Bled · Cres · Croatia · Istria · Ljubljana · Slovenia

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 3

I was really excited about driving through Slovenia. I guess it sounded exotic. It did not let me down.

bled.jpg

When you google Slovenia, Lake Bled is one of the first things that pops up. We were surprised to see tour buses full of Asian tourists in Slovenia of all places, but that didn’t take away from the pristine lake and medieval castle in the background.

From Bled we continued on to Ljubljana, which I still can’t spell without looking it up. Erwann and I are not big on cities, but we were pleasantly shocked at how lovely the Slovenian capital was. It is clean, colorful, lively, and relatively inexpensive. We also appreciated how safe it felt- a stark contrast to Paris, for example.

ljub.jpg

I said I was excited about Slovenia. But that excitement was nothing compared to how I felt about visiting Slovenia’s Southern neighbor. I have wanted to go to Croatia for a long time. I planned to go during my year abroad, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. I was not going to miss out again. I got really lucky though, because we discovered a few months prior to our trip that you can’t take a French rental car to Croatia. We almost had to cancel. That’s when my mother-in-law saved the day (and saved us a ton on our budget!) and lent us her car for an entire month so we could trek all over the continent. She’s so awesome.

Croatia is part of the EU, but it’s the only place where I got my passport checked. Once through the border, we continued through the Istria region and hopped on a ferry to an island called Cres.

croatia

Croatia did. Not. Disappoint. We planned two nights on Cres and one night back on the mainland in a city called Pula. However, Cres was so beautiful and laid back that we cancelled our night in Pula to relax more on the island. We didn’t regret it.

The Adriatic Sea is WARM. All the beaches are pebble, which puts some people off. I think it makes the water look even more clear and beautiful, and the pebbles are no problem as long as you have some water shoes. A yoga mat or some other kind of padding isn’t a bad idea either, although we didn’t spend much time laying out because the water really is that amazing.

croatia2.jpg

Another big plus about Croatia is how cheap it is compared to Western Europe. We ate out every night for about 20 euros, including drinks. We also got to rent a small boat for the day, which is the best way to see the island because most of the beaches are inaccessible via car or foot. Plus, we left in the morning and got a small beach all to ourselves for several hours. The cost? 70 euros for the day, INCLUDING gas. Quite the steal, considering these views:

croatia8.jpg

croatia4.jpg

croatia3.jpg

croatia5.jpg

Croatia reminded me a bit of Portugal, because it feels like the perfect mix between developed and developing. No one cares where you park your boat, but there is running water. The roads are terrifying and people drive like maniacs, but the food is good (not much different from Italian cuisine) and there is a tourism office. On the other hand, Croatians were not warm in my experience, but I chalk that up to their not-so-distant war for independence.

I was sad to leave, but there is no doubt. I will definitely be returning to this beautiful country!

Up next: Italia!

Austria · Bavaria · Germany · Hallstatt · Salzburg

Summer 2017 European Road Trip: Part 2

The Eastern Alsace region of France (see previous post) is known for its mixed culture. It borders Germany and has been claimed by both France and Germany on and off. So, after our tour of Alsace, we logically went to Germany next, or more specifically, the mountains of Bavaria.

neuschwanstein1.jpg

Neuschwanstein Castle is most famous for having inspired the Disney animators for the castle in Beauty and the Beast. With modern internet, this is common knowledge so there are hosts of tourists trying to snap their perfect picture. We opted out of touring the inside of the castle because we don’t particularly enjoy paying to be herded. Instead, we hiked up and around the castle to a bridge where it’s impossible to take a bad picture. This photo spot is also well known, but I found that actually crossing to the other side of the bridge made all the difference. Most people arrive at the bridge, walk out a few feet, elbow in between some people, take their picture, and go. We ventured further than a few feet and managed to enjoy the view for several minutes without being elbowed.

Neuschwanstein was just a pit stop for us on the way to Munich, where we were welcomed by an old friend from high school.

alisa and miri.jpg

Miriam did an exchange year in Logan, Utah of all places in 2007-2008. We met in theater class and have managed to stay in touch for 10 years now! She’s from Berlin originally, where I had the pleasure of staying for Christmas 2011. She was kind enough to put me up again and show us around another German city.

munich.jpg

I appreciated that for a big city, Munich is quite calm. There is a huge park with a river running through the middle and many food markets. It’s also a popular destination for tourists; it was one of the few places we saw Americans in the majority.

The next leg of our trip took us through more mountains, this time in Austria.

erwann salzburg.jpg

We stopped in Salzburg to have a look around, eat a wiener schnitzel, and see the house where Mozart was born. Definitely worth a stop.

salzburg.jpg

Our final destination in Austria was the small village of Hallstatt.

hallstaat.jpg

I was really looking forward to seeing Hallstatt because it looks so picturesque. However, Erwann and I were somewhat disappointed. Although it is indeed picturesque from the outside, the inside is stuffed with people. Many tour buses stop at Hallstatt, and apparently it is very famous in China. I guess the first Chinese tourists to see it were so enamored that they even built a replica of the village in China. See here.

Despite the Disneyland vibe and the overcast sky, we took advantage, walked around, took our pictures, and left when it started to rain. We slept on the road in an adorable hotel run by only one lady. We had breakfast included, which she served all by herself. Usually “breakfast included” means cornflakes and orange juice, but she actually served us at a table with as much bread as we wanted, fresh juice, coffee, eggs, etc. We were very impressed.

That wrapped up our German-speaking adventure in Europe.

Next up: Slovenia and Croatia!

Alsace · Belgium · Bruges · France · Uncategorized

Summer 2017 European Road Trip, Part 1

Immediately after my parents left France, Erwann and I started preparing our little car (graciously lent to us by the sweetest MIL ever) for a month long trek through Europe.

depart emieville

We popped back in at Erwann’s grandmother’s in Paris for the evening and took off to Lille. We stayed with a friend of Erwann’s who came to the wedding in Utah. He and his girlfriend bought an old bar and are remodeling the whole thing. They were very gracious to host us despite all the hard work they’re putting into their new home. Also, they have pet rabbits named Mary-Kate and Ashley. Brownie points.

From Lille we visited Bruges, Belgium. WOW. What a beautiful city. Most cities have one cute neighborhood, but Bruges is full of them. Every street was lovely with unique Flemish architecture and vibrant colors. Also, Belgian chocolate. On a Belgian waffle. Just saying.

bruges1

bruges3

bruges4

bruges2

Next, we went to the Alsace region in Eastern France. WOW. Mountains, fairy tale villages, wine, and BABY FOXES. I REPEAT. I SAW A REAL BABY FOX.

alsace1
11th century castle ruins overlooking Ribeauville
strasbourg.jpg
Petite France, Strasbourg
colmar
Colmar

Bruges and Colmar both have “little Venice” neighborhoods. But here’s the thing. Having been to Venice, I think Venice should actually be called “little Bruges” or “little Colmar.” Venice is definitely worth a visit, but I certainly prefer Bruges or Colmar!

The highlight of Alsace was lunch at Saint-Hippolyte, one of the villages along the Route des Vins. It was quiet, calm, and looked like it belonged in a story book. We sat down at the only open restaurant, ordered some local white wine that was fruity yet dry, and thus delicious beyond description. Erwann ate some kind of Alsatian pizza with cream and ham. I got a salad with melted Munster cheese. For dessert we got more Munster cheese. YUM.

Alsace borders Germany, so from Colmar we drove across the border into foreign lands. See you again soon, France!

Brittany · Family · France · Normandy · Paris

Metcalfs in France

Our adventure began in Paris and Normandy with my mom, dad, and little sister. What a joy it was for two of my worlds to finally collide! I loved watching Audrey taste all the delicious foods and my parents just rolling with the punches in a foreign country. We also had uncharacteristically hot and beautiful weather, which we weren’t counting on. Although I, Erwann, and anyone else we talked to would tell my family how lucky they were to have come during such a beautiful week, I still don’t think they realize how fortunate they really were!

In Paris, we did all the basics with all the crowds. It’s so beautiful, and there are so many things to see, so we were all happy to be there and also happy to get out of the city after a few days.

family eiffel tower

Our first stop in the countryside was Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life and where he is buried with his brother, Theo. Mom and Audrey LOVED it. I especially loved this house and all the poppies.

auvers door.jpg

audrey alisa auvers

After Auvers, we got some lunch, and consequently, my parents got their first true “snobby French server” experience. Dad ordered a steak well done. It came out barely browned. We asked the server if we could cook it more. He replied, “That’s not how you’re supposed to eat it,” and huffed away. When it came out the second time, it was even worse. We asked a different server to have it cooked more for us. She demanded, “Well, how did you order it?” In short, the customer is NEVER right in France.

Next, we stopped in Rouen, which is where Joan of Arc was killed. It also has a pretty sick cathedral that Monet painted several times.

rouen.jpg

Finally, we arrived in Caen. I got to show my family around my old stomping grounds, and we all stayed with Valerie and Christian. They were the most amazing hosts, cooking everyday and making us all feel at home. That’s where my family was finally introduced to the “apero,” which is essentially cocktail hour, but to French people is literally the only thing they look forward to on weekends or vacation. They LIVE for the apero. It’s when they get to visit with family and friends, relax, drink, and snack. It’s what gets them through the tough days. Audrey loved the idea of just sitting around and chatting. I think my parents enjoyed it too, although I’m pretty sure they were starting to wonder if French people do anything other than eat and drink.

After recharging our batteries, we visited Mont Saint Michel, Saint Malo, Saint Suliac, Bayeux, the American Cemetery, Beuvron-en-Auge, Honfleur, and Etretat.

saint malo
Saint Malo, Brittany
galettes saint malo
Galettes in Saint Malo. Audrey’s face says it all.
honfleurpano
Honfleur
etretat
Etretat

I kept thinking how lucky my family was to get such an awesome first tour in France. Erwann made it so easy by planning everything and driving everywhere, even on his 30th birthday!

After my parents left, Erwann and I began our travels in Northern and Eastern France. You could call it a vacation, or you could say that we are doing research for the Metcalf’s next trip to France. Stay tuned!

About Me · California · Family · USA · Utah

We did a 12 hour road trip with our cats

“What are you doing about your cats?!” said about 100 people upon learning of our move.

Obviously we took them. We bought a little kitty tent on Amazon a few weeks ago and made a nice kitty fort in my back seat for them to snuggle up in during the drive from Orange County to Salt Lake City. While the tent was in our house, they loved it.

18789245_10155427060431941_1149900601_o

Obviously our plan didn’t work out in the car. Our cats DO NOT LIKE to be locked up. They cried and scratched incessantly. Hazel broke the zipper of the kitty tent and escaped in less than 20 minutes, although not unscathed. She was so desperate to get out that she tore up her nose on the zipper. Once out of her kitty prison, she howled and roamed all over the car, driving Erwann crazy, as he was trying to keep her from going under my brake and gas pedals.

Poppy was mostly chill from the start, but would also cry occasionally. Erwann had to pin Hazel on his lap the entire drive from Costa Mesa to Las Vegas. She would sometimes be calm, but every time she looked out the window she would start to howl again. She dozed off just in time for our first stop.

Along with the tent, we had also bought some kitty harnesses and leashes. I had tried to get them used to the harnesses to no great avail. However, crunch time had arrived. We stopped for gas just outside of Vegas in 108 F. I put the kitties in their harnesses and on their leashes to be able to give them some water and just get out of the car for a minute. They were not pleased.

20170524_113503.jpg

Erwann and I were not pleased either, because we let Poppy out of the tent to discover that she had peed all over. We decided to ditch the tent all together and make them a little bed in the back. We blocked the seats so they couldn’t go underneath and gave them free roam. This worked much better. They settled in pretty quickly and spent most of the final hours sleeping on our laps.

kittiescar.png

We made one more stop in Fillmore with the leashes and harnesses. The girls still weren’t loving it, but it wasn’t as hot as Vegas, so it went more smoothly.

kittiesfillmore.jpg

We rolled into Salt Lake around 7:30 pm, set up the kitties with their food, water, and litter box, and cleaned the cat pee out of the car as best we could. They are still on the traumatized spectrum almost a week later, but they’ll be fine. They have been drinking a lot of water because they refused to do so during the voyage and seem happy to have plenty of beds to hide under.

Poor kitties. We sure love them though, so I’d say they’re also very lucky.

Georgia · Kentucky · Ohio · USA · Wedding

#DrunkonDavis in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia

Thanks to this strong and beautiful woman, I got to spend an amazing weekend celebrating the end of her single life and getting #DrunkonDavis in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia.

ssi2

I started the weekend in Cincinnati, which was surprisingly charming. I say surprisingly only because you don’t hear much about Cincinnati tourism. It had a wonderful vibe, though. From Cincy we went to Lexington, Kentucky to spend the night and to kiss my kitty nephews.

ssi9

ssi7

The next stop was Georgia for some beaching!

ssi4

Pictured above are only some of her bridesmaids. Arin is one loved bride!

ssi1

It was hot and the water was the perfect temperature, so we spent a lot of time in the ocean. It was the first real experience of humidity for this desert girl, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! My skin and hair felt amazing, and it made the breeze feel warm and pleasant.

ssi11

Another plus was the sweet hook up we got with one of the bridesmaid’s family who own a condo five minutes from the beach. She planned pretty much the whole thing and got these cute shirts made for us.

We did a lot of relaxing, but being a bachelorette party, we also partied.

ssi10

ssi3

ssi8

ssi12.jpg

SSI was a perfect place for a girl’s weekend. It was only a little bit touristy with nice beaches and nice people.

ssi6

…And at least one cute door.

ssi5

About Me · California · USA

What I Learned in Grad School

My mom’s new favorite thing to make me repeat is, “It was worth it.” She seems to think that at some point in 2014 I said that a master’s degree wouldn’t be worth it. I’m pretty sure that never happened, so of course I’m happy to admit that, yes, it was worth it. I learned a lot, and it feels awesome to put “Master of Science in Education with concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” on my resume.

Image result for famous gif

Here’s some stuff I learned during this valuable process.

  1. Being a grad student doesn’t make you special. It makes you the system’s bitch for at least two years.  I’m also discovering that it doesn’t automatically prepare you to enter the workforce. Image result for funny grad school meme
  2. It’s much harder than a bachelor’s degree. MUCH HARDER. The study and learning methods I used during my undergraduate were not useful to me in grad school.  Image result for funny grad school meme
  3. It’s much less fun than ~college.~ No time for parties. No money for parties. No energy to make new friends.Image result for funny grad school memeImage result for funny grad school meme
  4. It takes a f****** toll on your mental health. I later found out I wasn’t alone in that. It’s not about avoiding it. It’s about endurance. Image result for funny grad school meme
  5. How to put theory into practice. I’m not sure how or when I learned that, but I did, and it’s actually cool. I see theory in my practice everyday. I find myself explaining things that seem like common sense. They’re not common sense. Apparently I absorbed something. Image result for happy surprised gif7. How to take better criticism. I’m a sensitive person. This is still tough for me, but I’ve improved and am generally more open to feedback. Image result for hurt feelings gif

My darling family drove 12 hours from Utah to attend the official ceremony today. Now we’re packing, packing, packing, and moving on Wednesday.

On to the next chapter.