Oh, the places you should go….

So, If you haven’t noticed, I have neglected this blog. But hey, I have been having a good time, so blogging wasn’t really on my mind. My time being an au pair is almost over and I am “kind of” ready to come home. I will miss France, but I also miss home. I miss things like ice, target, and Mexican food. To name a few off the top of my head. And of course my family. Especially the little ones, they change too fast when I’m gone. I have instilled a sense of wanderlust in¬†my oldest nephew, so my work is done. We are going to Iceland. I don’t know when, but I will figure it out. My sister and bother in law will have to deal. ūüôā

Leaving France will be hard because even though I have seen a lot, there is still so much I want to see. Being here, everything is just so accessible. I can take a train for 70 euros to ANOTHER COUNTRY for the weekend. Trains are big and comfortable, not like planes.¬†You¬†don’t have to weigh your bags, and the only time¬†I had to go through customs was when I went to the UK because of stupid brexit.

I had a conversation with a French person about Americans traveling in Europe. She said she met some Americans on vacation. They were here for 17 days and were going to each place for 1-2 days. They told her that they were “doing Europe” and she found that so bizarre. I had to explain how flights are expensive, etc. When Europeans “do America”¬†most of them¬†skip the middle. If someone tells me they have been to the US the places are usually California, New York, or Miami. Also, French people have basically all of August off, so they can spend 3-4 weeks in another country if they can afford it.

I have been so lucky to get to do this. I have gotten to go to so many places. I haven’t written anything for months. Since Barcelona I have been to so many great places. Brussels, Lyon, Avignon, London, Amsterdam, Giverny, Etretat, La Salle de Alps to name the main ones. Some were just¬†day trips from Paris, and most were weekend trips¬†where I only stayed one night. Now I know where I want to¬†visit again, and where I don’t.¬†I really loved all of the places I have been, but I have some favorites so far. And,¬†that is what I am going to tell you.

These are the place I think you should go, and why. First off, Normandy if one of my favorite regions in France. I have been there on two¬†day trips and one overnight with travel companies that are run out of Paris. YEP and We Discover Paris, they are good for day trips.¬†If you are coming to Paris, go to Normandy if you have time. I would take three days if possible. A¬†day trip to see Monet’s gardens at Giverny would be amazing if you have time. It’s surreal to go there, and so beautiful.

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Second, Aix-en- Provence, France. This can Include Lyon and¬†Avignon which are nearby. Seriously, if I get married… It would be in a lavender field in Provence. Looking over one of these amazing villages. I¬†had never¬†seen such a breathtaking site until I went to Provence. The lavender doesn’t bloom¬†until early July, so I missed out on that, but I will go back. A road trip through Provence in early July is added to my bucket list.

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Third, London. I loved London. I definitely want to go back. London was very cool. Everyone I met was so nice. I think it also felt more like home because I went to the Plaquemine Lock restaurant and was treated like an old friend. They are so nice there. If you go to London, stop by. I saw¬†the musical An American in Paris. I know, It’s a little clich√©. But, I didn’t want to see Aladdin or The Book of Mormon. There are only so many choices when your on a budget and have a specific date. I am so glad I got to see it. It was absolutely amazing!

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Brussels and Amsterdam are two places I am glad I went but I do not feel a need to return. Brussels was beautiful, but if I go back to Belgium I would like to see Antwerp and Bruges. Amsterdam was cool, but it was so crowded. Most cities that are “touristy” towns have lots of places that you can go to get away from the crowds. Amsterdam is very small so it is a little harder to do that. I¬†did love riding a bike around¬†Amsterdam for two days, though. But, I have never been so tired after a trip.¬†And don’t get me wrong, Amsterdam is beautiful! I spoke to a guy who said that Rotterdam is a lot better. I would love to go back to the Netherlands and explore other areas. So if you go to Amsterdam, make sure and go to Rotterdam, too. I missed out. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And finally, Skiing in the French Alps. This was so beautiful. If you love skiing and want a challenge, go skiing in France. The slopes are much steeper and thinner. You cannot ski on your own, ever. The trails are not marked like in the US. Everyone needs a guide and goes in groups with an instructor, no matter the level. I saw experienced skiers fall down mountains. There were multiple people walking around with slings on. I skied 3/6 days because of bruises on my body from falling. They are intense. Although,¬†the ski passes are cheaper. If I ever ski again it will be in America where trails are wider and there are always fires inside the lodge. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably never ski again. I’m traumatized.

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FIN.

Please like and share… if you like it! Of course¬†ūüôā Love, Jo

 

 

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Au Revoir Barcelona… Oh wait, it’s Adios.

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Barcelona. I arrived at 12pm Friday night from Paris and left Sunday night at 8:00. It was not enough time to see everything. But, it was enough time to see that I want to return.

I took Spanish in high school. That was a waste of four years of my life. The basis of my vocabulary when I was in Spain was Si, Hola, Adios, Gracias, and¬†De Nada. Barcelona, like Paris, is a big city with many tourists. So, getting by with only English was easy. The problem with me was the “French mode”that I was in. I would use Oui, Bonjour, Au Revoir, Merci, and de rien more often¬†that the Spanish words I know. It’s like when I came back to the States I instinctively said “Pardon”(in a French accent)¬†when passing a lady in the airport. I added the “me” because I¬†realized I was in America now. I had now become an 80 year old southern woman. So, the whole trip was me saying, “Oui, oh Si, ugh I’m sorry.”¬†speaking 3 languages like an idiot.

P2251283.JPGNow, enough about my horrible language skills. Let’s talk about the highlight of the trip. Sagrada Familia. Now, if you have never heard about Sagrada Familia, this is a link to their website here Sagrada Familia. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudis masterpiece that has been under construction¬†since the late 1800s. I have seen a lot of Cathedrals and Basilicas in Europe. However, this one is so detailed that it is going to be hard to beat in my mind. Everything was thought out and¬†has a meaning behind it.

There is a Nativity side and a Passion side of the Basilica. On the Nativity Side there are three doors. Jesus in the middle, Joseph to the left, and Mary on the right

The Passion Side has columns that that are meant to look like muscles. The carvings are deliberately made to be more square or rough on this side because of what it represents.

 

The inside of the basilica was modeled after a forest. Gaudi made the columns on the inside look like huge trees. The side of the church where the sun rises has huge stained glass windows in cool tones. And the side where the sun sets is in warm tones. The light reflecting inside the Church is really what you notice. Colors dancing on all of the walls.

 

 

I took the lift up to the tower on the Passion Side of the Basilica. I researched when I bought my ticket and that at side is supposed to have a better view of Barcelona. The view was amazing! I also think the line was longer for the tower on the Nativity side. So, if you are going, maybe choose the Passion side. Overall Sagrada Familia was my favorite part of the trip because it just blew my mind. I just kept thinking about how Gaudi got thousands of people to commit for hundreds of years to his vision. He just designed something so ambitious and people are still trying to achieve his goal. Amazing.

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My favorite picture from Sagrada Familia

Saturday I needed to eat something. I had researched food in Barcelona before I left and discovered¬†La Boqueria. It was¬†was highly recommended by many websites and blogs. Mainly because of it’s fresh fruits and juices. Also the variety of vendors and food choices. This was a close call for my favorite thing in Barcelona. The atmosphere and the people were great. The juice was only 1 euro (at the small booth I found) Some were 1.50 euro. So, walk around a bit if you want to save money or find the best deal. There are so many vendors. Also, If you see something that looks good I suggest you get it at that moment. I saw a few things and thought,¬†I’ll come back if I don’t find anything better to eat. After walking and not finding anything else, I couldn’t find those places even though I tried. I had to settle for some fried seafood¬†that I didn’t really eat. But then I found some ice cream that was like heaven. So, overall it was a success.

The best thing about traveling by yourself and staying in a hostel is that you meet new people. Saturday night I got dressed and sat down in the common room. I was going to rest and then find a place for dinner. I ended up talking to some people and met a guy who was from Lafayette, LA. It really is a small world. I then had an invite to dinner and met three new people in the span of 10 minutes. That night we played drinking games with Sangria, and tons of people who were staying at the hostel joined.

Sunday I had a ticket to Park G√ľell for 10am. Waking up for¬†a shower and everything before was tough because of the Sangria, but I made it there. If you don’t like to walk I suggest you take the bus from the Metro to Park G√ľell or take a taxi. The walk to Park G√ľell is about 15 minutes and it¬†is not the easiest. It makes the views great but the walking includes going uphill. Although, the one thing I noticed in Barcelona is how Sagrada Familia and Park G√ľell would be easy for a handicapped or older person. Sagrada familia has ramps and an elevator for the towers. Park G√ľell has access to the front gate by taxi, and most of the going up you can do by ramp. That is very rare for Europe.

 

Park G√ľell was beautiful and the stone formations were very cool. The architecture of the buildings is interesting to look at and there is a great view. I don’t know if I would¬†recommend going to¬†Park G√ľell if¬†you only¬†have¬†2 days like I did. It is very time consuming and kind of out of the way. Very worth it if you have the time, though. I loved it.¬†I also saw Casa Mil√† and Casa Batll√≥ from the outside. I did not see the inside of Casa Batll√≥, but I wish I would have. The exterior was absolutely amazing. It was so interesting and cool.

Last but definitely not least, I went to Barceloneta Beach. The beach was very beautiful. There is a nice boardwalk that you can walk along to get there from the metro. There are restaurants and a big marina with huge sailboats. If you do not want to walk along the boardwalk, there is a bus that will take you strait to the beach. The bus stop is right by the metro, easily named Barcelonta. The walk is nice, but if you are crunched on time, the bus is a good option. After about a 20 minute walk you will make it to the beach. The beach in Barcelona was absolutely beautiful. I did not have the greatest experience because I decided to go touch the Mediterranean ocean. Well, the next thing I know, my jeans,¬†shoes, and socks are soaked. So, I guess I have been in the Mediterranean ocean. It’s about the memories, right?

 

Overall Barcelona was an amazing trip. I discovered a new love of Gaudi and I made some new friends. I also answered the question¬†Spain¬†vs. France, which is better? I have no idea at this point. But Barcelona is a must visit if you are in Spain. It has the best of everything. Beautiful beaches, good food, nice people, great history, and amazing architecture. Definitely not as pretty as Paris, though. Every building¬†is pretty here.¬†I was asked about liking Paris because some people¬†say it is dirty, which I have not noticed at all. I am told people love or hate Paris.¬†My answer to this is that all¬†big cities are dirty somewhere. Its like New Orleans. Don’t judge it based solely on Bourbon Street.¬†FYI: Watch out for dog poop in Barcelona too. Except, it doesn’t make sense to me at all there because they actually have grass. So, It must be a European thing.

That’s all for now.

Besos,

Jolie

 

 

 

Tomber sept fois, se reveler huit

P2041177.JPGFall seven times, stand up eight is one of my favorite quotes. It became literal last week when I was in the French Alps skiing. When I say that I fell, I mean that I fell down a mountain. I fell while trying to go up the mountain, also. If you ever go skiing in France I would say if you are not an expert skier to start in a beginner class.¬†Even if they tell you¬†not to.¬†The levels are Green, Blue, Red. I told the lady who placed me in a class that I hadn’t skied in 10 years. She put me in a level that was way too advanced.

On the first day I was on a “dark blue” which means that it is a harder blue, closer to a red. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Turkish lady in my group injured her knee the first day and was out for the week. I saw countless people with injuries throughout the week.¬†The skiing is¬†just on another level there. I was looking forward to skiing like in Colorado. Where you can go off on your own and have some peaceful alone time. In France, that is only for skiers who know the trails well. They are not marked like in the US. My host dad joked and said that I couldn’t do that because I might end up in Italy. -I think it was a joke.

Overall, I am a pretty good skier. ¬†I can do a dark blue and survive. But, once I bruised my whole body the first day, my level of skiing went from high to low.¬†And now I¬† can’t even do Pilates on a mat and it has been 2 weeks since that first day. The biggest lesson I have learned from this I that skiing is not like a bike. As much as all of the French people want to repeat that to you. If you haven’t been in years, start¬†as a¬†beginner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe best part of the stay was just walking around the town. I walked up and down the mountain. I like walking and taking pictures, and this was the only way I could do it. With the group ski lessons, you can never stop to take pictures. The whole week we were skiing constantly in a group. Every single day you are in a group skiing. Mainly I think because it is hard to get around the mountains without a guide. I think it is more fun when you can go with your family and have a little more freedom.

I do want to go skiing again. Preferably somewhere¬†with my own¬†family. ūüôā And now I have all of the clothes to do it. FYI if you need to buy ski clothes and you are going to ski in Europe, buy everything here. It is so much cheaper than the US. Skiing is cheaper too, but once you add in the flight it becomes about the same P2041226.JPGprice or more expensive.

La Salle de Alps was one of the most beautiful places I have been in my life. The pictures I have included do not do it justice. If you are an avid skier and want a new experience, I would highly recommend it! Another place on my bucket list checked off. Now, What’s next?