Almost exactly six years ago, Juan and I had a weekend getaway in Mont-Saint-Michel. Prior to our weekend together, I’d never heard of this magical place and I couldn’t wait to explore!
Mont-Saint-Michel is in Normandy, France and serves as a mainland commune. Back in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries, the tidal island was founded and used to protect against the Vikings. Its rich history is something to be experienced in person…
Today, tourism is its sole source of economic stimulation. It’s estimated that only 25-50 people sleep on the Mont each night, which includes monks who live on the island. This made our time here extra special!
If you’re ever in northwestern France, please take time to visit this wonderful place!
I can’t believe it’s been six years since studying in the one and only Provence, France (time really does fly when you’re having fun!). I want to reflect on one of my most memorable days in southern France: our field trip to Sénanque Abbey.
My roommate-turned-bestie and I had professors who were actually married (hers was an art professor and mine was the creative writing expert), which led to a joint day-trip to one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited.
We started our journey by hiking around quite a bit, which would’ve been fun if it weren’t for the fact that we had to wear fancy clothes and dress shoes… still, we had great views…
The abbey itself is incredible; an order or monks still reside in this charming, yet powerful architecture. And obviously the lavender fields don’t hurt!
Despite the long, hot day Carolyn and I endured, we had a great time (even though the below photograph suggests otherwise)!
Lyon, France was a must-see weekend destination for Carolyn and me because my husband actually studied there before we met. He had nothing but good things to say about it and we knew we had to explore!
One can be adult get consumed by Old Lyon’s charm! Wandering the streets is a great way to spend an afternoon.
I believe it’s obligatory to visit cathedrals when visiting Europe, and this one certainly delivered on beauty and history.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
This park is another great way to spend an afternoon. It provides you with ample people-watching and photography opportunities!
I saved the best for last! There’s no shortage of good food here in Lyon. With tons of bakeries, candy shops and markets, you won’t leave the city hungry.
I officially started this blog in 2015 by being forced into it as a class assignment. I thought, “no one is going to care what I have to say,” but thank you for reading and following my journey anyway.
With this gratitude, I will be sharing my first study abroad experience with you: Aix-en-Provence, France (2014). I have shared some photos way back, but it’s time you saw and heard about one of my favorite countries to this day. I’m feeling just as grateful for my summer in southern France as I am for all of you!
Thank you for all of your love and support, always.
Today’s post is for some of my favorite women that I’ve either met abroad or are from another country (or both)! People are the reason why I love travel as much as I do; it’s about immersing yourself in new cultures and creating strong friendships along the way. In case you’re reading this, thank you for all of the fond memories, laughs and sharing once-in-a-lifetime experiences with me 🙂
Saskia – friends since 2011 (met through foreign exchange)
Carolyn – friends since 2014 (met as roommates in France)
Anwar – friends since 2015 (met as coworkers at our SVSU Writing Center)
Bethany – friends since 2016 (met as exchange students in Sweden)
Jacomijne – friends since 2016 (met as exchange students in Sweden)
Gloria, Jagoda & Hui Jun – friends since 2016 (met as exchange students in Sweden)
Kaila – friends since 2017 (met as volunteers in Chiang Rai, Thailand)
As the friend who is “always gone somewhere,” a lot of people ask me where my favorite place is (or what city I enjoyed the most). The truth is that after visiting 20 countries abroad, I can’t pick “one favorite.” So instead, I have five!
I put this in chronological order, not in order of preference:
Aix-en-Provence, France (2014)
At this time, this was the longest period I’d been away from the United States. I spent three weeks in Germany when I was 18 (two years prior) but this felt different, because it WAS!
I was truly immersed in the culture. I lived with a host family as well as someone from New Jersey (who is now one of my closest friends) and learned more about how the French saw world issues, like the Holocaust for example. Aix will never be Paris, but on the same note, Paris will never be Aix…think about it…
My mother’s side of the family is predominantly French. Although they weren’t from Southern France, I felt close to my roots here. The experience of living in Aix for two months was something I wouldn’t trade for the world, no matter how insane my host mother was!!
Amsterdam, Holland (2014)
My boyfriend and I visited Amsterdam together once my two months in Aix was over, and boy was I pleasantly surprised! There is such a bad reputation of Amsterdam here in the United States (sleazy, dirty, etc.) and although some of that can be found here, Amsterdam was one of the greenest, cleanest, beautiful cities I’ve visited!
Amsterdam is such a melting pot of cultures, languages, and lifestyles. Hearing Norwegian, Spanish, French, German, and British accents all on the same street is something you can’t experience in Michigan very often!
There is absolutely no judgement here!!
Kiruna, Sweden (2016)
On a school trip during study abroad round two in Sweden, we visited Lapland (in the Arctic Circle). As a third grader, I wanted to visit the ice hotel SO BADLY and my dreams finally came true in Sweden! It was more breathtaking than I imagined…
Being in Lapland was one of the best weeks of my life. Still is two years later. I was in love with every aspect of the trip, from dog sledding to seeing the Northern Lights (twice!!) and everything in between – it was perfection.
Bergen, Norway (2016)
I visited my mom’s family’s foreign exchange student, Kjell, after studying in Sweden for one semester. My mom and Kjell haven’t been able to physically see each other once he returned home in the 80s, but they have been able to talk on the phone and write each other letters ever since. Meeting Kjell, his wife, children, and basically all of his immediate family was something I’d been wanting to do my whole life. Bergen itself is beautiful, but the sentiment behind my visit made it even more memorable.
Um, well…Bergen is absolutely stunning! I think the photos above speak for themselves…
Bangkok, Thailand (2017)
Although I volunteered in Chiang Rai for one month, Bangkok was the best possible way to end my Thai adventure! I had previously booked a room for myself to explore Bangkok, but then my friends Kaila, Karl, and Hee Cheol decided to join. I’m beyond thankful that they did because I know I wouldn’t have had as much fun without them!
On our first night together, we ate at one of the best restaurants I’ve been to! And right after, we had drinks on a rooftop bar, which was the perfect way to end our volunteering and begin our weekend together! I think Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were places I’d rather be long-term; however, because of the people I was spending my weekend with, Bangkok (and its memories) make the list for me!
And aside from what I’ve just mentioned, WE HAD A ROOFTOP POOL! People, it doesn’t get any better than this! For a month, I was taking cold bucket showers, squatted down to pee, and had mosquito spray on me 24/7. This 180 was exactly what I needed 🙂