Summer Splendors

My apologies that I have been so silent as of late. August flew by in a rush of chaos and commitments and I’ve been too busy to sit down and write in this blog.

I recently got hired at the English school around the corner from the apartment. The location is exceptionally convenient and the staff are splendid. I will be teaching English to a variety of students working at various levels of abilities, but will also be tasked with writing and organizing the structured programming of their Cambridge English curriculum for a new program they’re just introducing this year called, ‘Chatterbox’. I’ll be paid for my time in the classroom as well as my time dedicated to working from home on the program development.

Chatterbox is a four hour block of class that has a theme every two weeks. While I have some material to work with, I’m going to have to extend it with my own ideas. They also have tasked me with continuing this planning even after we move to Amsterdam, paying me for the work I am doing. Once completed, this programming will be used by other teachers every year. It’s quite an honour to be trusted with this, considering they’ve known me for a total of 5 hours, face-to-face.

On top of that, I’m still keeping up with my English lessons online with Chinese students. The work I will be doing with the English school falls outside those hours, so it adapts nicely with the schedule and still leaves me with time to run errands, plan a meal and take care of the dog.

And then, to top it off, my personal side gig has the occasional client request. I had a rush at the beginning, when I first started it back up again, but now it’s quieted down. Because of having found work with the English school, I decided not to spend anymore money on advertising the side project, and just rely on word-of-mouth and recommendations. If I get a client, it’s extra money in the pocket and an opportunity to work on my writing, which I love. If I don’t, I don’t need to stress about it anymore.

Soon, my graduate program begins again and I’m taking two courses this upcoming semester. My intent is to be completed by September of next year and that should be easily achieved if I keep at a two-course pace. Of course this will make life even busier and my schedule even more packed, but I’ll manage; I always do. The courses I am taking this semester are:
Introduction to Research in Library and Information Studies & Records Management. Maybe this experience will help make me an ideal candidate to work in the administration of a museum when I get to Amsterdam… we shall see.

AND THEN! I’m not sure if you noticed the updated page on my website, but I fueled my love of Paris into creating a *really* beautiful itinerary for anyone visiting. For just a few dollars, you get an instant download of this beautiful PDF, as well as a link to all my favourite restaurants in the city that can be synced to your Google Maps on your phone. All photos in the itinerary are my own, and all suggestions are not too “touristy” and truly coming from knowing the city like the back of my hand, and wishing I had these details on my very first trip to Paris.

Jordan and I continue to discover beautiful corners of this magical city, including a new favourite restaurant that sells pizza by the slice and the most outstanding antipasto plate you’ll ever put in your mouth! Don’t be fooled, Italians reading this – the pizza isn’t soft despite how it looks. It’s crunchy and phenomenal.

Two weekends ago, Jordan and I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Geneva, Switzerland. It was about a four hour drive from Strasbourg. I had been to Geneva nine years ago but it’s completely unrecognizable from when I was last there. It’s transformed into a city that is truly alive at all times of the day, and the work they’ve done around the lake is phenomenal.

It continues to be one of the most exhaustively expensive cities in all of Europe, but it was truly a beautiful weekend.

And it was that weekend that put Jordan’s brain into “puppy mode”. Our friends got a new puppy and we had discussed for a while about getting a second dog. Initially, Jordan really wanted a dachshund, which I adore as well. But after meeting a puppy Australian Cattle Dog on the boardwalk in Geneva, Jordan’s mind did a switch (and Jordan’s Google Searches were full of ‘Bouvier Australien’ images…).

Rukia is an Australian Cattle Dog, but likely mixed with Husky or Shepherd. She is exceptionally larger than a standard Heeler, but her temperament, especially when she was younger, is much the same. They are loyal dogs who adapt to training and commands quickly, are not high maintenance, are not overly excitable, who just love their family to no end.

As if it was destiny, despite Bouvier Australiens being very difficult to find in France, Jordan happened to find a farm that was just 50 minutes away. We contacted the owner and asked if we could come see his dogs with our Rukia, and he was very welcoming towards the idea. I told Jordan that if I didn’t feel a connection, it wasn’t meant to be, but let’s give it a shot…

Instant connection with a little puppy with a spot on his eye and on his back (like Rukia!)…

So, meet Poe. He’s white right now but he will become blue like the puppies you see above. He was the only dog in the litter of 7 that had a spot on his back and I was drawn to him immediately. He was also the only puppy who, when lifted up from the pen, didn’t make a single sound (the others cried for their mom). I fell in love with this little bandit. Little bandit of my heart…

Normally, people don’t choose the dogs they put a down-payment on until they’ve grown up a bit, but the owner said he could see the attachment I had to my spotted baby, and he would save him for me.

We decided on the name Poe because, firstly, it’s “year P” for dogs born in France; it’s a law that they are registered with a name that corresponds to the letter (like a hurricane). Secondly, Jordan came up with the name idea and the reference to Edgar Allan Poe who, if you know me at all, you know I am a very big fan of his writing, but also Jordan and I both have a connection to and love of Ravens, so we thought it would be very fitting for our first animal together. On top of that, I told Jordan that Poe Dameron is a great Star Wars character so there is a secondary nerdy connection to the name, as well… hehehe…

He will be ready to leave “the nest” by the first week of October which is coincidentally one of the weekends that my parents will be here. Our plan is to hopefully pick him up with my parents on their last Sunday. I can’t wait to visit him bi-weekly and watch how he grows. We are both so excited and cannot stop joyfully planning for his arrival. It’s like we are having a little baby! Our family is growing…

Life continues to be beautiful and the opportunities I’m being gifted from the universe are endless, and I am so grateful. Every day with Jordan is a blessing, and I am just so happy all the time. It’s amazing what following your heart and risking it all for love can do for you…


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.