Thursday, June 4, 2015

South of France redux and Dublin Flyby

A few people have asked me what the favorite spot from my travels has been. That's a tough question to answer... I've seen some pretty fantastic places - much of it was art, buildings, landscape, and cities/towns that I'd seen pictures of or read about for years and never seen in person. However, if forced to pick one place it would likely be the South of France. Luckily that gives me a pretty wide range of actual places :) Also, as I think about favorite places if there's somewhere that I'm itching to get back to as soon as possible then it heads to the top of the list. The south of France coast was stunningly beautiful the first time around at the end of April so heading back and checking out some of the smaller coastal areas and tasting quite a bit of rosé to wrap up May didn't let me down. 

It was a pretty low key last few days just hanging out like a local, even getting some home cooked food, taking a few hikes, attempting to follow conversations in French (smile, nod, pretend I know what's going on really does work quite well), and enjoying a few hours out on a boat. I was not going to attempt any more French driving so I actually met up with a guy I'd met when I was in Cannes the first time and let him make the plan and do all of the driving. It's nice being the passenger to take in the scenery and not have to plan the activities for a few days, all I had to do was say sure that sounds good! Also, it's always great to have a more local view of things and just go with the flow as they do.  

Photos are here. Google photos is finally decoupled from Google+ so I'm trying to figure out how on earth the new views work... not exactly as user friendly as I'd like! 

One of the spots I hadn't seen when I was there before was St. Tropez. One of those French Riviera towns that all Americans have heard about. It's pretty chi-chi with all of the yachts docked in the small harbor, fancy shopping, and expensive bars/restaurants but at the same time it is a cute old town and apparently you can find some reasonably priced eats and shopping. I was keeping my eye out for Beyonce but she didn't seem to be in town. I could definitely see how it would be a fun and crazy place when it's really hopping - the boats that actually have berths are docked right up in front of rows of restaurants and bars. Certainly good people watching opportunities! 

While in St Tropez I was introduced to la tarte tropezienne and it makes my mouth water just to think about it! A famous pastry created in the 50s and made popular by actress Brigitte Bardot. It's a delicious brioche sliced and filled with an amazing cream. Very simple but something about it is just spectacular. They also put massive sugar crystals on the top of the brioche to make it extra sweet. 

St Tropez was the main town to see (or at least one I knew of) otherwise the days were more about finding a spot for a coastal hike and taking in the views. You really can't go wrong! There's loads of paths that go along the water between beaches and it's a nice way to access the different beaches and check out the sights along the way - except perhaps when you unexpectedly pop down onto a nude beach and weren't expecting it! One of the hikes was a combination of the hills, vineyards, and beaches - it was fantastic except for the kilometer that was straight uphill near the end. Ugh! It seemed never ending and I am definitely not in hill walking shape after being gone from San Francisco for two months!

Off the coast of Hyeres are three islands that are quite popular destinations. The island of Porquerolles was the one we hit up out on a friend's boat. After a few mechanical issues and failed launch attempts with the boat we finally made it over to the island and it was well worth it. Apparently one of the beaches was named best in Europe. I wasn't convinced by it, but it was certainly beautiful. There are no cars on the island so people access it either by personal boat of ferry. There's a little town area where the ferry comes in and more bike rental shops than I could count. Since we had our own boat we were able to cruise around and drop anchor wherever we wanted and just enjoy the scenery. Not a bad morning and early afternoon for crystal clear waters and a bit of sunshine! 

With some boat time, sun, a few last dips into the sea completed it was time to say au revior (again) to France and the cote d'azur. At some point in time I knew I would have to head back to the realities of life and make my way to San Francisco. Before I could do that though I needed a quick pit stop into Dublin. It was always in the back of my mind that I'd make my way to Dublin and potentially London at the end of my trip. As it turned out I decided to ditch London for now (honestly, I don't think I could have handled a big city sight seeing few days and the weather wasn't looking great) and just popped over to Dublin for a few days. I switched my return flight to leave from Dublin rather than London once I finally was able to make a commitment on what day I would take the plunge and head home. 

Although it rained a bit of the time, and I was very last minute in my plans, it was a great way to wrap up the trip. A bit of an intermediate decompression with friends and a city that I'm familiar with to begin to ease me back into reality. With some rain on the bank holiday Monday Yvonne and I went to the movies and saw Pitch Perfect 2. I'd been dying to see it so it was an aca-awesome rainy afternoon activity! I wandered around the Google office a bit on Tuesday saying hello and catching up with a few folks. I did make my way into town for a brief walk - I felt like I couldn't be there and not at least say that I'd done that so a quick walk from the office to Stephen's Green, through Temple Bar, across the Ha'Penny bridge, and back along the Liffey did the trick. It was ridiculously windy at some points and then a bit of rain but some blue skies here and there so I just kept trying to walk towards them. 

So now from Dublin back to San Francisco and I'll call it a wrap on the European leg of this six months. Time flies and I can't believe that it's already June! I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed for a few nights and luckily haven't mis-placed the keys to my apartment over all of the travels.