books | beauty | & parisian dreams
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
“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.”
“Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”
“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.”
“There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.”
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.
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’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:
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.
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:
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…