Hello world! You may have noticed an absence around these parts, and yes, I’ve been gone a while. But I haven’t just been sitting on my a$$ watching Netflix (although, there has been a fair bit of that too)… we just arrived back from a 5.5-week trip to Europe, aka the Trip of my Life.
I have been wanting to return to Europe since my last sojourn there in 2004 (to France, aptly), but it somehow alluded me for 12 years. Curious. Furthermore, the motherland (England, obvs) had been missing me since 1999 — when I was 11 years old. I don’t really know how the time got away from me, but I’m glad I got there eventually. (To be fair, we fit in a few other trips to Argentina, New York, and Korea in the meantime, so you know… #blessed).
So with all of this riding on it, this trip was always going to be a big blowout. But nothing could have prepared me for what transpired.
First of all, we flew into Paris, as you do. I had booked a one-way flight from KUL-CDG back in March, having just landed back from Melbourne and in the midst of another travel comedown (you may spot a theme here). As soon as I reserved our seats and my credit card details were approved, my mood swung from miserable to jubilant. Something about travel will do that to you — and it certainly did for me.
Even as I write this, I feel like one post won’t do it justice, so there will be more follow-up posts to come, don’t you worry! So, we arrived in Paris, and we happened to land on the Most Glorious Day Ever. Honestly, it was like a postcard: picture perfect blue skies, farmer’s markets (it was a Sunday) overflowing with homemade tzatziki, fresh fruits, ALL the cheeses, and of course, a baguette or two. We stayed in the progressive suburb of Belleville, and sat in a park to eat our nosh while children played and birds chirped. Seriously, that’s what it was like: perfection.
I remember these days in our little Airbnb: a funky, tiny place with a plush red couch, incredible (transparent!) speakers, a snug lil’ bathroom — with a TUB — and lots of espresso. We very quickly adapted to the cafe culture, and both Gav and I loved how the seats were aligned to face the streets, to allow the highest quality of people-watching. I could very easily get on board with drinking straight espresso, having a tart au citron (I had two before the sweetness got the better of me), and a stroll around the ‘burbs.
Our place was supremely located next to the metro, and we made a few jaunts out to the Seine and Montemarte, for good measure. But honestly, exploring the cool area of Belleville and its surrounds filled our days just fine.
My 29th birthday was spent in Paris, in what sounds like a romantic event, but in reality was tainted by the Gods of Too Much Fromage — so, I subequently let the clock tick by on July 15 curled up in bed, while Gav kept me company and watched Inception (making the most of the aforementioned clear speakers). It’s funny: you can plan as much as you like, but if you ain’t prepared for Cheeseception, it’s gon’ get you (I swear there’s a life lesson in there somewhere).
The good news was we had booked about 8 days to stay in Paris, so there was absolutely no time pressure. Thank the lawd. After I recovered from my mega illness, we were free to once again skip and trot about town, bopping from one beautiful old building to another. They almost became normal… almost.
Honestly, there is something so beautiful about the sheer oldness of Europe that I just find jaw-dropping. Whether it was a well-known landmark or the local post office, there were often more similar than they were different: intricate wrought-iron awnings, fresh flowers (usually red) dripping over balconies, chiselled stone facades. So much pretty!
We happened to dip out of Paris for a few days to hit Tours, a provincial town known for its chateaux. If you know me, you’ll know that I love a good chateau. Always have, always will. So, naturally, we hired a car to go chateau-hopping for the day. This was slightly more terrifying than it sounds — if any of you have ever driven on the “wrong” side of the road, you’ll know what I mean. But it was definitely a learning experience — a challenge!
As it happened, that day was 35 degrees celsius, and our upgraded Mercedes-Benz and its air con were a godsend. I just remember zooming through the French countryside, trying as hard as I could to take a mental picture of the staggering beauty whizzing past me. It was so refreshing to see that much open land, clear skies, and endless stretches of road — a stark difference to the windy, bendy, too-small roads closer to town.
My favourite part of Tours was definitely the old town. It feels like it’s stuck in time: cobblestone streets, winding alleys, old-school brasseries and cafes. Of course, being us, we managed to find the one Guatemalan cafe that served a mean long black, and ended up slurping our caffeinated beverages there every day.
Surprisingly, Tours, although small, featured a fair few different cuisines. Being a university town, where students come to France to learn… French, it’s got that young student vibe mixed with the classic provincial France history, so we had our options of Thai, Mexican, German, and of course, French. I also had the best gelato of my life — served by the owner who knew it was the best gelato of anyone’s life.
I loved our little stay here — full of charm and old brick walls. Tours is definitely worth checking out if you want to switch off, unwind, and be surrounded by complete, utter beauty.
From there, we headed back to Paris for a few days to see BEYONCE (!?#$?@?#@) in her Formation Tour. Many angry female empowerment songs were sang; many boyfriends were sat yawning. Good times all round! In all seriousness though, it was a killer show — I felt like I was watching the epitome of professionalism, artistry, and also babeness. Perfect combination.
We had a good two weeks in France, and while some of the more European customs took some adjusting to (what sort of establishment closes between lunch and dinner?!), I loved hearing the language around me, seeing the beautiful scenery — which was everywhere — and just soaking up the history. It’s palpable; you know France has seen shizz.
I’m going to leave it here for now, because this post is getting a bit out of control — to be continued! Even writing this is helping me to deal with the severe travel comedown I’ve experienced for the past little while… so thanks to y’all for reading. Part 2 will contain London, Montreal, Copenhagen, and a little surprise. 🙂