Day 101 – Departure

Hey there,

I leave in three days.

This is such a bizarre sentence to write because it honestly feels – with no exaggeration – that just yesterday I was writing about my third day here. Where did 104 days go? It seems as though I blinked and they vanished. It’s truly hard to believe all that I did in the time I was here and it’s truly hard to comprehend how I will have to let go of Paris.

I am only human – I said I was ready and I said I was prepared for moving onwards to my next adventure (and I truly am! I am always eager to see where life takes me) but it’s only now as I wind down the days that I look around me completely taken aback by the fact that I will not be walking these streets anymore and I will not be riding this metro anymore and I will not be strolling over cobblestones, hand in hand with my partner anymore. There is magic in this city. There is inspiration everywhere you look. There is a great big sigh that seems to resonate through every street. And I fear going back home and not feeling that same sense of wonderment and happiness that I felt while I was here.

But I need to be reasonable: if I want to stay in this city, I need to find work that doesn’t just pay my food bills but allows me to live. And, yes, success in this city is difficult. But that depends on how you measure success, of course. Blah, I’m rambling. I’m just lamenting the loss that I will be faced with in three days. THREE DAYS. Where did time go? Did I say that already? Three days! I am so conflicted with what I am feeling in my heart. I am ready to move on. I am not ready to move on. I am excited to see my family and my animals. I am sad to leave my lover. I have loved Paris. But have I truly loved her the way I had hoped? Bring on the next adventure! But am I ready for it? And what will it entail? Where will I call home?

And the problem is that I’ve fallen in love (not really a problem, but you understand the conflict it presents). If you know me, you know I don’t revolve my life around other people. I’m pretty selfish like that. I don’t let relationships stop me from moving forward with where I need to be or what dreams I will follow. But, alas, this one is different. He is not stopping me but he is presenting me with a new perspective: what it means to make decisions in your life with another person in mind. Compromise; is that the word?

This is my honest to goodness soulmate. The only time I have been so sure about something was in my persistence that I needed to move to Paris and live here in order to be happy (I was right). I am just as sure about this as I am sure that Paris was meant to be a part of my life (and perhaps her role in my life is not fully actualized, I’m not sure – it doesn’t really feel as though it is).

It is weird to me to think about the fact that I will no longer be telling people, “I live in Paris,” but, “I lived in Paris.” It seems like such a minor adjustment on a sentence but you don’t understand the way it makes my heart ache. Just writing those sentences made me distort my face in discomfort. It’s not a pleasurable feeling by any means. But, listen: I found myself in France, without question. I discovered so much about myself in such a short amount of time. I actualized my dream of living in Paris, realized my purpose in life (to write) and I lived a life of true independence and adventure and I found my freaking soulmate. Who can say they’ve accomplished all that in their lifetime, let alone in 104 days? My thirtieth rotation around the sun was the most magical I’ve ever experienced.

I already miss Parisian breakfasts. I already miss French butter (seriously, there’s nothing like it). I already miss the blue rooftops. I already miss strolls by the Seine. I already miss the smelly (but convenient!) Parisian metro. I already miss the magical late night walks in this historic city. I already miss the drinks and dinners on the warm terraces, people watching and staring off at historic buildings. I already miss the silly French behaviours. I already miss the smell of Paris in the morning and the smell of Paris after a rain. I already miss my cube of an apartment. I already miss my partner’s more spacious, homey apartment with the view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I already miss my fingers linked with his as we laugh down different Parisian streets. I already miss walking into old used bookshops and being greeted by old Parisians who take their bookselling jobs very seriously. I already miss the grocer greeting me when I got my nightly baguette. I already miss the smell of baguettes in the morning. I already miss the cheap cheese. I already miss the lights of the Latin Quarter and the smells of Mediterranian food that coasted down every street. I already miss the bells of Notre Dame. I already miss it all. I don’t know how I’m going to do it when all I miss about Canada are: my family (and closest friends), my animals, cheap prices, good pay.

I don’t know if Canada will be where I set my roots down, but I know it will always be home. And while it’s nice to go back home to somewhere familiar, where everyone speaks my maternal language, where I was raised and feel exceptionally comfortable, where I know exactly where to go to get what I need, and where family and friends are waiting for me, it’s still, as of right now, not where I picture myself in two years, five years, ten years… Where those roots may be set, I don’t know. But now I am no longer finding that out on my own, but with a partner. And that’s exciting to me.

Anyway, I figured I’d write a little something before my trip is up, and I imagine I’ll be in the mood to write when I return to Canada and I feel the absence of my partner or I am craving cobblestone streets and blue rooftops, but in the meantime, let me just take a moment to say that these were the best 104 days I could have asked for. And more adventure is around the corner. And I’m thrilled.

xo
C

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Day 87 – L’amour

Hey there,

My time in Paris has been immensely transforming, and just when I thought I was done having my soul completely reinvigorated by all this city and living here has to offer me, the universe chooses to bless me with more, flood me with love, and show me, now, what true happiness is.
It is not destinations checked off your list, it is not visiting every building in a city and filling your phone with photographs, it’s not jumping off the top of the Alps and floating back down to the ground, but it is a human connection that transcends explanation and ultimately leaves you breathing a great sigh of relief as every atom in my body says, “Yeah, this is it.”
 
I had said that: “When I am old they will say, “I hear she lived in Paris and it changed her forever.” but I did not anticipate it to this degree. I did not imagine it might be /like this/.
 
I have 17 days left here and as time winds down, I wonder if I’ve truly let go of the city as I said I had in blog posts, prior. But, let it be known, that no second will be taken for granted, as I savour what truly matters to me in this city.
 
I thought I loved her {Paris} but oh, I did not anticipate what love she intended to show me. She is still my favourite city in all the world, but now, for reasons beyond just her beauty. 
She brought me to my muse.
xo
C

Day 70 – All Things In-between

Hey there,

I apologize. There are vast gaps between each of my posts. When it feels like a job rather than pleasure, I am deterred from sitting and doing it. And, truthfully, going through my numerous Japan photos is what deterred me completely. So I haven’t. Sorry, not sorry. More mindless banter, instead.

I don’t think there are enough words to describe how Tokyo wowed me. I don’t think I could find le parole to speak to how uniquely robotic it is while simultaneously being so full of life, passion, positive energy, and genuine, compassionate people. Unfortunately, there was too much to see in Tokyo alone so I long for my next trip where I intend to explore Osaka and Kyoto. I’m not done with Japan. I’m nowhere near done with Japan. I loved Japan, I love the Japanese people. I cannot think of something about it that I didn’t like. And I like what it did to me, how it changed me:

I’m ready to go home.
Home to Canada, I mean.

Paris served its purpose. Paris met the needs I was seeking to have fulfilled. Paris was everything I could have dreamed of and so much more. But like two lovers who have exhausted one another through intense moments of longing, desire, and, consequently, complete passion, I’m ready to let go of this one. I’m ready to discover the next and to see what that lover will help me discover in myself. I always said that Paris felt like my long-distant partner and every time I left her streets felt like being ripped from their arms, but now I got to truly taste her, revel in her, explore her, discover her, and find myself in her veins, and now there’s nothing to miss anymore. There’s nothing to long. I am completely satisfied. In such a short time, I was shown the world through Paris. I was shown who I truly am through Paris. I no longer need to desire her because she is a part of me. We are one. We will always be one.

But I drifted through Paris and very quickly, I am drifting out of her. Like a kite caught in a gust of wind. She reeled me in, and now she is setting me free. Onwards. Onwards to new adventures. Onwards to new homes. Onwards to digging my roots into more solid ground and building myself somewhere more stable. Paris is wild, a tornado’s wind, but I am searching for the calm winds that feel like breath on the skin.

And how did Tokyo help in all this? Well, it showed me how blinded I was by my passion for this city. And I cannot funnel all my desire into this one place when so much of the world awaits me. Paris was the start. Paris was the gas fueling this drive to live my best life. Paris was exactly what I needed, everything I could have ever wanted. But, what’s next? I’m ready, ready, ready. Because I got to fully experience Paris as I hoped to experience her, I am no longer wearing blinders on my eyes and won’t miss any opportunity that another place in the world may provide to me to discover, adventure, and truly live.

I am glad I still have 34 days to call this place my home and henceforth it will always be my home, but I’m grateful for Canada and ready to face her again. I don’t long for Canada, I don’t have any homesickness, I don’t feel sad, uncomfortable, lonely here. I’m totally happy. But I’m ready for Canada. It’s kind of like when you leave a partner because you just aren’t right for one another at that moment in time, so you come back together when you’ve bettered yourself. Canada, I’m better. Treat me a little kinder, yes?

This move was the best thing I could have ever done for myself, truly. It showed me how capable, strong, brave, and relentless I truly am. I won’t settle for anything but living my best life. I won’t settle for putting dreams on pause. I won’t settle for not pursuing what will truly bring me happiness in life. I did this to prove to myself that I could. I did this to prove to myself that I really am not scared of anything and nothing in the world can stop me.

Paris brought me back to life. My comet tail. I am ready to set the world on fire. Thank you, Paris.

xo
C

Post Scriptum: let it be known that Paris is still my favourite city in all the world. There is something about it that I cannot and have not found anywhere else. There is so much about it that leaves me shaking my head, especially when you experience this city as a resident and not a tourist, but in terms of how inspiring it is, how beautiful it is, and the endless mystery (and history) it holds, nothing levels up to it. But I’m still ready to move onwards.

Day 60 – JAPAN : days one & two

Hey there,
(Firstly: I can’t believe I’ve lived away from Ontario for 60 days, now.)

What can I say about this amazing city called Tokyo in Japan?
That it feels like I’m living in an anime, like I’m walking through a video game?
That the blend of old (so, so old) and new is a powerful reminder that growth and success doesn’t mean having to completely cut out the past?
That the people are so beyond polite, kind, helpful, respectful, and neat that even Canada could learn a thing or two (or seven, or twelve)?
That it’s the safest I’ve ever felt in another city, as a tourist or resident (even more so than Oakville, Ontario)?
That it’s so organized that it’s practically robotic, and adhering to this structure becomes almost innate as soon as you start walking the streets?
That it’s the cleanest city I have ever seen, despite not having any garbages (anywhere – unless I can’t see them) and I haven’t seen a single homeless person (and have read that the government is assisting extensively to lift people out of homelessness — in 2016, out of a population of 12 million, there were just over 750 homeless people counted)?

 

Tokyo is truly the wildest place I have ever been. I expected culture shock and I expected being overwhelmed by the language barrier but it’s nothing like that. This place is amazing and it’s hard to not fall right into place with the residents here because it’s not only expected that tourists be respectful of Japanese customs, but it’s also structured in such a way that it’s hard to do the opposite.


Here are some interesting things I’ve noted over the last few days:
– Money isn’t placed in the hands of a seller – that’s bad luck – but in a tray (credit cards too)
– Metro lines have letter names (along with Japanese names) and each station has a number, making it impossible to get lost or go the wrong way when using the metro
– Metro cars are so spotless that I would eat off the floor and not be concerned — but eating, drinking, or talking on your cellphone while on the metro is frowned upon
– Metro stations play a musical number moments before the train doors close
– Everywhere you walk – outside or inside – there are dividers and arrows on the floor that indicate which side you should walk on for what direction you are going
– People don’t rush here; I have seen maybe two people running, and as for the metro during rush hour, people stand in a line and wait their turn to get in the car and don’t crowd to push themselves on
– Metros are so safe and trusted that I witnessed 6/7 year olds riding by themselves, and people put their purses or bags on racks above the seats if they don’t feel like holding them or are standing and want the relief
– Most signage is in Japanese and English so it’s not hard to read (and worse comes to worse, use the Google Translate app to translate anything you may not understand)
– Despite having about 12 million residents, I haven’t seen too many people other than the downtown Shibuya neighbourhood, and the traffic is pretty standard (I would say it’s better than Toronto) — speaking of traffic, I’ve heard one car honk, total
– As a vegetarian, eating here was a big concern for me. I have found that owners are very receptive to my needs and I have also found many restaurants that state they’re vegetarian as well as numerous “North American” food options if I need something that’s tried, tested and true (and pizza – an abundance of pizza places!)

 

Day One
Sunshine City – This is a really lovely indoor mall with a just-as-lovely eatery area. After a 12 hour flight and maximum 3 hours of sleep on the plane, I decided to start my adventure with the Pokemon Center which was 10 year old Claudia’s burst-into-tears-heaven.

Akihabara – My evening was spent in this “geek district” of Japan. It was filled with video games, nerdy stores, lots of bright lights and big screens, and about a thousand claw games with prizes varying by the price of the game! The best part, in my opinion, were the used video game stores (urge to buy them all, fading… fading… RISING!… fading…).

Cat Cafe – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! So cute! It’s all you can drink for 350YEN but you also get charged by the minutes (200YEN for 10 minutes). If you need a place to work all day, get a day pass for 2,400YEN and you’ll have endless drinks while you waste time on Facebook as well as be surrounded by like 15 adorable kitties.

Ate
Delicious n00ds with insane tempura veggies on top for 900YEN
Delicious veggie patty thing over rice with soy sauce, and udon n00ds that tasted not so vegetarian so I stopped after a bite (lol) for 510YEN
A waffle shaped like Magikarp stuffed with insanely good custard for 350YEN

 

Day Two
Imperial Palace – admission is free to enter the grounds of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo, which is surrounded by a moat! It was neat to see skyscrapers behind landscapes of ancient grounds. The place is huge and it’s easy to get lost. My favourite part was the garden of fruit trees!

 

Rikugien Gardens – a hidden (and silent) gem between really unappealing apartment buildings, this garden was 300YEN to enter and worth every penny. Insanely stunning. Like something of a dream. Best part: visiting the tea house and drinking a matcha while contemplating how gorgeous my life is, as I look across the still pond…

 

Senso-Ji – the capital’s oldest temple that is actually older than Tokyo, itself! This is easily my most favourite spot in Tokyo, thus far. It was stunning. Even the walk leading up to the temple is so picturesque and beautiful, and all the shops are selling authentic goods and food. It was just a lovely atmosphere and insanely gorgeous, to-boot. It’s free to enter, but most shops and temple visits close at 5pm. Best part: Put 100YEN in a slot and shake a silver container until a stick falls out – I got a stick with the Japanese symbol for #2 (happens to be my lucky number!). Find the corresponding drawer that matches your number and open it to pull out a fortune. Bad fortunes are apparently common, but I got one that said, “Better fortune”! And be careful if you get one with dai-kyo which is “Great Curse”… but, don’t worry; if you hate your fortune you can tie it to a string outside of the temple and the gods will whisk it away for you… and then you can always insert another 100YEN and get a new one!

 

Owl Cafe – Sad, avoid at all costs, expensive too (1000YEN). They say the owls and animals are rescued from pet shops and owners who can no longer take care of them, and that they live long and happy lives, but an owl that can’t fly because it’s tied to a post doesn’t sound like a happy life, to me. Also, it smelled bad.

 

Shibuya – this is the Japan everyone sees in the movies. It’s like a massively-upgraded Times Square but with ten times the people. Shibuya crossing is insane, the music blasting through the streets is wild, the illuminations coming from every store is so video-game-like, and the livelihood of this neighbourhood is definitely unique. Best Part: Honestly, it was just a visually appealing space. Everywhere you looked had new lights to make your eyes go wide. But I am not a fan of crowds so I walked through and walked out rather quickly.

 

Ate
Coffee and a Jam Sandwich from Caffe Veloce for breakfast (310YEN – cheap breakfast)
What could have been the greatest Japanese curry dish I’ve ever had from CoCo Curry Palace (which is apparently a chain, as I saw a few more through the day)… sticky rice, vegetables in a curry gravy, sweet pickled onions, for 710YEN
Ramen noodles in a soy base which was FREE from the hotel I’m staying at
Pokemon cookie snack things (110YEN from the Pokemon store – delicious and worth every pen-yen)

Alright, listen… you’ve been suckered here and you’re not getting any photos. I’m only a little sorry. You read all this for nothing. I’m cruel, mean, the worst, etc!

I’ve got photos by the boatload but my desire to upload them is at a level zero right now. And I’m planning a trip to DisneyLand Tokyo Sea tomorrow (it’s going to be rainy in the morning which means fewer crowds and a happier Claudia) so I need some rest. For now, you’ve got a lot of words to read, but next time, I promise, there will be a post of all the god-knows-how-many photos! And they are SO worth it, I swear! In the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram (@darthclaudia) and see a few collections of photos, there.

Thanks, as always, for following along with this crazy dream of a life I’m living. I won’t fool you next time, I pLomise…

xo
C

Day 39 – I Can Let Go

Hey there,

Luna isn’t improving. In the past week, she’s had numerous episodes with whatever odd condition may be plaguing her. I’m convinced it’s depression at my absence, and that thought really does break my heart. But it’s okay; my flight back is December 7th. She will have her mum again, and we will see how frequently the episodes occur from then on.

I’m going to have to let go of Paris.

And, you know what, I’m really okay with that.

Who in this life can say they had the opportunity to live in the city of their dreams? I did what I had dreamt of doing for eight years. I did what used to make me cry at night, thinking it may never happen. I did what I read numerous memoirs about, wishing myself into the shoes of the authors. I did that. I made that happen. I’m immersed in it. I am continuously awed and joyous and feeling ultimately blessed each time I step out the front door of my apartment building. I wrote this on my Facebook page:
I walked out my apartment door just to get groceries around the corner and it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done this walk before, it still makes my heart race. I cannot believe I’m living here. I am so in love with you, Paris. I am endlessly grateful that I get to experience this (no matter how long or short it may be). I won’t take a second for granted. I will love you as deeply as can for as long as I can. And I’ll carry with me the memories of you for as long as I live. The imprint you’ve made on my soul will be a part of my legacy. You have changed me. I am changed. I adore you.”

I know it sounds so cliche but I truly believe that Paris isn’t just a place but a state of mind. Paris lives on in me and I can bring that to wherever I call home. And with having lived here, I have a few expectations for what I plan to call home, back in Canada:

  • I refuse to live in a carbon-copy suburban neighbourhood
  • I need my morning views to inspire me
  • I want a small space to remind me of the simplicity of Parisian living
  • I want the closest bookstore or my go-to grocery store to be within walking distance of my place
  • In general, I want to walk more places and appreciate the journey, not just the destination
  • I want water, or mountains, or both — I’ll even settle for some escarpment
  • I want to consistently set aside time for weekend adventures or long-distance travels
  • I don’t want to forget that life isn’t about work
  • I want to make more of an effort to sit on a patio and take life slow
  • I want to find ways to speak Italian and French more, on a daily basis

I’ve also gained a greater appreciation for Canada in the process, and I’m only 39 days into this journey (I still have 65 to go). For example:

  • Everything here, whether it’s work or bill-related or filing for something or returning something to a store is a freaking workout. Nothing. Is. Simple. Everything gets a, “Hmm, I’m not sure,” or a, “Uhh… that will take some time.”
  • The pay is not comparable to the cost of living, at all. Unless you’re a lawyer or a doctor or work in the high scale positions of finance, you’re really making squat for your worth. In Canada, though house prices are rather absurd, at least salaries match the living costs and buying food (other than baguettes, wine, and cheese – the gold standard of the food world) doesn’t make you want to rip your hair out. We may have exuberant taxes but they have 20% tax included in all their pricing and the costs are insane.
  • I really love telling people I’m Canadian. Seeing a Canadian flag makes me smile. Pointing out Canada on a map to the kids I work with brings me great pride.
  • Consignment shops in Canada > Consignment shops in France… Before, I resisted buying all the brand name goodies at home. But now that I see what they’re worth and what consignment shops in Canada are pricing them at, you can bet I’m going to go buck wild! Shopping spree!
  • Inconveniences are commonplace in France (particularly Paris) and you won’t get an apology for it. I’m not asking for an apology for every minor inconvenience, but a little acknowledgment like the Canadians do is a very nice thing.
  • Though life is more work-focused in Canada, life is simpler. Ultimately, there are fewer nonsensical stipulations that need to be adhered to and fewer hoops to jump through in comparison to some of the chaos here.

But, don’t let my words mislead you. I love being here. I love living here. I love being able to experience life as a true Parisian. I wish I didn’t have to leave and I wish I could find a work-life balance somewhere in France that would allow me to safely have my animals with me, have a career that doesn’t run me dry but also pays the bills, and still have enough to spare on a bottle of champagne, just for the heck of it (why not?).

I am truly so in love with this city, with all of it’s (many) flaws. But now I know that when I leave, it won’t be like when I came here on vacation and would cry, feeling like I was being torn from the arms of a long-distance lover. I know that when I leave now, it will be with a smile on my face at the memories I’ve made with this city, the influence it has had on the very core of my existence, the lessons of patience and appreciation it has taught me, and the Parisian it has transformed me into.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I don’t own anything or anyone in this experience called life. The only thing that belongs to me is me and what I do with these experiences, how they transform me, shape me, mold me, and make me a better version of myself. Yes, like Hemingway I say that Paris belongs to me, but it’s in the context of it having changed me and my relationship with Paris is personal and mine alone. But I’m okay to let my lover go, because it was my dream to be with her, to live in her apartments, to walk her cobblestones to a place called work, to go to sleep and not worry about time being cut short, eliminating any opportunities to explore her, discover her, just be with her. And I got that. And I am grateful. And how much more could I demand from the universe?

Paris will always feel like home to me, and now that I’ve truly come to understand what that feels like, it will forever be a part of my life.

I still have 65 days to go — the intent of this post is not to sound remorse or lament what will happen, come December. I’m just writing. I am not sad. I am beyond happy. And I’m ready to live the next 65 days of my life as though they were my last. No regrets, no challenges unclimbed, always moving forward with pure joy in my heart.

In other news, I am going to Tokyo, Japan (Oct 21-29) which has been number one on my dream destination list for God-knows how long!

La vita e bella.
Grateful.
Grateful.
Grateful.

xo
C