A retry

Jardin des plantes.

Better late than never.  Continue reading “A retry”

Advertisements

Ptuj.

The hopes will gather

Like kids around

A pot of stew.

Ilija Trojanow, Straddle

I think I found one way to live in an ideal world for a few days.

It was my first time being in the backstage of a festival ever, at the end of August in a charming little Slovenian town. I only had a distant childhood memory of this medieval cuteness called Ptuj and it didn’t fail the reality of its completely not pretentious, but will-win-you-over streets. And when most of them are devoted to poetry and wine, well, what else do you want? Continue reading “Ptuj.”

The whole rainbow of grey

Saint Malo.

If it was my last trip in France this year, it sure was the best possible. (I do still hope for another week or two of what would be the first actual holidays after a while in this country – there are at least some perks to not living there.) Not just that the walks were simply magnificient, it reminded even more than Strasbourg a few weeks before what a difference a couple of days of escape can make, just 48 little hours, the sun and the flowers… all that. Continue reading “The whole rainbow of grey”

Saint Malo.

Is it a consolation to feel there are so many places in this world where you could easily live, even though you know quite well you never will? The consolation in seeing the richness of this world, I guess, feeling like home is a moving concept, even for those of us who aren’t constantly moving. Why so many of those seem to be in France for me?

First, I fell in love with Paris, of course, then came its Mediterranean coast, but in the last three years I’ve discovered a whole new territory on the Atlantic. Normandy is my regular getaway, La Rochelle was a sweet haven, and now there is Bretagne. Maybe, it’s the magic of the tide that has something to do with it : so weird for an Adriatic girl like me to see an island in the morning and walk to it in the afternoon, the subtle danger it implies. Or the wind, stronger here, so much every thought flies right out of your head, and even reading seems impressively challenging. If the delicious galettes de blé noir and cider weren’t enough, perhaps I could be fed by those views, the long promenades and hidden beaches, the nature whose character is somewhat rebellious and wild here, in a heavier sense than in the South (it suits the drama queen part of me).

So, the old town itself was the last thing I did here, although I appreciated its streets immensely, because the surroundings were calling loudly. I’m not sure I broke my record of kilometres walked per day, but I think I came quite close the first day. Aren’t those the best – lovely little towns, beautiful in themselves, where there is an awesome walk waiting for you, no matter the direction you choose, or almost? That’s where I would want to live.

To another life, perhaps.

Blue is the colour.

Saint Malo.

Looking through photos of my recent trip (first and definitely not last!) to Bretagne, I realized those of blue doors were among my favourites. First, I wondered why, then I remembered blue is the colour of the sea and of the sky. And that is exactly the sight I was looking for on my short escapade to another French region I can now be in love with, for love at first sight it was.

Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes,
Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes ;
Midi le juste y compose de feux
La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée !
O récompense après une pensée
Qu’un long regard sur le calme des dieux !

This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by,
Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly.
Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame —
That sea forever starting and re-starting.
When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding
Are the long vistas of celestial calm!

Paul Valery, Le cimetière marin (The Graveyard By The Sea)*

 

*Not this one, but a writer was born and has a grave by the sea here (a spot all for himself on a little island with the best possible view) that made me think of this poem. (Hint hint to the last door.)

An evening walk in Paris is always a good idea.

For Friendly Friday Challenge, hosted by Snow.

”… and Paris is always right where you left it.” (E. Jong, Fear of Flying)

This is something I should remember, but keep forgetting. And when I do it, one late March late afternoon, motivating myself with a lack of English books on my shelf (I mean those I haven’t read yet), making a familiar circle around Saint Michel, Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts that never fails to take me back to home-like feelings I first experienced when this wasn’t even my home yet – gosh it seems weird it’s now been more than ten years ago – so, when I do it, I’m most gently reminded by these magnificent views in the most beautiful light (which is for my amateur phone camera very hard to translate into photos). And I honestly don’t care a single bit they are a Paris cliché and I end up looking like a tourist again, stopping and admiring them.

Thank you, Snow, for another challenge that allows me to share photos I would otherwise keep for myself … oh and my Instagram I guess 😀

 

Strasbourg.

Flâner. Maybe one of the most important words I’ve ever learned in French. It must have made a lightbulb effect in the moment, the discovery of that territory beyond just marcher or se promener. This floating feeling to it that makes it sound so free – and that’s exactly what it is. The space it leaves in your spirit for it to really roam.

It was in Strasbourg I realized how little I actually do it lately, though, always walking around with a purpose, the modern-day woman that I’m supposed to be. Even when I’m strolling I always do it at least with a bookshop as a destination in mind. But that smoothly clear early Spring day when I left Paris for a day, I wasn’t. And it felt so good. Just walking, even if it’s in circles after a while, until your feet get sore, letting things pop up in your mind and let them go with the next step. Finally feeling the anxiety and the sadness for some really particular reason and let it melt in the joy of wandering. I only once looked at a map and almost immediately closed it because it just messed up my intuitive orientation. The one relying on the high cathedral’s towers and — well those circles I kept on making and which soon started resembling spirals and those eternal 8s, turning into a beautiful flower pattern.

I don’t have the slightest idea what one has to see in this charming but not overwhelmingly beautiful town, but I believe the really important stuff is hard to miss. The cathedral, that is. The absolutely stunningly magnificent one that, as my colleague warned me and I now must sadly agree, is a very serious (winning) competition to Notre-Dame.

The rest was up to the sunlit banks, beer and spätzle. Oh and the friendly dog owners and flirtatious waiters.

 

A Dreamy Road Ahead

Ilha Deserta, Faro.

For Friendly Friday Challenge, hosted by Snow Melts Somewhere.

There are two kinds of dreamy in our lives, aren’t there? The one we can see in our everyday, simple, but meaningful scenes, like that pinkish sky sunset paints for us after a long day at work, almost making us feel grateful we had to stay there till so late, because otherwise we wouldn’t see this view. Beauty is always dreamy for me, even when it grounds me in the present.

And then, there is the other one, the one making us dream about the future, about the open road ahead we might walk someday, even if we already rambled on some of them, even if some of them are circles, bringing us back to where we started. There are still countless possibilities of what might happen in-between the taken steps.

And I need one just as much as the other.

 

 

Inspiration

Le Penseur, Musée Rodin, Paris.

For Friendly Friday Challenge. (First!)

The Snow Melts Somewhere evoked in her prompt post lack of inspiration bloggers experience and the least I can say is – I relate. I had been on a blogging hiatus for two months at the end of last year which was weird because I had loads to talk about. But when a general lack of inspiration about life strikes, well what is one to do then?

My best friend said to me once last month I was lucky to be able to read even when I felt as low as I did at that moment. I answered (out loud or not, I can’t remember) I didn’t really have a choice. It’s either that or I’m dead. No, not a suicidal thought. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve learned there is only one thing that can get me out of my numbness. Letting myself re-discover there are (it’s mostly were, but fine) truthful people out there who wrote down or sang what they felt constituted the essence of life, sincerely let out what they were feeling, so that today I can share a sense of humanity with them, drawing inspiration from them, and even a kind of subtle friendship, fellowship maybe. A possibility that I might have something to say to someone, too. Because believe it or not, through all my sentimentality, it’s this truthfulness I aim for.

I’ve been sitting in the company of this funny guy most of my breaks, and only recently learnt it is supposed to be Dante and was initially called The Poet. It’s not just a thinker, which most of my university colleagues would rename philosopher, but an artist! And that’s what I feel mostly, musing there with him, over my instant coffee, an apple and cereal biscuits (a girl’s gotta save money somewhere here!): words that aren’t only thoughts, but feelings, words impregnated with a sense of life and all those moments that make it up and make us up and sometimes make art.

How lucky so many people before me decided to try to express them somehow… Some even in a way that feels so close to mine.

Life is in the streets.

Bonifacio, Corsica.

What I love about summer and miss dearly in winter is the liveliness of the streets, how half of our lives seem to move outside with first warm sun rays. Even in the biggest cities we search for every possible opportunity to drink our coffees outdoors, spend our post-work hours in parks, maybe even walk a part of the way home (yes, our lazy asses sometimes actually think of that semi-replacement for fitness). But as my co-worker joyfully reminded me today, with the new year we can solace ourselves we might have only two harsh months of winter left to survive, if we’re lucky! Fingers crossed for nice early-springish weather in March. Till then, I’ll try to keep up with my autumn resolution of going off the metro two stations before my stop and walk the rest of the way – the lovely playful atmosphere at République, there thanks to the regular skaters and children’s corner or just someone always doing something, reminds me of those summery moments that always (can’t help it and won’t) take me back South somewhere. (I get so dreamy I become a serious threat to the taxi drivers’ nerves, like a child I’m re-learning to check twice before crossing the road.) So, I’m leaving you with two photos of one of my favourite places I discovered last year and let you dream with me a little.

Oh and happy new year – let’s make it a beautiful one! 😉

 

 

Tavira.

On a day trip to this charming town, in-between cups of coffee, glasses of rosé (just because it was too hot for red wine), a delicious cheese and figs tart, ice-cream, browsing through mini cork backpacks, chatting with polyglot waiters and benches with a chilling view, I found some pretty doors, too, the favourite, life-worn ones, before taking the bus back and wondering what it is about those rides I appreciate so much. The pause? The feel of moving? The sense of purpose? Just all the flashes of the world, unraveling like a movie before my eyes, as the best instant music video for the sounds coming from my headphones? I always experience a pinch of regret when I step off it again and onto the stable ground, no matter the destination. At least until the feel of moving gets deep into my feet and the streets open up their theatre for me, I guess. Off we go, again.

Faro.

in three separate days

28.8.18 : The first taste of this town is sweet. Because it’s kind and discreet, warm and agreeable. The South which always pleases. The white houses and strong sun switching with strong wind once in a while, mediterranean food, the oranges and the figs, perky birds, the soothing sea and sunsets at the pier. I can’t get out of the clichés because I appreciate them too much, need them too much right now maybe. They might get me through the blues.

I feel I turn in weird circles in little towns, walking through them quick, checking out all the streets, views, bistros and benches in the shade, round and round, going a bit further every time, but not too far, so I can get back on foot if tired (forgetting this isn’t Paris). Done within an hour, and giving up at some point and just sit down somewhere, ordering coffee or a glass of wine (depends on the time). Maybe, that’s the point. To sit down and watch. Absorb the spirit, and not just rush through it.

30.8.18 : This region suits me so well. All the good wine, all the good food, all the cheap coffee, all the good music (a music festival was waiting for me here), all the beautiful people, nice people. (Half of them are French, too, so I’m not even missing out on speaking in my favourite language.) So many of them, I started missing spending time on my own, the inspiration and the spontaneity of alone-ness, the freedom of getting lost, but never losing time, and taking trips on your own schedule.

5.9.18 : Another randomly awesome day, before I leave. Oh the joy. Chilling on the desert island, reading on the sand, turning pages with the help of the wind, a walk in the middle of nothing, talking with complete strangers (really, how could I guess they were French?). Then, finishing up my stay with a late jam session, so I can get my stolen hat back. This country has a positive effect on me, with its ease and randomness, the good life I somehow have to translate into my every-day. There is nothing dramatic about endings, nothing final, nothing hopeless in uncertainty, I wrote. Just let random things happen outside the bubble, too.

Lagos.

Sometimes, the town you’re in loses all importance and allure the very first night, and that is a good thing. It takes care of the necessary bed in an awesome hostel, watery morning coffee, food in one of those too many restaurants of the crowded touristy streets, late night sangria and a shower, and lets the essence of your stay to its surroundings. Oh the beaches around Lagos, the path along the cliffs enchanted me quite enough for a couple of days, making me feel lazy about any trips to the nearby towns for the famous caves… No, didn’t make it.

I let myself be charmed by the little nude beaches where you have to climb slippery slopes of sand to get to their rocky embrace, by the never-ending waves inviting you to use your own body as a surf and just let yourself play with them or them with you, by the free feet massage every time you decide to take a walk you somehow end with a bottle of (cheap!) white wine, sharing it with straws because glasses were redundant.

The little things that create the ultimate bubble of ease I just didn’t want to burst until reality inevitably had to kick in and I was left with the pictures of the solitary sunset that greeted my arrival and the sun-lit clouds at the lighthouse that closed up my stay, the animated conversations, juggling between English and French, and the improvised dinners and the very much approved combination of red wine and chocolate, and the laughs, the long, uncontrolled, loud laughs on the hostel rooftop.

I’ll come back every time you’ll have me.

The most ravishing autumn moments

This October’s weather has been a bitter-sweet candy that I most gladly take advantage of. I know that these spring-like sunny days, with temperatures above 25°C during the day aren’t supposed to be here anymore, that they coincide too suspiciously with the report just published about our climate, that sometimes I feel even my body being a bit confused because of the still so strong sun that my skin burns under the jeans… But but but – I savour each one of them like it was the last one, hell it soon really will be.

I look forward to work just because I’ll get to sit in a most charming garden during my lunch break or go to the near-by park to have a mid-day picnic, consisting of a fresh baguette sandwich, eclair and an espresso from a neighbouring boulangerie. Yes, for those of you who are familiar with my rant posts: I have a new job whose surroundings are so much more alluring to all of my senses at least one of my anxieties will calm down for a month. For the second time, a job made me discover an area I hadn’t paid too much attention to before, always walked through a bit too hastily, posted a single adjective on it and moved on (here, it was posh), bored somehow. I might not agree with the prices and will insist in the future to bring my own snacks, yet the morning sun rays enveloping empty esplanade‘s trees get me every time (Invalides). I even fall for the cliché tower again, seeing it so rarely recently, so early in the day probably just once before, appreciating it better from a far in the foreground of green.

All of this almost takes me back to my favourite October ever, that autumn spent in the South of France. And that says a lot.

7th arrondissement.

Enter the green, the red and the blue

Faro.

I’m sharing my love for Algarve drop by drop. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I came back from Portugal and my Parisian life has already gifted me with new turns. I still sigh when I remember these streets, though, their sun bathed, time-worn stones and… the loveliest colourful doors! The best part of my collection is from a nearby town, but let’s start at the beginning, in this town where airplanes keep flying low over your head, fish joyously jump out of the water, with their bellies towards the sky (yes, they do), and where you definitely don’t get away from French … I mean, you know I love you, mon vieux peuple, but do you have to be so omni-present on my vacation? Well I guess I don’t mind as much as I whine about it.

Dieppe.

Normandy.

Nothing like Normandy, to escape Paris for a day. This little town doesn’t disappoint with its charm, perfect for a crêpe or a gelato if sea food is not your thing. I will always choose Etretat for the cliffs, though, these here don’t have enough of a display to appreciate them fully. Still, sea air always does. Plus, I captured a few lovely doors.

The Wisdom of Montmartre

Always refreshing to find those witty or not little wisdoms while taking a walk through Parisian streets. It makes me wonder who and why decided to tag them along the walls. Determined to stop our steps for a moment and make us give it a few seconds attention, a few seconds reflection we would otherwise maybe give to those insta/pin-quotes. Stroll over scroll.

Bonifacio.

Corsica, the beloved.

Besides the occasional (delicious!) dinner and ice-cream at Porto Vecchio, this was the only Corsican town I can honestly say I visited. I mean, storm-drenched Zonza only half-counts, it seemed to rush us out with all the hard rain and made for the first picnic in the car (the view wasn’t bad at all, though). But, Bonifacio, oh Bonifacio, graced us with the loveliest of days. We decided to take the road because the weather was supposed to be not-beach-appropriate that day, yet the winds of the sea cleared the skies enough even before we got there. As they so often do, here, capriciously and good-heartedly. I preciously guarded the parking spot at the top when we finally found it, since we hadn’t follow everyone stopping at the marina and climbing up from there. We had soon understood why we should have, waiting too long and not being able to turn back, yet only regretted it for the first couple of minutes, our own parking being so close to town. Instead of smart, we got lucky.

And off we went (after a couple of laughs with the fellow French strangers that made me wonder again why we foreigners find them so cold and distant sometimes, while in fact they are the most charming people), starting our trip at the fortress and slowly, one view at the time, making our way inwards. What is so amazing about visiting a place like this, is that the streets themselves are nice and worth the walk, and sitting in cafés and taking the narrow alleys, and getting to the end of them to see the perfectly extending sea, still what’s the best of it all is just outside of its walls. Or under them. Taking the notorious hundred steps to be under the cliffs was literally breathtaking and legs-aching on the way back up, but young and in shape as we are we soon took another long path along the coast, breathing in the friendly sea and the fierce wind, exchanging silent ohs and ahs. Because every time we turned around, the view was just getting more and more fabulous. So, we continued, pretty much until it was time to head back to our temporary home, chatting joyfully, now.

Three days in our vacation and it was already our favourite day.

Tenerife.

What struck me on Tenerife was the contrast between the North and the South.

Soon after you land at the Tenerife Sur, you realize two things: the bareness of the landscape and the multitude of hotels. There is no way around it. Twenty years ago, they say, there was nothing here, now, buildings spread like vultures. Hotels, resorts, apartments, shopping centres, restaurants, fake charming markets. I never saw a place designed solely for tourists before and the feeling is, least to say, bizarre. Of course, the beaches are lovely, sandy, but not white due to the volcanic nature, with the beautifully blue sea, though cold and mostly agitated. Even some hotels are looking quite finely attractive as buildings (ours was quite fabulous actually with a lovely room view and almost uncomfortably kind staff), yet there is literally nothing substantial here. When we asked for a nearest town to stroll around, they just advised us : ”You better rent a car and head North.”

If we hadn’t, our perception of the island would sure be more than a little distorted. Luckily, we are at least a semi-adventurous family.

Two days to explore the island is a minimum. But hey – the week was still supposed to be a vacation. When it comes to towns, there are two that stayed most in my mind. San Cristóbal de La Laguna, which really seems like nothing special, relaxed and residential, but somehow super lovely. Although we only took a quick walk and lunch there (accompanied with live music, always a plus), I could see myself venturing around its streets through the afternoon. La Orotava, on the other hand, seemed to be the historical or the cultural one, not that it looks super old, but you feel its roots and its individual story more strongly on its hilly streets. The thing I loved the most, though, was the small, super bushy botanical garden we almost didn’t see the entrance of.

Yet, it is not the towns that enchant you here. First, there is the almost desert-like landscape of the South, the dark tanned stones, cliffs and beaches, the thirsty plants, then you start to climb your way up to the volcano and you gradually surround yourself with luscious green and the reddish soil, cruise on the winding roads, aligned by trees, until you turn onto the lava dominated territory and it transforms again.

Yet, the favourites… For that, you have to go to the actual North, to the even more winding roads among a different green and a different kind of magic taken you over the views. Right down to the beaches that have nothing to do with the ones at your hotel. Brave driving’s worth it – not that I, licence-free, would know. We were so much more delightfully enchanted, because we hadn’t known this had been waiting for us all along. It made me wonder if there are people coming to the island and only staying in their hotels or (a bit fake) comfort of the South and what on Earth are they thinking?! I very much appreciated the chill moments at my hotel, the effortless fun and smiles and all the cocktails, the priceless family time in a calm, lazy-like, environment, but not seeing the magnificient nature outside of it would seem like such a waste of a week. I somehow took that contrast and its reflection with me on my next trip, but more on that later…

Puertas puertas puertas

Before I officially gather together the impressions of my family vacation on Tenerife, here’s a quick one, a specific selection from a bunch of photos, the focused attention in the town streets — the doors, again!

La Orotava.

Candelaria. & San Cristóbal de La Laguna.

The poetics of the streets

Montpellier.

I rarely search for art in the streets. But, I guess that’s because I never have to. The best moments, those pleasant surprises, happen when you don’t look or expect much, anyway. I sincerely didn’t in Montpellier. Still, I found the best kind, I found poetry beneath my footsteps… Oh so poetic in itself, combining random wandering with my other favourite art. Reminded me of how the first time I fell for street art, that altered, rebelled life of a simple wall, was in France, although London followed soon after and the city that later won the game for now was on the other side of the globe. (I truly miss you, Valparaiso. I never quite got the pieces of my heart I had lost there back. No worries, I’m already thinking of coming back to lose some more.)

Doesn’t just mentioning South, either of France or of America, automatically bring a smile on our faces, regardless of pretty images and lovely words on its charming narrow streets? Maybe, it’s only this long winter and timid spring… Yet, truth be told, we’re going to escape there in the summer, too, let’s just admit it and hope it’s coming soon…

For WPC: Smile.

I fell for doors, too.

Montpellier, France.

I guess all of those Thursday posts got to me. I had begun to notice doors around me more and more, seeing how some are just pretty, how others seem to carry a story, or more precisely guard it, maybe. Then, the trip to this Southern town happened and I just couldn’t ignore how many amazing entrances (or closures, depends on how you want to look at them) it had. Some were those typical French half-broken ones that were offering a peek to a cold dark hallway and its mailboxes, so real life looking and belonging to the neighbourhood I couldn’t get myself to take a photo of them, being sure someone was about to come out every second now. Others were more solid and sturdy, more colourful, too. I didn’t even document a third of all of those I admired. I think my best friend had quite a good laugh about my new obsession, yet eventually she was the one saying : ”Look at these!” Making sure, of course, I don’t neglect any. Why not throw in some windows, too! And my favourite, although I’m not sure why, that little door, just the height of my friend, shoved in a corner, surely leading to a cellar…

Montpellier.

I guess we have a winner.

To be honest, I didn’t really feel that excited about going to Montpellier. I had seen a couple of unattractive photos ages ago, and somehow it had always seemed to be someone else’s town. I had that attitude of just letting other people have it, still mixed with a feeling I would someday go there myself. And lately, the more I thought about moving South, the more it kept popping up in my head as the most appropriate option, because of its size right in the middle, its location not far from the sea, its youthful spirit and cultural happenings – all so rational…

So, I went, finally, took that 3 hours and a half train from Gare de Lyon, with a little encouragement from my best friend who wasn’t particularly interested in staying in the centre of France and in its bad weather during the whole of her visit. We oblige to guest’s commands, of course, and sometimes it’s for the better.

Instantly, and I mean literally instantly, we both felt a connection to this city. We both felt a pleasant surprise. We both fell for its streets and its atmosphere, swept off our feet by the narrowness, the mood, the colours, the labyrinths, the corners, the painted sidewalks — I mean, putting poetry on my walking path is a good way to get to me, and putting palm trees in my friend’s first view from the train station is a good way to get to her, and putting nice little (hidden) cafés on our route after a couple of turnings is a pretty sure way to get to us both.

We both kept saying: ”Why do I like this town so much? What’s up with that? I like it sort of too much… I don’t understand.” I even ended up sending a text to a friend who used to be a Montpellier resident who much I adored it. (I’m sure he smirked a little.) And believe it or not, we only had 6 hours in total, so all we did was walk around the old town, giving up the idea of going to the coast after the first 20 minutes. We knew it was a good call when we arrived at the arch and the wind almost blew us away – literally this time.

My mentioned friend could only comment: ”But you didn’t see anything!” And we could only reply ”So, there is more?” Well, yes, there is, they say there are nice little villages not far away, not even mentioning the nature, the sea, the marshlands … And of course, we only really saw one district, so… A decent excuse for a next time if that delicious lemon and rasberry cakes weren’t enough and the fact that half the stuff seemed closed till April. We sort of have to see it in summer, right?

I will stop now.

Just one more thing. Maybe, it was the appreciation of the company of my best friend who always makes me feel so much more myself and balanced and, should I say it, empowered, because she allows me to be exactly who I am or want to be, but I felt butterflies in my stomach, knowing this place now has a place in my soul or heart or whatever. When we were leaving on the train, sentimental as it is, I had the same feeling as I did 4 years ago, taking the first walk in my beloved 11th arrondissement and knowing I would someday live there. Things sometimes just aren’t rational.

So, now there is no more questions. South it is, sooner or later. (My friend, I think, is enthusiastically rooting for sooner. — Yes, I got your hint, stopping in front of every possible real estate agency, no worries. — Truth be told, even I do, if only I get my life together soon.)

 

 

 

More of this please

Abbey Bookshop, librairie canadienne.

This week, I was a lucky girl. All of those woulda, coulda, shoulda wishes I usually have, bustling through the work week, became a part of its reality.

(That first photo was actually taken by my mom during their last visit, but I think she won’t blame me. At least, it represents I’d rather be spending time with my family part, too.)

I’d rather be exploring some bookstore’s shelves… Well, on Tuesday, after my best friend had already given up on me for the day, having taken care of the second coffee, even stronger than the first, yet still seeing my eyes numbly looking around, we crossed a bookstore. Somehow, my tired eyes saw a book title, stopped my legs and directed my body towards the pile of 2€ offers. I ended up buying four of them, those badass French classics I now am able to read in their own language (hopefully haha), and soon I was hopping like a happy bunny on some weird psychedelic drugs. She just laughed ”Guees you didn’t need coffee, but books. Should have known!”

I’d rather be roaming the streets of Paris… Every time I get too caught up with the everyday life, I tend to forget they are right there for me. It always makes me be grateful for visitors, they remind us to re-explore what we are already supposed to know. Like the Latin Quarter. I mean you could used to be sure to find me there at any given day, now it seems it’s been months… Oh well I guess my own neighbourhood ain’t that bad neither.

I’d rather be taking a train to the South… Winter made me say that a lot. On Monday, I actually did. And the weather goddesses were with me this time! More on it later. Still, don’t you just love the Montpellier’s train station!

For WPC: I’d rather be…

Avignon.

Should I hide that my trip to Avignon was somehow not just a casual weekend away? It was the first in my series of discovering French South anew to see if I could move there sometime soon, and I’m not even kidding. (No verdict yet about that, though.) Or maybe, that was just a really good excuse after a long Parisian numbness. Unfortunately for me, I was greeted with strong winds and what I hope is an unusual cold weather for the region. So much for the South’s warm sun, right?

Therefore, my plans for the day, which mostly included walking through all the old charming streets possible in two halves of a day, just getting a feel of the place, got messed up with a whole lot of coffee shop / tea room / bistro visits. Fortunately, one of the highlights happened during one of those…

The first being the view from my hostel room (the one below). I think it could be my second favorite ever.

Then there were those prolonged minutes of warm sun on a bench at the top of Rocher des Doms, finding a place with no wind. I felt like a plant, absorbing its rays till the very last drop, starved for months. Maybe, I got to be sunshine flower for a moment.

And finally, there was this lovely little place, called Theias, where I might have eaten the best (vegan) cheesecake of my life, with coconut and lime. I savoured every tiny piece of it like I was tasting heaven.

Who cares about Palais des Papes, then? And Pont d’Avignon and the greenery across were quite nice to look at from afar, but I didn’t want to get blown away like a balloon so… Next time. If I ever move there, I’ll have all the time in the world, anyway.

Still, I admit my feel of the place is sort of blurred, because of the emptiness of the town, it only comes close to Lyon when it cames to that dead atmosphere. How to not let it get you all judgemental and not let that be the main piece of an impression you keep? How to say it’s just a phase, that in summer it’s got to be another place all together?

Oh well the series to be continued next week, if all goes well, fingers crossed the weather goddesses are with me this time.

P.S.: Happy women’s day to all my fellow female travelers, adventurers and bloggers! Keep rocking 🙂

In and out, close and far

Paris Plage.

Maybe, what I miss most about summer is not just street walks whose existence is barely touched in the cold, but sitting down on a bench or a sidewalk and observe or read, for as long as you like, warm air embracing you and sun rays caressing you through the branches. Melting into your own world in the middle of the city’s sea of people. Reading outside is somehow not the same as in that enclosing space of your own room, although I’m not sure why I prefer parks to my sofa. Maybe, appreciating the inner and the outer world is inter-connected.

No matter the season though, I realized I have a growing affinity for anonymous city readers, which are nowadays mostly my fellow metro passengers. That summer day, it was this girl meters away from me, but somehow close in her attentive leaning posture. I was wondering what she was reading, while I was sadly finishing Anaïs Nin’s early diary… Oh that fever of living.

For WPC: A Face in the Crowd.

The other charms

It’s probably quite an easy job to be a tour guide in my town, even if you get lost, your followers won’t notice, still admiring the Parisian streets, thinking that’s what you were supposed to show them anyway … Yet, the trick is to expand beyond the monuments, grand, time-consuming and in the end not so living, to show the little jewels that make the Parisian charm.

I won’t go far, just a street away from my home in the 11th arrondissement, where I’m used to avoiding children who are running, catching one another, playing football on a quiet road or screaming in the tiny park, greeting a dog or two with a smile, gladly listening to birds singing in all the seasons. And admiring these trees’ silhouettes sometimes in sunshine, mostly against the greyness of the sky, sometimes in the glowing lights. The ordinary beauty on my usual route I can be grateful for a second or two, before hopping into the metro and race towards work. This week’s unexpected weather (even if it was forecasted, I didn’t believe it – ”it’ll be just a few snowflakes, as usual, and it never lasts anyway…” – ha.) added a few charming tones to it. A couple of embarrassing falls, too, to be completely honest.

And below is a small park, Square Louis XVI to be precise, down Boulevard Hausmann, a street away from where I work and spend many breaks during the more warm months, catch some rays, drink a smoothie and read a few pages (yes, it’s on my best reading spots in Paris list). Now, it’s just pretty to observe from the other side of the fences.

For WPC.

Forever opening into a story

La Rochelle.

I can understand people’s obsession with doors we see in all those blog posts collecting the wonder of how people enclose themselves in cities and towns and even small villages. I always fall for the weathered, a proper-doorknob-and-doorbell-missing ones, old and hardly magnificent. Their stories touch me through those small cracks where the Atlantic wind whistles its way in, the shades and the lines written on them by the winter rain and harsh sun. Then, someone even dares to draw their own!

And there was that one on a tower in the middle of a village in Atacama, low and narrow in between the wall’s scars, like a niche entrance into a secret you might never get if you try too much, yet I hope I did. I sensed a treasure, but … ah nevermind.

For WPC.

They call it Spring.

At the top of Printemps, Boulevard Haussmann.

I’m usually not the one encouraging people to go to department stores and big shopping malls. Not just because I prefer little local boutiques, (yes yes I’m the hipster kind girl), but simply because I’d prefer to avoid consumption and greed and all completely… Yet, Paris always ends up being some kind of exception.

I can laugh at the Chinese coming to Lafayette with actual suitcases, I mean talking about getting your whole wardrobe in Paris… and I can never afford to actually stand in line at Chanel… Still, I recommend a walk through the galeries.

Don’t just look at all those bags and watches and perfumes and dresses, look up from the very first floor. (P.S.: And go out on the last one for the view of Opéra.) Or go to the top in Printemps to see the church-like ceiling…

Building itself and its interiors as much on display as all the products it offers.

Canal Saint Martin.

The place I should be obsessed about, even if only for two cute movies and those iconic scenes capturing the Paris vibes, yet I don’t count it among my absolute favourites. The place where you should go for a walk on sunny winter days or hang out with friends on warm summer nights, yet I always end up there on grey windy mornings. The place right around the corner from me, yet I need visitors to get there and show them/me around. Still, it’s here I admire the coloured shopping windows, brighting up the grim streets. Still, it’s here I had the best brunch with live piano music in the background, watching people whooshing by on their bicycles. Still, it’s not far from here I bought the best goat cheese with a baguette and a bottle of wine for late afternoon lunch.

Maybe, it’s because I feel closer to its continuation. Because it’s up at Jaurès, my familiar cinema spot with the usual late Italian dinner afterwards, and a bit further, my dose of all those memories of the first autumn days (and the first flirts) in the capital…

And yes, I’ll always say yes to a good old walk from Ourcq to République, no matter how long it seems.

Don’t pass them by.

One of the secrets to exploring Paris is to not only take the streets, but to also dive into its passages. In the first and the second arrondissement, at the Grands Boulevards or in the Latin Quarter, I can bet you’ll find them and their boutiques, cafés, bistros, antique shops, bookshops and more or less narrow and crowded corridors in that special dimmed light.

It seems like a trip down memory lane every time.

 

Those peaked days

A part of my summer wanderings in Paris, pretending to be a tourist when I stopped being one 3 years ago (if one ever does, as every ex-pat here doubts…), was this lovely Montmartre museum. More than with the exhibition itself, although I very much enjoyed it, it got me with its little garden, little in the French sense, too – that word they so often add to express loveliness and affection. All one needs: the flowery greenness and bend trees, a cute café, and then a surprising, but not really, sneaky peek of the Montmartre cliché.

The day peaked somewhat numerously with one wonder after another that day…

For WPC.

Annecy.

Sometimes, it’s good to not have expectations and just go to a place you hear is nice. Not knowing what to do and just taking a walk around to get the impressions first. You might just fall into it like that, slide in like into a perfectly cut jeans. Because the streets suit you, the view from your hotel surprises you, the lake and the mountains get you wondering about the Earth’s stories and the sunny coast vibe tranquilizes your random twisted thoughts. Soak it all up. Lie down on the grass and try to remember to keep your T-shirt on, it’s public property. Get yelled at when you try to sneak in a closed beach and then find a better one a few minutes walk ahead. Take a fancy lemonade at a hotel verandah and go get bored at its casino after a dinner next to the old-town cute canal, when the sun sets and people finally leave their bathing suits behind. Just because that’s what the French do.

Summer’s gonna be gone tomorrow, still these days are ours.

Vrbnik.

Let’s forget the grand cities and go-to destinations. Not just the big avenues and famous monuments, but all those talked-about regions and their villages we are supposed to discover. Let’s go for the not expected modest charms, like this little one on Krk, not-the-prettiest-but-still-pretty Croatian island. I kind of wanted to check out the real estates right away and move into one of those houses on the narrow streets or climb those stairs and camp on one of the terraces for the summer, neverminding the wind, observing the curly sea separating me from the mainland. Eat that sheep cheese and drink vrbnička žlahtina, the local white wine. Plant some herbs and tomatoes to go with it and then just… live the other life.

So, the question I can’t get rid of now is: When do we move to the South?

 

 

Montréal.

This city is so smooth. It may not overwhelm you, but you will still appreciate its lightness of being. It felt like people here live, with some quality of life that eludes the anxious Europeans. Am I wrong in my intuition? But then, why did I meet so many French, determined to make life for themselves here? Yet, for me, it was too calm still. I came there right before all the festivals and activities, in that period when people are preparing for the summer happenings that are not quite there yet. So, my impression of calm might be premature.

Or maybe, it was what I needed at the time. I could always find something to do instead of preferring to find one greeny chilling/reading spot after another, Ile Sainte-Hélène, Parc La Fontaine, Mont Royal, Canal de Lachine. Or just walk through the old town to get to the view from above where the new one reigns, mix up the hipster streets with getting lost in the residential ones, skip la poutine and go straight for the bagels. If I ever get back there, I’m done being a visitor, exploring every possible district, I will immerse into their life itself. Somehow.

Till then, I have the memories of super sympa Québecois, coffee too mild and watery to have any kind of caffeine effect (how do you function, how the hell you get through your days on that, really?!), that French accent that I hated at first and sort of grew on me later – Parisians even say I adopted it, oh well…, that one museum that occupied one stormy afternoon : MAC!, the grey skies above the tranquil streets where squirrels replace the rats. All in all, the equation is positive.

 

Québec City.

A few days had passed and I honestly started believing I would never get it, that I’m forever limited to checking things of some to-do lists, provided by guides and hostels. Then, I took an evening walk along the Rue St Jean and all of the supposed highlights of this lovely, but somehow mellow, town faded away. I was left with those moments when I stole the place’s ordinariness and made it my own… or vice versa. When what I love most in life succeeded to translate itself into the local language and found its place among the strangers.

Morning breakfast at Place Royale on a cool sunny day, on the cutest square in the cutest district, with a nice smoothly crispy chocolatine, resulting in my sending a message to my best friend : ”I found good coffee in Québec. I guess I could come back here.” (At La Maison Smith, btw.)

All the long breaks in-between even longer walks, on my favourite afternoon reading spot, just across the Parliament, sitting on the wall, with ants crossing the grass to get into my backpack. Putting down an excellent book, ”augmenting life” (- Henry Miller) in its own way, to observe children play, or turning a bit to watch the yellow line of the horizon blushing above the bare buildings.

Continuing my walk after the sunset along the main street, closed for traffic in these hours, to pass street musicians on every turn, and finally deciding to sit down on the pavement at the last crossroad. Absorbing energy of the amazingly good spirited Québecois and the tourists, infected by the joy of the music and the jokes coming from a young fellow, dressed as Mac DeMarco would approve. In a couple of minutes, he’ll be joined by his friend and they’ll start a dance party, inflamed by a long-haired, white-bearded man whose body is a rhythm absorber and a pulse performer.

I guess I can accept you, now, vieux Québec, your less grand than lively nature.

Be careful there!

Isn’t it funny how sometimes we get the biggest warnings for the things, cities, sites we enjoy the most in the end?

That was the case for Valparaiso, Chile. So many people warned me about this city I fell in love with at the first sight. Be careful at the bus station when you get there, thieves all over. Don’t go out at night alone… or at all. If I were you, I’d avoid the port area. Just in general, it’s a dodgy town, so you know. Even the free-tour guide told us ”we are entering a less safe area” while we were walking the street above.

Plus, at the spot in the photo, there was a big gas explosion years ago, ruining a lovely street. Oh well… I loved it anyways, the building’s skeleton gave it a sort of robust look, but some soul, too, which comes with every plot. It seemed like it’s a story, truly belonging to this city where everything seems on shaky grounds.

Luckily, I only had positive experiences, even walking around after sunset didn’t cause me any trouble, although I was never alone. All the kind words before my arrival had succeeded in making me a bit cautious, yet I felt at ease after the first few minutes. I adored just roaming around and exploring every possible street and it ended up being my favourite part of the Chile journey… At least excluding Atacama, that one is a real competitor!

For WPC.

La Rochelle.

The three days in this small Atlantic seaside town, three hours from Paris, was exactly what I needed. The mixture of lovely streets, charming port, lively marina, nice cafés, two opposite beaches and beautiful parks allowed me to do almost everything from my self-care list. Perfect scenery for bench reading or chilling, sunbathing lying on the rocks, after of course I did all the walking possible along the coastal promenades and the old town exploring. Those little joys of listening to waves and birds singing, taking coffee, ice-cream or a simple siesta in the sun despite the strong cold wind, getting your skin prepared for summer, observing people opening up to carelessness and men carefully washing their boats every morning, opening your window in the middle of the night and seeing a clear starry sky, almost impossible to capture in the metropolis.

Now, I know. Someday, I’ll move to the South.

Pleased

Give me a Sunday walk by the lively river, a bus drive* through two of my favourite Parisian quarters, a trip to the lovely bookshop, a reading spot on the sun, a book in my lap that opens up my chest, a feeling of renewing surprise by the ordinary view.

And I’ll be pleased.

*Line 96: Porte de Lilas – Gare Montparnasse

The dense thick air in-between

Lyon, France.

In the density of city streets the air thickens between the walls of too-close-by houses, walls that cannot breathe in and out the toxic particles like green leaves do. Then, there is the constant palpitations, beats spreading out of so many hearts, beats quickening in the rush hours, so many beats of hearts in love, joyous, worried, passionate, stressed. Bodies swaying from and to each other. Life lived in so many forms, with so many stories, souls echoing and dreams whispering. Conversations started, arguments highlighted, singing offered in the middle of restaurants, humming kept for private bedrooms, broken glasses and drilling messes. Every moment a scene is watched and a comment listened to.

In winter, it is dense in the foggy, low and heavy vapour that fills and numbs my nostrils, in summer instead density seems to evaporate from my own skin in the heavy heat, drying out my mouth.

Thank goddess, there are moments in-between when the air lifts and life is heaped.

For WPC.

Skofja loka.

Slovenian towns are small, even the bigger ones. So, visiting one of the smaller ones cannot take much of your time. Maybe that makes saying yes to it easier. Taking lunch in its neighbourhood and then digesting by taking a walk through its mini centre and a couple of streets, taking coffee on the main square, because it’s cute and it’s historical, medieval they will say, and then simply going back to wherever your temporary home is… Next day, you can do another without needing to wake up super early for the ride. Everything is nearby in this country anyway.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Living in Paris always leaves one with the impression this glorious city is all or at least the best the region has to offer. It might not be entirely wrong, yet sometimes the one-day trips that don’t include a two-hour train ride (and are free as part of the Navigo zone) are well worth it. It was still a winter, but luckily sunny day after a week of heavy rain and strong wind when my best friend and I decided to trade Normandy for a long morning. The possibilities of RER A still granted us with a lovely day, walking in a weirdly calm town center which didn’t even seem like one, the real freshly made waffles with dark chocolate dressing and strawberry ice-cream which mixed with coffee made a perfect setting for a good old chat. Then the view of La Defense and the top of the far-away Eiffel tower somewhere way down the valley. A castle and more than everything an enormous park, that actually looked like a forest for a while. I forgot how nice it feels to just take a walk amidst the green, free of asphalt and hard stone. How unbelievable long stretched branches of bare trees are with their veins-like beauty, emptied of the unnecessary glitter.

Now I know where I’ll take my picnics and daily reading trips in summer.

stgermenlaye

Saint-Germain-en-Laye

 

The (One-way) Streets Taken

Bordeaux, France.

During a walk through the many charming Bordeaux streets, after a much-needed coffee in a warm local café, right next to the beautiful Porte Cailhau, itself reminiscent of town’s history, it was still this one-way street that took me by surprise somehow and captivated me the most, by taking me way back sometime undefined. Ergo, black and white was obliged.

For WPC.

Bordeaux.

Le petit Paris. That’s how they call it, I was said.

Le petit Paris. That’s how they call it, I was said. The little Paris. When I got there, listening to the taxi driver, passing the famous bridge which has something to do with Napoleon (I forgot the next second what exactly), I instantly understood it. If I had to change venues over night, I’d choose Bordeaux as a comforting replacement for Paris in a heart beat. Luckily, for now, I only had a few days there, enjoying a well deserved rest with my mother.

Don’t believe people who don’t know your curious spirit drawn to the less polished districts, saying ”focus on the part after the bridge”. It is nice, the old clean and busy streets of Saint-Pierre. First day, you walk past the cathedral, Grand Théâtre, Place de la Bourse and observe the shopping mood at Saint-Catherine, go to the main art museum. But then what about Saint-Paul and Saint-Michel whose name recalls your young Parisian love. The food market des Capucins and antiques market at the basilique. Those short houses, those squares, all over town.

And on the last day, you’ll go North-West by foot, passing the Jardin Public and Palais Gallien, a relic of the past amongst the residential streets, to check the contemporary art at Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez. Wait for it to open, sun bathing in the cold garden, for the first time having an impression the gallery closed for a private tour, for your eyes only, no one’s there.

You’ll immerse in the clichés of the warm French bistros and a few quirky hipsters cafés, grab a glass or two of the house wine. You’re in the capital of your favourite guilty pleasure. No guilt there, really.

I’ll make sure I make a reservation in my mind – mid September in a nearby future I’m back to this precise same spot.

I intend to … gracefully.

Live tall, in all due respect to others and yourself.
At Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez, Bordeaux.

Learning to be graceful is a complex and ambiguous task, nevertheless probably not an impossible one. It doesn’t have rules, yet I believe the to-do list I found at the entrance to Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez in Bordeaux, is a part of its vague guidelines. Living tall, in all due respect to others and yourself. Not as learnt by heart and repeated daily, but as encouraging the gracefulness that is already somewhere there inside, whispering we’re quite alright where and how we are.

For WPC.

Toulouse.

La ville rose. Because different shades of red and pink colour reign here. And they will enchant you. I spent so many days exploring its charming streets, feeling the weird mixture of Paris and London there which I can’t precisely explain. It’s about that feeling of the city that captures parts of both of their spirit. It’s a young town in its mood and old in its architecture where history and present somehow walk together.

On the few sunny days, I took advantage of the banks of Garonne and Japanese or Botanical Gardens. On other days, I tried my best to escape the everlasting cruel wind, sometimes taking refuge in a church (Basilique Saint-Sernin was my favourite) or a museum, bracing myself to return to the streets, even did some shopping only to get away from the omnipresent autumn cold and rain.

It’s still one of the loveliest cities I’ve seen in my life, but next time I’m definitely visiting it in spring.

I’ll be back, my cher Toulouse!

Lyon.

I’m not sure what to write about Lyon. It left me empty and numb, just as its life seemed to be, although I appreciated the climbs and the relaxing banks.

If there’s something you really start to appreciate when having a steady job, it’s the long weekends that come with occasional holidays. That I’ve learnt. What I’ve also learnt, is to grab the rare chance to change the scene when the going gets tough. This time, the honor went to the southern parts of France, but still not quite to the South.

Still, I’m not sure what to write about Lyon. It’s nice and lovely and it has a charming riverside, oops two – the Rhône and Saône one – and pretty streets, even a few delicious bakeries and lovely coffee shops, two hills with rewarding views, les bouquinistes that can compete with those in Paris. However, the city itself cannot. It left me empty and numb, just as its life seemed to be, although I appreciated the climbs and the relaxing banks.

Or maybe, I’m not being fair and I should say – just as I seemed to be this foggy weekend. It is me, after all, who said that we so often see in the cities the reflection of our own soul…  after Orhan Pamuk, of course.

Or maybe, I should just eat more if I’m in the culinary capital of France, the culinary destination. Note for the next time if there ever is one.