Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Our Long Weekend on the French Riviera

Is it really May 2016? Where did the last year go?! Seriously, how is it that I haven't posted anything in a year...oh wait I know why; we have a baby now! Yes folks that's right, the past year has been consumed by our lovely daughter Emily, who we call Emi. For our close friends and family, you have been with us through our roller coaster of a year. Right before my last post in May 2015 our baby was diagnosed in utero with a cardiac heart defect. We were so lucky as she was able to be carried to 38 weeks, had a successful heart operation, and has been doing seemingly well since. We had a few bumps along the way, and it wasn't always easy, but here we are in May 2016 with a beautiful month old enjoying life as a new family. I have been thinking a lot about writing down our journey over the past year, a project which I plan to take on this summer while in the USA. So you are now aware of why I have been absent from posting the past 12 months, but I happy to say I am back and excited to start sharing some of our most recent travels, starting with our long weekend to the French Rivera. 

It's funny - when we were thinking of having a baby  so people said to us that we wouldn't be able to travel once she arrived. We of course knew that the first few months of her life would be unique since she was having surgery and we were dealing with a newborn. But after about three months we ventured on our first flight to Germany and haven't stopped since.  I am happy to report that since Emi joined us, we have been to 8 countries with her and continue to follow our passion of exploring new places together as a family. It is definitely different traveling with a baby, but we were truly blessed with the worlds most easy going little lady. Perhaps it's because she had such a rough start to her life that she just goes with the flow, but whatever it is that makes her so easy I will gladly take it! Our daughter has had a few weight/eating problems due to her heart condition, so she gets the majority of her nutrition through an NG feeding tube for the time being. To be totally honest, the tube feeding which is connected to an automatic pump makes traveling and getting out so much easier.  I just have to be more prepared when packing our bags to make sure that we have extra supplies, but luckily we always get a medical bag when flying now so it helps make it that much easier. Of course I would prefer her to get her nutrition from a more traditional route, but finding the silver lining in the feeding pump is that we can always feed her on the go. 

As you may know, my husband Christian is a huge AC/DC fan. Our new rule is that if he wants to continue going to shows, we must pick a new destination to make a vacation out of the trip. This year, we selected Marseille for two reasons. One, we both had never been and two a close friend of mine from Scotland moved there two years ago and has been asking us to come and visit. After a quick 2 hour flight we arrived on a Friday afternoon and our friend Kam met us at the airport.  From there we went to her flat in downtown Marseille which was only a 25 min car ride. Christian said goodbye and headed off to the stadium for the concert to meet friends who were also in town. Kam, her friend Aurelie, Emi and I enjoyed a walk around the neighbourhood followed by a girls night in! It was great to relax after traveling and just enjoy catching up with each other. 

Christian loved the show and said the stadium was one of the best he'd been too. 

Saturday morning we enjoyed a traditional French breakfast at home and took our time getting ready. Emi enjoyed her first croissant. She is starting to transition to solids through baby led weaning and this seemed to be a clear winner! 

Our friends live very centrally in the city which made getting around easy on foot. We spent Saturday checking out some of the popular tourist attractions including the Palais Longchamp as seen in the picture below. 

Living in Scotland we are always out and about despite the weather. Marseille was quite sunny and hot when we were in town, but had crazy winds the whole weekend. It did seem a bit dirty to me, but I think it was due to the trash being blown literally everywhere! I did enjoy photographing some of the unique architecture of many of the old buildings around the city. 

We also loads of fresh markets at the weekend with the usual French favorites- breads, cheeses, and wine. 

We even saw a guy making massive portions of paella. 

Our favorite part of Marseille was the downtown old port area and old town. We enjoyed leisurely strolling around on Saturday for most of the day eating our way through the city.

The port had some great views and what seemed like thousands of sailboats and yachts.

One of the best things was since we had friends who lived in town we didn't have to do any preparation for our trip on what to do or see. They really were amazing tour guides taking us all over the city to the best attractions and places to eat! 

They even watched Emi for Chris and me so we could enjoy a nice romantic dinner out just the two of us! That is a luxury these days since we don't have family where we live and try not to take too much advantage of our friends in Edinburgh!  

We even managed a boat ride in the harbour- even if it was only a 5 min ride

Here are a few more shots from our day of city exploring...

Mirrored roofs make for great group photos!

Catch of the day for sale right in the port

One of the most spectacular Ferris Wheels I've seen! 

I am not sure why but there is something so French to me about a carrousel. Maybe because I remember seeing so many in Paris when I visited as a teenager.  Whatever it is I was loving this one right in the heart of the city. 

One of the other negatives to the city besides the trash, was it did not seem very baby friendly. No high chairs at restaurants, no changing tables in bathrooms, and people really didn't seem to move for our stroller. So we decided to take turns with meals and one of us always had to hold Emi until the other finished. Not ideal but we made due. 

And it's not a holiday unless you get some mint chocolate chip ice cream- right Chris? 

After enjoying the city all afternoon we headed home to relax before dinner. Emi, and her dad who'd been out until the early hours of the morning due to the concert the night before, needed a power nap! Once everyone got their second wind we headed to explore the Calanques National Park. The sun was setting and the drive was beautiful. The pictures really don't do the views justice! 

Love this group photo! 

Sunday we decided to venture out of the city to explore some of the French Riviera. On the way to La Ciotat, a small beach town about 30 miles outside of downtown Marseille, we drove a windy costal road that was absolutely beautiful. I like exploring cities, but much prefer getting out into nature and enjoying the sun, sand, and sea! 

The town had exactly what we needed- a nice promenade for walking, little beaches for sunning, and spectacular views of the French Rivera. 

How about this little beach babe! 

We really had a great time just chilling on the beach for the day. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather! I was lucky enough to have been to the beach with Emi in Florida this past February so I left her in Christian's capable hands most of the time. He really enjoyed watching her play in the sand and having some quality dad/daughter time. 

They even photo bombed Kam and my perfect beach selfie!  But we got one later...

The Three amigos! 
The water may have looked so enticing to swim in, but it was freezing! I went in to about my knees, but Chris was the only brave one who went in for a dip long enough for me to get a few pics. He said it was ice cold but boy was that water clear and beautiful! 

Aurelie and Emi also got some quality beach cuddle time in! 

 And our classic picture of lugging a stroller to the beach! Guess we gotta get use to it- Thanks Kam for documenting our struggle haha!

Sunday night as mentioned earlier Christian and I went out for a dinner just the two of us. Since we had an early flight out Monday morning, we were soon to bed after dinner and back in Scotland by lunch time having gained an hour on the way back with the change of time zones. We really can't say thank you enough to our lovely hosts! They made the trip so easy organizing a baby bed, car seat, and high chair for the house. And giving Christian and me some quality alone time is priceless! I'll leave you with this family picture which was my favorite of the trip from the old port.  

Until next time, I'll see you on the internet.