Friday, July 30, 2010

French Riviera: Our Beach Weekend in Nice

The beach!

Our private beach :)


Lunch by the beach

Finally back in the (warm) ocean!

Last weekend we decided to get out of of town and headed to the beautiful southern coast of Franc, our destination: Nice!

We had a fantastic time sun-bathing for two days on the Mediterranean. We arrived late on Friday night and hit the beach early on Saturday morning. All of Nice's beaches are rocky, so the private beaches offer (for a fee!) the option to rent a lounge chair and umbrella. I was very thankful for this, as the rocks hurt my feet! (I highly recommend water shoes!) We spent our first day at the "Neptune Plage." Saturday night, we walked around the pedestrian zone for a couple of hours checking out the shops before dinner. We had an excellent seafood dinner at Boccocaccio. I had fresh oysters and scallops and Mark ate a delicious soy-infused swordfish, yum!

Since we enjoyed the beach so much, we headed back again for more sun on Sunday! We picked a different beach this time, and ended up at "Hi Beach." We had a fun lunch by the beach there and enjoyed a cocktail before having to shower and head to the airport. Nice is an absolutely gorgeous location and Mark and I agreed that we will have to escape there for more fun in the sun more often!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Athletissima '10

The field

Runners in action

The High Jump!

Usain Bolt after his win in the 100m sprint


The venue: Stade Olympique

Fireworks after the meet

In early July, I attended the annual Athletissima track and field meet in Lausanne. This is a huge track and field meet where the top competitors in track, long jump, high jump and the javelin throw come to compete. As an avid runner (and fan of other runners!), I have always wanted to experience a live track and field meet. It is a popular sport in Europe and a huge crowd turned out for the Lausanne meet (it took us 2 hours to get back to Lausanne after work that day!)

We are lucky to have the venue for this event, le Stade Olympique, located on the same street as us! Once we made it home from work, I did a quick change and then walked half a block up the hill to the entrance. The only tickets left were for the jam-packed "cheap-seats!" (they must have sold more tickets than seats, because it was standing room only), but I still had fun! It was inspiring to watch the athletes in action. (Check out my video below!) The most well-known athlete in attendance was Usain Bolt, from Jamaica, who competed in the 100 meter sprint. He is famous for setting the World Record of 9.58 seconds in 2009 at the Berlin Championships. He set a meet record this year in Lausanne with a time of 9.82 seconds....awesome! The field events were incredible as well, as the athletes jumped high, long and threw far to try and make it on top of the podium!

I left just as the last race was finishing and walked back to our apartment. Just after I got home, I heard booming sounds coming from the Stade Olympique and I raced to the window to catch the fireworks show that was directly over our apartment building! I had no idea there was a fireworks display at the end, but luckily we were privy to a front row seat since all we had to do was open the bedroom window to see it! It was a fantastic event and I definitely plan on going back next year.

1 Year Swiss Anniversary!

Mark and I celebrated our 1 year Swiss anniversary on June 25th (we had a toast to it on our cruise)! It was one year ago on that day that our plane touched down in Switzerland and we started a new chapter in our lives. Looking back over the past 12 months, I can't believe how time has flown. There were a lot of ups and downs, but I can say there were no moments of regret. Moving abroad, especially to a country with a different language, has thrown us a lot of curve balls, but I think we have learned a lot from our experiences...and have a lot more to learn!

Life in Switzerland has taught us a lot: learning French, use of public transportation...yes, I can say we have run for a lot of buses and trains!, no shopping on Sundays, living on cheese and chocolate, and so much more. Yes, there are days of frustration when lack of communication can be a real issue, but life goes on. We have slowly started to acclimate ourselves to the European lifestyle and continue to do so (or at least try!) everyday.

One of the things I feel so lucky about is the amount of travel that we have gotten to do in just one year. In that time period, we have experienced London and Paris twice, the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Italian island of Sicily, snowboarding in the Swiss Alps and so much more!

So here's to our Swiss Year #2...may it bring us many more grand adventures!

Arctic Circle Cruise Days 10-12: Olden, Bergen & back to Amsterdam!

On our way to the glacier

More beautiful waterfalls

The glacier!

Caught in the act of taking a video!

On Day 10 we arrived in the town of Olden, and I was finally feeling back to my old self! After lunch, Mark, Jeff and I headed to shore for our afternoon excursion to hike to the Briksdalen Glacier. A bus drove us for about half an hour to the start of the hike. From there, it was a self-guided walk up the mountain to the national park which is home to the glacier. It was my first experience to see a glacier and it was spectacular! There was some heavy cloud cover at the top of it, but we could see the lower portion and we saw it calf once, which is when a piece of ice breaks loose. It makes a huge thundering noise and is an awesome sight!

Pulling into Bergen's port

Beautiful day on the pier

Yes, that's whale! Norway allows the legal hunting of whales

Crazy seafood sandwiches

Great fish market!

A ride up the funicular provided some awesome views of Bergen

A "birds-eye" view!

Day 11 brought us into the town of Bergen. I had a great time in this port! Mark's mom Anne, his Aunt Sue and I spent the morning checking out the beautiful harbor area, popping in and out of the shops and wandering through the amazing fish market. It was fun to see all of the sea food, fresh from the sea, stuffed into the sandwiches! We made our way to the funicular and rode our way up the hill to take in the fantastic views over the city. We bumped into Mark and his dad Jeff at the top, who had just finished their morning hike excursion. The five of us then headed back to the ship for lunch and some downtime. Later in the day, I enjoyed a fabulous spa afternoon on the ship and then had a fantastic dinner with the rest of the family at the Italian restaurant on board the ship.

Entertaining ourselves in the arcade

Hangin' out at the gelato bar

Our last sunset

Day 12, our final day on the cruise was spent on board the ship sailing back to Amsterdam. Mark and I had a very entertaining afternoon playing in the arcade and eating ice cream at the gelato bar! It was a bittersweet dinner, knowing that we were departing the next morning and had to say good-bye to Mark's family. The night was topped off by a spectacular sunset (one of the few we saw during the cruise!). We were lucky enough to experience this beautiful country and will look back on our time in Norway with fond memories!

Where we'll head to next, we don't yet know! Stay tuned to find out!

Arctic Circle Cruise Days 7-9: Molde & Geiranger

View over Molde

Day 7 was an another "at-sea day and we arrived in the town of Molde, known as the "city of roses" early in the morning of Day 8. Unfortunately, the norovirus hit me on night 6 of the cruise so I was down for the count for this part of the trip. Luckily, Mark took over camera duties! We didn't have any excursions planned for this town, so Mark and his dad Jeff decided to head off for a hike, and Anne and Sue went for a walk in town.

Beautiful Geiranger fjord

Seven Sisters Waterfall

Beautiful waterfall rainbow

Kayaking around the fjord!

Day 9 brought us to the town of Geiranger which sits in one of Norway's most famous fjords. Its beautiful waterfalls are a sight to be seen! The Seven Sisters waterfall spills hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from 5,000 feet. Mark and Jeff went on a morning excursion to check out the waterfalls in an RIB and again in the afternoon in a double kayak! In the evening, our whole party gathered up on the top deck of the ship to view the waterfalls up close as we departed the fjord.