A trip to Giverny is definitely worth the Monet🌸🍃🌼🍃🌺

Bonjour everybody,

The last two weeks have been overwhelming busy for me; I literally haven’t stopped. From meals out with colleagues, to museum visits and day trips, the past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of cultural experience. So much fun and culture kept me so busy that I was unable to write a post last week, hence I’m condensing two weeks into one post.

Last week I visited, along with my usual companions Frances and Alice, the Fondation Louis Vuitton museum, Musée de l’Orangerie, strolled round the Tuileries Gardens and did a day trip to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet.

Although it’s difficult to understand what Louis Vuitton has to do with the Fondation Louis Vuitton, it is still a wonderful art gallery and is very much worth the visit. I later learned that the museum is named after the famous designer as he is the owner of the building, located just on the outskirts of central Paris. The gallery is a modern art gallery, featuring artwork of different forms (paintings, murals, statues and films). The gallery is spread over 5 floors: the highest is dedicated to a Japanese artist and very much focuses on the aesthetic of ‘kawaii’ meaning cute, the lower floors have a more varied aesthetic – but everything here is rather avant-garde.

– Fondation Louis Vuitton

On Saturday, as the weather was gorgeous, we headed off into Paris with some of the Notts students to the Tuileries Gardens and the Musée de l’Orangerie. I’ve already previously visited this museums but some of my friends hadn’t, as I was very happy to visit again. I love this museum because it showcases a lot of impressionist artwork which I really enjoy, I’m a huge Claude Monet fan and I could sit for hours just looking at his waterlily paintings. After touring round the museum, we visited the Cat Cafe. I was eager to visit here as I’ve been to the one in Nottingham several times, and I do adore cats. I indulged in a delicious red fruit cheesecake as I watched the cats run around me freely.

– Cat Cafe Paris

After waiting for so long to visit the Fondation Monet in Giverny, my time finally came last Sunday, and I’m so glad I waited until the summer to come because the beautiful weather added to how wonderful the day was. Fondation Monet is a heritage centre housed at the former home and gardens of Claude Monet, the famous artist, known for his paintings of the water lilies, his gardens and the Japanese bridge over the pond. We took a train from Paris to Vernon, where we expected to take a shuttle bus to Giverny. To our surprise, there was a ‘petit train’ service which was cheaper than the shuttle bus and did a little sightseeing tour en route Giverny, so we chose this as opposed to the bus. Alice, Frances and I had a wonderful day exploring this muse which inspired so many of Monet’s masterpieces. At only €5,50 per student to visit the gardens and the house, it definitely should be a stop while you’re in France, it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

– Fondation Monet, Giverny

After a wonderful weekend, I was not prepared to return to work on Monday. It’s been an odd week at work, spending days without internet connection, and nothing to occupy my mind, it’s definitely made the week drag. However, to get me through the week, I was looking forward to my friend from England coming to visit. I haven’t seen Harriet in around 2 and a half years, so I was very excited to welcome her with open arms to Paris. She’s never really visited Paris so this was a window of opportunity for me to show her all the key sites. Obviously in a weekend it’s impossible to do everything, but in classic tourist style we headed to the main points of interest. My tour of Paris started at Notre Dame, a walk down the Seine to Pont Neuf to do a river cruise, then to the Louvre, a walk through the Tuileries Gardens to Place de la Concorde, up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, to the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré-Cœur and a few other less touristy stops in between. It was so lovely to catch up with Harriet after such a long time and it was wonderful to be able to share my Year Abroad experience with her, I hope she enjoyed the weekend as much as I did.

After a very active two weeks, I’m well and truly knackered. But I can’t complain because I’m just living my best life and I couldn’t be happier. However, it’s recently occurred to me that I’ll be leaving Paris is 4 weeks time and I don’t think I’m quite ready to leave my Parisian life behind, the thought of leaving it all behind is rather bittersweet. But I’m equally very excited to see Portugal.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ve got friends visiting, so I’m pretty much going to be reliving the tourist experience and I’ll be going to Disneyland again in a couple of weeks.

That’s really all for now,

Bon courage,

Lauren xoxo

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A wonderful weekend spent Versailles-ghtseeing

Bonjourrrrr,

My regular readers will have noticed that I didn’t post anything last week; I did go out last week but as the weather was so good I just lazed around the Seine with Frances, eating the best ice cream in Paris. During that week, we also paid to participate in a ‘How to make macarons course’ which we assumed would be really fun. However, it happened to be the complete opposite, the teacher was very rude and very inconsiderate to that fact that unlike him we hadn’t been making macarons for the past 50 years. His aggressive attitude and complete rudeness ruined the whole evening, which was supposed to just be a good laugh. In spite of this, the macarons did turn out really well, but that was the only good thing to come out of the entire evening.

I’ve actually had such a great week this week, both in terms of my social life and my working life. Monday was yet again another bank holiday, so Frances and I decided we would go to a relatively new and modern art exhibition called ‘Atelier des lumières’. As this is a private gallery, it costs €9,50 for students. As you go in, you have the shop to your right and you continue on into a dark room. You can sit, stand, lie down in the dark room, it doesn’t really matter. Through the use of lights and video effects, artists have created 3 films (with music) based on the works of 3 different artists: Klimt, Hundertwasser and Poetic Al. These films are projected over the walls, the floors, and every other inch of the room except the ceiling. It is honestly so cool and so worth the money; it’s therapeutic, too. The exhibition lasts a little over an hour, we then went for some lunch before heading our separate ways for the evening.

I returned to work on Tuesday and I’ve had the busiest working week since I arrived at ESIEE. It has literally been non-stop all week, from exam invigilating, setting up exams, writing reports and my general daily tasks – but it’s been great because it makes the days pass by so quickly.

I’ve had another wonderful weekend with Alice and Frances. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and take a trip to he Château de Versailles and the gardens. Versailles is one of the most beautiful places in the Parisian region, obviously this level of beauty is one of the reasons for the amount of tourists that arrive everyday to see this magnificent piece of architecture. We had been advised to buy tickets online to avoid the queue, however, we still waited almost two hours to get into the chateau. The chateau is not only a symbol of political power, but of monarchical power as it became the home of King Louis XIV after he decided to move the royal court in 1682. It also became the home of his successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI and their respective wives, but the royal court was forced to return to Paris about 3 months after the outbreak of the French Revolution.

We explored so much of the chateau, it showcases so many works of art, there are many models of the palace and for many people, the main point of interest are the Louis XIV rooms, which have been maintained since the 17th Century. We saw over half of the chateau but we neither had the time nor the patience to stay inside the castle for ages, it was ridiculously warm and the crowds of people were unreal – it was simply too difficult to stay in there for too long. This being said, I knew there would come another opportunity in the future to go back to Versailles and explore the chateau further, but with the heat, we decided to grab some lunch before venturing into the castle gardens.

The castle gardens are so extensive that you can hire a golf buggy to go round them; they are huge. Walking around the gardens is like being in wonderland, there are so many places to see; so many water features and flower gardens – it’s simply beautiful. We walked round a lot of the gardens, but again it’s impossible to be able to see everything. We wanted to hire a boat and go on the lake, so we all took a turn rowing the boat around the lake which was super fun, and a little bit exhausting; I realised that my upper body strength is similar to that of Spongebob.

We stopped briefly again for some food before making our way back to the train station to head back into Paris for our evening activities. I had a truly splendid day in Versailles with Frances and Alice and I’m very excited to return and see more of it in the future.

After returning to Paris, we quickly got ourselves ready for our evening. Our friend from university, Pierre, was having a soirée/ night out to celebrate his birthday. I’d honestly been so worried about this because I’m not really a going out kind of person. I really enjoyed the soirée at Pierre’s but nightclubs really aren’t my cup of tea. By 3:30am my levels of tiredness had reached a maximum and I was struggling to keep awake after the long day we had had exploring. Knowing that my first train home wasn’t until 5:20am, I really had to power through, but honestly when I got back I had never been so happy to get back in Noisy-le-Grand. I was walking home with the sunrise which is one thing in my 21 years of life which I have never done. I arrived home at 6am and went straight to bed and I’ve only just woken up. Last night was quite an experience and overall I’ve had a great weekend.

That’s all from me for now,

A bientôt,

Lauren xoxo

So much touristic appeal in Lille 🇫🇷🍷

Bonjour 👋🏻

I ended my last blog post saying that I was about to meet Frances for a day in Invalides. Invalides is in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and is the home of the church where Napoleon 1er is buried and the Musée de l’Armée. It is called Invalides as the whole complex used to be a home which cared for the war veterans who had been seriously injured during the war. It was free for us to visit both Napoleon’s resting place and the museum. We started our visit by seeing Napoleon’s tomb. The building is rather extravagant – I’m quite surprised at how special this place is especially as the French hated Napoleon – I don’t think Charles de Gaulle got this special treatment and everyone liked him. Equally, I was surprised at how big the tomb was considering I’ve always heard that Napoleon was really short; I’ve recently learned the he was an average sized man and the whole story about his height is propaganda from the British. After visiting Napoleon, we entered the museum. The museum is massive and showcases in detail the history of the French Army and war in general from around the time of Louis XIV to the present day. I thoroughly enjoyed the contemporary war section, and there was a really interesting section dedicated to Charles de Gaulle- I really learned a lot. We also saw a taxidermy of Napoleon’s actual horse which was really strange. We spent all day in the museum and left later I’m search of refreshments. We walked a good mile away from Invalides to avoid the extortionate prices of refreshments around the tourist attraction. However, we were still extremely extorted – 6€ for a can of coke. 😭

Picture 1: Spot the invalid in Invalides.

Picture 2: Napoleon 1er Tomb

Picture 3: Napoleon’s actual horse

Picture 4: Exhibit in the Army Museum

It has been a weird week in Paris this week as we have had a bank holiday on both Tuesday and Thursday. Although I appreciate the time off to explore, interns don’t get paid for bank holidays, so due to four bank holidays in May I’m going to lose almost a week’s wages which is a lot when you’re a peasant. On Tuesday, the weather was incredible so Frances, Joanna and I decided that we would do a river cruise down the Seine followed by another picnic in the park. The river cruise was so cool and I learned a lot about all the monuments. Did you know that Parisians used to despise the Eiffel Tower and wanted it taken down – so many of them hated it that they used to go for lunch on the tower everyday because it’s the only place you couldn’t see the tower in the city. Now look at you all enjoying all the touristic revenue it brings to your country, they’ve turned their hate to the Tour Montparnasse now, which I can understand because that actually is really ugly. All in all we had a lovely bank holiday Tuesday together, but I may have got very sunburnt despite wearing factor 50🙄.

River Cruise down the Seine

Our plans for Wednesday evening were the only thing getting me through my working day. We had planned to get pizza and wine and sit and watch the sunset by the Eiffel Tower. I stepped onto the metro with Alice and Frances holding 4 dominos pizza boxes and 2 bottles of wine to go to Trocadero to meet Joanna- you get a lot of looks of pure envy from the other passengers when you’re holding pizza. It was the best evening though: listening to a cheesy music playlist, eating pizza, drinking wine with the best company and watching as the sky grew darker and the tower started to light up. Also, dominos in France is so so cheap compared to England – large pepperoni pizza for €8,99. 🙏🏻

Pizza night in Trocadéro Gardens

This weekend took Frances and I to Lille for a day trip. (We missed you Alice)❤️. Lille is a beautiful city in the very north of France and very close to the Belgian border. Our day started really early, which realistically was no problem for me as I hadn’t slept the night before due to my inconsiderate flatmate. We took the TGV (high speed train) to Lille which only took an hour and we stopped for breakfast on arrival. We planned out our plan of action for the day: we always aim to visit somewhere with a good panoramic view of the city, a park, a museum, a church, something specific to the place we are and a good restaurant serving the local cuisine.

Our first port of call was the Belfry Tower and the Hôtel de Ville for the panoramic view of the city. From the outside, the tower really isn’t very pretty, but it’s worth climbing to see the city views from the top. There are 6 floors and an additional observatory terrace, sometimes you have to wait to go up as well because only 19 people are permitted at any one time. From the observatory terrace you can see the entire city, all of the key monuments, the beautiful parks – it’s truly spectacular.

Belfry Tower and panoramic view of the city.

We left the tower to explore some more of the city. We stumbled across l’Église de Saint Maurice and went in to repent Alice’s sins even though she couldn’t be with us (we’ve got your back mate)👍. Seriously though, this is one of the most beautiful churches in Lille as honestly Lille’s Notre Dame is a real disappointment compared to others – it’s very dark and gloomy and not nice at all. After praying for Alice we continued walking and discovered the old quarter of Lille. It is here where you can really see a Belgian influence in the city. This area is truly spectacular and is the home to ‘La Vieille Bourse’, the opera and the Grand Place (formally known as Place General de Gaulle). The buildings in this area are stunning and it’s clear how strong the Flemish influence is here.

Picture 1: Église de Saint Maurice

Picture 2: La Vieille Bourse

Picture 3: Place General de Gaulle

After walking round the main square we decided to stop at a famous patisserie called Méert, after having it recommend by my good friend Rachel. We went in and it was very, very fancy – it was at this point that we thought that it was going to be super expensive. Everything about this place was wonderful, the decor, the building and the cakes. I ordered a cake called a ‘Josephine’ which was layers of chocolate and raspberry and Frances had the raspberry waffle. If you seriously want to eat a cake which is pretty than you then this is the place to be. We also discovered they have 2 in Paris so we will be heading back soon!

Méert – Lille

As it had given out rain during the afternoon, we decided to visit a park after our cake while the weather was still good. The area we went to felt like a labyrinth of parks, one park leading into another, with the river flowing through each of them. We walked over a bridge and were very surprised to see some monkeys playing on an island, some tortoises and pelicans. We knew that there was a zoo in Lille but we were so shocked at how open it was – it was so lovely seeing them have so much more freedom. From here, we discovered the Park de la Citadelle. It was rather deserted which was great for us. There was such a lovely range of wildlife there as well, my parents would have been in their element. There were herons, ducks, pheasants and so many more animals there. We discovered the Citadelle which I have recently learnt means fortress and we came across a very strange memorial for a young man called Léon Trulin. Neither of us had heard of him, but I later researched that he played a huge part in a resistance movement in World War 1 and was sentenced to death after his arrest in Antwerp. The site of the memorial is the spot where they executed him.

One of the many parks

The next stop on our trip to Lille was the birth house of Charles de Gaulle, the most famous French person to have ever lived. It was only €3 to visit the house. From the outside, it’s rather discrete, you wouldn’t know it was his house unless you were out to look for it. It was really cool to see where he grew up, he came from a huge family and the house where he was born was owned by his family for generations. The small, intricate details were so lovely and perfectly maintained; the family photos, the outfit he was baptised in, books/newspapers. It was really worth the 3€ and I learned so much more about the General.

La maison natale de Charles de Gaulle

At this point we had ticked off everything we wanted to see on our list, we did the cast majority of things on the top 15 list for Lille. We’d achieved a lot and our feet were killing from all of the walking. We sat down for a glass of wine before we went in search of a restaurant for tea. We had intended to visit a restaurant which sold the local cuisine, and the most well-known dish from Lille is ‘lapin’ – rabbit. We thought we’d hit the jackpot when we found this one particular restaurant, but it didn’t open until quite late and we had to get the train at 8:15. We found a little place by the station which served traditional meals and had a general selection of other foods if you weren’t feeling the local cuisine. I didn’t have rabbit in the end, I went for the chicken which was so good. We both said that the food was incredible, we could literally eat it all again. For dessert, I had the white chocolate mousse, genuinely the best mousse I’ve ever had in my life.

We were so sad that our day trip was over, we had truly had a blast in such a great city, and we were so grateful that the rain which had been forecast never arrived.

Next week, my friends and I have booked onto a ‘How to make authentic macarons’ baking course which should be a lot of fun 😂. At the weekend, our plans are not set in stone but we are considering visiting Fondation Monet in Giverny.

Well that’s all from me,

A bientôt,

Lauren xoxo

Just getting another Eiffel of Paris while I have the chance🇫🇷😍

Bonjour👋🏼

After having travelled round France for 10 days, I was ready to return to Paris to rest and return back to ‘reality’ – if the lifestyle of a 21 year old on their Year Abroad can constitute something vaguely real. I went back to work on Monday, neither physically or mentally prepared for the 9-5 working life, this may have had something to do with the fact that it was bank holiday on Tuesday as well. Although only lasting 4 days, my working week has been beyond terrible. My sentiments towards my working week can be seen in the picture below. I’ve been so bored due to not having any tasks to do and it’s really got to me this week. Fortunately, I had the bank holiday and the weekend to look forward to.

I spent the bank holiday Tuesday (I’ll never get used to this mid-week bank holiday life) with my friends from Nottingham. At lunchtime, 4 of us went to have lunch in a bistro which made food from the south-west. I opted for the cassoulet which was a wise choice in terms of the quality of the food, but it was far too big for one person to eat alone. We didn’t know what to do with our day, literally everywhere was closed so we spent the day in the park catching up over a couple of drinks. We later met with the other Notts students to celebrate Maddy’s birthday. We went for a meal in the 5eme at a restaurant called ‘La Petite Hostellerie’. I can now confirm that this restaurant has the best bargain in Paris. They have the main menu, and two ‘deal menus’ – a 3 course meal for €10 or a 3 course meal for €15. I went for the €10 menu and got a salad, steak and chocolate mousse and it was amazing!!! I would without doubt recommend. They also do traditional French dishes such as snails and frogs’ legs.

After a terrible week at work, Frances and I decided to take advantage of the perfect weather on Friday afternoon. We went to explore the ‘Parc des buttes chaumont’ in the 19eme. The park is huge and even after all the walking I don’t think we saw all of it. We sat eating sorbets in the sun and just indulged in the beautiful scenery.

Parc des buttes chaumont.

Frances and I met again on Saturday with the full intention to have a picnic and go to the Catacombes – a very popular tourist attraction. We met at Trocadero in the 16eme because we wanted to take some good photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. We did the whole pretentious ‘Did you know I did my Year Abroad in Paris?’ photo shoot for banter before we sat down in front of the tower for a picnic. It was so beautiful: we had such a great view, the weather was wonderful and it was great to spend time with Frances. We packed up our things and went towards the Catacombes which was going to be our main activity for the day. We arrived there and there was a huge sign saying ‘Catacombes en grève’ (on strike). We were rather puzzled by this: firstly how can a tourist attraction just go on strike? And secondly, are the SNCF not messing our lives up enough with their strike?

Trocadero – best place for Eiffel Tower pics

Disappointed but not surprised because this is France and they love a strike, we went to another park, Parc Monceau. France has so many spectacular parks, all of which are beautiful in their own way. It’s so lovely to just go for a stroll in the park in France, I mean at home I have Longton Park and that’s a poor excuse for a park. From here, we decided to go to the Ménagerie and the Jardin des Plantes. The Ménagerie is the home to over 1200 animals and it costs €10 for students. They have a wide range of species, from mammals, to reptiles, insects, amphibians and fish. We really enjoyed our trip to the Ménagerie, although it was difficult to get any good photos. My favourite animals were the leopards, wallabies, flamingoes and red pandas – but I was overall very impressed with the wide range of species which are cared for there. We also saw an British orang-utan born at Twycross Zoo – it’s good to know that Frances and I weren’t the only 2 Brits monkeying around a Year Abroad.

Ménagerie and Jardin des Plantes – Paris

Today Frances and I have planned to go to Invalides – the home of the Musée de l’Armée and the tomb of Napoleon 1er. We have so much planned for this coming week as we have 2 bank holidays, Tuesday and Thursday and the weather forecast is great so we might as well take advantage! Next weekend, we intend to visit Lille for the day.

Les Invalides – Photo from Paris Tourist Office

That’s all from me for now,

A bientôt,

Lauren xoxo

Could these 10 days have been any better? I think Nantes. 🇫🇷

Bonjour tout le monde,

I’m currently sat on my coach back to Paris (again, Thankyou so much SNCF for your strike) with Alice and Frances after having spent a wonderful weekend together in Nantes. Nantes is a beautiful city located in the Pays de la Loire region of France – it was formerly part of the Brittany region but after the regional reform it became part of a different region but still holds its Breton pride.

We arrived in Nantes on Friday evening after a long train journey from Bordeaux. We arrived separately as Frances and Alice wanted to spend some more time in Bordeaux and we met up around 9pm in Nantes. I was very pleasantly surprised with my hotel, the room was really lovely and they left sweets on the pillow for me – winner winner chicken dinner. I walked to meet my friends at the station and I was very surprised by how many families were out and about at that time. It turns out that we arrived on the day of the annual Nantes Carnival. As it was raining, we sat watching the parade from an Indian Restaurant where we at our evening meal. We got a 3 course meal for €17 – what a bargain. Whilst watching the parade, we noticed that some of the parade floats were rather frightening but it seemed like everyone was having a great time.

Parade in Nantes

On Saturday, we met early for brunch. We stopped at this little place which made homemade jam of every single flavour imaginable (including banana🤮). After brunch, we decided that our first port of call would be the Machines de l’Île. This is a little island on the river where there are huge machines of animals that you can ride on – I don’t really understand the point of it, but the level of technology involved to make them is phenomenal. The most popular attraction is the Giant Elephant which you can ride on. We bought our tickets but were bitterly disappointed to find out that the elephant was broken and we couldn’t ride it. Not only did we not get to ride the elephant, within 5 minutes of that sad news I also got pooped on by a bird. In spite of being disappointed by the lack of elephant ride, we decided to take a ride on the mechanical carousel which was also really cool – but not as cool as the elephant. We had a really good day at the Machine Island and I would definitely recommend a visit here. They also have a new machine opening in 2022 called the Heron Tree which is their 3rd biggest project after the carousel and the elephant.

Brunch in Nantes

Machines de l’île

The Elephant 🐘

We left the island behind and continued our tour of Nantes. Frances had heard about a ‘green line’ which is painted on the floor. If you follow the green line it takes you to all the best tourist places in the city. On the green line, the first thing we discovered was a underground memorial dedicated to the abolition of slavery. I’ve studied the transatlantic slave trade from the perspective of Brazil and the Portuguese colonies and I didn’t realise how much of a significant role France played in it. The port in Nantes transported almost 600,000 slaves, the 4th largest transporter in Europe behind Liverpool, London and Bristol. This was really interesting because it’s very much a part of our history, it isn’t something that took place years and years ago; it’s quite modern and still exists in modern society.

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery

Continuing along the green line, we encountered the main square, Place Royale, many little parks and gardens and some museums. We didn’t have time to visit any museums in Nantes but I would have liked to had I been there longer. We stopped briefly to refuel at a little cafe called ‘Le monde de macaron’ where they sold macarons of every colour and flavour – I would strongly recommend the raspberry. We left the cafe and the next stop on the green line was a little promenade where we saw some Flamenco dancers performing, it was at this point that I wondered whether I was still in France.

Le monde de macaron

The green line went on to take us to a little independent art exhibition called ‘Versants’ which was created by 3 artists from Nantes – as we were the only ones there we got a little guided tour round the exhibition. It was quite cute how enthusiastic the guide was. We then went onto the Cathedral de Saint Pierre and Saint Paul, and the Château des ducs de Bretagne. By this point it was quite late so we stopped at a little Italian place for food and got a bottle of wine to go so we could have a drink back at the hotel. We sat watching the Voice in French while drinking our wine, which didn’t fulfil our new high wine expectations after the wine tour, so we left half a bottle and called it a night.

Art Exhibition

Place Royale

Château des ducs de Bretagne

As I said, we are now on the coach back to Paris. I honestly cannot begin to describe how amazing these past 10 days have been – I’ve seen some wonderful places, spent time with the best people – the experience has been unreal. I am however so tired it’s unreal: I’ve travelled over 2500km by train or coach (excluding all the walking I’ve done in each place), walked around 130,000 steps and seen so many cool places. I’ve come to realise that as much as I love Paris, there is honestly so much more to France and I’ve fallen so deeply in love with this country. I’m so grateful to everyone that has shared these 10 days with me – it’s been a blast.

I don’t really know what I’m up to next weekend. I’m very excited for the bank holiday on Tuesday so I can rest because I’m so exhausted!

That’s all until next week!

A bientôt,

Lauren xoxo

I’ll never get Bordeaux you, France. 🇫🇷

Hello everyone,

The next stop on my tour of France was the beautiful city of Bordeaux, located in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France. I was really excited to go to Bordeaux as I was sharing this experience with my good friends, Alice and Frances, and we had planned so much prior to our arrival. Coming straight from Paris, my friends arrived in Bordeaux much earlier than I did. I arrived early at the station in Montpellier to get the train to find that it was delayed significantly – classic SNCF. I arrived in Bordeaux at around 9pm and was warmly welcomed by my friends who waited for me in a bar opposite the station.

After not seeing each other for quite a while, we had a good catchup and ordered some food and drinks. I was rather disappointed with our waiter. Prior to coming to Bordeaux, I ignored the stereotype of the French being rude and arrogant because I’ve not once had a problem with any French person. Having said that, our waiter was the most obnoxious and arrogant person I have ever met in my life – but his presence didn’t dampen my reunion with my friends. We returned to our hotel ready for an early start on Thursday.

After waking up early to explore the city, our first port of call was breakfast. We returned to the same place that we had visited the night before (despite the moronic waiter) because we noticed that they had a great breakfast deal. It cost €6 for a patisserie, yoghurt, muffin, orange juice and a coffee – all of which was delicious except for the yoghurt which was nasty. After breakfast, we didn’t have a real objective, we just wanted to see the city.

We first came across a large market selling a wide range of products: from fruit and veg, to clothes, accessories and other items. En route, we noticed a the wonderful cathedral of Saint Michel where there was another little market. We looked around the cathedral and hoped to go up the tower to view the panoramic city views – however this was closed due to a school trip. We looked around the second little market and found a second hand book stall where all the books cost €1. I discovered amongst the heap of books a copy of ‘Gossip Girl’ which I purchased in order to expand my French vocabulary.

Continuing on our tour of the city, we discovered another cathedral, this one being the Cathedral de Saint André. Yet again this was another stunning piece of architecture. From here, we walked to the Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror) which is located by Place de la Bourse. (Bourse meaning Stock Exchange). I don’t understand how it works, but there is a square which is covered with about 2cm of water, and the building in the background is designed specifically so that it creates a perfect reflection in the water. When people are not walking all over the water, it is really beautiful – we wanted to see it lit up at night but we never got the opportunity.

Lunchtime was approaching so we found a small restaurant called ‘L’Ombrière’ where I enjoyed a main meal and dessert for €15,50. After rushing my tandoori chicken and my Nutella crepe, we walked quickly to the tourist office, the meeting point for our wine tour. Prior to our arrival in Bordeaux, we decided that you cannot go to Bordeaux without doing a wine tour, as Bordeaux is one of the best wine regions in the world. The tour consisted of visiting two ‘Châteaux’ (in this case ‘Château’ refers to a place where wine is made as opposed to the more common meaning of ‘castle’.), a tour of the vineyards and wine tasting. The tour was also conducted in big French and English so it’s worthwhile even if you don’t understand French. The two Châteaux that we visited were called Château Dauzac and Château Saint Ahon, both of which specialised in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines (so red wine for people that don’t know). During our tour, we learned all about the process of making wine, from the harvesting of the grapes to the bottling of it, we visited the vineyards and learned how to taste wine ‘properly’ – you don’t just ‘neck it’ like I did. So for anyone interested in how to taste wine properly;

• Hold the bottom of the glass and tilt it to observe the colour against a white background.

• Sniff the wine (without swirling the wine in the glass).

• Swirl the wine around the glass and re-smell the wine (the smell will be different).

• Taste the wine and for the best tasting experience, move the wine round your mouth (like you’re using mouthwash, I guess).

After the tour, I found that I had a new appreciation for wine. The wine that we tasted costs €48 a bottle, and I wish I could go back to the days where I appreciated cheap wine – but it is not the same.

Before coming to Bordeaux, we heard that one of the best things to do is go to the opera, so we thought to ourselves ‘why not?’ The tickets were only €14 each so we thought we’d take advantage. The opera was the next stop after our wine tour. We reserved tickets for a show called ‘Nicht Schlafen’. We arrived at the opera 15 minutes before the show started to learn that we were at the wrong theatre. Trying to urgently flag down a taxi, we were very stressed about missing the performance. We eventually arrived (although we were late) and I honestly have 0 words to describe what we watched. I am not denying the talent of the performers, however the show was really odd – firstly it was all in German (should have guessed that with a name like Nicht Schlafen), the characters were all fighting and ripping their clothes off until they were all just wearing their underwear, there was limited singing and the characters were getting into some very, very odd positions. I’m still speechless (and not in a good way) about what I saw. The worst thing was that they received a standing ovation and we can only assume that we missed something important in those first 20 minutes that made the performance outstanding because I personally walked out feeling like my eyes had been violated. Or maybe I’m just too uncultured to tackle the opera?

We left the opera behind and went in search of our evening meal. We barely talked during our meal because we were so speechless at what we had just watched – we aim to never mention this experience again. Equally, I was disappointed with my evening meal, my steak was burnt and it didn’t taste great – like I asked for ‘well done’ not ‘cremated’.

We returned to the hotel at around 11pm as we were exhausted after a busy day. Although the evening entertainment was a bit bizarre, I still had the best day with Alice and Frances and I’m so glad they decided to come and meet me during my little tour of France.

We met a little later this morning, went back to the same little place for breakfast and went to explore the city some more before heading off to our next destination, Nantes. We decided to return back to the tower to see if it were possible to go up and see he panoramic views. We were much luckier this time as the tower was open to the public, and it was free for us as we are under 25 years old. The top of the tower is accessed by an old spiral, concrete staircase. It’s quite a tight squeeze walking up there, but we made it and it was worthwhile because the views were wonderful. After spending some time there, we walked back down the staircase and stopped for coffee before we went back to the train station to catch our train to Nantes.

I wish I’d have had more time to explore some of the museums in Bordeaux, but I cannot deny that I have had the best couple of days here with the best company. Bordeaux truly is a beautiful city and I’m so glad that I chose to stop here on my tour.

My next and final stop on my tour is Nantes before I return to Paris on Sunday with Frances and Alice. We haven’t pre-planned anything for our trip here, but we are very excited to see a different city.

A bientôt et bonne journée,

Lauren xoxo

24 hours in Montpellier 🇫🇷

Hello everyone,

Yesterday afternoon I arrived at the next stop on my little tour of France, Montpellier, a city in southern France located in the Occitanie region. Due to the train strikes, I didn’t want to risk my train getting cancelled, so I booked a coach with Flixbus from Cannes to Montpellier. This was my first experience with Flixbus and I was very impressed with the service. The bus ran to schedule, the driver was very helpful and snacks were offered on board. There are also charging points to charge your devices and normally there is WiFi on board but on my coach it wasn’t working. After a pleasant journey, I arrived in Montpellier at around 14:45 yesterday afternoon. The only disadvantage with taking Flixbus was that the stop is miles away from the centre – it took me 45 minutes to walk from the stop to the city centre and it was approximately 30degrees.

I checked into my hotel and left almost immediately to start exploring this new city in a region that I had never visited. There is lots to do in Montpellier and transport around the city is facilitated due to the extensive tram and bus network. I decided that it was too late to explore any of the museums at this time as they would shortly be closing, so I went for a walk around the city and visited the other points of interest.

My first stop on my little tour was the Promenade de Peyrou, where the Arc de Triomphe de Montpellier is situated. This triumphal arch was built at the end of the 17th Century and the scenes depicted on it are the triumphs of Louis XIV. This area of Montpellier is particularly beautiful and the views are stunning, you can see the cathedrals of Montpellier, a panoramic view of the city and the historic St Clément Aqueduct, which carried water 14km from the spring to the town in the 18th Century. The promenade was full of people as the weather was still gorgeous.

From here, I walked to Place de la Comédie, the biggest and most well known ‘square’ in Montpellier. I put square in inverted commas as it isn’t really a square at all, it’s more egg shaped – this being the reason for why it is usually referred to as ‘l’oeuf’ by locals. Place de la Comédie is the home of many bars and brasseries as well as the magnificent opera house – a stunning piece of architecture.

Continuing on my tour, I went to visit the Cathedral de Saint Pierre, a wonderful cathedral in the centre of the city. Despite not being religious, I do appreciate how beautiful the houses of God are. Leaving the cathedral behind, I headed to my last stop for the evening, le Jardin de Champs de Mars. The garden is so pretty, with beautiful flowers, two fountains situated at either end of the garden and a little park for the children. I sat and had a bite to eat here before I went back to my hotel for the evening.

Eager to explore more of the city before leaving this afternoon, I first stopped to get my morning patisserie and coffee en route the ‘Carré Sainte Anne’. This used to be a cathedral but was later converted into a modern art museum, showcasing the works of local people. I arrived early but was disappointed to find that it was closed for the entire year due to renovations.

I went on to visit the Musée Fabre, another art museum, which was really interesting. The museum is spread over 3 floors, showcasing work from as early as the 17th Century to the 21st Century – displaying work through all artistic movements from many different countries. It was free to get into the museum which is always an added bonus. I spent a couple of hours here looking at all the pieces and reading the history behind them before leaving for my next visit.

I went towards the Jardin des Plantes de Montpellier – the oldest botanical garden in France, as it was established in the 14th Century. I didn’t have time to see much of it but it was wonderful all the same.

Returning back to the park that I had visited the night before, I had lunch at a little burger bar and it was delicious. The whole aesthetic of the place was lovely, the decor was really cute – it reminded me of the little cafe I visited in Paris called Rawcakes.

Saddened that my time in this delightful city was coming to an end, I returned to my hotel to collect my suitcase and head to the Gare de Montpellier St Roch ready for my next trip.

I have had a wonderful 24 hours in Montpellier and I’m eager to return in the future. I am very excited for my next trip, Bordeaux, where I’ll be meeting with Alice and Frances.

A très bientôt,

Lauren xoxo