Monday, March 2, 2015

Dreaming of a European summer

I wrote this little reflection upon returning from Europe last July, why I never posted it I don't know. In light of all my friends currently planning fun trips abroad I thought it right to post my musings from a wonderful little trip to my favorite places.

 10 Rue Bailleul, my temporary Paris home

...It’s been just over two weeks since I left the wonderful world of holidays and was thrown abruptly in to the cold, Melbourne winter. Four magical weeks spent exploring, wandering, eating, shopping, eating some more and sleeping. 

It had been four years since my last trip to wonderful Europe, four years since a European summer. I know I can’t complain I am lucky that this was a trip where I revisited my favorite places, when I know many have yet to experience the joy that is a European adventure and a European summer.

Paris' famous Left Bank

This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for a very long time, something entirely different from my last trip. I am a very different person compared to the last time I was there. I was going for entirely different reasons and have a completely different outlook compared to the very young 22 year old that visited in 2010.

This was a trip purely for me; it was a trip that I had initially planned to go on by myself. But as luck would have it I spent most of the four weeks enjoying the company of friends and family with a few wonderful days on my own re-exploring magical Barcelona.

Paris, London, Barcelona and Pezenas…

Almost two weeks were blissfully spent in Paris. Of any city, apart from Melbourne, Paris is my favourite. It is beautiful, interesting and there is so much to see, do, eat and drink. I am not talking about your standard tourist attractions (Don’t get me wrong I love a good tourist attraction, I mean the Eiffel Tower… just stop it!). But the quiet streets away from the major hustle and bustle, little lane ways, cafes, wine bars, patisseries, galleries, bookshops… one amazing taxidermy shop (If only I had somewhere to keep a menagerie or a polar bear). 

 This little beauty was one of the many treasures found in Design et Nature (4 rue d'Aboukir 75002 Paris)

It’s a magnificent city. Days were spent wandering streets where the only decisions that were made were along the lines of, left or right and do I want another cake. It was a hard few weeks that’s for sure. 

The shopping, don’t even get me started on the shopping…OH EM GEE! The Europeans sure know how to do a sale, and Australian retailers really need to up their game. With most shops offering a 50% off minimum it was hard to contain myself. 

Paris left me in a daze. Cakes, cheese and pastries were eaten; wine was drunk, with a side of long walks and long lunches. Some people go to Europe to see the sights; I go for the cake shops and patisseries. 

Cakes from the Patisserie down the road, the eclaires pictured changed my life. If your in Paris I highly recommend a visit to Boulangierie Julien: 75 Rue Saint Honoré 75001.

Paris was followed by a wonderful and sunny long weekend in London, catching up with old friends and eating some more. London is wonderful; having been lucky enough having spent a bit of time there in the past, there is nothing better than experiencing London as a local. Completely bypassing anything touristy and just hanging out.

Somewhere near Brick Lane

The most wonderful thing about this trip was that I got to just hang out, revisiting places where I have already done the touristy thing. It’s so enjoyable being able to experience a foreign city like you would your home. 

After a very sad good bye in London, and some pressure placed on old friends to get their bums over to the sunny side of the world ASAP it was off to Barcelona.

The first stop where I was traveling solo, it really is a liberating experience traveling all on your own. And sometimes a confronting one, you forget how much you just rely on others to help with things… Like needing to pee at the station with your entire luggage and no toilet cubicle big enough to fit you and your suitcase in… Major dilemma, do I leave my suitcase out or do I pee my pants?!
Leaving suitcase unattended won.

It’s also strange having dinner alone, which was probably the main down side to traveling solo. It was a novelty on night one, a novelty that quickly wore off. People respond in funny ways to a young woman dining on her own, there were some pitying looks; some confused and others were admiring my confidence to eat alone… I was hardly going to bypass eating dinner just because I had no one to eat it with!

Barcelona is a crazy place, bustling, hot, busy, loud, colourful. The main attraction I have with Barcelona is the art and architecture…. Three words, Oh My Gaudi. Antoni Gaudi, wow. Sagrada Família, Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens and Casa Batlló, all wonderful buildings by this genius of a man.

The last time I was in Barcelona I visited Sagrada Familia, while I was there only the perimeter of the inside was open for viewing.  Scaffolding was everywhere and metal construction poles were holding up the ceiling.  You could see basic outlines of what the building was to look like but it was hard to get a good idea. 

This time… Wow! The inside is almost completely finished, apart from a few stained glass panels. It really is the most magnificent building I have ever visited. The scale and the intricate detailing, it completely took my breath away. It is a masterpiece. I’m not one to fuss over churches too much; however it’s hard not to fall in love with Sagrada Familia.
My days were spent wandering streets I had never been down, eating lunch at the St Josep Merkat and loosing myself amongst the crowds.

Then it was off to the south of France. Life is really better in the south of France. The French have it all sorted, they know how to live and how to enjoy themselves. Life is all about eating, drinking and spending time with family and friends. 

I ate fairy floss flavored ice cream here, I felt like all my childhood dreams had come true! 

My first night in Pezenas was spent at La Estival, a summer street party held every Friday night down the main street of this beautiful little town. The street is closed to traffic, tables and chairs are set up, food stalls, and local vineyards have wine for sale. You come down, buy an empty glass, proceeded to fill it and your tummy with delicious goodies, sitting on tables with hundreds of strangers. It really is the best way to spend a Friday evening.

My week in Pezenas was spent exploring medieval cities and castles, eating, sleeping in, eating more, visiting markets and enjoying the sunshine. I did not want to leave, Pezenas is one place I could happily spend much more time in. 

I’ve come home planning my next trip over, promising myself it won’t be such a long time between visits. There is just so much to see and holidays are always more exciting than real life!

Me in my happy place, wandering the grounds of the Louvre just before sunset

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