Koseški bajer, Ljubljana.

You are that broken body in twilight, smelling of fire since it has never been tamed.

– Dimitris Angelis

Everybody tells you that you will never come back the same, nobody tells you how easy it is to fall back into the same old traps and patterns. Continue reading “”

You may even become so attached to the place as to find one day that your whole life has been transformed and that what you once regarded as sordid, squalid, miserable, has now become charming, tender, beautiful.

Henry Miller, Quiet Days in Clichy

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Music for re-falling in love with Paris and France

… and French as a language that still feels like it makes the simplest thing sound enchanting, literally.

And this scene that is in a way even richer than I imagined. And culture that loves words, loves life, loves poetry, loves literature, loves music, loves art, loves culture, period. And the sadness and the joy that dance together here. If I could feel at home in a feeling, it could just as well be the one I sense while listening French music, even though I can’t really explain why. These songs are just a minor drop in a massive wave, of course.

(Hint: The favourite, the one the most inspiring the mentioned feeling, is the last one, which you could easily guess if you knew me – it’s not just pure, but actual poetry put into music.)

Grand Blanc – Belleville: Finally, my almost-home has a pop song with the bestest video for my teenage self.

Nevché – Decibel: To listen late at night, lights out, while thinking about moving to Marseille, his town. (And to not forget, and wonder about over and over, the obsession of French people with their dearest – sadly departed and much missed – Johnny … Hallyday, of course.)

Clara Luciani – Les fleurs: For the Parisian blues.

Babx – Gaston Miron: Just ❤

In the search of it

Bonifacio, Corsica.

For WPC: Place in the World.

Several years ago, the choice for this post would have been so easy, some Seine riverside photo or other, Pont Neuf, or a random Parisian street. Today, though, my place in the world seems to be transforming constantly. Home is a feeling, not a place, anyway. Not that I don’t feel like belonging to my favorite city anymore, I still very much do, I still adore its streets and its banks as much as always, I still get the sweet aching sting in my chest every time I leave it. Yet, the older(?) I get, the more I feel like the stuffy city air, the absence of true green colour, the noise, are getting to me … and the more I feel at home at the Southern part of France. The more I appreciate that special easy charm, worn out and lively, the clearing wind rushing through. And the closeness of salty air, hitting your stuffed nostrils, those narrow paths among the bushes and the flowers, with such stunning views on the majesty of the world you have to actually catch your breath again.

In the words of my friend, on our last day on this magnificent island, a country of its own, really : ”What are we waiting for?” – to change our homes into a place where we can breathe and walk freely, where there is everything you need to build your own little paradise.

Would I last here, though, wouldn’t I miss the other side? Maybe, there is never just one place where we belong, there always have to be more, complementing each other in their contrasts.

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.

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.)

 

 

 

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.

How I see Paris after 3 years

When three years pass in the same place, same room, with harshly the same people, we can easily imagine things stay the same, that nothing has essentially changed. Yet, when I was sitting across a girl on the train heading to the center from the airport, with a huge suitcase, a filled backpack, a beret, and a book about the dream city in her hands, while I was returning from celebrating Christmas with my family back to my new home for the third time, I could see that something has indeed changed, slowly maybe, imperceptibly, yet persistently.

There is a certain profundity that links you to the city, while dreams are transforming into a reality, while you’re less and less a stranger and a visitor, a simple spectator, and more and more connected into this web of its core lives. Continue reading “How I see Paris after 3 years”

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.

My favourite places in Québec

A few of the best spots where those special, magical moments that make a journey worth it happened.

  1. Sunset : Pointe de l’Islet, Tadoussac. I kept coming back to this place, pretty much every day, at different times, thanks to its accessibility and easiness in its air, usually to read or just sit there, sort of meditating. One evening I decided to stay longer than usual, digged up my stubbornness from somewhere deep inside my body and this is what I got…
  2. Reading : Pointe de l’Islet, Tadoussac & Parc de l’Esplanade, Québec City & Canal de Lachine and Parc La Fontaine, Montréal. Just give me a bench or a grassy/rocky spot and I can read. Yet, there are places engraved in my heart, because they somehow add the allure to the books or the act itself (debatable). Because I can lift my head up from the sentences and have a view to rest my mind or eyes. These four were quite nice.
    Canal de Lachine, Montreal.

     

  3. Breakfast : Maison Smith, Place Royale, Québec City. One morning I decided to take breakfast outside the hostel and headed to the cutest square of the cutest quarter. Oh the good decisions. I just sat there appreciating the cinematic like scene and even more – the waiter’s impeccable ability to understand the length of my espresso (”Not Italian short, you know, but not too long neither.”). Thanks for the morning patience!
  4. Chill : Anse à la Barque, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (Tadoussac). Probably my favourite place in the whole of Québec. And it’s not an exaggeration. It was on one of my favourite days, too. Whichever hiking path I took that day, I loved it. I wrote about it already, so I’m just going to say that sitting on a rock in this bay, completely alone, except the birds flying around me and a seal at the end of it, was one of the best breaks of my life. That apple in my hand tasted even better than usual somehow.
  5. Lunch : St-Viateur Bagel, Montréal & Café Bohème, Tadoussac. First, was the unimpressive poutine, greasy stuff you eat after a long walk and then you don’t move no more for the day. Then, were the Montreal’s bagels. Well now, now we’re talking real food. I appreciated the bread with a hole much more than I’d expected. Later still, leaving the grand city, I went for the lovely bistros. Tadoussac’s one stayed my favourite of them all. Not sure if it was the home-made raspberry lemonade, the delicious (maple syrup!) marinated tofu burger, decent coffee, or super friendly waitress. All of them, combined.
    At St-Viateur Bagel, Montréal

     

  6. Bus drive : from Rimouski to Gaspé. Most of it was along the coast, so different from the one across, with its scattered rocks and waves rushing towards actual beach-like shores, and water reflecting afternoon sun, the pictoresque villages to cross and many colourful houses overlooking the beaches, and then the forests. The Gaspé peninsula’s charmed me quite quickly, almost immediately after the bus left the shallow Rimouski station. I soon heard the uncomprehensive local accent, too…
  7. Boat trip : Percé and Île-Bonaventure. Because it’s worth seeing the famous rock up close, from every direction, and then from a far in all its glory, only half observable from the coast. And especially, because the island is stunning, its landscape, its cliffs, toped with green, its rocks, nesting sooo many birds and even seals, its emptied houses on friendlier shores (no one lives there nowadays). I wonder what it has to be like to miss the last boat and stay stranded there alone during the night…
  8. Evening : Rue St Jean, Québec. Because the street musicians come out and make it all wonderful.
  9. View : Mont Royal, Montréal & Mont Adéla Lessard, Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay (Tadoussac) & Mont Saint-Anne, Percé. There were many. Each time you climb, hike, walk a bit, you’re due to get some. Sometimes, it’s the effort that makes them sweeter, sometimes it’s simply there. These are a few that stayed with me.
    Mont Adéla Lessard.

     

  10. Tree : La Forêt Magique, Percé. Because I think I found my spirit/soul tree in the midst of the magical forest, right there in front of the bench I sat down on for a brief moment.

I wanted to include my favourite streets in Montreal and Québec, too, but realized that, although there were some I really liked, there were none which truly blew me away. So, why force myself then. If you follow the usual instructions and visit the main quarters, you’ll easily find them yourself anyway.

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.

 

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.

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

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.

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.

 

Market

Markets, city markets, where everything that can be offered gathers: food, music, people with their voices, products, bargains, styles, street fashion in the glamour of wear, stalls as an ornament to the brick streets and enclosed squares, food, food. People with no fear, no shame, no affiliation, no subculture, each individuality on full display, blending in this mass where no one is threatened by no one. Bourgeois bohemians at every step, each hippie in its own way; wearing disco-gold from neck to legs, afro haircut as a crown; elegant gown to the ground; come up with a hair-colour and you have it; your ordinariness is always too noticeable. They carry me, without touching, tow me with them, to them, invite, attract me with their glances, moves, calls, singing… in an instant they grab me, flavours, smells, colours, bland kitsch. Here, while walking, I’m kissing the whole city so passionately that our mouths hardly touch, the movement of our tongues so insane that they fail to intertwine, hold, let go, come, get lost, the sound almost prevails over touch, a play of closeness and distancing, a play of attracting and directness. That’s why I rather never stop, I listen to the indistinguishable conversations, sentences planted into a foreign context, words repeated after a few meters: cheap, cheap… I turn when they try to sell me their CDs: it’s hip hop, reggae music, you know… only taste, grab something here, something else there, don’t allow to appropriate a thing. An odour of grilled meat, of fresh cheese, grilled vegetable, fresh fruit, the taste of sweet at every step. Folk music in adorable acoustics, concerts following the principle of ‘’give what you give’’, buy, support, clap, whistle, walk on. Retro knitwear, warm coats, chequered shirts, coloured dresses, light sleeveless t-shirts, wool for the shoes. Jewellery, silver, gold, iron, plastic. Life that expires in the moment one turns away into a hidden alley around the corner.

Original (= Slovenian) text here.

For Discover Challenge: Flaneur.

It’s been 2 years, Paris. I’m still here.

I actually forgot the exact date of my official move to Paris (yeah I know, how utterly unacceptable and disappointing for such an important event of my life), but I do know it was in late October, sometime after the 20th and a bit before my birthday. So, that means I’ll be celebrating two years of my life in Paris any day now. What a story to tell. To mix things up a bit, I decided to join the challenge and tell it almost wordlessly… And for the actual word-ful story, I’ll have to write a book someday.

From a tourist to a full-time Parisian? Peut-être. Never lost the wonder, though. Continue reading “It’s been 2 years, Paris. I’m still here.”

The locals’ joie de vivre is at the riverside

I don’t know if it was because I had already considered the riverside as the loveliest place in my hometown that I fell so much in love with it in Paris. Or was it the contrary, did I first discover the city’s charm here and then opened my eyes for the one in Ljubljana? Either way, both are among my favourite places on Earth. It is here I always feel most at home, exactly where I’m supposed to be.

And what I admire is how the touristy and the local intermingle on the banks. Overflown with foreign visitors, but still just as much appreciated by the Parisians themselves in the moments of their joie de vivre of bistros’ lunches, drinks at the cafés, regular stops at the  bookshops or the bouquinistes, enjoying bottles of wine on the benches, listening to guitar players in the distance. Of course, you can find the scene and the feeling in other quarters, too, yet nothing can compare to les quais de la Seine.

locseine

For WPC.

Life is a quest

I saw this girl on her inspirational quest every day on my way out of the hostel and into the streets of Barrio Bellavista, Santiago de Chile, exploring as she seems to…

I saw this girl on her inspirational quest every day on my way out of the hostel and into the streets of Barrio Bellavista, Santiago de Chile, exploring as she seems to, wondering where life would take me. The beauty and the solitude of it, but most of all, the worth of trying, tasting that life isn’t just stationary or given. It can be an adventure you have to be willing to take.

questsdc

For WPC. (Better late than never.)

The richness of personal perspective in travel

Sometimes, we can’t explain why a thing appeals to us, means so much or seems to be so close to what we are internally, even if it is just for a precise moment of being that passes soon. I find the same pattern to be true when I travel. There are parts of a country or a city which are objectively true and lovely, but our perception still definitively defines them. Who you are during your stay to some extent influences how you see, and vice versa. It may sound egocentric to think about a place this way, yet there is a side where, because of feeling unlimitedly everything in us as it is here and now, we allow the place to touch us in ways it otherwise couldn’t and reveal layers of its own being we’d otherwise ignore. Continue reading “The richness of personal perspective in travel”

Ljubljana.

The city that will always, no matter how I try to escape it, be my home. The one where I’ll notice the little things and the little people who have changed or haven’t.

Ljubljana is pretty and welcoming, perfect for walking through the old centre and relaxing on the river banks or in Park Tivoli. It won’t fascinate you with its majesty, but will grow on you in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to get away from its simple and modest charm, although I am biased – to me, it is the family I never got to choose, but love profoundly, because it was always there to imprison, gently bite or comfort me. It does it all well. One day is already enough, in two days you will know it as the inside of your own pocket and then… try to resist the temptation to just move there for good because it is oh so pleasant and comfortable. Or be like me and only come back when you need a bit of time off.

The city that will always, no matter how I try to escape it, be my home. The one I will always come back to, for a week or two or three. The one where I’ll notice the little things and the little people who have changed or haven’t.

The same men who sell newspapers from one café table to the other. The man with the homeless’ magazine at the same spot at the train station and the woman who still plays her saxophone a couple of ten meters before him. My favourite cinema still being as nice as ever, although some people left and others stayed. But then some shops in the centre closed and a few restaurants changed. Does it matter? Seeing how things go on and you get to notice them when they are already over.

How tourists are now reigning the main streets. How for the first time in your life you can hear more stolen phrases from foreign languages than from your own while you’re taking your ordinary stroll. So, they discovered our little precious stone, the cutest capital, so long forgotten in the shadows of the big ones? Are you pleased? Or, to be completely honest, does it annoy you? Our jewel transforming into just another one of the European metropolises. But does it really? Or is it all just the surface, under which you’d still be suffocating from the same old air?

trnovo
Trnovska plaža / The Trnovo ”beach”

Fun found its place on walls

I keep coming back to Valparaiso in these challenge-inspired posts and now, it is becoming clear why. It is the city where I had most fun, for sure.

I keep coming back to Valparaiso in these challenge-inspired posts and now, it is becoming clear why. It is the city where I had most fun, for sure. Good, not just decent coffee (finally!), yummy empanadas in various flavours, smoothing ice-cream during hill climbs, bumpy rides with a local bus and shaky funiculars, walk after a walk after a walk, great company, late night outings tasting pisco sours, the seaside sun, the atmosphere, the culture and last but not least all the art. Fun finds its place everywhere here, yes, but most of all on walls.

funvalpo6

My hostel’s door and the wall on the opposite side:

A wall making fun of the neighbouring capital Santiago’s lifestyle or simply, the morning commute:

funvalpo8

 

And soooooo many others.

For WPC.

Don’t know exactly where you’re going

I’m not used to follow the to-do lists even if I do usually check them before departure-arrival time – just to get the sense of what to pay closer attention to. But there is one to-don’t I always comply with: don’t know exactly where you’re going.

It’s not only about the anti-adventurous spirit of precise goals and the narrowness of top-sight lists. It’s a fact: you ignore most of the city and definitely miss its point if you’re only interested in its monuments and the famous streets, statues, museums, cafés or whatever. When you’re focused on that one or a few things you absolutely have to see, then you forget about the fun and the view you might enjoy on the way there. You stay blind for all the possibilities, for the true face of the streets, for the essence of the city that is hiding right in between the main scenes. Continue reading “Don’t know exactly where you’re going”

The narrow paths of Valparaiso

Whether a stairway or an alley, I found that in Valparaiso, it is the narrow ones that steal most of its charm.

Whether a stairway or an alley, I found that in Valparaiso, it is the narrow ones that steal most of its charm. The colours of the painted walls just burst out of their shadows, don’t you think?

Narrow streets are always those I love photograph the most in cities, as I admire how their focus concentrates your view as well.

For WPC.

Santiago de Chile.

Charming isn’t the word I would ever use for this city, a hauntingly stretched metropolis if you view it and its ever spreading horizons from Cerro San Cristóbal. But then there is a certain feel of delight in the streets of my favourite quarters…

Charming isn’t the word I would ever use for this city, a hauntingly stretched metropolis if you view it and its ever spreading horizons from Cerro San Cristóbal. But then there is a certain feel of delight in the streets of my favourite quarters, from Bellavista, Patronato, Barrio Brasil and even those of the out-of-place Barrio Paris-Londres.

I chased it among the modest pretty houses and their enthralling paintings, the richness of a particular museum, called las calles, in the organized chaos of central markets, its delicious fruit or smell of fish, the fried, greasy, sweet or cheesy comfort street food, the fruit salads and freshly pressed juices or cold mote con huesillo. And then in the confidence and body positivity of Chilean women, the abundance of tattoos and a light rebel spirit you feel in this nation. In a desperate search for decent coffee, in the leafy shadows of the cemetery where you chill like locals seem to, in the parks where the screams promoting ice-cream are omnipresent, … but certainly not on the main plaza or the cathedral or the government palace or the busy, but boring center avenidas. You can hardly breathe there when the traffic and the heat join forces.

In the end, of course, it is there I finally found it for real, right next to the crowded avenue and packed shops … on the Cerro Santa Lucia. Where the air gets lighter among the trees and the flowers, the city even somehow appealing in all its stripped-down display. It is the place to get away, read a few pages, relax in the sun and re-find your joy. Then go right back to the bohemian laid-back-ness of Bellavista and re-find some glorious street art, too. Because you already know these are the two places you’ll miss when you leave this city after a week or so.

You are right.

Belleville.

The forgotten quarter of French capital? By tourists, maybe. By locals, no.

The forgotten quarter of French capital? By tourists, maybe. By locals, no. At least if you’re not one of those living in the South of Paris and being scared of the North (yes, I’ve met those). This is not my first post about the 20th arrondissement (check out Rue Dénoyez and some street art: one, the other) and will probably not be the last, if only I can make myself take photographs of my everyday environment.

The thing is … I now live right next to it, more precisely right below Menilmontant. Consequently, the park I go to when completely without energy, not particularly sinisterly humoured and so not deciding for Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, but in a desperate need of air is the one of the climbing steps of Parc de Belleville. Where the shadows don’t spare their gentleness and where flies attack you in between the bushes. Small, not the most beautiful one in Paris, but sort of pretty and filled with families on sunny days. The one where street art blossoms and which tourists hardly find. If you do, climbing to the very top is obligatory or at least highly recommended. Or do take the street art tour that initially opened my eyes when I was still just another visitor to the city.

And then … there is that energy and a different smell to the air I sometimes inexplicably feel, although it is not really a particular smell. Is it just the pollution? It’s so different to the neighbouring 11th arrondissement which is officially my home that you can’t even compare their biggest avenues. Can it really be only the prevailing immigrants or better their descendants? The typical French cafés, but a bunch of shops that seem to belong somewhere else, the South or the East… But no, there are right where they are meant to be. (My sister recently asked me if I intend to cruise around them a bit anytime soon, since she cannot come this year and really wants another pair of that comfy Chinese pants, and to my (mis)fortune tight budget isn’t a solid excuse there…)

Just don’t expect something when you go here, especially not Paris from the pictures. This is not the fancy river bank and it is not the artsy Montmartre neither. Let’s only hope the process of gentrification is never completed here.

Barcelona.

It seemed to me that this city is the European capital of street music.

Would it seem awful if I say Barcelona is not the city that really impressed me? It was pretty and occasionally adoring, but I never really embraced it, felt close to its energy.

Well, there were still a few of things I simply adored.

Most of all, it seemed to me that this city is the European capital of street music. I mean, honestly, it was everywhere and it was good. With every turn you take in Park Güell you bump into an interesting act or even a fantastic band. And then another one on the seaside rambla. All those rhythms! And one particularly charming neighbourhood – Gràcia Barrio. A sudden sunny joyfulness and an everlasting readiness for long walks on the avenidas to see what the famous architects are all about. A rich market next to the infamous La Rambla.

Still, I sometimes feel I have to somehow make a bit of effort, sort of come up with reasons to like it… Just because it failed in easing the anxieties and even did the opposite?

 

The best reading spots in Paris

There is one eternal criteria that a city has to fulfill for me to really love it. I have to find nice little spots to read, not necessarily in calm, but certainly in ease. Paris nails it. Here, I never had a problem. Of course, there are cafés, but since I’m always on a tight budget, saving money for the next trip or concert, I rather enjoy the free priceless corners. These are probably not just the best reading, but also meditation and observation spots. For me, it comes down to the same thing in the end.

River banks : Absolute favourite. The banks, below the busy streets of St Michel, between Pont Neuf and Notre Dame. In the sun or in a shade, never alone, but somehow peaceful. Or a little further, the banks of Ile St Louis, where people drink their bottle of wine and where you can almost always hear a distant music. I always seem to gain back a certain piece of my mind and soul here.

Parks :  The more or the less touristy ones. Once, I was in love with Jardin de Luxembourg and Tuileries when the season was less crowded. The green metal chairs, overlooking the fountain, children playing, birds hunting for crumbs, people on their lunch breaks, students with their books and debates, selfies and real photo shoots. A whole little world in there. Then I discovered Jardin des Plantes with its botanical diversity and a certain kind of cold laid-back-ness. And later, I stopped being a tourist and devoted myself to the green voluptuousness and real-life feel of Buttes Chaumont and to the small square, down Boulevard Hausmann, a street away from my work where I spent many breaks during spring and summer. Now, I sometimes escape to Parc Monceau, just to change the scene.

Random benches : Sometimes, it’s a bench outside of a museum or even on a bridge (some spectacular views there), a staircase leading to Pantheon or the many ones on the way to Sacre Coeur. Or a bench on the very end of the St Louis Island which used to be my favourite. It depends on a moment, on the mood, on your current itinerary. But when you really need it, you’ll probably find it and then you’ll just sit down and everything will rest and tranquillize itself for a minute, before you rush on again.

Joie de vivre

I’ll never forget that weird Saturday afternoon 8 years ago when I arrived to Paris, alone for the first time, driving with a stone in my guts to the 19th arrondissement where I was staying, but not sure how to feel really, me – a petite and timid teenage girl.

I just stood in the middle of the room that was meant to be my home for the next couple of weeks, looking at my own hands, not sure what to do next, somewhat nervous, yes, but mostly just confused. Should I unpack or go out, eat something or find the nearest metro station? After some time had passed without any kind of specific action from my side, I heard the old lady’s voice, shouting my name with her harsh tone and strong French accent, saying she was about to go to the market. ‘’Would you like to join me?’’ Continue reading “Joie de vivre”

In the spirit of sharing good music

Today is my favourite day of the whole year, especially because I get to experience it in Paris for the second time in a row. The day of the music.

Today is my favourite day of the whole year, especially because I get to experience it in Paris for the second time in a row. In the city (occasionally) buzzing crazy with creativity and joyfulness, even after one of its hardest years in the past decade and also during the people’s current awakening.

The day of the music.

So, I decided to share a little melodies and rhythms that I could guess you don’t already know. Before of course, I hit the streets in the search of the next obsession in the form of a street band or a momentary improvisation just around the corner, or a passing dance maybe, walking with my hips waving and shaking, following the drums heard from somewhere below… Yes, music will be everywhere today, so we can make sure that if ”the day the music died” comes in its literal meaning, it will be reborn again, on this date and in this city. Or whatever. Let’s just hum, sign, clap and groove for now.

You could probably guess that my favourite moments are those when I make my greatest musical discoveries. I had one of those beauties late one evening in January, lying on my hostel bed in Santiago with my headphones on, after a Tour for Tips (I sincerely recommend them) around the city’s flavoursome Patronato markets where the guide had been telling me about the Chilean music scene and his own band, called Captain Frisco.

I decided to give them a listen, just because he seemed like a cool guy and the band name was even cooler, and honestly : it was a really really good choice. The chill mood and the psychedelic sound, that’s all I need! I listened to their EP a couple of times after I came back from Chile, but then I totally forgot about them. I probably jumped to the next new shiny candy…It seems appropriate to recall them today.

In the spirit of remembering all the other sounds I came back with from South America and the ancient advice to always keep my ears open when I travel … or explore the everyday streets for that matter.

The dark side of the thrill

There is a point in solo-travel when you get uncomfortably nervous. It only comes once in a while and you can recognize it right away by the feeling it leaves in all of your vital organs and on both sides of your limbs and you can separate it from sheer excitement by the squeaking sensitivity in the back of your head. And it’s not the same as simply being worried about missing your flight because of the bus delay and constantly checking your watch. It’s much nearer to the reaction of your guts when a somewhat odd guy sits next to you and just doesn’t stop talking and asking you for your phone number or time to meet-up. It’s the point when your desire to walk everywhere and get lost in the unknown streets turns against you.

It sometimes happens in Porto, on your first day there, only a few hours after you arrived and found an empty hostel bed at the last minute. It probably happens just when you start to love the rough side of the city, its messy mood and buildings with a character. It always happens after the night falls and when you still aren’t anything near your intended location. You know: when you come to the same place over and over again, not sure which turn you already took before, looking around for someone, but the square is empty and street lamps hardly shed a light on its corners. You have no idea where you are really. You realize your map (if you have one) is of no help at all. Then, your intuition plays a funny trick on you, saying you should take the darkest and the narrowest street of all.

So, you do. And guess what: it was right, as always. In ten minutes or so, you’re already taking a shower, forgetting about the intimidating feeling you had not so long ago, improving your mood by mute whistling. Because that’s how it goes: if you’re lucky enough to pass that point smoothly, you never think of it again with that same nervous feeling. While remembering it, you always confuse it with the exciting bits and believe they are all the same. Your memory only keeps the thrill.

I realized why I like Paris better than London.

It’s far more honest – it doesn’t hide its ugly truth from you by a series of misleading disguises. Here, you see the dirty side of the city every day on your way to work, home, party… you walk past it and can never avoid it, no matter how fancy the quartier is supposed to be. You can smell it on the public transport and on the streets, it hits you right in the face when you least expect it to, you hear it blazing through your headphones, ever more loudly, getting harder and harder to ignore. No one really tries to erase or cover it. They can only try to push it aside, but it always stays in sight. It might be hard to bear this two-faced metropole, but at least there is no pretending, no artificial curtains to make you believe, to let you live in an illusion that the brilliant show is all there is.

So, yes, I choose this brutal reality in all its duality over ”one-sided” hypocrisy anytime.

Pushing through the blizzard

A post written on a frenzic day (so excuse the errors) in May that sort of got lost…

A personal reminder, in a way.

Maybe it’s usual and something everyone goes through to have a personal crisis about 6 months after you leave home and start a life someplace new. The initial enthusiasm wears out a bit of course and then you feel that even though the many basic things are already figured out, too much – everything is still missing. Where’s life, you know? Someone I met here defined that as ”lack of structure” of any kind, because everything you have and do seems to have a temporary or insecure nature. I’m not sure what brought it up for me, since I’ve already had so many crisis in my life and with all their differences they are all in some point or another just a repetition of an ancient story. As always it burst out at the least appropriate moment and as always it hangs around much longer than you think it would, long after you think ”you’re good now”. Even the lessons stay the same, but still you feel the urge to shout them out loud. So, I will.

I’ve been living my dream for half a year already and a part of me still feels like I’m stuck at the same place I was last year. When I’m lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the newly discovered favourite French band and thinking about the past day, there is always this strange surreal feeling about something being somehow off. Is it true? For real? Isn’t that just a bit too much? Would you believe it if somebody told you? …

Because that part truly is still stuck in the past. And I need to say to it every day: ”No, you’re here with me, in Paris, in your own room, with a job that actually pays the rent and all the other costs, you walk the Grands Boulevards every day to work, you go for a walk on an easy Sunday afternoon by the Seine and buy your books at Shakespeare&co … you, you, you. Right f*** now!” Continue reading “Pushing through the blizzard”

Amsterdam.

A city which is in people’s minds too often caught in the stereotypes. What if one doesn’t rent/ride a bicycle, doesn’t actually enter any of the infamous coffee shops, doesn’t smoke weed at all (just smells it everywhere) and goes for a walk around the Red District during the daylight? Yes, one misses an important part of the city’s unique experience, but maybe, that is exactly why one sees the bigger picture, too. Either way, one enjoys the overdose of cuteness, walking along the overly nice canals and among overly neat houses, getting lost in the narrow streets in between… Because getting literally lost here, without a proper map and a sketchy cartoon instead, is just too easy. Long live the improvisation and the intuition.

And because historically awful weather on your one whole day there makes you appreciate the clear dusk sky even more. You obviously can’t say no to walking when that finally doesn’t mean getting everything on you wet, yourself freezing cold and your umbrella upside-down and broken.

Yet again — I’ll be back.