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

Advertisements

Day 40 – Kissing Hemingway

Hey there,

Last night I dreamt I was walking down the Latin Quarter with none other than Hemingway himself! It was a weirdly constructed universe because I was as I am now – same style, same age, same look. Paris looked as though it was the 20s, and Hemingway was as he was in his older Key West/Cuba days – beard in, weight gaining. The inconsistencies… I mean, you know, ignoring the fact that he’s a dead man.

He grabbed me by my wrist and pulled me into an alleyway, then put his hand in the small of my back, guided me into him, and started kissing me passionately (!!). And in between, he was taking breaks and talking about his successes at hunting, boxing, fishing… and I was looking up at him with adoring eyes, waiting to be kissed again. And then I woke up and thought, “What the hell?” – not because the dream ended, but because why the hell would Dream Claudia look at anyone talking about hunting, boxing, and fishing with adoring eyes?

So I got to thinking about Ernesto, and I got to thinking about all his struggles in his (actual) life. This hyper-masculinity was a result of his mother really wanting him to be a girl (even going so far as to dress him in girl’s clothing). And the fascination towards boxing, hunting, and fishing started after his break-up with Hadley. He claimed his biggest regret in his life was leaving her. Perhaps, as a response to the insecurity of his bad decision, he felt that living up to an immensely “manly ideal” was the only way to mend the hole in his heart? Womanizer, serious alcoholic (a result of depression, no doubt), and a strange fascination with pain and death.

So why do I love an author and a man so much who is literally the exact opposite of everything I like about the male-identifying gender? Because that monster is not who comes out of the tips of his fingers when he wrote.

His novels are truly a baring of his soul. He always said to write what you know, and anything else is a lie that no one will want to read. His novels were his truth, his true self, a way to expose how ultimately sensitive and brilliant and compassionate he truly was. None of the characters who so clearly represented him was anything less than a man on a soul-discovery who falls in love with a woman along the way (and why do the best women in his stories all seem to reflect Hadley?).

When I read Hemingway, I am reading words that are, without question, the most raw and authentic I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. When I read his works, I feel like I’m sitting across from him and talking to him about love and about life. Sometimes I am made to feel as though he wrote his words in a private letter, just for me to read, and with a sigh, all I can do is anticipate what he will write me next. He is just so wise, so gentle, and so the complete opposite of this misogynistic mess he used to show the world.

I don’t want this to be a post about quotes from his novels but if you’ve never read or enjoyed Hemingway before, then it’s necessary to read these. You will see the irony in so many of these quotes of his, that too often he was behaving in the exact opposite manner of the wisdom he preached:

“Maybe…you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”
“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.”
“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

 

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

 

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

“Going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

 

“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

 

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

 

“I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye — that was the trouble — I wanted to kiss you good night — and there’s a lot of difference.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

“Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

 

“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.”
― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

 

“There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

 

This is only a taste. I could not fully capture him in a single blog post. I could post a million more quotes from his literary works and it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy me.

Maybe I love him so much because he speaks of my own truth. Maybe I adore him because he speaks to an understanding in my heart in a way no writer has ever accomplished.

I don’t know, this is too much for the morning. But maybe I am “kissing him” (experiencing him) in a new way since walking in his footsteps and writing from cafes as he once did… I’d love to get back to that dream if he could just keep his damn mouth shut.

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

Day 29 – 31: Annecy, France

Hey there,

Sorry that I skipped so many days. As life starts to take on a routine, I don’t have much to post about other than my musings but they’ve been pretty quiet the last little while.

This weekend I took a trip to Annecy, France. It’s called the ‘Venice of the Alps’ and it came up in a search for, ‘Quick trip to the Alps from Paris’. The name then rang a bell: my medium told me to look at Annecy. It had slipped my mind until that moment.

With a direct train, it took 3 hours and 40 minutes to get there. By direct I mean I didn’t have to get off and switch trains; it still had about four stops along the way. I was excited to check out the place because the photos online looked photoshopped and too real to be true.

Day One (Saturday):

I can confirm: the photos are not photoshopped. Wow. WOW. Insanely stunning, like a picture out of a dream, what can I say other than WOW?!

First and foremost, the train station in Annecy is small but very clear and modern on the outside. My hotel, Hotel Campanile Annecy Gare, was literally right around the corner from the train station.

I’m starting to believe that European standards for hotels are a lot more strict than North American standards. This hotel had a two-star rating but it was insanely clean, breakfast for about 10EUROS a day was a delicious buffet, my room have three beds despite me being alone (thanks for the reminder, Campanile!), the location was convenient, and at a price of 56EUROS a night, this was beyond perfect.

Speaking of location, despite being a city (and it is a central hub and is therefore considered a city in the region), you could get from one end of Annecy to the other in a twelve-minute walk. And that’s not to say there isn’t anything to do along the way. In true city-like fashion, there was a shopping mall, multiple streets of brand-name shopping, restaurants as far as the eye can see, and tourist attractions around every other corner.

And yet it still had a completely small town feel. I felt so safe walking those streets. I didn’t even wear my earphones as I usually do in Paris to avoid random conversation. People apologized when they got in your way. Cars stopped for you when you wanted to cross the street (!!!). Everyone started conversations with you as if they’d known you all your life (I had so many people just start touching my arms and talking to me about my tattoos — my tattoos are always ridiculously popular outside of Paris). And walking alone at night, everyone minded their business, no one stared at you, everyone was doing their own thing and let a woman walk in peace.

Anyway, did I mention how beautiful it is? It’s breathtaking. Every corner will make you gasp. Unfortunately, due to a hot summer and few rains, the water in the rivers was exceptionally low. But the water that was there was turquoise and crystal clear. Spectacular glacier water.

I explored the Chateau d’Annecy which, in all honesty, was a bit of a let-down. They turned this medieval building into a weird modern art museum and it just didn’t fit. But at 5,50EUROS, it was worth entering for the outstandingly gorgeous view of the city behind it.

I went to the Lac de Annecy and… well… what can I say other than you could drown me in those waters and I’d be happy. Beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This crystal clear turquoise tinted lake surrounded by the Alps… you don’t get anything more beautiful than that, in my opinion. There was also the Pont des Amours and I traversed it because I love myself. I also went up to this church higher up in the city which apparently has an amazing look-out point but it was unfortunately closed.

But the real beauty of this city is just wandering through the ancient, colourful, and lively streets. I hope people who live in this city know how lucky they are. I stared up at apartment windows and looked closely at the view they would have every morning and I was in awe. The entire vibe of the city is one of relaxation, friendliness, and appreciation for nature. It permeates through every crack in the street, through every person I met.

Day one was magic.
But what I had booked for day two was even better…

Day Two (Sunday):

First, I woke to a sleepy town. Sundays meant the stores and mall in Annecy were closed. Restaurants were sparingly open or had specific runtimes (like afternoon and late evening). The main streets came alive with the usual European Sunday Market. Some streets were full of vendors with various goods like jewellery, purses, clothing, and the like. Then one street had all food vendors, including a man with a ginormous paella pan cooking what could probably feed the entire town (but not the tourists). Fish, cheese, fruits and veggies, all scents intermingling and creating this aroma of European life.

What started as a cool, quiet, and rather gloomy day ended up becoming sunny and scorching. And if I had known that what I would be doing next would top my list as the most spectacular thing I’ve ever done in all my life, I may have saved it for a few years down the road…

I booked a tour with the company Active’Annecy to paraglide down one of the points of the Alps. I read about this online before coming and I knew I had to do it. I called a company beforehand but they never replied or picked up my phone calls, and on evening one, I just happened to stroll by this company’s door and decide to walk in and request a spot. I’m so, so, so glad I did!

I had to take a city bus to the town a few stops over named Doussard, where I would be picked up by “people in a grey truck with giant black tubes on the top – you won’t miss it”. As soon as they arrived they shuttled us in, in a hurry and immediately made all people “flying” feel super welcome and like they were a part of the “paraglide family”. My flight partner was going to be Stefan, and I already loved the energy he was giving off so I was glad to be flying with him.

Listen to me and listen to me good:
HOLY CRUDCOW.
I … UM … WELL … OH MY GOD.

I have no words other than: amazing, spectacular, mind-blowing, made me emotional (I said this to Stefan during the flight and he told me it was okay to cry), and one-of-a-kind experience. I genuinely loved it so, so much that I contemplated what it would be like to take up paragliding as a hobby. Stefan said it takes a week of training and then you’re flying on your own. I’m going to be Googling this when I have the time.

I posted a video on my Facebook (it’s public so even if you don’t follow me but you know my first and last name, you can see it), which is just a few pieces of the video they provided me that they took with a Go-Pro. He also took a bunch of pictures but here are just a few from the giant collection:

I truly don’t know what in life is going to top this experience. And I truly can’t recommend it enough. I want to emphasize that it doesn’t feel like a rollercoaster: it feels like floating. Even at take-off the feeling is immediately like being lifted off your feet and floating. The only time it gave you those “stomach sensations” you get on rollercoasters was when he was doing tricks.

He let me have the opportunity to fly it. And none of it was scary at all – except the landing made me a bit nervous because it’s so quick! But even that was a breeze.

I am so glad I spent the money to do this. I am so glad I saw the world while floating above it. I am so, so, so happy with that experience.

The experience after wasssssssn’t so great.
I asked the guys to take me back up the mountain after I finished my flight so I could hang out up there. When I was done sitting and contemplating whether I was truly living life or just dreaming it, via the suggestion of Stefan, I asked another paragliding company if I could get a ride back to the landing zone which would then allow me to walk to my bus stop.

Well, if there’s one thing small towns in Europe are known for it’s shutting down their lives on a Sunday. Listen, I admire the “slow down” mentality. I like that everyone gets a break and enjoys life. But when you’re a tourist-ridden town, shutting down all functions is… irritating.

I waited four hours in the heat for a bus (Sunday schedule…). When Google Maps finally showed me that there was a restaurant not too far from me that was open, I arrived to them telling me, “ma non,” the kitchen was now closed. But I could have a drink! Yay… It was an unfortunate way to waste hours of my vacation, but, alas, life is about balance I suppose. A lesson that while it can be insanely magical, it can also be an annoying b*tch.

When I finally got back to Annecy, I found a fantastic Swiss/French restaurant called Sargo (I think that was the name of it) and it happened to be the only damn restaurant in the city that served fondue for one (all the other ones made you pay per person with a minimum of two people). So far that’s been the only downside to traveling on my own; lack of fondue for one.

Fondue is not normally my cup-o-tea, but it’s a local specialty and I was glad to try it, because it certainly wasn’t like North American fondue. I would drink that bowl of cheese, ladies and gentlemen. Some other specialties of the region are (my favourite) raclette, a tart made of thinly sliced potatoes and cheese, and this warm regional cheese that was the best god-damn thing I’ve ever eaten and I wish I remembered the name of it. The point is that this city had a lot of cheese. And I was loving it.

Important: my dinner was also served with the local beer which was phenomenal (made with glacier water and winner of the Beer of the World award) and I finished with a dessert that almost made me cry with every bite: profiteroles stuffed with local ‘glace des’alps’ in vanilla bean, and topped with melted chocolate (“the best chocolate in France”) poured on top as it reaches your table. Take me now, food Gods. Take me to your kingdom.

While I was at the restaurant, I was lucky enough to witness a downpour thunderstorm. My first thunderstorm in France! And between mountains, no less! What a blessing. (I adore historic cities in the rain.)

I loved Annecy. I wish I had at least two more days there to see more neighbouring towns and climb more mountains. And in all honesty, I could picture myself living in Annecy. I liked that it had city access but a small-town feel. I liked the intimacy of the city and the kindness of the people. And, most of all, I loved the mountains and the water.

Paris is the first of it’s kind in that I’m not normally a “city girl”. I find a small cabin in the woods idea very appealing. Paris is the only city that tugged at my heartstrings when I am normally drawn to quieter places with more nature. My father was born in a region that’s literally called ‘the foot of the mountain’ and my adoration of bodies of water has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. When a city/town has mountains and water, to me, that’s perfection. That is as good as it gets. That beats any city, any day. And so it makes sense that I am drawn to a place like this.

And the more I travel on my own the more I realize how happy I am to do it. Spending time with myself, exploring on my own, working on my own timetable, sitting in restaurants and appreciating my own company, it’s all helping me build this relationship with myself that’s incomparable to anything I’ve had with another human being. It’s teaching me that if I’m going to let someone disturb that relationship I’ve built with me, it better be with someone who adds to this experience called life and doesn’t hinder mine.

I am so unbelievably happy. I wish I had the words to express it. This evening I was blasting, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen and running and jumping around the city. That’s the joy I feel deep within my core. I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball. I really can’t believe this life I’m living is true and isn’t just a dream. I don’t know how I’ll ever settle for anything less, anymore.

Well, time for me to round up the night. Thanks as always for reading. If you have a question about a picture, please comment on it — there were too many for me to caption (too many for me to edit too — so they’re all edit-free).

And I’m already thinking of where to go next…

xo
C

Day 25 – Little Lessons on Life

Hey there,

The universe continues to educate me on what it means to not take moments, people, places, and experiences for granted. I am a student of life, and each moment of suffering I will attempt to digest and turn to an educational experience. I am always turning loss into gain (as heard here).

I am also called to reflect on what is important to me, and to create a hierarchy of that importance for myself. If I move up the levels and take hold of what I believe to be most important to me in this life, I will be happiest. Regardless of where I am in the world. And then there is the age-old notion that life is so short. And truth bleeds from this statement. And I will no longer settle for the mediocre, for what’s comfortable, for what works at the moment but will not inspire me in the long run. I have an insatiable desire to satisfy all my greatest passions in life, and I will not stop until I’ve eaten.

I don’t see my animals as holding me back from pursuing what makes me happiest. My animals make me happiest. I am learning to build a world around them in a way where they are most comfortable and I am most inspired. I am learning how to be a better mom to these creatures.

I am so grateful for this life. And the gifts I’ve been given in this life. And all the lessons I’ve learned in this life. My pets are a gift. I must remember that. They’re not my right, they’re a privilege. They are not mine to possess, but mine to love and to enjoy without assuming they’ll be mine forever. Their love, though unconditional and beyond what I feel I deserve, is something I allowed into my life knowing the experience could be a short one, knowing I had only a few years with them. And I need to remember that when they pass, they do not take my heart with them, but they live on in my heart instead. An unchanging imprint on my psyche. Moments that live forever in memories. Experiences with them that I am endlessly grateful for. I don’t possess their love, their existence. I can only appreciate it with every fiber of my being. 

Shouldn’t all love be approached in that manner? Shouldn’t we love people with the belief that, hey, this may not be forever? Would that not teach us more gratitude? More appreciation for the individual? Will our time with them not be spent more precariously? Would each second not feel more precious?
I’m going to approach relationships with that mindset, henceforth.
It will also make it easier to let go of people.
Life hurts a lot less when we recognize how temporal a person’s existence in our lives might be and can deal with that fact in a mature and healthy manner.

My message remains the same: pursue your dreams with unrelenting strength and courage because it is truly the best feeling in the world, and life is too quick of a wink to miss what that feels like. Take it from me. Pursue those who make you feel the happiest, most alive, with daring fortitude. Do not sit back and wait for opportunities to pass to be with the people you love, doing the things you love, in the places you love most. Risk everything for your happiness. Risk it all. Live carelessly for just a moment. Stop sitting in your box and thinking it’s comfortable. Stop doubting where your heart calls you. Stop questioning what makes you feel, deep within the core of your existence, most alive. No more “what ifs”, no more “buts”, no more “I shouldn’t”s, no more “I could get hurt”s – you need to live, and you need to live now.

Passions exist in our lives not just to tempt us, but so that we may pursue them with child-like curiosity. How often have we set aside our passions out of fear? Why? Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we hold ourselves back from what has the potential to make us truly happy? What are we afraid of? What are you afraid of? For what reason do we set these restrictions upon our soul? You are the only one holding yourself back. 

If you had 24 hours to live what would you do? What job would you leave? What adventures would you begin? What words would you confess to someone else? Who would you spend it with?
Do it now.
Say it now.
Be with them now.
It’s time to jump.

Join me.
I’m swimming in bliss.

xo
C