(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Please excuse the punny title. Dylan doesn’t quite approve, but he doesn’t really have to…I like it ;).

I am finally writing again about ADVENTURES! As I said in Summer Dreams, I have the summer off. It’s finally here: no more getting up at 5:30 to work out before working all day, breakfast and lunch and dinner prepped and ready the night before. No more stressful days with children and exhausted evenings of Netflix.

I make it sound pretty terrible – it’s really not. I do like my job. But, it was definitely wearing me out! It’s definitely a struggle sometimes to remain in balance. It will be much worse next year, with grad school and work and my nutrition program (yep!), but my hope is that the bustle will energize me.

Summer adventures are in full swing, and it’s only Day 3 of summer. Dylan and I drove for 13 hours yesterday to Salt Lake City. My main goal in SLC was to stalk Melissa Hartwig, inventor of Whole30 (no sightings yet). The secondary goal is to hike, hang out in coffee shops, and settle into two weeks of desert sun and outdoor escapades.

First impressions: it’s WARM! We left the cold and rain behind and found the sun. It’s awesome (but I am wearing so so so much sunscreen on my pale white PNW skin – Ghost Anne with Hat).

Dylan and I are making an effort to cook and eat whole foods as much as we do at home. I love having his support, and I think he loves the lifestyle as much as I do (win). In fact, it has stopped being “the whole30” and has started being my life. It’s honestly not worth deviating from when your breakfast is a kale and sausage omelette with some vanilla almond milk yogurt. And matcha tea with honey.

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Our first day, today, has been amazing. We slept in, then went for a hike on SLC’s “living room” trail. It was about three miles, uphill up and downhill down. It was tiring and hot, but short enough that we just got great exercise. Plus, the views:

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It’s called “Living Room” because there are chairs built out of rocks in the hillside. We reclined for a bit and had some snacks.

Now we’re out and about, having coffee and working. Dylan is not as lucky as me – no teacher perk summer vacation for him. Too bad 🙂

Next up: Day 2 in SLC and off to Zion!

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Epic Cliffs, Stinky Cheese, and Mont-St-Michel

What do you get when you put four Americans in a car heading west with a flag tied to the roof, eating Jif To Go with Ritz Crackers and drinking A&W rootbeer?

A good old US Road Trip, of course! But in France.

We rented a car and headed out on a sunny Friday morning, blasting pop tunes and full of energy. Our first stop was Etrétat, a city known for its stunning falaises (cliffs) which attract painters from all over.

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As a bonus, it was full of Normande charm, with the characteristic architecture and signs for cidre and calvados in every restaurant.

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We spent two hours clambering up onto the cliffs and taking epic photos. It was a sunny day (a rarity in the North at the moment) and a combination of that and the fresh sea breeze put us in a stellar mood. Hikes and laughter are my jam.

Back in the car, we had an afternoon snack as we headed for Caen, to my friend Dana’s host family’s house from her study abroad in Normandy. Her host family welcomed us weary travelers with an apéro of champagne and snacks and a beautiful 2-room setup to sleep in (which can also be rented via Air BnB, if anyone is interested). After drinks, we dashed out to meet Dana’s expat friend for dinner at a cow-themed fondue restaurant and ate and talked until we had to sleep.

Day two was dedicated to Mont-St-Michel, one of the most famous sites in France. My mom had been telling me to go for ages, and this was the perfect time. We arrived the weekend after the grandes marées, the highest tides in ten years, which means that we beat the crowds; there had been roughly 30,000 people descending on the Mont the weekend before. Our day was spent wandering the quaint winding streets and the hidden corners of the Abbey, complete with a picnic lunch in the garden.

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On the way home, we stopped in St Malo. I am always stoked to return to Brittany, my regional true love, and this town didn’t dampen (despite the rain…hehe) my feelings for Western France. It is a walled city, with some of the most intact walls I’ve seen. We entered through a stone gate and climbed up to the top of the ramparts (N.B. Cities in America do not have ramparts). We were able to walk halfway around the city and were rewarded with stunning views of the west coast on one side and the Breton city on the other. It was a great stop despite the adverse weather change, although the misty rain reminded me of home.

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Saturday night was spent with Dana’s family, eating and chatting. There was a spirit of warmth and hospitality, even though we were nearly complete strangers, which reminded me of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais community where I’ve made my home this year. The only downside was the cheese choice — Camembert and Livarot, two varieties whose tastes I have yet to acquire. I can’t handle the stench…

On Sunday we made our way home, tired and discouraged by the weather, but we all agreed that it was a great trip. What surprised me most was how it felt to be among Americans again, and on the road. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like a natural version of myself in Europe, which is a huge accomplishment. And yet, something felt especially nice about being able to joke and laugh and be outrageously patriotic in “American.” It’s our cultural language that is lacking here, as is everyone else’s cultural language if they aren’t from France.

But I was also more than happy to return home to my lovely house in Val and my international friends. As a group, we have created our own subculture, with an international smorgasbord of influences. I know that when I’m back in America, I will miss that subculture more than I can express in any language. I’ll have to go on plenty of road trips (and eat jars and jars of peanut butter) to cope 😉

Epic Cliffs, Stinky Cheese, and Mont-St-Michel