Without knowing exactly what winter canyoning meant, I jumped at the chance to experience another wild and crazy adventure!  This would be the perfect opportunity to use my new Tech 21 Evo Aqua waterproof iphone case, because if you don’t have photos –  then it never happened, right!?’

What is winter canyoning?

According to our hosts at Adventure Creators, winter canyoning is much more than the physical activity you’d think it might be. Here’s their description of the adventure that awaited us.

“The biggest challenge in winter canyoning is psychological. It is after all counter-intuitive to immerse yourself in freezing cold pools of mountain water and to ‘go swimming’ when there are icicles hanging off the rocks! The rivers also run fast in winter so security is taken seriously by your fully qualified and experienced guides. This is not an activity to be taken lightly. Your first plunge into the icy water will take your breath away, but you’ll soon find yourself jumping from icy ledges into deep rock pools, abseiling down icicle-edged waterfalls and sliding down natural toboggans into the chilly waters below. This is an exhilarating and intoxicating activity like no other.”

That description either excites you or frightens the hell out of you. I was excited. My husband not so much. So I went on this activity solo.


Suiting up for Winter Canyoning

The week we were visiting the Pyrenees, they were having a bit of a heat wave, so my winter canyoning experience turned out to be more like Spring canyoning! This was nice, because even I was a little nervous about “plunging into freezing water.” While wild activities are definitely my thing, I’m not a fan of being cold.

My guide and I hiked had about a 15 minute hike to the rivers edge with all of our gear, then once we arrived we then started suiting up! I was literally dressed in a wet suit onesie, my entire body was covered including my head, only my face was seen! I was given rubber boots, gloves for my hands a helmet and of course a safety harness. I also had a backpack for ropes, some other gear and a place to put any of my personal items. 

The top pocket of the backpack is where I put my iphone that was safely secure in the Tech 21 waterproof case. I was excited to get some photos and maybe even take some video without worrying about ruining my phone, because when we came to the first waterfall I knew everything was about to get wet! 


My guide went over all the gear and how to handle the ropes and made me feel very safe. This was not my first time waterfall rappelling so I knew a bit about how to make my descent and I think he was happy that I was not new at doing these types of activities. Before I headed down the waterfall, these were the last few words we said to each other….

Me: So am I connected to you the whole time!?

Patrice: No

Me: Am I connected to anything?

Patrice: No

Me: Okay, this should be fine.

We rappelled down three waterfalls and my guide was very patient with me stopping to take photos along the way. We were in a narrow canyon with huge rocks all around us, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the river was rushing at a nice comfortable speed. The biggest challenge was not the waterfall rappelling but actually climbing over some of the big boulders in the water. Many of them were slippery so watching your footing was important. 

When we got to the point where the canyon opened up a bit we took our first plunge into the water and let our bodies just float down stream. I giggled like a kid and tried to just lay back and relax. The backpack was actually great for balancing on, as I tilted my shoulders and head back it was like a pillow.

Meanwhile, my iphone was in that front pocket and fully submerged in water! We stopped a few times along our journey so I could take photos and even shoot some video. The Tech 21 Aqua waterproof case is a great case to have for any adventures where you are in or near water. I would suggest testing the case at home as the directions say. We had a small hiccup installing the case properly so we were glad we worked that out before I went out into the wild to use it. The photos and video using this waterproof case turned out great!

I could feel the water against my wet suit, but I wasn’t cold. The water was refreshing, and it felt so amazing to just be floating on my back, looking up at the blue sky, drifting along so freely.  We had to swim to the side from time to time, and climb over more rocks as we floated along. In one section, we literally body surfed down a mini waterfall that had our bodies bumping into rocks a bit. I giggled again because it felt as if we were like human bumper boats! Then the river opened up again into a calm flow, and so we floated freely again.

Once we reached a pretty shallow part of the river, Patrice turned to me and said “we get out here”. I was a little disappointed because I just didn’t want it to end!

I sat in the river for a few more minutes to really pause and take a mental picture. I looked back at where we had just come from, I looked around at all the natural beauty one last time, took a deep breathe and got to my feet as I exhaled. We made our way up the hillside and back to the truck where we took all our gear off and shockingly I was completely dry! 

Check out my video of Winter Canyoning in the French Pyrenees!

 

Disclosure: This is a post in partnership with Tech 21 and I worked with the Adventure Creators for my winter canyoning in the Pyrenees. My epic experience is all my own and I share this with you to help you get out and have your own epic experiences!

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!
Family April 5, 2017 posted by

Our weekend in Nice! (28 photos)

Barcelona to Nice!

Our weekend in Nice was not planned much in advance, but Harris’s cousin was going to be there for the weekend as part of her daughter’s French class trip to France, so we thought – hey why not!? This is why we love living in Barcelona, we can hop on a flight and be in another country by noon!  {the flight from Barcelona to Nice only took 50 minutes!} We took the kids out of school on Friday and we each packed a carry on and away we went!

Our weekend in Nice!

When we arrived we picked up our rental car and immediately drove to the city center of Nice to meet Hara at her hotel. Parking is a bit if a pain in Nice, good luck finding street parking, but there are plenty of under ground parking structures. We rented a car because we knew we wanted to drive out to Monaco and possibly explore a few of the smaller towns around Nice and we were not actually staying in Nice. We were staying in a town 15 miles outside of Nice called Vence. Why? Well, this was also a last minute trip, so I was having a hard time finding something that I liked and in budget, so we found Hotel Cantemerle which looked lovely and had an indoor and outdoor pool that we thought the kids might like. We were dragging them on another adventure, so we thought it might be nice for them to have a pool to jump in (more on this later).

*However, sitting in traffic trying to get out of Nice on a Friday night at 5:30pm to get to our hotel was a bit annoying and made me start regretting our decision to stay just outside of Nice.

Once we met up with Hara we started to explore Nice and look for a place for lunch and after wandering for a bit we found a great Italian restaurant, La Favola. I didn’t mean to go with Italian, but it looked good and was pretty busy, which is usually a good thing. The pizzas were huge and excellent. I had the homemade lasagna that literally came out in the pan that they cooked it in. Oh and we had a celebrity sighting! We’re 95% sure Helen Mirren was dining at the restaurant.


Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day so we walked along the promenade and made our way up to the #ilovenice sign to get a photo and from there we made the climb up to Castle Hill (Nice’s #1 attraction, but not in a bad way).

This was just what we needed after having all that Italian food! Walking up the stairs to the top of Castle Hill you will be able to get great views of the coastline and once at the top there is a fantastic park for the kids to run around and play.  On the other side of the park you’ll be able to see another side of Nice, the marina where all the boats, yachts are parked and where the cruise ships dock. We continued wandering around a bit and found some of the ruins of the Nice Castle that was once there. There are a few different routes to take to get down, but we decided to follow the closest path down and head in the general direction of the beach, because now we were on a mission for ice cream.

*This meant we missed seeing the cemetery, which looked really cool so if you have time try to check that out!



*I should mention that I did NO research whatsoever for this trip. Not one single google search, Pinterest or Instagram hashtag search. We were totally winging it and that felt good. There was no pressure to see or accomplish anything.

Photo credit to McKenna Fellman

We grabbed ice cream at Fenocchio (there are two locations) the one we went to had no line and then we walked to the square with the Cathedral of Sainte Réparate and the line was down the street!  We then wandered through the narrow streets and back passed the water fountains, known as Promenade du Paillon. If you are in Nice, this is very hard to miss and you shouldn’t! It is a beautiful promenade with synchronized fountains and if you continue past the fountains you will find a large grass area for lounging, some people were even having picnics. Keep going, because then you will arrive at a wonderful park with the most gorgeous wooden play structures for kids!  



This was the second time we passed the fountains and of course Hudson could not resist the second time, he wanted to run in! I said yes, but made him take off his socks and shoes. He ran through and got soaking wet. Ahhhh, the simple pleasures of being a kid. We made our way back to the hotel to drop Hara off, stopping in some shops along the way, then we grabbed our rental car and headed out to Vence to check into our hotel. We thought we would come back for dinner, but because of the traffic and it being a little further than we thought, we just stayed at our hotel to take advantage of the spa and have dinner there.


Hotel Cantemerle

We stayed at Hotel Cantemerle, a hotel that used to be an old farm house and was converted into a hotel that offers spa amenities and a award winning restaurant that has been recognized by the Michelin dining guide. As I said, this hotel is only 13 miles outside of Nice and about a 20 minute drive (without traffic) it’s also only about 15 minutes from the Nice airport. The hotel is situated on a hillside with nice views of the countryside. Our room was one of the loft style rooms so the king bed was upstairs open loft style, while there was a sitting area downstairs where they put an extra bed. The other bed was creatively put under the staircase, Hudson loved this! (He said “It’s like Harry Potter!”)

We had our own private patio that looked out to the pool and mountain views. The spa had a nice grass area with lounge chairs, a small indoor pool, sauna, shower and gym. The pool was actually not warm enough for me, so I was not able to enjoy going into the pool (I have a very high heat tolerance and I cannot stand being in even luke warm water). So I ended up going back to the room to take a scolding hot bath. Harris and the kids enjoyed the pool time though. The outdoor pool was not heated and it was not warm enough outside for the kids to go in. We were staying at this hotel pretty early in the season. The bath towels were the softest towels I’ve ever used, they were almost sponge like – they were amazing!!

We ate at the restaurant only the first night and dinner was good. It was a little hard to order for my daughter because she is vegetarian and doesn’t like any fish. We ended up ordering  her the vegetarian risotto dish (she’s never had risotto) and she liked it okay. My scallops were delicious and my son had a unique curry chicken dish that had candied cereal on top!  The restaurant was expensive, which we expected but what was shocking to even Harris were the $7 cokes!

The service at the hotel and restaurant was fantastic. I enjoyed having my morning coffee delivered and on our patio each morning (while I was still in my pajamas) looking out at the beautiful view. Which was a nice benefit of staying out at this little countryside hotel out of the busy city of Nice. However, I could have probably been just as happy at a french cafe with a cappuccino and croissant too. I liked this hotel and it’s a great option if you are visiting Nice, have a car and exploring the area for a few days. However, next time I might stay in Nice to see what that experience is like. 

Travel Tip: Vence is very close to the medieval town called Saint Paul de Vence – which you should totally check out! The French class group went and Hara said that this small village was VERY cool. Unfortunately, we did not make it here, because we explored some other villages in a different direction (more on this in another post!)  – and because of the rain we did not circle back to check it out 🙁 Next time. Saint Paul de Vence

A Great Day in Monaco

“Let’s go to Monaco and buy a $20 coke!” (said my husband after the $7 coke at our hotel)

I have always wanted to go to Monaco, it just seems like such a fairytale! It’s just one of those places that you see in the movies and wonder if it’s truly that special. Well, after seeing it at first sight and walking around for a bit, I can say –  that it really is THAT special. Everything was so pristine!!

Getting to Monaco took a bit longer than we expected – I think we may have missed a turn off so we ended up driving up a ways before we could turn around, then getting into Monaco was very windy, but as you can imagine the views as we started to see the gorgeous coastline and Monte Carlo! Once we were on the city streets things got very tight and a bit confusing as we were trying to get to the Palace of Monaco, we were confused on where to park. We saw people walking up a steep street along side what appeared to be the palace walls, but wasn’t sure if there was parking up at the top or if everyone had to walk up. We decided to drive up the steep hill, and luckily there was a entire parking structure for the Palace of Monaco, Saint Nicholas Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. (So feel free to drive up and park!)

Prince’s Palace of Monaco

Once you park you will easily navigate your way up to the Palace of Monaco walking right past Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the church where Grace Kelly was married to Prince Rainier III in 1956 (it was the first royal wedding to be broadcast live on TV!) It’s a beautiful church indeed, and has been so well kept that it almost looked new. I thought this side angle was more dramatic then the front. The entire Palace of Monaco grounds and small village streets perched high up on this hill all looked a little like a movie set.

*I was taken by this staircase that was on the street next to the church and loved how the white washed tile of the church looks in the background of this old staircase.

We continued through the narrow streets and within two minutes we found ourselves staring at the Palace of Monaco. We did not go in, but tours are available and you can get a combined ticket to see the Palace and the Oceanographic Museum as well. We ended up hanging out outside, taking in the views, wandering through the city streets and checking out the Palace gardens which overlook the ocean and Monte Carlo. To be honest, the palace itself wasn’t that exciting – it was very clean and crisp looking but I enjoyed all the other things around it more!

We then wandered down to the neighborhood just below the Palace and next to the port, this neighborhood is known as La Condamine. This area has gorgeous buildings down every street and has many restaurants and shopping. We ate at Royal Thai and it was very good and didn’t cost a huge fortune (5 people, with four glasses of wine and three desserts was $140 Euros.)

After lunch we started to walk to the fancy Monte Carlo Casino (because since we were here, we had to see it!) This is about a 15 minute walk but it started to rain, so we flagged down a cab and he took us literally about 5 blocks and it was $15! That’s Monaco. The casino lobby was pretty but – meh. It costs 10 Euros to go into the actual casino, and Hara and I weren’t feeling it so we looked around the lobby and then went to go find Harris and the kids. Kids are not allowed to even set foot in the lobby, you must be 18 years or older.

Casino Café Paris – Everyone was sitting outside on the patio of Casino Café Paris which is on the square right next to the Casino Monte Carlo, this is the prime spot to sit back and admire the Casino Monte Carlo, all the expensive cars and the crowds of people coming and going. So try to get a table on the patio to have your coffee and ice cream. They serve huge ice cream sundaes in giant martini glasses – but it’ll cost you about 35 Euros! Or just get an ice cream cone from popular English ice cream maker, Morelli’s that has a small stand right next to the patio and you can just stand to admire the view;)

Travel Tip: What we did not see, which would have been more interesting then the Casino was the Exotic Gardens. I saw Hara’s pictures and was a little bummed we missed this. But the rain also shortened our day a bit.

Monaco was stunning and almost like being in a European version of Pleasantville, everything was so clean! Our day was cloudy and interrupted by rain, so I can only imagine that on a clear sunny day this place must literally SPARKLE!  Being in Monaco for only about six hours I got enough of a taste that I truly want to go back to see and explore more!

Once back in Nice we met up with Hara’s daughters for a coffee and wandered the streets a bit more.  Then we headed back over to old town in search of a restaurant that was highly recommended, but first we stopped at the promenade again, because Hudson wanted to play at the park (as he should).

We got to Les Garçons (the boys) but unfortunately they were booked, it was a Saturday night after all, Bummer because this place looked great! I asked the guy what was the second best restaurant near by and he pointed us to a place past the church so we headed that way, however – we didn’t remember the name, but we stumbled upon a little alley with a few restaurants and chose La Maquis and it was fantastic! They actually had a dinner menu of the day with about four different options of starters, main course and a dessert all for 29 Euros!  We all ordered a little something different and everyones food was excellent and the desserts were insane!!


I have never had a raspberry tiramisu! Have you?

Okay so to wrap it up, because this post has become a mini novel. Let’s just say I LOVED Nice and Monaco! I need to go back. I will go back. What also made this weekend special was reconnecting with Hara and meeting her adorable daughters, it was fun having other people in the mix!

Our weekend in Nice! (28 photos)
Andrea January 31, 2017 posted by

Run The World: Chamonix, France


Running in Chamonix, France

We went to Chamonix, France for Christmas to go snowboarding, but unfortunately there was a real lack of snow. However, it actually made for better running conditions for me! Since I am training for the Barcelona Marathon, I was worried about getting some runs in on our winter vacation, but since we skipped snowboarding some days I was able to run. {Sorry that the snowboarding sucks kids – but mom’s going running, see ya!} 

For me, running is the best way for me to really take in my surroundings.  I’m not distracted by what is on the itinerary, finding directions to where we are going, keeping a time schedule or the kids! Even if you are not a runner, I highly encourage you to make time to find a trail, walking path or street that allows you to look a little closer at where you are. I always find something that stops me in my tracks, literally.  

There is a fantastic walking path that runs along the L’Arve River that gives you some stunning views of Mont Blanc.Even though the entire mountain was not covered in snow, it was still gorgeous!  Especially on my way back while I was cutting through what looked like a small golf course, the field just opened up, the clouds hugged the top of Mont Blanc showing the beautiful blue sky. This is why I run. To see the world.

Running Chamonix France

If you are wondering, (how did you know where to go?). I didn’t. I always just set off not knowing where I am going, that’s half the fun. Seriously. I’ll occasionally look on my map before I head out the door and know the general direction I want to go, but for the most part I do no research and sometimes maps end up confusing me more. In Chamonix, the river runs right through the middle of town, so I knew there had to be some sort of walking trail along the river, so I just followed the river. 

I also take pictures along the way, which is actually a safety measure, so if I get lost or turned around I can find my way back. I also have my Strava app running, so I can look at that map too. If you’re not as adventurous as me, I did find this resource that has a bunch of helpful maps of Chamonix, France which includes not only town maps but hiking trail maps, cross country skiing, mountain biking, and even winter hiking/snowshoe trail maps.

Here is just some of what I saw while running in Chamonix, France. 🙂


 

 

 


Get out there – you’ll see so much more!

Run The World: Chamonix, France