What to Do in Dublin, Ireland: Part III

Dublin, Ireland

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As the story of my trip to Dublin, Ireland, comes to an end, I share the last post of my three-part St. Patrick’s Day series. Get my final thoughts on my 48-hour Irish adventure with What to Do in Dublin, Ireland: Part III.

Miss out on the beginning of the trip? Catch up with Part I and Part II!

What to Do in Dublin, Ireland: Part I

Dublin, Ireland - Part I

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It officially feels like winter in Washington, D.C. For all of us in the city, days spent out are coming to an end and days spent in are just beginning. 

With a nine-to-five in public relations supporting a top travel account, cabin fever can set in quickly. Inspired by my client’s worldwide work, I’ve returned to my blog to relive my own international adventures and share them with you! I will be resuming my writing at my trip to Dublin, Ireland, for St. Patrick’s Day 2017, when I was spending the spring studying abroad in Nice, France. 

WordPress tells me that I’ve run out of free storage space for my photos, and my intern hourly wage tells me that I don’t have the money to buy the solution. Getting creative, each post from now on will link out to the rest of the entry. Simply click here or the image above to read.

Enjoy Part I, with Part II and Part III on the way!

A.J.H.

REVIEW: Isola 2000, Skiing in the French Alps

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Adventure in the Alps

One of the stand-out features of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region, where Nice is located, is its diverse geography. While I’ve enjoyed the beauty of the shores of the Côte d’Azur, I knew I had to explore the Alps before the Mediterranean sun claimed the mountains’ winter chill.

Reaching out to my host mom for ski suggestions (and snow gear), she recommended that my friends and I visit Auron, a ski area about a 2-hour drive from Nice. After reviewing instructions, the layout, and general operations of the resort with my host mom, my friends and I were prepared to make the trip to Auron.

At least, we thought we were going to Auron.

 

Set to Ski

Two days before leaving for our day-long ski trip, we reserved seats on the Bus 100% Neige (lines 730/740/750) for 8€ each. These buses, that are coach, rather than a typical city bus, leaves from the Gare de Nice-Ville and brings passengers to nearby ski resorts. We showed our printed tickets to the driver, boarded the bus, and began our journey through the hills of Provence.

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The bus ride itself was an adventure, complete with stunning sights and, at times, mountain-hugging, stomach-twisting turns, both more amazing as we increased in altitude.

We arrived at Isola 2000, a ski resort south of Auron, and everyone got off of the bus. My friends and I, confused, asked the driver if the next stop was Auron. He, and a few fellow passengers, laughed, and replied no, that this was the final, and only, stop. We unknowingly took the 750 line, instead of the 740 (which shows how closely the bus driver inspected our tickets). The bus still returned to Nice and departed from Isola 2000 at the same time as the bus from Auron would have, so our mistake would not cost us. What is more, the bus driver assured us that conditions were better at Isola 2000 than Auron that day, so without any knowledge of our location or surroundings, we set out to ski.

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Fortunately, renting equipment at Isola 2000 was straightforward and affordable, especially compared to American prices. For 25€, you could borrow boots, skis, poles, and even pants. A student lift ticket for the day cost 30€.

 

Breathtaking Borders

Quickly noting that a French Alps “easy” slope wasn’t quite as easy as the green circle routes of the Pocono Mountains, my friends and I erred on the side of caution for the first few runs. Once warmed up, however, we were ready to tackle an “easy” course that bordered the Italian border and offered a mountain-top view of the Alps.

I have never ridden on a steeper ski lift, nor do I think I have ever stood at a higher altitude. After precariously climbing up rocky ruins in very inflexible ski boots, I took in the breathtaking panorama of the Alps. I have been skiing for more then 10 years, and have stared in awe from coastal cliffs overlooking the setting sun, but I have never seen such a spectacular snowy sight. I felt a similar (but much less anxious) wonder as when I saw the Hill of Crosses. This masterpiece, however, was natural, with incredibly fresh air, clouds at eye level, and beautiful snowy peaks. Though I prefer beach resorts to ski resorts, I now understand the appeal of winter adventure excursions.

Isola 2000, France | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective@wordpress.com

Isola 2000, France | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective@wordpress.com

We got in a few more rides, grabbed a bite to eat, and enjoyed a true après-ski.  Though I’ll always wonder about Auron, Isola 2000 provided a perfect, day-trip experience. Despite the cheesy name, the resort delivered.

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Need to Know

  • From Nice, reserve seats on the Bus 100% Neige (750 line) for 8€ per person at least 48 hours in advance. Board at Gare de Nice-Ville (Thiers).
  • Walk down the hill from where the bus drops off at Isola 2000 to find the rental cabin. Boots, skis, and poles cost 25€ and a student-priced lift ticket costs 30€.
  • The bus departs for the mountains, and back to Nice, at multiple different times, but taking the first bus out (7:30 a.m.) and the last bus back (4:50 p.m.) maximizes time on the slopes.
  • Isola 2000 offers options for all levels of skier, and the Italian/French border feature is a fun, bonus attraction.

Destination Locations

  • Auron
  • Isola 2000
    • Mercantour National Park, Office de Tourisme d’Isola 2000, 06420 Isola

 

Paix, Amour, Nice,

A.J.H.

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February 26, 2017

Fête du Citron 

With the ease and cost efficiency of traveling along the Côte d’Azur, my friends and I attended another festival welcoming the coming of spring.  The little town of Menton, France, hosts an annual citrus festival to celebrate the region’s fruit season.  Taking the 1,50€ bus 100 to Menton, we arrived at the Broadway-themed carnival and chose to wander through the festival gardens rather than endure yet another parade that week.

Menton Citrus Festival | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - ayssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

Before even seeing the structures, you could smell them.  The sweet-and-sour scent of citrus floated on the crisp Mediterranean breeze and enveloped visitors in a warmth as satisfying as the February sunshine.  The larger-than-life displays, inspired by some of the world’s most well-known musicals, created an incredible show of their own. Towering over spectators, the displays delivered sensual experiences: radiating color, familiar tunes, and, of course, the all-natural citrus perfume.

Thousands of lemons and oranges, stacked, spaced, and spread, created the stationary floats of popular Broadway productions.  Songs from the shows enhanced the experience, while the stimulating smell of citrus complemented the garden promenade.

Menton Citrus Festival | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - ayssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

Les Misérables

If the yellow walls and blue and white gingham-printed shower curtain in my childhood bathroom serve as any clues, my favorite citrus display was of “The Wizard of Oz.”  From the characters, to the poppies, to the ruby red slippers, I enjoyed the highlights of the show in fruit form almost as much as I do the show itself.  The only thing missing?  Toto!

My friends and I ended the garden walk with freshly squeezed lemonade and a “Roi du Menton,” a crêpe filled with lemon syrup and sugar.

Alyssa's Abroad Perspective

While Nice’s Carnival was slightly tacky and confusing, Menton’s Citrus Festival was stunning and authentic (for the most part).  If visiting the Côte d’Azur for the celebrations of the region, skip a day in Nice and make your way to Menton!

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Nice,

A.J.H.

February 21, 2017

Carnaval de Nice 

Though the largest carnival celebrations may be in Rio or Venice, Nice organizes a family-friendly schedule of celebratory events commemorating the festival.  Ready to explore a significant section of Nice’s history and current claim to fame, I prepared for participation in the fête.

The origins of carnival celebrations are not clear beyond their pagan roots, as there are many explanations for the glutinous gatherings.  A popular possibility, however, is that Christians adopted the parties to precede Lent.  The days of carnival allow for freedom and liberation, peaking in Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  No matter the original reason, carnival is now a time for people to come together and find the fun in society, and more importantly, themselves.

 

Le Roi de l’Énergie

The theme of this year’s celebrations was the King of Energy, and my first event was the Carnival Parade.  Though there are multiple showings of this procession throughout the festival week, I attended a weeknight production with the other students in my program.

Our cheap tickets sent us to a space to stand, closer to the action, while bleacher reservations were available at a higher price.  It may have been the day of the week we chose to attend, but the seated spectators were stoic and dull despite the animated attempts of the carnival dancers to engage the crowd.  I appreciated standing and dancing along the parade route, even though, by the end, I was partied out.

Civically proud, as the French are, many carnival floats portrayed political messages.  Among the displays of the Green Queen’s clean energy and the renewable energy of love, Donald Trump made his way down the street as the world’s new oil captain in a “wind of change,” and the French presidential candidates continued along the route on their ceaseless, election cycle wheel.

 

Bataille des Fleurs

My second carnival activity was the Flower Parade.  In addition to the entertainment that the flower-filled floats would provide, their deconstruction, in which flower bouquets would be thrown to the crowd, was another incentive for attending. Unfortunately, the floats were underwhelming, only adorned with flowers and not composed of them, as I had expected.  And, though it may just have been by chance, but I didn’t get any flowers!  You had to be 6 years old, 60 years old, or have a 6-foot-tall friend to catch a bouquet.

The Carnival Parade is worth the time, with reasonable expectations.  I do not know how past festivals have been celebrated, but because of continuing terrorist attacks in France, Carnival has recently been adjusted to accommodate safety concerns.  The Flower Parade, however, disappointed.  Nonetheless, Carnival hosts many other events over its 10-day duration, so there are plenty of other celebrations to explore.

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Nice,

A.J.H.

Break 1 – Paris

Sunday Morning Markets

Whether its flowers, food, fancy goods or flea market finds in Madrid, luxury shopping or international eats in London, Easter treats in Prague, creative crafts in Budapest, or crazy cuisine in Barcelona, exploring the concentration of cultural curio found in a market is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.  Though sometimes a tourist trap, most markets still have roots in the heart of the culture and provide an insider’s look into the lives of the people.  In Paris, Sunday morning sees hundreds of vendors set up in the city for the marchés aux puces (flea markets), so I chose one of the area’s many markets and set out to explore.

Porte de Vanves Flea Market | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

I had planned to visit Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, one of the biggest flea markets in Europe, but did not have time to travel far from the city center.  Instead, I went to the Les Puces de Vanves, a smaller market south of the Seine.

I arrived at the market around 9 a.m., which was still a little too early for the French.  After about an hour, all of the displays were organized, and a steady stream of visitors scanned diverse collections of items for potential purchases.

This flea market was not unlike many others that I have visited, with many similar novelties for sale.  Nonetheless it was a nice way to spend the morning.

 

Hot Chocolate Heaven

For a filling brunch before my flight, I made reservations at Angelina, a special, Parisian café recommendation from a friend.  Angelina is known for its hot chocolate, so I set out to discover if the praise met my high expectations.

Angelina | Alyssa's Abroad Perspective - alyssasabroadperspective.wordpress.com

The meal was expensive, as I had anticipated, but offered plenty to eat.  The hot chocolate was very good, thick and sweet, though I still think Madrid’s chocolate con churros does the warm, rich drink the best.  The food probably could have been split between two people, but as solo adventures were the theme of this trip, breakfast was no different!  I enjoyed my fancy, French-inspired brunch, down to the very last drop of Angelina hot chocolate, and made my way back to Nice.

Overall, I had a great week!  It provided just the right amount of time with traveling friends as it did time alone.  I navigated transportation, ate in restaurants, and explored cities by myself.  Though I never doubted my travel knowledge and abilities, I did learn to enjoy my own company and be okay with spending time with me.

 

Travel Tips

  • Tune in to Podcasts.  My mom has recommended that I start following podcasts for a few years now.  It took my hour-long walk home from school in Nice to truly become interested in listening to dialogue instead of music, but I have finally started to explore the podcast world.  One of the programs I enjoy is Condé Nast Traveler’s “Travelogue,” which discusses the evolving travel industry from a traveler’s point of view.  While listening to the March 17 episode, “How Women Are Changing the Travel Industry,” I really identified with some of their comments and stories through the experiences and feelings I had on my Break 1 trip. The section from 3:53 to 5:47, specifically, captures my solo travel observations, but I recommend giving the entire episode a listen and checking out the rest of their conversations!

 

 

Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Paris,

A.J.H.