Wrap Up: September 2017

Wrap Up September 2017 - Reads

Oh hey guys, you may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet lately. The last month and a half has been full of travels, conferences, and exciting leaps in my marketing business that I run outside of this blog.

Pretty much since I left Greece in early September, I have been in full sprint mode trying to squeeze in as much as possible around Europe while still staying on top of my work.

It goes without saying that I have a ton to catch you up on – case in point, this wrap up post is three weeks late!! But you will hear more than your fair share of my thoughts in due time.

I’m currently writing this on a plane on my way home to California for the first time in over a year, and I’m excited – not only to see my friends and family…and to eat as many burritos as possible – but to have some downtime to write more and catch up on the many posts that are rumbling around in my head.

So let’s dive right into what I got up to in September!

Wrap Up: September 2017 | Europe Travel

PLACES & MEMORIES

Thessaloniki | I arrived in Thessaloniki expecting a lot. I had numerous Greeks tell me how much I was going to love it.

I’m not saying I didn’t like it, but it also didn’t blow me away. I heard it compared to Miami, which I found it had no resemblance to. I will say that it felt less like Greece than any other place I went to in Greece.

Thess, as the locals like to call it affectionately, has its own vibe and history to it that seems very faraway from the other parts of Greece that I visited in the south.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Thessaloniki, Greece | Europe Travel

One aspect I really enjoyed about the city, okay two, were its sunsets and its water walkway that went from the suburbs into the city, and which I walked numerous times.

Thess is where I first met my French friend Tiphaine. We shared a two-bed dorm together for a few days.

It felt like I was in a double back in college again, and we clicked pretty much right away – going out to dinner, talking about boys, giggling in the back of cars with strange locals (kidding, they were lovely guys), and drinking Aperol Spritzers on outside terraces like the classy ladies we are.

Brussels | Before I knew it, I was boarding my plane to my 31st country – Belgium! I’d wanted to go to Belgium since I was an early teen, and I have to say, besides freezing my bum off after a summer in Greece, Belgium was absolutely lovely.

In Brussels I met up with a friend of a friend, Briana, a fellow American who just moved to the city and started her own dance company.

I went to one of her hip hop classes, and we got to know each other over good Belgian beer and a dinner with a hilarious French-speaking waiter. I picked her brain about the visa process in Belgium and how she has liked living in Europe thus far as an expat. Spoiler alert: she loves it.

People tend to write off Brussels as a not very attractive or interesting city, but I liked what I found there. La Grand-Place was ornate and steeped in history, there was a live strings concert my first night there that I discovered when walking around the city.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Brussels, Belgium | Europe Travel

I ate SO MUCH chocolate, drank a lot of good beer, and had a lot of frites. I was in a mix of my child-like & adult heaven. Drinking Delirium Tremens from the tap at the Delirium Bar was definitely a highlight.

I came back to Brussels just for a night, after going to Bruges and Ghent, and met up with another friend of a friend, Jeroen. He was housesitting for another Belgian friend I had met in Thailand earlier this year. I stayed at his swanky house in the suburbs, and it was the perfect way to end my last night in the country.

Bruges | I went up to Bruges for a few days and it was like stepping into a fairytale land, with the cobblestone streets, staircase facades of the colorful buildings, the horse-drawn carriages, and medieval churches.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Bruges, Belgium | Europe Travel

It was everything and more than I pictured, and it helped that I was staying at the cozy 4-star Hotel Prinsenhof to indulge in a bit of luxury. The city I had imagined in my head for so long finally came to life and it was magical, even though it was raining during most of my stay.

The city seemed to be filled to the brim with mostly retired American tourists and other elderly folks, but I happily joined them on the free walking tours and canal boats. Bruges didn’t exactly come off as a young city, but it didn’t make it any less beautiful.

Ghent | I was sad that I only had one day in Ghent because I found it to be such an intriguing city as soon as I arrived. I didn’t know much about the place before I got there, but it has an understated beauty to it, a life that revolves around the water, as many Belgian cities do, and a rich history of being a rebellious place throughout the centuries.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Ghent, Belgium | Europe Travel

I managed to fit in a free walking tour where I learned the exact location of a popular old brothel (you can tell by the golden swans pointing inward), enjoyed a night of really good jazz, a scrumptious pint of Tripel Karmeliet , and some mediocre Thai food (Asia has ruined me from enjoying Asian food anywhere else).

Oh and I had more chocolate, of course – the hot chocolate from Leonidas, on a blustery cold afternoon before I went back to Brussels.

Paris | *Sigh* Parieee!!! Okay, that’s not actually what I think of Paris. I’ve never really had that romantic view or draw to the city that most people seem to.

With that said, I enjoyed my time in Paris much more than I did last time I was there six years ago and a brand new solo traveler.

I figured out the metro system in my first 10 minutes and rocked it like a boss, dressed the part of the Parisian, drank coffees on terraces, picked up a slight case of Bronchitis (I blame it on cold and wet Belgium) where I lost my voice for a couple of days, and drank champagne on the Seine like a proper tourist.

I met up with Tiphaine again and she showed me a few local spots around Paris. It was such a fun day of getting lost in Parisian parks, eating crepes, and talking about the wonderful quirks and intricacies of French culture.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Paris, France | Europe Travel

I also met up with another French friend, Arnaud, who I met in New Zealand three years ago. We drank beers on the Seine, and talked about life and where it has taken us since meeting in Wellington all those many years ago.

I love how life comes full circle sometimes. He also gave me some great tips about moving to Paris if I decide to do that down the line.

My visit to Paris was a confusing one to be honest. As I mentioned, I’ve never actually had that strong of an attachment to the city, but it does constantly get built up by a lot of people. Even though I’d already been there, I wanted to give it another chance.

Since I’m thinking of moving to Europe next year, and France is one of those places that I could potentially move to, I wanted to see if Paris could ever feel like home.

I’m going to write a whole series around this new part of my life, about finding a home of sorts in the next year, but let’s just say that I wasn’t sold on my visit to Paris. The thing is, I had a great week in the city, it was fantastic actually. But I get the feeling that I would enjoy the city much more as a tourist than I ever would actually living there.

There’s a part of me that loves the idea of telling people I live in Paris. You have to admit, it has a sort of glam ring to it, but that’s not my longterm goal of finding a place to settle down. That’s kind of what I did with Portland and we all know how that worked out.

I want to find a place that I actually connect to on a deeper level than just feeling like it could be a cool place to live. I haven’t written off Paris completely, but my week-long return did make me reconsider extending my search to other places I could live in France.

Dublin | It’s funny that I went from Paris to Dublin this trip because those two cities were the first places I ever traveled to as a solo female six years ago. It was like taking a walk through my 21-year-old memories again.

Dublin is one of those cities that I always think I’m going to love, but when I get there, it’s more “oh.” than “wow, I flippin’ love this place.” For some reason there’s just not much that I really click with in the city, which is strange since you would think with all the live music and pub culture I would fit right in.

I think it could have something to do with the amount of people who come to Dublin just to get sloppy drunk, because that’s what you do in the capital, apparently.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Dublin, Ireland | Europe Travel

And because of that mentality, it’s not an amazing place to walk around at night, with early 20-year-olds puking in the streets, and drunk posses of inebriated males on the hunt for lord knows what. But hey, some people like it. For me, I much prefer what I saw in the rest of Ireland – especially in the south and in Galway.

READS

I’m ashamed to say that I only got through one book in September – the horror!! I blame this on my ambitious travel schedule and work load, but really I was just very distracted this month.

I finished How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, which is a hilarious and sadly relatable book about the pressures that men, society, and women put on themselves to fit into a neat little box. It’s worth a read for the humor and commentary on the state of being a woman in this day and age.

Wrap Up September 2017 - Reads

I also started reading Winning Well by David Dye and Karin Hurt, excited to get some insight into overall management and biz tips about, well, winning at life. However, I found it to just be a step-by-step guide geared specifically for middle managers at large corporations. Aka a yawn fest.

So, I didn’t even get halfway through it before I decided it wasn’t worth my time because I wasn’t getting any takeaways from what I’d read so far.

After that book, I started Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not that Kind of Girl, which I just finished reading on this plane ride. I’ll get into what I thought of it in my next wrap up.

PLANS

If I had written this back at the start of October, I would’ve told you that I was about to go into a travel blogging conference in Killarney for a week. Then I would have plans to road trip around Ireland for a couple of weeks, before heading back to North America.

Wrap Up: September 2017 - Paris, France | Europe Travel

Well, since it’s already almost the end of October now, I’ve already done all that, and I’m now on my way home to California. Finally!! Updates about my further plans will be coming in my October Wrap-Up, which I promise will be more timely.

Until next time!

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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