Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Gender Equality and Sexual Harassment in France

     Although I haven't been blogging frequently while in France, I wanted to take a free moment between studying for exams to address a subject that I think is so, so important to discuss.

     When preparing to come to Europe for a semester, I was consistently warned that men in Europe, France included, would be more "forward". "Forward" was almost always the term used, and it was never elaborated upon. I figured this meant that men would be less bashful about asking for my number, or that they might be more prone to tell me I looked nice when passing them on the street. After all, France is known for being a country full of romantics-- it must just be full of wannabe-Romeos looking to woo someone.

     Once I arrived in France, though, it slowly became evident that "forward" was an inappropriate word for the way that men here behave. First, there were the blatant stares from men on the streets that every girl I know here experiences almost daily, whether they're walking alone or with friends or to school or to go for a jog. When you are in public in France, men seem to feel entitled to look at you as much as they want, and they exercise that "right" that they seem to think they possess nearly all the time, and it makes me and my friends feel extremely uncomfortable.

     One of the first times I went out to a bar with a group of girlfriends, we encountered some French guys who were no doubt drawn over when they heard us speaking English. For whatever reason, American women have a reputation abroad for being "easy", but we wanted to think that they were more interested in chatting than trying to make a move later. We made casual conversation in broken English and French, but it quickly became evident that their goal was more than friendly when they started inquiring if one of our friends was married and joking that one of the guys could "marry" her for the night. 

     When we politely but firmly declined their invitation to go out and smoke (because none of the Americans here even smoke) and ended the conversation after one of the guys touched my friend's back, the guys commented that we were "very restricted" for Americans. We're assuming that that comment was directed at the fact we weren't interested in their advances, and I feel a little indignant but let it slide. They were clearly just obnoxious drunk guys.

    Eventually, I started to get used to the constant stares. I adjusted my behavior, making sure to always wear a scarf to look more French, always wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt when going for a jog because the one time I wore athletic leggings and a short-sleeve tee, a few men made verbal comments that I couldn't quite catch because I had my earbuds in-- I probably didn't want to hear them anyway. Harassment is never your fault because of your clothes, but I just wanted to be able to go about my daily life with as little attention as possible.

    About two weeks ago, during a warm week, I reached my last straw. It was a Wednesday, and the weather forecast said it was going to be sunny and 65 degrees. I was super excited to wear my new jean skirt for the first time since it was going to be beautiful out. To class that day, I wore the jean skirt (which is just above knee length), a long-sleeve t-shirt, a coat, and a scarf; sounds like a cute, comfy outfit for spring, right? 

    While walking to a coffee shop with some other American girls after lunch, I heard a male voice yell "you're not cold?" in French. It was only when this loser, who looked to be about high-school aged and was walking with a group of other boys, repeated the question that I realized he was talking to me and my bare legs. I shot him a dirty look but said nothing, not wanting to bother with responding to such a stupid comment. When I didn't respond, though, he got angry.

     "You better look at me when I talk to you!" he yelled, then continued with a string of French that I couldn't understand. The fact that I didn't understand most of the words leads me to believe they were vulgar and derogatory, because I don't know any French slang/impolite phrases. I hurried away with my friends, too in shock to come up with a response to put this punk in his place.

     For the rest of the afternoon, I felt self-conscious about my bare legs and I wished I hadn't worn the skirt. After a while though, I realized that was completely ridiculous. Nothing about my outfit, which nearly reached my knees, had given that boy the right to yell things at me in the street. I hated that his comments had made me so self-conscious and guilty, and it stuck in the back of my mind for days.

    Fast forward two days to Friday night. I met my friend Jen, who goes to W&M as well but is currently studying abroad in Scotland, in Toulouse so we could see each other and I could show her France. We were having fun at a bar with a big group of friends and were just about to head out after spending a refreshingly peaceful time at the bar-- I had warned Jen about the guys in France, but no one had bothered us that night. At least not yet.

    As we started to push through the crowd to the exit, a guy popped up in front of me and started trying to talk to me, saying good evening and telling me that I looked very pretty. I said bye and tried to push through the crowd to leave, but he continued trying to talk to me, asking me questions that I couldn't quite hear over the noise of the club. I told him I had a boyfriend and once more made my move to leave, but he responded that that wasn't important and then proceeded to stroke my ponytail as I made my escape.

    Yeah, it was just my hair. But that night in the club was the first time a guy here had gone so far as to touch me, and it. Freaked. Me. Out. I rushed out of the bar to find my friends and was extremely upset. I just couldn't process the fact that this guy had thought it was okay to continue to bother me after I made my disinterest clear. Yeah, it was just my hair, but I know that touch was just a manifestation of a much greater problem here: that men in France seem to think they can do whatever they want to women.

     Talking about the situation with my boyfriend made me realize just how bad the situation is here. Of course, he was horrified, but he mentioned how his female friends have been groped numerous times in clubs in France and were horrified at first but now don't think as much of it. What kind of messed up world do we live in, were we eventually begin to normalize being groped in a club because it just "comes with the territory"?

     Of course, the US has a horrendous issue with sexual assault. I just didn't realize that the situation is worse here in France, if that's even possible; here, the idea of sexuality and gender equality is stuck even further back in history. In January, 100 woman published a letter decrying the #Metoo movement. What exactly did the letter say was wrong with this movement to bring awareness to sexual assault in an effort to stop it? Here's some info from ABC News Australia (from this article):

     " The letter, published on January 9 in the French daily Le Monde, went viral with its highly quotable contentions: that a man should not lose his job for attempting to "steal a kiss" or "touch a knee"; that women "can in the same day lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man without being a 'slut' nor a vile accomplice of the patriarchy;" and that "far from helping women to empower themselves," campaigns such as #metoo and the French #balancetonporc (Call Out Your Pig) serve "the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom". "

     Yes, there are most certainly women in the US that would agree with this article. But the fact that it was published in France, by French woman, serves as evidence of a culture's flawed gender outlook. The ABC news article continues:

While a backlash against the Weinstein backlash was probably inevitable — part of the pendulum swing of public commentary in the age of social media — the fact that the most prominent pushback came from France, and especially French women, is not surprising to anyone who has lived and worked here. "

     Of course, I've only lived in France for 4 months. I'm informed by my limited experiences here and conversations I've had with French people, but that's not the same as living here for a lifetime. If someone can explain the balance of sex and gender in France to me, be my guest, because I'm lost and I'm looking forward to moving back to a country where public harassment is less tolerated. 
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Essentials $50 and Under

     Now that strikes are taking over life in France, I'm finding myself with more and more free time. Luckily, that means I have plenty of time to enjoy the fabulous weather in Montpellier and also to get caught up on blogging.

     So many of my recent posts have been travel recaps and abroad reflections, so I wanted to write a fashion-centric post to give everyone (myself included) a break from the onslaught of photos of foreign cities and advice for surviving another culture.

     After a winter's worth of sweaters and scarves, the first signs of spring always have me itching to shop for light, bright clothes and accessories. Spring also means splurging on spring break trips and planning for summer beach getaways, which means not everyone has the budget for a major wardrobe update, so today I'm sharing my favorite new pieces $50 and under that'll transition well into summer, too. I'm very tempted to order a few of these items and ship them back to my house in the US, but I know I've gotta save for traveling.




Turquoise Tucknernuck Hat // Baseball caps are a classic American staple, and this punchy turquoise hat featuring the cute but classic Tuckernuck logo is sure to brighten up any spring outfit. Once summer comes, it'll be the perfect topper for outdoor activities from hiking to beach lounging.

Susette Scarf in Turquoise // Are you sensing a theme? Turquoise and fuchsia pack a punch in this oversized scarf that'd be perfect for pairing with neutral tees and jeans now and an all-white ensemble come Memorial Day. I'm starting to understand the French obsession with scarves! (Item available for pre-order now, expected to ship in April)

Skimmer Pant in Gingham // J. Crew Factory's skimmer pants are a favorite of mine, and the gingham is just too good to be true. Gingham patterns have already been making a huge showing on influencers' social media accounts this spring, so don't miss out on this adorable trend! These would be perfect for a comfortable and casual Easter outfit; pair them with a classic crewneck sweater this summer for a chilly post-dinner walk along the lake or beach.

French Sailor's Shirt, 3/4 Sleeve Boatneck // The timeless striped sailor shirt definitely deserves a spot in your spring outfit rotation. Perfect under a sweater or cheery rain jacket, this shirt is your go-to for days when you just don't know what to wear-- believe me, I throw on striped shirts at least twice a week!

Cabana Slide Sandal // Once it's warm enough for open-toed shoes, nothing beats a plain but comfortable slide for adding a pop of color to an otherwise plain outfit. This no-frills slides come in a variety of neutral tones in leather, but I've got my heart set on the pink suede pair. A fresh pedicure is optional!

     As a bonus, this straw clutch would look great paired with any of the items above.

     What new spring pieces do you have your eye on? What have you noticed influencers chatting about? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Thanks for reading,
Alex
Monday, March 19, 2018

Beautiful Barcelona



     As you might have guessed, life abroad is staying hectic, with occasional student strikes still punctuating my academic weeks and weekend trips keeping me from ever sitting still. Even though my blogging schedule has been inconsistent, I’m determined to get back on track soon!

     When planning trips before coming abroad, I almost left Barcelona, Spain off my bucket list. After all, I was studying French, so I figured I should spend most of my time and money exploring the country where I was practicing my language skills. However, after a weekend in Barca, I can’t believe I almost didn’t come to this magical city.

     On a side note, when I polled readers on Instagram, you guys said that you'd rather see tons of photos than information about traveling Barcelona on a budget. So, that's what I'm going to do, but if you do have questions about seeing Barcelona cheaply (including tips on the best hostel in Barca), don't hesitate to email me or DM me on social media! Anyways, I digress...


     Traveling to Spain for the first time was made even better by traveling with friends from home. One of my close friends from my freshman hall came to visit over William & Mary’s spring break, and another WM friend who’s studying in Sevilla came to meet us too, and I’m so grateful he was able to act as our personal translator since I don’t speak any Spanish at all.

     Since Friday classes were closed due to weather, I paid to switch onto an earlier train so I could spend most of Friday exploring with our friend Peter before Maggie arrived in the evening. Thanks to Montpellier’s freak snowstorm, the trams weren’t running and I had a lovely 3 km walk through the snow and slush to the train station, suitcase in tow. Luckily, train service wasn’t interrupted, and since the Renfe/SCNF train service from Montpellier takes just 3 hours, I had my luggage stowed at the hostel by 1:15 and was hoping on the metro to meet up with Peter for lunch and exploring. I almost had to pinch myself because the sight of the Sagrada Familia’s spires near our hostel seemed too good to be true.

     Peter and I met up at the Arc de Triomf and then wandered the Gothic Quarter looking for a bit of lunch. After admiring lots of beautiful buildings and getting heckled by plenty of waiters lurking outside restaurants, we settled on a small tapas cafe where I had my first taste of patatas bravas and Spanish wine. After a light but yummy meal, we headed back out in search of the Picasso Museum.

Barcelona's Arc de Triomf
     Feeling sufficiently cultured, we walked around the big port close to the center of town and kept wandering until we came to the base of the staircase/paths that lead up to the top of Montjuïc from the port side of the mountain. We went up, tempted by the restaurants that were perched on the cliff, knowing a good drink and a great view would be waiting for us.

     As dusk fell, we stumbled upon one of the prettiest parks I’ve ever seen, and a nearly 360-degree panorama of Barcelona and the port below us. There was also a crazy-fancy hotel (the Miramar) with a grove of orange trees with lights strung between them. As a current resident of Sevilla, Peter was cracking up at how excited I got about seeing the orange trees, but there was just something so exotic and beautiful about the way the oranges glowed against the string lights.

     After walking around the park (and snapping tons of photos of the view), we went into a bar/restaurant overlooking the port. It had a really classy, modern decor, but we opted to sit outside under the warmth of heat lamps so we could fully enjoy the view. Sitting out on that patio overlooking all of Barcelona and drinking cava (Spanish sparkling wine), I was already completely in love with Barcelona.

     Once Maggie and our other friends arrived from a long day of traveling from the US, we all met up at a hostel and then set off in search of some dinner. Being college students on a budget, we ate a lot of ham, cheese, and baguettes from corner grocery stores; it’s a simple, filling meal and you just can’t beat the price! That night, we decided to stay in and drink cheap wine with some other friends in Barcelona (hey, after all, we're college students!).

     Saturday was slow but in the best way possible. We got up at a leisurely time and got ready for the day without rushing, and then decided to get lunch at a street cafe near the Sagrada Familia; the food was nothing special, but the view couldn't be beat! Sitting in the sunshine (it was nearly 65 degrees that day!) and sipping a cortado, I was really starting to enjoy Spain.

All smiles for 65 degrees and plenty of sunshine
     We had planned to go into the Sagrada Familia that afternoon, but stupidly didn't realize how far in advance you needed to buy tickets, so we settled on heading back to our friend's Airbnb to purchase tickets online for the next day. Definitely think about buying your tickets online ahead of time, because you'll save a couple of euro as well as a wait in line!

     Honestly, we didn't do much of anything most of the afternoon except take advantage of the Airbnb's incredible terrace overlooking the Sagrada Familia. We lounged in the sun and stared at the church for a seemingly endless amount of time-- it just never got old.

     Eventually, panic set in as we realized we were wasting precious sightseeing time, and we got a move on. After a very long uphill walk through the city, we arrived at Park Güell. Although we didn't pay to go inside the most famous part of the park, I was still astounded by the architecture and lush greenery. Wandering through the park, I couldn't help but think once again about how Barcelona had it's own special type of magic that I had never felt in a city before.

Architecture in the park
     One of our friends who's studying in Barca told us he had a "hike" for us to do in the park, and for whatever reason, none of us believed it was really a hike. It was really a hike. There I was, in a t-shirt dress and white Keds, trying to scramble up a very steep, very rocky mountain while maintaing a bit of modesty. While I was pretty unhappy at the time, the view at the top of hill (I'm sorry, I still have no idea what this hill was called! It was right above Park Guell) was well worth it. Before going up there, I had no idea of just how big the city was, and the view was incredible.

Looking west over Barca
     We walked a long ways home and relaxed before an incredible dinner at a tapas place. Since we had met up with a huge group of WM students, we got a big table and told the waiter about how much we wanted to pay per person, and then they brought us plate after plate of tapas to try, plus bottles of white and rosado wines kept chilled in table side ice buckets. There was patatas bravas, calamari, langoustines, lamb, bread with tomato spread...I can't even remember all of it, but it was SO good. We spent almost the entire meal raving about how each new plate was the most delicious thing we'd ever had, and I don't think that was just the wine talking!

     Sunday brought lots more wandering of the city. Our path took us down the Passeig de Gracia and the Gaudi houses, La Rambla, Plaça de Catalunya, a coffee stop at a cafe in Plaça Reial, the National Art Museum of Catalonya, and the old Olympic Park. We also finally headed into the interior of the Sagrada Familia-- WOW. The use of light and tree-like elements really makes it look like the interior of the church is a magical, spiritual forest. 

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Posing with these funny litre water bottles that look suspiciously like a fifth of something stronger
Lots of laughs with Maggie in Barcelona and lots of love for Portrait Mode
     After sending one of our friends off back to Sevilla, we continued the adventure by stopping to see one of Barcelona's beaches, albeit in the dark. That night for dinner, we had seafood paella and beer, polishing off another amazing day of exploring a beautiful city.

     On Monday morning, my friend Maggie and I headed back to Montpellier so I could show her my town over WM's spring break, and we spent most of the train ride sleeping in order to recover from a whirlwind weekend.

     It's funny because I have a reallyyy early memory of paging through a book full of pictures on my dad's bookshelf; the pictures were of the interior and exterior of a fairytale-looking building with tall towers. My dad explained to a very young Alex that this was the Sagrada Familia, and that it was a church in a city very far away called Barcelona, but they weren't finished with the building.

     Because of that memory, Barcelona, and specifically the Sagrada Familia, have always occupied this certain mystical place in the back of my head. Finally going there was like entering into a vividly colorful dream from my childhood, and now that I'm older I can more eloquently describe how the Sagrada Familia's architecture reminds me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book illustration, and that the fact that it still isn't done only after over 100 years of construction, cranes forever looming above it, adds to the place's incredible sense of power and mystery.

     All in all, Barcelona was incredible, and definitely one of my favorite cities I've ever visited. And someday, I'll go back when the Sagrada Familia is finally finished. 

Thanks for reading,
Alex
Friday, March 2, 2018

Back on Track Abroad: Aaptiv + Fitness Clothes


Disclaimer: This post isn't sponsored in any way, so this post fully reflects my own personal opinions!

     I didn't work out for the first month a half of my study abroad experience, and it was a minor disaster. At home and at college, working out isn't my favorite activity, but I always try and work it into my routine because I love how it makes me feel. Exercising is an important strategy for managing my anxiousness, and accomplishing fitness goals is a huge boost to my self-confidence.

     For my first month and a half in France, I tried to embrace the French girl philosophy of avoiding things you don't like (read: exercise). I told myself that my daily walks to school, the grocery store, or to the tram stop were plenty of exercise. But I just didn't feel good. 

     Although I don't think I gained weight, I noticed myself losing muscle tone. I was horrified when I realized that I could barely crank out 10 push-ups after spending last summer and this winter break doing Crossfit classes-- over the summer, I was going to Crossfit 6 times a week! 

     When my friend offered to take me to her gym to try out some dance classes with her, it was the perfect segway back into fitness. We went to a Hip Hop class followed by a Bollywood class, and although I wasn't great at either, it was so fun to challenge myself and to sweat again. I signed up for the gym immediately after the classes, paying just €60 for two months of unlimited classes and access to cardio machines and free weights. 

    In order to get the most out of my new gym membership, I also signed up for a free trial of Aaptiv, the popular audio fitness app. Having heard good things from several other bloggers and needing something to get me excited about fitness, I downloaded the app, thinking it'd be a good fit since it includes lots of classes for outdoor running and walking as well as bodyweight workouts in addition to the cardio machine classes, yoga classes, and guided meditations. 

     Since this was my first week back since spring break, I finally started putting my fitness plan into action, and I'm feeling great! I can't recommend Aaptiv enough, and plan to pay for a yearly subscription; I feel so confident heading into the gym with a plan, and I've also done some of the bodyweight workouts here in my host family's apartment (i.e. today when the gym was closed due to snow). I also love how the app will recommend a stretch class that'll complement your workout once you've finished up, and the variety of classes can't be beat. Oh, and the playlists for the classes are seriously good-- I definitely got excited about my walking squats when Bartier Cardi started playing.

     Additionally, since I only brought one pair of workout clothes to France with me, I went out to find another outfit and I found some real gems. I went to Uniqlo for the first time here in Montpellier, and I was instantly impressed with the variety of high-quality staples at low prices. It was my first thought when I realized I needed some workout clothes, and their selection didn't disappoint.

     I purchased this bra top in maroon (that color isn't available in the US though, sorry guys!) and these wicking sweatpants in grey, and I'm seriously in love. This is the only bra top that actually supports my chest, and it keeps me feeling secure in addition to being really flattering. The sweatpants are so comfy and look a little less sloppy than your standard sweatpants.

     Between Aaptiv and my new workout clothes from Aaptiv, I've been really successful at getting back on track in terms of fitness, and I'm already feeling much better. Now I just have to figure out how to sneak in another workout before I head off to Barcelona today!

Thanks for reading,
Alex
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

An American Take on French Strike Culture

A snowstorm in southern France and a strike blockade-- you could say I'm having a unique study abroad experience
     My classes here in France have been cancelled for the past 5 days.

     As much as I love writing fluffy, fun pieces about fashion and lifestyle, one of my favorite parts about being abroad is having the opportunity to write about more serious topics and to reflect on my own country's culture. Writing this post is a great way for me to process my own thoughts and understanding of what's going on here, and to share a unique bit of French culture.

       My personal experience with these strikes began on the Thursday before our spring break here in France, February 15. I had a translation midterm at 8:15 am, and was still super sleepy when, while eating breakfast, I got a text from another American student: chairs and tables piled in front of the entrance to one of the buildings on campus. She followed up with a text explaining that almost all building entrances were blocked like that.

     As we all arrived on campus for our painfully early exam, we marveled at the "blockaded" buildings and wondered if we'd still have our exam. Although it took our professor a while to figure out how to unlock our usual classroom, we took our exam as normal, and I went back to my homestay soon afterwords since it was my only class of the day. Later on, though, I got an email letting me know that afternoon classes had been cancelled due to the strike.

     On Friday morning, classes were cancelled for the whole day. My host family took me on an afternoon trip to the beach and I felt relieved that I didn't have to sit through my usual 3 hour afternoon art history lecture. That night, my phonetics class all received a cryptic email from our professor telling us to be sure to check our emails the Sunday night before classes resumed because classes would probably be disrupted by the strike again.

     Sure enough, classes were cancelled again on Monday. However, classes specifically for exchange students were still held, having been moved into the international studies building; the library and the exchange studies building were the only buildings on campus that remained open. The story was the same Tuesday, and this morning-- class this afternoon was cancelled too, but that was thanks to the freak snowstorm we had today, not the strikes. In total, I've had two out of six classes that I would've normally had by this point in the week.

     I'm told that the strikes are about proposed reforms to the BAC, the exams that French students take at the end of their high school career and that function as a sort of college entrance exam. "I'm told" is purposefully vague wording because none of the Anglophone students are really told anything; we're the last to find out about whether or not classes are being cancelled due to strikes, and the head of the Anglophone student program just sent out a vague email assuring us that "these sorts of things happen in France" but not to worry and to keep up with our studies during this time.

     The American students are left to wonder what exactly is going on, and many of us are worried about how all these cancelled classes will affect the end date of our program or the credits we receive from these classes. At first it was fun not to have class, but most of us genuinely like school and wish that we could get back to the "study" part of "study abroad".

     This is just one example of how strikes pervade life in France. On her way back to Montpellier from a spring break trip to Rome, one of my friends had to book a new flight because Air France was (is? I have no idea if it's ongoing) striking and "delayed" her flight by four days. Looking ahead, American students are all gossiping about the railway strike that's been scheduled for the end of March, wondering if it'll impact the weekend getaways that we've already paid for.

     From a strictly American perspective, it's incredibly hard to understand the strike culture here. Strikes are incredibly disruptive, and I can't help but wonder how anyone can ever plan a trip or even get a college class finished up when there's a constant threat of strikes derailing everyday life indefinitely. According to this news article, France is #2 in Europe in terms of productive work days lost to striking, with an average of 171 days not worked per year per 1,000 employees due to "industrial action"; by contrast, Germany loses about 12 days per year per 1,000 employees. In general, I think that French culture is much more individually focused, and that students/workers/etc are much more concerned about their personal lives than the convenience of the greater community. And, of course, the disruptive factor is what makes strikes effective.

    Even though it's hard for me to understand the strike culture, I admire it a lot. French student's ability to organize a mass movement against perceived injustice is inspiring; I can't imagine American students would ever be organized enough to pull something like this off. I also admire the intense spirit of activism because by contrast, I think a lot of us Americans are kind of complacent and would much rather complain about things rather than make a true effort to change them. In America, we talk about how to reverse policies we don't like, but in France, it seems like people strike in order to prevent those policies from ever going through, and that proactvity is really logical.

     I'm still trying to wrap my head around the strike culture here in France, but it sure is interesting, and all these days off will give me plenty of time to do more research, I suppose.

Thanks for reading,
Alex


UPDATE: Literally as I finished this blog post, I received an email that school will be closed tomorrow (Thursday) as well due to the weather (there's potential for ice overnight), but I have a sneaking suspicion it's strike-related. 
Monday, February 26, 2018

How to Rewax a Barbour

 


     One of my biggest pet peeves ever is a poorly maintained Barbour jacket. I'm someone who firmly believes in taking care of clothing items to make them last, and waxed Barbour jackets are just too pricey to let them fall into disrepair! So, in honor of getting back to London/St. Andrews yesterday, I'm showing you how you can easily care for your waxed Barbour at home.

     I posted an Instagram story with all of these steps back in December when I was rewaxing my coat to get it ready for the big trip abroad, and that story has been saved to my Instagram profile. Be sure to check it out if you ever need a refresher!

     Barbour recommends rewaxing your waxed cotton jacket yearly if you're wearing it regularly, and I always follow this advice. The coating of wax on the jacket is what makes it waterproof, after all! Especially if you're a student who wears a backpack/carries a heavy tote while wearing your jacket, the wax wears off in places over time. You can tell the wax has worn off because some areas will be much lighter than others.

     Alright, so we've established that you should be rewaxing your coat yearly. What kind of wax should you use? Well, Barbour recommends you only use their official "thornproof dressing", but that's basically just a ploy to get you to overspend on tiny tin of wax. I ordered this tin of wax off Amazon, and it's lasted two years of rewaxing and I've still got plenty left.

     In total, these are the supplies you'll need for rewaxing your jacket:

  • Tin of wax
  • Chopstick/other disposable stirring utensil
  • Newspapers (to place under your jacket)
  • 2 old rags/clothes or a rag and a sponge
Step 1: Melting the wax & Cleaning Your Jacket

     Begin by opening your tin of wax and placing it in a pan of water; you want the water to come about halfway up the sides of the tin. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then reduce it to a simmer while you wait for the wax to start melting. Stirring it every so often will help speed up the process. And while you're waiting for the wax to melt...


     ...Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down your jacket. You want to make sure you get off any dirt/debris that might be on the jacket before you add the fresh coat of wax!


Step 2: Applying New Wax
     This is wear it gets messy. Apply fresh wax to your jacket by dipping an old rag into the hot wax and then working it into the jacket, paying extra attention to lighter (AKA worn) spots and seams. Try not to go overboard with the fresh wax, although I don't really have any tips for how to do that be because I always end up with excess wax, although we'll take care of some of it later.


Step 3: Removing Excess Wax
Using that same wet rag you used to clean the jacket initially, work at any patches of excess wax, blending them into the jacket until the patches look a bit smoother. If you can't completely smooth out the patches of excess wax, don't worry, we've got one more step to take care of them!


Step 4: Finishing Touches
Using a hairdryer and the wet rag, smooth out any remaining patches of excess wax by heating them and then working them into the jacket. This process can take a while, but this is what's really going to polish off your re-wax, so don't be afraid to spend a little extra time on this step.


Step 5: Curing
Once you're satisfied with how your jacket looks and you've fixed up any excess wax to the best of your abilities, your jacket is ready to cure! Hang it up in a cool, dry place away from other garments overnight; this step will allow some of the excess wax to dry up and fall off. Be aware that your newly waxed jacket may shed or transfer wax for a few days after this process, so be careful about wearing your jacket with nice clothing or getting it near leather car seats!


     So there you have it, how to rewax your Barbour jacket at home! Rewaxing your jacket at home saves money and ensures that you can wear your jacket again as soon as possible without having to wait for it to get shipped back to you. If you repeat this process yearly, your well-loved Barbour jacket should last a lifetime. Don't forget to check out this process as a highlighted Instagram story on my profile as well by clicking on the Instagram icon on the top right hand corner of this page.

Happy jacket waxing!
Alex
Sunday, February 18, 2018

How to Take an Affordable Weekend Ski Trip + The Perfect French Alps Ski Resort

   
   
     Last weekend, I checked a pretty cool item off my bucket list: skiing in the Alps! Okay, so it wasn't really on my bucket list before coming abroad, but I figured it'd be a pretty cool thing to be able to say I've done. Even though I'm not the best skier, the French Alps were absolutely gorgeous and it was fun to see myself improve over the weekend. I'm so glad I took the time to figure out how to make a weekend ski trip affordable, so now I'm here to share some tips so you can make a weekend ski trip more affordable no matter where you are!

Look for Weekend Trip Packages // Travel packages are convenient because they bundle everything you need, and travel companies can often offer cheaper prices than those that are offered to individuals. Weekend ski packages often include transportation, ski passes, gear rental, lodging, and maybe even some meals! Do a little research and see what's available in your area. For example, there's a company here in Montpellier that does weekend ski packages to the Alps for just 180 (wish I had known about that earlier, haha).

Use Budget Travel Options // Transport can add up quickly, so try to look for resorts that are easy to access. If you have a car, driving is almost always the cheapest option. If not, look for resorts that are accessible by train or bus, as these options are typically cheaper than flying. For example, to get to La Clusaz, I took a 10 train to Lyon, then two buses, which kept my travel costs under €50. Also, take advantage of shuttle buses that may exist at the resort! La Clusaz had a bus that was free with your ski pass that stopped at many hotels, restaurants, and other resort towns, which made transport once we got there 100% free. 

Avoid Staying in the Resort for More than One Night // In Europe, ski passes and gear rental seem to be much cheaper than in the US. The item that'll blow your budget out of the water is lodging-- hotels in ski resorts here in France are often €150+ a night for the most basic room! To circumvent this problem, when I went skiing, we stayed in another city (Lyon) on Friday night and took an early bus Saturday morning. We skied all day Saturday, stayed at the resort Saturday night, skied all day Sunday, then took the latest bus back to Lyon on Sunday night, where we stayed before catching trains/planes home on Monday morning. Yeah, it's less convenient, but if you're skiing about skiing on a budget, it's a great strategy.

     If you find yourself looking for a ski resort town in the French Alps, I can't recommend La Clusaz enough. The lift passes there will give you access to several other resorts, the town is picture-perfect, and the restaurants were reasonably priced but full of amazing food. I couldn't imagine a more idyllic weekend than the one I spent in La Clusaz, and I seriously can't get over how beautiful the mountains were (or how delicious my raclette dinner was). 


Raclette-- perhaps the best meal of my life, served with salad, charcuterie, and potatoes
     After last weekend, I'm determined to improve my skiing, and I'll definitely be using these strategies to save money on future ski trips back in the US!

Thanks for reading and happy skiing,
Alex