Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saint-Malo, France

As a part of my study abroad program, we took two group trips, one of which to the Loire Valley (which I posted about here) and another to Saint-Malo and Normandy, but more on Normandy later. Saint-Malo is the quaintest coastal town, about four or five hours outside of Paris. The streets are made of cobblestone and the entire town is surrounded by a large wall.

Out on the water were sailboats of all sizes, and the shore was filled with rocks and boulders of all shapes and sizes. The water was so, so clear and so, so cold. We had a few hours of free time before dinner, so my friends and I walked along the wall and wandered along the beach. I only wish I had had more time to explore the area! Also, our hotel was the cutest - the walls were covered with photos of sailboats and similar things!

The next morning, we had a wake-up call of 5:00am because we were setting out to walk three-hours along the beach to a place called Mont St. Michel, which is a large, old church perched on a small island. I had no idea what to expect to be quite honest, but the walk ended up being rather enjoyable.

The beach was so large that you couldn't see the ocean or the road and the tide was all the way out, so the sand seemed to go on forever. We walked through mud, jumped on quicksand, (sank in quicksand), and waded through water, but we eventually made it. The whole island almost gives me a little bit of a Hogwarts Castle vibe.

The island and church were incredible, and then we ventured on to Normandy! Look out for a post on that soon.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Florence, Italy

After two days in Rome, we took a train to Florence! We arrived just as the sun was setting and got to see the famous Ponte Vecchio in the distance on our way to dinner. Per usual, the quality of the food did not fail.

The next morning, we got up early to see the Ponte Vecchio before it was overwhelmed by tourists and then made our way to the Uffizi Museum, which houses Michelangelo's famous David statue. After, we explored the leather markets in the area - each market had an array of colorful wallets, bags, and various knick-knacks, all smelling like fresh leather.

For lunch, we made our way to a place famous for its oversized sandwiches. The line took 30 minutes to get through, but it was well worth it considering how good the sandwiches were. We didn't have too many plans for that day, so we took to wandering the area and came upon the famous Duomo. It was spectacular in person, with detailing in the architecture so intricate that a photo can't properly capture it. The view of the Duomo below is from the top of the clock tower in the middle of town.

That evening, we took our time with dinner and made our way to a gelato place before heading back to the hotel. The amount of gelato consumed on this trip was immense, but well worth it.

And finally, the following day saw our last lunch in Italy and then we made our way to the airport for a plane ride back to Paris!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Roman Rooftops

As I mentioned in my post about Rome, our hotel had a garden rooftop! We spent a good bit of time up there, whether to eat breakfast or to take a break during the day. It was so neat to see so much of Rome from such a wonderful view.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rome, Italy

After our first three weeks in Paris and the conclusion of our first class, we were given a five day travel block before starting our second class. A group of us decided to go to Italy! I'd never been and had no idea what to expect, but I was more than pleased with the experience.

Our first stop in Italy was Rome. I took Roman Culture in the fall and was bored by it at the time, but thankful for it while wandering around Rome - I was able to see all the things I spent hours learning about. By far, I really enjoyed seeing the Colosseum. We were walking in the general direction of it and suddenly, there it was in plain view at the end of a side street. It was really neat to see something in person that you've always heard about, but never seen.

After exploring the Colosseum area, we found a place for lunch. The food in Italy is spectacular. I feel like I may have to stay away from Italian food for a while because there is no way it will compare to true Italian pasta or pizza. Speaking of which, the only dishes I ordered this weekend were pasta, pizza, and gelato for dessert.

Rome is also home to Vatican City, so we made sure to stop there. Unfortunately, the lines were extremely long, so we were unable to see the Sistine Chapel. We did get to see St. Peter's Basilica, which was incredible.

And, of course, we had to visit the famous Trevi Fountain. For fans of Disney Channel and its early 2000s movies, we all felt like we were in the Lizzie McGuire Movie when we were at the fountain. I attempted the classic tourist picture of throwing a coin over your shoulder, but I ended up looking like I was doing the flamenco each time. Whoops. 

Rome was wonderful and I hope I'm able to return one day to explore further. After Rome, we took a train to Florence, but more on that later!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram by clicking here.


Friday, June 3, 2016

A Night at the Eiffel Tower

What do you do when you live only a 10 minute metro ride away from the Eiffel Tower? Watch the sunset on the lawn in front of it, of course. I am so thankful for the location we are staying in - we truly are in the heart of Paris. Because of this, we make frequent trips to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and all of the museums. Here are some photos from the other night at the famous location!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Loire Valley

After living in the city of Paris for two full weeks, a change of pace was welcomed when our study abroad group took a weekend getaway to the Loire Valley in the countryside of France. This area is host to multiple chateaus - castles that lie on rivers. The countryside itself is wonderful and filled with  expansive fields, dotted with cows and sheep, only to be interrupted by tiny towns in-between.

On Friday, we began with Chateau de Chenonceau. It sits on a large, fast-moving river and is filled with wonderful gardens. We were lucky enough to eat at the restaurant on the property and let me tell you, the food was some of the best I've ever had, especially the ice cream strawberry shortcake pastry dessert - I'm not quite sure how to classify it.

We spent a while touring the area and then made our way to Chateau de Razay - our residence for the night. While it wasn't nearly as big as Chenonceau, Razay was adorably classic. I even felt like I'd stepped back in time for a moment. The area around the chateau included a wonderfully large flower field, as well as tiny treehouse homes that I assume you could rent.

In the morning, we were sad to leave our little chateau, but equally as excited to see the next one on our list: Chateau de Chambord. This was easily the largest chateau we'd seen and it was amazing to think that famous kings, including Louis the Fourteenth, stayed there at one point.

After our visit at Chambord, it was time to head back to Paris. Until next time, Loire.