A Hop, Skip & a Jump Across the Pond: Europe, I’m Back!

Well, hello there fellow travelers! I know it’s been a while since I updated you on things and I apologize for that.. But I have good news! I’m currently in Wales.. That’s right, I’m back in Europe!

It all started six months ago, right after I got back from New Zealand – because obviously I already wanted to jet off somewhere again. I was in the shower and suddenly the idea to come back over for a surprise visit came to me. I immediately messaged Aimi & David and we started planning.

Originally the surprise was supposed to be for Gemma & Declan but Declan ended up finding out about it the week before I got here.. Oops. But it was still a surprise for Gem! And yep, she cried (love you, Gem!).

But anyway, I’ve been here a little over a week now. Why haven’t I blogged about it then, you ask? Well, to be honest I haven’t really had the desire.. After all the blogging I did in New Zealand about almost every thing Rowena and I did, I was discouraged because when you’re constantly planning what to write about the exciting things you’re doing, you lose sight of what’s actually happening in those exciting moments.

Buuuuuuut, I got over that, so here I am!
And I need to tell you all about my first week back! Because man have we been busy.

First off, we went on a three day camping trip throughout Wales. The first night we spent in Llyn Gwynant and I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve never seen such a beautiful campsite in my life. Surrounded by mountains and nestled next to a lake, I was in Heaven.


And you better believe I went off on some solo adventures and climbed those mountains next to us.


And early morning rock climbing.


And! Early morning kayaking.


Seriously, such a beautiful campsite.

We also spent time on the beach.. And oh my goodness, the Irish Sea is so so so so cold.

Overall, wonderful camping trip.

But then, guess what! I went zip lining on the longest zip line in the world & fastest in Europe, Zip World Velocity!


And hey look, a handy dandy video of me flying!

It was so amazing flying so high over bright blue water and zipping down that high cliff. So freeing.

Oh! And castles! We went to a castle.. Conwy Castle – a medieval fortress that was just as staggeringly beautiful as you could ever imagine.

And as if that all weren’t enough fun times, we also went to Alton Towers – a theme park that’s literally set inside and around a castle. I was quite impressed with how well they do theme parks here!

Three days of camping, a day of castles & ziplines & a day of roller coasters.. IT’S BEEN A GREAT FIRST WEEK BACK.

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What to do When a Stranger Asks You to Bike Throughout Europe with Him

What would you do if a random stranger emailed you saying he’d just read a travel article you wrote for the paper and then told you he wanted to invite you on a 1,000 mile European bike ride and wanted to know if you’d like to get coffee in a couple days to discuss (Phewwww, loooong run on sentence!)?

Well, lemme tell ya what I did – because yes, this happened to me two weeks ago.

I went out for the coffee.

Yeah, the intrigue of such a different possible adventure was so exciting to me that I didn’t hesitate in accepting. In a world so afraid to live, I make sure not to miss out on life.

That being said, it’s not like I didn’t consider the consequences if this had gone poorly and didn’t make sure this was a real man reaching out to me – I did my homework. I’m always safe in my adventurous decisions.

So let’s get on to the story.. A few months back I wrote an article for the local paper about my time abroad as a nanny. This man found it online while visiting my town and apparently became intrigued with the way I choose to live my life. He asked me out to coffee and told me about these bike rides he does every other year and sent me links to his previous excursions that I could look into. I researched and decided it was a real opportunity, so I took it.

When meeting for coffee, this man bought me a latte and we sat down to chat about adventures. He told me how he’s been doing this for over 15 years and how he thinks it’d be right up my alley. He organizes these trips for people to just join him on – he gets nothing out of it other than the company of others for a month while biking throughout parts of Europe.

I’m not sure if this is something that I’ll for sure do but it’s definitely something I’m considering. And the only reason I’m able to consider it right now is because I said yes and took a chance.

So, there you have it.. I miiiiight have found yet another adventure that just so happened to fall in my lap. A perfect opportunity that I might have missed out on if I had been afraid to say yes. In life you have to take chances, put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid to live a vibrant and colorful life. You might look back to regret it if you are.

One Year Ago Today..

I set out on the grandest adventure I’ve ever gone on thus far in my lifetime.

I moved to Paris. 

 Words can’t explain the way I feel about that beautiful city now but I’ll try my hardest to capture it through my words here.

Terrified, anxious, excited and proud are just a few of the words that described my demeanor that day a year ago.

I had no idea that I’d make some of the best friends in my life.. 

   
I had no idea that I’d make some of the best memories of my life..

I had no idea that this move would spark a fire in my being for travel that I fear I’ll never be able to extinguish in just one lifetime.

My year abroad changed me in more ways than I can explain.. I’m more “me” than I’ve ever been, if that makes any sort of sense. I came into myself more than ever before. I found out more about myself in that one year than in the entirety of my life leading up to it.

I’m more confident.

I’m more intelligent.

I’m more independent – if that’s even possible, seeing as how the move itself apparently took some independence, I guess.

Late nights wandering Paris’ streets, mesmerized by the lights..

Afternoons spent tucked away next to the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of wine and great friends..

Day long city bus rides through the city to see all that it had to offer from the outside looking in..

Lazy evenings lounging in the park with a good book clutched to my chest.. 

 These are just a few of the memories I hold in my heart from my year over there and I dream of the day I can go back and see my beautiful Paris again.

I wish that the whole world could experience something so marvelous as moving to a new city across the world, where they speak a different language, and you know no one. It’s unbelievable knowing that you’re capable of such a thing.

And for now, I’ll look ahead to my next adventure.. Which is already waiting for me right around the corner.. 

 

5 Things You Learn When You Explore the Entirety of Paris’ Louvre Museum

After being home from Paris for a little over a month, I’ve obviously been thinking about that marvelous city for a majority of my free time. I’m missing it more and more each day so I’ve decided that it’s finally time to now start posting my tips, useful facts and just favorite things about the city for others who might be traveling there soon, who might want to go one day or those who might just have a general inkling to know more about my time over there.

While living there, I compiled a list of tips and useful things I feel that people will be able benefit from that are drawn from my own experiences and adventures over there. One of my tip lists I want to share with the world is what happens when you take five days of your life to explore every inch and secret room within Paris’ famed Louvre museum. Exploring the whole Louvre was one of my top Paris Bucket List items and I accomplished it the week before leaving the city. I hope that my experience within the museum can help out anyone else wanting to explore it.. So without further ado, here we go!

1. No matter what you’ve heard about the gigantic size of the Louvre, it’s bigger than you ever could have imagined.

Standing outside the enormous palace, the size is intimidating. You’re thinking to yourself, “There’s no way I’ll ever actually see this whole thing.” You’re scared to even walk in, knowing how overwhelmed you’ll become within seconds. Yet, knowing all of this, you slowly descend the steps into the “secret” entrance of the Louvre. Immediately, the crowds overcome you and you’re lost within a sea of tourists, unable to even move. As they all shuffle through the short line into the underground entrance, you push past and finally break free of the camera flashes and jumbled combination of four different languages being screeched around you. You’re finally in. You’ve come through the carousel entrance, you’ve shoved past the crowds and you’ve finally made it inside the Louvre. You stand gazing at the three different museum entrance choices before you: Richelieu, Denon and Sully. Without thinking, you choose one and venture up the escalator inside. Map in hand, you clutch it tighter than your purse, knowing that this little paper map is your lifeline to the fantastical history that lies in waiting for you to discover. Slowly, you calm down knowing that you’ve made it inside and that you’re now exploring one of the largest collections of history in the world. You ease into yourself and get lost within the beauty that is the Louvre. Though it’s massive, each room is full of something new and the little map you’re clutching saves you from terror. After about two hours of exploring, you’ve finally conquered the first of three sections in the museum. You feel accomplished and ready to do anything. You know you’re a master Louvre patron already. One section down, two more to go! ..four days later, you’ve done it all. You’ve seen all three sections. You’ve battled thousands of tourists. You’ve won. You’ve seen the entire Louvre after five days of exploration. And it was glorious. The size was no match for your passion of art and you leave for the last time feeling a lightness and renewed passion for life. You have seen the entirety of Paris’ Louvre museum.

This is what I went through each day I dared to go back and see more. It took me five days, but by jove, I did it! 

   
2. Napoleon was a bigger jerk than the world leads you to believe.

You all know Napoleon, right? The guy who tried to conquer the world and actually did conquer many parts of Europe? Well anyway, at one point in history, Napoleon lived within the Louvre and his apartments within the palace are still present and perfectly preserved today. You can explore the entirety of them within the Richelieu section of the Louvre and they’re magnificent. Plush oversized furniture covers the floor below an enormous, elaborate diamond chandelier that hovers above the main living room; extravagant bedrooms flowing with diamonds and decorated with uncomfortable, yet gorgeous furniture. I’m telling you, this part of the Louvre will blow your mind. It’s phenomenally overdone and elaborate in ways that I never could have imagined possible in real life. It was extraordinary. But obviously, Napoleon was more full of himself than anyone could have imagined.. Or at least than I could have imagined. 

 3. The Egyptian section is one of immense magnitude and indescribable history.

Oh, the Egyptian section! Gah, it was marvelous. I’m so excited right now even just thinking about it again and writing about it. Okay, so I have to start off with telling you that all my life, I’ve wanted to visit Egypt. When I was in 6th grade, I did a school project on Nefertiti.. I regularly watched The Mummy movies.. To say I was obsessed with Egyptian culture and history is probably an understatement. So, getting to see a full collection of Egypt’s ancient history was of great excitement for me. This section houses many, many sarcophagus’ and ancient tablets depicting everything from royal day-to-day activities to farm life. The Louvre even holds the sarcophagus of Rameses III, pharaoh of Egypt from 1186 – 1155 BC.  The inscriptions on each tablet were mesmerizing and the sarcophagus’ were marvelous.. But none of it compared to the fact that I saw a real life mummy. WHAT! Yes, a real life mummy in a glass case on display for everyone to see. It was indisputably the most amazing thing in the Louvre for me. Complete with jars on the sides full of the organs from the deceased (just like I learned about from the Mummy movies!), the mummy was truly humbling for me. 

I can’t quite describe why I have such a fascination with ancient Egypt (it could have something to do with adventure – because I’d go ahead and be so bold as to say that I have a bit of a passion for it) but I can tell you that 6th-grade-Nefertiti-project-wielding Megan would have cried her eyes out and fainted at knowing that present day Megan had the privilege of viewing a real life actual ancient mummy in Paris. Man, sometimes I just have to re-read sentences like that that I type out and breathe, still unable to comprehend some of the things I’ve been blessed to do in my life. 6th grade Megan certainly never would have guessed I’d do most of the things I’ve been able to do thus far in my life.

4. “Dead ends” due to construction or other mishaps are not definite; there’s always a secret way to get to the section you need to see.

During the five days it took me to explore the Louvre, I was turned away from multiple sections due to construction closings on staircases and hallways, yet wasn’t deterred. I was on a mission that I needed to accomplish and I wasn’t going to let a little hallway construction stop me from doing what I needed to do. Again, handy little paper map in hand, I studied the layout of the museum multiple times and always found smaller, hidden staircases or passageways still accessible to get me where I needed to go. So, if you are turned away for these reasons, fret not! If you’re determined enough and sneaky enough to search out these smaller, lesser known entryways, you can see everything you need to see. However, that being said, if there are certain entire sections closed off for things like this or art restoration, there is actually no way around it. This was something I encountered on the 2nd floor of the Denon section. The entire top level of this section was closed off for restoration and I’m sorry to say that that is final. Though you can find ways around closed off staircases and such, you certainly can’t sneak into places and do anything illegal. So, don’t take this advice as me telling you to pull off some sort of National Treasure stunt! Nic Cage won’t help you out if you decide to break laws.

5. The provided maps are actual lifesavers and your connection to the museum world.

As I’ve mentioned in almost the entirety of this post, the Louvre provides handy dandy paper maps in every language for you to use to your advantage while exploring the Louvre. The maps contain a floor plan of the museum complete with color coded sections and suggestions on what is most famous in that section and on that floor. They seriously are so helpful if you’re wanting to find a way to conquer the Louvre like I did or if you’re just wanting to find the Mona Lisa. Make sure to grab one as you pass by the information center, I promise you won’t regret it.

*Bonus* There is a “secret” entrance as mentioned above that allows you to skip the crowds and get inside within seconds.

This little tidbit of information that I possessed as a Parisian is probably the thing that my Dad was most thankful for when he and my Mom came to visit. As you can imagine, the Louvre is almost always stuffed full of humans and if you can believe it, my Dad is not a big crowd person. I know I love new things and meeting gaggles of new people, but I certainly didn’t get that from my Dad because he’s the exact opposite.  If he could avoid all human contact outside of those he loves, I think he’d live his happiest life. So, for him, coming to Paris was a definite culture shock in the way of people. He previously thought that a crowd was the ironic wave of people leaving a Royals game early during the 8th inning to avoid everyone else, all the while ensuring their inevitable encounter with all other patrons from the game. Paris is definitely not the ironic wave of people from a Royals game. I’m pretty sure my poor Dad was in a state of shock and anxiety the whole time we were in the city and the Louvre was no exception. Though I couldn’t disperse the crowds within the museum for him, I could ensure that Dad didn’t have a heart attack while just entering it. The “secret” entrance is called the carousel and is a side staircase behind the pyramid that leads to the shopping center and also the entrance to the museum itself. It’s highly less frequented than the main entrance and a nice welcome for the father of a daughter who loves the city but appreciates her dad’s hatred of people.. Love you, Dad!

So, there you have it! Just a few tidbits and facts that I can provide for you beautiful readers and fellow adventurers who hope to some day visit the Louvre for the first time or maybe return for another visit. I hope I was helpful! There’s certainly so much more to learn about this fantastical place though, so if you have any questions or comments for me, don’t hesitate to ask! As you can tell, I obviously miss Paris with a burning passion and would love to talk about it even more.

Dublin: A Last Stop On a Road of Yearlong Adventures

What does a broke American girl with 24 hours in Dublin do? Drink Guinness. Lots and lots of Guinness. 

 I’m on my last stop of adventures here in Dublin before returning to the US after being gone a year and only had 24 hours here in this beer-drowned city.

To get here was quite a struggle. First, I had to figure out how to get my two 50 lbs (each) suitcases around with me along with a similarly heavy carry-on and large purse. Yes, I traveled from Wales to Dublin with four massive bags all by myself. And I didn’t even cry once! So, that’s cool. But anyway, in order to even get to Dublin I hitched a ride, took a train, rode a ferry and then caught a cab to my hostel. Yes, that’s four different means of transportation with four very large bags that weigh more than I do collectively. Again, I reiterate – I DID NOT CRY ONCE. It was easy once I put all my weight into picking up one case and stacking it on top of the other so that I could wheel them together (my 2nd suitcase is actually a duffle and doesn’t have wheels) – and by easy I mean immensely challenging. I wheeled my two massive cases along together while toting my carry-on strapped across my front and my big purse across my back.. I’m telling you guys, I was a comic relief of travel to anyone who saw me.

But all of this is okay because I got to take a ferry from Wales to Ireland! It was so cool! I love the water and honestly could have sat there at the big windows staring off into the horizon daydreaming about the world for a full day. But I didn’t have a full day on the ferry – nope, I had a full day in Dublin! Literally just one full day. Actually, not even that because I arrived in the afternoon and am heading to the airport this morning.. So, technically more like 20 hours I guess but that’s okay! I made the most of it! While on the ferry, I met a fellow blonde American girl who I instantly connected with. She’s traveling with her dad and wanted some time away from him so we hung out on the ferry and exchanged info so that we could meet up together again later in the day. 

  

Minion voice: “He he, barf bags.”

 
Once finally arriving at my hostel – bags amassed in front of me towering above me – I checked in and left to get some grub. I wandered around the town center for a bit as I always do and then happened into a pub that my cabby had told me he likes and is pretty chill.

I walk in.

I cross the bar.

I look to a table to sit down.

I hear a man call out for me.

I turn and there’s a middle aged man sitting at the bar with an arm stretched out to shake my hand and he’s asking me where I’m from and what I’m doing there. Like seriously guy, I haven’t even looked at the entire pub yet and you’re already bugging me. But turns out he wasn’t really that annoying and he and his buddies were actually pretty cool.

They find out I’m from the US and traveling alone (shh, don’t tell my Mom that I told them that) and they are shocked. They can’t understand that an adventurous and independent woman wants to travel alone and experience the world. But that’s okay – a lot of people don’t understand it and I’ve grown used to it. The guys end up buying me a Guinness and we chat while I scarf down yummy fish and chips all afternoon. What started out as an encounter with an annoying dude in a pub, turned out to be quite the perfect Irish experience with beer and fish and chips. 

 Later my fellow blonde American friend, Robin, and I went out on the town together to Temple Bar. We ate, we drank, we were merry. It was so cool to just walk around and see the nightlife of Dublin. Cobblestones and neon lights take precedent at Temple Bar and there’s really nothing like it. We had ourselves a grand ole’ time. 

   
The only thing I’m bummed about is the fact that I wasn’t able to go to the Guinness factory. I arrived too late yesterday to make it in time and then have to head to the airport too early this morning to go today. But I know I’ll be back one day so it’s not the end of the world..

And now today, after countless adventures and memories over the past year, I’m leaving Europe and returning home.

The Completion of My Paris Bucket List

I did it! I finished ALL of my Paris Bucket List! ..except for three items I couldn’t afford as a poor nanny. 

    
 The last few items on my list were not easy in the slightest. The first, and one I’m most excited about, is seeing the entirety of the Louvre. I did that. I saw it all. And you know what? It’s massive. Unbelievably massive. It took me five trips and that’s even after I’d been multiple times previously. There are so many hidden rooms and staircases that it’s ridiculous. Part of it was closed off but no matter, I found a way around all of the construction through hidden passages and just kept on going right through (around the construction, of course). The Egyptian section is mesmerizing. I’ve always had a love for ancient Egypt and so getting to see so many real sarcophagus’ and AN ACTUAL REAL LIFE MUMMY, pretty much made my whole life. While going through, I marked everything off on a map from the information desk and said map is now a tattered mess, yet still in tact for my offspring to be proud of one day. 

    
   
The second thing I’m most proud of is getting up at 4am to go watch the sunrise at Montmartre. It was glorious and everything anyone could hope for in Paris. Sitting on the steps of Sacre Cœur with Aimi and Gemma on our last full day in the city, breathing in the morning air.. Yes, I cried. It was a magnificent morning. 

 The last thing on my list that I completed, was actually completed at the beginning of my year. Let me explain. One thing on the list was “hipster theatre.” I wanted to go see an obscure show at a hole in the wall basically. But with time and how slowly I realized I was quickly leaving, it just wasn’t possible. Then, it hit me. I used to regularly go to Open Mic night at the Highlander when I first came to Paris. It was a small show with local artists put on in the basement of a Scottish pub – what more could I ask for in the hipster theatre respect? So there you have it, done.

COMPLETE.

SUCCESS.

All done.

..except seeing a show at Moulin Rouge, having afternoon tea at Ladurée and velibing (biking) around Paris because I just did not have the money for them. And that’s okay because everyone knows I’ll be back.

One day.

Goodbyes Are the Hardest Part..

I knew when I moved to Paris, that I would get attached and it’d be hard to move away.

I knew that after spending a year of my life with a family separate from my own and caring for children who weren’t mine, I’d find it difficult to leave.

I knew that I’d fall more in love with Paris than I’d ever been before.

But nothing prepared me for how I truly felt today after my last day with my kiddo.

Let me start by chronicling the past week because it was full of adventures.

I spent my last few days with my family in their apartment instead of mine due to the immense heat wave that has enveloped Paris and the lack of air conditioning anywhere in France. Living under a metal roof on the top floor of your building can be difficult at times – I found that out this week especially. However, I loved sleeping at the flat with my family and waking up to have breakfast with them in the mornings; it’s something I hadn’t done at all this year. Even though the unbearable temperature has been miserable, it was well worth it to spend my last few days so close to them.

One of the things that A and I did for our last few days was go to the carnival that just opened up this week. I was so glad he wanted to go because I’d been dying to since I first saw the colorful equipment going up. Taking care of kids it’s only fitting that I’m still a kid at heart myself, right? We rode rides and had a grand ole’ time all afternoon but I gotta say, the best part was the first thing we did. The Donkey Kong ride. A runs over to the line and starts jumping up and down excitedly and grabbing my arm and screaming. He kept repeating how he’d never ridden this ride before but he’d been wanting to for over a year. He kept screaming all the way through the line, while we climbed into the boat seats, as we were slowly being pulled up the big slide and as we swiftly dropped to the bottom of it. He screamed with glee the whole time and I’d never seen him so happy. The rest of the day didn’t even matter because I’d made my little guy ecstatic by riding along with him. 

 The next day we went to the movies and saw a surprisingly hilarious franglais kiddie film. Half of the movie was franglais and English and the other half was French.. Jokes like, “(In a thick French accent) I am so happy to be your new French tee shirt,” had me in hysterics the whole time.

Along with the wonderful time at the carnival and movies, this week my host mom and A took me to a nice sushi dinner and guess what.. I found out I like sushi! I hated it two years ago when I tried it for the first and only time but this go I loved every bite. 

 We laughed and talked and drank over dinner and I could feel myself becoming more and more aware that I’m leaving in just a few days..

As the final day approached, I didn’t allow myself to think about how this was the last time I’d walk my kiddo to school. Or the last time I’d pick him up. Or the last time we’d play Connect 4. I couldn’t bring myself to face the fact that tonight I was going to say goodbye to my reason for coming to France and the reason for my happiness in Paris.

A and I spent our last night together playing Connect 4 and listening to minions songs. When my host mom came home and it was time to say goodbye, A hugged me for a long time and wouldn’t let go. As he and his mom walked out the door to catch their train, he kept looking back every two seconds to wave again. When he finally got through the door, he turned around again to blow me a kiss goodbye.