📍Coimbra

Olá a todos,

I know I haven’t written for a few weeks now; my life has literally been a walk through many different parks, going out to eat and lying on the beach while I still have time to do so. I also visited on of the caves de Vinho do Porto, Offley’s, which was a great experience. As we went as a group with the school it only cost €5 per person and we had a guided tour around the wine making facility and got to taste some wine at the end. I’m going to be visiting another wine maker next week when my friends come to visit.

I’m still really enjoying my life at school as well, I learn so much everyday and I’m starting to feel a lot more confident with my ability to speak Portuguese. As my time here draws to a close, I realise I’m going to miss the people I’ve met here and this wonderful city so much – but I’m equally ready to come home and be with my family and friends.

This weekend took me to the beautiful city of Coimbra in the centre of Portugal – a city known for being the first university city in Portugal and home to the country’s most prestigious university. I’ve wanted to visit for a long time now and seized the opportunity while I had no other plans. I went alone and for the majority of the time there I really enjoyed myself, although I got bored with my own company. I miss the days of doing daytrips with Alice and Frances in France. Anyway, I arrived in Coimbra relatively early, around 10am and walked a while from the train station to the city centre. My first port of call was to Portugal dos Pequenitos, which is a park filled with scale models of the most important buildings in Portugal, it’s arquipelagos (Madeira and Açores) and its former colonies: Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé é Principe, Macau, Goa, Guiné-Bissau and Cape Verde. I learned a lot about the discovery and the colonisation of these countries during my visit to the park – it was a great opportunity to learn about the history of the lusophone world. I spent a couple of hours here – admiring the buildings which were small models but big enough for children to play inside of them and learning about the history of what used to be one of the biggest empires in history.

The next thing on my to do list was to visit Quinta das Lagrimas after having heard a lot about it in my classes in Porto. We have been studying legends and we studied the beautiful love story of Dom Pedro and Dona Ines, whose love story ended at Quinta das Lagrimas. To summarise the story: Dom Pedro was a Portuguese Prince who was married to a Spanish Princess. He then fell in love with Dona Ines, who was a maid of the royal family. There love was forbidden and the Portuguese king said that Dom Pedro must distance himself from her, so the king ordered that she be killed. She was killed at Quinta das Lagrimas and it is said that the redness of the stones of from her blood. After her death, Dom Pedro vowed that when he died they would remain together for eternity. After his wife died, Dom Pedro dug up the body of Dona Ines and coronated her, making her the queen of Portugal and now they lay at rest together in the same tomb. So, Quinta das Lagrimas is a large estate of land (around 18 hectares) with gardens, fountains, a golf course and is commemorative of this Portuguese Romeo and Juliet story. There are also red ribbons tied on the trees, and engravings in the stones where couples have declared their love for each other.

I stopped for lunch briefly by the river before heading to go and visit the university and the Mosteiros de Santa Clara Velha e Nova. The university campus is located at the top of a huge hill, which provides a great view over the whole city, but is also a pain to access. The campus is wonderful, with magnificent libraries, gardens and beautiful architecture. It’s definitely well worth the visit. Afterwards, I walked round the city centre and discovered a little street market it where people were selling home-made crafts. I then went on to stroll round the park which was right by the river bank. It was so peaceful despite there being so many people around.

After having walked a lot and visited a lot of different places, I decided to head back to the train station and get the train back to Porto. I had a very long yet interesting day and was eager to return home and get ready for bed.

Today I’m going to meet a friend and then I might take a stroll round the Crystal Palace Gardens where the Festa dos Livros is taking place.

Então, até à proxima,

Lauren xoxo

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A stereotypical week in Portugal – Fado, Bacalhau and a visit to Portugal’s founding city. 🇵🇹

Bom día,

My weeks in Portugal are passing by quickly and I now only have 6 weeks left before I return home. Im having an amazing time – the whole experience is wonderful and I’m so glad I chose to do a language course. It’s honestly one of the best choices I’ve ever made. The hardest thing for me in reality is making such good friendships with people and then they leave after 1 or 2 weeks. Of course, with new people arriving all the time, I have the opportunity to always make new friends – however, whenever a new week starts, it’s always hard to make new friends again.

The past 2 weeks have passed by rapidly. I didn’t write a post last week because I didn’t do a lot at the weekend so I didn’t have much to write about. In fact, the temperatures were so high last weekend that I had no desire to leave the house. In the city centre, temperatures were as high as 38 degrees which is just unbearable for me. Last week, as part of our school trips, we did a river cruise along the Rio Douro which was wonderful. The views of the city are incredible. We tried to listen to the commentary given by the tour guide but it was impossible to comprehend with all of the background noise. Instead, we sat with our teacher and spoke in Portuguese for the duration of the river tour, which was good as we got to practice speaking outside of our classes.

On Friday night, we had a ‘Jantar de despedida’ (goodbye dinner) for all of the members of our friendship group that were returning home. We met in the city centre for cocktails beforehand, and then went to a restaurant for a Fado night. For those of you who don’t know, Fado, is a type of traditional Portuguese music. It sounds so beautiful but it is really melancholic and depressing. I already knew what Fado was like but I thought that I couldn’t live in Portugal without having experienced a traditional Fado night. We stayed here for a while to eat and listen to the ‘fadistas’ (Fado singers) before going to a Karaoke night on the Main Street in Porto, Rua da Santa Catarina. It was honestly such a great night.

Moving onto this week I’ve had many unforgettable experiences. On Sunday, I visited the Museu do Carro Electrico (Tram Museum). Now you’re probably reading this and thinking why on earth would someone want to visit the Tram Museum, but it was honestly really cool. The trams in Portugal are really quirky and quite old school, but they are wonderful. Trams have been used as a form of transport for many years in Portugal, originally they were used to transport fish from the coast into the city centre to be sold in markets or to be used in restaurants. At 4€ for a student ticket, it is really worth the visit. Below, you can see some pictures of the trams which have been used over time.

On Wednesday, with the school, we had a guided tour around the botanical garden. I’ve already visited the botanical garden as it is across the road from my house, but I enjoy going on the visits with the school as it is a good opportunity to practice Portuguese outside of class. I’ve never had a guided tour of the botanical garden and for 2€ I thought it was worthwhile. Our teacher said the tour usually lasts 30mins, but our tour guide was so enthusiastic we were there for 2.5hours. I’ve never met anyone who is so passionate about plants in my entire life.

After school on Friday, some of my friends and I headed to Vila Nova de Gaia, the city on the opposite side of the river to Porto. We had been recommended a restaurant called Casa do Pescador and wanted to try it out. All of the buildings in this area are really cool, all the houses of the fisherman are painted different colours which really brightens up the area. The outside of the restaurant was painted bright yellow, it was really nice. I’m not a huge lover of fish or seafood but I went as my friends wanted to go. One of the common dishes in Portugal is ‘bacalhau’ (cod). I had cod with sautéed potatoes, vegetables and salad. The portion size was huge for one person and I didn’t manage to eat it all, but it was well worth the money.

The cherry on top of an amazing week was our school trip to Guimarães yesterday. Normally the school doesn’t offer trips at the weekend, but because there is a special program with some students from Galicia, it was a one-off. We met up at 8am at São Bento train station for the 1.15hr journey to Guimarães. This city is said to be the birthplace of Portugal as it is believed that the first King of Portugal was born there. Our teacher, Sara, was our tour guide for the day. We visited many places, including: The Duke’s Palace, Guimarães Castle, St Michael’s Church, the Town Hall and so much more. I had wanted to visit Guimarães and it was nice to have the opportunity to visit with other people as opposed to going alone. I learnt a lot about the city and its history and I had such a pleasant day with some lovely people.

That’s the last two weeks summed up for you all. I don’t have any plans set in stone for the next couple of weeks, however I really want to visit Coimbra and Águeda.

Então, até logo,

Lauren xoxo

Portu-going many places in one week 🇵🇹

Olá,

I didn’t have time to write and post my blog for this past week at the weekend as I was out exploring more of this beautiful country which I am so lucky to live in. My week at school was average to say the least; the people are great, but my teacher last week wasn’t wonderful and I couldn’t wait for the week to be over so that I could change teachers again. This week I have a great teacher which I’m really glad about, it definitely gives me more motivation to get up and go to school.

The school activities this week took us to the Palacio da Bolsa, Jardim de Cordoaria and the Centro Portugues de Fotografia. The Palacio de Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) is a national moment which was built in the 19th Century. We had a guided tour around the palace in Portuguese and were told all about the history of the building and its significance in Portugal.

I mentioned last week that I had visited the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Centro Portugues de Fotografia and during my trip with the school I had the opportunity to visit the permanent exhibition which is free of charge for all visitors. The exhibition was quite interesting however I much preferred the Frida Kahlo exhibition. We left the museum and went on to visit the Jardim de Cordoaria which is across the road from the photography museum. The garden is only small, but rather beautiful – it is the home to some rather deformed trees and some statues which are said to represent prisoners of the former prison (which now houses the photography museum). After the excursion had finished, I went for a couple of drinks with my classmate, Martina, before returning home.

On Friday, after class, I went with Martina down to the riverside to eat dinner. The setting and the food were great. Ribeira, the district where the river is located, is one of my favourite areas of Porto. Despite all of the tourists hanging around there, I really love strolling down the river because it’s such a beautiful view (or as a normal like to call it ‘Postcard Porto’). We sat and ate tapas as we watched the sunset behind the Dom Luis I Bridge – it was a lovely ending to what had been a relatively bad week in terms of school.

My weekend has been super busy, I’ve done and seen so much in the last 48 hours – it’s honestly unbelievable. On Saturday I took the train to Braga, Portugal’s 3rd biggest city located 55km north of Porto. It takes around 1 hour to get there on the regional train and costs €2 for a return ticket. Similar to my trip to Averio, I had no real aim for my trip, the sole purpose of going was to see another city and to get to know more about Portugal as a country. I was interested in visiting Braga as it is said to be the most catholic part of Portugal so I wanted to see some of the churches, including the most famous ‘The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus da Monte. I wandered around the city for a while, visiting the cathedral, the Jardim de Santa Barbara, a couple of other churches, the castle and the main square ‘Praça da Liberdade’. The main square was teeming with people as there was a huge event hosted by the football team SF Braga. There were many activities to take part in for all the family, you could meet the team and the mascot – it was a huge event for the city, particularly as Braga was voted the European City of Sport this year. I stopped for lunch in the main square and managed to get 2 courses and a drink for 11€ so I couldn’t complain.

My lunch set me up for the long journey up to the top of the Sanctuary de Bon Jesus. I took the bus to Bom Jesus which leaves you at the bottom of the hill. There’s the option to take the cable car up to the top, but I like a challenge and was willing to climb the 116 metres up to the top of the hill where the sanctuary is located. The walk up to the magnificent building was exhausting, and it was ridiculously hot, hut every step was worthwhile because the views over the city of Braga were phenomenal. When I reached the top, I walked around the sanctuary and the gardens surrounding it and stayed there for an hour or so to rest my legs and have a well-earned drink and ice cream before going back to the bus stop. I returned home for the evening after a very satisfying, yet tiring day.

On Sunday, my school friend and housemate, Matteo, decided to hire a car and we drove 313km to Lisbon and Sintra for a day trip. I’ve wanted to visit Lisbon for a while now and as very excited to have the opportunity to go. Going with Matteo also worked in my favour as we both got to speak in Portuguese to each other all day allowing us both to practice and improve outside of class. We didn’t have chance to see much of the city as it is huge but we visited the Praça do Comercio (one of the prettiest squares in the city), the Torre de Belém, the monastery, the river and some of the other main squares. We spent around 5 hours in Lisbon before driving to Sintra, which is 20mins from Lisbon. In Sintra, we visited the Palacio Nacional da Pena – a huge palace with stunning gardens. Like the Sanctuary in Braga, the Palace is built in a hill so it requires a lot of effort to reach the top. Walking around the palace and gardens was amazing, Sintra is such a great city and is definitely worth the visit if you’re in Lisbon. I’m gutted I didn’t get to see much of Lisbon but I’ll definitely be returning for a weekend to visit my friend who’s living there and to get to know the city more.

Well that’s really all from me for now,

Até breve,

Lauren xoxo

There are no words to describe how much of Aveiro good time I’m having in Portugal. 🇵🇹

Bom dia!

Yet again, it’s been an eventful week for me in Portugal. My classes are still going really well, which is great. We change teacher every week which I find really interesting, as during my first week we focused a lot on grammar, but this week we studied topics in depth in order to learn more vocabulary. On Tuesday, our excursion with school took us to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal (The Cristal Palace Gardens) which are stunning. It reminded me very much of Retiro Park in Madrid but on a smaller scale. Our teacher, Marlene, gave us a guided tour of the gardens and then we stopped to have ice-cream and to chat in Portuguese. It was a really lovely afternoon, and since I have returned several times to these gardens because they are so lovely. I didn’t take part in the excursion on Thursday as I’d already made other plans, which I’ll talk about shortly.

After my classes on Wednesday, I decided to visit the Photography Museum, which is just a 10mins walk from my school. The museum is housed in an old prison, and its very obvious that it used to be a prison, it’s quite eerie to be honest. There is a permanent photography exhibition and at the moment there is a temporary exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist and photographer. As it was a temporary exhibition, it costs €6 for students to visit. The exhibition consists of a video (in Spanish with Portuguese sub-titles) which talks about her life and work in detail, and then there are 3 rooms which are filled with her photography work. It was a really interesting exhibition, I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt that it was well worth the visit. Afterwards, I took a stroll around the city, to the area ‘Ribeira’ which is located down by the river. It is one of my favourite areas of Porto because it’s so beautiful.

Thursday was a great day both at school and afterwards. We had cake and champagne at school to celebrate our teacher’s birthday which was really lovely. Afterwards, Noa and I went shopping at a huge shopping centre called ‘NorteShopping’. It was such a fun afternoon and we loved every minute of it.

This weekend took me to the wonderful city of Aveiro, located 76km south of Porto. I arrived early at Porto’s São Bento Station in order to take full advantage of my day in a city which is said to be ‘The Venice of Portugal’. I waited in the queue to buy my ticket and was ridiculously shocked when the man said it would only cost me €2 for a return ticket. I was literally blown away at how cheap the travel was here. As Aveiro is only 1 hour away from Porto, I would without doubt say it is worth the visit. Upon arriving in Aveiro, my first port of call was the visit the old train station – the old station is so beautiful, with the facade covered in the famous Portuguese tiles, azulejos. I don’t know what their intentions are for the old train station, but it would be a shame to destroy such a pretty building. From here I visited the cathedral and the Museu do Aveiro, a museum dedicated to the Patron Saint of the city (Santa Joana). The museum had a chapel where the nuns used to pray, and an art exhibition displaying artistic work dedicated to the patron saint and many works depicted the Assumption. This kind of museum isn’t normally my cup of tea, however, I feel that it’s important to visit immerse myself in the Portuguese culture whilst I’m here, and Portugal is a predominantly catholic country.

From here, I walked to the city centre, which like he rest of the city is gorgeous. The houses are all brightly coloured which immediately brightens your mood. The canals run all the through the city and you can take a tour around the city via the canals on traditional Portuguese ‘moloceiros’ which are a like big gondolas. It costs around €10 for a boat tour, dependent on which company you use, and it is definitely worth the trip. The tour lasts around 45mins and you can see all of the city’s beautiful sights. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip on the boat.

After getting off the boat, I wandered aimlessly around the city just to take in the sights around me. I stumbled across a few churches: I’m not religious but Portuguese churches are unreal – and many of them are covered in the azulejos which make them stick out from other churches I’ve visited during my time abroad. I stopped for a quick bite to eat before I walked around the shopping centre ‘The Forum’ which was incredible. It was without doubt too hot to stay inside in a shopping centre though, or to visit more museums, so I decided to wander round the streets again.

Completely by chance, I came across an amazing park on the outskirts of the city, o Parque de Dom Pedro. I spent hours in this park, I do enjoy spending time in the park: sitting, reading and walking around. Wandering around this park reminded me so much of Monet’s garden in Giverny, but on a much smaller scale. It was quite bittersweet actually because it reminded me of how much of a fun day I had with Alice and Frances in Giverny and made me miss them so much. It was so weird travelling alone again: in Spain I was accustomed to travelling online, I’m normally okay in my own company. After being in France and doing so many activities and day trips with Alice and Frances, I forgot what it was like to go out and explore alone.

I truly spent a wonderful day in Aveiro and it’s made me very excited for my next day trip next week. I don’t know where I’m going to go, I’ll probably decide when I get to the station on Saturday morning.

Até logo,

Lauren xoxo

Au revoir, Paris – Olá o Porto.

I haven’t written a post for quite a few weeks now, the truth is my last few weeks in Paris have been a whirlwind of fun and adventure, and I spent one weekend at home in England before moving onto Portugal. From the endless memories I’ve shared with Alice and Frances at work and in our free time to the myriad of leaving meals/ drinks I’ve had with colleagues, my last weeks here have been as wonderful as my entire 6 months in this beautiful country. One of the highlights of my final week in Paris was seeing Ed Sheeran at the Stade de France. The only word I have to describe him is incrEDible, and the support acts, Jamie Lawson and Anne-Marie also performed amazingly. The concert was really the cherry on top of the cake and was a brilliant end to my time in Paris. I was truly heartbroken about leaving Paris, well France in general, I truly think I found myself there.

My sadness about leaving France was really clouding my excitement to arrive in Portugal – I’ve never been to Portugal before and was seriously concerned about my level of Portuguese, having not spoken, read or written a word of it in over a year. My arrival in Portugal went as well as expected and I took a taxi to my host family’s home located in the area of Campo Alegre. My host family are lovely and have done nothing but welcome me with open arms into their home – I’m truly grateful to have landed on my feet again. During my 11 weeks in Portugal I’ll be doing an intensive language course – I do 20 hours per week (4 hours everyday) of solely speaking, reading, writing and listening to Portuguese. I’ve already made lots of new friends here, but the sad part is that their courses only last for 2 weeks – it’s such a shame because we’ve become quite close in such a short period of time.

Upon arrival at the school on Monday, I met with all the new people and straight away we had to do a placement test to see what our current level was. I was very impressed with my result considering it’s been a long time since I’ve done Portuguese. The classes are really interesting and I’ve already learnt a ridiculous amount in my first week – my brain literally feels like it is about to explode after every class. I really love my school and the quality of teaching is incredibly high. Another highlight of the school is that they organise trips to the top sights around the city on Tuesdays and Thursdays – which is great because I can see the entire city without having to actively plan a trip there and, of course, it’s great to continue to practice Portuguese outside of class and to meet people on the trips.

On Tuesday we visited the Estação de São Bento – a very well known train station because of the interior design. The walls are covered in azulejos which are blue and white tiles put together to tell a historical story. They are truly works of art and are very popular in and around Portugal. The design is very much like Wedgwood’s Pottery in Stoke. From here we went to the Sé Cathedral, the most important and well known cathedral in Porto. Our teacher explained to us in Portuguese the history of the cathedral and let us wander round to take in the sights. From the cathedral you can see the other side of the river where all the Port Wine Makers are located. From the cathedral we ambled down to the river and to take in the sights before heading home.

Thursday’s trip took us to the Casa de Música, a renowned concert hall in the city centre. It costs €10 for a guided tour of the building. It is very well known for both the concerts it holds there and its unusual architecture. The architecture was designed by a Dutch architect and the building attracts thousands and thousands of people every year for visits and watching concerts.

On Friday, Noa, Hanke and I decided to do a little sightseeing for ourselves. After school we walked along the Rua de Santa Catarina, the best shopping street in Porto and home of the Majestic Cafe where J.K Rowling used to sit and write her books. We stopped here for tea and a Pastel de Nata (Custard Tart) before continuing on our tour. Continuing with the J.K Rowling theme, we went to visit the Livriria Lello (Lello’s Bookshop), an attraction which is very popular among tourists. It is said that the interior design and staircase is what J.K Rowling used as inspiration for the moving staircases in Hogwarts. To enter into the bookshop, you pay €5 and if you buy a book in the shop, they take €5 off the price of the book. It really is a beautiful bookshop and well worth the visit. We then stopped by the Igreja do Carmo, another one of Porto’s stunning houses of God before we all headed our separate ways.

This weekend took me to the city centre of Porto again where I met with Noa and Alex for lunch. We went to a really nice restaurant and the waiter was helping us improve our Portuguese which was really nice. Noa and I wanted to go on one of the open top sightseeing buses so that we could see the whole city. It costs €15 for a day ticket and you can hop on and off as you please. The tour goes all around the city centre to all the main points of interest, down to the river and across the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the majority of the wine making takes place. The views from the bus were incredible and the bus was very much worth the money. There are two lines for the bus and we chose to do the historical tour which was super interesting and the information is available in 8 different languages. After our sightseeing tour, which lasted around 1.5 hours, we stopped for a coffee before meeting Hanke and doing some shopping. I had a truly wonderful day getting to know Porto more.

Today I’m going to the beach, which is approximately 15mins from my house by bus and I’ll be stopping at the Parque da Cidade on my way there. I’m very excited to see what today brings and I can’t wait to explore Portugal further. Despite my initial anxiety about coming here, I’m very happy here now that I’ve settled and I’m very excited to see and do more over the next 10 weeks.

Até logo,

Lauren xoxo

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

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