Now that August has come and gone, I can confidently say that the weather this summer really sucked. Both when I was at home and away, I never felt fully comfortable or prepared for the fluctuating temps. Too many days were spent shivering in the dreary rain, or peeling of layers in the sweltering sun. I'm really not looking forward to sub-zero temperatures, but I am enjoying the fresh fall chill that has now fallen over the city. A warm quilted moto jacket, rich coloured pants, and fun accessories have been my definite go-tos this past week.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Bruges is the capital of the Dutch province in Belgium. The area itself is called West Flanders, and the main language spoken is Flemish - a dialect of Dutch. This city is located in the northwest corner of Belgium, about 2 hours away from Brussels. I was immediately brought back to Amsterdam when walking through the streets, since it is another canal-based city, commonly referred to as "The Venice of the North". Bruges was historically one of the most important port cities thanks to its location, which is right on the coast.
|The Belfry of Bruges - a medieval bell tower|
The first thing we did after arriving in Bruges was a walk up the Belfry tower. Despite the narrow spiral staircase, the 350 step climb wasn't bad at all and the view was well worth it.
|The view from the top of the Belfry Tower|
Friday, September 12, 2014
|A tourist's view of Le Grand-Place, Brussels|
For the last stretch of my stay in Europe, my sister and I ventured to Belgium to stay with some of our cousins. Belgium was historically a Dutch-speaking country, but has now become primarily French. The city of Brussels is a major centre for European and International politics. Both The European Union (EU) and The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have their headquarters in the city, along with other various international organizations.
|Myself, my sister and my cousin Andrea at The Atomium building in Brussels|
The Atomium building was constructed for Expo 58, which is the Brussels World's Fair that took place in 1958. For the science lovers out there, this monument is in the shape of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times! The building looks especially gorgeous on a clear afternoon.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
A few weeks back, I read a great little article on The Glitter Guide, one of my favourite sites, outlining some essentials to bring when studying abroad. As I reflect on my own 6-week European adventure, I have created a (slightly longer) list of the necessary, and not so necessary, items to tote along on an extended trip overseas. Check out my other Travel posts here to see which cities I visited.
I have a rain jacket from Uniqlo which is just amazing, especially since it was around $40 (it's sadly not available online at the moment). This jacket is so repellant that the water droplets don't even linger like they would on something like plastic. You can literally shake the water off, and the jacket rolls up into a little weightless bundle. Such a steal.
I always pack one cheap pair for contacts-day and my good prescription pair for glasses day. I like to make sure I have two, to ensure that I'm never without them.
A secure hat
It's so important to protect your scalp and face on super sunny summer days. I'm not a baseball cap kind of girl, but that would be the best option here. A large, or loose fitting hat will surely fly away in the wind and never be seen again.
Monday, September 8, 2014
There is truly something for everyone in Amsterdam, whether you prefer history and culture, late-night partying or just the relaxing charm of an old European city. My sister and I spent three nights at Hotel La Bohème and couldn't have asked for better accommodations. The staff were so helpful and we enjoyed an incredible breakfast each morning. The hotel is in an ideal location, only a few minutes by foot to nearly every popular attraction. See more about La Bohème here. Since there's literally more bicycles on the streets than people, it was only fitting to take an afternoon tour around town on snazzy red Mac Bikes.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The extravagant lifestyle of 17th century French Monarchy is certainly put into perspective with a visit to Versailles. It’s always a struggle to put down the camera and really take it all in, when the views just keep getting better and better at every turn. I’ve visited the area once before, but that was in March when the gardens weren’t in full bloom. Last week we had the most perfect warm sunny day to spend strolling through the grounds.
Monday, September 1, 2014
|The view that always takes my breath away|
It has been around 5 years since my last stay in Paris, and I couldn't have been happier to go back. My first trip was in the middle of March, which means that both the weather and flowers weren't as desirable as the end of August. Scattered throughout the past week, my sister and I were able to hit up every last monument, museum and church on our list of must-sees. For our first two days we were lucky enough to have my amazing friend Sibylle show us around and help us navigate the winding web of Paris' Metro. Read on to see some of my most favourite places to visit in this gorgeous, twinkling city.
|Top: Luxembourg Gardens, Arc de Triomphe. Bottom: Sacre Coeur Basilica, Notre Dame Cathedral|
The Luxembourg gardens were absolutely beautiful when we visited at around 7pm. With the more subdued sunlight, the colours of the flowers were fresh and striking against the perfectly manicured green grass. What a fabulous place to kick back in a chair and read a book.
The Arc de Triomphe, in the centre of the "Charles de Gaulle Étoile" is the perfect end (literally) after a walk down the Champs Elysées. There was an amazing drummer performing in the square, which made sitting down for a people-watching break much more fun.
Our walk up to the Sacre Coeur Basilica was slightly tedious since we got caught in a small rain storm. My Uniqlo rain jacket was a real godsend at that point as it literally repels water and weighs next to nothing. But visiting both the basilica and cathedral were very special experiences, both for the incredible detail and well preserved interior. I always appreciate the serenity of sitting down and spending a few moments of silent thought in such a sacred space.
Friday, August 29, 2014
There is one thing that's for certain: the south of France never disappoints. Yes, the alpes, rolling countryside, and lakes are swoon worthy, but a salty sea breeze and pretty flowers partout surely wins over my heart.
I was lucky enough to spend my birthday weekend on the beach in sunny, sandy Marseille. I love a good piece of fish, so this port city is the place for me. You can see a shot of the Vieux Port above, with its pretty boats lined up row by row.
Despite being widely accessible by subway and bus, most tourist sites are within a reasonable walking distance from the town centre. One that was particularly close to my home that weekend was the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. This basilica was truly spectacular, both in its ornate interior, and the view from above.
I had also studied up on the MUCEM for a course earlier this year, so it was pretty cool textbook moment walking through the iconic museum in real life. Admission is free, and there only is a small fee for students to view the temporary exhibits.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Tucked into the heart of the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France, Annecy is a small gem of a city that is just too pretty for words. The tastefully coloured streets are full of life, especially since August is peak tourist time. I was amazed by how many attractions are fit into such a teensy area. Although you do need to pay a slight premium for most things in town, I found things to be quite reasonable for the fabulous quality and breathtaking views.
I absolutely loved taking a little "pedalo" (paddle boat) around the lac d'Annecy. With some bright sunshine and warm weather, the view really speaks for itself.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
|The view from Notre Dame in Marseille, France|
Understanding Sun Protection Factor:"If your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 150 minutes (a factor of 15 times longer) " - Badger Balm Site.
A safe bet in my opinion is an SPF of 30, labeled broad spectrum UVA/UVB. UVA rays cause long-term damage, like age spots, and UVB rays cause the immediate sun damage, which usually results in a burn. There is also a difference in the actual protective UVA ingredients in sunscreens, which can be categorized into "mineral" or "synthetic" protection. You can see more on "what the sun is doing to our skin" in a fun graphic here, on Paula's Choice.
Monday, August 18, 2014
|Scarf - C&A, Tank - Aritzia, Skirt - Forever 21, Belt and Bag - Vintage, Wedges - Natura|
Although the weather here in Saint-Étienne has been much cooler on average than in years past, I'm not complaining since I'll take any excuse to invest in some new pants and scarves. Also, cool nights make sleeping much easier since a/c isn't a thing here.
I was browsing around the local mall and happened to come across a gorgeous array of scarves at C&A (oh no!). I was captivated by all the unique colours and patterns on this soft summery scarf, and couldn't pass it up for 10 €. I've been able to wear it with almost every outfit I have and can't wait to mix it in with my upcoming fall and winter wardrobe.