Looking back, and going home
by Celeste and Vincent | June, 2015
The last six months were an amazing, almost unbelievable experience for us. We’ve learned more about living abroad and experiencing other cultures, we’ve crossed off many things from our bucket lists, and we’ve gotten to spend more time together as a couple. Though we recognize that this type of sabbatical, non-paid trip is not possible for everyone, we highly recommend it for anyone who can do this. This has been an unforgettable experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything.
Now that we’re going home and back to the real world, we wanted to take some time to look back on our travels and share some tips with our readers. We also wanted to take this time to thank you for following and supporting us through this adventure.
Below is the list of cities and countries we visited, categorized by what we loved most about them.
Most Budget-Friendly Tourist Attractions
It’s probably surprising that London is one of our most budget-friendly cities on this list, because it’s generally known as one of the most expensive cities in the world. But, many of the museums are free, like the National Gallery, British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and National Portrait Gallery. That made it more affordable for us, and we tended to also just avoid expensive things. If you know where to look, you can find cheap food and fun anywhere.
Marrakech was just on another level of affordable though. We had a full meal (two tagines) for a total of $5. That’s $2.50 per tagine. And it was enough to feed three people.
The souks of Marrakech are really a beast unto themselves, requiring so much exploring and dodging vendors. They were amazing and annoying and fantastic. They’re not really a market as much as an old school shopping mall, really, with anything you could possibly want. Including, but not limited to: live chameleons, mint tea, scarves, and leather house slippers. Haggling is a must, though it can be tiring and make you question why you wanted a tin tea pot in the first place.
The market in Aix-en-Provence is wonderful for a different reason: it’s quiet, and you can find all manner of fruits, vegetables, meats, and breads. They also have antiques, scarves, and clothing, as well as some street food. The street food in Aix was no competition for that in Rennes, but it was our first “big” market experience in Provence, so it holds a special place in our hearts.
Yes, both cities have been voted “Most Expensive City in the World” in the last few years, so of course they must be on this list. $9 for a small taco? Go to Oslo. $10 for mediocre fish and chips? London’s got you covered. Of course, you can get by on a limited budget in these cities if you know where to look; check out our posts on London and Oslo for tips.
Both Rennes and Nantes knew how to construct a magnificent park. From the Parc du Thabor in Rennes, which looked like a fairy tale come to life, to the Jardin des Plantes in Nantes, which had a baby goat petting zoo, no other cities showcased parks as beautiful as Rennes and Nantes.
Really it should be best pubs, and who else could win besides Dublin and London? Plus, we hit up the Guinness Factory in Dublin, so we really got our drink on in style.
Best for Couples
Paris is of course the romance capital of the world, but for Vincent and I, Rennes was really romantic. It was a bit rainy when we were there, so we spent a lot of time inside just talking, and going to cafes. We had a lot of delicious crepes, went to the market, and saw the old half-wooden houses. It was perfect.
Best Food and Drink
Obviously, Bordeaux has a lot of wine. A lot of delicious, delicious wine. We also enjoyed some pleasantly surprising Caribbean food. Yes, we’re weird, we eat Caribbean food in France.
Vincent loved the gold wine, which we had at the Bar à Vin in the city center (across from the Tourist Office).
The pasta. The pizza. The gelato. Oh, the gelato. My mouth is watering just thinking about how good all the food was. Honestly, if it weren’t for all the walking, I think I would have gained about ten pounds. We must have had gelato every single day we were there. This is my sister and I eating melon gelato from Edoardo’s.
Most Unique City
Where else can you see a trained monkey in a diaper, a burqa-clad woman trying to henna your hands, and men selling homemade orange juice for 40 cents, all in the same square?
Most Walkable City
We only took the metro line once, and only to get to the forest outside of the city!
Best Public Transportation
We took the tram every morning into town, and we would have had very sore feet without it! Plus, if you rent a bike, you can experience the terror of bike riding in Amsterdam!
We used the wonderful green line for most of the trip. It’s literally just a green line drawn on the ground that takes you on a circuitous trip through Nantes, passing all of the main tourist areas. What a fantastic idea!
Best Family Experience
Although we almost killed each other, Florence was the only city that we had our extended family in. Family vacations are always an ordeal, but if you have to do one in Europe, Florence is the best.
We hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with our travels. It’s been bittersweet coming home and going back to Real Life. We’re back at our jobs, back with our friends, and living in a new house. We’ll never forget this amazing trip, and we hope to some day do another sabbatical. For now, we’re back in the US and ready to start new adventures in Minnesota!