Oh, 2015, you truly flew by too fast. I can’t believe you’ve already come and gone. 2015, you will always be the bitter-sweet year — the year of so many amazing travel and work opportunities and experiences, but also the year of people I loved being taken away.
January: Lyon, France
I rang in 2015 with some close (and new!) friends in Lyon. It was one of those random trips where you find yourself saying, “Where am I, how did I get here?” It was probably one of my favorite New Year’s to date.
February: Carnaval de Dunkerque
February was overall, a cold and quiet month spent at home. However, one weekend was quite the ride! A northern tradition, you cannot live in the north without experiencing the craziness that is the Carnaval de Dunkerque. I think I’m still recovering from the chaos.
March: Prague, Czech Republic; London, UK; Normandy Region, France; ENSIAME Gala; Birthday
I kicked off March 2015 with a five-day trip to Prague with my friends Libby and Jeff. I had such a fun time; Prague is really magical! A few weeks later, I celebrated my birthday with a party on a Monday night, and then spent my birthday weekend in London with Libby!
Towards the end of the month, I got to attend the Gala put on by the students at the university where I work. It was held in a very classy casino and was very much a black-and-white-tie affair.
The last weekend of the month was spent showing my good friends Joe, Anne, and Jeff the best of the Normandy region. We rented a car and took the ultimate road trip!
Road trip to the American Cemetery, Etretat, Mont Saint Michel, and St. Malo
Birthday (left) and Gala with my good friend Francisco
- Strolling Along the River Thames
- American Road Trip to La Normandie: Month Saint Michel, and La Bretagne
April: Death; Budapest, Hungary; Brighton, UK; Athens, Greece
April started out as one of the worst months imaginable. My grandfather, my biggest cheerleader, passed away from cancer. The last memory of us together is him sobbing in my arms because I was going back to France, and me sobbing in his arms because I felt so guilty and torn. That was the last time I ever saw him face to face. I miss him everyday.
Other than that, I traveled SO MUCH in April- 4 days in Budapest with my friend Jo, a weekend in Brighton with my favourite Englishmen and woman, and then the beginning of a whirlwind trip to Greece with my good friend/former roommate, Anne!
April brought nice weather to the north; some days we simply found ourselves outside enjoying picnics in the sun and having dinner parties at night. Although I traveled a lot, those simple times are some of my favorite memories
Athens, Greece- I loved it!
- 25: A tribute for Grandpa
- Grieving and Healing at Szechnyi Baths
- Budapest, Hungary
- Brighton, UK: A Charming English Seaside Town
- Greece: Athens, I Adore You!
May: Santorini, Greece; Crete, Greece; Cinque Terre, Italy; Paris, France
Truth be told, I spent a lot of time traveling in May as well. And, as cliche as it is, my favorite destination, hands down, without a doubt, was Santorini. It was literally everything it was made out to be and more, and I would go back in a heartbeat (and truth be told if I leave Europe, I will get there again before I board that plane.) Crete was also great, as was going back to hike more of the challenging trails of Cinque Terre, Italy.
I finished the month at the French Open in Paris with Libby, and then I packed my bags and left small-town Valenciennes for the big city (Lille!)
- Greece: Santorini, You’re Spectacular!
- Greece: Crete, You’re Captivating
- Roland Garros: 2015 French Open
- Escaping the Crowds in Cinque Terre
June: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Brussels, Belgium; Lille, France
I spent the last month of work staying closer to home and discovering Lille, including barbecues, picnics, trips to the beach, and birthdays! In the middle of June, my friends Joe, Triin, and I ventured to Luxembourg for the day. We celebrated Fête de la Musique, and I took a visiting friend to Brussels. Otherwise, June was filled with goodbyes, as many of our friends started to move on and leave France.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Abby and me in Brussels
- Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
- Fête de la Musique
- European Summer (American Style!) 2015
- Saying Goodbye: The Downside of Expat Life
July: The Basque Country, Spain; London, UK; Oxford, UK; Leighton Buzzard, UK; Normandy Region, France; Paris, France
I kicked off the first week of July visiting my friend in the Basque Country in Northern Spain! Basing ourselves at her home in Bilbao, we explored the region, including San Sebastien and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. When I came back to France, my colleague invited us to watch the Tour de France pass through the city of Cambrai!
Later that month, my parents came to Europe! I went to the UK a few days early to visit a friend before meeting my parents in London (I went to Oxford for one day, London for a few days, and spent some time in the countryside). Then, I did a few days in London with my parents before coming back to Lille, renting a car and heading for Normandy, and finishing the vacation in Paris. I got to reconnect with both my parents and old friends during this trip, and even though I wasn’t in the best place emotionally, it meant the world to me that they were able to come see my life here in Europe.
- Spain: The best of the Basque Country
- Le Tour de France 2015
- Living Like a Local in London, Leighton Buzzard, Oxford, and Beyond
- Mom and Pops do Franceland and Londontown
August 2015: Bruges, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Bled, Slovenia
I bid farewell to my father in Paris and headed back north to Lille with my mom, where she quickly and successfully integrated as the fifth “coloc” in our house share. Jeff, my mom and I spent the day in Bruges with our friends Shannon and Jeremy, and then later that month a weekend in Amsterdam. I also had friends come to visit at the beginning of August! We spent the day in Brussels and the night out in Lille.
Towards the end of the month, I did something a bit spontaneous: I deactivated all of my accounts on social media and hopped on a plane for a five-day solo journey to Slovenia. I spent my days hiking, biking, and enjoying solitude. I needed to clear my head, or at least try to… so why not try in the beautiful country of Slovenia?
Wisconsin friends in France
- Bruges, Belgium
- A Weekend in Amsterdam, Holland
- Slovenia, I’m not impressed with you or your Skocjan Caves
- Finding Peace and Adventure in Slovenia
September: Oktoberfest 2015 in Munich, Germany
Seeing that it was my second year as a lectrice, and my second year in the same job, this was the easiest rentrée yet! During the summer I had picked up a liking for running, so my roommate Paul and I decided to run the 10K at the Braderie de Lille!
I also made a spontaneous decision– going to Oktoberfest in Munich! Charlie and I spent a few days exploring the Bavarian Countryside, Neuschwanstein Castle, and indulging in a few too many pints, but what an experience!
October: Rotterdam, Netherlands; Berlin, Germany
With fall break lingering just around the corner, in between having an array of visitors, I decided to take a weekend to visit my old flatmate, Laura, in Rotterdam! Rotterdam is so different to Amsterdam, but I really loved it.
Finally, at the end of the month, I found cheap tickets to Berlin, and decided to take a few days to go exploring with a university friend, Laith, whom recently also relocated to France. Berlin truly left a lingering impact on me and I would love to go exploring there again one day.
- Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Not at all like Amsterdam
- Den Haag, The Netherlands
- Gritty, Artsy, Beautiful Berlin
November: London, UK
A bit overwhelmed, burnt out, and broke from the previous months, November was (Welcomingly!) spent closer to home, with the exception of a weekend jaunt to London to visit our old crew!
Towards the end of the month, we hosted our annual Expat Thanksgiving! We managed to cram 17 hungry people in our house!
- Quintessentially British: Afternoon Tea, Indian Cuisine, and The Pub
- Best of 2015 International Traditions: Thanksgiving, Dutch Sinterklaas, and French Christmas
December: Cologne, Germany; Wisconsin, USA
December kicked off with spending the day in Cologne, Germany (about 3.5 hours from Lille) in order to see some of the famous German’s Christmas markets. I had a great day, and my old roommate from Toulon, Sandra (who is German!) came to join me for the day! Later that weekend, we also celebrated Dutch Sinterklass with our roommate from The Netherlands, Christy.
Coloc Christmas Festivities
This year, I also went back to the United States for two-and-a-half weeks! I got to spend both Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my friends and family in the United States, for the first time since 2012. Going home was absolutely refreshing and exactly what I needed. I very much enjoyed .99 cent large McDonald’s fountain Diet Cokes, going shopping at any time of day, drive-thru ATM, Starbucks, bank, etc., driving my car in general, amazing and caring customer service, watching good TV, eating Red Robin, Panera, and Applebee’s, being able to speak my native language everywhere, and, thanks to Free, having 3G and service at no extra charge.
The year ended on an extremely sad note, however, when my second grandfather passed away from liver and kidney failure on New Year’s Eve. The support for him and our family was simply inspiring; I cannot believe how much of an influence he had on the community. I feel extremely grateful to have been able to come home just in time to see him before he was admitted into ICU and then hospice. Really, I made it right on time. I love and miss him every day.
- Best of 2015 International Traditions: Thanksgiving, Dutch Sinterklaas, and French Christmas
- Christmas Markets in Cologne, Germany
- A Dedication to Coach
As my sorority motto says, Ever Forward. I’m looking forward to the unknown, and what’s ahead.