Nov 26, 2011

Mom & Dad Visit!

31 August - 12 September

Through a friend at work, Brian found a great house to rent in St. Tropez. We couldn't believe that we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a week on the beautiful southern coast of France! The house had two bedrooms, so we thought it would be fun to invite another couple to come along. It just so happened that my mom and dad were planning to visit us this summer, and the week of St. Tropez worked perfectly for them! It was going to be my dad's first time in Europe, and I couldn't wait to share this trip with him and Mom.

So Mindy and David flew in early in the morning on 31 August. I couldn't wait to see them at the airport and start their fun time in Germany! I brought them back to our apartment and got them all settled in for the day while Brian and I went to work.

They had a gorgeous first day in Frankfurt, so they went for a walk through our favorite park.

After work, Bri and I met them back at our apartment, and we all walked to Feldbergblick's - a nearby restaurant and beer garden - for dinner. It was a perfect evening to eat outside!

The next day Bri and I had to work again, but we had something really special planned for that evening! We had gathered a group of about 12 coworkers to join us and my parents on a bier bike! My parents have always loved riding bikes, so we thought this would be the perfect way to tour Frankfurt.

We listened to music, drank beer, and rode all around Frankfurt! Brian and I dressed in our lederhosen and dirndl for the occasion :)

The pedaling crew

We had another beautiful night with a great sunset! Here's the view we had of downtown Frankfurt as we pedaled over a bridge.

The next day, we left work a little early to come home and load up for our vacation! Brian rode the motorcycle, and Mom, Dad, and I were in the car for the first leg. First stop - the Black Forest!

Checking out the view on our drive through the forest

Our first B&B - Gasthaus Hermann

That night, we toasted to our first night of vacation together at a tiny restaurant down the street from our B&B. We drank local beer and had a great German meal.

The next day, we had a big breakfast and prepared for our drive to Lake Como, Italy.

And it was a perfect day for Mom's first motorcycle ride with Bri! I'm so glad she agreed to experience seeing Europe from our motorcycle.

Mom and Bri in the Black Forest

After 3 or so hours of driving, we took a break for lunch.

Getting closer to Lake Como!

Because it was such a gorgeous Saturday, there was quite a bit of traffic going through the Alps, so Bri found an awesome road that was completely empty!

Brian leading the way through a mountain pass

Twisty and turny

We arrived at Lake Como as it was starting to rain, and as soon as we unloaded the car, it began to pour! Luckily, we had lots of yummy snacks and drinks, so we hung out in Mom and Dad's room until the rain stopped. Our B&B hostess was so sweet, checking in with us to make sure we had enough to eat and drink. She even offered to cook us dinner! When the rain stopped, we ventured out to see the town and drink some Italian wine.

Cafe where we sat outside and had wine

Fireworks over Lake Como as we drank wine

The next morning, it was a little hazy and rainy, but the view from our B&B was still great.

Mom, Dad, and I took a walk around town to see what we could find, but it was quiet since it was Sunday.

View of our B&B from the road

Breakfast time!

Love them!

On Sunday, the drive from Lake Como to St. Tropez was quite rainy. But Bri kept an upbeat attitude on the motorcycle while we followed behind in the car. During one of our driving breaks, we bought some supplies for dinner that evening - pasta, cheese, bread, tomato sauce, olive oils - yum!

It was cloudy until we reached the coast, and then the sun came out! It was like the heavens opened and said, "Welcome to St. Tropez!"

We found our little house, and it was perfect. It was just the right size for two couples looking to relax.

The kitchen and dining area

Once we unpacked the car and bike, we were ready for dinner! I made stuffed pasta shells with the ingredients we had purchased earlier, and we added some fresh basil from our garden. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed our first of many delicious meals in St. Tropez. We couldn't believe we were there!

Day 1 in St. Tropez involved renting bikes for the week and then riding them to the beach. We expected a nice, leisurely ride, but we found hills, cars, and distance really crashed our biking party :) Despite the unexpected obstacles, we made it to Pampellone beach and enjoyed a relaxing day in the sun. After riding the bikes back into town, we decided that we had biked enough so we wanted to return the bikes. I'll just say that instigated a long discussion with the bike rental shop :) We did get our money back in the end, though, thanks to my husband's patience and negotiating skills.

After we returned the bikes, we went to the grocery store to pick up supplies for the next few days and made our way home to cook up some dinner!

Tuesday was St. Tropez's market day, so we drove into town to wander around the market. It was a little cloudy that morning, so it was a great time to hang out in town. All of the booths were great - they had everything from delicious cheeses and olives to cute clothes and cool art.

After the market, we were driving back to our house and found a winery that Brian's coworker had told us about. However, we missed the turn to get into the parking lot, so my creative husband found a "back entrance". It was a small dirt road that appeared to only used by tractors, but my dad ran ahead, scoped it out and found it would lead us to the winery! So as we made our way along this dirt trail, we came to a clearing where a little old French man was tending to his tomato garden. He looked at us like we were crazy and started to walk toward us, so Bri stopped the car, partially expecting a French scolding. We showed him our empty wine jugs and tried to explain with hand gestures and the little French we knew that we wanted wine. He was very excited about this and was about to send us on our way when my mom pointed at his tomatoes and smiled her big Texas smile to compliment his gardening. He then proceeded to cut several delicious tomatoes from his garden to share with us! It was a really funny encounter.

Anyway, we made it to the winery and found the large vats of wine that had been recommended to us. We did a little tasting, were very happy with the wine, and bought two 5 liter jugs of wine for 25 euro total! What a deal for delicious French wine.

Bri and Dad testing out the wine

We ate lunch back at the house, and by then the weather had really cleared up, so we decided to try a new beach that afternoon. Bri had looked on our GPS and found what appeared to be a really secluded beach that wasn't too far away. So we set off on another journey that involved beautiful views, several dirt roads and several dead ends, but we eventually made it to a great beach.

Gorgeous view on our drive to the beach

This beach was unlike anything I had ever seen. It had an awesome trail along the coast that led to a sandy beach on a peninsula, so we were surrounded by lush bluffs and bright blue water.

That evening we feasted on our purchases from the St. Tropez market - cheeses, olives, fresh veggies - and of course, wine! After dinner most nights, we enjoyed several fun rounds of the game Apples to Apples. Wine and that game go very well together :)

On Wednesday morning, Bri had the fantastic idea to experience a sunrise. So we woke up REALLY early, packed up a full breakfast, and headed to the Pampalone beach again for a sunrise I'll never forget.

We had the entire beach to ourselves, and as the sun rose over the water, the sky turned all shades of purple, orange, red, and yellow. We felt very lucky to have seen the sunrise that day, because the rest of the mornings we had in St. Tropez were more cloudy and did not have the dramatic colors we experienced.

Once the sun rose, it was a little cloudy, so Mom and I walked the entire length of the beach while the guys took naps and read. Later that day, the sun came out for another perfect day at the beach.

On our way home from the beach, we stopped off at this little restaurant on the side of the road for some lunchtime snacks. I love French bakeries!

While Mom and I showered and got ready, Bri and Dad took advantage of our cute little yard at our house.

That night we went into town to see what St. Tropez was like. We found the biggest yachts, nicest cars, and most expensive clothing I've ever seen. For all of that fancy schmancy stuff, it was a really cute, quaint town!

Mercedes Batmobile? I think it was.

View of the bay from St. Tropez. I think a lof of the yachts had an anchor at least this big

That night, we sat outside and had dinner at a restaurant in the town's main square.

On Thursday we traveled to a new beach for more relaxation :) I don't think it's possible to find a bad beach on that peninsula - we loved each one, and it was fun to take in some new scenery!

Before heading out to the beach, Bri and I added our St. Tropez sticker that we had purchased the night before to our trunk. I can't remember if I've mentioned this in previous blogs, but Brian and I buy a bumper sticker everywhere we go to add to our collection in our trunk. It has been fun to search and find a sticker that we feel best represents that vacation, and it's a neat reminder of all of our experiences.

Anyway, back to the beach! I remember Thursday as jellyfish day :) Poor Bri figured it out the hard way for all of us - he was stung twice on his back. Needless to say, I didn't swim much that day. The jellyfish were really unique and colorful, though - we got to see some that kids had caught in nets on a nearby pier.

Later in the afternoon, Brian and I decided to go on a little sailing excursion. So we rented a catamaran from the French version of Bruce Willis and set out for an hour of peaceful sailing. Bri had only taken me sailing one other time, so I learned a lot from this trip. I think his ability to sail is quite attractive :) and I appreciated his patience in teaching me! The wind really died down toward the end of our time, so it took us awhile to get back to shore, but Captain Bri made it happen!

On Thursday evening, we had reservations at a restaurant that had been recommended by Brian's coworker, and we were so thankful for the recommendation because we NEVER would have found this place! It was basically a house with a huge patio in the middle of some farmland. When we pulled up, we weren't even sure we were in the right place!

This restaurant served all you can drink local wine and had a set menu each day. It was an incredible experience, sitting outside on such a beautiful evening and eating some of the best food we've ever had. I was so glad my parents were there to enjoy it with us!

On Friday morning, Brian and I woke up early to go on a morning motorcycle ride. We had enjoyed driving around the peninsula in the car, but we both really wanted to experience it from the motorcycle. The sunrise, fresh smells, and views made for a perfect ride through the countryside.

Artist community set in the hillside

Harbor in one of the larger towns

When Brian and I got home, we jumped in the car with my parents for one last day at the beach!

On our way, we passed this tractor filled with grapes

In order to get to the beach, we had to drive over a pretty big hill, and at the top, this is what we saw

We saw lots of people with these cute little beach chairs that looked so comfortable, but when we tried them out, we realized Brian is a little taller than the average French beach-goer :)

A towel works much better!

Friday was much windier than the day Brian and I sailed, so B wanted to give sailing another go. This time my dad went with him! My mom and I were trying to take pictures, but before we knew it, they were just a speck on the horizon. They were cruisin' fast!

We soaked up all the sun we could since it was our last beach day. And then we made our way back to the house to get ready for our last night out in St. Tropez.

View on the way home

So the plan was to go back to Pampalone beach to one of the MANY restaurants/clubs along the water. That beach is supposedly one of the biggest clubbing hotspots in the world, and my mom nad I were determined to see someone famous :) Much to our dismay, everything had closed only a couple of nights before for the season! Nothing was open, so my encounter with a celebrity will just have to be at another time and place.

So, we headed back to town to see if we'd have any luck there. Maybe get invited to a yacht party? We had no such luck, but we the yachts at night were definitely a sight to see. And we did see Georgio Armani's yacht, which was just absurdly huge. He must be compensating for something :)

The next morning, we sadly packed up the car and motorcycle. It was time to leave our little home in paradise :( On the upside, we had a breathtaking drive ahead of us! On Saturday, we drove from St. Tropex to Chamonix, France, which involved two mountain passes in the Alps with spectacular views.

I spent the first half of the day on the motorcycle with Bri. We had a great time winding our way through the mountains, and my dad and mom followed behind us in the Honda.

Because it was yet another perfect weather day, the roads were packed - this time with both cars and bicyclists! As much as I enjoy a bike ride, the intense incline and narrow roads with cars constantly passing did not equate to anything less than an insane activity in my perspective!

Some crazies making their way up the mountain

After the first mountain pass, we pulled over for a break from driving. And dad decided to go fishing for our lunch. just kidding - but it looks like he's getting ready to grab a fish in this picture, right?

The second mountain pass of the day was equally beautiful.

After about 11 hours of driving, we finally made it to Chamonix! Our B&B there was just perfect. We took some time to clean up and then walked to town for dinner.

Here's Bri, putting out the vibe at our B&B bar

Oh, a fire! How nice :)

The front of our B&B

Chamonix is such a pretty ski town

And they had a cool car/van show going on

After walking around town, we settled in for our last vacation dinner in the town square. And of course dinner was followed by crepes :)

On Sunday, we drove from Chamonix back to Frankfurt, and then mom and dad had to fly home on Monday. They were such great travel partners for Brian and I, and I'm so glad that we will always have such wonderful memories with them of that amazing vacation!