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Saturday, 18 April 2015

BACKPACKING EUROPE: Colmar, France

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BACKPACKING EUROPE: Paris, France





Ah Paris (I say this in the French pronunciation "Pah-ree"), the city of love; where passion, happiness and romance completely consumes you... Is the exact opposite to how I felt when we arrived. I was fucking miserable. As I dragged myself through the train station, throwing strops and tantrums like a 3 year old, all I wanted to do was get to our hostel and go to bed.

Wondering around the train station like two lost sheep, Jack and I tried to figure out where to go, or where to start shall I say. As the Parisian's barged passed us, zigzagging in all sorts of directions, I couldn't concentrate, even the English language seemed foreign. I don't know if it's just me but I'm pretty sure the maps in France make no fucking sense, a sign showing your destination will point in one direction and when you get there, you end up in a bin or walking into a bloody wall... This is not Hogwarts France, platform 9¾ does not exist.

Firing evil looks at Jack and replying with one word answers (as if it was his fault we didn't know where to go), my patience grew thinner and the blisters on my feet grew bigger, so we decided to head to the information centre (probably something we should have done when we first arrived).

Dashing out of the Metro Station, feeling slightly relieved because it's similar to the London Underground, we didn't realise how far away our hostel was, especially because the final tube we needed to get was closed for maintenance, typical! The information centre didn't tell us that back at the station though did they! Luckily we managed to get on another tube, which took us right to our destination, or so I thought. It felt like we were walking for hours to get to our hostel, the roads seemed to go on and on and the sign posts and maps made no bloody sense whatsoever but once we got to the hostel, I was so happy I almost cried. Now all I needed was a hot shower, my pajamas and a good nights sleep to recharge my batteries.

Waking up feeling slightly refreshed, I was ready to explore Paris and everything it had to offer.

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

BACKPACKING EUROPE: Giverny & Monet's Garden, France

Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, Monet's Garden, Giverny, France
16th April 2015

Today we were visiting Claude Monet's Garden and I was excited to roll around naked in a field of Tulips... After checking out of our room at 10:00am, I couldn't wait to leave Saint-Marcel, even if the thought of returning here later on to collect our backpacks would continue to play on my mind throughout the day.
Jack and I decided to make the most of our daily budget and walk the whole way there, which by the way, took almost two hours. Walking along the River Siene, we decided to stop off at Lidl and fill up our day-packs with baguettes, olives, salad and serrano ham. 

Claude Monet's House & Garden, Giverny, France
As we walked from Vernon to Giverny (my voice irritating Jack due to my deafening singing for the duration of the journey), the scenery that accompanied us was magnificent. I felt like I was walking within a kaleidoscope. 

The village of Giverny was a wonderful fairytale, full of pastels and personality however, the closer we got to Monet's Garden, the more touristy it got. As swarms of school kids and packs of visitors walked in the opposite direction, we had been blessed with the luck of arriving at the gardens at the right time. 

Flowers everywhere, Claude Monet's Gardens, France
As I stepped foot into this botanical brilliance, rows of colour and life paved our way. There were so many different types of flowers blossoming together; daisies, tulips, snowdrops, daffodils, primrose and peonies, projecting the allurement of nature, and as the sun shone over this timeless fairy-tale, the garden became alive. 
As rainbows of colour ignited my soul, Jack and I sat amidst the garden enjoying our picnic.
I was happy to be sat here with my best friend, experiencing the muse of Monet together with our very own eyes.

Loud & crazy Frogs in Monet's Gardens, France
Claude Monet's Garden. France
After too much sun and crazy frogs, we took a tour of Monet's house. The decor of the house was just lovely and I wished that it was my home. I was amazed to find a room full of Monet's original paintings, as I half-expected them to all be hanging in some kind of famous museum. Gazing upon his profound passion brought me back to my school days and I remembered how fascinated I was by his individual imagination.

I left Monet's Garden with fresh inspiration, a sense of adventure and a new outlook on nature. And after a long and hot day, Jack's , "Fuck walking back, let's get a taxi." And I agreed. My new outlook on nature was short lived.

Inside Monet's House, Claude Monet's Garden, France
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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

BACKPACKING EUROPE: Rouen & Vernon, France

The Old Mill of Vernon, Vernon
15th April 2015

As I opened my eyes, the smell of second-hand smoke and last night's alcohol filled my nostrils. For a split second I forgot where I was until I my head began to ache and I immediately started to regret how much alcohol I consumed last night. Note to self; when it's thirty degrees outside and it's only your second day backpacking, don't get too drunk the night before. Desperate for water, as I shoved paracetamol down my throat, I realised that my water bottle was empty. Looking back and forth at the kitchen tap, not knowing if the water in France was drinkable (which it is) was probably something that I should have looked up before I left England. Second note to self; find out if the water is safe to drink in another country before you consume eight strong beers and four glasses of champagne OR make sure that your water bottle is always filled up before you go to sleep.

It was 7:00am and we were leaving Amiens today to continue our French adventure. As Jack and I half-heartedly packed our bags, cramming in used belongings into whatever space we could find, our heads were telling us to 'seize the day...' Carpe Diem and all that but our faces were saying otherwise. I was hungover and gross, and all I wanted was my own bed and a Dominoes pizza.

How I felt when I woke up hungover in Amiens





We arrived at our next destination, Rouen, at around 11:00am and thankfully by this point, my hangover had started to evaporate and I began feeling grateful again for my first night in France, as well the people that I had met so far. Jack however, was struggling with a terrible hangover, looking sorry for himself, as he dragged his body around the Old Town. As I took in the sights, trying to appreciate the short space of time that we had in Rouen, Jack continued to mope and avoid daylight. Regretting last night's 'whiskey breaks', he decided that the only breaks he would take from now on were the ones to rest his body from the massive weight that he was carrying around on his back.

The city of Rouen was beautiful, plenty of architecture and churches to admire but after walking around in the sweltering heat for what seemed like hours, we darted to the nearest spot of shade and collapsed on to the cool, concrete floor. The weight of our lives for seven weeks was strapped to our backs, getting heavier by the second. As we gulped down water and tried to figure out what to do next, we simultaneously came to the same conclusion... 'Ah fuck it. Let's find a cafe, book a cheap hotel near by to sort our lives out and try to remember why this whole travelling thing is actually worth it.' It had only been one day and we were already craving a night alone in a hotel.

Hungover in Rouen, France

































As we arrived at our hotel in Vernon, which stood opposite an unimpressive and miserable industrial estate, I realised that our 'home for the night' matched my mood perfectly and it was probably karma for escaping to the comfort of a hotel, two days into our trip. Selfishly barging my way past Jack and muttering some kind of French to the receptionist, all I wanted to do was throw my backpack across the room, rip my clothes off and scrub away the sweat and misery from today's journey.

I immediately felt better after my shower and decided that the location of the hotel wasn't so bad after all until once again, karma slapped us in the face when we realised how difficult it was to find a place to eat, or even a bloody shop! Everything was either closed or miles apart and all I wanted was a cold, fizzy drink. I was tempted to throw myself into the River Siene and deal with the bad shits later on.

After walking for about fifty minutes in a strop, craving any kind of food and drink, we finally stumbled across McDonald's, hooray! 'Yep, that will do nicely,' I thought. I specifically ordered a large meal just for the size of the drink and as I gulped down the cold, disappointing taste of watered down coke, I realised how much of an anticlimax it was. 'Ah fuck it,' I thought, 'You're a traveller now, get used to it.'


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BACKPACKING EUROPE: Amiens, France

Wandering the streets of Amiens, France

14th April 2015

After a long, sweaty twelve hour journey from England to France, we had finally arrived at our first destination, Amiens. Although, I was excited to explore this unfamiliar city, my eagerness was overlapped by butterflies and anxiety. I was nervous about meeting new people and trying to speak the language.

As my eyes glazed over the foreign directions of this brand-new country, we stepped out of the train station and tried to figure out where to go next. A beautiful and dare I say, the ideal French girl rode towards us on her bicycle to meet my boyfriend (Jack) and I, and the expression on her face instantly made me feel more relaxed. Jack had previously met Claire when she was visiting family in our hometown (Coventry) last year. When Jack told them that we were coming to Amiens, they instantly wanted to meet up and welcome us to their city.

As we wandered along the cobbled streets of this French, picardy town, Claire introduced us to passing friends and other locals, including Aurelien, an aspiring photographer who was hosting us for the night at his apartment. As their French phrases faded into excellent English, I felt more relaxed and confident enough to make conversation, otherwise we would have all been communicating by random sign language and the only few French words that I had remembered from school nine years ago.

Gauthier, Una, Claire and me

Aurelien's studio apartment was a fresh mixture of French decor and Indonesian art, as his girlfriend, Una, was of Indonesian decent and had moved over to Amiens four years ago to study Fashion and Cinematography. As I glanced around the room, falling in love with their laid-back way of life, I was suddenly prompted to leave. We had been invited to a BBQ at Claire’s so we put down our backpacks and headed to the supermarket to stock up on beer and burgers.

I met various people that night, all driven by different hopes and dreams; Miriyam, a beautiful girl who crafted her own jewellery and was now competing for a spot in one of the best schools in France to further her passion; Gauthier who was an DJ and events organiser and Richard, a lead singer and guitarist in a band called 'Wolves And Moons'. They were all refreshingly ambitious, yet free and relaxed. They knew exactly what they wanted from life but were in no rush to get there. We shared similar views about everything and it just made think that although, we may live in different countries and and speak different languages, we are all the same at the core. Even our sense of humour was the same, 'Je m'en bat les couilles,' translates to 'I whip my balls and bounce it, which is the English equivalent to 'I don't give a shit.’ And I bloody loved that.

Words of Wisdom in Aurelien's apartment


After several beers and a couple of glasses of champagne, I was speaking better French than English and as we all danced to a mixture of French music and the Spice Girls, I felt as if I had known these people all of my life. My face was gleaming with happiness and appreciation, turning to Jack erratically and miming, ‘I can’t believe we are here.’ I was having the best time of my life and it was only the beginning.

As the clock hit 1:00am and people began to say goodbye (it was a Tuesday night after all and they all had work or class in the morning), I was still on a high. I hadn’t laughed so hard and so real for the first time since my depression had begun last year and I realised that this was it. This is what travelling is about and more importantly, this is what life is about. 

Stumbling back to Aurelien’s apartment, feeling slightly overwhelmed and ready for bed, Miriyam got out her guitar and Una began to sing. It was truly a pleasant and perfect way to end our first night.

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