Friday, May 30, 2008

I see France

I've been in the habit of crossing borders lately.

Two weekends ago, five of us rented a car and drove to the first town in France after you leave Italy.

Meet Menton.

Unbelieveably cute and charming; its full of chocolate pastries, beautiful flowers and great shopping.

Its funny that driving four hours can allow you to feel so far removed from normal life.
Kinda like driving from Dallas to Austin. It is only four hours, but they are world's apart.

Our only mission for the weekend was to relax.
Matt, Mel, Emily and (the other) Sarah were wonderful road trip buddies.
After some great retail therapy, quality beach time, and a weekend with these four--my heart was full.

We ate pain au chocolat and yummy crepes and drank cafe ole twice a day.

I was so proud of myself for using "oui" and "merci" all weekend.
And I sound so French when I mush it all together.
I patterned my speech after the chef on Little Mermaid.
"Hee hee hee, honh honh hohn"

Menton really won me over.
The residential part of the town is like an uphill maze, every corner an adorable surprise.
I mean, can I please live here?

On the second day we drove to Monaco.
You know: Grace Kelly, Monte-carlo, etc.
Well, I can see how it would be great if you married a prince and everything, but with out that Monaco was a total bust.
The only exciting part was Emily unintentially driving across the finish line of the Monte-carlo grand prix track.

You can't make stuff like that up, people.

When we got back to Menton, we happened across heaven on earth.
Now all those Anthropologie lovers out there, or anyone who really likes my taste in things pay attention here.
This word will bring you much pleasure in your French travels:

It basically means "stuff."
Old stuff. VIntage, Grandma's attic.
But seriously, the Brocante store we found was the coolest European grandma's attic of all time.
I think we all gasped when we walked in.
Even Matt.

There was amazing stuff everywhere you looked.
Ceiling, floor, outside, inside, on the stairs, in the corners.
It was glorious.
I wanted to hide out and have them lock the doors on me so I could keep looking around.
Maybe not all of you will understand this feeling, but I'm telling you--it was intense happiness.
We all walked out, bags in hand, and didn't talk for a while.
We were in a pleasure coma and we wanted to stay in it.

Merci beaucoup, Frane!
Until we meet again.

Now, for those of you who follow this blog, you may be wondering about my next blog.
You've read I see London, and I see France...
Don't get freaked out: There will be nothing about underpants in the next post.

It was total coincidence that I took these two trips back to back.
I just wanted to dispel any rumors that I was going to write about underwear.
Sorry to disappoint some of you (Claire).

Monday, May 19, 2008

I see London

Last weekend I had the super fun opportunity to go to jolly ol' London with the team leaders from Rome.
Lauren and Matt made great traveling buddies and Lauren's British boyfriend Andy was the perfect guide.

The fact that I got to travel to England for the weekend blows my mind. And Ryan Air is ridiculously cheap. No leg room to speak of, but boy, do they cut the cost!
As usual, a little pictoral recap.

We started our travels in Rome.
We were very excited.

First on the list of things to do: Be American.
We loaded up on Starbucks. Hello Vanilla Latte.

And drank Dr. Pepper.
To Stinters in Italy this is like liquid gold.

We bought some tickets to see Les Miserables for that same night.
Although I was thinking Liam Neeson and Claire Danes, it was still fantastic.
Nose bleed seat + London = still pretty great.

And after strolling through Covent Garden, we were handed free candy.
London was treating us well at this point.

In the words of Lauren, "This day just keeps getting better and better!"

After seeing the sights, you know- Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace--no biggie, we headed to the London Eye.

This thing was awesome. They should have ginormous ferris wheels in every town.
Seriously, get it together people.
We had a lot of fun in our little pod.
I especially like the ant-like people below us.

The next day we headed to Tower Bridge and ate some great pub food.
I could totally live in London.
Fried fish with french fries?
Yes, please.

But really, as nice as the weekend was, and as much as I loved speaking in English--Italy is still home.
Even England is obsessed with Italy.

And just to remind of us how much we love Italian culture, we had an exciting trip back to Rome.
Even as we stood in the check in line with all these indoor-sunglass-wearing Italiani, I thought, "We're back."
Upon landing, every Italian burst into applause. No lie.
The idea of touching down on Italy soil made them giddy with delight.
I want my Dad to fly a trip to Italy just to experience the outpouring of gratitude.

Cheers to fun weekends!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Via Ricasoli

On a crowded street in the center of a bustling Italian city you will find a nondescript door.

As you push your way past the tour groups you can hear the clinking of coffee cups at the bar next door.
The American looking last names are a dead give away--making it easy to know which bell to ring.

After climbing one flight of stairs to the "first floor." you will find my apartment.
Quiet respite from the blur of the city is found in one lime green couch and my two favorites things in Florence.

My roommates.

Kelly and Emily have truly been "God's provision for me" this year.
When life is too crazy, when ministry is hard, when I hit the wall--I can run to them.
When I want to laugh, have a dance party, truly enjoy life --they are my go-to girls.

Team is so much a part of your experience on Stint and I have been so blessed both years in Florence.

Kelly and Emily and I hit it off immediately back in August when we went for a walk in Copper Mountain.
I adore the times we get to process life together. Talking about deep things over nutella and gran cereales.
We laugh and cry and give grace to each other. They continually point me to the cross.

As I recap the things I love about Italy, these two girls are a big part of that.
Even though they aren't technically part of Italy--they are a huge reason why life here is so good.

Who else would go to the antique markets with me?
Who else would watch America's Next Top Model with me?
Who else would run across Piazza Duomo with eggs at midnight with me?
And who else could I convince to finger paint with me?

Living in Italy is pretty great: wonderful food, beautiful countryside, great shopping :).
But so much of enjoying life is about people for me.
At the end of the day, this place is foreign and I still bump up against the differences.
So to be able to come home, drop my bags, share about our days and understand each other--is such a huge blessing.

Kel and Emmy have made this year--they are the highlight.

Behind that nondescript door, in the middle of a big foreign city, across the ocean--I have found life-long friends.