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All you need is love… or wine, cheese and a good picnic spot

The Beatles said all you need is love. Well, they should take a lesson from the French. Yes, love is one option but good wine, decadent cheese and prime picnic spots are another way to go. France’s couples and singles really know how to live the good life. Whether they’re eating alone or in a rush (very rarely on-the-go), meals aren’t wasted on crappy food and when they drink something, they enjoy the hell out of it. Many times in France, my palate was blown away in ways I had never experienced in picnic locations straight from a postcard.
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La joie de vivre – the joy of living

France was certain to be a big change from Spain. I decided I would celebrate the French joie de vivre (joy of living) was by treating myself to a hostel in the center of Carcassonne, a hilltop fortified town in the south of France. While most tourists stay in the ‘ville basse’, the lower, modern town, I was staying in the Cité de Carcassonne, the actual historic fortified part of Carcassonne and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s strange, but while tourists come to Carcassonne to see the Cité, they don’t take the opportunity to actually sleep there. It would be like visiting San Francisco, but sleeping in Oakland. You are there to visit San Francisco, but for some reason you forgo the option of actually sleeping there. The hostel was beautiful, with a peaceful backyard (not what you expect in a small touristic town), plenty of space to relax and easy access to everything you’d want to see in Carcassonne.
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Catalan luck and Gaudí love

Irish and Northern Irish accents were hard to understand. Even British accents in London were difficult at times. But Spanish is a whole different language (obvious, I know).

I flew into Barcelona airport from London on a whim and even though I didn’t have much time to brush up on my foreign language skills, my high school Spanish slowly came back to me and a fast-talking and helpful Catalan woman helped jolt it back into gear right away.
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Forró dancing, free hugging and exotic fruit shopping in London

I got stuck in London. But I was definitely stuck in a good way. I was separated from my coat in Ireland but luckily it was a heat wave in the UK, so I didn’t need it at the moment. I knew I would need it after summer ended, so I decided to wait for it to catch up with me. At first, I thought it was putting a huge damper on my trip to have to wait for my coat for four and a half weeks, but in the end, I can’t imagine my trip without that time in London!
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The coolness of a giant, the warmth of the Northern Irish and the relief of a hot toddy

Northern Ireland is a beautiful place.  I think it incites fear in people who have never been there because of its recently violent history, but it is wonderful.  As evocative as the Republic of Ireland, but part of the United Kingdom, it’s a place I couldn’t leave as quickly as I thought I would.
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Resort or stranger’s couch? Where to sleep while travelling

You go to a foreign country. You need to sleep somewhere. Your choice of where to rest your weary body can totally change the feel of your trip. Are you thinking of staying in a business hotel because they have a good deal? How about a timeshare because it’s ‘your weekend’? Possibly a resort because you don’t want to think about plans and they’ll make all the arrangements for you? Maybe a five-star hotel because they have good food? Perhaps you’re staying with friends or family because you are traveling to visit them. Staying in a bed and breakfast? Hostel? Camping? What about staying with strangers you meet along the way? There are many possibilities and I’m sure some have struck a chord with you and some have made you cringe.
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A green traveller in a kelly green country

I knew Ireland was green, but I was not expecting it to be, well, green!  Coming from Washington State, aka The Evergreen State, and living just North of Seattle, The Emerald City (named after the city Dorothy went to in The Wizard of Oz), I thought I knew what green was.  While Washington State greenery tends to goes up with tall trees and amazing mountain ranges, Ireland green stays pretty low to the ground with rolling hills and lots of tree-free pasture land.
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