It’s been a week since I got back from the south of France and luckily the sun has followed me back to Belfast so I’m still feeling the whole ‘holiday-mode’ vibe. As I said in my last blogpost, the Saturday was spent travelling to Monaco from Toulon, exploring Monaco, and travelling back. The train was only two and a half hours and the views out our windows were pretty spectacular so there was always something to see.
Monaco itself was absolutely stunning. Definitely a place to put on the list if you haven’t considered it before. Ever since I saw the Disney channel movie ‘Monte Carlo’ with Selena Gomez, I’d dreamed of going! That was at least ten years ago. To be honest I never thought I’d make it there until I was way older because it’s known for being so pricey, but the way to do it is to make it a day trip. You can see it all in a day because it’s small enough and super walkable (just bring sneakers/runners for all the hills). Nice is only 25 minutes away by train and it is definitely cheaper to stay there. Food and drinks were only about 20% more than the south of France prices which isn’t too bad considering the cheapest apartment we saw advertised in Monaco goes for 6 million euro and the restaurants have iPads for menus…yes, absolutely absurd, I know.
Two cups of coffee plus a crepe was €12. The next place we ate we got huge portions including big drinks for about €60 all together I think. I spent about another €12 on postcards and magnets for friends and family.
The views are unbelievable and make for an incredible backdrop. There’s a photo opportunity pretty much everywhere. So here are all of the photos from Monte Carlo/Monaco! They speak for themselves. It was the highlight of the trip?
France, you’re as beautiful as ever! What an unreal place between the natural scenery, rustic architecture, cuisine, culture…Basically everything is amazing and I’m constantly amused in France. French architecture has a lot of charm with it’s bright colours and a ‘hasn’t been touched in years’ aesthetic so I’m always happy just roaming about taking it all in. If you have followed me from the start of Redhead American, I was in the north of France last summer with a good friend from home. I loved it then and I love it more now! Also on that trip, there was the laughable confusion that I believed I was in the south of France when I was actually in the north…ALWAYS do your research, folks!! Seriously if I can suggest anything from my brief year of traveling Europe, get out Google and take some time to digest your destination’s map and acquire some useful background to where you’re going.
We flew into Nice in the south of France and took a train for two hours that went through Cannes and some other towns over to Toulon where we stayed in the town centre. It was so fabulous and our accommodation had two balconies with some pretty sweet views! It’s safe to say I was spoiled this trip with some seriously stunning sights. The reason I was there actually was because I was invited to join my boyfriend and some of his family there for the Grand Prix in Le Castellet, near Marseille. Kinda unrelated to what I was just saying but, but I love saying ‘le’ and I love how everyone that goes to France tries to speak French in a French accent. It’s great craic and you feel super European.
I went to the race track on Sunday for the big qualifying day. It was unlike anything I’ve done before! The race track was massive (to me anyway, I have no idea about car racing and what’s normal) and the amount of people that showed baffled me as well! I’m really glad I got the experience and can say it’s something I’ve actually attended. Lots of fast cars, interesting accents and sun. It’s my understanding that Lewis Hamilton won. I was more excited by the fact he’s dated Nicole Scherzinger. I am such a girl.
So that was Sunday. I’ll go backwards here. On Saturday, my boyfriend and I got up early and took a train to Monaco, a place I have always, always wanted to visit. It was back past Nice so the journey took about two and a half hours. We were pretty much glued to the windows for the duration of it because of the views. France really is a natural beauty, especially along the coast. Monaco, a principality of France, is going to be a separate post! So I’ll stop talking about it now.
Friday was sleeping in after a lot of wine on Thursday and then exploring outside our doorstep, Toulon. We also went swimming at the beach where a French woman thought I was a wimp for saying the water was cold and splashed me until I was soaked. It helped me get in though!
The ironic thing that commonly happens to me on most foreign trips is that we somehow ended up in an Irish bar. Surprised? If you’re Irish and reading this, probably not haha! Now Toulon isn’t a place I can say I’ve actually heard of before this trip. Like at all. And I have no idea why not because it’s pretty special. Sometimes I haven’t heard of towns or small cities in Europe simply because my American education’s geography didn’t cover them growing up. I had heard of Nice when I was in high school I think. Then obviously more when I moved to Ireland. It’s a lovely spot from the brief time I spent traveling through it. But Toulon deserves so much more hype! Every corner of it is gorgeous. Very consistently pretty as I was saying on the trip. Everyone was quite friendly that I talked to there which wasn’t the case in Monaco.. Food and drink was delicious as to be expected. Hmmm, what obvious travel bases haven’t I covered here? I guess if there’s any questions you have please comment them or find me on social media to ask and I’ll be happy to reply. You’ll find I’m fairly brief in my writing although this is a denser post than usual. I don’t fancy writing ridiculously descriptive paragraphs, I think it’s easiest for everyone to just have initial impressions said then and there and said like you’re having a conversation!
I am an actual wheel of cheese after that trip and my body may as well be 50% wine. No regrets though. I lived in sundresses and summery clothes and only got a minimal sunburn which I consider impressive for how much I was prancing about in 27C weather. It was pretty awesome. The photos we took there are such sweet memories for the future (:
What’s your favourite part of France? I think mine might be the south!
So 2017 will go down as the year I began seeing new countries. All my life, I had only ever been to the United States (where I grew up and my parents live) and the Republic of Ireland (where my parents are from and I now live). I know that I should’ve taken advantage of living in Europe way sooner! In fairness, I have been all around Ireland. There are only a few counties left to check off my Irish bucket list! When I first moved over I basically had day trips planned for every weekend and I had fun little adventures wherever I went by myself or with university friends. But I became so comfortable in Ireland I never went anywhere else, besides home to Boston.
This year was very good to me. I visited so many incredible places, ate amazing food and best of all met a whole new group of friends! Before 2017, I had never crossed the border and visited Northern Ireland. After a handful of trips, I was living there in the summer time! I fell in love with Belfast (and a guy from Derry..haha). 2017 was one for the books as they say.
I’ll go in chronological order, trip by trip, including my favorite photo from my stay there and my favorite activity. There were some more local trips within Ireland (like Cork, Galway, Mayo, Derry, Donegal and Down) but I’ll stick to new countries for this post! All trip titles below have the link to the original blog posts where I discuss them in more depth.
A quick 40 minute plane ride from Belfast and I was in the industrial city of Manchester! I liked that it was a quick escape. However, it’s not really a holiday spot. It’s more of a place you go to visit someone, which was the intention of the trip. But nevertheless, it was still fun. My favorite part was the Manchester Art Gallery with a new friend I made from an old friend or the rooftop bar pictured…Don’t be fooled by the cute appearance of my cocktail, I can’t recall what was in it but I couldn’t finish it!
Out of all the gorgeous places, I think rural France was the best. Not only was it warm, it was super beautiful. The fresh loaves of bread and local cheese were SO, so divine. And the villa I stayed in was set in a rural area outside a very small village that I may never be able to pronounce but really loved.
The light show shown above was projected onto a gothic cathedral and captivated quite the crowd. So fab! I found a video someone took and uploaded to YouTube of another light show in the same place right here.
Amsterdam was a cool touristy spot and the architecture was super pretty. I was surprised at how different I thought it would be. One of the best parts of traveling is configuring a new perspective on a place.
Heineken Factory is well worth a visit, regardless of whether you enjoy Heineken beer. There were so many photo ops and I loved that you could roam about on your own.
There’s not much to say besides how great it is to be home for the holidays! Obviously the best part is reuniting with friends and spending time with loved ones. The snow is great as well and you can’t beat being near the ocean! I was also home two other times this year when I had time off from university in March and June. In March I was home for about a week and in June I stayed the whole month. One of my close friends from uni came over to see America. Showing her around Massachusetts made me appreciate where I’m from even more!
What a year! I traveled and learned quite a bit. It really does open up your eyes! I’m ready for 2018. I’m sure it will be packed with plenty of fun places to see. After my January exams, a few of us are headed to Madrid for a weekend which should be brilliant. And hopefully a little warmer… If you have suggestions give me a direct message or comment on Instagram.
Where are you planning on going in 2018?
Happy New Year!
(Photos of me taken by Abby Hanson at ‘The Knob’ at Quisset Harbor in Falmouth, MA)
Last week I found myself lucky enough to experience the north region of France. I ended up avoiding Paris altogether, only driving through it a few times. And from what I saw, it didn’t seem how it had always been depicted in movies or on TV. I definitely want to go back and give it another chance though! I didn’t even see the center of it where all the major touristy sights are. Eiffel tower is on my list!
However, where we were in Champagne was just beautiful. The French countryside is as picturesque as you’d hope. And despite stereotypes, the French people were SO nice and kind. It wasn’t even just the country people, it was the people we met in all the cities/towns we visited as well. They seemed to like to practice their english, which was awesome because I know very little French.
The villa my good friend had rented for the week was situated in a very rural setting.. Vineyard country. The hills and fields were beautiful. The house was technically an 1800s farmhouse that was transitioned into a rental so there’s plenty of ceiling beams and exposed wall details. It was one of only a few rentals in the area – Le Breiul, a little village in Champagne. The lack of tourists made the experience all the more tranquil. I spent a good bit of time just soaking up the sun and reading outside. It was around 30 C the first few days! Even though it’s not THAT far from Ireland, the weather is totally different (despite it raining a few times on my last two days there!). I did get a little sunburn..which quickly faded. My skin was probably happy to see the sun again, haha.
I had my own room with beautiful lighting. I didn’t spend much time in it honestly, except the time I spent sleeping like a rock. It was lovely though, I really liked it.
What I didn’t like was the spiders the size of tennis balls with the speed of Olympic runners. Terrifying. They showed themselves at night so we were all careful to watch out for them. The wasps were huge also! I’m not delving into negative things about the trip, there weren’t many at all! But if you hate bugs like me seriously watch out.
FOOD & DRINK
Veg/Fruit – Everything was ridiculously fresh. I could eat the lettuce pretty much as is. Tomatoes as well and I’m not even a big tomato fan! The grapes from our yard were also lovely. I made our salads with the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and just squeezed lemon on top with a dash of grapeseed oil and pepper. It was simple and tasted fab.
Cheese – Not only did I eat some killer cheeses, I got to visit the village of Brie. A charming little town that is the home of famous and amazingly gorgeous Brie cheese. It was adorable and I’m an even bigger fan of the cheese now. Like a lot of the villages in the Champagne area, Brie is fairly small and has a quaint vibe. I’d say Brie ended up being my favorite cheese of the trip!
Bread – We would run up to the local boulangerie for fresh bread and croissants nearly daily. Also heavenly. Croissants have never tasted better. They’re especially good with a bit of Nutella on top. Add Brie, lettuce and tomato onto a piece of French bread with a sprinkle of salt. Basically my lunch the entire vacation. I feel like a wheel of cheese. In need of a detox from it.
Wine/Champagne – Cheap and delish. A bottle that cost a fiver would taste like one that cost closer to twenty. I was impressed but after all it is one of the French’s areas of expertise.
As a gal pal of mine told me the other day, champagne is only authentic if it actually comes from the Champagne region of France. Otherwise it should be labeled a sparkling wine. The villa we stayed in was surrounded by beautiful vineyards…People pick the grapes from the vines once a year! I wish I could see how it was done.
My friend loves gothic cathedrals. We purposely planned our day trip towns around this for her birthday. One day we did an eighteen hour road trip of the cathedrals – kid you not! I was wrecked after and don’t want to see another one for at least a month. I see why she adores them, they’re absolutely stunning. The details are so elaborate for their time, most of them having been built as early as 1100 or 1200. We went (in no specific order, because I can’t remember it) to Le Breuil, Château-Thierry, Dormans, Reims, Chartes, Reoun and Amiens. Not all of those towns had cathedrals we visited but majority did. While I enjoyed just about everywhere, Reoun was my absolute favorite. It was by far the nicest city in my eyes.
Farewell, France! I shall be back. I have a new love of traveling and appreciation for France and their culture but there’s nothing like coming back to Ireland. I was only gone five days and it was such a relief when the plane landed in Belfast. Since then I’ve moved back to uni. I finally have a place of my own, woohoo! I’ll have to do a post on how I decorate it.