A Weekend up North

Finding myself with a weekend and no work, I decided I would make the effort to explore a bit of France. I found the website To Be Erasmus in Paris*, and saw they were offering a very reasonably priced weekend in Normandy / Brittany for Erasmus students.

So, bleary eyed at 8am on Saturday morning, I headed to Porte Maillot to meet the group and start the weekend. There was a great mix of all nationalities and with everyone being around the same age it was a great weekend for making friends.

We first headed to Honfleur, where we had some time to explore the little port town and buy some lunch in the market there. It’s a really pretty town, with colourful terraced houses overlooking the port. Next we headed to Deauville, which (possibly due to the torrential rain) wasn’t my favourite place. This is the place to be in the Summer, a kind of St Tropez up North, with its long beach and town filled with expensive boutiques and restaurants. Not somewhere fora budget conscious tourist!

That afternoon we drove on to Saint Malo. We had a little time to wander around the town and look at the shops selling Breton cidre and salted caramel goodies (definitely overindulged that weekend).  That evening we ate at Le Licorne – an amazing crepe restaurant in the historic centre, really good prices and delicious food – also the waiters dress up in white dungarees and striped Breton t shirts which is quite fun. Then it was back to the hotel (we stayed in the Ibis budget hotel a little walk from the historic centre, which I would definitely recommend).

The next day (after a massive breakfast – included in the room price) we walked back to the historic centre, and had a lovely walk around the ramparts. Saint Malo is an old fortified town and the ramparts are still in place enclosing it all. You get a lovely view over the beach and sea, and the weather was perfect. We had a little stop off on the beach, then accidentally found ourselves back at the crepe restaurant for a mid morning snack (the smarties crepe was incredible).

Next it was on to Mont Saint Michel. When you arrive, the car park is a short distance away, you either take a shuttle bus or walk for about 30 minutes, which I would recommend for the great views. Mont Saint Michel was really lovely, it’s very small and is a complete tourist trap with over priced restaurants and tacky tourist shops, but the Abbey at the top is worth a visit and the views are breathtaking.

So all in all, an action packed weekend but definitely some great places to visit. Brittany and Normandy are definitely home to some of the best food in France, and the cider is delicious. Be prepared to eat a lot if you ever find yourself there…!!

img_2171img_2187img_2223img_2249img_2258img_2274img_2316

 

*To Be Erasmus in Paris is aimed at young people living in Paris, and they organise nights out and trips around France and Europe. It’s a realyl great way to explore different places without spending a ridiculous amount of money, and a perfect way to make new friends (which in Paris can sometimes be quite difficult).

 

Advertisements

The Palace and Gardens of Versailles

Versailles is probably one of the most impressive and beautiful places to visit on your trip to Paris. It’s about 45 minutes on the RER C from central Paris (you have to buy a separate ticket for the train), then a short walk to the Château entrance. If you get there early the queue to get in is much shorter, but I’ve also read it’s worth getting there and exploring the gardens first and the Château in the afternoon as it’s less busy.

Considering how big it is, you only get to see a small section of the Palace, but the rooms are incredible – the ceilings especially are really beautiful so look up! You also get to walk through the famous Hall of Mirrors from which you get a great view over the gardens, and is also a room that has seen many important historical moments such as the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

The most impressive part however has to be the extensive gardens. You could spend hours wandering around and still not see everything. We had a picnic by the lake, then hired rowing boats. After that we walked over to the Trianon Palace and Marie Antoinette’s Farm which is really adorable. There is a little train which we ended up taking back to the Château as it was really hot and we’d walked far.

Versailles is such a nice day out of Paris, especially in the Summer as you can take time to relax and explore the beautiful gardens.

img_1542
Entrance to the Palace
img_1578
Garden view
img_1653
Trianon gardens
img_1690
Marie Antoinette’s Farm

 

Settling in.

 

I’ve now been in Paris for just over 2 weeks. 2 long, tiring and busy weeks! I am living in a foyer, which is a form of accommodation for young workers and students. There are about 80 rooms here but it seems to be very quiet here at the moment. We have dinner provided Monday-Friday, which is very convenient, however doesn’t exactly live up the expectation of delicious French cuisine. Let’s hope that this week they change the menu options slightly and i don’t have to eat green beans with every meal! Despite the slightly questionable dinners, the foyer is in a great location, just off the Champs Elysées, about a 30minute walk to work, and a short metro journey to all the main touristy places. I have to share a room, which was strange at first but I’m getting used to it, and it’s another benefit to have to speak French to my roommate every day.

For work, I am in a shop selling women’s shoes, which you can customise with different coloured tassels. It’s all going well so far and it was far less scary than I had been imagining. Everyone who works there has been very patient with my current poor level of French, which is nice. Because it’s August (a month when most shops and businesses are shut for the holidays), it is very quiet so I spend a fair amount of time organising and tidying, but I am enjoying interacting with the customers who do come in,

When I’m not working (Sunday and Wednesdays) I am out exploring Paris. The weather has been so lovely the last couple of weeks which is a bonus, because it’s so nice to wander around here. Last week I had a great day – I visited the Conciergerie (the place they used to hold people during the revolution before they were taken to the guillotine), and the Sainte-Chappelle Church which was absolutely beautiful and mostly ignored by the majority of tourists visiting Paris. I then went for a stroll through the Ile Saint-Louis, stopping for a Berthillon ice cream, and then spent the afternoon in the Luxembourg gardens before heading to a creperie for my dinner.

I’ve also been busy most evenings after work, meeting up with various friends around Paris and attempting to locate bars with a happy hour! The other night we went to La Terrass bar which is on the 7th floor of a hotel near the Montmartre area, and it has the nicest view of Paris – including the Eiffel tower which continues to be a source of great excitement when it starts to sparkle!

So to summarise, I feel like I’ve settled in fairly well now. I’ve started to know my way around, and I can already feel my French improving. Definitely looking forward to what the next few weeks will bring!

À Bientôt,

Izzy

IMG_1134
Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie
IMG_1171
The Eiffel Tower
IMG_1225
Jardin du Luxembourg
IMG_1243
Sainte Chapelle
IMG_1254
Notre Dame