The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Why Ypres is Amazing

All right, I’ll admit the title is a bit deceptive. It’s mostly just that I couldn’t resist using a cat joke. See, Ypres is that town that was famed for throwing cats off the belfry. They still have a cat festival every year, though now they’re a bit more humane about it. So no cats were injured in the making of this blog post.

My morning began with classes. I went and helped out in one class at my first school and then went to teach another class at my second, talking about heath in America and the problem of Big Gulps….which Europeans don’t have so they think it’s crazy we have so much soda. Regardless, it makes for an interesting topic with which to practice English.

Then it was off to grab a sandwich and head to meet my family.

We met up outside of my high school. I let them drive through some of the main parts of my town to see a little bit of what it was like. However, the road we wanted to take wasn’t legal to turn right onto. My dad decided to do it anyways. And what do you know we got pulled over by the police

My father apologized and the man said we were lucky before pulling away. Just always follow traffic rules, kiddos. The moment you don’t is the moment you get caught.

Anyhow, there were no other problems as we drove towards Ypres, our destination for the day. We’d decided to venture back into Belgium, since I didn’t know of a lot to do in the French area.

We started off by walking around the town. We looked at the cathedral before going over to where the famed belfry is where they used to throw cats. Then we walked around some of the war memorials and saw one of the cemeteries.

We were all hungry so it seemed like a good time for lunch. My dad had read there was a place with burgers in town, so we stopped there. They were indeed quite tasty, plus fries and croquettes which are always amazing.


There was a little more time to walk around some of  the city and see a few more things.

After that we were getting cold so we headed towards Lille. As always, French places don’t open for dinner until eight or later usually, so we had to kill time until then.

Unfortunately it was quite cold in Lille, so while walking around the shops and squares was fun, it was not really pleasant.


We ended up in the FNAC which is a media store with books and movies and such. It made for a warm place to rest for a bit while we waited for the restaurant to open.

My friend had been recommended a place called La Campagne de Grappe, a local French restaurant that apparently was well liked by the locals. She passed on the advice to me, and I suggested eating there to my family.

So we headed there at eight and sat down to order some interesting dishes. I had the duck lasagna that was indeed quite delicious. Afterwards, for desserts my family had a selection that had several different types of local desserts while I had a roast pear that makes me salivate just thinking about it.

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Overall it was a good day. It was sad to know it was our last, but I said goodbye to my family and knew that this wasn’t the end. I would have more fantastic adventures awaiting me in the future.

If you missed other Christmas Adventure Posts here is a list so you can catch up:

Bourges and Brive-la-Guillarde

Near Bilbao






Seville, Santa Olalla del Cala, Merida

Merida, Evora, Lisbon


Two days of driving (nope not kidding)

Tournai, Mons, Aulne




New Year’s Day in the Car… Nope I’m Not Kidding AND When to NEVER Drive in Paris: Our Journey Back North

I’m putting two days in one. Because I realized these are both going to be very short and with almost no photos, so hey here’s a combo of two posts. Couldn’t decide on a title so I used both.

So the only problem with going to Lisbon at the end of vacation, was that it left my family trying to get back up to Lille in two days. From Portugal. Basically 12 hour drives for two days. Yay. Who decided to go to Portugal again?

We were all tired and cranky and not happy about the drive. Even less so once we discovered that Europe is awesome because you cannot find anything open on New Years… seriously.

Most of the day was quite boring. Driving and trying to find a place to eat. We ended up at a Burger King that was open somehow. So burgers and a some ice cream treats, though I still will say I really miss American milkshakes. Europe doesn’t know how to make them.

We stopped just over the border in France and stayed in another B&B to keep things cheap. Over all, a very sad and boring day.

The next day wasn’t much better. We bought some things at a grocery store for a picnic lunch. Well…picnic as in we all shoved food in our mouth at a picnic table in a rest stop, while shivering and wishing we were back in the car. Portugal and Spain had been amazing, but they did not prepare us for the cold and rainy French weather.

On top of that, we managed to hit the worst possible traffic you can hit. Essentially, imagine all French people returning to their homes after two weeks of Christmas vacation… on a Monday afternoon. Going through Paris. I’ll show you what our GPS looked like. It was a mess of accident and traffic symbols, trying to warn us around the mess that was Paris.


Yes, so most of our time that day was spent simply sitting in the car waiting for cars to move so we could go on our way.

We ended up stopping at a Flunch for dinner, before heading to a B&B in Tourcoing for the night. I had determined that I actually didn’t have class yet, so it was possible for me to stay another night with my family even though school was starting back up. So with that in mind, we settled in for the night, all tired and glad to be done with the insane amounts of driving.

The Christmas Adventure Begins- Bourges and Brive-la-Guillarde

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”-Walt Whitman

So, as I’ve just finished up writing about my last round of travel so it’s time to start another round.

For Christmas vacation my family came to visit me in France! The joke is that my family never ever does a relaxing vacation. On the first day, my brother remarked that couldn’t we just have a relaxing rest at a resort instead of our usual crazy rush from one city to another. My joke, the one time my family tried a vacation on a beach in Mexico a few years ago, we all became sick and weren’t able to go to the beach due to an incoming hurricane. So yes, it’s been concluded that my family is not allowed to have a restful time traveling. We must always be moving or we will invoke some kind of unknown deity’s wrath. The family curse I tell you.

Therefore, I invite you to follow the next few weeks worth of blogs to hear the full experience of this trip. It was almost two weeks long, and covered five (six…unsure on technicalities) countries, and multiple different cities, all while celebrating the holidays. So there should be some very interesting posts to come. They might seem a little crazy at times, but I hope you can enjoy hearing a little bit about our adventures.

The first day of the trip isn’t all that interesting for two reasons. One, long drives down towards the Spanish border. And two…jetlag.


So my family flew into Paris Thursday morning, and I took a train down to meet them from Lille. It’s about an hour train, but of course my luck was it was delayed…and my family’s  plane happened to be early. Just my luck. So I ended up waiting in the train station for more than an hour at seven in the morning (think five AM wake up to be there on time).

Finally, finally, the train arrived and I was able to board and head in the direction of Paris. Thank heavens for the modern convenience of fast trains. About an hour later, I was safely in the big city, wandering through the large corridors of the Charles de Gaulle airport, eagerly awaiting the sight of the people I hadn’t seen since September. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

Sure enough, I found them still waiting for the rental car, so no harm was done in being late. After lots of hugs and getting our affairs in order, we went to find our cute little orange car and start off on our adventure.

The biggest part to start with was escaping Paris, trying to wind our way out of the congested roads and off towards the countryside. After several long periods of sitting in traffic, we finally made it onto our road and were on our way.

As I said earlier, one of the big obstacles was jetlag. My family was pretty much wiped out after such a long flight. None of them had slept well leading up to the trip, and all of them looked thoroughly exhausted. I at least was adjusted to the time, but had only slept three or four hours the night before in eager anticipation and with such an early morning. So, we ended up keeping it pretty leisurely for the first day.

We started with a quick stop at a grocery store to buy a picnic lunch. Well, picnic in the sense that we ate at little tables in the entryway to the store. It was rainy and gray and no one felt like trying to brave the poor weather to eat outside. So we devoured our food and were on our way once more.

We made a quick stop in Bourges, deciding to stretch our legs for a bit. There was a Christmas market going on as there are in many French towns, so we wandered amongst the booths before heading over to look into the big cathedral there. I thought the stained glass seemed particularly magnificent. Although I have seen hundreds of cathedrals now, I never tire of going into a new one. I can always find something that intrigues me in the grand halls of these beautiful old churches.

After that it was back on the road and towards Brive-la-Guillarde. We arrived late to our hotel. As my father did most of the research for hotels, I’ll list where we stayed, but I should warn readers that as I didn’t do research on lodging I’m not the best person to consult for recommendations. However, the challenge of finding cheap accommodation for four people in France can be difficult. Thankfully my family knows a few ways to keep it more budget. We stayed in a chain called B&B, a convenient “motel” like set up that keeps the prices down by having an automated check in system instead of a person at the desk.

We dropped our things off and went to find food.

So, you’ll notice very soon that I’m not always going to have a magical restaurant recommendation either. That’s because, my family has to find ways to be budget in order to travel. So admittedly, we do a lot of picnics for lunches…and a lot of cafeterias for dinner. So in Brive-La-Guillarde we ate at a local Flunch.

Honestly, it’s really a pretty good deal. For less than 50 euros, all four of us can eat a full meal with vegetables, meat, starches, desserts, and wine. It’s quick and convenient, and some of them are open all seven days of the week which can be very useful in a place like France that often has things closed on Sundays and even Mondays too.

After a filling but maybe not delicious dinner, the family went off to explore the city a little bit, mostly just walking around in the old town. It was very beautiful in the evening, though quite empty on a Thursday. Still, we enjoyed exploring the winding old pathways of the old city. These lamps seemed particularly beautiful to me, a sort of brief glimpse of magic in the empty roads.


So I can’t say a lot about either of these places, but what I will say is that going around and seeing smaller towns and cities can be fun too. They still have their charms, even if they don’t have their famous tourist sites.

Share in my Adventure

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” – Gandalf, The Hobbit

For any who still haven’t heard the news, on September 25th I’m going to be leaving the country to begin a new adventure. I’ll be moving to the town of Armentières, France to help teach English to high school students. Though I don’t know all the details yet, you may feel free to look into the town a little yourself and see where it lies on the map below. I am sure as I learn more about it myself I’ll have much more to share, but for now this is what I know.

While this journey is certainly an exciting one, I am indeed looking for someone to share in my adventure. And while I will extinguish hopes of either sneaking along in my suitcase or getting a free plane ticket, I want readers to understand that this is why I am creating this blog. This is a place where I can hopefully share the details of what happens to me while away, and possibly to continue sharing travel stories in the future as well.


As someone who’s traveled a good bit before, I hope that my stories can not only enlighten those who are curious about where I’m going, but help those who aspire to travel as well.

Sometimes I might post on travel advice. Other times I’ll simply share stories of my journey whether it be daily life in a French town, or further journeys abroad in Europe. But for the moment, I hope friends and family will keep this site in mind as a way to check in with how life is going for me. This next year promises to be an incredible one, and I want to share it with any who are willing to come along on this virtual journey.