Annecy

I have been to Annecy plenty of times, but I am never quite over the quaint beauty of this town. It was the first town in France I had visited actually, all my time previous to my first visit was spent in Geneva. So to me Annecy was like WOW. Everything I turned to look at I was like wow, there are canals and colors and bikes! Now, of course I am a little more seasoned so even though Annecy had still stood out to me, I’m not as easily pleased.

Something that has stayed true of my thoughts about Annecy is that is really is beautiful and quaint. I usually stay in the la vieille ville, there is something about being around really old buildings that makes me excited. Like, I can’t get super old building in Ohio. I need to appreciate them here and now.

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A lively band plays in Annecy and the local residents come out to watch.
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A serene bridge over a canal shows why this town is called “The Venice of France”
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Boats float on the canal

When I was visiting one time, there was a giant market going on. I love being able to buy jams, meat and fruit straight from the person who produced it. It also gave me a chance to practice my french. The people there would be pretty patient with me as I struggled to pronounce some names, but I came away knowing more and with armfuls of goodies.

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Fresh jams for sale at a farmers market
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Beautiful buildings in Annecy

Of course there is the lake. In the summer, and I’m assuming a little into the fall as well, you can rent paddle boats, canoes, and boats. It was incredibly relaxing to be able be in the middle of the lake surrounded by laughing locals and tourists. You get out there and then when you look around it’s an incredible view. Both the huge mountains and the city around, very picturesque.

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A relaxing place to sit and view the French Alps.

London

London, such a great city. It’s super amazing how it can be filled with such amazing history and also be so modern. When I was here, I was with my family. First lesson learned, when you’re traveling with a group of people, don’t be selfish. Maybe you don’t want to go to the London Tower but your group does, just be selfless and go with them. Then try and see if you can do something you really want to do afterwards. The second lesson is that you should do your research about where you are going. Look up the old antique bookstores, the statues that you want to see, the bus routes. If you do your research, it’ll be a much smoother trip. Lastly, and possibly most important, your plans will most likely go wrong. Something will go wrong. You have a group of six but you can only find taxis for five people. There is a event happening in the garden you wanted to take pictures in. You have to be flexible. I cannot stress that enough.

Belgium

Belgium was another amazing country. It is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever been to, and by that time I had been to a few. There were so many huge buildings there that looking nothing like buildings I had seen before! You can sit there pinning the pictures on Pinterest of places and think they are beautiful, but thats very different then being right underneath them. I found myself overwhelmed to take super gorgeous pictures, but (1) don’t pressure yourself to take the kinds of pictures you see everywhere else. Try taking things from a different angle or of everyday objects that are slightly quirky. The photo of the yellow bike against the door I almost didn’t take. Now, it’s my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. (2) Try to learn about the history of where you’re going. I didn’t know anything about Belgium and it’s history so when I was there I asked as many questions as possible. You should also always (3) look for unique things in each city you go to, find out what makes each city special.

Paris

Ah! Paris! The city of lights! I am so excited to return here. The first time I visited the city it was after a week of being in Italy, which was after a couple months of being in Switzerland. I was tired and I let that affect my trip. I’m so happy I was able to go back a second time, where I did not let a second go to waste. The first travel lesson I learned here is to take advantage of every moment you have in the city, even if that means waking up early to go to Louvre. Go see the art. It’s worth it the sleep loss. The second is to be adventurous! You don’t have to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can instead go to the grocery store and buy supplies for a picnic in the gardens outside the Louvre. You’ll have your own unique memory that you can’t just google pictures of. Third lesson: If you only have a few days in a city and they offer a bus tour, DO IT. My step mom gave me this advice before a friend of mine when on the city on our own and it was great. The bus takes you to all the monuments, you can get on an off as you choose, and if there is a bus stop by your hotel then you can take the scenic route home instead of the metro. Be careful though, the buses usually stop running around 7 pm so have a plan to get back if you are going to be out later than that.

Rome

Rome, the eternal city. This city was the first time I felt overwhelmed by the history. I remember being astonished when the tour guide told me that the stones we walked on were so old the apostles had walked on them. I just took a moment and thought. Having tour guides were really great for when we went to the museums. I didn’t know much about art history then, so it was really great having someone to explain to me why Michelangelo used so much blue paint. My dad and I were on this trip together, and before we ordered food he would look up how to order in Italian. We usually butchered the words or forgot them, but the local waiters seemed to appreciate our effort.