Reflecting On The Big Apple | World Tour 2018 #5

My story with New York City started some 20 years ago, which is about as far as my memory can get.

The City Of My Dreams And Tears

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Growing up, every wall of our home was filled with pictures of New York, mostly beautiful, huge puzzles that my Mom had assembled and hung on our walls. And I remember dreaming about jumping inside the pictures, seeing in real life what seemed to be this perfect place, with colours and lights everywhere…

My parents actually went on their honeymoon in New York City, some 27 years ago. In that faraway time, the Twin Towers were still standing, and terrorist threats were only an possibility, not so vivid in the minds of all inhabitants of the world.

I actually remember where I was that day in 2001, even though I still was very young, and I also remember the minute of silence we did at school. Even then, my eyes teared up, although I didn’t have any idea of what was really going on, except the essential: that people, lots of people, were killed.

Five years later, as my mom and I were huge film-lovers, we went to see the movie United 93, true story about this plane filled with civilians, that ended up crashing in the countryside rather than on the Pentagon, which it was aiming at. I cried my eyes out. This was heartbreaking.

The 9/11 Memorial

So, when we went to the 9/11 Memorial… and of course, I cried again. All those names, written down on the sides. Those huge holes in the ground, where the towers once stood. All those trees planted in memory of those who have died. The new tower, symbolically surnamed the ‘Freedom Tower‘. All those people reflecting, families praying in front of the name of their loved one, flowers put inside the carved names of those whose birthday it was that day… This was all too much. But I needed to see it, be there. Experience it. And try to understand, as best as I could what the scar that that day had left on the world was like.

If you ever go to NYC, I urge you to experience it as well. If your memory of this horrific event is blurry, either because you were too young when it happened or just not even born, please, document yourself. Because I believe it is our history that shape us, and the collective memory we share that makes us humans.

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The One World Observatory At The Freedom Tower

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The Freedom Tower, ending its course in the skies above…

We took time to visit the One World Observatory, which was one third of the price of the Empire State Building and just as good, if not better, for the view of the City. The tower is very futuristic, and the explanations on its observation deck pretty good. We stayed at a presentation given about the City and its history, and it was great!

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Conclusion: Until Next Time…

All in all, my time in New York City left me the feeling I imagined it would, but was truly unexpected as for its visual and some of its vibe. When we first got there, every minute I was thinking to myself ‘What the hell! this building is too big/short! this isn’t at the right place! this isn’t the right colour! this shouldn’t be here!…‘ What happened is that I had gotten a mental image from movies, TV shows and documentaries over the years, and that image was completely wrong. I just felt like everything was off, not as I imagined it, and it made me feel very sad for a few days…

But after a while, almost as if an adaptation had taken place, I just knew what everybody was looking for there: the energy of the place. Its incredible energy. One that can drive anybody, one that can touch anyone, and most of all one that can adopt any of us! Any colour, race, religion, politics, age, tastes… are accepted there.

New York truly is a haven, and although it might not be the case anymore in the future, due to the closing of frontiers, people who live there are the most eclectic I have ever seen in my life, coming from absolutely all horizons…

I definitely have a lot I still need to see and experience there, because in that sort of place, you’re never finished, and it still amazes you after decades of knowing it…


Hope I gave you enough insight, and transmitted you the will to visit New York City!

Signing off,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

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Winning The World Cup & Enjoying Manhattan | World Tour 2018 #4

We had a total of 6 days in New York City: from July 12 to 18. In the first three days we spent a lot of time walking, at an average of 20 km per day, under a heat of 33 to 37°C! So for the last three days, we took it easy:

FIFA World Cup

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Waiting for the match to start…

On Sunday morning (July 15), we woke up a bit later, and went to a nearby pub to watch the FIFA World Cup final match between France & Croatia. It was such a good experience, and even more as France won!!! Since then, every person we’ve met in NYC has congratulated us for that win as soon as they understood we were French haha! We got to Times Square just in time to see french supporters singing their joy and  walking down the street screaming their joy!

Times Square Market: Cheap/Great Stuff

Sunday brought more closed streets in NYC creating more pedestrians areas, and street markets: there was a big one on Broadway, all the way from Central Park to Times Square. We wandered around, purchased cheap sunglasses & jewellery, and just enjoyed being there.

Chinatown: Not What It Once Was…

full-time-explorer-day-on-a-dime-how-to-spend-a-day-in-chinatown-for-under-30-new-york-city-budget-street-pagodaWe headed towards Canal Street, directly by subway. Originally we wanted to see the morning street market on Canal Street on Sundays, but we arrived there too late. That wasn’t a problem as we were still able to visit Chinatown for a while. My parents were very disappointed as it had changed a lot since they last visited. There was a pagoda in particular that they remembered brighter and cleaner…

As for me, I didn’t imagine Chinatown like that, and in retrospect that was the Chinatown I least preferred in the whole trip!

Little Italy

Little Italy was right next to Chinatown, and was so small I barely noticed it. We walked through it for about 20 minutes, purchased ice creams… and that was it. Aside restaurants, we didn’t see anything interesting. I’m sure the place is great when you live in NYC and want to get Italian food, and specialised supermarkets.

The Cloysters

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Going to the Cloysters, in northern Manhattan, was an experience in itself as it was so far: it took us nearly 45 minutes by subway to get there. Once we got out of the subway, everything outside had changed: we had left the noise and the smell of Manhattan behind us, and were now wrapped up in silence only broken by forest sounds… which was very nice.

We went to visit the buildings of the Cloysters for about 30 minutes as they were closing early, at 5 pm.

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The Met Cloisters, located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, is the branch of the Museum dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. Deriving its name from the medieval cloisters that form the core of the building, it presents a harmonious and evocative setting for more than 2,000 exceptional artworks and architectural elements from the medieval West.

We then took the bus to go back downtown: we enjoyed the long ride as it took us through Harlem, and all the way back to Central Park.

Carriage Ride in Central Park

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IDK why but I kept wanting to call one of them Philibert as in The Beauty And The Beast haha

On Monday we had the chance to get on a 20 minute carriage ride in Central Park! This was a bit pricyn especially for tourists like us but we take it upon ourselves! haha

The driver was extremely friendly and he told us all about the parts of Central Park we were visiting. He also congratulated us for winning the World Cup, and took lots of photos of us inside the carriage!

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I love this one despite my cringy pose because our horse posed as well!!!

Tour Bus: City Sightseeing NYC

Yes… after almost a week of walking around on foot, we finally gave in and payed A LOT to go on a tour bus. We chose the red company (not sponsored) and it was actually great!

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We sat on the upper deck, even though it was pouring rain at some point: we had raincoats that they gave us and a lot of courage that day! We laughed a lot because we were completely drenched in the end… good times!


This concludes (almost) all the activities we got around to do in New York City, but obviously I wouldn’t conclude like that without talking about the One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial; so stay tuned for the next article!

Take care & have a good one,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Discovering Brooklyn | World Tour 2018 #3

On the third day, we decided it was time to leave Manhattan for a while, and cross over the most famous (and most dreaded for pure New Yorkers) bridge of New York, the Brooklyn Bridge, which inevitably leads to Brooklyn.

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Later in the week, we learned a bit about NYC and its actual size compared to Manhattan Island only. This was great information, so I’m gonna share it with you in this article.

NYC is actually divided into 5 boroughs, Manhattan Island being by far the smallest one after Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. The biggest in size is Queens, but the biggest in population is actually Brooklyn: 2,640,711 people live there, which is by itself more than the whole population of Paris, France! In total, the city of New York gathers 8,622,698 people, which places it just under London.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel

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That hotel is outstanding in every way: by its location on 5th Avenue, right at the corner of Central Park, by its magnificent architecture and by the fact it was featured in Home Alone 2 (which most of us my age saw a pretty fair amount of times – not gonna lie).

Who never wanted to see the inside of the Crowne Plaza, one of the most famous hotels of the world? Well I did, and my face was pretty much resembling that when we entered:

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The inside was all luxurious, and the hotel really is an attraction in itself. We then took the subway to head downtown.

The One And Only Brooklyn Bridge

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When we got there the sun was so bright I didn’t have enough of my hat and sunglasses: everything was reverberating way too much! But it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the sight: the Brooklyn Bridge was before my eyes!

All those metallic ropes really make a difference in its look, which is absolutely unmistakable. Surprisingly, we weren’t alone on the bridge (hmmm) and it took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to cross it, while obviously taking lots of pictures!

That’s like as good as it can get, really:

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Time in Brooklyn

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When we arrived on the other side, there was a lot to see: a hip-hop festival was being held under the bridge and the music resonated in the whole area which made the walk even more enjoyable. We headed towards the left side of the bridge (coming from Manhattan), at Fulton Park.

We ate at a restaurant called Cecconi’s, where we were seated with a direct view on the Manhattan Bridge. You know, it’s THAT bridge we see in movies, here in Once Upon A Time In America, of Sergio Leone:

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We then walked the entire way to the right side of the Brooklyn Bridge: this was Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which goes from Pier 1 to Pier 6.

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We saw some typical stuff along the way and took some very nice pictures, including the most beautiful picture I have so far (picture of this article), and this was taken on the right side of the BB, at the Old Pier 1.

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As it was Saturday, we saw a lot of people barbecuing all along the Promenade, some of them celebrating birthdays, with children playing everywhere… this was very nice.

Right before Pier 6 we purchased an ice cream, and went to wait in line for the free Governor’s Island Ferry that was departing at about 4:30 pm: yes we took all that time to walk the distance from Pier 1 to Pier 6!

All in all, the time we spent in Brooklyn was a big surprise to me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much but I actually did. I guess what the girls said in Sex And The City about it when Miranda and Steve go and buy a house there is overrated, and although it may have been true in the 90’s, it sure isn’t today (expect for the fact that NYC taxis still won’t cross over to Brooklyn).

The view on the Manhattan skyline was absolutely amazing the whole way, the people were all nicely relaxed, it was almost empty therefore very calming, AND it smelled better than on the island of Manhattan.

Governor’s Island

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Not a picture of mine, but it gives a stunning view of Governors Island and Manhattan from air!

You see the green island right in front of Manhattan skyline? Well, this is Governor’s Island! Not very far from Manhattan indeed. From Brooklyn it took us about 10 minutes to set foot on it.

The ferry ride was very short but long enough to help us breathe some nice fresh air from the ocean bay… and get some of the worst sunburns we’ve ever had! But don’t worry they later transformed themselves into a nice tan.

When we set foot on the island, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing: this island basically looked like a movie decor.

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The buildings were all built from those beautiful red bricks that are so typical of America, at least in the movies and TV shows I’ve seen during my life! It made think about The Walking Dead in particular, which wasn’t… very pleasant… kept looking over my shoulder to see whether a zombie was coming after me!

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© The Walking Dead

We tried to rent a trolley out, but we had to wait for an hour to get one… so we decided it was better to go and explore the island on foot. We first sat on a bench to people watch for a while. We also went to see Castle Williams, which was very interesting.

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Castle Williams is a circular fortification of red sandstone on the northwest point of Governors Island, part of a system of forts designed and constructed in the early 19th century to protect New York City from naval attack. It is a prominent landmark in New York Harbor. Together with Fort Jay (Fort Columbus), it is managed by the National Park Service as part of Governors Island National Monument.

During the Civil War, the casemates of Castle Williams were used to house newly recruited Union troops, to serve as a barracks for the garrison’s troops, and to imprison Confederate enlisted men and deserters from the Union Army. After 1865, it became a low-security military prison that was also used as quarters for recruits and transient troops. In 1895, Castle Williams was designated one of the U.S. Army’s ten military prisons.

We then caught the 5:30 pm ferry back to Manhattan, which again, was a very short but extremely enjoyable ride under the evening sun (where we got even more sunburnt).

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Tacuba: A Guacamole Paradise

imagesBack from Brooklyn we went to eat at Tacuba’s, a Mexican restaurant on 9th Av. between 53rd and 54th. The food was very nice, especially the homemade guacamolevery spicy, but the best one I’ve ever tasted. And I also had enchiladas for the first time!

Times Square At Night

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After the restaurant my father and I headed towards Times Square again, because I wanted to see it at night, and as you can see it was VERY crowded that night; but then again, when’s it not that crowded, I wonder.


Next time I go to NYC, I’d like to spend more time in Brooklyn, because that day I really understood New York isn’t all about Manhattan. Not anymore.

With love,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Experiencing The NYC Culture | World Tour 2018 #2

Who said Fridays 13th bring bad luck? In fact, in most cultures and religions, they bring just the opposite, and in fact, this 13th of July 2018 brought great luck for me: I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the most famous park of all time, Central Park.

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

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The famous “MET”, short for Metropolitan Museum of Art, was just as I imagined it: huge, incredible and filled with great energy.

We walked there from Park Lane, which took us approximately 45 minutes, taking into account that we had a pretty slow pace because it was quite hot (35°C) and my parents cannot walk very fast. When we arrived there it was already about 11:30 am so we took some time to rest on the stairs while eating fries.

Inside, we only did three areas of the museum: the Egyptian wing, the Roman wing & the Medieval wing.

By far, the Egyptian wing was the best (at least by my standards anyway): I thought it was magical.

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We spent hours exploring those wings, ate a bit at the Patrie Café (the Museum restaurant), and then headed to the MET store, which was huge (and it had some weird stuff, for instance one room filled with dozens of crosses hanging from the ceiling…?).

Central Park: The Most Famous Park In The World

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Not a picture of mine, but I wanted to get an amazing global view!

Right after leaving the MET, we finally entered into Central Park. It was about 5:30 pm on a Friday, and people were so chill and relaxed… It made me wonder about actually living here, and be able to come to the park every now and then just to relax.

From behind the MET (around 86th St.) we walked all the way down to Park Lane, inside Central Park. And just like the MET, the Park was very much like I imagined it: huge, very green, and I finally understood the deep meaning behind its surname of ‘Lung Of The City’. It just had a vibe I had never felt anywhere before… completely surreal.

We saw families, people walking their pets, people cycling, running, roller skating, reading, playing football, baseball, basketball… I mean, everybody was just enjoying their time.


In fact, it concluded a great day of reflection, about the City, its residents, its visitors, its history. And I think I got a glimpse at how New Yorkers find their peace and their pace.

With love from NYC,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

New York City: It’s Up To You | World Tour 2018 #1

I’ve officially set foot in New York City. And I still cannot believe it! I never thought this day would come so soon, but it has, and I honestly think it was one of the best days of my life: July 12th, 2018.

This day has burnt its place in my memory as the day I actually fulfilled my number one dream: being in New York City.

Here I should say we actually arrived at 10 pm the day before, and from the cab I had been able to catch my first glance ever at the city, by night, and this sight too is burnt into my mind. The whole island of Manhattan was glowing, and the most famous buildings of the world were illuminated like it was Christmas… I couldn’t refrain myself from shedding some tears. You cannot understand what it felt like unless you’ve been to NYC: it’s one thing to see the city all over movies, TV shows, news and so on, but it is another to actually see it in person. This was incredible.

For our first day, we started BIG* and hit some of the biggest landmarks:

Times Square

This was the first place I actually experienced in New York and it was all I ever wished for: screens everywhere, some of them HUGE, colourful, loud, and making me feel like I was at the heart of the entire world. We just sat there on the red steps, watching all around us, always discovering something we hadn’t seen the first time we glanced.

The famous screens were even BIGGER than I had imagined. But this feeling actually goes for everything in New York…

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When I saw this dude, acting as the Statue of Liberty, I thought to myself that I was not mistaken: I really was in New York. Wasn’t dreaming.

Bryant Park

Around the corner of a building we just arrived on Bryant Park, a huge green spot lost between the buildings.

There was a big stage inside the square, with chairs before it: we were invited to watch an off-Broadway repetition of the Chicago musical, brought to us by professional singers and dancers, which was absolutely amazing! ‘All That Jazz‘ was in my head for the rest of the day after that, and I love that song!

The New York Public Library & The Rose Reading Room

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Right next to Bryant park is the New York Public Library, which is absolutely beautiful & looks very special giving its location, at the heart of Manhattan. It looks like a European building from the outside, but actually on the inside too: look!

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There was a lot to see, but we sticked to the main attraction: the Rose Reading Room.

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It was extremely quiet therefore very peaceful… until the fire alarm went off and we were told to leave the building. But I managed to take a few pictures before we were rushed outside!

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The Empire State Building

We felt like we needed to go up a bit so we went to the second highest building of New York City: The Empire State Building.

There.

It was right there on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, that I finally realised I was in New York, my number one dream come true, a dream I’ve had for as long as I could remember. We perfectly captured that moment. It was the most magical instant of my life.

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On the Empire State you can go up to the 86th floor, but even higher to the 102nd floor! We went so high that the yellow cabs looked like ants, and we couldn’t even see people walking by!

It was the priciest attraction so far (189$ for 3 people), but I’d say it was well worth it.

20180712_153430Madison Square Park & The Flat Iron Building

After a quick lunch at Wendy’s we went for a walk and ended up in Madison Square Park. We spent some time people watching on a bench, right next to the cute grey squirrels. It was really interesting to see all kinds of people walking around, getting ready to go back to work, finishing their drinks as they went by.

As we left, we saw the famous Shake Shack restaurant with its outside seating area, covered by beautiful lights above it. We also took time to listen to a bit of street jazz while taking a good look at The Flat Iron Building.

 

Journey To The South

We took the first bus line we saw that was going South to the ferries after we took a Metro Card at a metro station, just to make it easier for us to get around for the next 7 days.

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Staten Island Ferry: Wonderful & Free

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Oh my gosh, I loved that ferry. I loved everything about it, especially its beautiful bright orange colour. That ferry has also the benefit to be completely & amazingly FREE which made the ride even more enjoyable.

I took some amazing pictures on our way there and on our way back, and also tanned a lot due to water reflection. And of course, the star of the show was the Statue of Liberty, which I was seeing for the first time. The first lady of New York looked so great I couldn’t take me eyes off of her…

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But then on the way back, I couldn’t take my eyes off Manhattan skyline: I was in freaking amazing incredible New York City and I just cannot believe how lucky I am to have been there!

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When we set foot on Manhattan Island again, we took a quick walk through Battery Park, impregnating us with that magical view.

Upstate: Oyster Bar

The sea made us hungry & it was time to eat anyway so we went next to Chinatown to look for Upstate, an oyster bar that Lonely Planet (not sponsored… although I’m not against it :P) recommended in their guide.

When we got there there was a bit of waiting so we went to have a drink nearby first: we took three mojitos that were so strong we were happier in an instant drinking them!

Upstate was great, barely lit to allow us to see the street and its animation, and the food was amazing – for american food anyway.


We also saw the Times Square M&M’s Store, and I saw the famous Carnegie Hall on my way back to the hotel (on foot, because I’ve heard you don’t take a cab for less than 10 blocks here). I could never have dreamed of a better first day in this wonderful city, THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.

Take care & have a good one,

Lilly, aka The French Hat


*No reference intended to SATC for you fans out there 😛

A Mega-Trip To Remember | Summer 2018

As this blog is intended to be all about travelling and expatriation, what better first article than one teasing you (briefly) where I went this summer?!

As it happens, my father and I decided to take a one-month trip, all around the world, in places neither of us had been before!

For my part, I had only been to some European countries, mainly Ireland, England, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands.

Can you guess what I felt when we finally decided we were going to actually do this huge trip around the world?! Some of the cities I had always dreamt to see, all in one go, this was a true dream come true!

And it didn’t disappoint me!

2 continents, 7 of the biggest cities in the world, 1 month of travelling

TRIP 2018 MAP

From Paris, we started our mega-trip by setting off for New York City, from which we then went to the following places:

  • San Francisco, US
  • Las Vegas, US
  • Los Angeles, US
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Kyoto, Japan
  • Singapore, Singapore

A total of 3 months of preparation beforehand, 29 hours spent on planes, 24 hours spent in airports around the globe, around 100 kilometers of exploration on foot, more than 10 hotels tried out, dozens of venues explored, more than 50 restaurants experimented, and 5 travel guides devoured from cover to cover.

The experience I got from this trip feels absolutely incredible and I find it unbearable to keep it to myself.

My ‘Honest Logbook’ Series: A Disclaimer

During this trip, I’ve written a lot about my thoughts, the tips and tricks I learned along the way, but also about my surprises and disappointments; it is only right I share them all, along with reflection about what I’ve witnessed in the countries I went.

In the future I intend to travel even more, and expatriate myself (again – but this shall be related in a future article), therefore gathering and sharing even more thoughts and knowledge about other countries and places.

Of course I wouln’t be able to do that without giving an opinion on those different matters. I would never intend this opinion to offend anyone, therefore I ask you not to forget that this opinion is my own, and that liberty of expression should remain a fundamental right. I should hope every single one of my readers is informed of this fact, and cannot be shocked by anything I say here.

In any case, feel free to comment on what I say, inform me on subjects I may have overlooked and spread positivity for better understanding. I will for sure answer each and every one of you, and even share dialogs I may have on this platform if I think they could benefit us all!

Signing off,

Lilly a.k.a. The French Hat


*Map created for free with Travellers Point!