La Romieu, shoes and au revior

Packing again, but you’ll be pleased to know that it was a lot less traumatic this time round, partly because it was just a case of repacking. Although I did pack all my underwear and spent 10 mins unpacking it all to retrieve a pair to wear today. My bad.

I offer an explanation to the word ‘shoes’ in the heading of this post. Since being here, Chloë and myself have lived by the ethos ‘do we really need to buy this? or is a night in a hostel more worth our money?’ So far, it’s worked out well, until the other day when I sacrificed a night in a hostel for a pair of shoes. They’re the kind of shoes that every girl needs to take travelling: a pair of bright orange wedges. I jest, I’m not actually taking them, but seriously they’re gorgeous. Only I would purchase a pair of massively impractical shoes before I go backpacking.

Another thing I forgot to mention before was the ‘travelling God bracelet’. It’s a wooden bracelet I purchased in Chile in 2010 and Max, Clo and myself have tried to take it to as many interesting places as possible. It’s been to Chile, Swaziland, Lanzarote, Paris, Glastonbury Fest etc. So you might see it in the pictures!

I’ve spent the last 9 days here in the small village I feel like I’ve spent half of my childhood in. I have been coming to Le Camp de Florence since I can remember – 10 years? Maybe a bit more, a bit less – and it’s a place where I grew up. Here, age is regardless, as is nationality. We all just ‘hang out’ in the same ways we did when we were eight years old. Siblings from the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Belgium and the UK come together to form a very sociable group of friends, considering La Romieu is in the middle of nowhere. It’s safe. It’s a second home.

But now it’s time to pack up and leave. We’ve got our backpacks on (after another packing session. My mother has always referred to me as messy. I’ve always believed that my ability to convert a respectable room into my own personal wardrobe is a gift rather than a nuisance. But seriously, I’ve noticed how annoying it is when it comes to rounding up the troops into one backpack. It turns out, I am, as my mother has always said, annoying.)

I write to you from Toulouse airport. It’s the airport I have always flown to or from when journeying from one home to another, to-and-froing from France to England, trying to make use of my opportunities both in the UK and in France. But today I fly to Rome. Today I fly to the unknown.

I am so excited.

20130809-120336.jpg

These are the shoes every girl needs to take travelling…

Chantilly

Chantilly – pronounced Shont-y-ee. I found that out when I asked for a train ticket from Paris to Chantilly in French, but with the most English accent ever. Needless to say, I sounded like a boob.

I made my way from Tours (where my mum dropped me off at the station) to Paris and then Paris to Chantilly. Word of advice, print off a metro map before you start your journey because they don’t have maps in abundance at the stations. The metro is dead easy to use. My direct line was closed but it was simple enough to jump on another line and change elsewhere.

I stayed in Chantilly avec my pal who is au pairing there. We chilled for the few days I was there as she still had to work, but we visited the Château which was stunning. However, it did rain and was quite chilly.

Making my way from Chantilly to Agen (to meet the rest of my family who are holidaying near there) was a little bit trickier. No, not trickier, more expensive… French trains don’t run as frequently as they do in England, so always look up your journey beforehand. Where the train may run every hour at home, here they run when they are most needed. Another word of advice: book your long trains in advance. I wasn’t entirely sure which train I needed to get but I thought I was guaranteed a ticket even if I turned up on the day. Thankfully, I was able to get on the train I was aiming for, but the lady behind the desk did tell me that all the seats were booked, but I could get on the train if I didn’t mind the seats in the area where the doors are. Of course I didn’t mind. Travelling on trains in the UK doesn’t guarantee a seat on the journey.

Well I made the five hour train journey and am now bronzing up in my favourite holiday place in La Romieu.

Speak laters.

20130806-165645.jpg

Packing

I find packing one of the most traumatic aspects of going abroad. You may think that is the opinion of a spoilt brat and I totally agree. First world problems eh? This part of the trip requires a high amount of organisational skills which I do not possess, or more accurately, I can’t be bothered to possess. Chloë is the list writer. I’m lazy.

My backpack is filled with summer clothes, but I can’t guarantee I have packed anything useful. My holiday almost always begins with a trip to the local supermarket to purchase some underwear or socks which I inevitably forgot to pack. One year I ended up wearing my uncle’s jeans because it rained the whole holiday and I had only prepared for the sun. I know full well I haven’t packed a cardigan, which I know most of you will understand the usefulness of a cardigan. For instance, a cardigan can be scrunched up and put into a day bag and can be used to protect you from the cold weather at any time. My cardigan wasn’t in front of my face when packing, so I simply struck it from my list.

However, my organisational skills do stretch in other ways where Chloë’s do not. I dealt with the paper work. Here’s a list of important things travellers need to take and prepare for in advance:

. Passport. It’s obvious but photocopy it a couple of times and take the copies with you. If it gets stolen or you loose it you the haven copy to present to the English Embassy
. Print off all boarding passes at home so you don’t get charged for printing it in a cafe or something
. Print all booking references for pre booked hostels
. Change up some of your money before hand in order to avoid cash withdrawal charges abroad
. Budget. You don’t have to know exactly how much money you’ll need for each country, just a rough idea. You don’t want to skimp in cities that you didn’t need to, and vice versa, you don’t want to blow all your money in one place and not afford others
. Even though its sunny, take a scarf or shawl so you can cover up bare skin, like your shoulders, when visiting religious places!

I’m sure there’s plenty of more things to take, so I’ll let you know what important things I’ve forgotten. I’m at Folkestone now about to board the Channel Tunnel, so speak to you on the other side!

20130727-135055.jpg

20130727-135122.jpg

20130727-135145.jpg
Above is Clo’s packing, the bottom is mine. Make of it as you will…

One week today!

In case y’all didn’t know, I’m celebrating my last ‘summer holiday’ in style: I’m heading out of the country for 38 days – that’s five weeks and three days or 2,280 hours – whichever you may prefer.

I’m going to document my travels here, so you can keep up to date with all that is going on (and also because it’s easier than writing individual emails – just sayin’. I love you all, even the ones of you I don’t know, but I don’t want to spend the whole time telling you all individually…).

This is an indication of what I’m doing, who with and where.

Firstly, my sister Chloë and myself are heading to France with the old parents (sorry Mum and Dad, you’re not old really). When we get nearish Paris, I’m getting dropped off at a station and heading to see my pal in Chantilly. After a few days I’m getting the train from Paris to Agen to meet up with my family again to enjoy a lush week and a bit in Condom (I kid you not) in the South of France. Then on the 9th August, Clo and myself will be flying to Rome to meet the rest of the crew Edenbridge masseev.

In true ‘Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’ style, I’ll introduce you to ‘the gang’. We have Clo, my 18-year-old sister who has completed the International Baccalaureate (ooer) and knows she’s going to Leeds University in September and who has already enjoyed a week in Malia. Emily, 20, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year, so she’s pro with a backpack. Rebecca (also known as Rebec) is 22, Emily’s sister and is currently on her second summer at Camp America in Massachusetts. She’s going home for a few days before flying to Rome. She has also purchased a backpack with wheels “which will make everyone else jealous because she can wheel it along when everyone else’s backs hurt.” Then there’s Kieran. ‘The boy’. His hopes are that he meets another boy en route so he can have some ‘guy time’. He’s not gay.

We are all students so this is inter railing on the cheap. Well, we say cheap but we’re not camping… But still, you get the gist.

Our itinerary is loose. We’ve booked a couple of night’s stay in Rome and a couple of night’s in Amsterdam, but the rest is as we go. This bit is for Kieran’s mum who has no idea where her son is heading: The route so far consists of Rome (Italy), Venice (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Bled (Slovenia), Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Kraków (Poland), Warsaw (Poland), Prague (Czech Republic), Berlin (Germany) and finishing in Amsterdam (Netherlands).

I can’t wait. All we have to do now is pack!