Posts Tagged ‘France’

22nd April
2014
written by bob

We recently passed our 3 year anniversary of living on the Cote d’Azur this past March. To be quite honest, I still remember the day we arrived and all the excitement and anxiety that went with it. Our lives have changes immensely since that day and I have to say we are better people for it and we are stronger because of it.

And…so the time has come that we have to make another important decision in our lives. Our time in France will end soon and we have to decide our next stop. About 1.5 years ago, the potential list of a next city to move was: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok. Neither of us have spent much time in Asia. In fact my first trip was when we lived in Bangkok for an entire month in 2012 that included a few side trips; don’t miss our unforgetable ferry ride from Phi Phi Island to Phuket!. The global company we both work for is currently conducts an extensive amount of work with companies in Asia and, thus, they have a need for more representation in this part of the world.

Our current opportunity presented? Singapore…just named the most expensive city in the world to live for 2014. Hell, I would say that the Cote d’Azur is just as expensive so I wouldn’t say this is a concern! You certainly pay for the beautiful scenery in this area while living on the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t forget, this is France and let’s just say you are taxed out your wah-zoo here. However, I can assure you, living on the Cote d’Azur is truly AMAZING! It’s not called the Cote d’Azur for nothing. Travel here and you will soon realize what I’m talking about.

Nice, France on the Cote d'Azur.

Nice, France on the Cote d’Azur.

On the other hand, we also have the possibility to returning to the US; in particular, Denver, Colorado. Denver has been at the top of our list of US cities to move. We love Colorado. We were married on top of Aspen mountain. There are few places in the world that you can live that are truly desirable for many reasons. I really believe that Arizona, Colorado, and the Cote d’Azur share a common link, sunlight; 300 days a year of it! All 3 have quite amazing weather.

Decisions are upon us. Where will we go from here? We aren’t exactly sure yet however, we are quite sure this will be our last summer in the Cote d’Azur. It has been an incredible experience to live abroad, embrace a new culture, learn a new language, and explore a new continent (or 2). While everything has it’s pros and cons, we wouldn’t change a thing. All 3 of us are richer people from everything we’ve gained during our time abroad.

Stay tuned to find out where we decide to take our travels next. Right now, it’s decision time.

Au revoir, mes amis!

15th April
2014
written by bob

This post is long overdue. Yep, my bad…AGAIN. I’ve been slacking…

Over Christmas we enjoyed a family vacation in the southern French Alps. We have skied 2 of the other ski resorts, Auron and Valberg, in the 2hr drive from Cannes. The last one of the 3 we have not skied, Isola 2000, was our destination of choice for this Christmas ski trip. As we were heading there for a week, Miss G requested to go to ski school for every day. GREAT IDEA, G!

For skiing & snowboarding is something that we LOVE (almost as much as hockey for this Canadian)! We want Miss G to learn to ski as quick as possible. Family ski trips are the one thing that we look forward to and we have started G early with ski lessons. She had her first lesson when she was 3. Technically, she “should” have been 4 yrs old BUT since she was as bigger than most 5 yr olds in France, no one questioned it. Miss G enjoyed her week of ski school and improved to being able to use the tow rope and perform “pizza” braking. Two steps closer!

Christmas Day in Isola 2000.

Christmas Day in Isola 2000.

On Christmas eve, we had dinner at one of the local restaurants. Dinner continued into tobogganing for Miss G outside the restaurant. The conditions were perfect; lightly snowing with a healthy blanket of fresh snow already covering the ground. As it was Christmas eve, Santa was scheduled to make a stop-over in Isola “apres le Decente de Flambeaux”. Neither Katherine nor I have ever seen this event but it looked incredible! And just then, at 19h30-20h00 in the dark of the winter night, a line of torches from the right side of the mountain began descending from the top. The line grew longer and longer. It was quite amazing to see! Then, all of a sudden, a second line of torches were ignited and began a second descent from the left. As they descended further and further down the mountain, they were getting closer and closer and eventually joined into one line to become one super-long line. From mid-mountain onward, the line of torches lit the trail all the way to centerville. It was absolutely AMAZING to see and experience this “Decente de Flambeaux”!

Following closely behind at the end of the “decente” was Père Noël. Miss G was soooo excited to see Santa that she began shouting loudly, “Père Noël, Père Noël”! Within the large crowd around Santa and Miss G on my shoulders, all of a sudden candy was flying in every direction. I bent down and managed to grab a couple pieces from the snow while G balanced on my shoulders; quite well I might add.

Enjoy the video of the Christmas 2013 Decente de Flambeaux in Isola 2000.

Au revoir, mes amis!

31st December
2013
written by bob

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!

Christmas this year is being spent in the southern French Alps at the Isola 2000 ski resort. Spending the week here for Christmas, we’re hoping for some great skiing and lots of fun in the snow. I was a bit worried the week leading up to our departure as there wasn’t much for new snow (for the past 2 weeks). Isola only had a base of 65cm. Not bad, but certainly not great. We were booked Saturday to Saturday and, unlike our last couple of local ski trips (Valberg & Auron), this time we drove rather than take the bus. The weather was perfect for driving and we arrived after a quick 2 hr trip.

This was probably the first real weekend for skiing since there hadn’t been too many snowfalls prior to this weekend. Where to stay? We were booked in the New Chastillon Hotel. Over the last 8 months, it has been completely renovated into a more modern hotel. It’s prior history did not have very good reviews. However with a new look, our first impression was that it appeared quite nice although they seemed to be still scrambling to get things in order upon our check-in; which incidentally took probably 45 minutes. Not a good start; especially if you want to improve your public perception and online reviews! (More on this in a future post.)

Miss G's Chateau Neige.

Miss G’s Chateau Neige.

Sunday was a day full of super-fun stuff to do! A fresh blanket of the “perfect packing snow” had fallen last night and awaited Miss G’s plans for a snowman! We ventured outside to explore the hotel surroundings. While I went to get G’s new, blue sled, G and Mommy rolled a few large snowballs for G’s first snowman. It was about as tall as her. We found a small hill for Miss G to sled down and after a few trips down the hill, we explored more of the area around the SkiPass Ticket building. G found some fresh, un-trampled snow where she could lay in the snow and create a couple of snow angels. Then, it happened. A family snowball fight! At first, it was every person for them self although G was taking the brunt of the flying snowballs. On the downside of a hill, G and I took cover from mommy. We stamped the snow for a floor and build a small wall to keep hidden from mommy’s barrage. Initially what was supposed to only provided cover, turned into 2 hours of snow engineering to produce a LARGE snow fort for Miss G. As time passed, the walls continued to be reinforced and built higher. Once complete, our “Chateau Neige” incorporated a lookout, an ammunition (snowball reloading) hole, and an underside entrance. People started to walk over, observe, and compliment us on our masterpiece. It had especially caught the eye of 2 younger boys that were nearby though they never came over. One gentleman, even went so far as to ask us if were going to build a roof for it? Ummm, not today! That 2 hours created quite the appetite!

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

After lunch, it was time to go collect our ski rental equipment. Miss G informed us that she wanted to attend ski school for 5 days this trip. Now enrolled, we need to go get her gear at InterSports. The shop was pretty much beside our hotel and following a quick 2 minute walk, we met Jean and his staff. With G taken care of we discussed a small problem we had with Katherine’s equipment. In the flurry leading up to our departure, we accidentally booked Katherine’s skis from the Auron store and not Isola. After 2 emails to InterSports to correct and clear up this honest error, no one replied to help us out (not surprising). At this point, we just figured that talk to the people a InterSports was the best solution. That was when we met Jean, the manager of the InterSports shop in Isola. Jean listen attentively to our situation and explained that it could be an issue since we paid for the equipment online and the money was with the Auron store. Ouch! However, Jean told us to sit tight and he would see what he could do. He would call the “big” boss and explain what happened. Ummmm, what? Actual customer service in France!? True story.

After a few minutes, Jean came back and informed us that it would not be a problem to collect Katherine’s equipment in Isola. Jean and his boss would work out getting the money from the Auron shop. Wow! We were amazed. In all the time we have spent in France, no one has gone out of their way like that before. Most shops/people we have dealt with would have just said, “too bad” and we would have had to double rent with no chance of refund on the mistaken gear. That is the typical French way. Jean and his staff are great! We HIGHLY recommend Jean and renting from InterSports when you visit Isola! Jean will take the greatest care of you when you aren’t expecting it! Merci beaucoup Jean.

Au revior, mes amis!

6th January
2013
written by bob

So this past weekend was the last weekend of our Christmas holidays coming to an end, Katherine and I decided on a ski weekend in Valberg. Located in the southrn French Alps this quaint and scenic town was quite impressive.

Booking such a trip at the last minute, especially, during school holidays, we were lucky to find a place to stay. However, after some painful (day long) internet searching we were able to locate a place the had accommodation with room that could sleep more than 2 people. Hotel Le Chatellan was a great little place to stay. This family-owned and run hotel was a perfect getaway retreat. The family is very nice and extremely helpful in providing an all-around excellent experience. From a “welcome” smile at reception to dinner in the main room complete with large fireplace to holding your luggage and ski equipment even AFTER checkout, our stay was great!

Getting to Valberg is quite easy. We opted not to drive ourselves and take the bus although we met a few people that drove themselves. Either way, it’s about a 2-hr trip from Nice. We got up before dawn on Friday 0500h, caught the 0624h train from Antibes to Nice Ville station. Once here we boarded the #770 Snow Bus, operated by Lignes d’Azur, departed for Valberg at 0715h, and arrived in Valberg around 0930h. Train tickets and bus tickets were under 40€ total. There is no way that we could drive our car, find parking for 3 days, and return home for that price! No driving worries for us was perfect!

Valberg from the top; Miss G ready for her first ski lesson; G lovin the snow!

Valberg from the top; Miss G ready for her first ski lesson; G lovin the snow!

Settling in we found the local shop to sign Miss G up for ski school. Then it was off for rental skis, boots, and a helmet. Check. Now time for lunch at Hotel Chalet Suisse. We tried to book this place to stay but unfortunately it had no vacancy. At lunch we were greeted warmly by Christophe; who was also our waiter on a subsequent lunch on Sunday. Christophe was an excellent waiter and understands customer service. His attention to customers is what I’d expect when dining in a restaurant. We highly recommend visiting him for lunch when in Valberg; he will take great care of you. As for the food at Hotel Chalet Suisse, it was delicious and there was a good variety of choices. All too often in this region you see menus that are always geared towards tourists where they are all basically the same. Not the case here. The food was excellent but, honestly, what made our dining experience most pleasant was Christophe’s service. It goes without saying that he wasn’t French…but South African. Quite frankly after our “service” conversation, it was clear he didn’t understand the French’s lack of customer service either.

Let me provide an example. Across the street was another restaurant/bar called “G”. On Saturday evening while Miss G wanted to play in the snow, we decided to sit on the outside patio and relax with a drink. After sitting for 20 mins, I decided to go into the bar for drinks. Once I ordered and only then did the staff offer to bring the drinks to us. Ummm really? Haven’t I done most of the work at this point? Then they asked me where we were sitting and when I informed them, they told me they couldn’t serve me there. Quoi? I was told to go to the restaurant area to be served. REALLY? I have $$ in my pocket and I choose to spend it at “G” bar, they don’t want it, and tell me to go buy drinks somewhere else? I kid you not, true story.

Ski school was very successful for G. By the end of the 2-hr class, Miss G was ski down the small slope all on her own. She did amazing! Saturday wasn’t so successful for ski school as G decided right at class time, she didn’t want to attend. Oh well…maybe another time but she did have lots of fun the day before. All three days, we rented a toboggan sled, you know…the kind with the pull-handle brakes? Miss G enjoyed being pulled up the hill and sent down by herself. While she didn’t know how to use the brakes (except when being pulled up hill), Mommy & Daddy became the crash pads at the bottom of the short hill. As for being in the snow, Guilliana LOVED it! It’s not the first time G has seen snow but living in Arizona and now the Cote d’Azur snow makes a very rare appearance.

Our weekend wasn’t quite so full of skiing but that’s okay. Getting G taken care of and ready to ski is a bigger deal. Katherine and I love to ski & snowboard! I we would like it to if Miss G would join us on the slopes. So far, all indications are looking in that direction. Yeah, baby! All in all, we had a great 3-day trip and where Miss G was bit by the ski bug. Now to catch that snow bus, provided by Lignes d’Azur, let leave the driving to someone else!

Au revoir, mes amis!

20th August
2012
written by bob

A few observations from our month long stay in Bangkok as compared to France, our current home:

Driving – traffic is a “bit” crazy! Taxis, tuk-tuks may try to rip you off but this usually only amounts to $1-2USD. Meanwhile, taxis “ass-rape” you in the Cote d’Azur. Think I’m kidding? Try coming here and taking a 20 minute (15km) cab ride. It will cost you about 80€-90€ (about $105 USD)!

People & Attitude – The Thai are generally very happy people especially when you visit their country. Unlike the French, with the Thai, trust is given, not earned. They are very much like Canadians in that respect. (No wonder I liked them so much!) Respect is always shown from a Thai native.

Shoes at the Door – Thai people never enter a place of dwelling with shoes on. Shoes are left outside the door. ALWAYS! Even the housekeeping staff at our hotel never entered our room with their shoes/sandals on. The French seem to walk into a house and keep their shoes on. (Considering the amount of dog crap on the sidewalks, I’m not sure that is a good idea.)

Sacred Body – The head is considered of the highest order. The feet are the lowest and considered dirty. Never step over someone’s head with your feet and NEVER, EVER point your feet toward Buddha.

Money – Never step on money to stop coins from rolling or bills from blowing away. This is considered an insult to the Queen, her family, and the Thai people.

Customer Service – was “unbelievably superior” to anywhere I have ever been! Thai people open doors for you – malls, taxis, hotels, etc. They are EXTREMELY courteous and polite. The French, have no idea what customer service is. PERIOD. If you ever “want” to feel like Royalty, visit Thailand and enjoy their unbelievable hospitality. They are amazing people!

Safety – In all the taxis we rode, there wasn’t one that had seatbelts readily available to use. We had to dig them out from behind the backseat. Seatbelts are the law in France as safety is taken seriously. (Unless you ride a moto then you can ride with a kid that is at least 5 years old. Ummm, what? Darwinism, that’s all I’m saying. I feel bad for the kids!)

Speed Limits – In Thailand, speed limits are a mere suggestion. On the other hand, speed cameras will nab you in France.

In Thailand there are free roaming Monitor lizards. Very cool! In France, well, there are lots of free roaming Romanian gypsies. Not cool, EVER!

Au revoir, mes amis!

1st July
2012
written by bob

Wow…what an incredible day! No cars, no clouds, hot and sunny, and a beach on an island. Does it get any better?

Yesterday we decided to make a new play date with one of Miss G’s classmates, Bia. They are like two peas in a pod and are so cute together! We, along with Bia’s parents, Carlos and Rita, planned a play date on the beaches at Ile Sainte-Marguerite; famous for where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned and where the Hollywood movie was partially filmed.

According to Wikipedia

“The Île Sainte-Marguerite is the largest of the Lérins Islands, about half a mile off shore from the French Riviera town of Cannes. The island is approximately 3 km in length (East to West) and 900m across.

The island is most famous for its fortress prison (the Fort Royal), in which the so-called Man in the Iron Mask was held in the 17th century.”

G & Bia holding hands and waiting for the ferry to Ile Sainte-Marguerite.

While this trip wasn’t about touring Fort Royal (for another day), it was about languishing in the sun, enjoying a bottle or two of rosé wine, and great conversation with Carlos & Rita, who recently relocated to the Cote d’Azur from Portugal. Like us, they are enjoying the area and weather in the French Riviera and we all have so many things in common. It’s so great to meet new friends that are in the same place as ourselves; new parents, new country to live, etc. We have met so many fabulous people in the past year from all over the world. We are so blessed!

The Cote d’Azur is an amazing place to live and such a great opportunity for the kids! We are glad that Miss G has become great friends with Bia and now has yet another close friend to enjoy planned outings with. G and Bia walked hand-in-hand pretty much the entire way from the ferry to the beach! They get along so well and it’s so cute to see them having a conversation amongst themselves playing in the sand and floating with their water-wings in the water. Now, I think we just have to get all our other “France” friends together and have a “grande” time on the beach one day this summer! Hmmm, maybe a beach picnic is in store soon.

Here are some pics from our day on Ile Sainte-Marguerite! As always, click the pic below to enjoy the slideshow!

Fort Royal on Ile Sainte-Marguerite.

Au revoir, mes amis!

30th May
2012
written by bob

Have you heard…bobandkatherine.com is now available in your native language!

Parlez-vous francais? Oui!

Si parla italiano? Sì.

Habla usted español? Sí.

あなたは日本語を話せますか?はい。

With english being our first language with french as a distant second, we obviously compose all our blogs in english. HOWEVER now, you can have our blog translated to your language of choice. Pretty sweet, EH? HAHA! Yes, that’s my Canadian in me coming out. HEY, wait a second…I didn’t see “Canadian” in this language lists?!? WHAT THE…?

Translate our site to your language of choice.

Also, don’t forget you can subscribe to our RSS Feed. That way all new posts will be delivered automatically to your inbox or favourite RSS reader. What’s that? You need the steps to subscribe. Glad you asked. You will find them here from a -> past post.

Au revoir, mes amis!

29th May
2012
written by bob

After a couple of LOOOOONG flights for a recent trip back to North America to visit family, we decided we needed something a little less scheduled. Plans for a train trip to La Rochelle fell through due to train scheduling so we opted for a trip to Corsica. It sounds like a great set up for a relaxing trip, right? A ferry ride to the island, a rented bungalow/cabin a stone-throw from the beach, my beautiful wife and amazing daughter…perfect!

The view from our Corsican beach.

It was Miss G’s first time on a passenger/car ferry. We put on her psi-bands in the morning prior to getting in the car. You see, Miss G doesn’t do too well in the car driving in France. Can you blame her though? All those twisty-turny roundabouts. Heck, who doesn’t want to puke? As we were unsure of how she would do on the boat, we figured we’d stay on the safe side. I have to say though, so far, when using the psi-bands Miss G has not gotten sick (especially since she got sick on both flights on our trip to North America).

After arriving in Corsica late on a Saturday evening due to a delayed ferry departure, it took us a bit to find our rented bungalow at Cala Bianca Residences. The Cala Bianca property is only a short 11km drive from the port in Bastia and boasts quite large number of bungalows with about 150 or so!

Checking out our pine cone collecting.

Our bungalow was the perfect home away from home; a two bedroom place with a full kitchen with open living room, and a semi-private patio for late afternoon sun. It had everything we needed.

The next morning was quite wet. The clouds were abundant and dark in hue with brief periods of dryness. The rain stopped long enough for us to take a walk to the main clubhouse and check the grounds out. We went down to the beach despite the wet sand and gloomy weather. We met a very friendly Frenchman at the Cafe where we stopped for “un cafe, une verre de vin rose, et jus d’pomme”. Due to the weather, I think we were his only customers that day.

The next day the sun beamed bright and it was a beach day! Following breakfast, we were beach-bound to soak up some sun. Despite the day being a bit breezy, we managed to enjoy a few hours on the beach. With only a few other people on the beach, we pretty much had the sand all to ourselves. Building sand castles, dipping our toes in the cool water, and collecting sea-washed shells was so much fun with Miss G. She LOVED it! Later, we had an old-fashioned, charcoal bbq of burgers, grilled asparagus with red peppers, potatoes, and for dessert grilled pineapple. Delicious!

A welcomed email informing us of another late departure from Bastia back to Nice meant that we didn’t have to get up at 530am to catch a 7am ferry. A 1.5 hour delay meant that all three of us could get a little bit more sleep prior to heading back home from a short but relaxing getaway in Corsica.

Click the picture here for the slideshow of Corsica in pictures! (…be patient though as the slideshow loads.)

Corsica Getaway

Au revoir, mes amis!

26th May
2012
written by bob

Well…it was supposed to rain this afternoon in the Cote d’Azur despite it being a beautiful morning, luckily the rain held off all day. No rain was perfect for us, since we decided to take a trip down to Cannes to see what was happening at this year’s Film Festival. Miss G wanted to see and hang at the beach today and the weather cooperated by giving us perfection!

Katherine made an awesome breakfast of scrambled eggs with red peppers, garlic, red onions, spinach, and ham. Miss G finished an entire “pain au chocolat” all herself, we got ready and headed for “la gare” enroute to Cannes.

Miss G soaking up the sun at the Film Festival!

After wandering around on “La Croisette” and checking out all the promotional billboards, beach restaurants, and people, we decided it was time for late afternoon lunch on the beach. There is nothing like an amazing afternoon of hot, sunny weather and having lunch on the beach! A bottle of Rose and two refreshing salads for us and “steak hache avec frites” for Miss G – a perfect day in Cannes I would say, yes?!?

Following lunch, we were off to find the carousel. Miss G LOVES the carousel. It’s a double-decker carousel in Cannes! We rode the Ferrari and spun around in the Tea Cup. As it was getting late in the day, the people attending the premieres were starting to come out. With barricades up, black cars, police, people in tuxedoes and sleek dresses were everywhere around us. We weren’t completely sure but we think we caught a glimpse of Matthew McConaughey. Also scheduled to attend today was Reese Witherspoon and Elijah Wood. There were probably quite a few “French” celebs; however, they are all “foreign” to us! :)

Click here for the slideshow to see our day in pictures!

2012 Cannes Film Festival

Au revoir, mes amis!

21st May
2012
written by bob

It was somewhat of a happy and sad day, all in one. Miss G started school about a week and a half ago. Yep…she’s a big girl now..just ask her! In France, kids are eligible to start school at 2 years of age.

Miss G's First Day of School


The fact that she knows quite a bit of French already (more than daddy), we wanted to continue her experience to the fullest and learn as much French as possible before we head to whatever the next destination will be. (I hear Asia might be asking for us to visit for a couple years?!?) Granted, that is still a couple years away so by then, G should be completely bilingual. With that being said…daddy will be in trouble! I had better find a French tutor in exchange for their practicing English with me. Thus far, I have been reluctant to pull the trigger on this one unlike Katherine, who has met a fabulous French woman with whom she exchanges linguistic notes/lessons.

Au revoir, mes amis!

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