Trip Highlights from Ireland & France
I want to thank everyone for reading my first post. Your kind words and encouragement mean a lot to me! I’m very fortunate to have so much support.
I have a lot of ideas for posts I’d like to write during the next few months – but first I wanted to provide you with an update of our trip so far. We’re two weeks in, and we’ve already traveled through Ireland, France, Switzerland, and Italy! Unbelievable! My focus here will be on the first two – we spent four days in each place.
Croquet and bocci ball are not the same
Janet, her family, and friends welcomed me to Ireland with open arms. I was a complete stranger, but I was met with nothing but hospitality and kindness. Janet’s sister let me stay in her apartment, Janet’s family let me stay in their guest room, and I was very much treated like part of the family over the weekend. There is something special about having a home cooked meal waiting for you in another country!
In the world we live in today, I believe it’s more important than ever to remember all the good that is out there, and I encourage you to go out of your way to be kind to a stranger! It’s gratifying and will come back to you ten times!!
We had a busy few days before our big departure. Janet had a going away party at Grogan’s Pub in Dublin and I got to meet a bunch of her friends. We took a day trip down to Sherkin Island where some of Janet’s family had a summer house and I joined the celebration. And we spent Sunday visiting Gougane Barra in West Cork. I got to explore Southern Ireland, an area of Ireland that I had never seen before, although I think the weather is pretty universal across the country.
When I was introduced as Janet’s travel companion, most reactions were along the lines of, “oh, you’re THAT guy!” I’m not sure what she told them (but it must have been good!) because everyone was really friendly and interested to learn more about my background and why I decided to pack up and leave. And I really appreciate all the support I’ve got from her followers on social media!
One of the most fun parts of my visit was a family croquet match! Everyone’s competitiveness was magnified by the champagne! A family party wouldn’t be complete without a little friendly rivalry. Being the reigning bocci ball champion among my friends, I was pretty confident at the beginning. How much harder could it be? My attitude changed pretty quickly.
Our trip officially began on August 22nd when we left early Monday morning for Rosslare, where we would take a 20-hour ferry trip to France. Because we were traveling on a budget, we had reserved chairs (you literally sleep in the chair or on the floor), but much to our surprise, we were given an upgrade to the master suite when we arrived! This is just one of the many perks I’ve experienced so far as a result of traveling with Janet (and I have an awesome post all about this in the works!)
Living like a Parisian
We had two stops over four days: Paris and Annecy.
Paris is amazing. The city, the people, the food – all incredible. It was a nice change of scenery coming from the busy streets and skyscrapers of NYC. Seeing the Eiffel Tower (especially the light show at night) and The Louvre (which was much bigger than I remembered it) is quintessential Paris!
I think I liked Paris so much because we experienced it like locals. We had such a good time pretending we lived here…
- A friend of Janet’s graciously allowed us to stay in her apartment.
- We spent a night sitting next to the River Seine and drank wine while salsa music played, strangers meeting in the middle to dance.
- We had a picnic as the sun set in the Tuileries Gardens, right in front of The Louvre.
- We wandered around the fields near Les Invalides, crossed (the stunning) Pont Alexandre lll, and admired the Grand Palais and its intricate architecture.
The weather this summer hadn’t been great, but we arrived on one of the few good days so everyone was outside! We really lucked out watching Paris in action… and I also learned a few salsa moves (watch out!).
The next morning we set out on a food tour with Secret Food Tours, where we wandered around Montmartre, learning how to shop and eat like “a real Parisian.” Four years of being spoiled by some incredible restaurants in NYC left me a little bit of a food snob – but Paris didn’t fail to impress! We shopped at local bread, cheese, meat, macaroon and chocolate shops, before gathering in a restaurant to consume and enjoy. I could live on French bread and cheese and be very happy for a long time!
I even tried head cheese. Have you ever tried? It’s, uhhh… interesting…
Our guide, PJ, stressed a few important concepts as they relate to eating like a true Parisian: supporting local business, sourcing and eating only fresh, quality items, and never to trust the British! Ha! We even got to go behind the scenes and visit the kitchens of a well-known Boulanger, where 1,500 baguettes are made a day. Amazing – and they were the sole bread provider of President Sarkozy! Check out Janet’s post (you’ll notice I borrowed a few of her pictures)!
Annecy. Janet wrote an eloquent post here about our visit to this Fairytale Town. It’s a picturesque, colorful little village known for its deserts and gelato – what’s not to like? Small canals run through the city into the lake – and bridges connect the old town.
The lake itself is crystal blue, and people travel from all over to spend days on the beach or cruising in a paddleboat. If you’re like my family (who love hanging out on Lake George in upstate NY) then this is a must visit if you ever find yourself in France. We took a boat tour around the lake – my favorite part was seeing all of the charming little houses located on the edge of the water – each one unique.
I felt like we were able to pack a lot of activities and visits into the short time we had in these two places, but the best part was experiencing them more as an insider and less as a tourist!
Next: Switzerland & Italy!!