What I Learned This Summer In Europe

What I Learned This Summer In Europe

I’ve been home about a month now and beyond it of course being nice to catch up with friends and family, I do rather miss the streets of Paris, the tastes of Florence, and the sights of Venice. In reflecting back on the trip while going through photos I am reminded of the friends I made and the old ones I got the opportunity to see again. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was more than just a vacation it was a master class in French and Italian culture. I want to share some of the few lessons I learned while away:

1: Paris is Real.
In all the hustle and bustle of sightseeing, tourists, and attractions you forget that Paris is a city like any other. People are born there, they live there, and they die there. They fall in love there, they get married there and they start families there. Paris isn’t a make believe place that only exists in our dreams. It’s a living breathing place. It evolves and changes over time. It is worth spending more than a couple days there. To properly experience Paris you can’t rush it you need the time to take it all in, wander around the city streets and experience all things Parisian.

2: Apartments Are the Way to Go.
If you want a real authentic experience I’d highly recommend renting apartments. Not only does it allow you a home base to unwind and relax after a long day it allows you the luxury and freedom to do your own cooking which helps cut down on costs. We also found that the apartments were much cheaper than hotels and in some cases the same price or cheaper than hostels. We stayed 30 nights in Florence for 600 euros. That was $25/night for a 2 bedroom, with a large living area, full kitchen and a balcony. By staying a 20 minute walk outside the centre it allowed us to live as if we were Italians. We used http://www.airbnb.com, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique experience.

3: Blogging is Hard!!
Blogging is MUCH harder than it appears. It is very time consuming but the final product is absolutely worth it. I started this travel blog as a way to keep people informed about what we were up to, journal our experiences, and to force myself to write. I’ve learned so much and the blog has been a great success. I plan on maintaining this blog going forward focusing on a variety of things so be sure to check back often.

4: Travel with Someone You Love.
Traveling is tough. It’s delays, transfers, waiting, and the unexpected, but it’s because of the unexpected that you want to travel with someone you love. When Rebecca and I boarded that plane I honestly didn’t know what to expect. That thought made it very scary and very attractive all at the same time. The things we did, saw, and experienced are things I will never forget. There is no one else in the world I would have wanted to share them with. When I look back on this trip in 20 years I won’t remember just the things we saw I will remember the person I was with when I was there.

That’s it for now. I hope everyone has a great thanksgiving and is able to spend time with their loved ones. Remember, life is short, we only live once and some people don’t even do that.

PS — Click on the mosaic to check out 500 of my favourite photos from the trip up close.

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The French Connection

The French Connection

Our train on Monday took us along the French Riviera for 2 and a half hours. It was once again a beautiful sight filled with breathtaking views as the train chugged along on the edge of the mountains.

Once we arrived in Marseille we took the subway to Rond-Point du Prado. I was a bit concerned about Marseille. A group of Canadians we had met in the Nice hostel had mentioned that it was the dirtiest city in France, and that it was something of which their taxi drivers were apparently very proud. Moreover, Paul had mentioned there wasn’t a beach in Marseille, but later clarified that by saying there was, in the south of the city, in the “expensive part of town”. Either way the train view into the city center did not instil much hope, however, once we got off the subway and met up with Crystelle – the woman who’s apartment we were staying in – and took the bus down to the water my concerns evaporated. Crystelle was very nice, her daughter is 10 and doesn’t speak much English but Crystelle is a teacher with great language stills. She explained where we could find everything we would need, groceries, bakeries, and which beach is the best, as the beach was directly in front of the apartment we rented. It was small. There was a walk out balcony which got morning sun which was nice. That night we walked around the waterfront for a few hours, grabbing dinner at this great little place that made the most amazing French fries and sandwiches. That evening, we sat and watched the sun set on the beach.

Tuesday Rebecca woke up early and went out and bought groceries and fresh bread. We packed a picnic and headed down to the beach, the 2 minute walk was perhaps the most convenient thing I have ever experienced. We sat in front row seats at the beach, absolutely beautiful, and it wasn’t busy, but it was lively. Seeing as it was a French beach, Rebecca embraced the cultural traditions. I was overjoyed that no one yelled “whale, whale” while splashing water on me and trying to get me into the water. We sat directly facing the Ile de l’If which has a prison on it and is where the character Edmond Dantès from the novel, the Count of Monte Cristo was held.

We were a little red from our first day at the beach but nothing some aloe and something called “Bepanthenol” wasn’t able to fix. After the beach, we headed to the train station to reserve our seats to Paris on Friday. The French trains are interesting, to say the least, and are perhaps the least user friendly in all of Europe. They have a limited number of reservations they are willing to sell to those with Euro-rail passes. If these select few reservations are all sold, you can’t get on without buying a full ticket even if the train has empty seats. We spent a half hour sorting out our train to Paris and our train to Florence in July.

Wednesday we were in pain from catching a little too much sun the day before and opted to spend only a few hours on the beach. That night Rebecca made a stir fry with fresh veggies, cheese, crab and a little rice. We sat out on the porch and ate.

Thursday we enjoyed our last full day at the beach and celebrated by going to an all you can eat sushi buffet. It was perhaps the worst experience I have ever had with sushi and a buffet. The sushi was way below the quality one would expect to find at Ye’s and the buffet food seemed of very low quality. We have decided it will be a long time before we will go to a buffet again.

Our train to Paris left early in the morning on Friday so Thursday evening was mostly spent packing and cleaning the apartment. Marseille was beautiful, a great 3 day relaxation vacation. I miss it already.