About Me · Family · Portugal

Cats and Doors in Portugal

Things are going just swimmingly here in Portugal. Other than this stupid rain that just won’t let up. Everyone keeps telling us how unlucky we’ve been, and we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, thanks for reminding us.” The beaches would be so much prettier in the sun.

Regardless, there is still a lovely ambiance here, and we’re taking advantage of every moment. The latter has proved unfortunately difficult for me. Since arriving, I’ve felt extreme anxiety and depression. It begins with a clench in my heart, and progresses to hopelessness, wanting to withdraw, and finishes with guilt.I am on vacation in Europe with my husband! I have no reason to feel anything other than euphoria. And I do! The crazy part of the whole thing is the duality of it. Even though I sometimes wake up in the morning feeling hopeless, I still get up, explore, eat, take pictures, and enjoy my vacation. But it’s not easy. Nearly everyday has been a huge struggle. Nothing is easy. Walking, talking to people, showering, sometimes everything feels like a gigantic obstacle. But that all changed, at least for awhile, when we went to the cat colony.

I crouched down to pet one kitty, and another kitty who looked remarkably like my sweet Poppyseed came running up to me, hopped on my knees, tried to climb inside my coat, and started purring. I grinned like a damn fool, and crouched with her on my knees for as long as my circulation could bear it. The rest of the day was long (but fun!) like the rest, with a lot of walking and talking. I waited and waited to feel my heart clench and fill my body with dread, but it never came.Call me a crazy cat lady all you want, but I will go to my grave insisting that it was thanks to Portuguese Poppyseed. I’m considering looking into making her a service animal and taking her with me everywhere. Cats seriously absorb all the bad in their soft fur with purrs and snuggles. That’s why I’ve spent most of my time in Portugal so far chasing after all the stray cats. Most of them are feral and hate me, but I don’t care. Cats are my drug of choice. Other than cats, I’ve discovered that I also have an attraction to cute Portuguese doors.

They have so much symmetry, color, and charm.

Rainbows do too.
About Me · Family · France · Normandy · Paris · Portugal

Christmas in France, New Year’s in Portugal

Douce France, how I had missed you and your bakeries.

We arrived in Paris the evening of Christmas Eve, picked up our rental, and headed straight to Grandma’s house. We ate a delicious meal of veal, potatoes, green beans, quiche. We exchanged gifts, and showed wedding videos to Erwann’s grandma and sister. We were thrilled to find out the next morning that the bakery was open even for Christmas, and rushed over to buy our first real French baguette.

We often find “French” stuff in the US, and we always get excited when we find something kind of good. Trader Joe’s has a decent baguette, and there is a really good cheese shop nearby as well. But in returning to France, I’m afraid we have been poorly mistaken for the past two years. Our mock French cheese and Trader Joe’s baguette don’t even come close to the real thing. But that’s actually okay, because it makes it that much more exciting to come back.

After lots of bread for breakfast, we visited Morgane’s chickens. Apparently it’s tres a la mode in France right now to have hens. Whodathunk. Once we’d had our fill times two of food (turns out French grandmas are just as eager to make you eat until you explode as American grandmas) and and snapped some photos, we headed off to Normandy to see Erwann’s mama.

I loved being back in Normandy. I lived there alone in the dorms at the university in 2011-2012, but I also returned in the summer of 2013 and spent several months actually living with Erwann, his mom, and his stepdad. This time it really felt a bit like a homecoming. I felt so comfortable and at home in their house, it was so nice to see them again after the wedding. Unfortunately, we had less than a week in France, so our time in Normandy was a bit packed. But we got to see all of our friends, and I was able to wander around my old stomping grounds. And of course there was also Minette.

It was a short but sweet trip. Before we knew it, we were on the road again back to Paris. We were mostly there to see family so we only had a few hours to wander around the city. It was as beautiful as ever, and not even too cold. We were able to grab a drink “en terrasse” while discussing if we could ever imagine living there. Erwann went back and forth all night between, “Oh man, it would be so cool to live here,” and, “Oh man, it would really suck to live here.” This trip really has us torn between two continents. We have loved ones on both, and they both also have their list of cons.

After some more grandma time and some yummy couscous, we hopped on a plan to Portugal to spend the rest of our European vacation with Erwann’s dad and stepmom. We had Christmas for the third time, and I got a beautiful new watch and amazing new (French, of course) perfume from my new in laws. Last night we kicked off New Year’s Eve with a beautiful sunset on the beach.

Next we ate some Portuguese chicken, and went back to the beach. By some divine grace, there was an ABBA (!!!) cover band playing, it was warm, and we were in good company.

I spent all night staring dreamily at my new husband and feeling thankful for our wonderful year together. At the beginning of 2015, we got engaged. By August, we were officially the Hickels, and now we’re back in Europe. Our life together is truly the most wonderful thing. Erwann is my rock, my sunshine, my love, my family, my everything.

I’m so happy I get to kiss him every New Year’s for the rest of our lives.

Portuguese Ponderings

For starters, we had to go to Spain. The temp place Erwann has been working for told him that they wouldn’t need him for at least two weeks. So we jumped on the occasion and decided to go to Portugal to see his dad. The only problem was that the tickets were so expensive! What to do, what to do… Oh! Go to Spain, and catch a bus to Portugal the next day. Great idea. Sevilla is one of (if not THE) prettiest cities I’ve ever been to. We had a nice time enjoying the warmth, eating tapas and roaming the city.

Another thing that always seems to occupy so much time in Europe is pastries. This bad boy is called a pastel de nata. It’s pure cinnamony, custardy heaven. I even learned how to order it in Portuguese!

Of course we COULD NOT be in Portugal without going sailing. Erwann is crazy for it and did it as much as he could, but I only went the one time with Erwann and his Portuguese friend, Pedro. And when I say I went “sailing” I mean I modeled in/on/around a sail boat. I had fun though, and we all had to laugh a little when we realized there were three different nationalities all on one tiny boat. It’s the beginning of a great joke: “So there’s a French guy, a Portuguese guy and an American girl in the middle of the ocean…”

Okay, so I guess I didn’t quite HAVE to do this, but I also spent many hours lounging poolside at Erwann’s dad’s. They’ve got an awesome set up.

However, there are only so many hours you can spend by the pool so we often took off on the motorbike to explore cute little Portuguese villages.

The downside to the bike is that it is SO HORRIBLY, AWFULLY, DISGUSTINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE. So one day, just before a daunting ride back to the house, I jokingly announced I was sick of that stupid back seat and that I was going to drive home. Then Erwann showed me where the clutch, brakes and the gas were. Then I was out. But only after we snapped a picture.

Anyone who knows me knows I am absolutely crazy about cats. So we had to make several visits to a particular bakery with a particularly cute cat. She’s just a stray, but she seems to be well fed and is obviously very cuddly.

Another thing about Portugal, is you just feel kind of dumb buying orange juice at the grocery store. There are orange stands literally everywhere, and Erwann’s dad actually has several trees in the backyard that bloom all year long. So when you’re craving orange juice all you have to do is run out back and grab a few.

But more than anything, the thing you have to do most is THE BEACH, THE BEACH, THE BEACH. Oh, did we spend time at the beach. The funny thing is most days we didn’t really plan on going to the beach, but it’s where we always ended up. It’s really not a bad place to find yourself.

In the end, the tickets we were planning on buying back to France got much more expensive, so we had to stay an extra five days. That puts my total time spent in Portugal this summer at three weeks. My tan has never looked better, we stayed for free in Erwann’s dad’s beautiful house and I ate like a queen thanks to Erwann’s step-mom (plus she taught me to make those yummy grated carrots!). I’m safely back in Normandy now, and you’ll never guess what I did today.
I went to the beach.

France · Normandy · Portugal

French Facts & D-Day in Normandy

Update: I’ve been working really hard the past few weeks, learning and re-learning lots of Frenchy things. Here’s my list so far:

1. Yogurt is a dessert, not breakfast.

2. Dinner is always followed by cheese. My favorite is Comté.

3. An early dinner is at 7:30. The French can’t believe how early we eat. I couldn’t count how many times someone has asked me, “How can you eat so early? Aren’t you hungry again at 8?”

4. A friend’s mom says that all Americans have perfect noses.

5. Erwann’s grandmother says that all Americans are tall. That’s definitely true in my family!

6. Erwann’s mom told me that French people work hard, just to be able to pay their taxes. Lots of people have lots to say on that matter. But hey, they do get five weeks paid vacation every year.

7. Bakeries are open on Sundays, but not on Mondays, which I find just plain cruel. I think I’m way more likely to need a pastry on a Monday.

8. The French have discovered the best way to eat carrots: grated with olive oil, vinegar and garlic.

9. French customer service really sucks. Don’t even get me started.

10. There are way more slang words in French than in English. There are three or more ways to say the most random words like work, shoes, car, etc. Not to mention that they like to say their words backwards. In the middle of dinner a few weeks ago Erwann stopped the conversation to ask me if I knew what the word he just said meant. Not surprisingly, the word “zar-bee” didn’t ring a bell. Turns out it’s actually “ZARRE-BI,” or as we would say, bizarre. Languages are hard. My brain is all messed up now. Last night I actually said (in English), “You don’t have shame?”

Other than my cultural studies, not much is new in France; a bit of rain and some D-Day celebrations. There really wasn’t too much going on, I think because they’re saving the big party for next year, which will be the 70th anniversary. But we went to Omaha beach and the American cemetery anyway, even though I’ve been before. Last year it was SO COLD, so it was a nice change to be there in the sunshine. It was a beautiful day, and hard to imagine what was happening there 69 years earlier.

Speaking of Erwann’s grandma, we went to Paris to visit her. She greeted us warmly at the door and had Grandpa Dan’s music playing in the background! We were just on our way out of town though…

I’m in Portugal now, and I have the most lovely tan. But more on that later.

France · Portugal · USA

Back to France

I really try not to be one of those boring bloggers that just writes about the mundane events of their daily life. When I started my blog, I promised I would only write when I had something interesting to say. Unfortunately, the life of a college senior is not that interesting. Hence no blogs for eight months. However, the life of a college grad is proving to be more exciting: I’m going back to Europe on Monday!

After much deliberation and stress, I decided not to move back to France for another year-long program. My student loans were advising me against playing in Europe for another year. So I decided to work my butt off, save some money, and play in Europe just for the summer. My return ticket to the states has yet to be purchased, but “the plan” is to come back some time in August and move to Texas. However that story involves a lengthy and mostly uninteresting explanation so I’ll just say that I’m dying for a change of scenery. And no, I really don’t think I’m going to miss Logan.

Now I’m suffering from an early quarter life crisis. I am a college graduate, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life. I started to have a mild panic attack about it the other day, when I realized it was dumb. I’ve decided that instead of stressing about it, I’m going to be thankful and excited that I can literally do whatever I want. My options are endless, and that is cool!

Honestly at the moment all I really care about is my well earned vacation in England, France, Portugal and who knows where else. I’ve worked hard, and I am SO ready to relax.

Bring on summer!


Portugal (Algarve)

How do I even begin? Is it possible to be jealous of myself? The past ten days feel like they went by in an hour! I’ve done so much, I have so many pictures, and I’ve loved every single second of it. Portugal is by far my favorite place I’ve been in Europe. Like I said, the past ten days are a blur, I can’t even remember everything I did or when, but here’s what I do know:

I left for Paris on April 10th, took the shuttle to the airport, and flew into Faro, Portugal. I landed at about 11:30, when I was greeted by a particularly cute Frenchman named Erwann. Normandy tries to follow me everywhere I go, but even though there were a few clouds, I saw gorgeous beaches, ate pastries and orange juice in the sun, and even managed to pet a few stray kitties.

And now to make you all jealous, I have to tell you about my birthday. It began with Oreo’s, which is never a bad way to start the day. Next I went to a typical Portuguese city, had a pastry (duh), and snapped some photos (Actually I’m lying, Erwann took 95% of these pictures. He’s better at it). Then, no big deal or anything, we drove to Spain. I even got to go back to El Sol!

Once back in Portugal, I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen, because a lovely salmon dinner was being prepared. Afterwards I blew out a bunch of candles and ate chocolate cake, which I also had for breakfast the next day, of course.

Let’s see, what else did I do? Oh yeah, I went to the beach. I took a ride through the Portuguese mountains on the back of a motorbike, and mostly I was just I was spoiled, a lot. I had the BEST spring break.

My 21st birthday

Day trip to Spain