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

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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

Day 24 – The Challenge of Distance

Hey there,

I’m not going to go about my experience in Paris and pretend like everything is perfect. I don’t want to mislead you. Too often we are selective on Social Media with sharing just what’s good in our lives and hesitate to share the bad or play the ‘vague’ card and hope for sympathy. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m just looking to be real with you. Because life isn’t always about sunshine and rainbows.

If you know me well enough, you know that I have no desire to have children of my own (don’t give me the, “It’s the best experience,” “You’ll change your mind,” “Your biological clock will tick,” – I’m thirty years old, and at thirty years in this body, I know it far better than your assumptions about it ever will). But I do have animals. My pets are my life. They are my children (keep your, “It’s not the same!” comments out of here, too, please). When I was suffering from depression and working on my PTSD, I often said to therapists that they were my reason for living; not knowing what would happen to them if I died is what kept me alive. People say that about their children. That is how deep my love for my trio, my squad, goes.

Last night I received a FaceTime call I’ve been fearing: something is wrong with one of my pets. And it was the one I least expected. Luna.

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an old photo taken by an old partner of me passed out on the couch with Luna

Luna is my eldest. I adopted her at 4 years old an she is now eleven. She was found on the streets of Hamilton and never claimed. Her age is approximate based on her teeth, but with the way her fur has now whitened, you’ve got to wonder if a few years were missing. Luna was the only dog that I found that filled the hole in my heart when my dog Elmo died.

Luna was my first pet. The first pet that belonged to me. That came with me when I moved out. That would crawl all over me and lick my face when I was crying. That would curl into a ball between my legs and sleep there, until crawling up to me in the middle of the night and staring at me until I let her under the covers. That would let me squeeze her without squirming out of my grip. That would leap into my arms when I tapped on my chest and then climb on me like a mountain goat. She is my wild child. She was kind of like me in dog form: stubborn, loving, wildly independent, a bit of an introvert, and an absolute punk. And I often joked that she would live forever, and probably outlive me, eating my body if I died…

But last night I got the call that she wasn’t moving. She was lethargic. She was practically paralyzed. When she tried walking in this state, she would walk on an angle. Watching it on my phone was heart-breaking. I told my parents this wasn’t normal and they called the vet.

At the vet, they said she was back to normal. I was so happy! I had spent the last thirty minutes bawling my eyes out, and she’s back to her old self! And then another half-hour later, there she was, back into that weird state of paralysis. The vets did test. All vital signs, fine. All blood work, negative. As expected, my young-at-heart terrO(ie)r was healthy. But what could that mean? It means it’s neurological.

The vet said there was no reason going to see a neurologist. Luna is old. If it’s something in her brain like a tumor, she is too old to change that, to remove it, to have an operation. Another thing about Luna is that she does not recover well from anesthesia, so an operation wouldn’t even be an option for her. The vet said if Luna is eating, drinking, and going to the washroom, she is okay. When that stops, quality of life needs to be considered.

So, here I am, halfway across the world, knowing my eldest is sick to a point where it’s just a matter of waiting to see when she stops eating, drinking, going to the washroom, and then having to make a decision about putting her down. It’s a waiting game now. It’s a waiting game to see how long these lethargic states last, if they prevent her from being the dog she once was. Basically, she is dying (though aren’t we all..), and I just have to wait. Wait half-way across the world. On my own. Where I can’t even hold her.

This sucks. I have no other words to describe it without cussing extensively. It’s awful. It’s horrible. And it’s my dog. I am halfway across the world and my baby is unwell and I can’t do anything. I feel helpless. I feel completely helpless and I feel some guilt and I feel a bit of anger at the universe. And I’m already hypersensitive as we round up on the anniversary of my Grandmother’s death (knowing me well enough, you understand how important she was to me) and the thought that my dog might meet the same fate on that date… I don’t know what I would do.

Being so far away when someone/something you love is hurting does not feel good. And being in a country where you could really use a hug but you don’t know anyone who can give that to you also doesn’t feel good. I kind of got lucky with the timing as my cousin – who is also the great-nephew of my grandmother – happens to be here in Paris. So I will sucker a helluva hug out of him when I see him next. But otherwise, the isolation when you are suffering sucks. It’s the reason why, when I heard my neighbour crying through the walls of our apartment, my heart broke. So I knocked on her door and told her that, I know I’m a stranger and that we are meeting for the first time, but I heard her and need her to know that she’s not alone. And if she ever needs anything, I’m here. And then I gave her some under-eye masks to help with the swelling. She only arrived back at her apartment this morning, or I know if she had heard me, she would have reciprocated.

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Yet another oldie taken of me on the couch with my baby

I told my mom that I told my angels/guides that they could keep Paris, as long as I could keep Luna. That’s now much this hurt me. I would give up Paris to keep my dog. And I guess, in a way, I am going to have to give up Paris. I can’t fly Luna over in this state. And I can’t leave Luna behind knowing that I could lose her at any moment. So, come December, it’s no longer a thought in my head about finding a bigger place and bringing my pets over here to live with me.

And, you know what, there is a lesson that comes from each moment of sadness. I’ve learned that my love for this place, though it runs deep in my veins and fuels me, inspires me, motivates me, I can make that kind of home anywhere I am. If I just look at life a little differently, I could find that happiness outside of Paris. Because, truly, my home is when I’ve got my animals with me. And their presence is more valuable to me than the blue roofs of Paris. Love and family, in general, is more valuable than the blue roofs of Paris.

When you read that, coming from me, let it sink in. Knowing how much this city means to me, truly let it set and come to understand it. I had Paris before Luna, and I will have Paris after Luna, but there is only one Luna and when moments are finite, you need to cherish them, not take them for granted, appreciate every single second.

This will not taint my experience. If anything, it will teach me even more about not taking these moments, these seconds, these cobblestones for granted. It’s a little more finite than I had hoped, but I’m going to experience it with even more vigor and grandeur than I already was. It’s not to say that I won’t ever have the opportunity to do this again. I now know what I’m capable of so truly, I am unstoppable. But with Luna sick, it would be unfair of me to bring her with me here and put her through that stress. And I would never dream of leaving her behind. So that’s where my decision lies.

I’m going to take all I can from being here. I don’t regret this. I am still happy, but now there is just a touch of pain that I carry with me, too. But if I’m being honest with you, that pain just makes me feel more alive. Being happy all the time would be a crazy expectation of myself. And I am honestly beyond happy. This life is a dream. But my concern now is also real, and I’m just going to have to find a space for that in my life. Because that’s what life is about: making space for “negative” emotions but not allowing them to consume you and take over everything and all you do. It’s about understanding those emotions, living with them, acknowledging them, feeling them as a human being should, but still choosing to live each day passionately, recognizing the blessings in your life.

And all I can do is hope Luna waits for me before she runs off into the great dog park in the sky. My animals have a bad habit of leaving me when I am away – Elmo while I was working at an overnight camp, my bird Boe while I was on a cruise. She’s a big brat and a fighter so it’s hard to predict what avenue she’ll take when it comes to leaving her mum. I’m just blessed that I was able to be her forever home, her forever mum. My little sewer rat, garbage breath, stinkbean baby…

xo
C

Post Scriptum:
Luna slept in her bed last night and woke up this morning, jumped out of bed, and went to eat. She is my little fighter. And my heart is a little calmer. I saw her on FaceTime again this morning. She’s back to her old self. Extra-affectionate, actually. So I feel a lot better, knowing she’s doing okay. It’s just a matter of keeping track of her episodes and making sure they don’t end up consuming her. She was like a zombie. It was terrifying to see. All I can hope is that maybe we can get lucky and she will never have another moment like the ones she went through yesterday. Please know that I am doing a lot better. Thanks for reading.

 

Post-Post Scriptum:
Friends: thank you for your comments of support both publicly and privately. Please note that this blog was written in a moment of intense vulnerability, fear, loneliness, and sadness early in the morning. I write in order that I may understand my emotions, process them, and let go of them. I am doing so, so, so much better today. And Luna is, too. But thank your love. I feel a lot less alone with all this digital affection.

Day 22 & 23 – Night Walks

Hey there,

Something I haven’t done often since being here is night walks around the city. It’s truly the city of lights, but, being a single woman, I also want to feel most safe so I usually head back to the apartment as soon as the night sky floats overhead.

Because of European Heritage Weekend, night events were happening around the city. And because of a visit from my Canadian cousin who’s here for work, I had another opportunity to go to the Eiffel Tower and see her glow (something I wouldn’t have done on my own because I don’t like the “vibe” in the tourist areas surrounding the Eiffel Tower, especially at night).

It’s not that I’m afraid of this city at night. I have never felt unsafe in Paris other than in the 18th and 10th (the 10th only in the evening), which are areas I just avoid. And the reason for feeling unsafe in those areas is just because when I’m alone, the migrant men in those areas get very aggressive. It’s unnecessary attention – and possible confrontation – that I wish to avoid. If I were with someone else while there, they wouldn’t be a bother. It takes just a pair to deter behaviour. But I still avoid walking around at night simply because I’m extra cautious. Trauma will do that to a person. But, again, there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve felt unsafe. And I’ve walked around my own neighbourhood and into the 4th at night and felt perfectly at home and comfortable.

I did only a little bit of writing the last two days, and it’s private. That’s something I wish to change in this upcoming week.

Life continues to be an endless supply of motivation, inspiration, and happiness. I feel like I’m walking on clouds…

xo
C

Day 20 & 21 – La Vita e Bella

Hey there,

I got a substitute position with the International School of Paris.
I’m doing a “trial run” of a philosophy lesson for another International school on Monday.
I was contacted by my favourite expat magazine to provide them with article ideas.
A friend contacted Fodors Travel & Tourism and told them to check out my blog.
I’m getting paid to write blog articles about stuff I love (fashion).
I’ve booked my next adventure to Annecy, France for next weekend. It’s called the Venice of France. It has water and mountains so you can imagine how thrilled I am.
I feel great: happy, healthy, beautiful, full of life.
And I still have time for me, for this city, for my relationship with this city.
What is this life I am living? Is this real?

Something wakes within me as the sun rises, hitting the beautiful blue rooftops that I see from the window of my apartment. Something I can feel deep within my core. Something that escapes through my fingertips and flows down to my legs and calls me to move forward and onwards and towards what most invigorates me, what most sets my soul on fire.

Sitting at the Seine’s edge, I was moved to tears. I am so happy. I don’t remember the last time I was so overwhelmed with complete grace and appreciation for life. Each day I feel it more and more. Each day I admire this life that I am living by stepping outside of myself, observing, feeling gracious, and then heading back in deep so I don’t miss a second.

I am so unequivocally grateful for the life I’m living right this moment. Everything I’ve ever done, every lesson I’ve learned from mistakes I’ve made, every struggle, every success, has lead to me being here, right here. Who I am in this moment is all that matters. Who I’ve been is just a memory. Right now, as I write this, my heart swells with gratitude and life is beautiful and I am swimming in happiness. 

I forgive anyone who has ever wronged me. How happy I am right now is the greatest revenge I could ever give them. And it comes from a place of compassion. So the whole universe wins.

If I take back anything with me from Paris, let it be this: may I carry with me the spirit of this city that endlessly inspires and moves me, so that lust for life exists no matter where I call “home”. 

I am so completely and utterly in love with this city and how it’s made me feel. Paris, you are truly mine, but my darling, I am yours, all yours. I will always be yours. May my steps along your streets move you in such a way as you have done for me. These days will never be forgotten. You will be the song I sing till the day I die. I am endlessly grateful that I got to love you like this, in this new way. You’ve written your name on my soul and I belong to you.

And it’s true what they say: Paris comes alive in the Fall. The way the sun hits it, illuminates it, the less busy streets, the colour changing leaves, the cool breeze… it’s a different experience of Autumn, and it’s a season that suits my Paris.

xo
C