One Week in Provence

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You may have remembered that I mentioned earlier in the spring that my sister and brother-in-law would be living in Geneva for the summer while she finished up her master’s degree. I’m happy, so pleased really, to report that her master’s is completely finished, which comes as a tremendous relief, I know. But, it’s also such a shame because it means she and her husband are no longer in Switzerland and I’m left moping about wondering what in the world we are going to do on the weekends now that they’re no longer here. Honestly, it’s not that bad, but saying goodbye to them a couple of weeks ago sure wasn’t pretty.

To cap off our summer together, and to truly celebrate both Courtney and Jared graduating from their master’s programs, we decided to go to Provence for a week with our parents.  The theme for the week was “relaxation” and we made sure to find an Airbnb with a big pool and lots of areas in which to lounge and nap. We liked that the location was quiet and removed from a big city center. But it was still easy to plan day trips to nearby hill towns and even the sea.

Overall it was a really, really lovely week. We read books, swam in the pool (my dad is the biggest water baby!), played Uno, cooked dinner, went out to eat, shared breakfast in the mornings on the patio, explored and relaxed. We talked about the babies and wondered aloud what it will be like when they arrive, everyone excited for two new family members with which to share all this fun and love. Thinking about that week makes me a bit weepy (not a challenge at all these days) because I love and miss my family so much. Spending such quality time with them was priceless.

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For every nice picture of Courtney and me there are always three that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Adam calls them “outtakes” but we call them “magic.”

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After a long drive from Geneva we decided we wanted our first full day to be spent at the house enjoying the amenities. We slept in and had a long breakfast on the terrace before parking it poolside for the rest of the day. We did venture out that evening for dinner at La Table d’Yves, a fancy restaurant on a vineyard that sits right next to Fayence’s famous aerodrome. You can sip a glass of wine on their beautiful covered patio and watch the gliders land. The food was delicious even if the staff were a bit stuffy.

The next day we drove about 45 minutes to Saint-Raphaël, a beachside town in between Cannes and Saint-Tropez. It was too hot to explore the old town so we spent most of our time at the family-friendly beach. There is a good stretch of public beach—and nearby Frejus has a lot of open sand as well—but we opted for an organized beach with loungers and umbrellas. The staff was very accommodating and we had one of the best beach lunches I can remember. The water was perfect for frequent dips and it proved to be a relaxing day at the beach, ending with a ferris wheel ride!

A quick note: cars proved essential for this trip. We rented them in Geneva and drove the whole way instead of taking a train there and picking up the car in Cannes or Nice. Public transportation among the small towns is unpredictable and infrequent and you’ll be limited to bigger tourist hubs if you opt for this option. I’d recommend renting a car instead and tailoring your countryside trip to include exactly what you want to see and allow for last-minute changes and additions. Just make sure you have navigation or google maps handy on your phone!

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Um, matching hats?? Yes, please!

The next day we went to Fayence, which was a ten-minute drive from our place, for their weekly market–a recommendation from our Airbnb host. We got there early not only to beat the heat but also the crowds and we all left with lots of local treasures and gifts. It’s a really sweet town and I’d recommend stopping there for a visit if you’re in the area.

We had our best meal at Le 8 and I urge you to stop there as much for the fun and gracious company of the hosts as the French food. The menu is limited to five or six dishes but they are all fantastic and the location is charming, to boot.

That afternoon we were all pooped from walking around so we relaxed–where else?–by the pool before grilling that night for dinner. In case you’re wondering, I read Among the Ten Thousand Things while we were there and really enjoyed it. A good, if slightly bleak, summer read.

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We spent a full day in Cannes and had fun trolling the old town and sipping very swanky cocktails (or, er, alcohol-free beer) at a ritzy hotel when the heat became too much. We wanted to go out on a boat this day but it was too breezy and they canceled all the trips. I’d recommend exploring Le Suquet for beautiful views of the sea and harbor and admiring the high-end shops, at least from the street. Before heading back we took a walk to check out the yachts and each picked out our favorite–maybe for Christmas this year!

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Our last full day was spent close to home. Courtney, Jared, and Dad explored a nearby hill town for lunch, while Adam, Mom, and I stayed back to read and swim. Of course, once everyone got back it was time for a little burst mode action by the pool. I need to find a way to get all the images into gifs because scrolling through them is one of my new favorite pastimes. I love the energy!

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That night we drove back to Fayence for dinner at Restaurant Le France, how typical! We had an excellent dinner here and celebrated our parent’s 35th wedding anniversary exactly one month early. It was fun to hear them talk about their wedding day and some of their favorite moments throughout their marriage. We also talked a lot about our childhood and it is so funny to hear what everyone remembers–it’s often so different from what is crystalized in your own memory. I would highly recommend this place for dinner, and snag a table outside if you can.

That was Bastille day, July 14th, and we purposely stayed close to home that day and night to avoid crowds and traffic. We woke up early the next morning to hit the road and were devastated by the news that 84 people had been killed in Nice the night before. It was heartbreaking and incredibly sobering after an idyllic week spent together. The world is a very scary and confusing place right now and it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be bracing for the next tragedy. It was a chilling reminder to hold your loved ones close and not take for granted all that we’ve been given.

Three Days in the Cotswolds

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After a few days in busy London we made our way to Oxford where we picked up a rental car that would get us further into the Cotswolds, a rural area of rolling hills, thatched-roof homes, and endless charm, where we would stay for a few days. The drive was smooth (if not effortless–thanks Adam for braving the “wrong” side of the road!) and beautiful and we were so happy to arrive at The Lamb Inn in Burford.

I cannot recommend this little bed & breakfast highly enough. It was located on a side street, meaning it was extra quiet, and all the quaint touches around the inn made it feel so special and cozy. In the sitting rooms two fires were regularly stoked each day (despite temperatures in the 60s and 70s…we didn’t mind!), and it was full of over-stuffed chairs and sofas perfect for nursing a pint of local brew or a cup of tea and reading a good book. There was also a pub with delicious food and a restaurant that would be a perfect spot for a bit of a fancy dinner. I loved the cheery and comfortable rooms and the staff couldn’t have been more lovely. Can you tell I loved this place?! I would go back in an instant.

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After a late lunch of fish and chips and bangers and mash, we all went out for a walk through town to check out the adorable cottages and shops that were already closing up for the day. That night we ate at The Highway Inn, which is a local favorite. Unfortunately they were out of all the best things on the menu but overall it was a pretty good dinner.

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The next day we took some recommendations from the staff and headed to Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden, and Broadway—all little villages dotted throughout the countryside. We took our time in each spot and enjoyed window shopping, walking the narrow streets, and stopping in pubs and cafes for a break. It was a leisurely day with little agenda; I loved it.

A few snaps from Stow-on-the-Wold:

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Taller than Adam for once!

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One tip would be to bring rain gear wherever you go. A sprinkle or mid-day rain is not uncommon and it’s best to be prepared with a rain jacket or umbrella. Also, comfortable shoes are a must, as are layers. English weather has a tendency to turn drafty and cool so come bearing layers.

Also I would srecommend you rent a car for a proper visit. There are a handful of tours you can take that will stop off at many of the towns in the Gloucestershire area, but it was so nice to have our own car and to make our own itinerary. You’ll just need to remember to keep to the left!

And a few snaps from Chipping Campden

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We ate dinner in Broadway that evening at The Swan, which was tasty. In fact, I wish would could have spent a little more time there as it looked very cute and full of fun shops. But there are so many little towns in the area that it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

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The next day we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare and I’m sorry to say that this was one spot that actually did disappoint. For such a small place it is so overdeveloped and cheesy that I didn’t actually enjoy walking around there too much. It might have been nicer to spend more time walking along the river but the pouring rain drove us out of town early. Of course if you are hoping to see something from the Royal Shakespeare Company then it is worth a visit, otherwise I’d recommend skipping it.

That afternoon I had tea and scones in our room while Adam explored Burford a bit more and we had a nice (anniversary!) dinner at The Bull (order the rarebit as a starter). We took off early in the morning to catch a bus from Oxford to Heathrow and made it back to Bern in time for summer to arrive! Boy, we are so happy to see the sun here. It’s like a different place.

I’d love to come back to the Cotswolds sometime and imagine renting a place in the country for a couple weeks with family and friends. It was so relaxing and peaceful and everyone was so friendly. Have you been? I’d definitely suggest going there for a country holiday after a bustling London tour.

Day Trip to Blausee

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Our friends Claire and Brendan were here for a week and I’ve just recently received confirmation that they are back in the loving arms of their three beautiful, hilarious children. And while that makes me blissfully happy, I do sorta wish they were still here. They are one of my very favorite couples and their bright energy and non-stop laughs make them ideal guests. Claire and B, you are welcome any time.

We dodged a lot of rain while they were here but managed to get out for long walks around the old town, a trip up the Gurten for disc golf and trail walks, bocce in the Rosengarten, many a beer at our favorite local bar, and a couple of day trips, including one to Blausee. It was originally Claire’s suggestion, and Adam and I had never been so it was the perfect place for us all to explore.

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The mineral-rich lake is one hour from Bern, reached via train and bus. You can also drive there easily and park in the big lot in front of the entrance. I think we were all a little surprised to find a turn-style entrance into the lake and forest but it’s become a popular destination, meaning there’s a small CHF 8 entrance fee and opening/closing times you’ll want to be mindful of. Inside the forest you’ll find a restaurant, hotel, and spa, all of which are beautiful. Each summer they hold an open air cinema, which looks like a fun night in the woods.

There’s a local organic trout farm that feeds into the lake, though you can’t fish or swim in it. But you can go out on a glass-bottom boat and see through the crystal clear water nearly to the bottom of the lake.

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We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed sandwiches by the lake before taking off on the connection of trails and pathways. All the walks are very easy and would be fun and suitable for little ones; it took us just over an hour to walk all the trails. We relaxed at the restaurant with some cold drinks and a beautiful view of the lake before catching the bus back to Bern.

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I loved this day! Blausee (which literally translates to “Blue Lake”) is a very easy day trip from Bern and was so relaxing and peaceful. We had perfect weather and great company, making it an afternoon to remember.

A Boat Ride on Thunersee

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Last week I was joking with a friend who lives in LA that we finally reached 70 degrees and people were freaking out. It’s funny because it’s true. Friday through Sunday were blissfully perfect: 72 degrees and sunny. I think we all know by now how fleeting the beautiful weather can be in spring (the foreseeable forecast predicts rain every day for the next ten days and temperatures in the 50s) so we had better enjoy it while we can.

Adam and I have been talking for quite a while about taking a boat ride on the Lake Thun [“Thunersee” in German (pronounced TUNE-er-say). There are lots of different offers, from a Sunday morning brunch cruise to a Friday night fajita fest, but we went for the standard cruise from Thun to Interlaken, a two-hour ride. With a half-fare card the total is CHF 21.50 and if you get in line early enough on these especially lovely days you can snag a table and bring a picnic as long as you sit outside. (You can also reserve a table inside in advance, but you can’t bring your own food or drink.) We packed up bread, meat, cheese, fruit, Cheez-Its (!), and some cold drinks and met our friends Paige, Bryce, and Phil for the ride.

Before that, however, we stopped to walk around Thun, a very quaint city on the edge of the lake. Before moving here 6 years ago, I imagined this is what the scenery would be like: a modern mountain town on a lake, surrounded by snowy peaks.

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Thun is only 20 minutes away by train and it’s almost silly that we don’t come here more often. The old town is charming, and I’ve still never been to the castle, but I’m really interested in finding myself on the lake more often. In fact, if you were daring enough (and many, many people are), you can actually float down the Aare river starting in Thun and find yourself in Bern a few hours later. It’s a very popular summer activity and I won’t be too surprised if it finds its way onto our agenda this year.

And even if it doesn’t, I hope we’ll be back for another cruise.

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What’s a spring activity you’re looking forward to? Adam’s smoked pulled pork and we finally took our boat ride so I’m feeling pretty good so far. I’d love to get to the Rosengarten for a picnic dinner soon and fill up our flower boxes on the balcony!

Sunday Snaps

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Yesterday was the perrrfect day. It was sunny and just warm enough to shed layers on a long afternoon walk with the rest of Bern. The city is fragrant and alive–this time of year is gorgeous.

We had a very slow weekend, which was lovely: biscuits and gravy for brunch on the balcony; movie night; friends over for chicken enchiladas (a good excuse to break out the salsa we’ve been saving since we brought it back from the US at Christmas!); long walks outside along the river. I love spring! But I think I love summer even more. Bring on the warmer temperatures and picnics in the rose garden!

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Today Adam and I are celebrating our meetiversary! Six years ago we met on a blind date at an Italian restaurant in Zurich. We walked along the lake and traded travel stories and I pretended not to be impressed by the very handsome, very tall man I was on a date with. We hugged goodbye with plans to see each other again soon and I blushed an embarrassing shade of red (that was not lost on Adam). I was toast. I knew right away that Adam was someone special, and I even commented to my sister shortly after that date that I was sure I would marry him.

Adam, it’s been the best six years. Looking forward to many, many more, my love.

Skiing in Innsbruck

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We did it! We survived skiing! There were no wipeouts or tears, no blown-out knees, no hard feelings. There is still some lingering soreness, however, and we crashed hard after our day of skiing. Did anyone realize how much work skiing is?! ; )

Overall, we had a great trip to Innsbruck, Austria–though technically we stayed in a nearby suburb, Hall. Our hotel was very comfortable and had an amazing spa that was included in the stay. It had multiple saunas, steam rooms, aromatic showers, and relaxation rooms. My favorite room had four lounge chairs suspended from the ceilings, creating the most comfortable swing you can imagine. We opted to get massages on Saturday afternoon and they were just we needed to work out all the junk from skiing the day before.

(A word on European spa etiquette: it’s customary to visit these co-ed spas completely nude for sanitary and practical reasons, though that may sound counterintuitive to our American sensibilities. Since we were with friends, we decided to don our swimsuits, but don’t be shy to do as the locals do and go bare.)

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Our friends Nat and Nicole are expert skiers and they were incredibly patient with Adam and me. They reminded us of a few techniques and waited for us while we got our sea legs back, so to speak. The mountain had really good snow and the pistes were just right for our ability. And with cooperating weather, we really had the perfect day on the slopes.

But after a few hours we were beat. By mid-afternoon it got really crowded and I think we all started to get anxious with how many skiers were out there. We relaxed at one of the mountain restaurants with a couple of much-deserved après-ski treats (specifically big beers and Germknödel).

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Nat skied on Saturday but the three of us, and their young daughter Cora, walked around Innsbruck and enjoyed a big, delicious lunch at Stiftskeller, a beer hall serving hearty Austrian and German fare.

After our decadent spa afternoon we walked to Goldener Löwe, a restaurant in Hall’s old town. We would recommend this place for dinner, and encourage you to ask for the cozy booth in the corner.

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We got back on Sunday afternoon and after unpacking I got started on my new Sunday ritual. There were just enough chocolate chips for one big batch of my cookies, lucky us! I have to say, it was nice to have the apartment smell so delicious, and the cookies themselves turned out pretty darn tasty. They were the perfect end to a very fun weekend.

Is it cheesy to say that I’m proud of us? Regardless, I am. I’m glad we got up on skis and did something that made us both a little nervous. Everything—the weather, our energy level, our enthusiasm—coalesced into a feeling much like fun. I’m not making any promises, but I might not wait five years to try it again : )

Skiing This Weekend?

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Remember this:

“I’m more scared than anything. I can’t un-know what can happen to you on a mountain and I think this is only going to become more debilitating as I get older and acquire more people who are precious to me. There is a part of me that is jealous of those who love skiing, mostly because I’m envious of their endorphin rush and the general badassery of skiing, but I’ve made peace with the fact that skiing is not for me. No more pretending that I’m going to get on a pair of skis this year: I’m not doing it!”

I wrote this less than a month ago! And I still agree with most of it, especially the part about being scared. But, this weekend we are going to ski with our friends in Innsbruck, Austria, and despite being nervous I’m also excited. Looking at that ridiculously goofy picture above, I’m reminded that I can have some fun on skis. So let’s do it!

It’s been five years since I’ve been on skis (over 6 for Adam) so we’ll be taking it super easy. We’re staying in a nice hotel with a spa and pool and I already have plans to take advantage of a post-ski massage. Here is a map of the slopes we’re planning on skiing—run #1 looks like my jam!

We’re taking off later today so I’m signing off early this week. What are you up to this weekend? If you have time, please consider sending some positive vibes our way : )

Until we meet again, here are a few excerpts from the internet:

Speaking of intentionally making ourselves sad, this song will bring you to your knees.

In preparation for this weekend, I’ve been doing these 4 moves to get in shape before hitting the slopes.

7 moving podcast episodes.

A few ideas for Valentine’s Day if you’re still looking.

I’m hosting a baby shower in a couple of weeks and this recipe looks like a good main dish to serve alongside fruit salad, finger sandwiches, and cupcakes.

The woman who created Netflix’s enviable company culture. And how she was ultimately fired because of it. This was fascinating to me.

Currently reading.

11 airlines with the best amenities.

I tried Snapchat for a couple of weeks, but just couldn’t get into it. Maybe I should have tried to Snapchat like the teens?

For the record: this video of the history of Japan was my favorite discovery this week.

We are planning a trip to Copenhagen with friends next month and this guide has been a great resource for places to visit. I’d love to hear your suggestions, as well!