My "Souvenirs" of France: Part 1

Yup, I had to name this little series with a pun! "Souvenir" in French also means “memory,” and some of the best things I will be carrying back to the US with me after three years of life abroad are the memories I hold of this place. Last week I painted a picture of some of the places we’ve traveled to within France. This week, as promised, is the first batch of my favorite moments experienced within the country.

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Discover France, Outside of Paris!

I made my big announcement on Monday. In case you missed it, the time has come for Michael and me to pack our bags and move back to the US after three wonderful, full years of life in Paris. The specifics will come later, but know that it is a happy decision for us and we’re really looking forward to our next adventure in New York City -- and don’t worry: the traveling (and blogging) are not going to stop! 

Yet regardless that we are happily and willfully moving on, a big change like this doesn’t come without heartbreak and sadness. Our time in Paris has forever changed our lives for the better, and over these past few weeks I can’t help but reflect on all the happy memories we’ve shared.

One outcome of living in Paris is that we’ve had the opportunity to explore a decent amount of the country outside of its capital. France is very diverse, and I highly recommend to anyone to visit Paris (because it really is always a good idea) but then to get outside and explore other regions of France as well. In hopes to introduce you to a taste of what France has to offer, here’s a little photo montage of where we’ve been in France. I’ve roughly organized the post starting from the north and heading southward. I hope this produces a bit of curiosity to travel around this gorgeous country or motivates you to see more of it!

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2014 Recap: The Gift Year

I know that by this time, we've all stopped rehashing 2014 and have started looking ahead to 2015. But I can't just summarize last year with pretty photos of Paris and Europe - I need to pause and share my reflections of a special year.

21 Trains
19 Flights
5 Buses
5 Rental cars
14 Countries
21 houseguests
131 blog posts
2 camels 
And countless sheep

2014. I think of this year as my “gift year.” That’s not to say that every day we get on this earth isn't a gift, because it is. I mean it in the sense that when I think about 2014, I think “we shouldn't still be here.” Michael had a contract to work on an assignment in Paris for almost two years, ending in December 2013. Except by the end of that year, we had realized that Paris wasn't merely the home base for our travels throughout Europe. We had somehow built a life here, entered into community, and fell in love with life in the city. Things were looking bleak for a while and it seemed that we did in fact have to move back to the US as planned. Until things turned around and we were able to stay. We weren't supposed to still be hanging around the City of Light this year, but somehow in the end we were gifted with more time.

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Canvas-Worthy Europe, 2014 edition

Last Wednesday I shared my round-up of my favorite photos taken in Paris in 2014. Now it’s time to see the year in review through a collection of my canvas-worthy contenders from our European travels outside of Paris. Here’s where I traveled to during the year!

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The Loire Valley in a Weekend

My husband handmade a scrapbook to propose to me. There was dinner, dessert, flowers, a limo, the works. But the fact that he took a hobby of mine that I loved and created a scrapbook really touched me. Especially when I realized later that it had involved many evenings of scrapbooking, not exactly a popular college senior male pastime. (His friends graciously marathon-ed through some TV series so he could craft and still participate.)

That’s exactly the way I was touched this past weekend. Not only did my brother and his girlfriend choose to visit us on the precious little vacation time they had, but after the big surprise of their presence in Paris, they announced that that was only the beginning. Michael and David had planned a weekend to the Loire Valley for us four, completely on their own. I love travel planning but I well know all the work, time, and effort that goes into it. Needless to say, I was sincerely moved by their gift to me.

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Surprise Weekend

Bon lundi!

I was going to meet my husband for a quick lunch at his office on Friday. Not thinking anything of it, I arrived, he took me to drop my bag off at a table, and that's when it happened. Sitting with their backs to me were my brother, David, and his girlfriend, Carissa. Who had apparently flown in from New York City that morning to surprise me.

Given how I screamed when Michael threw me a surprise party last year, I tried not to make a scene in his workplace. (I somewhat succeeded.) I never imagined David could take off time from work again to visit me in Paris. Yet here he was, telling me that the four of us had plans to go on a weekend trip to the Loire Valley that had been completely orchestrated without me knowing a thing. Someone learned a few things from Simply Sara!

More details on our trip to follow, but here's a quick look at what the chateaus of the Loire look like during springtime.

Château de Cheverny

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

On a related note...anyone have recommendations for a short girls' trip to London?? 

La Belle France

Paris gave us quite a few canvas-worthy moments in 2013. But then there is the rest of France to consider beyond its capital. 

2013 was a great year for us to discover more of La Belle France. We took short trips to Bordeaux, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera), and Dordogne. We found great food and beautiful sights every step of the way, and have a few exceptional photos to capture those memories:

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