One of my 2015 resolutions was to travel more. I went to nine countries and sixteen new cities, which is not much if you’re a travel fanatic but is still pretty good if you’re me.
For me, it’s always a battle between traveling, saving money, and just taking the time to enjoy life at home. Sometimes I feel like I should go somewhere, but I wonder if I’d actually be happier strolling the cobblestone streets of Lyon with Hugo and gelato (my other main squeeze), than I would be pinching pennies in Rome, even though the latter makes a more interesting story. So I try to be honest with myself and not travel just for the sake of it, just to say I did, or because I think I ought to. I know I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t travel at all, but I also know that I can’t go everywhere I want to and still save and have stress-free time at home, so the hardest part is deciding where to go, because there are so many interesting places to visit just a short plane ride away. OMG MY LIFE IS SO DIFFICULT!!!!!!!
Anyway, I didn’t travel as much as I imagined I would this year, particularly because I have a much heavier workload than last year and it’s keeping me very busy! Sometimes it makes more sense to stay home instead of jumping at every single opportunity to hit the road, and so I do. But I didn’t let all my vacation go to waste. (Who knows when I’ll have paid vacation again!)
California / Lyon / Turin
I rang in the New Year in my hometown in California. It was Hugo’s first time in the US and I showed him around the central coast, from Big Sur to San Francisco. Did he like it? Um, duh. “When are we moving here?” was his general reaction.
I spent the rest of the month at home in Lyon, lesson planning slash trying to get over jetlag, which is no easy task when you have nowhere to be in the morning. If you’re trying to recover from a nine-hour time difference and there’s nothing to stop you from sleeping until 11 a.m. except your own willpower, and you’re the kind of person who eats more cookie dough than you bake, it’s just a snooze-fest waiting to happen. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
But my friend Shannon and I did escape for a weekend in Turin before classes started back up! We mostly ate stuff and tried to explain nut allergies in non-existant Italian. (You know the moment of sudden comprehension when you succeed in communicating through a language barrier, kind of like when you’re playing charades and the answer finally dawns on you? Isn’t that such a moment of victory?) Anyway, it was fun. Sometimes, it’s just nice to get out of France.
Winter vacation arrives two weeks into the semester. Seems like a weird place to stick a week off, but I’m not complaining. I spent it in Oxford visiting Hugo and indulging in cream tea and pub food, and made two trips into London hunting down street art and tacos while I was at it.
P.S. I can’t lie – it was cold, Hugo was working, I had already toured Oxford in the fall, and I spent a lot of time watching Orange Is The New Black. No regrets.
Lyon / La Campagne
I had to work the entire month of March, three days a week. Ugh. Can you believe it? But Hugo moved back to France that month, so where else would I have wanted to be anyway?
Naturally we made a few trips out to La Campagne to see his parents (and the countryside cows. Moo.)
I could absolutely not decide where to go for Easter vacation, but I figured the south of Spain would be as sunny as anywhere. It rained, and it was 75F/24C in France. And I got sick and completely lost my voice. I couldn’t even croak like a frog. Which would have been okay, but I was traveling with my friend and we are a chattery duo! But I still enjoyed Seville. Some highlights: Plaza de España, Alcazar, tinto de verano and tapas, churros and chocolate in the rain, and fresh-squeezed orange juice and toasted jamón sandwiches for breakfast.
I also took advantage of a long layover to walk all over Madrid. It was awesomer than I expected.
Vienna / Cologne / Boppard / Breisach / Mainz / Koblenz / Strasbourg / Basel / Annecy
The end of May was a whirlwind. Classes were out, grades were in, and my parents came to Europe, which meant I got to tag along on their travels and order wine with lunch. I would never have visited so many German towns along the Rhine on my own, and I was pleasantly surprised by Cologne in particular. Strasbourg was a letdown, but so many people love it that I’m sure I’ll give it another shot one day.
Before my mom returned to California, we spent time in Lyon and took a day trip to Annecy. I haven’t blogged about Annecy but I SHOULD because I’ve spent a bit of time there in winter, spring, summer, and fall, and I love it! I have a favorite boulangerie and everything.
Lyon / Dijon / Beaune / Paris
My dad stuck around in Lyon. He loved biking along the Saône. Then he went off to bike through Provence for a week. I stayed in Lyon because I can only bike for a couple kilometers before I have to stop for some rosé.
Luckily, when we went to Beaune, we biked through vineyards specifically to drink wine, so everyone was happy.
I don’t think I really had time to appreciate Dijon, but I did very much like the little owls that are all over the city (…not real ones) and the mustard. Who knew mustard could be so yummy?
Then we took the train up to Paris and stayed in an Airbnb near Canal Saint Martin. I ate as much as possible which is one of my favorite things to do in Paris. The city center was so crowded that even strolling through the Marais wasn’t as much fun as it was few years ago.
After I put my dad on the Eurostar to London (sniff) I got to stay with my friends who have a lovely place in the 12th – much calmer than the city center, and just as pretty. I also was set loose inside the Paris opera house during a performance. That was fun. I went up and down all the spiral staircases and Instagrammed. I sure know how to have a good time, don’t I?
Lyon / La Campagne
I went home. We moved apartments. It was hot. We had almost no furniture for a month. But if that’s the worst thing that happened all year I have it pretty easy. I spent most of the summer practicing Spanish because sometimes I need a break from French, and learning stuff on Codecademy. (aka I produced tiny bits of html and css and was very pleased with myself.) I also went to the préfecture at 3 a.m. to renew my visa, so that was fun. On weekends, we escaped the stifling heat of the city chez les beaux-parents in La Campagne.
Bilbao / San Sebastian / Santander / Brussels / Lille / Le Nord
It kind of looks like I was a glamorous jet-setter in August, but really I was at home in front of the fan for most of the month, and a little bit in Spain, and a tiny bit up in the north of France for a wedding. (Which I should tell you about sometime. Silly dances with crossed eyes and bidding on whether the bride should raise or lower her skirt were involved.)
I’m not sure exactly why I decided I had to visit Spanish Basque Country (might have had something to do with this and this) but I’m so glad I did. It was gorgeous, sunny, and delicious. I caught a cold (Again? Am I allergic to Spain?) but that didn’t stop me from hitting the beach in San Sebastian. Remind me to blog about the awesome Airbnb I stayed at and my favorite pintxos in San Sabastian, the jam-packed street festival and insane rain storm in Bilbao, and the magical whitewashed coastal village Puerto Viejo.
I flew up to Brussels (the Brussels airport is somewhere I’d like to have a long layover sometime. It is so shiny and modern and there are those cocoon chairs that spin) took the train to Bruxelles-Midi where I was catching a bus to Lille, and had just enough time to grab lunch and some Belgian beers for Hugo because I’m the best girlfriend ever. I asked for some help because there was a whole aisle of beer and I know approximately nothing, not being a beer drinker myself. The young man led me away from the specialty beers and recommended Leffe, which even I know is a satisfactory but ordinary beer sold all over France. Luckily, a nice Belgian dude overheard and helped me choose some mysterious beers with artistic labels.
The Ouibus dropped me off in Lille and I had approximately forty-five minutes to wander around the city before I had to catch a train out to the countryside of Le Nord, where Hugo’s family is from. My limited time meant that I didn’t get to meet Shannon or Dana, sadly, but I was unexpectedly charmed by Lille. It had cool restaurants, exquisite windows of pastries, pretty boutiques, and wide, pastel streets.
I can’t remember the names of the towns Hugo’s grandparents and cousins live in (I think one starts with an O? Or maybe Saint-Something) so I’m just going to collectively call it Le Nord. (Does that make me a Rhône-Alpes ignoramus?) I like his family very much. His grandmother is the kind of person who finds out that you like quince jam and then gives you more quince jam than you could possibly eat, a quality which I very much appreciate.
I must write about French weddings sometime. I’ve been to two and a half so far and all of them involved doing the chenille, which is a “dance” that obliges you to grab onto someone’s shoulders to form a long train and chug around the reception hall, serpentine style. At the first one, I ate so much at the vin d’honneur cocktail hour (not even the dinner! The cocktail hour! #gourmande) that I felt full for days (which was a shame, because I was working in Saint Tropez and had a fancy-pants all you can eat breakfast buffet every morning for a week.) At the second one, there was an offering of mini-desserts and I opted to try them all. You know, just to be sure.
September / October / November
Ah, la rentrée. September started off busy, and the semester only got crazier as it went along. So no travel whatsoever during first semester. I was working my ass off in Lyon. The three day workweek is no more!
But what about the week off for Toussaint? My Toussaint vacation was spent grading approximately 400 exams. I worked more than I do when I actually have to go to work.
I’m a little shocked that I didn’t go ANYWHERE for over three months, but then again, I can literally go days without even leaving the apartment, so maybe I shouldn’t be so suprised. As much as I like to go out and wander, I love to stay home and read, cook, and Netflix (which doubles as studying French so let’s call it productivity).
Lyon / California
You know when you think you’re going to have lots of free time to do the stuff that you normally don’t have time to do, and then life happens and you actually have no free time, or maybe you do but you manage it poorly because it’s hard to manage your time when you have too much of it, and so you still don’t get everything done? That was December. Classes let out, exams were invigilated, grades submitted, translations corrected, gifts were shopped, Christmas lights were lit. I went to the préfecture for the last time in 2015, and got my carte de séjour after only a four hour wait. (I clocked about sixteen hours at the préfecture in 2015, not including visits to La Direccte for my work permit. At least I didn’t have to go to OFII for naked x-rays.)
And before I knew it, I was back on a plane to San Francisco, to end 2015 exactly where I began it. Who knows what 2016 will bring.
How was your year? Any big plans for 2016?