Cordes sur Ciel

The luggage incident was, of course, only a small part of our time in France. This was the second part of our Fabulous European Wedding Tour, and it was my (Andrew’s) first time in France. We were staying just outside of a small town called Cordes sur Ciel (built in 1222, perched on a hill, cooler than cool) about an hour from Toulouse in southern France.

When we were planning the trip my good friend James, the groom, knew that we were on a very tight budget, so he kindly suggested that we could stay in the neighbor’s “pigeonier.”  I looked up the word and discovered that a pigeonier is more commonly known, in English, as a “dovecote.”  Those of us who don’t live on a rural manor might still need a bit of help; according to Merriam-Webster, a dovecote is

A small compartmented raised house or box for domestic pigeons.

Hmm.  I took James up on the offer, but wasn’t quite sure what we were getting into.

It turned out that the neighbors in question were stone-masons and had built the pigeonier as a guest-house. It was a four story stone tower with a full kitchen, living room, bath, and gorgeous bedroom at the apex (where the pigeons would have lived had it been a real pigeonier). Pretty awesome.

Below are a few of our favorite pictures from this part of the trip.  Click on any of them to see a more complete photo album.

One of many spectacular views in Cordes.
Flowers over a wall in Cordes.
On our way to the ceremony.
Eliza and James just after the ceremony (outside the ancient stone chapel)
My favorite picture from our trip.
How many cool things can you do under this one tree?
Andrew, Griffin and James just before we left to fly back to Italy.

Alitalia Loses Our Luggage

We arrived in Toulouse, France, on Thursday to discover we only had two of our three checked bags.

“But we have on file that you have only two checked suitcases. Where are your stubs?”

It was then that we realized we were in trouble. We had not received our luggage stubs from the ticket agent in Rome, and without them, there was no record of us having a third bag.

“We will do our best to find your suitcase. With no tag, it will be difficult, plus…you know…it’s Italy,” says the French agent.

She hands us three “sorry-we-lost-your-luggage” kits (which each include one white t-shirt and a meager toiletry kit) and sends us out the door with a case number and hopes that the suitcase will be found within two days. We are not optimistic.

Did I mention that every stitch of clothing Andrew and I packed for the trip, besides what we were wearing, was in that lost bag? Including the white clothing we had searched high and low for to wear to the wedding that would be taking place two days from that very day?

We counted our blessings: at least it wasn’t Griffin’s clothes and supplies; at least it wasn’t the camera we forgot to take out of the suitcase before checking it; at least we had our toiletry kits; at least we had our swimsuits; at least it included many articles of clothing we had receipts for so we could get reimbursed.

And like stereotypical Americans, we asked how to get to the nearest mall. Right. Now. Seriously, we didn’t even have a change of underwear.

The visit to the Toulouse mall was an adventure. Neither of us speak French, there were no familiar stores, the sizes are completely different, and we were treading on thin ice with our tired toddler. But we went about it with as much grace and humility as possible, found ourselves some Euro-fabulous clothes, and laughed about how we’d be wearing the same thing in all of our pictures for the next week and a half.

After many calls to the airline to check on the situation with little hope of recovery, we fortunately received a call on Friday night saying they had found our luggage and would be delivering it between 9am and 12 noon on Saturday, mere hours before the ceremony. We were cautiously optimistic. By noon on Saturday, we were called by the delivery person to say he couldn’t find where we were staying, so we hopped in the car and met him on the highway. It wasn’t until he opened the back of the van and I saw our suitcase that I actually believed that they had it. We were ridiculously excited.

And low and behold, it DID have a tag. We received our white clothing just in the knick of time for James and Eliza’s wedding AND we ended up with some oui-oui French clothing. Win-win, in my book.

Showing off my Euro-fab scarf and shirt.

Cinque Terre

We started the summer off with a bang this year and it all still feels a bit like a dream.

In a bizarre turn of events, we were invited to TWO weddings in Europe this summer that happened to be one week apart and relatively close to each other physically. The first was in the south of France, not far from Toulouse. The other was in Umbria in central Italy. As part of our policy of doing things that seem impossible (like the road trip to Minnesota with a one-year-old last summer), Sarah and I committed to going and have been working hard all year to make it happen. On June 11 (the day after my duties at school ended) we boarded a plane for Rome!

Our trip divided neatly into three sections:

  1. We spent our first four nights in Vernazza, part of the Cinque Terre in northwest Italy.  We were on our own here, getting over jetlag and getting used to the rhythm of travel with a toddler.
  2. Then we flew to Cordes sur Ciel in southern France for James and Eliza’s wedding where we stayed in an ultra-cool pigeon coop.
  3. Finally we spent a week in Macerino, Umbria, for Tyler and Mieka’s wedding.

So as not to overwhelm everybody we’ve divided our photos into three sets to fit with these divisions.  This blog entry highlights the first part of the trip, including a few of our favorite photos.  Click on any of the photos to see the complete photo album with many more fabulous pictures.

Aside from the pictures, some favorite memories included:

  • After 22 hours of travel we arrived in Vernazza with little to no sleep. Even with our exhaustion, we were amazed by the town: steep terraced hills, buildings piled on top of each other, vivid colors, staircase “streets”, and a cool breeze blowing in from the Ligurian Sea.  We tossed our luggage into our tiny one-room apartment and walked to the waterfront for some pizza and a view of the sunset.  Afterwards we all slept for twelve solid hours. (Griffin was great with sleep; we haven’t shared a room with him since co-sleeping as an infant so we were worried.)
  • On our first day, Griffin awoke from his nap to say, loudly, “Go to the beach?  Ok!” (He’s got this thing right now where he poses his favorite ideas as questions and then immediately says “Ok!” as if granting himself permission.) He loved the beach, laughing at the waves, covering himself with sand, and splashing in the water. His tiny little body would get SO cold, though, that we often had to take breaks so that he could return to a normal color.
  • Vernazza is a town of amazing views. As mentioned above, the streets are all super-narrow, and usually steep. (No cars allowed, since they can’t fit.) Suddenly you will pop around a corner and find a breathtaking vista where you could see much of the town arrayed beneath you (and the terraced vineyards continuing to climb into the sky). We loved the pace of life where we could just wander around, enjoying the views, sampling the food, and splashing at the beach.
  • We were all mesmerized by the trains. There are two tracks passing through town, but for the most part they are in tunnels in the mountains.  The town’s platform is tiny with buildings all around it.  Only two or three train cars actually fit on the outdoor platform, so most of the train is in the tunnel on either side when it stops. It’s a bit spooky having to walk through the dark to get on or off the front or rear cars.  Many trains on these tracks don’t stop at the small town either, and so they come roaring through at full speed. Before you can hear or see them, a cold wind starts blowing from the tunnel. Everyone grabs their hats, and then the thing comes blazing past, vanishing into the next tunnel.  Over the beach there is an expanse of track where the trains are visible again, high up on a masonry wall.  Something about the combination of medieval architecture and the constant trains whipping by reminded me of Miyazaki films with their eclectic mix of technology and magic.
Vernazza from the steep mountain behind the town. The castle on the bluff was built to protect the town from marauding pirates. Arrr!
Another view of Vernazza
Sarah and Griffin walking down one of the larger Vernazzan streets.
We found some familiar pleasures.
Sunset dinner.