Since Part 1 of this post was written as a narrative, Part 2 will be more of a list. Even though there were some challenges created by the mefloquine (see previous post), Andrew and I did have quite a few adventures and made the most of our two-week-long honeymoon. This was also Andrew’s annual R&R from Liberia, so we knew that doing activities that we both enjoy and that he couldn’t necessarily do in Liberia would be priority. So, here are some highlights!
Top 5 from San Francisco:
- For a couple of healthy eaters, Airbnb was just the ticket for us. We like to start our mornings with our blueberry oatmeal, eggs, and coffee. So, it was nice to have our own kitchen in which to do our cooking and have our easy, relaxing mornings. (This changes later in our trip. Keep reading. lol)
- I had never been to San Francisco before and was amazed by three things in particular:
A. How cool the temperature was for being the middle of summertime
B. The diversity of plant life, how lush every garden was (no matter how small), and how dill twice the size of me grew just about everywhere and perfumed the air with its herbal warmth
C. Just how many activities there are to keep one occupied!
- Andrew was excited to show me a few things in particular: Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, and the views along the Pacific Coast Highway. Each of these excursions gave us the opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery as well as do some hiking. This was good because San Francisco also required a lot of time in the car to get from place to place, and I don’t like sitting still for that long!
- I had the opportunity to trail Andrew on a bike ride for the first time. Yes, I was excited to support him, but I was also being selfish: I think he is incredibly sexy on his bike and I unabashedly gawk at him in his riding kit, OKAY. So when he asked me if I’d like to go with him on this ride, I jumped at the chance! On another day, at a friend’s suggestion for a ride with amazing views, Andrew rode up King’s Mountain in Tunitas Creek, and I followed behind in our rental SUV. The ride took us through beautiful, serene redwoods and up to a great biker diner named Alice’s.
- It is nice to have friends in cities you visit. We were lucky enough sit down to a scrumptious Vietnamese dinner with a couple of my favorite former high school students (Vinh and Nataly) who are now living grown-up lives of their own. And we also had the pleasure of lunching with a triathlon club friend of Andrew’s (Todd) who not only gave us the tip about Tunitas Creek, but also pointed us in the direction of Philz — a coffeehouse that brews their beverages one order at a time to produce the smoothest, richest, most delectable cup of coffee either of us had ever tasted. (We already plan to mail-order their beans!).
Top 5 from Paris:
- Contrary to so many people, Paris has never been a bucket list destination for me. As embarrassing as this is to admit, my ideals of Paris come from films like Funny Face (starring my idol Audrey Hepburn), Midnight in Paris (with characters representing two of my favorite authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway), and Ratatouille (you know… that Pixar film about a rat who can cook?). In fact, I hummed the song “Le Festin” from Ratatouille on a few different occasions.
- Crepes in Paris are like none I’ve ever tasted. In fact, I’m disappointed in myself for not having eaten more of them. On our first morning in Paris, we found a sweet little restaurant called La Crêperie where I became fascinated with the happiest and most friendly server I’ve ever had. He wore the friendliest smile whenever he approached us, said “voila!” each time he placed something on our table with such enthusiasm that it turned the most mundane object into something special. Andrew and I enjoyed it so much that we went back the next morning for another breakfast experience.
- Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time became more meaningful than I anticipated. Unfortunately, I felt quite disconnected on this particular day because of my malaria meds, so I wasn’t able to fully experience my emotions about the monument at first. It wasn’t until Andrew got through to me with his “engineer talk” that I actually marveled at the structure (more info). He explained to me that the tower is made up of trusses within trusses within trusses, and how the engineers had to account for various types of loading (wind movement, for instance) and temperature change when they worked on their plans and calculations. I tell you, when this man talks about trusses…. 🙂 He did the same thing to me in San Francisco when he explained why the Golden Gate Bridge is so unique in its design because it has everything (cables, trusses, columns) that a bridge could have. Engineers are dead sexy! ❤
- People watching is one of the best things to do in Paris. Order a cup of coffee, hang out in a comfy cafe chair, and watch all of the interesting individuals pass by. One of my favorite spots to do this also was from the windows of our Airbnb. We stayed on a small street called rue Serpente that didn’t see a whole lot of traffic, but there were enough passers by that I had some intriguing distraction during my journaling sessions.
- Even without doing many of the typical “touristy” activities, the city’s history and architecture demand to be noticed and appreciated. For instance, Notre Dame was not on my list of things to see, but during a stroll across a bridge on the Seine River, I was taken aback by seeing the cathedral in real life.
Top 5 from Bédoin and Nice:
- Bédoin is an adorable town at the base of Mont Ventoux, one of the most challenging climbs of the Tour de France. So, the town thrives off cyclists who come to climb the mountain and supportive family members who are along for the excitement. Our hotel was located just down the road from downtown, and the view from our soft trail path was the epitome of Provence. The church bells chiming every hour and half hour completed the idyllic setting.
- The pinnacle adventure of our honeymoon was Andrew’s climb up Mont Ventoux. This has been a 15-year dream for him, and it excited me to know how much it meant to him. I wasn’t able to follow him up the mountain like I had in San Francisco, so I drove ahead and found a great spot near the peak to wait and watch for him. As I drove up, I realized what a grueling climb it would be, but I also knew he would love every minute of it. Weirdo. 🙂 For about an hour, I watched other cyclists pass by, all focused in their fatigue to make it just a little farther to the top. Then, just around a curve in the distance, in a pack of about eight other cyclists, my eyes recognized Andrew’s form. I grabbed my camera and sprinted to the edge of the road. It was the most physically exhausted I had ever seen him; and like the other cyclists, his mind and body were in survival mode. Crouched down to get a good shot, I snapped some photos and cheered, “I’m so proud of you babe! You’re almost there!” Energy reserves almost depleted, he gave no indication that he had heard me or even recognized me, but I knew my words had reached him. I ran back to the SUV, hopped in, and passed him by as I headed to the peak to get some shots of him reaching the summit.
When he got there, he could barely stand. He had run out of water, had long since burned through the French pastry we were able to scrounge up for breakfast, and realized only after the fact that he had made the entire climb with a brake pad rubbing his front wheel. While he recovered with some liquids, he told me that he had always wanted his girl to cheer for him at races like all the other guys had and how much it meant to him that I was there that day.
- After a climb like that, Andrew should have taken it easy the rest of the day. However, we were dumb and did not plan for R&R time after the event. Instead, we had to check out of our hotel and take a multi-leg train ride from Bédoin to Nice. Also, it was incredibly hot and muggy out, and all of the train stations and platforms were stifling. The journey felt epic because of how tired we both were, and we had reached that point in a vacation when you just want to NOT be on vacation anymore. 🙂 Once we arrived in Nice, we spent an entire day doing nothing but sleeping and eating. He was on the bed, I was on the couch (I nap better on couches), and we only spoke to each other out of necessity. It was beautiful. 🙂 Yes, we were in the South of France. Yes, the French Riviera was four blocks from our place. No, we are not even sorry about spending the whole day doing absolutely nothing.
- I know it’s probably not popular to say something like this, but overall, we decided that French food is not for us. Don’t get me wrong: bread is my absolute favorite food. However, Andrew requires quite a lot of food to feel satisfied, and portions were usually quite small; and I prefer a clean diet so all of the cheeses and sauces (and lack of fresh, simply-prepared veggies) was just not appetizing to me. We were both so happy to cook our own meals in our Airbnb when we arrived in Nice.Also, in France, petit dejeuner (breakfast) is usually a pastry and some coffee (Croissant and latté? Baguette w/jam and espresso?) Lunch often consists of a baguette that may or may not include the ingredients that would constitute a sandwich. Andrew and I chuckled at just how commonplace it was to see people walking around with a baguette tucked in their arm. And we both finally discovered the appreciation for a delicious baguette sandwich in the Nice airport as we prepared to leave France. We enjoyed it so much, we had a second one while we waited eight hours for our flight!The prevalence of bread in our diets, however, and the strain that travel often puts on the body did have a consequence, though. You see, those easy, relaxing mornings I mentioned at the beginning of this post are important both mentally and physically. Especially, for one particular reason. You see, one doesn’t expect to discuss digestion and constipation with her new husband while on their honeymoon, but for two people who are as active and healthy as we try to be, regularity is pretty important. Constipation is common among travelers, and we both knew this. In fact, Andrew shared the article “The Science Behind Vacation Constipation” from The Atlantic with me almost a year ago after I experienced a similar struggle during our first trip together. There were some very romantic moments between us during our honeymoon when we reveled in our love for and attraction to one another, but there were also some very real moments when one of us said to the other, “I really just want to be able to take a $h*t.”
- On our last day in Nice, we made it a point to take a stroll on the French Riviera. I wanted to end this post with this particular memory because it was when I started to feel more like myself again after the horrible side effects of the mefloquine. The wind coming off the Mediterranean Sea rushed against my face and whipped the skirt of my dress this way and that, and I felt good again. I was able to be in the moment, to enjoy walking next to my guy, to smile with my whole heart, to watch other people walking by or laying out on the beach, and to be thankful for the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place.
My next post will be my first from Liberia! See you then ooh!