So as some of you probably know already, I recently(-ish) spent ten days in la belle France, which is why my posting schedule has been a bit all over the place lately. I say recently-ish because I actually came back about a month ago (and I also just love massacring the English language with my made up words 😉 ).
Anyway, I was meant to post this ages ago, but only just got around to writing it this week. I know what you’re thinking… “How is some sixteen year old who spends
Here’s a not-so-accurate-but-good-enough-to-give-you-a-vague-idea map of where Navarrenx is.
most of her time surfing the internet sooo busy?” And the answer to that is: I’m not. I just love to procrastinate. Also, it’s likely that you weren’t thinking that at all, but in my mind everyone else is as judgmental as I am.
Moving on… my travels abroad! Back in 2010, my family and I moved to a little medieval village called Navarrenx in the South-West of France. We lived there for a few years, and moved back to Ireland two summers ago. As we hadn’t returned since, we thought we’d make a trip down, enjoy the sunny weather, eat some baguettes and see how the old town was doing.
Enormous stone ramparts built hundreds of years ago surround the village.
Now I’m going to skip over the whole taking-the-plane-slash-renting-a-car part of this trip, but being the pessimist that I am, I did write a whole post about the 10 Things I Hate About Travelling, where I outline the more tedious aspects of travelling in detail. We arrived in Navarrenx on a slightly-overcast Tuesday afternoon. Despite the weather, it’s hard not to be impressed by the 16th century Ramparts that greet you upon your arrival. The town has about 1000 inhabitants and was recently named one of the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France‘ (i.e. one of the most beautiful villages of France). Navarrenx’s 500 year old stone houses with pointy roofs and shuttered windows certainly don’t disappoint the “quaint french town” stereotype.
Of course, the first thing we did after entering the village was head straight to Carrefour Express – the local supermaket – and buy cheese, baguettes and a personal favourite of mine, cigarettes russes (which literally translates to Russian Cigarettes, but are really just super tasty tuile biscuits).
The next day, like every Wednesday since the 1800s, was Market Day. The Marché is held in the town square next to the Mairie (the town hall) and church, where farmers and artisans from around the area come to sell their goods. Now in general, Navarrenx is a pretty quiet village – and I’m talking ‘they could shoot a zombie movie there’ quiet – but Market days are the one time people make the effort to come out and support the local produce.
You can find everything at the market from seasonal fruit and veg to cheese, jewelery and woodwork. There’s also the ever popular poissonier, a.k.a. the fishmonger. Let’s just say the aroma of his stand really adds to the ambiance in the town square
Now one of the things that takes some getting used to in France – especially inthe countryside – is that businesses have very specific opening hours. Shops have half days on Sundays, are closed on Mondays and have a ‘lunch break’ from 12am-4pm for the rest of the week. Naturally, it’s always a disappointment when you run out of bread for lunch and realise its 12:01am. Luckily, since I’ve left, the Navarrenxians come up with a solution to this problem; vending machines. And not just any vending machines. A pizza vending machine and of course, a baguette vending machine (we are in France after all) serving fresh bread all day long. How great is that?
The amazing ‘Pizza des Remparts’ vending machine, Ladies and Gentlemen. Fresh Pizza 24/7. Though it is to be noted that you do have to idiotically stand outside the machine for 3 minutes before actually getting each pizza. After the fourth pizza you start to get a bit board.
On Friday, I went to get my hair cut Chez Gizelle, the hairdressers I used to go to when I lived in France. One thing you learn when living in a French village is that there are two businesses that are always incredibly successful and that’s hair salons and pharmacies. I mean if the French President announced that the world was ending, I guarantee that half of the population would go to the pharmacy and quickly purchase as many medicines as possible, while the other half would head to the hair salon to make sure they looked a la mode for the apocalypse. The tiny village of Navarrenx alone has three hair salons and three pharmacies – and they’re always packed. Another, lesser known fact outside of France is that hairdressers are in fact secret intelligence agencies – or in other words, the rendez-vous spot of every gossip within a five mile radius. Seriously, you go in there wanting to get a hair cut and come out knowing that the photographer has a gambling problem, the baker used to work for the C.I.A. and that the mademoiselle across the street may or may not be related to the Queen of England.
The Pyrenees Mountains (my photography definitely doesn’t do them justice, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how impressive they look)
After spending a few days in the quiet village, I decided to meet up with one of my french friends and take a trip up to the nearest city, Pau. Unlike Navarrenx, the old streets of Pau were filled with people. We walked along the Boulevard des Pyrénées, where as you can guess, we had a great view of the Pyrenees. The mountains were still covered in snow, and my dad and brothers actually went up skiing one weekend during our stay (I didn’t because I tend to avoid doing any form of physical activity). We then walked passed the impressive chateau of King Henri IV and around the city centre. The weather was lovely and my friend brought me to what was apparently rumoured to be the best ice cream place in town (a.k.a. an ice cream van in the town square). To be fair, she wasn’t completely exaggerating – I bought a litchi, rose and raspberry flavoured sorbet, and she bought a licorice flavoured ice-cream – both were pretty delicious 🙂
So all in all, I have to say the trip was a success. I think because I’d already lived in France so long, the holiday didn’t really have that ‘wow’ factor that comes with discovering someplace new. But I got to see old friends, eat croissants everyday and binge-watch french Netflix, which of course is the really important thing to do when on holiday abroad. In retrospect, it probably would have been a smarter idea to go during the summer time when the local swimming pool’s open and its a bit busier, so remember that if you plan on visiting that part of France. Still, it was a really nice break!
I love traveling and it’s something I really wanted to try and include in my blog as much as possible. Are you guys planning any exciting trips away? Let me know what you guys thought of my first Artsy.Teen.Travels post in the comments below!