After learning about the intended release of a shocking horror film, I bring my thoughts about childhood classic stories and characters and whether they should be changed or stay the way they were initially created.
I thought I was dreaming or maybe a bit hungover when I woke up at 5am and saw the news. I had dozed off and awoke to find my fairy lights still on, my moon lamp dimming, and my sea projector sending blue waves onto the ceiling. I needed to switch everything off before going back to sleep.
Out of pure habit, I decided to check TikTok, and as I scrolled through the videos, a post from ITV caught my attention. It was talking about an upcoming movie and called it ‘Winnie-the-Pooh, the horror movie.’
Naturally, I was very confused. We all know who Winnie-the-Pooh is; the ‘bear with very little brain’ who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood and adores honey. Now, all of a sudden, he was in a horror movie? I thought it was just a silly joke. Or maybe my mind was a bit fuzzy. But when I looked it up properly, I realized that I was very wrong.
As it turned out, there was indeed a horror due for release called Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey. Apparently, the story goes like this: Christopher Robin leaves his childhood friends behind as he grows up and leaves for college, something that we all do in life. But this doesn’t sit well for those he leaves behind. Feeling abandoned, and without food, Pooh and Piglet revert to their animal ways; they become completely feral and unhinged, killing their friends in order to survive. When Christopher Robin does eventually return with his new wife, the unhinged Pooh and Piglet go on a murderous rampage, targeting several college girls who are staying in a rural cabin. (That old cliche is never going to die.)
To put it very simply, I was shocked. This is Winnie-the-Pooh – the bear with very little brain who lives in the 100 Acre Wood, plays with Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga and Roo! His best friend is Christopher Robin and he absolutely adores honey! I think I just outed myself as somebody who loves Winnie-the-Pooh, didn’t I?
It’s just… Winnie-the-Pooh has been a part of my life ever since I was a baby. When I was very little, my bedroom had Winnie-the-Pooh wall stickers on the wall. I had an electronic Winnie-the-Pooh bear that came with its own honey pot that he would ‘eat’ from. I had the Pooh’s Friendly Places and Honeypot playsets as toys; they were my favorite things to play with. One of my favorite Disney movies is Pooh’s Grand Adventures – The Search for Christopher Robin. In my favorite video game series Kingdom Hearts, one of the worlds that you could visit was the 100 Acre Wood where you could interact with all of the different characters. So… yes, I certainly love Winnie-the-Pooh and I am currently finding it very hard to see him reimagined as a feral bloody horror killer.
I’ve looked at a few times where classics were reimagined by authors and creators. There have been several parodies and mock-ups of different stories released over the last few years. There was a time when I visited the Chapters bookstore in Dublin, to enjoy the chance of buying books at a low price. Well, that time I was browsing the shelves and found a variety of classic parodies.
I saw these books for sale and I was disgusted.
It wasn’t just the style of the covers that horrified me, it was the fact that all of the stories had been modified and made more sexual. Basically, classics such as Jane Eyre and The Great Gatsby had been turned into porn.
Many authors were trying to cash in on what I consider the black mark in the world of literacy, that God-awful Fifty Shades series. The ‘love story’ of a controlling stalker and a co-dependent gold digger inspired a lot of authors to write their own little stories that were similar in taste. That aspect, I can understand, but did they have to touch classic stories like these?
Authors such as Charlotte Bronte and Oscar Wilde are long since gone, so technically, nothing can be done to prevent people re-writing their stories. I can understand in a way; sometimes, I see a story that there are elements that I don’t like and I feel I could change them. But… I feel there is a limit. I wouldn’t go so far as to change the main character into a bloody killer or shape the story to revolve around sex. That’s taking a little too far, for me anyway.
The problem is that stories such as Winnie-the-Pooh now reside in the public domain, they’re no longer protected by copyright law. In the United States, copyright law is usually limited to the life of the creator, plus 70 years after their death. Or in more simple terms, copyright of created content expires 70 years after the creator’s death. And since A.A. Milne has been dead since 1956…. you get the idea.
Now that the copyright law has expired on Winnie-the-Pooh, the public can do whatever they want with the character. But I refuse to see Winnie-the-Pooh as anything other than the bear-with-very-little-brain. This is one horror movie that I will definitely not be watching!
These last couple of weeks have been a time of stress, worry, self-hate, and anger. Sometimes, in life, there are things that happen that knock you down a couple of pegs, but you have to find the strength to pick yourself up and force yourself to get through the tough things. I had my first experience of post-traumatic stress, faced a final college assignment that really affected me and I had to once again, deal with my worst personal trait.
I was looking forward to getting the last hurdle of my Master’s degree finally finished. The last hurdle? A presentation defending my chosen topic and how I went about researching the dissertation. You would think that 80 pages and nearly 25,000 words of research would be enough but…. clearly not. I really did not want to do this presentation but we had no other choice. So, I had to spend one more week studying all of the work that I did for my dissertation, putting it all together into a presentation and explaining the topic that I’d studied. My presentation took place on the 9th of September and I was determined to make it the best.
A friend and I planned to work on our presentations together the week before. We arranged to meet at the Queen of Tarts cafe, somewhere I’d never been to before, but I’m always willing to try new places.
It wasn’t until I arrived that I realised that the cafe was located bang next door to a restaurant called the Piglet Wine Bar. I was horrified. This was the place where I had experience the worst allergic reaction of my entire life. It was the place where I honestly thought that I was going to die.
My hands started to shake. My breath was catching in my throat. A voice in my head was saying ‘Oh no, no, no.’ I felt worse when I entered the cafe. Its interior was exactly like the restaurant from that night, right down to the upstairs seating area.
Looking up the stairs, my mind kept thinking back to that night. I can remember stumbling to the bathroom, gasping for breath, barely able to stand. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and not recognising myself. My face was white, my eyes were bloodshot…I didn’t look like myself.
I looked like a monster.
I had to force myself to calm down, to bring myself back to the present. I told myself that I was being stupid, that I was overreacting. I sent a message to Mum, telling her about what happened, saying I was being silly. I expected her to agree but she actually said that what I’d experience was perfectly understandable.
I’d had my first experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had just relived the worst moment of my life. I couldn’t believe it but looking back on it, it makes sense. Until that day, I hadn’t properly gone back to that area since the night of my severe reaction. I figured I was okay, I’d gotten over it. It had been nearly three years.
But clearly, I was mistaken. It took going back to that place for me to properly understand what happened to me. I think if the pandemic hadn’t have happen, I could have gotten over it sooner. Having said that, (and this is going to sound crazy) I am relieved to have experienced this now. Mum asked me if I would go back to the cafe again and I said yes. I cannot let this one bad experience put me off returning to that area. I’ve gone through the worst, all I can do now is move on with my life.
My friend and I were able to finish our presentations and on Friday 9th September, I travelled to the college campus to give my presentation. I had forced myself to practice relentlessly the night before. I didn’t want to stumble or make a fool of myself, I wanted to be clear and concise with what I had to say about the work that I’d done.
I arrived in good time and managed to get a last practice thrown in before I was called into the room where the presentation took place. There were two supervisors, one physical and one virtual via Zoom. I set my gear up and began my presentation. I managed to get through my presentation smoothly enough; I explained my chosen topic, how I went about my research, the films I had studied and the final conclusions that I reached. I thought that I had explained everything to the best of my ability.
Let’s just say that when it came to feedback… things took a bad turn.
Actually no, I wouldn’t call it a bad turn. I mean, I knew that my dissertation had been quite complex, I knew it was flawed, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t want it to be perfect, I just wanted to show that I worked on it to the very best of my ability and I could create a good dissertation. It’s just, the feedback that the two supervisors gave me, convinced me otherwise. They liked how I presented my dissertation, it was clear that I had done a lot of research but they felt that my dissertation rambled a little bit, didn’t quite reach a proper conclusion, and could have been laid out better.
Looking back on it now, the criticism that I received that day, was fair. I knew deep down that I hadn’t done a dissertation that was completely perfect. But the criticism I got really made me feel that I had failed. It made me feel that I hadn’t done enough to pass. Maybe, the dissertation I had submitted, wasn’t good enough. I felt awful, I felt low, I felt like a failure.
I left the college campus, tears streaming down my face. I was bubbling up inside with sadness, and anger. Mainly towards myself. All I could hear in my head was ‘You stupid idiot. You should have done better. Now you’re going to fail and you should not have failed. How could you be so stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid.’ That’s all I could hear.
I had to call my mother and explain what happened. By that point, all I wanted to do was forget, so her constant questioning and forcing me to go back over and over the presentation session did nothing to help me. I was upset and angry enough with myself as it was, I didn’t want Mum forcing me to drive the knife in deeper. I know she meant well, but I was an emotional wreck at that point.
Let me be honest and say that my worst critic is me. I am the sort of person who only really sees the worst in me. I am ambitious, but sometimes admittedly, I can be too ambitious for my own good. When I get a result that means, I have passed a module, I can’t help but think, ‘I could have done better.’ I am very very hard on myself and it is something that I know I need to work on.
I had to use these last couple of weekends to recuperate and find where my head is at. I needed to find myself, to go to that old cliche. Through it all, I was able to find support in my housemate Silvia and my fellow college friend, Adina Sarah. They listened to me and comforted me when I brought myself to tears and looked after me. I really appreciate all that they did for me. I’m so grateful to them.
Dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress, Anxiety and self-hatred, was certainly a lot to deal with, but I can say that I’m feeling better now after taking some time to recover. As to what happens with my dissertation, all I can do now is wait for my results. I’m really hoping that I’ve done enough to pass, but there’s nothing I can do now except wait and see what happens.
The worst thing that could happen is I could have to repeat the whole thing, but hopefully it won’t come to that!
It’s been a while since I wrote anything about my springer spaniel Murphy. Well, seeing as it is International Dog Day today, I think I will talk about the work that Murphy has done as my study supervisor!
These last few weeks – last few months rather – have been a struggle. A great majority of my time was spent writing my final dissertation for my Master’s degree in Griffith College. I thought I knew what I was in for. By God, was I wrong. I did not anticipate the long evenings, the lack of sleep, the stress in making sure that every topic was covered, every word was spelt correctly, all the added extras were added. I’d go to bed at about midnight, get up at about six, trying to balance work and my final big project for graduating Griffith College with a Master’s. Put it simply, I was very stressed.
I was close to cracking, but thankfully, I didn’t. And that is down to Murphy.
In the last few weeks, before I was due to submit my dissertation, I returned to Monaghan. My parents were away to Lanzarote for the first time since the pandemic and I was minding Murphy. My sister works at Supervalu and her times vary so she couldn’t be around all the time. So I had to balance work, my dissertation and taking care of Murphy.
It was as if Murphy knew that I was stressed. He knew when I needed him. Sometimes, if I was working on my laptop, he’d just climb up beside me, put his head on my lap and settle for a snooze. Just his presence, eased my mind a little bit. His presence gave me a little bit of comfort.
In the early mornings, before I had to start work, Murphy and I would go out for long walks around Monaghan town. As soon as I said ‘Shall we go for a walk?’, he’d be down the stairs and at the back door, ready to be leashed up and go out.
I will say that the early morning walks with Murphy really helped my head. To be out in the crisp, clear air, at a time of the day, when the town was still quiet and only beginning to wake up was really good. It was a time when I could hear my thoughts more clearly and just relax even if it was just for a little while. Murphy was very good at distracting me, by pulling me down the paths and sniffing everything around him. He knew that my mind needed to be taken off the dissertation in the morning time at least!
But I will admit, there were times when I got so stressed that even poor Murphy got on my nerves. There was one incident, where I was working on the blasted dissertation in my bedroom. Murphy was sitting on my bed, as normal. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Murphy started barking loudly. I jumped at the unexpected noise and I just lost it. I had gotten into a good trail of thought and Murphy had inadvertently interrupted. He barked louder and I screamed at him. I yelled him ‘Shut up! Shut up! Just shut up Murphy!’
As my screaming subsided, I looked at Murphy in horror at what I’d done and I just burst into tears. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I had shouted at Murphy for something that was in a dog’s nature to do. I didn’t mean to yell at him. I was so stressed at having to finish this assignment, anything could have set me off.
It took a really long time for me to stop crying. I just howled and howled. My sister Shona, comforted me and said that Murphy knew that I didn’t mean it. As she said, Murphy came up and rubbed his head against my legs. This actually made me cry even harder. I just felt so bad. This is how much the stress had gotten to me.
Like I said, it took a while for the tears to dry. When I finally calmed down, I cuddled Murphy for a long time and told him I was sorry, I didn’t mean to shout. He allowed me to pamper him and hug him. I think that was his way of saying that he forgave me.
A couple of days later, I had finished and submitted my dissertation at long, long, long, last. I was so relieved to finally be finished. Once I knew that it had been submitted and sent off, I said the magic words to Murphy: ‘Shall we go for a walk?’ Within a few minutes, we were off!
I have to say that I’m so glad that I went back to Monaghan for the last couple of weeks that I needed to get my dissertation finished. Being with Murphy certainly helped me keep my sanity, most of the time anyway! If I didn’t have Murphy, I actually don’t think I’d be able to have finished my assignment on time. He is the best study support ever. I love him so much.
I want to use this post to talk about moving into my own little place on my Erasmus and how I felt at the end of the year when I moved back to Ireland.
In Universitat Trier, Erasmus students were given the option of single apartments or sharing with another person. At the time, I wasn’t sure about living with a complete stranger, so I opted to stay in a single apartment.
The apartment block I was staying in, Kleeburger Weg was just a five-minute walk from the university campus. That was handy! My apartment was on the very top floor, apartment number 425. Not very good when you’re carrying big suitcases at the start of the year.
On the first day, when I finally got all my possessions up the stairs, I opened the door to my home for the next year. I looked around. There was one large room, with a bed, a table, chair, and bookshelf. A tiny kitchen with a wardrobe in the corner and a little bathroom. That was my apartment.
I spent a moment looking around at all the bare walls, the empty bookshelf, and the sparse bed. Taking a deep breath, I began unpacking and decorating. I had brought two things that I thought would be important; blu-tack and a folder of pictures. There was a little bit of Anne Frank in me when I did that. When she arrived in her Secret Annexe in 1942, she had brought her collection of movie star portraits to decorate the walls of her room. I used my own pictures to decorate my walls.
I spent the majority of the day, tacking and sticking pictures onto each wall. Some of the walls had a certain theme; one wall was dedicated to Harry Potter, another had Yu-Gi-Oh pictures everywhere. I wanted to decorate the walls the way that I wanted to. It took a while for the decorating to be finished, but at last, I managed to get my last picture up on the wall.
The walls above my bed were different. On a shopping day, I found a collection of wall stickers in the shape of butterflies. The butterflies had a different design and came in pink, purple, blue and yellow. I thought they looked really lovely and I have always had a weakness for butterflies so I decided to use them for decorating my room.
The final wall was a masterful collage of favorite pictures. I think I spent the most of my time decorating this wall, picking out all sorts of different pictures and putting them in exactly the right place. There was no select theme or anything like that, it was just a selection of my favorite pictures.
At last, my apartment was fully furnished. Now, I had to deal with the silence.
The silence was eerie. It made me nervous. Despite the brightly decorated walls and all my possessions around me, I felt nervous. The longer I spent in the silence, the more I didn’t like it.
Every day I lived in that apartment in Trier, I did whatever I could to fill the silence. In the morning, when I got up to have a shower or make myself some breakfast, there was always a video playing on my laptop. That Christmas, Mum bought me a little portable radio. Sometimes on Sunday evenings, I’d sit at the windowsill with a book and I’d read with the radio playing in the background. There was some form of noise in my apartment every night until I had to switch it off to go to sleep.
As the Erasmus year moved forward and I made new friends, I found myself hating it whenever I had to return to my apartment. The reason for it was, because I was returning alone. If I had been in a shared apartment, I’d have at least have had somebody else there. I could have become friends with my housemate if I’d have one. But I thought I’d be happy in a single apartment. That was where I was mistaken.
Living in an apartment in Trier taught me a few things. It taught me how to be independent and how to look after myself. I had to do my own cooking and clean after myself everyday. I had to throw out my own rubbish and do my laundry every week. I had to buy my own food and make sure everything was ready for the next day. There was no parent to look after me. I went home to Ireland with the knowledge that I was more than capable of looking after myself.
But another thing I learned is that I wasn’t happy living on my own. I thought I was happy in my own company, but I was wrong. The loneliness and eerie silence that I felt, made me spend as much time as possible out and about or with something in the background to fill the quiet. I realised that I was much happier to share a living space rather than having it all to myself.
It’s reflected on my living arrangements nowadays. I have my own room, in a house in Dublin. I have again decorated it to my own liking, but now I share the house with four other people. They started off as complete strangers but now, I’m happy to say that we’ve become really good friends. The girls in the house, and I spend as much time as we can, going out and having fun.
Maybe if things had been different when I was on Erasmus, I could have made friends with a housemate. But sometimes, things happen for a reason. I think I needed to fully experience living on my own, to understand what it was like.
Because now I know that I never want to do it again!
My story of traveling abroad for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic and what I learned about myself.
Who could ever forget the start of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020? When it hit Ireland, I was just a couple of weeks away from my 24th birthday. I had plans to go out to a dance club with my friends but of course, that never happened. Instead, I spent the day with my family. They made my birthday as special as possible, even making a wonderful chocolate cake that tasted amazing. This occurred on my next birthday as well, as the virus showed no signs of going away.
By the time my 26th birthday came around, it looked like the virus was finally beginning to ease off. I wanted to make sure that this birthday would be different. I wanted to do something so after thinking for a while, I decided that I would go traveling in France. It wasn’t my first time traveling in France, but there were places in the country that I’d never been to before. A certain Netflix show called Emily in Paris also fuelled my desire to go back. I decided to take the chance and go to another country for the first time in two years. I booked my flights, and accommodation and prepared to go.
Preparations for flights nowadays never run smoothly. There always has to be proof that you have received your COVID vaccination and have not contracted the virus within two weeks. I had to have all of this ready by the time I touched down on French soil. There’s always the worry that you may have forgotten an important document or have the wrong content. But thankfully, I got through the customs with no problems. Once I was out of there, I knew I was going to be okay.
Another thing that I was nervous about was that I was making the trip to France alone. It’s very rare for me to travel by myself. I traveled to Germany by myself but that wasn’t for a holiday, that was for Erasmus. That was a bit nerve-wracking, but in life, you sometimes have to take the risk and do things that you never thought you’d be able to do. I never thought that I’d take a solo trip to France, but that is exactly what I did. My mother told me that it was a true sign of strength and independence.
I was staying in France for four days. My plans were as such; have a look around, travel to Versailles, and then go down to a small part of the country called Arcachon. I’d never heard of it, but when I messaged a friend named Gina, who I had met when I went on Erasmus in Germany, she suggested that we meet there and spend time together there. We’d stayed in touch throughout the years and she’d moved to France to work as a teacher. When she heard that I was coming over, we both knew that we had to see each other. So we arranged to meet in Bordeaux and travel down and stay in Arcachon. I was so excited to see her again.
My little holiday began at 4am in the morning on 31st March, trying to stay awake with coffee at Dublin Airport. I needed to stay awake until I boarded the plane. I managed to doze for a little while before the plane touched down on French soil. I had booked myself a seat on the coach to central Paris. After arriving, I spent some time browsing the different shops, allowing myself to indulge in makeup and jewelry. As my birthday had just passed, I had the right to spoil myself.
When I checked into my little hotel, I took some time to freshen up before grabbing my camera and going for a walk. As already mentioned, a certain Netflix show encouraged me to return to Paris, and I decided to try and find a few of the places where the show was filmed. I was very lucky in the places I did find.
It was amazing; to think that in these little side streets that a show like Emily In Paris was filmed and shown all over the world. I know people have their own opinions on the show but I enjoyed watching it. I actually thought Lily Collins was perfect for the role. She’s grown on me; in fairness, she’s definitely not the worst actress I’ve ever watched. (I am naming nobody, but all I will say is that one actress I despise is extremely overrated and very bland and another is notorious for being a diva.)
Another unexpected treasure I found was the Parc de Luxembourg. It was quite cold, the winter weather hadn’t completely gone away but it was still alright to have a walk around the place. People were milling about, taking pictures, admiring the ponds, the statues that gazed out at the view and enjoying themselves. It’s places such as these that capture my imagination and allow me to create stories in my head. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m always finding something in statues and ponds that serve as ideas. As I clicked the shutter on my camera, my mind was whirling with different ideas.
Eventually, as it started to get dark, I decided to call it a night and return to my hotel. The following day, I booked myself a ticket to visit the Palace of Versailles. My mother had been there herself, and she had warned me that she’d been disappointed with what she saw. I wanted to go anyway because of my fascination with the story of the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. She had commissioned a small secret garden that I was desperate to see, so I traveled to Versailles and see the Queen’s Hamlet.
It wasn’t too long a journey from Paris to Versailles, about half an hour on the tram. When I spotted the palace, I was in awe of how big it was. Only then did it hit me that this was a place where the kings and queens of France had lived for centuries until the French Revolution of the 18th century. When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and their family were forced to leave, they had to go out of the golden gates, leaving this palace behind. I don’t know if it was down to the cold or something else entirely, but I could feel a shiver down my spine as I entered through the gate.
Many rooms were filled with thousands of portraits of the kings and queens of old. I really didn’t believe that France could have such a fixation with art but the Palace of Versailles showed this to me. France uses art to tell their history and the battles of the past.
I was able to see the bed quarters of Marie Antoinette – to know that a queen had slept in here, gave birth to her children here and used this room to prepare for her day. During the French Revolution, a mob broke into the palace with the intent on killing the queen. This room was destroyed in the process but has since been restored to represent the feminine and artistic personality of the last queen of France.
There was also the Hall of Mirrors, a monument to Louis XIV. There are 357 mirrors (I’m not joking!) all down the hallway and it was here that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, which put an end to the First World War. People were milling about, taking pictures, and admiring the glittering chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
I will be upfront and honest when I say that I can understand why Mum was disappointed in her visit to Versailles. With the size of the palace, you would expect quite a lot to be on display, but that was not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I was really happy with what I did see in the palace, but I feel that I could have seen more.
The weather didn’t help things either though, I will admit that. The whole time that I was in Versailles, I was constantly being attacked by sleet showers! It was freezing and I didn’t have the right type of protective clothing from the cold! I was determined though that I was going to see the Petit Trianon, rain or shine. As far as the gardens and the Petit Trianon were concerned, I was captivated by their beauty and was amazed at knowing that Marie Antoinette spent her days here before the French Revolution. But admittedly, I came at the wrong time of the year to see its full beauty. Maybe if it hadn’t been so cold and the weather had been better, it would have been different.
When I found the Queen’s Hamlet, I had a good walk around, staring up at all the little buildings. During her time as queen, Marie Antoinette had this little village created under her instruction. She wanted nothing more than to live a peaceful life in this little hidden village, having fun. As happy as I was to finally have an opportunity to see a queen’s lost dream, again I came at the wrong time of the year. The lakes had been completely drained for renovations and it was really, really cold! Still, I’m really glad that I managed to see this little hidden Versailles. Marie Antoinette is long dead but this hamlet is a reminder of the life that she desired had she never been a queen.
Another thing I didn’t expect about Versailles was how big the grounds actually were. Versailles is a very easy place to get lost; it took me ages to find my way out of the grounds. By the time I found my way out, at last, it was near 6 in the evening. I was freezing, and tired and my phone was on its last 5% of battery. But I wasn’t finished with Paris just yet.
After giving my phone a much-needed charge, I decided to challenge the cold weather further and view some more of the sights of Paris. From reading Google Maps, I discovered that there was a very famous landmark only a ten-minute walk away from my hotel; Notre Dame. Obviously, due to the terrible fire in 2019, the cathedral is closed to the public, but I didn’t get the chance to go there on my first visit so I decided to go now.
Had there not been a fire, I would have loved to have taken a tour of Notre Dame and see the interior. If you’re familiar with the famous Victor Hugo classic, it would been interesting to learn about the background of the hunchback. But given the circumstances, I’m happy to have at least seen the exterior of this beautiful cathedral. I’m grateful that not all of its beauty was lost in the horrific event. And when renovations are finally finished and it can reopen… I’ll be back.
When I returned to the hotel, I packed up everything because in the morning, I had to get up and get the train to Bordeaux, where I would finally get to see Gina.
As I previously mentioned, Gina and I first met each other on Erasmus in Germany in 2016. She came from a farm in England, I came from a small town in Ireland. We connected right away and we have stayed friends ever since. I went back to Ireland at the end of my Erasmus, knowing that I’d made a wonderful, caring friend in Gina.
We met up again three years ago for our friend Emily’s wedding in Carlisle, and later, I went to visit her in her new hometown of Agen. When I told her that I was coming to France again, she suggested going to a place called Arcachon. I instantly agreed to this idea.
Up until Gina mentioned it, I had never heard of Arcachon. It is a seaside resort on the south of Bordeaux and is the home of the largest sand dunes in Europe, the Dune du Pilat. Before I traveled to France, Gina and I video-called and made plans of what we were going to do. She had done some research and said that you could hire bicycles and cycle to the dunes. When I heard about this, I thought to myself ‘Could we really do this?’ But then I decided that you only live once and sometimes, you have to try new things. Besides, we’d tried bouldering in Germany before, what was to stop us from cycling in France? We decided to go for it.
I was really excited to see Gina; I could feel myself buzzing while I waited for her to arrive at Bordeaux. When I finally saw her…it was like no time had passed since we last saw each other. I didn’t realize how much I had missed her until we ran into each other’s arms. When we settled on the train to go to Arcachon, the two of us caught up with each other’s lives. It was so easy for us to do that, that’s the type of friendship that we have. She also surprised me with a little gift of butterfly earrings for my birthday; she really didn’t have to do that but I was so touched. I, in turn, gave her a gift of an Irish friendship fairy, which she loved.
It didn’t take too long for us to arrive in Arcachon. We were both a little taken aback by how picturesque the town was. It was so amazingly clean, it felt a little too good to be true. The tourist office that we visited didn’t even look like a tourist office. You were almost scared to touch anything for fear of breaking something.
After leaving our bags at the hotel, Gina and I went to the hire station to collect the bicycles. Up until that point, I couldn’t remember the last time I had ridden a bike and I was a little nervous about going on the road. Taking the helmets offered was certainly a great idea!
We took off down the road. Once I got used to the feeling, I found it to be amazing. We cycled past bright green trees, the sparkling blue ocean, and the little hills all around. The wind was blowing through my hair, everything passing by so fast, I felt alive, I felt free.
At last, we arrived at La Dune du Pilat; I knew they were the biggest sand dunes in Europe, but I didn’t anticipate how big they actually were! I’m certainly grateful that a staircase was provided for those who wanted to climb up there. Gina and I admittedly wore the wrong type of footwear for climbing though because by the time we were all finished at the dunes, our shoes were completely full of sand! Had it not been for the staircase, the two of us would have struggled even more!
Gina and I climbed up and up and up. We didn’t give up until we got right to the very top of La Dune du Pilat. We were lucky to be blessed with such a beautiful day. It was amazing to see the green forest on one side and the blue ocean on the other. The view was just breathtaking.
It was quite a windy day to be up there, we faced the danger of being blown away but we stayed up there, watching braver people than we were, actually sledding down the dunes! Gina and I were stunned that people were brave enough to do that, considering the size of the dunes. We weren’t brave enough to try!
The two of us began the journey back to the hiring centre to return our bikes before the place closed. Gina and I managed to get back down the dunes without tumbling down the way; once we had emptied our shoes of sand, we got our bikes and took off. They say that the way back is the easier part; that is ridiculous. By the time we returned to the hiring centre, our muscles were screaming, our throats were parched and I’m sure that our backsides were bruised from the bumping that we took! My shins also took a bit of a bang when I lost control and crashed into a bush on the way. It made for a good laugh though! I have to say though, all the physical pain that we felt at the end of it all, was worth it. It was such an amazing experience to cycle all the way to largest sand dunes in Europe. It was something I never expected to do and I’m really glad to have done it.
We weren’t quite ready to go back to the hotel. You know what we decided to do? We went to a little supermarket, bought little cubes of cheese and Magnum ice creams and ate them all on the beach! Of all the things to snack on, we chose cheese cubes and ice cream! It must be remembered that the weather was freezing; we stayed on the beach for a little while until it became way too cold for us to handle. It was time to go back to the hotel and rest a little bit before going out for dinner in the evening.
After a brief rest and freshening up, the two of us went for a walk around the town, trying to find a good place to eat. Eventually, we found a lovely little restaurant that accommodated my allergies really well. I enjoyed a wonderful meal of roast duck with green vegetables while Gina had paella. And we both had to indulge in a lovely glass of French rosé! We caught up even further with our lives and talked about our plans for the future as we enjoyed our dinner.
When we finished dinner, we had a little exploration of the place. At the time we were in Arcachon, there was a live art exhibition, with statues all over the town. What we didn’t expect was for them to light up at night. I’ll be covering the exhibition in a new article, which I’ll explain further at the end of this piece.
The following morning, myself and Gina enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the hotel before having one last walk around the town. A little tourist shop offered certificate-style postcards confirming that one had climbed to the top of La Dune du Pilat! It was a cute little souvenir and we bought one each, as well as other little trinkets to bring home with us.
Home…at the end of that day, we had to go home. I felt so sad saying goodbye to Gina at the Bordeaux train station. We were going our separate ways once again; she would be returning to Agen, and I’d be heading back to Paris to get the plane home to Dublin. I had such a wonderful time in Arcachon with Gina and having to say goodbye was really hard. She said that next year, she hoped to come over to Ireland; I will be there and I’ll be showing her all around. It will be great.
Returning to Paris and getting the coach to the airport, I couldn’t help but think about the last few days. I learned a couple of things about myself. One thing I learned from my visit to Versailles, is that sometimes things don’t turn out the way that you expected. Sometimes, things may not live up to the expectations that you have. And that’s okay. Disappointment is always a lingering aspect of our lives.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I am more happier doing things with people than on my own. In the past, I was happy in my own company, thinking that I didn’t need anybody. But as I got older, and I made friends, I realized that wasn’t the case. The more time I spent with others, the more I realized that being with others made me happier.
There is an interesting quote that I found from a wilderness explorer that I find very appropriate.
You only experience true happiness when you are with the people that you love and care for. From my trip to France, I realized that this was true. I enjoyed my days visiting Paris and Versailles, but it wasn’t until I met with Gina and we spent time together in Arcachon, that I was really happy and truly enjoyed my holiday.
It was late at night, that I finally touched down on Irish soil again. I returned home, exhausted but exhilarated. My first time abroad since the pandemic and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I’m not quite talking about France yet though. There is a theme that I noticed all over the country that I used as part of a college project. But that is a story for another time.