Playing Tourist in our Backyard

What a beautiful weekend playing tourist in our own backyard.
I use that term loosely, as we were still in the Alsace region this weekend, but an hour and a bit from our apartment in Strasbourg. I don’t remember the name of the village where this St. Barnabe Spa Hotel was, but it reminded me a lot of being up-North in Canada.

Our morning there was rainy and foggy (did you see the view from our hotel room? Spectacular!), but the sun came out in the afternoon and we had a chance to swim in the pool and enjoy the sauna. It was a weekend of relaxation, which Jordan totally deserved.

Further up from the hotel was another little village (as seen above) where we stopped for lunch. I must say, the vegetarian plate that I had (with the pastry) was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had in France. It was phenomenal beyond belief! The texture, the flavours, the fresh vegetables, the creamy mushroom sauce… it was a dream. I wish I had another plate of it!

In the evening, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was extravagant and magnificent. It was so good that me and Jordan stared at each other wide-eyed in disbelief for most of the meal. What a beautiful experience.

We ended our weekend by stopping at Riquewihr before going back home. Riquewihr (pronounced Rick-Veer) is about 40 minutes from Strasbourg and has easily taken top spot as my favourite little Alsacian village.

I was gasping around every corner and taking a million photographs, sighing at every building and clutching my chest in adoration, and giggling at the little shops, most especially the Christmas shop that was multiple floors and felt like you were in a Noel DisneyLand. I cannot wait to go back here.

As for the week ahead, it’s a holiday on August 15th so I’m excited to have Jordan home with me during the week (*does a happy dance*), and we are headed to Geneva, Switzerland on Friday afternoon. I’ve also reignited an old “company” (side gig) of mine and I’ve already had a handful of clients… I’ve forgotten how much I like creative, spiritually-fulfilling work that is personal and exciting.

Hope all is swell on the other side of the planet.
I continue to live the most beautiful life.


Everything is Picturesque

Sometimes I take photos of alleyways that make me gasp, not knowing if I’ve photographed them already. Other times, I find new streets that I am sure I’ve never been down, and a smile spreads across my face as I trot down it, with joy.

And this familiar city can surprise me with events that I never anticipated. This Saturday was the largest market of the year, with the entire city barricaded off to just pedestrians and cyclists. I was expecting more antiques (and regretted not getting the Orthodox Icon) and I had no idea how busy it would be. It was positively overwhelming! You cannot tell from the photos, but you could barely move in the street.

Not only did market vendors set up a booth in every open nook and cranny, stores also had their own racks of Solde merchandise, ready for the picking. I didn’t leave with anything other than some really inexpensive emmental bretzels from Paul (a rarity if you know the franchise Paul).

I lose track of where I’ve been in this city and sometimes come along to parts of it by accident and feel like Indian Jones. That happened today when I just let walking take over, and I ended up on the opposite side of the island in the city centre. The population changes, the storefronts change, and the restaurants have a different vibe (they looked a little more Parisian, despite next to no tourists being present).

I even walked into this woo-woo store (as Jordan calls it) that sold Tibetan and Japanese goods like clothing, housewares, and spiritual items. One of the people working in the shop stopped me on the way out to ask me why my accent sounded so weird, “Is it Italian? It doesn’t sound like an Italian accent but has hints of it.” I explained with a laugh and he proceeded to ask if he could give me a “sound bath” (which is ringing meditation bells around a person) and gave me some free incense.

This is not the first shop owner that has begun treating me like a local. The man who runs the rug shop next to the apartment always waves “Hello,” when he sees me, and even passed along an Iranian salad recipe to me, to make for me and, “[my] love”. A few market stalls are frequented every Tuesday (and every Saturday if I can pull myself out of bed) and the cheese stall owner, the olive dude, and the bread master always say, “Hello” with a bigger smile to their regulars, like myself. They always follow it up with a, “ca va?”

It seems like a small thing or a little kind gesture but it all adds into Strasbourg feeling like home.

I am still as in love with the city as my first day here. And – if you check out the pictures – I did end up grabbing that Hemingway book (in French – It’s actually Hills Like Wild Elephants), as it was only 1EURO50.

That’s another thing that separates Strasbourg from Paris: the prices in stores, in the markets, in the restaurants, in the grocery shops, are all significantly lower than the prices in Paris. It’s almost shocking.

And if you’re wondering (because you know I’m a fan), I didn’t grab the copy of Le Petit Prince; it was too similar to other editions I have, including a French edition I brought with me. I really like my collection to be unique.

The windows are open letting in the breeze from the rain that’s falling.
The heatwave has passed.
I am happy.
Life is swell.

What was life like before all this? Before Jordan?? I do not recall. I truly have no recollection.

Follow your dreams, people, because it makes every day like a fantasy.


Finding my Footing

The ins and outs of day-to-day life have now found their groove and I’ve immersed myself into the, “I’m living here,” mentality that is necessary when you call a place “home”. My weekdays have routines that include several dog walks, hours dedicated to work, the daily grocery run (I’ve become appreciative of buying what you need and keeping space for what you’ll really use or eat), and the dinner prep while watching Netflix show reruns. While routine sounds mundane, I’m actually loving every single day as if it were my first here.

Part of that love comes from feeling grateful. My life at this moment is better than I could have ever imagined and I am happier than I’ve ever been. Not only do I have a partner who loves, honors, respects, and supports me with a relationship that is beyond easy, is filled with healthy communication and compromise, and who I don’t remember arguing with on more than one occasion, I am living in a beautiful, safe, inspiring city on a continent I dreamed of, and I have time in my day to dedicate to me, my passions, and taking care of my little family. Who could ask for more?

In the process of establishing myself over here, I have been posting less on WordPress. I mentioned to a friend that I don’t think people want to hear about any ol’ day in the life of Claudia and he mentioned that I need to write it in a way that makes people want to read it. But at the same time, I’ve been distancing myself from sharing my life on social media because I’ve noticed that happy people make other people resentful. It’s one of the reasons why I no longer use Facebook or Instagram; it is a strange thing to watch someone’s life from the sidelines and hate them for their happiness.

My life is genuinely filled with happiness, no conflict, beautiful days (other than this killer summer cold I’m fighting), colour, light, passion and pleasure. I am truly living a life that some people can only imagine, and smiling until my cheeks hurt. Every day my beautiful boyfriend asks me, “Are you happy?” and every day I answer, “of course!” How could I be anything but happy?

In other news, I’m really enjoying how I am expanding my cooking repertoire. The fresh ingredients from markets or even the grocery store make for food that leaves you sighing as it touches your tongue, flavours that burst with every bite, and a smiling partner who sits across from me, declaring, “This is amazing,” at every opportunity.

Some absolutely beautiful rose mushrooms from the market made the most outstanding, creamy mushroom soup I’ve ever eaten. Fresh avocados and tomatoes were the key in a tapas style Friday dinner (that was apparently so good, it needed to be used for Saturday breakfast, as well). And then the local restaurants have yet to let me down where meal after meal is just phenomenal and a pleasure to devour, particularly the truffle mushroom pasta from the Italian restaurant that is always overflowing with customers, locals and tourists.

We are coming up on a month of me having lived here (where does time go?) and despite getting into that every day groove, it’s still unbelievable to me that I should be living here, building a life here, and having the opportunity to be with my little family in the gorgeous city of Strasbourg, France.

Apologies, this is where I end the blog. My brain is foggy, my nose is stuffed, and I have some mushrooms to chop up for a truffle mushroom dish made with fresh pasta I bought off the cheese vendor – it was market day outside the apartment; my favourite day.

Never mind – every day is my favourite day. Life is swell.


Nightfall & Rainfall

I was told that I would get sick of the church bells but I still look forward to each quarter when they ring.
I was told that once the city becomes familiar it will stop being exciting, but I still smile each step out of my apartment door.
And I came with the intention to walk everywhere, but the discovery of the simplicity of the tram system has me changing my mind.

Ah, yes. That’s a Galleries Lafayette you see in those top photos. Strasbourg has one of it’s own. But that’s really where the similarities of Paris and Strasbourg end.
It’s a much quieter city. It feels safe at all hours of the day. There always seems to be a market happening on some street you walk by. The people are far more patient, polite, and enthusiastic about your presence (whether in a shop, restaurant, or just walking down the street – you get a nod). The tram (as opposed to the metro) is spotless, plays music at each stop, and just seems more organized and accessible (good luck getting on a metro in Paris if you’re handicapped).

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not bad-mouthing Paris. I love my city. Yes, my city. It will always be my city. But I’ve said it before – it’s disorganized and can feel unsafe and is tainted in many ways. It’s no less fabulous or fantastic, it’s just different. And as I’ve also mentioned in ye old blog of past, when you live in a city, it’s a totally different experience than visiting as a tourist. I am feeling what that truly means by having lived in both Paris and, now, Strasbourg France.

Here, in Strasbourg, I’m living in France, experiencing clear French lifestyle and culture, but it is all drowning in that provence mentality (much like a Southern Italian mentality that I am very familiar with). It’s a mentality of knowing what it means to live your life, to cultivate happiness, and not letting small problems turn into big worries. It’s about cherishing those apero moments with your loved ones and friends and using the weekends as they’re meant to be used: slow strolls, lazy lounging on terraces, and lots of delicious wine and cheese.

Paris understands all that as well, it’s just moving at a bit of a faster pace and already thinking about Monday on a Friday evening, if you know what I mean!

These are the first pictures I’ve taken of Strasbourg at night. The photos don’t even capture the beauty of it in person. I’m using my phone camera, keep that in mind, and it can only grasp so much. These were taken city-centre on a Saturday night, and you can see how quiet it is. But! Still very much alive! Restaurants and bars are packed – we almost had difficulty getting a seat for dinner.

The past few days have been raining, which is my favourite way to explore a city. Streets are emptier, the air feels renewed, and there is something so calm and beautiful in the sound of rain hitting pavement. This morning was a thunderstorm which is simply the best. It was so cloudy that we had a chance to open up our eastern facing balcony windows, which usually have a hard hitting sun that heats up our place and can’t be opened before 14h. Thunderstorms, a fresh breeze, a delicious cup of coffee, and a good book – who could ask for more?

I hope the universe is treating you as beautifully as it is treating me. Happy Friday! I’m looking forward to an uninterrupted weekend with the love of my life.


Glimpses into Life Overseas

Just another beautiful few days with my beautiful man, my beautiful dog, in my beautiful city.

I actually walked to city centre and back without a GPS so I’m already getting my bearings! I went shopping downtown yesterday, and today was the market on our street. I headed out early enough and lucked out with fresh, homemade pasta (agnolotti) made by the usual cheese vendor I visit.

I have begun to recognize market vendors and have made it a habit to visit the same ones today, so they start to recognize me, too (though, tattoos always help with this). I went to the same cheese vendor, same fruit stall, same artisnal bread vendor, and same old Greek olive vendor (he always sneaks me in some extra olives). Tonight’s dinner will be an array of cheese and the fresh pasta with leftover sauce that I made on the weekend. But first: apero with fresh olives!

There is a kind old lady who lives on the 4th floor of our apartment who I see every other morning when I bring Rukia out to pee. She is so, so kind! She always greets Rukia with, “SALUT MA BELLE!” and cuddles her, pets her, gives her kisses, telling me how much she misses having a dog since hers died. I have grown rather attached to this woman… I look forward to running into her.

But the best part of living in this city is waking up to my best friend, every morning.

Life is perfect and I am so blessed.