Howdy, everyone! I have quite a bit to recap today on the blog. First things first, I’m finally back in the lone star state after spending the past 9 months in France. This moodboard was inspired by my recent travels and the two cities that mean the most to me: Nantes (pronounced: [nahnt]) and Austin.
The elephants on the moodboard represent the “Les Machines de l’île” in Nantes. The artistic project represents Jules Vernes ( a famous French author often referred to as the Father of Science Fiction) “invented worlds” and Nantes’ industrial history. While I’m missing Europe already (not to mention my friends and my roommate!), I also missed Texas and consuming copious amounts of my favorite tex mex (hello, queso).
As for the month of May, I spent a lot of that time traveling and reflecting on a new project, The YGG Project, with my friend Tiffany. I’ve addressed some of this in my previous post (cc: The YGG Project) and you can read all the info about that initiative there!
At the beginning of the month, I went to Paris to visit some friends, walk through flower markets, grab a cup of Angelina’s hot chocolate, look at a panoramic view of Paris on the top of Printemps, visit Montmartre, and finally tour the Pompidou (because there were such long lines last time!). Then, I jet-setted from CDG to Oslo where I met my gal pal Tiffany to start our Norwegian adventures.
When we left the airport, we met our Airbnb host at the Oslo train station. She walked us over to the Airbnb, which was absolutely stunning! We had an incredible view of the Oslo Opera House overlooking the water and cruise ships. (If anyone wants the link to this Airbnb feel free to let me know in the comments section!) The next day, we did some sightseeing around the capital, and discovered the Akershus Fortress and the Oslo Royal Palace (both places I’d highly recommend, btw).
The next day, we took a 7 hour train to Bergen, but the time passed very quickly. The reason? The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I was probably super obnoxious on Snapchat that day, but I couldn’t help myself. If you have the choice to take a flight to Bergen from Oslo or a train, definitely take the train. I promise you won’t regret it, and it’s way cheaper. Also, you can pick your seats online if you book far enough in advance, so I would definitely recommend doing that! Tiffany and I like going in the same direction of the train, so it was helpful to book our seats beforehand.
Once we arrived in Bergen (around 10 at night), we went to our Airbnb, made dinner, and passed out. The following day was the day we hiked up Stolzekleiven. From the beginning, Tiffany and I thought this would be a “brisk hike.” And boy, were we wrong. As we started climbing up, the more we realized this was going to be a “climb” rather than a hike. Which is totally fine, except for the fact that I hadn’t been feeling well all morning, so it was a bit of a surprise (and the struggle was so real).
I met Tiffany at the top of the mountain about 50 minutes later. Deliriously exhausted, we laughed hysterically about how “easy” we thought this hike was going to be. Even if you are in shape, it’s still straight uphill. We relaxed on top of the mountain for awhile before meeting another fellow Longhorn named Andy (small world!). We all started chatting and Andy graciously accepted being our personal photographer while we were up there. Then, we all ended up going to get seafood together and carried on having heart-to-heart conversations about post-grad life. While this seems like just another ordinary encounter, it was truly remarkable to connect with another traveler (across the world from home) in such a genuine, meaningful way.
After Bergen, we had a Fjords tour to go to the Hardangerfjord and Rosendal. On the way to Rosendal, we accidentally took an early morning train instead of our assigned boat tour. Now, you might be wondering, how does one miss an entire boat tour if it’s listed on your itinerary? Welp, we did. All of the instructions were in Norwegian, and when we asked the person at the tour desk in the station, they didn’t tell us otherwise. So, we hopped on a train that we weren’t authorized to go on, and then realized that we had to turn around. We got off at the next stop, and took another train back into Bergen. By this point, we were both laughing hysterically once again. How could we have not seen that obviously båt means boat in Norwegian? DUH.
This minor detour actually ended up being a great opportunity to tour more of Bergen. So, that’s exactly what we did. Then, we took the next boat at 4:30 pm to Trolltunga to stay there for the night. However, before arriving to our hotel, we had to take a bus there from where the boat dropped us off. The bus driver only took Norwegian krones, and guess who didn’t have any cash? Yep, us. We didn’t know what to do, but we were exhausted from all the traveling that day. The bus driver saw the desperation in our faces, and let us ride for free.
While we were traveling, we experienced many of these small acts of kindness from perfect strangers. From the conductors helping us get to the right places to the friendly people encouraging me to keep climbing up Stolzekleiven, I am so grateful for each and every one of them.
Once we returned back from the Fjords to Oslo (another 7 hour train ride), Tiffany and I took a flight back to London. We walked around Shoreditch, Boxpark, and went to have lunch at Pizza East. Then, we had the most amazing chocolate from Dark Sugars Cocoa House. Even if you don’t like chocolate, you should at least go there for the decor. It has a very earthy, natural vibe. The chocolate display tables are decorated with tree-like wooden bowls and tree stumps for their seating area. There are two locations in Shoreditch, and it’s just an awesome place to go for a quick snack or a nice cup of their richly-flavored mocha.
The next day, I met up with a couple of my friends that were working with me in France. I went with my friend Brenna to the Topshop in Soho, and then we headed over to the Breakfast Club for brunch. After that, we went to go look for the original Beatles HQ, which now has been transformed into an Abercrombie Kids. However, on our way there we ran into one of our top celebrity crushes…Tom Hiddleston! He was in his car parked by a bank in Soho, and we were both fangirling freaking out. While I don’t have any pictures for proof (he left almost a minute or so after we saw him!), I do have two friends who are eye-witnesses and can attest to this encounter. It was pretty much the highlight of our trip.
I had to plan this trip to Dublin pretty last minute because of a work visa issue (that’s a whole other story), but it all ended up working out so well in the end. I stayed with a wonderful friend of a friend, whose father graciously picked me up from the Dublin airport. As soon as I arrived at my friend’s house, I crashed for about six hours. Then, I met up with my friend in town to eat tapas and hang out for the night. The next day, we went to the Guinness factory tour and ate dinner at Bunsen’s Burgers, which I’d highly recommend. The burgers were fantastic, and relatively cheap as well. I’m so happy I was able to spend time in Dublin with such a super cool Dublin local, and to have been hosted by her warm and welcoming family.
Once I flew back to Nantes from Dublin, my final days there were pretty bittersweet. My mom came up to help me pack the rest of my things, and I showed her around the city I’d been living in this past year. We had a wonderful time walking around the Jardin des Plantes and eating at La Cigale for dinner. The following day, we did a wine tour in the Loire Valley and then went to my roommate’s house for a traditional, French dinner. I was so sad to have to say goodbye (goodbyes are the worst), but I’m so incredibly lucky to have had her as my roommate.
The day before leaving for the US, my mom and I toured around Amsterdam. She had never been before, so I showed her around the highlight tourist sites in the city. First, we went to Van Stapele Koekmakerij, which is a famous chocolate cookie bakery in Amsterdam. The cookies are baked fresh everyday, and have a melted white chocolate filling in the middle. Need I say more?
Then, we went to tour the canals and walk to Van Kerkwijk for dinner. This local restaurant is one of the best places I’ve eaten in Europe (for real). They don’t have a set menu, so they read it to you when you arrive. My mom and I ordered the strawberry and goat cheese filet, which I know sounds like a weird combination at first, but it was so good. After dinner, we went to the Red Light District and the Anne Frank House, which is always a must-see.
Overall, my travels this past month were incredible, and it’s so surreal to think that they’re already over. This is the first time I’ve sat down to process everything, and I hope that some of this information was useful! If you have any questions or want more recommendations/advice on where to go in France or any of the places mentioned above, feel free to post them in the comments section!
As for my future plans, I’m nantes quite sure what they are. So, in the meantime, I’ll definitely be keeping you posted on the latest street style trends, outfit inspiration, and musings on the blog! Thank you for taking the time to read this, and as always, feel free to let me know your thoughts!