Dear February

Dear February,

You were good to me, like most Februarys. Most people don’t give you the credit you deserve because they are either too cold or too bitter when the 14th comes around. But I appreciate you more and more each year. I spent most of this month traveling around and visiting cities I’ve never seen before, like Amsterdam and Berlin. Cities that I can’t wait to go back to and discover more of. I want to devour the cities until no stone is unturned.

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As much as I love you, February, knowing that you’re already gone is hurting. In a couple weeks I’ll be 25 and I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet. I still feel like I am 16, awkwardly walking down the hallway in high school wishing my acne would go away—which it still hasn’t nine years later.

I hate that you’re so short. I hate that it’s always a blink and you miss it when it comes to you.

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I made some new friends as I traveled around this month. I met Sarena in Amsterdam, as we traveled around the canals, eating as much food as we could stuff into our faces, and breathed in a city that has so much strange and fascinating history. I met Christine, Kayla, and Dan in Edinburgh. Christine challenged me as we climbed up Arthur’s Seat and as my very un-fit body huffed and puffed the hill, we made it. And it was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I was so proud of myself. Kayla and Dan made me feel so welcome in my Airbnb, giving me tips on places to go in the city that was now their home—at least for a little while.

And then I met up with an old friend in Berlin. One who always gets me thinking about what’s next. Makes me think that maybe I can make it here in Europe and not regret the choices I make on a whim. Not regret spontaneity and this weird internal longing I always have with a country that’s not technically considered home. I’m so proud and jealous of how much she is making the world her oyster (as much as I hate that phrase) and it makes me believe that I can do that too.

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The last week, though, I’ve felt a little out of place, February. I’ve been out of touch with people from back home and am starting to feel like I don’t quite know who they are or who I am anymore. The world has gone on without me and as I get pictures sent to me from home, more and more things look so different and I can’t quite recognize what home actually is. Is that weird, February?

I received a text message from a friend, someone who I met under strange circumstances, someone who I’ve only hung out with three or four times, someone who feels like I’ve known her my whole life instead of the past couple years, and the text made me miss my friendships more than ever. I love this town. I love my students. But I need something bigger. Something that has people and life and a car or a metro so I can get around. I need people, and as much as I claim to hate people, it’s nice being around them every once in awhile.

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February, you made me miss life. You made me miss connections as I traveled around Europe and made some good ones along the way. I appreciate you more than you know.

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Dear January

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Dear January,

You started off like any other January—me alone. This time I actually had an excuse as I had traveled for almost 24 hours straight, was jet lagged, and smelled like all those wonderful travel smells. Flying from St. Louis to Chicago to Dublin to Paris to Argenton is no joke and I promptly fell asleep by 7:30 and then was suddenly wide awake just as the clock struck midnight. There were no fireworks, no banging of pots and pans, just me alone in an empty flat.

You passed rather quickly—much more quickly than I was expecting. It was like I blinked and you were already gone. Dust between my fingertips.

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I cried a couple times this month, mainly because of politics and feeling incredibly frustrated about what’s happening back home. But I also tried switching offline more this month by actually putting my nose in a book and reading. READING. It’s glorious and wonderful and why have I gone so long without sitting down on my couch, feet curled underneath me, and laughing out loud at words written down on a page? I’ve missed it. It was a limb I forgot about and how desperately I needed it to live.

January, you helped me rediscover passions. I started writing again, not a lot, but a little bit here and there. You made me realize the importance of solitude—not loneliness—but also how important it is to have family and friends to miss and rely on.

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This month I booked tickets back to my favorite place on Earth, London, for my big 25th birthday, and booked tickets to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Berlin. I’m going to expand my horizons and get more stamps in my passport and remember to live again and not just sit idly in front of Netflix jamming in as much The Good Wife as I can in a day (although that show is fantastic).

You made me realize how much I enjoy teaching English as a foreign language, and how much I’d love to do this again for another year. In the same place. Who would have thought that I’d want to stay in this small town life? Not me. But January, you’ve made me apply for things that I never thought I’d apply for—grad school in London, Winterine in Boston, TEFL in Berlin—I want to live in Europe, at least for a little while longer.

January, thank you. You made me start believing in myself again.

A Weekend in Brussels

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If you’re living in Europe, one of the best ways (and most fun ways!) to get to Brussels is train. I really like Thaley’s train, as they do something called Tick Up, where you can hop on a train to Brussels for 29. It’s really quite handy and wonderful, if your train is actually on time and not over an hour late and you end up missing your train to Brussels like I did. (Yay, France and your late, late trains.)

Where to Stay

Youth Hostel Van Gogh

This is where my roommate and I stayed. While the rooms weren’t A+, the location and the main areas of the hostel are spectacular. The location is very central to everything you’d want to walk to in Brusselslike Grand Place and delicious, delicious waffles.

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Made in Louise

Literally steps away from Brussels city centre, this hotel is gorgeous and offers anything and everything you need.

Where to Eat

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Image courtesy of Trends Shaker

Maison Dandoy

Yes, you can get waffles on the street for 1€, but Maison Dandoy is worth the extra euros for the ambiance and wonderful views outside of their restaurant windows upstairs. Plus, its hot chocolates are drool worthy.

Elisabeth

Brussels is well known for the delicious chocolate shops on every corner of the city. Elisabeth is my personal favorite chocolate shop and Instagram-worthy shop. With an assortment of chocolates in a variety of flavors, this is the chocolate shop to stop into.

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Café Capitale

While scouring the city for a coffee place that was open, my roommate and I stumbled upon this gorgeous café. Not only does the interior look like it spit out the pages of Kinfolk, the coffee was heavenly and the pain au chocolat est parfait!

What to Do

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Grand Place

Grand Place is a spectacular sight to see. It’s hard to explain how stunning it is to stand in the centre of the Place and turn on the spot to see 360-views of buildings that are older than your country. It’s truly breathtaking.

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Atomium

Definitely a tourist trap, but have you really been to Brussels if you didn’t see the Atom? Probably not. You can head inside the atom structure and see wonderful views of the city.

Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat

Love chocolate? If that’s a no, why are you going to Brussels? This museum is all about chocolate and the history of chocolate in Europe. Plus, you get some tasty treats as you walk through the museum.

5 Day Trips to Take From Paris

I have officially been in France for three weeks now (it feels like so much longer than that!) and I have started planning weekend trips from the ever-popular city, Paris. Since Paris is only two hours on the train for me, it’s extremely easy for me to get up, catch the train, and figure out a place to head to for the day. If you’re headed to Paris and wanting to see something other than the City of Lights, these five places are easy to get to and definitely worth seeing.

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

1/ Rouen
Rouen is about an hour and a half north of Paris. The gorgeous town is in the Normandy region of France, where you’ll find brightly colored buildings, an incredible cathedral, and the tower where Joan of Arc was held before she was executed.

2/ Mont Saint Michel
While this area can be somewhat touristy, it’s still an incredible place to visit and easy to get to from Paris. Mont Saint Michel is an island with a magnificent abbey that towers over everything. Even if you decide not to head inside the abbey (it’s 9€ if you’re over 25 and free for everyone else), the town itself is gorgeous with lots of delicious food you should try immediately.

3/ Giverny
If you’re a fan of Monet, you’ll want to head to Giverny immediately. You’ll be able to stroll through Monet’s home and garden and feel immediately as if you’re in one of his paintings.

4/ Lille
Unfortunately, Lille is overlooked by many tourists but it is one of the best day trips from Paris. If you’re a foodie, you don’t want to miss this city at all. Home to incredible museums, intriguing architecture, and delicious food, Lille is an easy day trip to take from Paris that you must take.

5/ Orléans
While you may stop here while castle hunting, this shouldn’t just be a place for you to stop for lunch. Orléans is home to the streets Joan of Arc walked along, and the house she spent time in still stands. Enjoy delicious food, insane architecture, and castles that will take your breath away.

 

A Weekend in Louisville, KY

As much as I love good ol’ STL, it’s nice to pack up a few things and get away for the weekend. Whether you’re wanting to drive to another city for a different kind of nightlife or escape to the countryside for stargazing and quiet, there are many places to travel for a great weekend outside the ‘Lou. This month I bring you Louisville, Kentucky.

Where To Stay

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21c Museum Hotel
This gorgeous and modern hotel is high on the list of places to stay in Louisville, KY. The award-winning hotel is smack dab in the center of everything you’d want to see and do in the city. Walking distance from the Muhammad Ali Center and Louisville Slugger Museum–yes, these are places you’ll want to see–and a delicious breakfast spread that will make you question eating outside the hotel. And if you feel like missing local art museums, explore the hotel because it’s an art museum! The pieces displayed in both rooms and around the hotel lobby are drool-worthy.

The Brown Hotel
Not the best name, but you’ll feel like royalty as soon as you step into this hotel. The lobby alone is enough to have you awestruck with their dramatic archways and chandeliers. The Brown Hotel is right in the heart of downtown and less than a mile away from the KFC Yum Center–you read that right, the Yum Center.

Where To Eat

Wild Eggs
There is a reason this restaurant has been named “Best Breakfast” spot by Louisville Magazine, they have the best breakfast and be prepared to wait for it as there is always a line out the door. Need some recommendations? Try the Breakfast Nachos, the Kelsey “KY” Brown or the Sweet Home Apple Bourbon pancakes. Actually, try them all. You can’t possibly go wrong.

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Havana Rumba
If you love Cuban food, Havana Rumba is calling your name. Even if you don’t like Cuban food, this place is still calling your name. Try one of the three locations in downtown Louisville and get your stomach prepared for all the delicious food. Whether you want to stop in for lunch or dinner, there will be a slight wait as Havana Rumba is always busy. Vegetarian? They have many options for you, including my personal favorite Coca Vegetariana–Spanish style flat bread with caramelized onions, peppers, tomatoes, Monterrey Jack and goat cheese. Can you say, “yum?” YUM.

Toast On Market
The atmosphere plus the food make Toast on Market the perfect place for you to stop by for breakfast or lunch. Open only until 2pm, the sandwiches are spectacular as is their grilled cheese–I’m still dreaming of the Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese. Stop in for a quick bite to eat before roaming around the rest of Louisville.

What To Do

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Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery
Sample smooth and warm Brandy that will turn a Brandy enthusiast into an obsessive and a Brandy hater into a lover. Discover the architecture and the philosophy of why the distillery and the grounds were built the way they were. Travel through their stills, rickets, event spaces, and my favorite part, the rooftop.

Old Louisville
Take a walk along Old Louisville where a unique collection of houses and streets built in the 1800’s that will make you stop and wonder, “who in the world lives in these beauties?” Wander around Central Park which was once the sight of a world’s fair when Thomas Edison introduced the electric light as the main exhibit. I recommend taking the Haunted Ghost Tour of Old Louisville. It’s one of the best ways to experience the city.

This post was originally published on my weekend guide on ALIVEMag.com. Check them out.

A Mini Guide to Nice, France

Nice is one of those places that doesn’t quite feel real. Walking through it’s crowded streets, it feels as if you’re in a movie set waiting for someone to call out “action!” and Brad Pitt will walk in front of you chasing after another beautiful woman. With its beautiful beaches, Southern French charm and many gelato stands, Nice is one that I can’t wait to go back to over and over again.

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Where to stay

Couchsurf (free)–This is what I did while in Nice. I stayed at Antoine’s little flat in Vieux Ville, where we watched Hitchcock films and ate our weight in pasta.

Hostel Meyerbeer Beach ($)–Great location, lovely staff and you will meet amazing people from all over the world.

Hyatt Regency ($$)–I love this hotel. It’s beautiful and if you ask nicely (and if they’re not fully booked!), you can upgrade to a room with a spectacular view of the sea.

What to do

Musée Matisse (free)–It’s a gorgeous house that is chock-full of paintings by Henri Matisse. If you’re staying in the old city, I recommend taking the bus to the museum and exploring the area for the afternoon. It’s quite beautiful.

Parc du Château (free)–Hands down the best views in Nice. Get your climbing shoes on because you’re going to be walking a lot to get to the top. I mean, there’s an elevator but what’s the fun in that? I don’t recommend wearing a backpack that weighs 15 pounds though. You’ll regret it. Trust me.

Explore Vieux Ville (free)–Walk around the small streets and explore the markets, the waterfalls, statues, architecture, and all the in-between bits. The Old City is so incredibly breathtaking. Grab a raspberry gelato and get lost.

Promenade des Anglais (free)–With the beach to your right and the Old City to your left, the Promenade des Anglais is the perfect end to your night in Nice. Skateboarders, tourists, and regulars fill the strip with their conversations, laughs, and genuine intrigue. To me, this is the best place for people watching.

Where to eat

Olive et Artichaut ($$)–You’ll need a reservation because this place is busy…always. The food is good, the desserts are delicious, and the drinks are even better.

Fenocchio ($)–Okay, want delicious gelato? You have to go here. Fenocchio has been in business since 1966 and there is a reason for it. My recommendation? Chocolat avec lavande. YUM.

Jaws on the Water

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A couple years ago my friend texted me saying that she was going to watch the movie Jaws while floating in her pool. Now, I feel like I am brave (insert laughter here), but when it comes to water and sharks, I go running screaming the other way. Why anyone would want to watch the number one film that scared most of the world away from the small island town of Amity while floating around in water is beyond me.

However, if this sounds like something you’re into and since it’s Shark Week, I recommend flying to Austin, Texas this week. The Alamo Drafthouse introduced Jaws on the Water back in 2002 and now it’s back for the first time since then at the man-made Texas Ski Ranch Lake for Jaws 40th Anniversary. The only conditions? You’re outside floating on an inner tube in the pitch-black lake. Sounds like a wild night, right?

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Tickets are $30 and include an inner tube. Alamo Drafthouse says you can expect plenty of other additions, including 10 sharks in the water, specials on Dos Equis all night long and plenty more. Food, drink and beer are for sale because we all know that some of us need a little bit of courage to dip our toes into the unknown depths of lake water.

Duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh