Tag Archives: France

Spring Break 2014 – Paris: Street Art


Saturday, Sunday & Monday, 24 – 26 May, 2014

Location: Paris, France


Something I really enjoy looking at, when exploring a new city, is the street art.  The Graffiti, the tags and the little unofficial pieces that get put up every few blocks.  I’m sure that some of them have deeper stories than I’ll ever know, but I like to think that I can get a basic feel for a city from what they have.

For example, much of what I saw in Venezuela was quite intricate and artistic… mostly due to the fact that the president had actually commissioned a number of pieces to “spice up” the construction barriers filling the city.  Or in Hawaii, where the pieces were large and showed a lot of mythology – since people had more time and light to work.

Paris, by contrast, had a lot of sprays and paper pieces – things that could be stenciled or applied quickly and easily.  There were a few much larger and more intricate pieces as well, that obviously took a lot of time and effort, but the majority could probably be applied in mere minutes.  Maybe this means that the police are cracking down a bit more?  Or that the artists prefer to put the time in someplace that they feel safe, and then do a quick application in public?


Either way: enjoy a few of the sights…

Spring Break 2014 – TGV Ride to Paris


Saturday, 24-May-2014

Location: Cassis and  Aix En Provence – traveling to Paris


I honestly did not expect Daniel to be this excited about trains when he first brought up the idea of taking the TGV from Cassis to Paris.

To me, it was just another facet of our trip; the most efficient way to get from one area of France to another.  In hindsight, I must have missed a glint in his eye… maybe a subtle grin and shiver of excitement.

Because Daniel?  He loves trains, I learned.

And after riding the TGV, I have to agree.

It wasn’t like any train I’ve ridden in the States – it was fast, quiet, and didn’t stop constantly to let people on and off.  The ride was smooth, and the seats were comfortable.  What was this devilry?   But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  We couldn’t just waltz onto the train carrying our tiny little BMW crossover.  First, we had to return the car.

There’s not really much story to returning the car, actually.  We sort of just returned it.  The drive was unique, I guess, since a BMW Crossover cannot in fact hold five people and their gear comfortably… instead, we sort of packed ourselves below the gear… it was super-safe though, since there was nowhere for us to move, and we were protected by bags in every direction.

But so we returned the car, then walked over to the station and sat down to rest and wait for the train.  I even bought myself a quiche.  Speaking purely in French, no less.

Then, the docents called us all forward, we showed our tickets, and waited at the platform as the train slowly cruised into the station.


Packing our bags onto the car was interesting, though not particularly difficult… we had noticeably more luggage than most, but that just meant that it was easier to find room to put it.  And once it was done we sat ourselves into a pair of “facing each other” style seats and locked ourselves down for the journey… Daniel and I did get up to explore the food car for a bit (aww yeah cappuccino and twix bars), but for the most part we chilled, read, and chatted.  And I may have stolen subtle glances at the super-cute French girl sitting next to us.  But since she was playing cards with her parents… I wisely kept my nose shoved into my book.


Spring Break 2014 – Climbing in En Vau: Take 2


Friday, 23-May-14

Location: Cassis, France – Les Calanque D’En Vau (pronounced “onn vow”, if I still have got it correct)


Quote of the day:

Erin (resting on the stones) – “Yay!  I found a snail in my cleavage!”

Ben (climbing) – “Wait what now?”


By this point, we’re getting quite good at the whole morning routine.  Awake, breakfasted, coffee’d, bacon’d, and ready to start walking all in 45min or so… and that’s taking a relaxed breakfast where we chill, watch the sky, and eat a delicious croissant.  Or two.  Maybe one with chocolate in it as well.  This is France, I can do what I want.

Even the walk down to En Vou was quicker today, or it at least seemed a lot quicker.  I think the trail was a combination though – instead of tons of crowds, it was just us.  And instead of taking an insane detour away from the trail, we actually stuck to the normal trail that leads directly over to the Calanque.  So that probably helped.

But either way – we made it, and set up shop at Le Petite Aguille.  Climbing details are, as always, listed down below.  But the non-detailed version is that the climbing was amazing, the views were perfectly clear, and the sun was burning brightly down upon this, our last day of adventure on the Mediterranean.  We climbed, we chatted, we ate, and we posed like rock stars while summitting “The small needle”.

In fact, that posing part was pretty key – As I summitted the top, I struck a nice and solid pose… which elicited a resounding cheer from the cliffs.  What.  Why… I look around, then look down, and see that just as I finished a whole group of tourists had been walking past.  I guess they’d stopped to watch me finish the route, and took my pose as a call to cheer and clap.  Huh.  Nice to know I’m appreciated, I guess.

So we climbed, we enjoyed, etc…

Then, it was hot out.

There was a beach nearby.  A cool Mediterranean beach.  That had crystal-clear water to swim in.

We went swimming.  Bjorn went deep-water soloing; a solid traverse out a ways.  Rebecca swam all the way out to the deep water of the boat-lane.  I did some bouldering on the cliffs near the beach, and sunned myself there for a while.  Daniel stepped on a sharp rock.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

But there was still more climbing to do afterward…



La Petite Aguille

  1. Variante Nord-Oeste – 5.9 – Daniel leads.  Sort of.  Daniel actually lead two climbs as one… he got distracted by a shiny bolt halfway up, and decided to take a different route instead.  It’s ok though, because they were both super fun.  This one took a solid Arete to the pinnacle.
  2. La Face Norde-Oeste – 5.9 – Rebecca Leads.  Actually, since she just took one side of the route Daniel had done, and went to the correct anchor.  This climb was a bit more protected, since it was in an off-width about half of the time.  But not a normal offwidth… instead of a crack, this was a crack that lead into a cave.  Too small of a crack to fit a whole body through, but enough to chicken-wing an arm into.
  3. Note on actual summitting… it wasn’t easy.  See, the previous climbs all terminated about 10ft below the summit… and there really wasn’t any gear above the anchor.  At all.  So you had to climb up 10ft, then stand on a 4 sq.ft. ledge, then downclimb 10ft again.
  4. After Swimming   Face De La Mer – 5.6 – Ben & Bjorn Lead. This climb was directly viewing the beach, and it was quite fun.  Simple, lots of small ledges and interesting holds from the salt erosion, and somehow it wasn’t even super polished.  Crazy-talk.


Dalle Du Chat (A crag right by the beach)

  1. Passagers Du Vent – 5.10c – Bjorn leads.  This was an amazing climb.  I think it may be the hardest outdoor climb that I’ve completed, to be honest, and it felt like it.  Lots of tiny holds… they were good, but never where you wanted them.  I’m sure that it would be progressively easier the more times you do it, but the first time… yeah.  Lots of tough pulling, cursing, and just lunging for it.  Totally amazingly worth it.


La Saphir

  1. La Saphir, P1 – 5.6 – Ben Leads.  A good and fun end to a great and amazing climbing trip.  Erin and My last climb in Southern France, and it was excellent.  A lot more run out than I remember it being before, but quite fun with an amazing view at the end.  Excellent.