HomeTravel‘Bachelorette’ Alum Hannah Brown on Her “Empowering” Solo Trip to Europe After...

‘Bachelorette’ Alum Hannah Brown on Her “Empowering” Solo Trip to Europe After Winning ‘Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test’

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For so long, my dream has been to go to Europe on my own. Other than being on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette with tons of people watching my every move — I had never traveled outside the United States, or traveled solo. It was really pivotal for me to be able to provide that for myself and do it without a man or girlfriend.

I decided to do Special Forces, which filmed in Jordan, and then continue on to Italy. I think it really helped my mental state and kept me going through the hardest thing I’ve ever done to know I was going to be on this dream trip right after. I was also just really excited to be able to bathe in an acceptable shower instead of just buckets of water.

My friend Stacey Cousineau does luxury travel planning, and I reached out to her for help figuring out the best places to go. I wanted safety, since traveling alone as a woman can seem daunting. I also really wanted the first destination to be relaxing — I wanted to get massages, facials and just lay by a pool and recuperate my exhausted body. We decided I’d do Italy all on my own then I’d meet up with my boyfriend, Adam Woolard, in France, since he was working at Men’s Fashion Week in Paris.

I went to Positano first, and stayed at Villa Franca, literally at the very top. It was gorgeous. I had seen pictures of Positano on Pinterest and Instagram so much, and it’s truly breathtaking. I laid by the pool, I got a great massage and I splurged on a pretty Missoni dress. I ate twice at Chez Black and became good friends with the owner. They were just so sweet to me.

“First morning out of the desert. Nothing like breakfast and a view,” says Brown, who stayed at Villa Franca in Positano, Italy, after completing Special Forces in Jordan.

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Then it was time to go explore. I didn’t want to be booked and busy to the point that I couldn’t just wander, because that’s what I’ve learned is the beauty of travel — to just totally immerse yourself with no plans. I’m pretty comfortable in my silence, and I love to people-watch. I’m the worst eavesdropper there ever was, but unfortunately a lot of times it was in a language I didn’t speak.

I went to Florence next, and it is probably one of my favorite cities I’ve been to. I just loved the energy there. I loved walking around at sunset — it just sparkles. Florence felt very doable on my own to walk around, explore and pop into all the cute little shops. I became buddies with the concierges at Hotel Continental Firenze and they helped me make sure that I was going to good restaurants and good areas. Everywhere I went, I ate cacio e pepe. I was obsessed. Pasta normally hurts my stomach, but there it was totally fine and I ate it for every single meal. One night, though, I got a steak the size of my face. I ate a lot of protein and a lot a lot of carbs — not many vegetables. And I don’t regret anything!

“I ate the cacio e pepe multiple nights in a row at Castel Monastero,” says Brown.

The last place I went solo was Castel Monastero Resort, outside Siena. It’s an old monastery in the most beautiful place. It felt really, really special with so much history. It felt like my own little magical castle. They helped me book a really cool hot air balloon ride over Tuscany. And I also went truffle hunting! We were literally chasing this dog through the woods getting black truffles and afterward ate a pizza with the truffle we got. I didn’t know there was an experience like that, but it’s something I learned about myself, that I really like having those types of interesting new adventures wherever I go.

Hannah Brown - Travel Diary - Picnic in Tuscany

Brown during a picnic in the countryside after a hot air balloon ride in Tuscany.

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I had been sleeping on a dirt pillow in Jordan and my skin was breaking out so badly. I was very self conscious about it. I booked a facial at Castel Monastery’s spa and, I’m telling you, I went in there with acne and I came out without acne. Some kind of Italian witch magic happened in there — my skin has never been more amazing. The facialist doesn’t speak any English, but she knows what she’s doing.

I was excited to see my boyfriend when we met up in Nice, France. We stayed at a very famous hotel called Le Negresco and we loved it. The hotel is basically an art museum — every floor has hundreds of pieces of art, so we would just walk the different floors and look at all the art. They have a beach club on the pebble beach, where the water was so beautiful. We had the best time, the best drinks, plus I got to order chicken fingers and French fries — my favorite food — right to our seats. The service was incredible. We tried to explore a little bit, but we loved the beach club so much we mostly stayed there.

My favorite place that I’ve been, and favorite hotel, was Villa Gallici in Aix-en-Provence. If I could be a Villa Gallici ambassador, I would be. It’s this beautiful house with few rooms where I felt like a character in Beauty and the Beast. The room transported us back in time. There’s an outdoor terrace you eat on, a little living room space where everybody would gather and the food by the pool was so delicious. I’m normally a red wine girl, but I was drinking copious amounts of rosé because it was really freaking hot. I loved walking around Provence — I loved the stores, the smells, all the bread. Everything!

We took a train to Versailles — I love the train — and we checked into Trianon Palace hotel, right beside the Palace of Versailles. When we visited Versailles, it was the hottest day and I regret not seeing Marie Antoinette’s space; we couldn’t make it across the huge grounds in time. But I enjoyed the guided tour, hearing all the history. When we got too hot we stopped at Ladurée in the palace and ate some macarons. Then I was good to go.

Nearby we were recommended this restaurant, La Tour, that became one of my favorites. It doesn’t look like much, but we ate there every day. It had the best steak I’ve ever had and, dare I say, best dessert I’ve ever had in my life, kind of like bread pudding with salted caramel ice cream.

Then it was time for Paris! We stayed at Hotel Costes first for a couple nights; the bar there is a hot spot, it’s just so cool. We were at The Hoxton, Paris, next, and while Adam worked I went exploring on my own. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in person is a very magical experience, especially at night. It might sound touristy, but it’s just honestly so beautiful. I also spent time in Musée Marmottan Monet, which was so pretty. I loved the cabaret shows, it was definitely my highlight. I went to Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse Paris, and the dancers were incredible.

Hannah Brown - Travel Diary - Paris - Louvre

Hannah Brown in Paris at the Louvre.

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I shopped a lot, too! I spent a couple hours at the Dior Museum, La Galerie Dior, learning the history. It was fascinating, and I ended up getting a really special Dior bag, which felt like a nice way to remember the experience. The vintage shopping in Paris is something that cannot be missed. My favorite store was goodJo Paris, and I spent an entire day there. The women were so knowledgeable about fashion and garments. As weird as it sounds, I feel like I was more myself in Europe. I’ve always been kind of conservative in the way I dress, and being in Europe helped me be true to my style. Everyone dresses in a classic, romantic way, and I felt more confident in putting my outfits together.

Traveling solo as a woman was actually really, really empowering. I loved it and will to continue to do it. My biggest takeaway is that the world is so big and there’s so much to learn and so much value in travel. I didn’t know many people where I’m from who traveled outside the U.S. But now I know moving forward that a big part of my life will be travel and having these new experiences that give you more perspective on different people’s ways of life. You realize how small you are and how big the world is, and I think that’s a really humbling and beautiful thing.

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