As I write Baboush, a cute gray cat that looks exactly like Gracie (Tatiana) is asleep by my side. I love it. I don't even know what we are doing today, lol, but everything on the to do list got done yesterday except for LAUNDRY. We went hiking in the mountains yesterday with Lisiane and Emilie, and oh my goodness it was wonderful and just absolutely breathtaking. I went hiking in my TOMS yesterday - and if you are thinking about doing the same one day, don't, lol. They held up pretty well though, but the mountains was filled with lots of sharp dried lavender and various prickly thorny things that just pricked their way right through the canvas and onto my feet. Ouchies.
Anyways, afterwards we drove to a little mountain town called Gourdon. On the drive we saw various parachutes and hang gliders in the air - I want skydiving round 2 right now, watch out. Gourdon was such a cute little village. I wish there was a way to record smell because even as we were driving through the mountains the smell of lavender filled the air, and in Gourdon the smell of their various "parfume" shops and scented candle shops filled the streets. Grasse is the perfume captial of the world, and with all the wild "lavande" everywhere I can definitely see why. We got nutella crepes and sodas at this little restaurant in Gourdon and then drove home. The drive home included a little stop at the boulangerie, which hey, I'm not complaining. Lisiane got us chocolate frosting covered merengue and this RICH chocolate tarte. We had a small little lunch of this awesome tuna salad, then ate the pastries. This wasn't too long after the crepes, and I think I really overdid it on the chocolate. Maybe the hike and everything combined...I dunno, but I got THE WORST headache of my lifetime and I think we safely concluded that it was definitely a migraine. It was that kind that didn't get better with time, but only got worse and worse and worse. Oh gosh, I felt like my head was going to spin off. We watched School of Rock that night with Emilie, and then got online to watch Status (at midnite for us, lol). It was so great to hear from my church community back home and to see familiar faces (great job singing Luke) and to just know what's going on back home. Josh preached an amazing sermon that I want to listen to again sans the worst migraine of my life. After "church" I spent about an hour laying on a futon, holding my head to ensure it wasn't going to spin off. Argh, so terrible. I don't know how I finally managed to get to sleep, but when I woke up this morning I STILL HAD A HEADACHE.
Friends, please pray pray pray for my body. Just for continued provision and healing in my back, my freaking lactose-intolerance (and my self-discipline with it), and my wisdom teeth, which are still coming in and is just a completely unnecessary pain that I don't have money to rid myself of (especially here in Europe). Pray for James as well when it comes to the wisdom teeth deal, as he's been having some trouble with his as well.
As a side note, I'm glad this all happened here, because Lisiane is so great and loves so well, it's overwhelming. It's nice and refreshing to just be taken care of for a change, to be mothered, and last night Lisiane made me tea for my stomach and in addition bought me all this goat milk and cheese when she found out I was lactose-intolerant. AND cleaned the random stain that got on my pretty beige coat AND feeds us and transports us everyday AND is just wonderful. James and I are both so grateful and overwhelmed. Pray that we can be blessings to her and Jack and their family as well.
Today we woke up at noon and then walked 50m down the street to a boulangerie. I got a Tarte aux Frambroise and James got baguettes and some pastries for the family. When we got home we ate a baguette and our pastries, but then less than an hour later Lisianne, James' uncle's wife, made us lunch. Chicken and corn and beans. Yummies. I can't believe I still had room to eat. I'm gaining weight here, I swear, even with all the walking. Then James played some piano while I slept on the couch and journaled in the room I'm staying. It was so beautiful. At around 5pm we finally got on with our day. Lol.
Today we checked out this little town called Valbonne. I want to live here - it was so cute. Trop petite though, so maybe it will just be my summer home.
Valbonne was about a 20minute walk down the road. The village was having a festival called Les Arts de Feu (Arts of Fire) and it was basically an amazing mediterranean pottery festival. So wonderful and amazing. We walked around and looked at all the artisans for a bit, and then we stumbled upon this amazing little store that sold ice cream. Tee hee. We shared a white chocolate ice cream cone and walked around this beautiful old town, sitting in people's doorways and playing with their cats. It was awesome. Then we found out they were having a circus act come through town tonight, so we decided to spend the night here. We shared a sandwich and then saw a crowd gathering in the street. Turns out it was this huge circus act with fire and they performed along a route that took us through the whole village. So it was like a parade/circus/fireworks show. I can't really explain it, but it was pretty awesome. Most of the dialogue was in French, so it was hard to understand, but something about escaped convicts needing to get through doors...I dunno.
After the show we went home and ate dinner...again lol, and watched a movie with Emilie, who is so wonderful. Tomorrow we are getting up early to go hiking in the mountains to look for mushrooms. And we desperately need to do laundry. My to do list for tomorrow: 1. Go hiking in the foothills of the French Alps 2. Do laundry 3. Eat a pastry 4. Have fun.
Yesterday we had a beach day in Cannes. It was so wonderful, quite the life. We realized since we've arrived on the French Riviera that we've seen the sunset everyday. It's a beautiful tradition. Yesterday and today were no different.
Beach day was really chill. All the fat French people live in Cannes, and like to get nakey at the beach. Twas lovely, lol. But other than day, awesome beach day. The Mediterranean is really chill, no waves whatsoever, but still enjoyable. Pics coming soon. After the beach we walked to the overlook in Cannes then walked around the downtown and you guessed it, got ice cream. Then we went home and watched a movie, as ritual.
Today we went to Nice, but not before spending a TEENSY (I wish it were more) amoutn of time in Valbonne, an itty bitty town near here that is just EVERYTHING YOU THINK OF when you think of quaint French Riviera. They were having a huge market and I wish we could've stayed longer, but we had to catch our bus into Nice. Got to Nice for lunch, which was amazing. We indulged in a pastry, ice cream, then a pastry to go afterwards, and then walked up to the Chateua, which is on a cliff and offers an amazing overlook of Nice. After just sitting and watching and talking for like two hours we went to the beach and literally just laid there, James went swimming a bit, I forgot my suit, and then we walked through downtown Nice, got a little lost, and then found Gare Routeire, our bus station.
They feed us so well here, Jack's wife is an amazing cook. Tomorrow I think we're going back to Valbonne and then we're gonna go hiking in the mountains to look for mushrooms. Life is slow and grand.
Yesterday we got to go to Nice. I had the most amazing/hard/crazy morning with Jesus. It was beautiful to just sit in my room here and look out over the French Alps and just pray and listen to Sleeping at Last's newest album and just let Jesus invade. If you would like to pray for me I would just ask that you would pray for the Holy Spirit to invade me powerfully and allow me to love and live out of His power. Also, that I would claim truth over myself and my life, the truth about God's promises and the truth about who He says I am. I'm learning a lot, but that doesn't mean it's not hard and heartbreaking.
After my intense morning I got to eat "dejeuner" with everyone here, which was lovely. We then left with Emilie, the twelve year granddaughter of Lisiane with whom I currently share a bed with, and Lisiane took us to Nice.
The drive in again was just wonderful. The French riveria just passing by...so unreal. Nice was just gorgeous. We got there around 3:30 and had to take the 8:30 bus back, so we didn't get a lot of time, but we just walked around Vieux Nice (thanks Mr. Tilley for the recommendation) and walked along all the backstreets and alleys of shop upon shop and smelled every piece of soap or lavender we could get out hands on! It was great. Not to mention, we got pastries of course. Lol. Hanging out with Emilie was great, she is very limited in English because she's just learning it now, so James and I basically spent the whole day in French. It was exhausting but really great practice, and Emilie is so nice and cute.
After walking around we decided to go to the beach, so went to the Quai des Etas-Unis, which was kind of ironic, and got ice cream cones and sat on the strange PEBBLE beach and watch the sunset. Second day in a row that James and I did this, and it was awesome! We skipped stones into the ocean and put our feet in. Then we walked back to the bus station, Gare Routiere, and naturally couldn't help ourselves from stopping and getting "crepes avec nutella et banane". :) This crepe was like the best one I think James and I have had all trip.
We took the bus home, which was a little crazy going through the windy mountains. We were sitting in the very back and I actually got pretty motion sick by the end of the trip. But soon enough we were home and eating dinner and going to bed. Twas a lovely day, and it was also the day that marks exactly 4 weeks of travel for James and I.
I can hardly believe it. I'm still in awe that this is my life. I'm listening to Zach Williams as I type this, windows open to the French Alps, and pondering what I'll wear today for our beach day in Nice. How is this my life? Jesus is too good to bless me this way. And praise Him James and I haven't killed each other yet, lol.
Before we arrived in Antibes (I just recently learned that where we are is actually, technically, Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, lol I don't even know where I am) Jack, James' uncle, said that it was raining pretty consistently in this region. But today was the most beautiful perfect and GORGEOUS day.
We caught a ride into Cannes and even just the drive in was gorgeous. Once we got in we went to the Office du Tourisme where we got a map. We spent today scouting and walking around the Old Town. From where we are staying in Grasse its a one euro bus ride in, which is awesome, so we knew we'd be back in this city. After walking through the shopping district (filled with TACKY old, rich people) we got a pastry from a boulangerie and walked to the Palais where the Cannes Film Festival is held. It's actually kind of ugly lol. The next parts we saw were pretty though. We walked up to this old church and saw the overlook of Cannes which was just lovely. Then we walked down through the harbor and saw yacht and yacht that we could never in a lifetime afford - it was just crazy! After walking along the harbor we ended up on the beach. We got to play and climb around on the huge boulders there and finally just layed out on one to watch the sunset, which was gorgeous. Afterwards we got ice cream cones (I indulged) and walked back through the city, where we caught our bus and went home.
Hmm so yesterday was the perfect last day in Paris.
We woke up and had a great morning with CSers, then left to go to Gare de Lyon and figure out train stuff. We found out a train we feared would cost E40 only cost E4 for BOTH OF US! So great, only it left at 9:06 pm and got into Antibes (a suburb of Nice, where James' uncle lives) at 8:30am. Can we say ELEVEN HOUR TRAIN without a couchette or sleeper?!?
After that we went to the Louvre because we heard a rumor that it would be free, which was false but okay because hey we just walked around the Louvre. After realizing it was about 3:30 and we would have time to actually catch the free organ recital at Notre Dame at 4:30 we hopped on the metro and went. It was awesome. i can't believe my ears have heard sounds that Napoleon probably heard. Not to mention so many other famous and important, world changing, people in history. I closed my eyes and let the beautiful music invade, and when I opened my eyes it was literally breathtaking what I saw in the cathedral, the light and windows all combined. Truly amazing.
After the concert we walked along the back in the park where there was a mini artist market going on with painters and musicians and singers. As we were walking back along the Seine the bells of Notre Dame rang for like 15 minutes - it was so gorgeous. Then we saw that there was a "Best of the Southwest" festival happening on the other side of the Seine so we went to check it out.
It was a great little festival with a band and an awesome southwestern percussion group. In addition there was free wine tasting (yum) and many other crafts and food vendors. We got duck sandwiches and ate them on the edge of the Seine while listening to the percussionists. Before heading home we got a cheap bottle of some pretty good rose wine (yum!) and decided to walk through the Latin Quarter to get to the Metro. On our way through we were intrigued by a South Tunisian patisserie, so we stopped and decided to get something. And, I wanted a Magnum bar. Lol.
Well, the South Tunisian pastry sucked, but the White Chocolate filled with Vanilla bean Magnum bar was UH-MAZE-ING.
However, by the time we got on the metro we realized it was WAYYY later then it was supposed to be if we were going to make our train at 9pm. By the time we took the metro back to La Defense and got back to Jessica's apartment it was 8:00.
When we left Jessica's apartment it was 8:15. EIGHT FIFTEEN folks and we had a train at 9:06 AND we had two metro changes ahead of us. We were literally RUNNING through the metro stations. By the time we had made our last connection and gotten on the train that would take us to Gare d'Austerlitz, our train station, I think the clock said 8:50.
After running down the hall, lifting all of our crap up three flights of stairs (you'd figure they'd have escalators at a TRAIN STATION?!?) and running to the WRONG end of the train line up (gate 16 as opposed to 1, where we were supposed to be) PRAISE JESUS because we finally made our train.
By the time James and I sat down and had our stuff away, I think the train had already started moving.
We were THAT CLOSE.
But the train ride was great and not very full, so we were able to lay out and go to bed. By the time I woke up I was able to see the sunrise over the southern coast of France, somewhere near Cannes. It was just gorgeous. Getting into Antibes was easy and James' uncle and his wife and family have been so kind. No one really speaks English here save James' uncle, so we've HAD to use our French, which has been frustrating (cause I suck!) but really great.
When we got to his home we just took naps, then woke up in time to watch the sunset over the mountains. Absolutely gorgeous. Tonight Jack's wife made us an awesome dinner of soup and bread and salad and fruit. I loved it. Tomorrow I think we are going to take a bus (hopefully for 1 euro!) to Cannes and check stuff out. I think James and I just gonna watch a movie tonight then get some sleep.
Life in Paris has been insane the past couple days. I am get excited even thinking about writing this post. Ahh!
Last I left you, James and I were couch surfing with Jessica, which was such an awesome experience. Well that next morning James and I had a really slow morning and then went into the centre of Paris (since La Defense is in Zone 3) around like 2, lol. We were going to go to the Catacombs with some girls from Montreal that we were surfing with, but turned out the catacombs were closed because someone had vandalized it. It was sad, but we'll be back in Paris.
So James and I left the Canadians, who decided to go to the Louvre gardens instead, and just got lost walking around the Denfert-Rochereau area, which was really beautiful. We spent a while looking for a boulangerie but stumbled upon worlds most awesome (altho expensive) vinyl store called Crazy Rock Circus. It was neat to know that middle-aged French men into good rock music look just the same as middle-aged rockstars everywhere; long hair in ponytail, jeans, quintessential button up...Lenin glasses (that are now reading glasses) and that "Yeah man they rock" way of talking...you know what I mean. :)
We left Crazy Rock Circus and finally found a bunch of boulangerie's where we got our pastries, and then left to go move from Jessica's apartment (we'd spent our max of three nights there) to Mario's apt. The move was easy because it was still in Courbevoie, just a mile away down the street.
Mario's place was awesome and in an Aparthotel just under the Grande Arche, a great accommodation. But even better than that, was Mario.
Mario is in his late twenties and actually wasn't French, but was Italian from a small town just outside of Florence. He was going to school for cinema and additionally also worked for a small independent film company in Paris (how do we keep meeting flim people here?!?). However, Mario actually didn't like French people and was leaving to live in Valencia, Spain the very next day. We would only stay with him for a night.
Mario was really sweet and accommodating, but even more than that, he was a captivating conversationalist. Within ten minutes of us being there he was asking James about his Couch Surfing profile and what he meant when he wrote that "he lived for and loved Jesus".
For the next hour we got to share the gospel with Mario and talk about what it looked like for us to walk with God. Mario was raised Catholic, like a typical Italian, but in his twenties has since become skeptical and has converted to agnosticism, like a typical Italian. He believes in a great energy that interconnects everything... but not much more.
He asked us questions like "What do you mean you can talk to God without a priest? How do you talk to God?" and "Why do some people believe the Eucharist is the real body of Christ and others believe it's just bread? And if they can't agree on that why is anything else true and not just ritual?"
Because I grew up Catholic he also asked me what is was like to profess belief in something then completely change to something else, and how I dealt with knowing that I used to believe something different before.
It was a really engaging conversation. James shared stories and examples from the Bible and we both shared our hearts and painted him a picture of what our relationship with God looked like.
At the end of the conversation we had to go meet with another couchsurfer and bring him back to the apartment, but Mario thanked us sincerely for talking with him because he said there weren't a lot of people in Paris that he could talk to about religion (which breaks my heart.) We thanked him for talking with us and for his honesty and good conversation. It ended simply, but I know the conversation's not truly over and that James and I are both committing to pray for him.
Please join us in prayer for Mario as well. He is searching and I am confident that those who seek truth will find it.
As a sweet side note: by the time James and I are in Barcelona, Mario will already be living in Valencia and he said he would love to join us in Barcelona and play with us while we are there (so Sarah, maybe you will meet him!). So pray that we can talk more when we meet again.
After meeting up with Robert from Prague we all went to the Eiffel Tower for a bit. Then Mario made us dinner at his aparthotel. Sleep came easy.
The next day....oh the next day...
The next day was day #24 of our travels, which if you know anything about me you know that this day was my day (cuz it's my favorite number). So James declared it would be a day of pattiseries and ice cream and tartes and cheese and pizza and all the good and lovely things that I love but my body decided it doesn't like to eat. And rose wine, my fav, and picnicking, my fav.
That day we were also unsure of where we were sleeping that night, since Mario could only host us for a night since he was moving to Valencia, so after posting on Emergency Couch Surfing, we decided to just sit somewhere pretty for a bit and then periodically check CS at an internet cafe. James declared that it would be "Homeless day" lol. If our lives were movies we would call this "foreshadowing" lol.
We couldn't think of any place prettier to picnic than the Champ de Mars, the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, so luggage and everything in tow, we found ourselves a little piece of lawn and just sprawled out.
We started the day with our favorite pastries and a baguette and butter and jam that would fill us for lunch. A little after lunch we each had a Magnum bar, which I have craved since I left Asia, and America sadly is without, and finally around sunset, after napping and eating and reading and writing all day, we left to look for an Internet cafe.
Oddly enough we couldn't find an internet cafe anywhere, and the one's we found were closed already, so, frustrated and hungry, we decided to just go eat and figure it out later. We found this cute little Italian restaurant in the Dupleix area around Tour Eiffel that advertised PIZZA (which would of course be dinner on day #24) and ate the most amazing four cheese pizza ever, afterwards indulging in some really great tiramisu.
There was a hotel across the street from our restaurant that sold their WIFI for E6 a half hour, which was an outrageous price, but we didn't have another choice. Towards the end of dinner I made a joke that "if we didn't find housing tonight we could always just find the prettiest place in Paris and hang out there all night" but James' demeanor went serious after I said it and he challenged me to forget spending money on internet and to just do it.
And if you know me and challenges...
An hour later, rose wine and baguette in tow, we ended up on the same spot on the Champ de Mars as we had been in all day, except now fire twirling and breathing gypsies had joined us along with French young people and a couple American foreign exchange students.
We drank, we ate, we watched Jim Gaffigan...
The gypsies spent the night as well, after their fire show extravaganzas, and it was nice to not be the only ones alone on the lawn.
We put on layers of clothes and went to bed around 3am. I woke up at 5:30, having to go to the restroom. As I did so I could hardly believe what my eyes beheld: dewy grass...shift...starry sky...shift Tour Eiffel. The bathroom was on the road on the other side so I had to walk through the park, under the Eiffel Tower, then along the Seine. Poor me. Being homeless. :)
Yes, we are a bit crazy, but I'm so glad we did it. We went to a boulangerie for breakfast after walking to Trocadero to watch the sunrise over the Tour Eiffel. After breakfast we went to an internet cafe where we found out we still had no housing. I reposted and we decided today we would live in the Tuilleries, so off we went and after some time hanging out in the Tuilleries listening to music and reading, we went to Avenue de L'Opera where we found internet and a home...back at Jessica's!
It was so sweet to come back here and stay with friends and fellow couch surfers. We made an amazing Thai meal together that a fellow surfer from Indonesia cooked for us, and then gathered around to listen to James play. In the middle of his playing a streetperformer James and I recognized from Montemartre walked in, and we laughed about how random it all was that we had seen him on the street singing and how we were now couch surfing together. Life is just crazy like that. They each played us some music, some originals, some covers, and after rounding out the night with the best tea and wine ever, we crashed.
Oh how I love my life.
Today I think we are going to the Louvre for free then exploring the Marche aux Puces (flea market) in Saint-Ouen. Then perhaps an organ recital at Notre Dame and then overnight train to Nice.
*These pictures are a bit old, but I don't think I've posted them yet.*
I want everyone to go to this website and experience a part of couch surfing, whether it be hosting, surfing, or just making friends through meeting someone for coffee. It really is such a wonderful thing with such a great heart and such rewarding benefits.
James and I are staying in an apartment about a 20 min metro ride outside of Paris at the Grand Arche at La Defense, which is the "other arch" that you can see from the Arc de Triomphe. We are in our new CS friend Jessica's apartment, and though we stayed by ourselves last night, tonight we are with a musical pair from LA and two best friends from Montreal.
Last night Jessica made us an awesome dinner of beans and ham, quiche, tirimisu, and we ended the night with some good conversation and good tea.
Oh and a mini James Roquemore concert. No big. :)
This was after the most lovely day that James and I had of doing groceries then "stopping" in Montemarte before shopping at Montparnasse, but really just getting lost in Montemartre and never making it to shopping. Twas a good trade off for sure. (Montemartre is the tallest point in Paris and is also where the movie Amelie was made).
So it was such a lovely day. Love love love. I love this city, I love these people, I love couch surfing.
Today will perhaps be shopping day and then we meet with my friend Kasia's best friend Ania for dinner. I met Kasia through hosting her couch surfing in Orlando, she's from Poland, but her best friend is studying in Paris right now so we will meet! Then when were are in Paris again at the end of October we will meet with Kasia who will be visiting Ania and us at the time.