Next Adventure – To the Adventure Capital of the World

Alright, I think it’s time I addressed my next big trip and gave you guys some details..

Drum roll, please!

My next trip will be.. A month long backpacking trip throughout New Zealand! Words cannot describe the excitement I have for this trip!

How did NZ become my next grand adventure? Easy, my best friend from my time in Paris is from there so that means that not only am I going on one of the grandest adventures of my life but I’m also being reunited with my other half! So, when I say words can’t describe my excitement, I truly mean it.

Not only am I ecstatic at the thought of tackling her with hugs but I’m also ecstatic at all the things we already have planned for our time together; whale watching, bungee jumping, many, many hikes, camping, mountain climbing, Hobitton (!!), thermal springs, the list goes on and on.

New Zealand is known as the adventure capital of the world and I’m so ready for all of the adrenaline junkie shenanigans I’m going to get us into. After a full year in my beautiful city of Paris, I’m thrilled at the thought of this next trip being an outdoorsy one.

And I’m not going to lie, knowing that I’ll get to explore the land of The Lord of the Rings makes me want to cry with happiness. I’ll be like a hobbit exploring the boundaries of Middle Earth.. Looking at you Bilbo and Frodo! Those mountains.. The Shire.. All of it is too much for my eager mind to handle right now!

There you have it, my next grand adventure! And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my trip preparations (reading The Hobbit)!

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.

Liverpool & Chester: A Day of Chasing Down The Beatles & Resting at Central Perk

“You say you want a revolutiooooon..”

I’m still in awe at what I did today.. Spending time walking down Mathew Street – Beatles capital of the world! I went into the iconic Cavern Club and listened to some live music, bought a Beatles’ hits record from the 60s and had the time of my life.

I seriously could live in Liverpool, it was gorgeous. The waterfront was spectacular and I mean, come on.. Who doesn’t want to spend their afternoon listening to Beatles’ hits while walking through town? 

    
    
 I love Liverpool.

Then, I headed to Chester – a city of Roman ruins, which also happens to have a Central Perk replica from Friends. The ruins were gorgeous and enchanting but not surprisingly, I spent almost the entirety of my time in Chester at Central Perk. Seriously this place was amazing. Massive mugs, endless Friends episodes, plush furniture, signature character drinks (I had the Joey Java Jolt) and even a signed Friends script from ’96. I had the best time wasting my night there like the gang did in the show. 

   
   
I really just had a magnificent day today.

Happy happy.

The Best Way to Travel РAdvice From A Well-Traveled Traveler 

We travel the world to venture outside our own culture and absorb another. To travel is to gain knowledge like never before and to experience something outside of yourself. You expose yourself to the people around you and the vibrancy of whatever place you’re in at that time. Real travel means placing yourself in the shoes of the locals and truly becoming one.
When I travel, that’s exactly what I do – soak in something entirely new. It’s what I did in Paris.. Moved there to get a job and truly live the Parisian life.. It’s what I did in Bristol last week.. Worked all day scooping ice cream at a BBQ festival.. And since being in Wales, I’ve done just that once again.

I don’t like to just visit fancy places and do all of the tourist things. Quite the contrary, really. For example, in Wrexham, Wales I’ve been working in a pub serving up pints to the locals alongside Aimi. I’d much rather establish a relationship with the people who actually live in the city I’m visiting than just glance at them from a touristy bubble while walking down the street.

Since working in and actually living in the pub this week, I’ve befriended so many kind old men who frequent the pub and have truly seen how The North lives.

Sipping down ales and gulping down chips, the men have constantly provided laughs and stories and contributed to my experience here. For instance, one of the old men used to know John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He went to school with both of them and told me how they were just regular ole’ down to earth lads. He would usually catch their empty shows in the pubs in Liverpool to support them before anyone ever knew them as “The 4 Lads Who Shook the World.” How crazy is that? And I’d have never gotten to know such a nice ole’ chap if I hadn’t wanted to dive head first in the Welsh life.

So if I could recommend a way to travel for everyone in the world, it would be not only to SEE places, but to actually LIVE them. 

 

An Abundance of Sheep

I’ve been in Wales one day.

I think I should live here.

I’ve never seen so much beautiful nature in my life. 

 I mean, mountainous hills and “TREES?! Everywhere trees?!!” (any It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans out there?)

Oh, and sheep. So many sheep.

I found that out tonight when I went on a drive with Aimi and her sisters and we drove to the top of one of the mountain-hills and parked. I wanted to pet a sheep so I was off on my merry way as soon as I jumped out of the car so I could catch a sheep and cuddle it.

I ran up the hill baaa-ing at the two that I saw but every time I’d look back at them, they’d be further away. I finally realized they were running away from me as soon as I baaa-ed at them.. And here I thought I could speak sheep..