Today is a landmark day!
3 months ago today, I came to with my host family. That's 3 months of not completely understanding what's going on, going to bed early because I'm so exhausted from trying to comprehend another language, and actually getting up in the morning to eat breakfast and take a shower (because I actually have time to sleep here!). But most of all, it's been 3 amazing months of learning about Belgian and Luxembourgish culture and French language with the help of this wonderful family.
As a slightly less impressive landmark (but a pretty darn awesome one), it is just over two weeks since I returned from a week in Italy and the south of France with my host mother and sisters. We left for Italy on Saturday, October 30, at 6:oo in the morning. We first drove from our village in Luxembourg, and then through Belgium to France. We stopped at a bakery in France to buy breakfast, so we had fresh croissants and baguette with (of course) Nutella for my host sisters. I ate my croissants plain. They were far too delicious to eat with anything on them. My sisters slept through most of France, but I stayed awake and watched the sun rise through the window. After France was Switzerland, which I learned is not part of the European Union. Switzerland had a lot of tunnels, so I wasn't always able to see the landscape. But when I could, it was striking. I'm pretty sure I had my mouth hanging open all the way through the Alps. My first reaction when I saw them was simply "But they're so tall!" Unfortunately, I don't have any great pictures of the mountains, but here's one I took from the car:
And here's one I took at a rest stop:
I'm glad I got to see Switzerland. I loved the mountains and I was lucky to have the sun to light the snow-capped peaks, but other than at the location of this photograph, we didn't stop at all (but that's fine-it just means I'll have to go back someday).
Anyway, we continued on to Italy.
After 12 hours and 5 countries since our departure, we arrived in Florence. We spent about 45 minutes trying to find the villa before finally calling...only to find out that nobody spoke French. However, they did speak English, and since we happened to have a fluent English speaker in the car, we were all set. A few minutes later, we were driving through the gate and on to the wooded path that led to the villa. Here's a picture of the villa during the day:
Unfortunately, although it looks beautiful, our room was not clean and had terrible lighting. But we didn't spend much time in it, anyway. We spent our first day walking around Florence, despite the rain.
It was October 31st, so it was nice to see a little Halloween spirit (even if it was only in a bakery).
The second day, we visited Volterra and San Gimingano, two walled cities. The view of the Tuscan countryside from each city was breathtaking. I had some cheeseless pizza in Volterra (a bit of a misunderstanding with the Italian menu, but it was delicious all the same) and my first Italian ice cream in San Gimingano. Hazlenut. Mmmmm.
The third day, we went to Pisa. I didn't climb the leaning tower, but certainly took enough pictures. It was finally sunny...and I'm glad, because Pisa is gorgeous. I especially liked the multicolored facades of the houses and shops that lined the river.
We spent our fourth and final day in Florence. It rained a bit, but it was sunny for the most part. The city looks so different in the sun. For one thing, you can actually look up without the risk of getting a faceful of water or getting hit by someone's umbrella. There are more merchants in the streets (though most of them did brave the rain, as well).
And then we were off to France. On the way, we stopped in Monaco and spent two hours walking around. We saw the casino, way too many yachts, and the palace. I think we worked of some of the Italian pasta walking up and down the hills...
Our next stop was St-Tropez, a tourist town on the Mediterranean. There aren't so many tourists at this time of year, so a lot of the stores were closed. But I put my feet in the sea (yes, it was warm enough). And later in the afternoon, we went to a beach for a few hours to wade in the sea. Victoria even put on a scarf as a miniskirt so she could wade further. The temperature was perfect.
After the beach, we drove to a very small town near Uzes, France to spend the night. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, but we were able to eat supper there as well, which was great since we arrived fairly late. And we had the best supper...it was just the four of us and an older couple at the house, as well as the owner, but we ate extremely well. We had ravioli as a first course, fish as a second, then beef cheeks (yes, really, and they were absolutely delicious) with mashed potatoes, and, of course, a lot of wine. Dessert was tiramisu with raspberries, and then we had tea later on. The owner was extremely entertaining. His English was very good, so he spoke a little with me. It was really funny, because he kept mixing the French and English. He would say half a sentence in one language, and then switch, and then switch back again.
The next morning, we had a breakfast that was almost as delicious as supper the night before, and then we went to the market in Uzes. And then...we started the six hour trip home.
That evening, Flo and I made dinner...little baguette toasts with some pesto and parmesan we bought in Florence. It was a nice way to end the week.
I seem to talk about food a lot, so I hope you're all hungry now :)
Oh! And if you'd like to see all the pictures from my trip, you can click on this link for the first album:
Italy, with a touch of Switzerland
and this one for the second:
Italy and the sea