Visiting Belfast: Shopping and sight-seeing over the border

If you don’t normally go up the North for shopping or sight-seeing, you’re missing out. Recently I went on a weekend break to Belfast with my boyfriend and we had a brilliant time.

I’ve posted about visiting Belfast before but I spent less than a day there. This time around I spent more time in the city centre and was there for a full weekend.

I have only been to Northern Ireland four times including the last trip which is quite embarrassing!

Where to go shopping:

Belfast has two shopping centres, Castlecourt and Victoria Square. Castlecourt is slightly old-fashioned but has some decent shops, including a nice Debenhams.

Victoria Square is a more modern building and has all the high-street shops such as Topshop, H & M and River Island.

The Topshop is massive and I could’ve spent all day there! But that would’ve been the end of my relationship.. 😛

On the street there’s a massive Stradivarius (one of only three in Ireland), Zara, Primark etc.

What to buy: 

I always buy cosmetics in the North as they are a good bit cheaper. I picked up a new bronzer in Superdrug and got my eyebrows threaded there for only £5!

I also bought Queen of Shaves shaving gel for £2.99 (This is very gentle on your skin but can’t find it in ROI anymore). It was about €8 down here.

Nivea night cream was only £1.99 which was also good value, it’s about €5 here.

Perhaps VAT is to blame but when you factor in exchange rates, we seem to pay a lot more for clothes in shops like Topshop and River Island in the ROI.

For instance, this purple frill jumper was £15 on sale from £30 in Topshop. It ws €42 full price in ROI stores.

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Primark is similar value to what you get at home, one pair of nude tights were £1, a nail varnish £1.50 etc.

The Primark was undergoing a bit of a makeover and was VERY busy when we were there.

Overall the stock in Primark was only OK but the store isn’t the biggest.

 I bought a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for my boyfriend in Office, they were £65 with student discount.

Name brand runners aren’t much cheaper than at home.

Surprisingly I didn’t buy myself any shoes! Nor did I find a dress for my graduation but there’s plenty of time yet.

Bargain shopping/Charity shops

I visited two charity shops and both were pretty disappointing. If anyone can recommend a good one, please let me know.

Vintage shops

There are a few quirky vintage shops around Belfast and my favourite one was Octopus’s Garden on Wellington Street.

It sells records as well as deadly vintage threads and is a good spot for nabbing a band t-shirt.

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Markets

On Sunday, we visited St. George’s Market which reminded me of a smaller version of Spitalfields market in London.

We treated ourselves to a hearty Ulster fry and perused all the goodies the market had to offer.

There were loads of food stalls including some very tasty cupcakes, homewares, bric-a-brac, vintage records and jewellery.

I’d highly recommend this market to everyone, it’s an absolute gem.

Cash or card?

I brought cash which I’d changed commission free in the post office. If you pay in card in the North, there is a small fee, about 14 cent per transaction.

Withdrawing sterling with an Irish card from an ATM will incur a fee of at least €3. Ulster Bank customers can withdraw free from NatWest, EasyCash and RBS however.

Bag charges

FYI, there’s now a plastic bag levy in the UK, retailers must a charge a minimum of £0.05 per bag. Something to bear in mind if you are buying lots.

Where to eat/stay/have fun

Besides shopping, we did enjoy the sights of Belfast, including the Titanic experience which was fantastic. Give yourself a minimum of two hours if you are going here.

It’s an interactive exhibition and I learned so much, not merely about the Titanic but also the history of Belfast.

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We stayed in Jury’s Inn in the heart of the city and our room was gorgeous.

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On Saturday night we had dinner in Deanes Love Fish restaurant and the food was DELICIOUS! Hands down, one of the nicest restaurants I’ve ever been in.

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We also went for a drink in The Crown Saloon, which is one of the most popular bars in Belfast.

The beautiful Victorian decor has been preserved from the intricately-carved wooden booths and ceiling designs, to stained glass windows and funky floor tiles.

Unfortunately it was too busy to sit down.

Another watering-hole we visited was White’s Tavern which is one of Belfast’s oldest pubs. This is a nice little pub to relax and rest the legs in between shopping and sight-seeing.

Finally, City Hall is a must if you like architecture.

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 FYI, this was not a sponsored post.

Hope you all enjoyed this post, feel free to leave me a comment below.

Thank you for visiting my blog and  don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

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Day trip to Ghent

On our second day in Belgium, we headed out of the city to visit Ghent and Bruges. Our hostel Sleepwell Brussels had cute hand-drawn maps made by locals so we took these with us.

A youth travel company USE-IT makes these maps in conjunction with locals and they’re an excellent resource. (Not that I can read maps but they’re nice to look at.)

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First stop was Ghent which is a beautiful Dutch city. Don’t be fooled by its medieval vibe, it’s also a place of genetic research and home to several Nobel prize winners!!

Ghent also has an eco-friendly vibe with wide cycle paths and promotes vegetarianism avidly even having a “meat-free” Thursday in many places. Also, no-one seems to lock their bike up in Ghent….wouldn’t happen in Dublin…

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For our day out I wore a nice casual outfit: a vintage tweed jacket which I bought in Paris, a floral jumper, black skinnies with a crochet hem and my trusty Topshop plimsolls.

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We strolled through the town taking in the sights with a guided tour from Michele’s lovely friend Christine who lives in Ghent.

We stopped for a lunch of “Ghent Bolognese” which is basically finely ground mince bolognese with carrots and mushrooms at a restaurant called Club Reserva Cafe. It was delicious!

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The beautiful Saint Nicholas church

Ghent was an industrial town, ruled by traders and Saint Nicholas’s church was owned by the traders. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of traders.

Incidentally, Ghent was one of the first places after the UK to participate in the industrial revolution. This church underwent several attacks and ransacking but is undergoing reconstruction today.

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Ghent Castle

Ghent Castle harks back to a time when Ghent was part of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish occupation was a difficult time and most traces of Spanish influence have been removed from the city.

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The picturesque canals are lined with old buildings and boats by the docks and I got some great photos here.

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The architecture and canals are quite similar to those of Amsterdam.

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The old fish market
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Detail from the fish market building

While in Ghent we also sampled traditional “cuberdons”. These are little red fruit sweets that look like a nose.

They have a crispy coating and are filled with a sweet liquid. They are quite strong so a few will suffice.

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From beneath this bridge is the only point in Ghent where you can see all of its three medieval towers together.

The most famous one, The Belfry of Ghent, is not a symbol of the clergy or the monarchy but in fact the people themselves.

The gilded dragon on top of the tower is a representation of this.

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Ghent Belfry

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and photos and thanks as always for visiting my blog.

I’ll also be attending the Irish Blogger Association conference soon, hope to meet some of you there! Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

New H&M College Green-Believe the Hype

I’m slightly behind schedule on this blog post, all about the brand new H&M store on College Green. However here it is at last! When I heard there would  be a new H&M in the city centre, my first thought was really? Three H&M’s within 15 minutes walking distance of each other?!  However this is no ordinary H&M, it’s a gorgeous new flagship store and anyone who hasn’t been in needs to see it ASAP. The building housing it is the former National Irish Bank and just the building alone is worth a look!

The building is a protected structure dating from the mid nineteenth century and was designed by an architect named William Murray. In 2012 Savills auctioneers listed it for sale at €4 million! H&M were brave enough to buy the building and are also planning to base their sister brand & Other Stories in the former A-Wear Store on Grafton Street. I would love to see this happen as the A-Wear store was quite big and it’s a shame to see it idle now. Also & Other Stories is currently only available to Irish customers online so it would be a welcome addition to Grafton St. Many shops such as A-Wear, Korkys etc. were forced to close due to the high rents on Grafton St. and the area has become less exciting with each closure. I think H&M will breathe some new life into the area and it is badly needed.

A sketch of the building (Archiseek.com).

The store has been open for over a month now but for anyone who hasn’t been there/doesn’t live in Dublin here’s a few pictures. (PS I hate to be the obnoxious blogger who only writes about things in Dublin but unfortunately the capital city is the obvious choice for flagship shops/new openings/fun things).

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Views of the decorative arches.

The new store now comprises of four floors and is 25,000 square feet! It blows the other two H&M stores out of the water to say the least.

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Bird’s eye view from upstairs!

And here are some of my favourite items currently in store. The new shoe department is particularly alluring and I’d crawl on broken glass for these chain-detail patent brogues. I think they’d be the perfect way to brighten up a dull work outfit/plain black dress. *wipes drool off keyboard*

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I’m also completely in love with these Perspex heel shoes-like the brogues they can add a fun dimension to an outfit and yet are very chic. If like me, you hate stuffy conservative clothing but sometimes have to wear it, adding funky shoes/jewellery etc. is one way to “break the rules”.

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amazeballs shirt

I can’t say enough about this shirt, its a mix of formal and fun! I think it would work in both a casual and formal outfit, either as styled or with pale blue jeans.

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And for going out they also have some excellent pieces such as this fringed skirt.

Or this equally cute quilted skirt with imitation leather front.

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I could go on and on about the store but the best way to experience it is to visit yourself! Let me know your thoughts, do you like the new H&M or would you rather see something else there? Do you think the building has been put to good use or do you think there are too many high-street stores in Dublin now? I look forward to your feedback.  PS. if you like reading my blog, you can like it on Facebook here. Thanks for visiting my blog as always. 🙂

When in Paris..Vendredi à Versailles

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The second day of my Paris trip was a lovely day. The weather was beautiful and we headed off to see the famous Chateau de Versailles or Palace of Versailles.

The palace once home to the French monarchy is now more synonymous with the wedding of self-proclaimed deity Kanye West and American “royalty” Kim Kardashian.

The palace is 20km outside Paris so it’s an opportunity for tourists to leave the city and see something different. And by “different” I mean the most opulent extravagant place imaginable. It’s a place that has to be experienced to be believed.

The palace is now open to the public and a merely a symbol of the power the French royalty once had. Versailles was an ornate display of the wealth, power and prestige of the monarchy. Nowadays the palace is a museum dedicated to the “all the glories of France.”

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The carriages of the train to Versailles were decorated with images from the palace.

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Views of the palace outside.

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The gilded palace gates – a ludicrous amount of gold leaf adorns the facade of Versailles! Up close the detail is stunning.

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The spectacular main gates. The original gate was torn down during the French Revolution but in 2008 the pain-staking replica was built from wrought iron and gold leaf.

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Exterior of the palace

Versailles has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 chimneys, and 67 staircases. To give you a sense of its enormity, it is capable of holding 20,000 people!

Needless to say I can’t display all of this but we visited the main building, Le Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette’s residence when she needed a break from court) and gardens.

The story of Versailles began when King Louis XIII purchased a small piece of land to build a modest country home so he could hunt in Versailles. His son King Louis XIV was the one who made Versailles into a colossal project spanning decades.  The entire layout is designed so anyone approaching would be in awe of King Louis XIV’s majesty.  He was known as the “Sun King” and Versailles is designed in a way that building and gardens are amplified by the sun. The sun emblem can be found everywhere in the palace as it represents Apollo the god of peace and life-giver.

Like most tourist attractions in and around Paris Versailles offers free admission to almost every gallery and museum for those aged under 26. (Being 26 I had to use my youthful looks to my advantage 😉 )

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The beautiful royal chapel where the monarchy once worshiped. The chapel is not open to visitors but you can view it from a balcony.

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The ceiling of the chapel

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The chapel was a central part of palace life as King Louis was seen as “God’s representative” and defender of the Catholic faith. However the ancient Roman Gods and Goddesses feature far more prominently in Versailles, from the gardens to rooms named after them.

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Details from the palace

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Views of the garden

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 I love how the statues look like they’re keeping watch in their hollows! Unfortunately the whole of Paris seems to be on a mad water-saving buzz so none of the fountains were switched on.

Below are an artist’s impression of the grounds, views of the hallways and details of the doors.

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The palace is well-equipped for its modern-day role as a museum. Visitors are given an audio guide with different language options.

On entering each splendid room, the audio guide gives a description of the history and function of the room.  The salons or rooms are each dedicated to a Roman God or Goddess where appropriate.

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King Louis XIV was a great patron of the arts and the salons are adorned with beautiful paintings and also portraits of the royal family.

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The red room below is the “Salon de Mars” dedicated to Mars the God of War.

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Salon de Mars is part of the grand apartment of the King and served as a ballroom. (The chandelier budget was limitless apparently 😉

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The most famous part of Versailles is of course Galerie des Glaces or “The Hall of Mirrors.”

The hall comprises of seventeen mirrored arches each with 21 mirrors which reflect the seventeen windows in the hall. In the 17th century mirrors were extremely expensive and such a display flaunted the King’s wealth.

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Visionary King Louis XIV thought of all the girlos who need to take profilers and selfies and provided with them with them Hall of Mirrors. 😛

My playsuit pictured is from Topshop, it was perfect for the sunny day.

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The combination of light and mirrors creates a dazzling effect. You can see the hall in 360 panorama here.

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Below is the King’s chamber which faced the rising sun in accordance with his overall theme.

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Paisley and baroque fabrics decorate the Kings chamber.

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Thosee favoured by the King were allowed visit his bedchamber, admittance was granted in order of rank or standing.

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The Queen’s bedchamber.

The Queens bedchamber is part of the Queens Grand Apartment. 19 royal babies were born in this room throughout the reign of the various monarch. It is in this room Marie Antoinette fled through a tiny door into a concealed passage during the revolution.

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Marie Antoinette’s escape route

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Let’s hope the Royal Highnesses were floral fans-they didn’t have much choice!

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The beds are shorter than modern lengths and the royals often slept sitting up! Lying flat was associated with death and wasn’t the preferred sleeping stance!

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Below is Versailles’ Hall of Battles. As the name suggests it is dedicated to the conquests of the royals with paintings of war and military throughout.

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The various paintings and busts represent war heroes such as Charlemagne and Napoleon most of whom died in action. In 1978 The Hall of Battles was bombed in 1978 by Breton revolutionaries who were incensed by the tributes to Napoleon in the hall.

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And finally you may know this lady ….

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MArie antoinette cake - I'M SO FANCY

Versailles is so huge that one post will not do it justice, you honestly need to see it for yourself! For more on my Paris trip just click here. Thank you for visiting my blog as always and don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

A trip to Paris: Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg Gardens, Palais de Tokyo and The Louvre

Like many people, I have always dreamed of going to Paris after years of studying French in school and college.

When the opportunity arose, I was very excited to see all the tourist attractions, attempt to speak French and of course the renowned sartorial elegance!

We landed in Paris early on a Thursday morning and made our way into the city. The first thing we visited was the Luxembourg Gardens.

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Luxembourg Gardens

These beautiful gardens were originally created solely for French royalty but are now accessible to the public.

We had a very early flight so I was extremely casual on the first day! (PS I’m not normally a double denim girl but I think I can work it in light denim) Outfit details on Lookbook here.

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L’ecole Militaire
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Luxembourg Gardens
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Luxembourg Gardens

The gardens and Luxembourg palace.

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We grabbed lunch and headed for the hotel which was in a great location within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower.

After a quick power nap, we set off to the Eiffel Tower. On our way there we passed the Ecole Militaire which was a training academy for Parisian cadets from poor families. Napoleon himself was once a student there!

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L’Ecole Militaire
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L’Ecole Militaire
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Eiffel Tower
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Eiffel Tower

First glimpses of the tower!

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Underneath the Eiffel Tower
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Eiffel Tower
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Eiffel Tower
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Wedding at Eiffel Tower

Not sure if the wedding is real or a photoshoot?!

 

 

I dressed up a bit for the tower as you do 😉 See outfit details here.

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Eiffel Tower views at dusk
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Brogues in Paris

Brogues are the footwear du jour in Paris 🙂

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Eiffel Tower socks

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Wearing Eiffel tower socks to the Eiffel tower because I have my shit together!

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Palais de Chaillot

The queues for the tower were massive so we went on our way and took a stroll across the Seine to the Trocadero.

The Palais de Chaillot is located here, it’s an impressive building with relief sculptures and Roman-style columns but unfortunately, parts of it have been covered with graffiti which is horrible!

Then it was time for Palais de Tokyo, one of Paris’s few modern art museums. We went in the evening so it was quiet and peaceful unlike many of the other museums and attractions.

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Palais de Tokyo had a variety of contemporary exhibits, from a floor transformed into a cracked desert landscape, a whole exhibition devoted to hypotheses of apocalypse (my favourite, grim as it sounds!), upside-down chandeliers, giant skeins of yarn, what looked like a giant plastic bag but was apparently a meteorite and silent videos.

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Yarn exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo
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Exhibits at the Palais de Tokyo
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Video exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo
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Desert landscape

Paris is renowned for the Mona Lisa, Impressionists, etc. so many visitors don’t even think about visiting a modern art museum.

However, I would highly recommend Palais de Tokyo as the atmosphere is so much more peaceful than the big museums and you can really enjoy a stroll around.

The Louvre was amazing but I felt like I’d been hit by a train by the end! That may be in part because my travel companion insisted on doing all four floors in one afternoon…

I loved Paris but I will say it’s not possible to fit in all the tourist sights in a few days, you’ll run yourself ragged if you try.

I was exhausted every day and my feet were in ribbons from walking around in the heat.

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My next post will feature my trip to the palace of Versailles.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel