A Round-up of 2014

I’m still in awe when I look back on 2014. When I rang in the new year, I didn’t really know what to expect in regards to my future post-TAPIF. I never predicted I would be where I am now– traveling back down south to Lyon. But alas, I did it. I actually did it. I’m still in France.

Overall, 2014 has also been an incredible year in regards to travels and personal growth. It also marks two years since I’ve graduated from university. I’ve had travel ups and downs, I’ve but I’ve seen some incredible places during the past 365 days, and I can’t help but reflect on what an incredible year it’s been for the blog. With that, I give you the best and worst travel moments of 2014.

January- I rang in the New Year’s at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was a fun, carefree, and easy trip. I love Paris in the winter, especially when there are still all of the Christmas markets to take advantage of. It is truly a magical city to explore and discover.

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Once heading back down south, a few of us took a weekend trip to Avignon, which is a beautiful town, home to Palais des Papes.

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February- I got to take a trip to England and Wales with my Secondes! Seeing Bath was like a dream- I don’t know much about Jane Austen, but she always made Bath sound so appealing, and the town definitely did not disappoint. I wanted to jump right in those Roman Baths! The worst part of our trip was staying with a really weird character in Cardiff.

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Towards the end of the month, I spent a weekend experiencing Carnaval in Nice, and the Citron Festival in Menton, my favorite Mediterranean town.

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March- March marked my first trip to the Middle East– and five days in Istanbul was a great introduction. Before traveling to Turkey, my exposure to Islamic culture, history, and art was extremely limited. Although I have read up on my own about Islam from a feminist perspective, being in a true East-meets-West setting (especially coming from the south of France, where the Islamic population is growing and thriving), truly opened my eyes for the first time. The Blue Mosque was absolutely incredible, and walking inside the walls of Topaki Palace was breathe taking. I must admit, going to second-base with a middle-aged Turkish woman was not originally on my agenda, and being cat-called and hassled CONSTANTLY on the streets really got to me, and by the end of the trip I was absolutely overwhelmed. But, I would recommend Istanbul to anyone, and I would go back to Turkey in a heartbeat.

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The rest of March included celebrating my 24th birthday, seeing Stromae in concert in Montpellier, and ticking the beautiful Provençal town of Aix-en-Provence off my list!

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April- I ended the month with the final days of my assistant contract, followed by a whirlwind, all-inclusive trip to Paris with my mother and nine of her best students. I spent a fabulous afternoon in Monet’s gardens in Giverny, and then explored some former corners of Normandy, including Etretat and Honfleur.

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But I must say, the biggest highlight of April was my first trip to Africa– and more specifically, Morocco! Michelle and I rented an AirBnb and befriended a local, hit up the souks of Marrakech, explored the seaside, and camel trekked through the Sahara Desert. It was an incredible week, and I loved spending it with Michelle. However, our encounter with the men demanding us (threateningly), for money left an extremely sour taste in our mouths, and I think we have both had a healthy dose of Morocco for awhile.

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May- I spent the rest of May exploring Italy with one of my college sorority sisters, Erin– five days in Rome, four days in Florence, two days in Cinque Terre and Venice, and day trips to Siena, Pisa, and Pompeii, Italy completely and utterly blew me away. I will admit, I didn’t quite like Rome quite as much as I had originally thought I would, but Pompeii, Venice, and Cinque Terre won me over, and I’m looking for any excuse to go back and hike the trails I missed the first time around. I was also completely engaged in the remains of Pompeii- I’d love to get back and hike Mount Vesuvius!

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I ended May with a few final days in Corsica and cliff jumping in Nice before heading back stateside.

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June- Less than three weeks after returning stateside, I was on a plane to Miami, to soak up some rays and more importantly to stand up in one of my best friend Katharine’s wedding! It was a fun few days spent with good friends in a new USA destination. I also celebrated two other weddings (including my cousin’s), and it was a great way to integrate back with friends and family.

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July- I spent the majority of July working 50-hour work weeks, but I did take a day to go Chicago and apply for my new Lectrice visa. My mom and I rented bikes and took a tour around parts of Chicago I had never seen before- I learned so much new information about the city!

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August- August was emotionally exhausting. It was a busy but enjoyable month spent with friends and family in the dairy state, where I continued my jam-packed work weeks and squeezed in body attack and yoga classes in the mornings. Finally, I had to pack my bags, sort out finances and medications, and say all of my goodbyes, again, which included an especially tearful one with my grandfather. I landed back in European soil in the 27th.

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September- Living in the north of France, I took a day to myself to check out Brussels. I had a really enjoyable 24 hours, until I ended up getting robbed and having all of my papers– including my passport and visa, as well as my credit cards, driver’s license, etc. stolen. This was the first time anything like this has ever happened to me, and let’s just say, you learn a lot when the only person you have to rely on is yourself. Fixing this problem took up a lot of my free time during the first few months of my life in the north.

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October- I enjoyed a really, really satisfying visit to Kraków at the end of October. I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved Poland. My most memorable day was seeing Auschwitz, but I enjoyed wandering the city and discovering the joys of Polish cuisine with new friends as well. The nightlife in Kraków is all kinds of fabulous and I would recommend this destination to anyone.

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November- I spent my November weekends closer to home, but gave Belgium another chance, and managed an awesome day trip to Ghent– my current favorite city in Belgium. This year’s expat Thanksgiving in Lille was also one of my favorites.

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December- December was a whirlwind for a number of personal reasons, but I was absolutely thrilled to spend another Christmas in Europe. In addition to enjoying the Christmas markets in Lille, Liège, and London, I also got to fulfill a childhood dream of finally visiting Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studios! It was great being able to visit old friends from Toulon.

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Overall, 2014 was incredible, and I can’t help but smile when reflecting on the past 365 days. I wish you all a Happy New Year and a great start to 2015!

Again, thanks for reading!

Bisous,

Dana

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