Sunday, 12 July 2009

Family Visit: France, Spain, & Italy

Well, it was summer in Europe, my graduation was just finished and my family was here to visit. Therefore, I decided to take them around a bit, to show them just what I was experiencing for these past two years.

First off was sunny, high-quality-of-life Provence itself. Most people wait and entire lifetime to come here to retire and enjoy their lives, in the southern French-Aixois countryside [paysages axois]. I however, had the opportunity to come here way ahead of my time, and thus, I wanted them to feel and see it as I did, and not as a tourist would.

After Provence, we ventured outward to the two other major "club-med" countries: Spain & Italy. I figured that they came all the way across the world, they might as well see a bit more than France, and a bit more of Europe. Our experiences are briefly highlighted below [mostly because I do not have time to blog each detail as an individual post and because I have visited and blogged about these places before].

Family-Visit Trip-Overview:
[click on the bolded-italicised-title-links for more pictures]

  • Provence:
    • 194 Aix-en-Provence: The city of 100 fountains, I had to show my family this charming little city where I studied and lived in for the past year, and the difference from an overrated city such as Paris. We visited the city, the fountains, the sites, the historic architecture, the bars where they served beer with sweet strawberry syrups, and the Kebab place [a type of food very generic in Europe but overrated, rare, and expensive in Trinidad].
    • 356 Cassis: How could anyone come to France and not see the beautiful turquoise-blue Côte d'Azur waters of Cassis [Read More]!? So I took them here, since it was a "do-not-miss" attraction in the south, a perfect exemplar of one of the [unofficially-publicly-nude] beaches of southern France. We were fortunate to see the traditional French market in the morning and afterwards to get tanned-black by the scorching sun and then cooled down by the crystal-clear waters.
    • IMG_0078 Gorges du Verdon: this has to be one of the most gorgeous sites [get it gorge – gorgeous?] that I have ever seen in France, in Europe, and in my Life, Seriously! I have never been here before, and George was organising a trip to the Gorges du Verdon [Read More], Moustiers Village and the Lavender fields, so I decided to kill 3 birds with 1 stone and 100 Euros [25 per person] to see it. It was more than worth it. Since we visited the most impressive part of the gorge [where the river has cut a ravine up to 700 metres down through the limestone mass]. Once there, it was necessary to rent some pedal-boats [for a fair price] in order to be fully immersed in the gorge and to get the best views and have the most fun possible. While pedalling, each of us took turns to jump off and into the warm summer turquoise-green fresh waters of the gorge [except my mom of course who is scared of water]. My dad on the other hand was the opposite, he just had to climb up to the waterfall to take a bath under it – little did he know how freezing it was. I cannot write anymore, since words cannot depict, as much as pictures, what we saw and experienced.
    • IMG_0191 Moustiers Village: After the Gorge, we visited one of the towns, which surrounds it [at the western entrance]: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, or simply Moustiers has been a centre of the pottery trade, especially faïence, for centuries. The village clings a hundred or so meters up the side of a limestone cliff. A spring flows out of the cliff, creating a waterfall directly out of the centre of town. Above the town, a star hangs on a 225m long chain suspended between two cliffs. According to legend, during the Crusades a knight of Blacas held prisoner by the Saracens vowed to hang a star over the village on his return. The star has been replaced several times over the centuries because it ages and occasionally falls. This was just the typical type of French [Provençial] village that I wanted my family to see.
    • IMG_0254 Lavender Fields: After the somewhat magical village, we continued on to witness something I missed the last time I was here, and something that happens only at a certain time each year: the Lavender Fields. At first, I was sceptical, wondering why this has been made so touristic in this region, but then we saw it: fields and hectares all bright-purple with lavender, and the sent extremely concentrated and delightfully fragrant. It seemed that no processing was needed, you pick a branch and it smelled as if you opened a bottle of lavender perfume. At one moment, we even saw one side of the road completely purple with lavender flowers and the other completely yellow with sunflowers: amazing! Again, only pictures can tell, however in reality it seems much more vibrant, I think our eyes have a much higher resolution than a camera.
    • IMG_0251 Marseille: Monté Cristo Island: I wanted them also to see Marseille, since it is such an essential aspect of the culture of the south, a must-see. It was more to compare it to some parts of Trinidad actually. However, more interesting was the historical tour of the prison [Château d'If] of the Count of Monté Cristo on the island of "If", and the hike and refreshing swim on the islands of "Frioul". We got there by boat, and it was indeed and still is my most spectacular site to see "in" Marseille.
    • IMG_0523Lambesc Vineyards: They could not have come here either and not go to a vineyard. My dad of course wanted to do this, so we went to the small village of Lambesc [Read More], not far from Aix, to taste and buy some good wine.

Alas, we parted with Provence, and went on to explore some more of the southern-European Mediterranean-paradises. It was a quite tiring 2-days-per-city crash-course, but it was required for them to make the most of their trip here.

I think they enjoyed it, there always another time to see more I guess…

For pictures, please see:

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