Thursday, October 28, 2010


We always knew that Indonesia was prone to natural disasters, but recently it has been particularly bad. As you probably heard, earlier this week, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, and then a few hours later, Mount Merapi, the huge volcano in Central Java erupted.

Of course having lived in Indonesia, we were shocked by the news. We experienced a couple earthquakes and floods in Jakarta, but to have events this big so close together really stretches Indonesia's limited resources to respond. I'm confident that the U.S. government and charitable organizations will help with the recovery, but more help is always needed. Hill and I hope everyone will think about how they're helping the less fortunate. I'll leave you with a few photos from our trips near these recent disasters.

Mount Merapi is the tall peak on the right side of the photo.

The area around the volcano is densely populated because the land is so fertile, especially along its slopes.

Padang is one of Indonesia's largest cities, located around 150 miles from the tsunami. It's popular with tourists, especially surfers who use it as a jumping off point for the Mentawai islands, the sparsely inhabited islands struck by the recent tsunami. Last October, Padang experienced an earthquake, which killed more than 1,000 people.

On a happier note, a couple weeks ago we were invited to a reception to honor Indonesian independence day, so I wore my batik shirt and we even spoke a little Indonesian. We really enjoyed the food and getting to taste some of the flavors we have missed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

France - Part Deux

After a couple days in Lyon, we rented a car and headed south into the Provencal countryside. It turned out to be a really fun trip, and by driving everywhere we were able to appreciate the beauty of the region. We were headed to a tiny village outside of a small town called Uzes.

Along the way we passed many cute towns like this one

We stopped for steak frites in a small town, and realized they were just finishing up their Saturday morning market. We made it just in time to sample and buy some cheese and sausage.

The sausage was covered with some sort of herbs, and it was delicious. I also really liked the Brebis cheese they had. Here I am sampling our purchase.

The place where we stayed was wonderful. It's called "Les Sardines Aux Yeux Bleus", or the blue-eyed sardines. :) It's run by a really sweet couple. A Swedish model falls in love with a Parisian photographer, and they decide to leave the big city behind and open a cute French guest house in the countryside. You know, your average story.

Here are some pictures of the place:

Our room:

After relaxing in their peaceful garden, we decided to head out and see what we could find. Our first stop was the historic town of Uzes. I love the light in this photo of the city:

Cute balcony in the town square:


The next morning we hit the yard sale in the next town over. We didn't manage to find anything we couldn't live without, but it was fun looking.

One thing we really wanted to see was an ancient aqueduct called the Pont du Gard. It was built in the first century AD! In its heyday it carried about 44 million gallons of water per day to the citizens of Nimes. It survived during the Middle Ages by being used as a toll road, which helped support its upkeep. Today it is one of France's most popular tourist attractions. Here are some pictures.

We drove on to Nimes, and after parking we found the main street to be roped off due to a bike race for young kids. Maybe we witnessed a future Tour de France winner in training?

Lunch in the town square consisted of croque monsieurs and beer, naturally

Palace and elephant statue in Nimes

Then we were off to Les Baux de Provence, which is a really, really, really old town (I don't know how else to describe it) that dates from 6000 BC. It is built way up high on top of a rocky outcrop, and was unlike anything we'd seen before. Here is a picture I found online - an aerial view.

Yup, there is an actual town built up there!

What we found funny is that walking around, it felt like you were at a Renaissance festival. Except that you weren't. You were in a really, really, really old town. Built on top of a mountain.

On to the city of Arles, where we checked out the town's coliseum. What's neat is they have restored the ruined parts and made it whole again. Even neater is the town actually still uses the coliseum for concerts and other performances.

The old

And the new

On one part of our trip we found the road closed with a small sign, which you could easily have driven around.

We took a detour high up in the mountains, and realized there had been a huge landslide which had completely covered the road. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see the road behind the collapsed mountain. Glad we weren't on the road at that time!

Everything was just so pretty in that region of France

We enjoyed all of the meals we had while we were there. I love French food, and I really realized how much I missed a lot of aspects of French life. They truly enjoy living, eating, drinking, talking, laughing. There is a reason they have the phrase "joie de vivre", or joy of living. I was happy that John enjoyed France as much as I do. I need him to want to visit again soon, which I'm sure we will!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

France - Part 1

We started off our time in Lyon with a meal at a typical bouchon.
The picture above is of one of the streets just lined with restaurants and outdoor seating. One thing I love about the food in Lyon is most of the restaurants offer a few set menus for you to choose from. Any meal always include bread and water. The set menus include an appetizer, entree, and cheese or dessert (sometimes both!). The prices are usually between 10 and 20 euros, depending on the place you choose. While studying there, I fell in love with warm goat cheese salads, gratin dauphinois, and quenelles. Needless to say, I had my fair share of those dishes while we were there...

See that pretty blue bottle in the photo above? It's a very simple concept. Every single restaurant keeps bottles full of water in their fridge. When people sit down at a table, the waiter brings out bread and the chilled bottle of water. Why oh why can't Portugal do the same? France gets points in our book for this. And don't the tables and bottles just look so cute and, well, French?

More streetside dining

We found my old kebab place! Might even be the same guy working there....

What else but more cheese?

Pretty bakery

Fleur-de-lys cakes!

Cute little cafe in my friend Ellen's old neighborhood

One thing I love about France is people really do carry baguettes around!

Checking out the Roman amphitheater ruins.

Lyon has a bunch of passageways which lead under and betwen buildings and courtyards. They were built to allow the silk factory workers to transport textiles between buildings while staying sheltered from the rain

Long, steep staircase

Crepe stand, which almost looks fake because it's so cute!

We went to a bar that I used to hang out at when I was living there, called the Smoking Dog. It's a British pub, which was always half crowded with expats and the other half local French. They used to show The Simpsons and Friends on Sunday nights, and we usually made it to their pub quiz they had once a week. It was great to check it out and see that it hadn't changed one bit.

See the sign above me?

Enjoying a Guinness

A shot of me, Ellen, and our friend Lauren hanging out at the Dog in 2001. You might say we frequented the place. :)

I'll be back with some pictures of the trip we took to Provence -it was beautiful.