À la vôtre

•August 13, 2010 • 3 Comments

Somehow we find ourselves writing our last blog entry… We said au revoir to Perpignan and spent the last 5 days in Arles, Annecy and Mont Blanc on our way back to Paris where we fly out tomorrow morning. It seems that like all great things, our time here must come to an end. We leave France with mixed emotions… Triste to leave the amazing adventure we’re had here, but heurueux to return to our life in the states and begin whatever new adventure the future has in store.

Sammy at a café

We are not the only ones who have learned a lot during our time abroad. Sammy has also become a more 'détendu' version of herself, as you can see since she is happy hanging out under the table at this 'café'.

Marc & Sammy in Arles

Marc and Sammy pose outside of a Roman arena in Arles. Here anyone can feel like a 'gladiateur!'

Mel & Sammy in Arles

Arles is also known for its influence on the work of Van Gogh. This 'jardin' was the subject of some of his paintings and it's easy to see why.

Sammy & le glacier

What you should see is the peak of Mont Blanc, but 'les nuages' did not cooperate. Instead, Sammy points out the glacier on the mountainside.

Marc bike riding

We couldn't resist a bike ride around Lake Annecy. We were right at home in this city by 'un grand lac' — the miles of bike paths 'au bord du lac' were 'merveilleux'!

Mel in Annecy

A visit to Annecy wouldn't have been complete without a photo next to the 'canal'. The views were 'très mignon'!

Marc picnicing

With views as 'phénoménal' as this, we couldn't resist one last 'picque-nique en plein aire'.

Then we found ourselves back in Paris, reminiscing and revisiting all of our favorite spots. Here is Café Léa, a great spot to grab an 'apéritif'.

Finally it was time for one final toast on the 'Pont des Artes.' Although it was a cool, rainy day in Paris, the clouds parted just in time for one last sunset on our favorite 'pont'…

So as we part ways, we toast as the French do… to your health, or à la votre! Merci for sharing this voyage with us, it has been l’aventure d’une vie!


Oh là là

•August 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Although many of you have heard the phrase oh là là, or possibly even used it yourself, for the French, it takes on countless meanings. Instead of simply being a way to express something un peu risqué, as we often use it in English, in French oh là là is used to declare surprise, distress, happiness, annoyance, commiseration, etc. and emphasis can be added with extra là’s. Because of its versatility, we hear it frequently and find ourselves using it often as well. As our time abroad approaches its end, we find that there are more and more reasons to use this exclamation…

Mel at chateau

Oh là là, c'est magnifique! There were picturesque views in every direction from on top of this Cathar chateau — good thing our camera has plenty of memory!

Marc in silhouette

Oh là là là là, une silhouette formidable! Sitting atop the Corbière mountains, the ruins of the chateau were very cool to climb around in.

Classe dîner

Oh là là, quel repas! For our final farewell with our classmates, we all had dinner at our professor's 'maison'. Not only was the meal 'delicieux', but the conversation was a 'bon mélange' of French and English.

Marc at the Col de Jau

Oh là là là là là là, quelle direction! During another visit to the Col de Jau, Marc points out why 'randonées' in the mountains are a great way to get closer to nature.


Oh là là, un bon pique-nique! A hike wouldn't be complete without a 'croque' break in 'les ombres'.

Marc et du vin

Oh là là, quel bon goût! A wine tasting with some 'savoureux vin' was 'un plaisir' on the gorgeous afternoon. We will really miss all of the wonderful regional wines of 'le sud'!

Oh là là là là, c'est tres jaune! Another fun way to see the mountains is to take the 'petit train jaune'. Just wait for the views!

Oh là là là là là là, quel brouillard! It was a foggy afternoon in the mountains which made for some 'vues spectaculaires'.


Oh là là là là, c'est haute! One stop on the 'petit train' was the 'jolie ville' of Font-Romeu. Known for its skiing, this town had the altitude and views to prove it.

Solar building

Oh là là, quel énergie solaire! This solar collector in Font-Romeu was 'génial'! It is always great to see sustainable energy practices in action.

Marc on the train

Oh là là là là là là, un grand sourire! Who wouldn't smile after spending an afternoon 'dans les montagnes'?


Oh là là là là, quelle vue! We decided to hike one of the highest peaks of the Pyrénées — 'le Canigou.' Here is one sight from the 'sentier' just under the cloud line.

Le sommet

Oh là là là là là là là là, le sommet! It was 'un sentiment extraordinaire' to make it to the top! It made all things seem possible, no matter how 'énorme' they may seem…

Avoir du pain sur la planche

•July 28, 2010 • 2 Comments

With our days in France becoming numbered, we find that we have more and more to do. More sights to see and experiences to have before we return home… More thoughts of being home and the people that we will see when we get there… More planning for what our future might hold… As a result, we felt that the expression we’re using for this post’s title was parfait. Although the direct translation is “to have bread on the bread board”, the expression more accurately translates to a similar expression in English, “to have a lot on one’s plate”. It has been and will continue to be busy for us in our last weeks here, but hopefully that translates into a lot of great things for us to share with you before we go…

Chateau Nadal

Our time in Perpignan wouldn't be complete without a stop at the vineyard where we got married. There are so many 'souvenirs magiques' from that weekend!


You may be wondering why a 4-pack of 'panaché' was driving down the street… 'À cause du Tour de France, bien sûr!' One of the best parts about waiting for the riders to pass was the 'caravan' that preceeded them. You are never too old to enjoy having free stuff thrown at you from floats.

'La Tête de la course'

'La tête de la course!' You would not believe how fast the riders flew past us. Luckily we got to watch in this 'belle vallée', so it was well worth the trip.


We swear that the 'maillot rouge' in the center is Lance… He definitely held his own with the kids in the 'peloton' that day.

Le tour à velos

Inspired by the tour, we decided to spend a little time on 'velos' ourselves by taking a bike tour around Perpignan. They weren't quite the road bikes we'd been hoping for, but 'ça marche.'

Mel & l'olivier

'Le tour à velos' included a 'dégustation' of local wines and produce. Mel enjoyed this break under the shade of an olive tree.

We got out of town for a couple of days with a visit to Campôme. The mountains were a cool break from the 'chaleur' in Perpignan – you can really get used to that 'l'air frais de la montagne.'

Marc & Monique sur la montagne

We enjoyed many 'randonées', including this one with a view of the Albère mountains.

Sammy & les herbes

Sammy couldn't get enough of the new 'odeurs' of the mountains. She was like a 'chiot' exploring everything in her path!

Mel & les montagnes

The mountain top behind Mel may look familiar… It's 'le Canigou', one of the highest peaks of the Pyrénées. It looks a little different now than it did just a few weeks ago, 'sans neige'. If we have time, we'd like to climb to the top…

Côte d'Espagne

Quelle côte d'Espagne! We took a day trip to Figueres, Spain and couldn't pass the chance to take in this 'vue magnifique' along the drive.


Once in Figueres, we visited the Dali Museum, which hopefully explains 'les oeufs' that line the top of the building.


We don't think that having a lot on your plate is a bad thing if your plate is full of 'pâtisseries'! How about this 'petit gateau' that Marc enjoyed in honor of Mel's Dad's birthday? Two layers of different 'mousse au chocolat' on the inside… 'Bon Anniversaire' indeed!

Les tours et retours

•July 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Because Perpignan is ideally situated in a valley between les montagnes and la mer, anytime you venture out of town, you end up driving on winding roads. These twists and turns not only make for a fun drive, but they also lead to countless trésors cachés. In our recent parcours out of town, we were able to find a few…

Castelnou porte

'Quel trou de la serrure!' We found this unique 'porte' at the 'château fort' in Castelnou. It seems that architects were designing cool details back in the middle ages too.

Marc at Castelnou

Underneath 'un tour de guet', Marc fits right in with the backdrop and could easily be mistaken for a medieval guardsman.


This view of Castelnou shows how picturesque this town is sitting atop 'une colline'.

Bezier bateau

So not all of our 'parcours' have been 'en voiture'… On this afternoon trip to Bezier, we found ourselves on the 'Canal du Midi' for a leisurely boat ride. Luckily 'le bateau' was just small enough to fit underneath 'les petits ponts' that we encountered along the way.

Bezier beauties

Mel, Monique and Giselle (Monique's cousin) enjoy the afternoon 'brise' atop 'le bateau'.

Les Orgues

Unlike the typical 'pierres' found around Perpignan, these rock formations rise like organ pipes out of the ground and are appropriately named, 'Les Orgues'.

M, M & The Orgues

We couldn't resist this dramatic backdrop to 'prendre une photo ensemble'.

Mel in the vines

Mel hides within the Rivesaltes vines. Isn't it amazing how different the soil and landscape are where these 'raisins' grow?

Roman viaduct

It isn't very often that you stumble upon a working Roman viaduct… This one was tucked within the 'Corbière Montagnes' and even has a bridge to cross a larger river. 'C'était génial!'

M, M & Les Pêches

To mark the start of the 'pêche' season, we attended a festival in Ille-sur-Tête. The locals celebrated by dancing in the streets, while we ate (and still continue to eat!) the fruits of their labor.

Fête de l'Abricot

An even bigger festival than the one for 'les pêches' was the one for 'les abricots'. Monique did a fantastic job of choosing the best ones for us to 'goût'.

Le 14 Juillet

You may know 'le 14 Juillet' as Bastille Day, but here in France, it means 'plein de feu d'artifice'! In the heart of Perpignan, 'tout le monde' gathered to enjoy 'la grande spectacle'.

Mel sur le montagne

After venturing a bit further up in the mountains, we found 'un peu de vents'! What do you think about Mel's new French 'do?

Marc sur le montagne

Overlooking the 'magnifique paysage' is a great time to ponder where the next set of twists and turns will lead… As well as what the future might hold…

La vie à Perpignan

•July 9, 2010 • 4 Comments

Life in the sunny sud has been a nice change from the bustling atmosphere of Paris. Although Perpignan is considered une grande ville in the south of France, it is pleasantly small by our standards, and has the perfect balance of necessary amenities — boulangeries, restaurants, cafés with wifi, medieval architecture, bars, etc. We will always have fond memories of Perpignan from our wedding, but in our recent time here, we have been able to discover much more…

Sammy sur the balcon

We thought this shot of Sammy sunning herself was the perfect representation of life here – 'plein de soleil,' relaxation and time to reflect on life. And if it isn't already obvious, 'le balcon' is one of Sammy's favorite spots in her new home.

View de Canigou

There are a couple of spectacular views from the house where we are staying. This one is of the highest mountain peak of the Pyrénées, 'Le Canigou.' On a clear day, you can see it rise just over the roof tops. 'C'est spectaculaire!'

Vue du palais

The 'Palais de Majorque' is the view from the other direction of the house. It is a constant reminder of a life that was once lived on these hills in Perpignan.

Sammy dans la cuisine

Heureusement, the kitchen is 'un peu plus grand' than our last, allowing the three of us to cook together in the same room! As well as 'restons là avec une bouteille de vin…'


Our new school, 'ALFMED' (Academie de Langues Françaises Mediterranienne), is housed in an old mansion and has a fraction of the students that our Parisian school did. It has been a great environment for improving our French conversation skills.

ALFMED computer lab

I know it looks like Marc has taken a job at a call center… But really he is just practicing his French pronunciation! In addition to our class, we can also use the school's computer lab to practice speaking with a cool computer program. 'C'est formidable!'

Mel et le palmier

Nothing is more 'fantastique' about being in 'le sud' than the natural occurrence of 'les palmiers!' Since they are Mel's favorite tree, she is giddy to be able to stand in their shadows on a daily basis.

Rue Abbadie

You may not realize that the 'Abadie's' are famous in Perpignan… check out the name of this 'rue'! Yeah, we know they added an extra 'b', but 'ça marche!'

Marc on the run

We traded in the coiffed gardens of Paris for this slightly more rustic running route. However, we are happy to not only have a path dedicated to runners, but also a view as 'exceptionnel' as this!

Fête de la musique

We were also lucky enough to be in Perpignan during 'La Fête de la Musique'! This is a national holiday where all over France musicians take to the streets and share their music with their fellow countrymen. Here is a band rocking out at 'Le Castillet' — Marc especially liked this band since they were playing some favorites from his past. 'Vivre la Poison!!!'

Fête de la Musique

Here is another image from 'La Fête de la Musique' in one of our favorite squares downtown. Everyone gets involved in this 'fête', including 'les enfants'.

After being away for nearly 5 months, you start to feel un peu nostalgique about home. The 4th of July has always been a celebration of everything great that l’États-Unis has to offer. We decided to bring a bit of this holiday to France and barbeque with Marc’s aunt on this sunny afternoon in the garden.

4th of July

'Quelle grille!' Marc was excited to 'man-the-grill' here, but as you can see it's a little different than your standard Weber…

4th of July

It was definitely a new experience to grill with aged grape vines and an actual 'feu.' This yankee may be a bit out of his league…

4th of July

The meal turned out great and in true American fashion, there was enough food for at least double. Luckily for us that means leftovers!

Through our experiences here, we’ve found many things that France does better than other parts of the world. However, living abroad also makes you realize all of the great things that your country has to offer as well. We are thankful on this 4th of July to not only be living in France, but to be étrangers living in France… And look forward to returning to notre pays very soon!

Les visites et les visiteurs vifs

•June 24, 2010 • 1 Comment

Our first weeks in Perpignan have been very eventful. We found a new school to take French conversation classes, found the local markets and bio food shops, as well as a couple cafés with wifi where we can try to stay connected with the rest of the world. We were also fortunate enough to be joined by 3 guests and venture out of town for a weekend in Spain. It was a lot of fun getting to share Perpignan with our nouvels amis Agnes and Christoff, and then it was off to Barcelona to meet up with a vieil ami from Chicago, Darin.

Les Pyrénées

We showed Agnes and Christoff around the environs de Perpignan by driving to the sea and through the mountains. Despite the clouds, the picturesque landscapes were a nice contrast to what they were used to in Paris.

Le mer

We stopped in Banyuls-sur-Mer to enjoy some time by the sea. It was fun to learn that 'les pierres à sauter' is a pasttime enjoyed in many countries.

Mel dans le mer

Mel decided it was time to get her first dip in the sea… The dip turned out to be just for her toes since the water was un peu froid!

Un vignoble

The trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at one of the local vignobles for a dégustation. Délicieux!

Barrings in Barcelone

Our first stop after arriving in Barcelona was a café on the Ramblas to enjoy a cerveça and figure out what we wanted to see in our two days there. Marc and Darin worked hard to get our bearings while Mel sipped in the sunshine.

Barcelona Pavilion

It is always advantageous to travel with an architect, but travelling with two meant a tour of all of the best buildings in town! Here is the spectacularly simple modernist temple Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe.

Marc pondering

Marc ponders life aside this reflection pond. We couldn't help but think that this is what Mies intended… but he could have included a chair…

Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is full of the amazing works of Gaudi. Still in progress, the Sagrada Familia looked magestic on this sunny afternoon with its towering steeples and tower cranes.


Gaudi also designed this curvy apartment structure, Casa Milà, that sticks out from the other buildings on the block. In contrast, it seems to fit perfectly with the trees that surround it, making it a memorable part of Barcelona's architecture.

Olympic Stadium

It was fun to think back on the '92 Olympics while standing in the stadium. We thought about making Carl Lewis' victory lap, but unfortunately there was an event on the field that day. We are extra patriotic with the U.S. advancing to the next round of the World Cup. Allez l'États-Unis!

Parque Guell

A stroll under another of Gaudi's masterpieces was irresistible to these two architects.

View from Parque Guell

The climb to the top of Parque Güell was worth the sweat for the spectacular views like this one. Quel palmier!

Barcelone plage

A walk along the beach to finish the day was the perfect ending for cette visite. Adiós Barcelona!

Pont à Perpignan

Before Darin departed for Paris, we were able to show him around Perpignan a bit, which meant a trip to the center of the city and a stop on its oldest pont.

We hope that nos visiteurs had as much fun as we did and we look forward to making plus de visites to explore the Catalan countryside and other interesting sites in this region. Restez à l’écoute…

La deuxième ville

•June 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

Being the “second city” is something that we are very familiar with in Chicago. And even though Perpignan is the second destination of our quest, it is no more of a second city to Paris than Chicago is to New York. Much like Chicago, Perpignan offers a more laid back pace, walkable neighborhoods and down-to-earth people. Luckily for us, the weather also happens to be fantastic, with plentiful sunshine and warm temps. The summer is off to a great start and as long as we can avoid les coups de soleil, the deuxième partie of our adventure will be formidable!

Marc & Mel: 10k

During our first weekend in Perpignan, we were lucky enough to find that a 10k was being run throughout the city. We knew our experience here would be very different from Paris while visiting the race expo. The race officials were so excited to have two Americans running their race that they took our picture for their website! Here we pose in front of the Castillet, Perpignan's medieval prison and one of its most notable monuments.


The race was the perfect way to get reacquainted with the city. Marc's aunt, Monique, came to watch us for her first ever race — it was wonderful seeing a friendly face in the crowd!


L'arrivée! On this hot, sunny morning, even after only 6 miles, we were ready to cross the finish line!

Marc at Le St. Jean

It was just 3 short years ago that we got married at a vineyard just outside of Perpignan. For our anniversary, we decided to have dinner at the restaurant where we had dinner with our friends and family the night before the wedding, Le Bistro Saint Jean.

3rd Anniversary

The food and wine were just as good as we remembered, and it was the perfect setting to bring back all of the wonderful memories from that special day.

Mel at Le St. Jean

Malheurusement, it was too chilly that evening to enjoy sitting on the terrasse. The less-than-perfect weather was another funny reminder of our wedding. Even though Perpignan is the sunniest city in France, we had rain and extreme winds during the weekend of our wedding. Luckily, since we have more time here during this visit, we can wait for better weather and enjoy the terrasse on another day.

Mel watching rugby

Although we have missed being in Chicago to see the Cubs, we are doing our best to become locals, which includes taking interest in French sports. Perpignan not only has a rugby team, but their team played in the French championship. Mel portes her Catalan colors, red and yellow, while watching the match on the outdoor screen en centre ville. C'était fantastique!

Marc & the Catalan Viking

Even though Perpignan's team did not win the match, they won in our book for having the most enthusiastic fans! How about this Catalan viking?!

Marc & Monique at the beach

For those who have never had the good-fortune to visit Perpignan, it is ideally situated in a valley of the Pyrénée Mountains, just 10 kilometres from the sea. Marc and his aunt Monique enjoy our first afternoon at the beach together.

St. Cyprien Harbor

A beautiful view of the harbor with the mountains in the background were the perfect setting for lunch.

Mel at the beach

With the sea breeze in her hair, Mel is très heureuse to be at the beach.


Monique also took us for a visit to the mountains. At the Col de Jau, we went for a hike where we found this spectaculaire cascade.


Here you can see the snow-capped Canigou in the background. The views never ceased to take our breathe away!


Baguette sandwiches are the perfect picnic treat after a très bonne randonée!


We also visited Câmpome, the small mountain town where Marc's grandparents were from. Sammy enjoyed sniffing the mountain air during her walk around town, and needless to say, the views are amazing in every direction!


This picture seemed to sum up our first weeks here perfectly. We feel like this trio of cats – amazed to be sitting in such a fantastic setting, content to take the days as they come and happy to finally feel like we are home.