Vacation Getaway: Mykonos, Greece

991875_10152888512640032_103821162_oFor my 21st birthday last June, I decided to spend all my savings and spend my special week in the Greek Islands with one of my closest friends. I want to share how we decided to spend a week in paradise on a Student/Young Adult’s Budget.

 

992084_10152890771500032_1681640773_oMy friend from North America booked last minute tickets (like a two weeks before my birthday) and flew to Manchester, England where I met him. His flight cost $400 from Toronto (YYZ) to Manchester direct with Air Transat. This is my first tidbit of advice. Never fly directly to your vacation destination, especially when a direct flight to the greek islands could cost double or triple that price! Heck, make a trip to London from Manchester, since $400 is such a bargain to explore more of that side of the world. I always suggest looking at skyscanner.com when comparing flights! You can get a flight from Manchester to Mykonos for under $300 with EasyJet.com during the summer time! So instead of forking over $1500+ to go to the Greece islands, take a detour with two flights for only $700. BAM! Much savings.

 

HOSTEL

We arrived early June for the best beach weather a Canadian could ever ask for. We stayed at an amazing hostel that was close to the popular spot on the island for shopping, drinking, clubbing, eating, and a beautiful water view. Our hosts at the hostel were the nicest people I have ever stayed with. I highly recommend you stay at Villa Vasilis if you choose to stay at a hostel in Mykonos. Maria and her husband will pick you up from the airport and drive you back as well. They were very accommodating and two of the sweetest people I have met. My friend’s also recommend Mama’s Pension for another awesome hostel.

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Just a 30 mins walk or 3 mins quad bike down to the water front


991114_10152890776600032_845428882_oTRANSPORTATION


My friend and I decided to rent a quad bike (Four-wheeler) for 15 euros a day by a bike shop down by the beach which was the cheapest and easiest way to get around the island. If you plan to explore the big island of Mykonos, which I highly suggest you do, then rent a quad bike from one of the many rental places.

To travel to the other greek Islands (Santorini, Crete, etc.), then travel by boat cruise as this seems to be the cheapest way around the many islands. They can take up to 1-3 hours depending on what island you want to go to. And as always, it’s always cheaper to get a return ticket as oppose to one-way, unless you plan to island hop!

 

                                                         BEACHES

mykonosWe spent most of our time on the beaches relaxing, drinking, and basking in the sunshine overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The two main beaches closest to our accommodation were Paradise Beach (Kalamopodi) and Super Paradise Beach (Plintri). Both beaches attract young crowds due to its 24 hour music and its day and night parties. Beware that there are parts of the beach that are nudiest friendly, so don’t be afraid if you start seeing young or old people laying on the beach without clothes on. Brace yourself if you are new to the whole european experience and maybe try something you’ve never been able to experience in your home country. It can be liberating. We also rode our quad bike to Elia, which tamer with a more mature crowd and quieter.

The sand was a little bit more rougher, and felt like unnatural sand. However, it was still a great place to rest and relax. Afterwards, we checked out the beaches on the other side of the island. We were recommended to check out Panormos and I’m glad we stopped, because it was my favourite beach of them all. Loud music and partying is fun, but relaxing by a more secluded lake surrounded by tall landscapes made it the most relaxing beach we went too. Panormos was definitely more family-friendly as no one there was nude (at least I don’t think).

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10174234_10154010102825032_1075981192_o2013-06-08 15.36.29 EATING

Honestly, because we both wanted to save money on food, my friend and I either bought food from the grocery stores, or ate the most delicious gyros I have ever eat for like 3 euros (lunch & dinner – they were that good).

On the other hand, there’s also amazing Greek Salads or fresh seafood from a variety of restaurants by the waterfront.

However, just keep in mind in your budget as most of a traveller’s money goes towards expensive tastes and alcohol.

 

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One of my personal highlights of Mykonos was their shopping district that was open from early afternoon until 2am when drunk people leave the clubs. That’s right. You heard me. Louis Vuitton is open extremely late, among other ritzy stores, in Mykonos; way past what us North Americans would consider normal store hours. Basically, many stores would still be open until the early morning when you wanted to leave a club, because many drunk people would want to buy things intoxicated, and probably have regrets the next morning with that hangover and visa bill for those Louis Vuitton shoes that don’t actually fit you. So be careful if you do plan to drink. Don’t shop when you are intoxicated.

 

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The Most Beautiful Sunsets

If you are a fan of sunsets, then Mykonos will become your favourite place in the entire world. The sunsets around the Greek Islands are by far the most beautiful sunsets I have, or ever will see. The Greek Islands are still my #1 Top Choice for Best Sunsets unless I get proven otherwise. Therefore, if you get those feels when you are watching a sunset over the Mediterranean Sea while you are sitting on a patio drinking your favourite cold beverage, then visit Mykonos.

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Honestly, If I was going to recommend anyone who is looking for a completely relaxing, yet exciting vacation in Europe on a budget, then I would without a doubt choose the Greek Islands; making your first stop in Mykonos.

~Ryan

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Categories: Blog, Easyjet, Greece, Greek Islands, Holidays, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Edinburgh, Scotland – Things to See and Do in 24 Hours/1 Day

Edinburgh Castle Being a frequent visitor (and admirer) of Edinburgh, I thought that I would be a lovely opportunity to take my mother and grandfather there. Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule to stick to and could only spend a full day in the beautiful old part of Edinburgh. Most travellers I come across either train to Edinburgh for the day, or only get a full 24 hours to spend in the majestic and historic city of Edinburgh. For those who haven’t been and plan to visit Scotland, I highly recommend that you visit Edinburgh as it is one of the most magical and medieval-like cities I’ve ever been too.

HOW LONG SHOULD I VISIT EDINBURGH?

If I’m going to be completely honest, you can see most of the sights and experience a glimpse of the scottish culture in less then two days. I took my family there for the 36 hours before our train to York and we saw most of the touristy sights, as well as some non-touristy things recommended by locals. There are some cities in the world that you couldn’t do in a day: London, Paris, Toronto, etc. However, Edinburgh is among those cities that you could experience in a day or two. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend staying longer, because Edinburgh makes my top 5 most favourite cities in the UK. It has a small town feel (which can be more welcoming and less stressful to get around), and makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the medieval era. It’s a majestical and magical little city; not to mention, the capital of Scotland.

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I HAVE A DAY IN EDINBURGH, WHAT SHOULD I SEE?

As my family only had a day in Edinburgh, I constructed  a solid itinerary of things to do and see in Edinburgh for those travellers who are limited of time.

  1. Start with a lovely FREE Tour of Edinburgh! Depending at what time you wake up or arrive in Edinburgh, but a great way to get a feel of Edinburgh and a guided walk of the city is to join the 11am or 2pm FREE tours of Edinburgh. Most cities have these “free” tours, which are one of the best things for those travelling on a budget. These tours are tipped-based, so if you do get a great tour guide, do tip them, because this is how they make a living. These tours can offer a great historical learning experience as most tour guides will delve into the Scottish history while showing you the importance of buildings, monuments and other sights. (To join one of these tours, meet outside the Starbucks on the royal mile before the set time; ask the locals to point you in the right direction if you get lost. It’s in a prime location and is easy to find once you find the royal mile leading up to the Edinburgh Castle.)If you aren’t into history, or don’t find the tour as interesting, don’t be afraid to leave the 2-3 hour tour early. Just inform your tour guide.
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  2. Take a Walk Up The Royal High Mile and Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral Walking up the Royal High Mile is the most historic and scenic route to take in Edinburgh, as it is literally a straight stretch of cobble-stone road that ends at the Edinburgh Castle. The St. Giles’ Cathedral is located on the Royal Mile. The cathedral was on the free tour of Edinburgh, however, if you don’t plan to go on the free tour, do visit this cathedral. If you are into seeing cathedrals, do visit The High Kirk of Edinburgh (formerly named). This cathedral has a very interesting scottish history, and is one of the best cathedrals to see in Edinburgh.
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  3. Calton Hill If you would like to begin your day with a walk, hike, or some sort of exercise, then head on over to Calton Hill. If you don’t have the time or courage to climb Arthur’s Seat, then do make the effort to hike up Calton Hill. It’s only 10% of the effort to climb (as opposed to climbing Arthur’s Seat), and you get the best view of Edinburgh. There are lots of beautiful arches, towers, buildings and monuments on top of Calton Hill, as well as the most breath-taking view of both the old town, and new town of Edinburgh. *Calton Hill is by far my most favourite place to go to in Edinburgh.*976582_10152851288435032_2065276491_o322722_10152152315010032_1938980750_o
  4. The Elephant House Fancy a place to have lunch or dinner in between sightseeing? Check out The Elephant House on George IV street. This intimate restaurant claims to be “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”, and has lots of articles, quotes and photos of J.K. Rowling on the walls. If you use the toilet here, you will notice that the walls are filled with Harry Potter quotes, sayings and fan messages to JK Rowling; it’s interesting to see all the fans that have visited this restaurant from all around the world. The food isn’t focused on Harry Potter-esque meals, but serves delicious wraps, soups and various meals. It’s always a great place to take a break for lunch, and you may even sit in the same seat that JK Rowling, herself, began writing the idea of Harry Potter.413278_10152152308585032_2017410743_o
  5. The Greyfriars Bobby The Greyfriars Bobby is a very tourist-ie sight and is placed in front of Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar. Basically, the historical story goes as follows: Back in the day, the original owner passed away and his dog wouldn’t leave his side or grave for the longest time: 14 years to be exact. Truly this dog exemplifies the stereotype of man’s best friend. Consequently, they kept the restaurant open in memory of him and have a statue of the dog situated in front of Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar ! If you touch the statue of the dog, it’s suppose to bring you good luck, so make sure you visit this sight in Candlemaker Row, off of George IV Bridge.209951_10152152307530032_1417612011_o
  6. The Edinburgh Castle Be aware that you could spend hours at the Edinburgh castle and all that there is to see, read and experience. However, if you just want to see and experience the castle and skim through the reading, then 2-3 hours should be sufficient. The Edinburgh Castle is one of my favourite castles, and highly recommend that every visitor of Edinburgh should visit. Unfortunately, it is fairly expensive to go inside and see the exhibits (including the Scottish Royal Jewels and most interesting Scottish history), so if you are on a budget, just make sure you snap a picture in front of the beautiful castle and experience the view on both sides of the castle. Absolutely breathtaking.176219_10152152312265032_2134796337_o

By The End of the Night, Go To a Scottish Pub Fancy ending your night in Edinburgh by experiencing a Scottish Pub for food or drinks? In terms of food, I have two recommendations: one is an authentic scottish experience, and the other a delicious alternative.

  1. Grassmarket– This area was recommended to me by one of my best friends who lives in Edinburgh. From a wide selection of scottish cuisine (yes, this includes haggis), to traditional pub food, this area has a variety of scottish restaurants that carry a variety of dishes and authentic experiences for everyone and won’t disappoint.
  2. Kismot – This Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant is probably one of the best restaurants I have ever been to in the United Kingdom (and possibly Europe). With the best, polite and humorous service, Kismot carries some of the most delicious dishes my family or I have ever had. The restaurant is owned and ran by a dedicated and polite family who are known for maintaining the #1 most voted restaurant in Edinburgh, according to TripAdvisor. They don’t believe in serving alcohol in the restaurant, but instead, have a BYOB policy, which is one of the most brilliant ideas for those trying to save money. By a bottle of wine, or bring in your own pints, and enjoy some of the best Bangladeshi/Indian dishes you will ever have with the best, and most friendly service. A MUST for those who want to try something different or craving this type of food. Delicious.469178_10152851294745032_1677450337_o

For those wanting to go for a pint or experience some scottish whisky at a local pub. I have two recommendations based on your type of ‘scene’.

  1. For a younger audience, I love going to the Brass Monkey with my friends. With chill music, reasonably priced drinks, and a chilled atmosphere, this pub is by far my favourite place to go for drinks with my mates. It’s not touristy at all, and overall a great place to chill for those into a hip and chilled scene.
  2. For a mature audience, I would suggest a traditional scottish pub in the Grassmarket, such as The Black Bull or The White Hart Inn! There are many choices to choose from in this area, so venture out and try out a few pubs!

It may only seem like a few things to do and see in Edinburgh, but you will be surprised how fast the time goes when you venture to these sights and restaurants as well as indulge in your first scottish experience in Edinburgh.

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If you have any comments or suggestions about going to Edinburgh (How to get there, where to stay, what else to do, etc.), please leave them in the comment section below!

If you have been to Edinburgh, please let me know what your personal favourite things to do, see and eat! If you plan to visit Edinburgh, what are you most excited to see and do?

Check out the video of my first time in Edinburgh here

Categories: Blog, Edinburgh, Fall, Holidays, Night Life, Scotland, Seasons, Spring, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom, Youtube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Top 10 Inspirational Travel Photographs

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Inch Beach, Ireland

Inch Beach, Ireland

Parliament Buildings & Big Ben, London, England

Parliament Buildings & Big Ben, London, England

Paris, France

Paris, France

York, England

York, England

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

Outside Notre Dame, Paris, France

Outside Notre Dame, Paris, France

Beside Westminister Abbey, London, England

Beside Westminister Abbey, London, England

Carrick-A-Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland

Carrick-A-Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland

Comment below letting me know what your favourite photograph was! 🙂

Categories: Autumn, Blog, England, Fall, France, Ireland, London, Northern Ireland, Paris, Seasons, Travel Sights, United Kingdom, Winter, York | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Visiting Camden Market in London, England

906870_10152742301495032_1409696893_oIn my most recent trip to London, I went to the Camden Markets three times.
It’s one of my most favourite places to go, and not just to shop, but to walk around.

I would have to say that it is one of London’s hidden gems for tourists. Even the majority of my British friends had never visited, which I was totally shocked by. The Camden market in Camden Town is definitely a highlight for anyone visiting London, England.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

SHOPPING. EATING. ANTIQUES. PEOPLE WATCH. INDULGE. WALK AROUND. (In a nut shell)

You could literally spend a whole day at the markets in Camden Town; from vintage clothing, to unique antiques, beautiful jewellery, delicious food, and everything in between at reasonable (often cheap) prices. Need a new dress for summer? Camden has it. Need neon clothes to go raving? Camden has it. Want to indulge in delicious homemade sweets? Camden has it. Don’t know what to buy? I’m sure you’ll find something at the Camden market.

You really has to see for yourself how amazing Camden Town is. Take a friend or your family, and you’re bound to have an amazing day walking around. It really is a great day out in London, for tourists & locals.

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HOW DO I GET THERE?

Camden is in Zone 2 and I would suggest that you not drive here, but either take the Tube or Bus, due to the congestion and limited parking spots. You can get to the Camden Market by getting off at the Camden Town Tube Station on the Northern Line (Black).

In terms of using bus transportation,  you can get to Camden Town by taking the following buses at:

Kings Cross Station: 214
Liverpool Street: 214
Euston Station: 168, 253
Victoria Station: 24
Leicester Square: 24, 29
Trafalgar Square: 24, 29
Oxford Street: 274
Marble Arch: 274
London Planetarium: 27
Tate Gallery: 88
Clapham Common: 88
Elephant & Castle: 168
Notting Hill Gate & Portobello Road: 27, 31

It gets extremely busy at the Camden markets, more so on sunny days or weekends, so be aware that it is a crowded area. BUT DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU FROM GOING! My mother, who is very claustrophobic, managed to have an amazing time at the markets. She even said it was her “favourite thing to do in London”. Apparently visiting me wasn’t her favourite thing  coming to London… Thanks mom.

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904791_10152740142435032_1449118090_oWHERE TO EAT?

If you are on a budget (like me), I always suggest taking a walk down the Camden Lock Village Market, where you can find an assortment of ethnic and savoury dishes for £4. From Thai, to Japanese, to Mexican, to Indian, this area near the water has a variety of choices to have a nice lunch at a reasonable price.903182_10152740142405032_1689839211_o

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921490_10152742300985032_1459761354_oIf you are with your family, or want to go to a restaurant near by, I would highly recommend checking out Fogg’s for some delicious British cuisine and amazing burgers + chips (fries) under £10. I took my mother and grandfather here and they really enjoyed the food and service. It’s located on the main street of the camden market and shops.

Check out the menu for the restaurant here: http://www.foggsrestaurant.co.uk/
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P.s. Stop by Mimi’s Cupcakes in the Camden Market for one of the best cupcakes you’ll ever have! For £1 you can get a mini cupcake of any flavour! They have some of the most delicious flavours like Oreo, Bubblegum, Chocolate Fudge and Wild Berries (my fav). And no, I wasn’t paid to promote this shop; they just have the best darn cupcakes I have ever had and feel the need to share it with those who visit the Camden Markets!

Have you been to the Camden Market? Do you plan on visiting?
What’s your favourite place to shop or eat in Camden Town?
Comment down below because I’ve very interested in knowing your time in Camden!

Categories: Blog, England, London, Seasons, Spring, Survival Guide, Things To Do in London, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Visiting the Canadian Battlefields of Vimy Ridge in France

Monument de VimyLocated just over 10km from Arras in France, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial (monument et parc commémoratifs du canada à vimy) is a MUST SEE for someone of any nationality to visit to get an insight on a significant part of Canadian history.

The 250 acres of land where the Canadian National Vimy Memorial resides constitutes as a memorial site in France dedicated to the memory of Canadian soldiers and other military forces killed during the First World War. The land was not only given to Canada by France, but it was earned after an excruciating and disadvantaged battle against the Germans. Thus, it is interesting to point out that once you enter the grounds of the Vimy Monument and Park in France, you are actually on Canadian soil. In my case, it was a[boot] time I set foot on Canadian grounds again. Even though I was still in beautiful France.

Canadian Trees
914181_10152742665445032_22136078_oThe Battlefields of Vimy Ridge are extremely well-perserved with modifications made for safety reasons, and unforgettably beautiful. Thousands and thousands of beautiful Canadian trees (all 11,285 of them) surround the area that was once blown out of proportion [one may say], with all the dugged up trenches and giant craters caused by explosives. Once an unbearable and toxic area, the battlefields are now filled with copious amounts of awe-inspiring trees, bright green grass, and well-preserved trenches. Not only does the area create a Canadian environment, but the staff who provide information, tours, and assistance are all Canadians as well. This is a special element to the trip, as it really makes you feel at home, or at least gives you a feel of Canada if you’ve never been.
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From going on a historical and informative guided tour of the trenches and grounds, to visiting the extravagant
Vimy Memorial that stands erected at Hill 145 (the highest point of Vimy Ridge), this is one historical sight that can’t be missed when touring around France. 
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is one of Canada’s most important overseas war memorials.
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One can learn so much about Canadian history, and even Canadian identity, just from a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial near Arras, France. Therefore, I encourage any traveller who is visiting France, who has a Canadian relative  or who is a history fanatic, to visit the Canadian battlegrounds of Vimy Ridge.
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It’s worth the visit, especially since it’s extremely beautiful, informative, awe-inspiring, fun, free, and did I mention FREE? All paid by the Canadian government, the grounds and staff costs are all funded by the Canadian government and even provides free access to toilets (unlike anywhere else in France).
If you’ve never heard of the Battle of Vimy Ridge / need a refresher, here is a summary from an online:
“The First World War is known for its destruction, massive slaughters, and countless offensive failures. Few battles were clear successes; most became large scale chaos and butchery. The first real Allied  success was the battle of Vimy Ridge, fought by Canadian troops with British support. Between the years of 1914 & 1915, the French lost 150,000 men trying to take the ridge. In 1916 the British took over the fight and continued the ineffective tactics of repeated shelling, mining, raiding, and skirmishing by night. In 1917,  the Canadian Corp, under the First British Army, began to formulate plans for taking the ridge from Germany. The element of surprise was effectively used in conjunction with careful planning by the Canadians. Four divisions of the Canadian Corps began their assault on Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917. Usually artillery would pound enemy lines for days or even weeks before troops would be sent “over the top” or out of the trenches to attack the enemy soldiers. Canadian gunners used wind information, provided by weather planes and balloons, when targeting (a very rare practice at the time). They wanted to be sure not to accidentally drop shells on their own people so they carefully calibrated the guns to shoot just ahead of where the advancing troops were to be. This exceptional cover fire allowed the Canadian troops to reach the German trenches, though many casualties were sustained. By using innovative strategies, Canadians took the ridge on April 14. The 6 mile area, containing numerous trenches and tunnels,  was very important for tactical reasons; one could see far into the German area from the top of the ridge. Of the 100,000 Canadians who took part in the battle, 3,598 were killed and 7,004 wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a success while  showing that careful and intelligent military planning could be used to win battles with minimum casualties.”
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As the anniversary of this historical battle was in the month of April, I was extremely lucky to visit the battlefields of Vimy Ridge at this time with my family while visiting Paris.

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HOW TO GET THERE?

We took the train (TGV) from Gare de Nord in Paris in the morning and arrived in Arras in less then an hour. The total cost roundtrip can cost less then 40 euros if booked ahead of time. Once we got to Arras, it is suggested that you take a taxi to the Vimy Memorial site as there are no bus services and walking there could take hours. The number I used to call a taxi was (06 69 34 74 75) and costed roughly 25 euros each way, but we split this cost 3 ways, since there was 3 of us. In some cases, it may just be easier to drive to the Arras from Paris and follow the road signs to the Vimy Memorial. If you haven’t seen a red Canadian maple leaf symbol, then you’ve gone to far. The area closes at 5pm, so make sure you give yourself a few hours to take a guided tour of the grounds and a visit to the beautifully designed Vimy Memorial that took 11 years to build.

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Again, the Vimy Ridge Memorial grounds and Monument in France is a must see historical war sight that can’t be missed when visiting and traveling around France!
 
Have you visited Vimy or do you plan to visit?
What did you think of the historical WWI sight?
Leave a comment down below!
Categories: Arras, Autumn, Blog, Canada, Fall, France, Holidays, Seasons, Spring, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, Vimy Ridge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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