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.
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.
There was a truck driving by the exit door at work today with a huge CORSICA tag on it and yet again I fell back to reminiscing. Must be some kind of a torture device, this vehicle passing our Parisian winter frowns, reminding us of these magnificent open horizons on such a gray day as today. Nah, it’s actually quite pleasant to think some day soon maybe I might go back to this little paradise-like island and revisit its fresh air and pure sea and starry sky. Hell, it’s soothing to revisit all that just in mind, too. To look at some pictures and think about all the good stuff, existing in this world. Do you know I can’t help myself – thinking about food every time I think about this place… It’s an automatic reaction, an associative thought I can’t escape: ”And my oh my we ate so well there!” And that always brings a smile to my face, the grimaces I was making, digging into the refreshing desserts and pizzas with all of my favorite ingredients and grilled aubergine and … ah enough.
I’m not ashamed to admit there always comes a point in my travels when despite all the awesome people I might meet I need to get myself some alone time. I was lucky enough to spend one of those on my last day in Portugal in a nice little place that is appropriately enough called ”deserted” . As coincidentally it was the last day of my last year’s summer, some beach time was most welcome, too. And what a beach, nothing else but sand and sea and sun and wind, nothing more than my towel, hat, sunglasses, the last pages of a good book and the sound of waves. Exactly the kind of day you think about while looking at forecasts of snow, putting on your long coat and an additional sweater or two underneath… No, we need to see the beauty in all seasons, right! Still, thinking about this island now, I must say it (most joyfully) surprised me. Sitting on the ferry, departing from Faro, it could seem its name sounded a bit ironic now, all these tourists flooding it every day. But once I was there, letting myself go further and further away from the only restaurant on the island, the beaches didn’t seem to be that crowded at all (the season was slowing down at that point, true, plus I just came back from the ones in Lagos!). After a short walk on the hot sand I could easily find my own nice little spot, with a most amazingly magnificent view, nothing but the blue sky and the never-ending sea before me. I somehow managed to bring myself to tear my ass away from it to take the path all around the island’s flora, and again the impression of being alone in the midst of beautiful nature won me over. Sometimes, the top-things-to-do-lists are there for a reason and we might just be lucky enough to have the perfect timing.
Getting goodbye to Algarve in style, indeed. Quite in love, too…
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.
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 might as well start at the end. Quite close to it, at least. This is the nearest I’ve come to the end of the world (ok, our old continent), even made a walk, a little tour around its edges, but left the peak of it for next time. And it’s not even scary. Nope. Mighty it is, though, awe-inspiring and beautifully so. I think we’re going to be alright. Still, I did have the feeling there was nothing else to do than just observe and let it be, leaving any survival-mode items I might have in my backpack in there, only letting myself to snap a few photos, then absorbing what we’ve all come to realize is my favourite setting. Cliffs, edges, these boundaries I might any second now slip through.
There is something so poetic about it and while I was sitting on the rocks with the most magnificent view, dewy-eyed in the setting of inspirational music of the waves, crushing in, and the wind, whooshing by, I kept thinking about this song with its name as the title. When I listened to it back at the hostel it just seemed so appropriate for an almost-the-last day in a region, in a country that yet again got my heart. (Portugal, why it’s always you catching me in crucial moments of my life? I’m gonna stop believing it’s a coincidence…)
little screams into the wonder and a wild set of rides… *
You bet it was.
* Tallest Man On Earth, Sagres (from the album : Dark Bird Is Home, 2015)
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.
Maybe, the reason why I needed so much time to sit down and write a post about Corsica, besides basic procrastination, is a certain kind of feeling I admit I don’t get often. If I did, I surely wouldn’t start a blog. A feeling of wanting to keep a place to myself. Sounds ridiculous for a place, crowded with tourists in summer months, but I wanted to keep it as my little secret, my little haven. The weary unreasonable ways of our brain. Truth is I visited it at the best possible moment, probably, not yet high season, without unbearable heat and sea of people, certain stretches of beaches with only you gracing them with your presence, but already warm and sunny weather, appropriate for a swim, everything green as can be, enough shops and restaurants open to keep you yumming.
All French must feel that way, though. It’s the place everyone dreams about, and it certainly doesn’t need extra advertising. With its position of being disconnected from the continent, yet still not far, it understands well its benefits of an island, soaks in its pride. Ask the Corsican people and they will talk about it as a country of its own, about French as if it wasn’t their own nation, laugh hardest and most heartedly at stories of those French coming here, buying their land, being all righteous about it, but eventually being hunted right out. Not literally, though you sometimes wonder. Yet, what touched me is that this pride shows real appreciation, and more than that, genuine care for their own little paradise. They know what they have on their hands and don’t squash it inattentively. Try trash it and you’ll get their anger on your back. I wish Croatian coast would be as clean as theirs, remembering whole stashes of cans, bottles and cheap plastic bags on one of the Southern islands of our Mediterranean neighbour.
So, what you do here first is breathe in the air, salty, clean, oxygen full and smog free, air, then you watch green flashing in different colour palettes with the wind and the sun, immerse in it completely, watch the blueness of the sky that can only compare with that of the sea, although they are not really comparable, the sea with its turquoise and the sky with its azure. And then the night comes, and your friend calls you while you’re brushing your teeth ”Come out for a minute!” and you do after and he only points to the sky with its finger and your jaw drops. When was the last time you saw these many stars, finally seeing they’re not as lonely as they seem in Paris? It was surely in the middle of the desert. Little by little, your whole body starts opening up, making you suspect the city you call your home is a jail cell, suffocating it, and it seriously needed this injection of nature.
No, I won’t do a list of top things to do here. I mean, if you need it, you already missed the point. Just take a ride or two on the stomach-not-friendly roads, admiring the view, find your own favourite beach, and be sure to go inland, too, to see the more mountainous landscape and capricious weather. You’ll learn to trust them soon, the always changing, usually for the better, clouds, and the winding, never-ending roads.
I could write a sentence or two about how these twisted steps and roads we took at Tenerife, and which later on Corsica almost made me forget I am not a ten-year-old with a quickly-to-be-upset stomach, is a metaphor for life, really. But I don’t feel like it, to be honest.
Especially, after hearing these are probably the last photos I’m publishing under the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. I’ll miss it, as many others, because they so often made me see my photos and hence memories from a different angle, made sure I didn’t miss out on tiny treasures, hidden deep in my library, learning to share those moments and go out for the search of the new – not just my own, but those of other participants, some I might not discover otherwise. So long, then, it was a good one, and now, I feel like we all have to grow up as bloggers and find our own ways to keep up with it. I think we’re up for it.
It was quite ridiculous how little I read during the week on Corsica, not even 150 pages (flights, however short, included)! I mean, I usually even read more during my work weeks. And I managed to finish two books during my stay on Tenerife. How could I reach my bottom record ever? I know why. Mostly, I didn’t feel like doing anything else than just watch, listen, taste the sea, the perfect turquoise sea, or just stand in it for long periods of time, cooling me while the sun was painting my skin to a perfect tan and the wind was opening up my stuffed Parisian nostrils (no, it’ll take more than just a couple of posts for me to get over the air pollution, the contrast I experienced on my return)… The sea is something that hits you most when you arrive on the beach for the first time or take the first curvy ride on its roads overseeing the coast, its clarity, its truly amazing colours that can’t be translated into a photo.
So, I realized again and again, like so many probably during this week’s challenge, the healing power of water, that special magic of the sea and its waves, the waves that had already enchanted me two weeks before on the sandy beaches of Tenerife.
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.
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?
Croatian beaches are not all ideal white sand ones. Maybe, that is why my ideal beach isn’t the white sand one. I even prefer the bare rocks to the pebbles, their more significant earthly presence splashed by the waves and heated by the sun, the wind from the North or the one coming from the South, whistling through. All elements combined in one laid-back moment, observing, or in the other when you try to cruise among the sharp edges to get to the deeper sea, forget the swimmer’s efficiency and spread your fingers to really feel the water’s embrace, all around the curves. Get out and let the breeze and the sun’s fire dry you up drop by drop.
Dipping your feet into the hot grainy sand and then into the refreshing ever flowing ocean, let the strong wind mess up your hair and the deceivingly smooth sun redden your skin, why not feel every drop of its moisture. You’re touching summer.
It was the perfect day. Doing a spontaneous train trip with my best friend to Normandy, exploring the cheese markets and flirting with the vendors, then just hanging out on the ridiculously wide sunny beach, after refreshing our toes in the Atlantic. Ice cream was there, and this colourful summer essentials that made me wonder what kind of collage view they form from the above. No doubt how we ended it – with cocktails!
France, like many European countries, is a treasure chest of (long) weekend trips, whether you want to explore charming old towns or relax at the seaside. No matter where you’re located, the TGV train system makes almost everything feel close enough to just go and return in the same day or two. Cheap it is not, true, but with a bit of advance organisation or cutting the unnecessary budget expenses elsewhere somehow still usually doable. For me, it is a matter of priorities. I’ll make my own sandwich and give up coffee that day (no, this I never do…), not use any other public transport, only my own pair of legs, and skip the hotels, so I’ll manage. And it never quite gets old, exploring this beauty of a country.
First, of course, there’s the Île de France region, with all the castles and palaces, parks and villages, from Fontainebleau to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I, however, am aiming further out. (I’m deliberately not including Provence here which, truth be told, itself alone deserves a whole two weeks minimum anyway.) Some of the places below would with all they have to offer easily demand more than just a weekend, yet they are even if you don’t have the time still worth giving it the few hours you do have. Hope the below gives a few ideas to start your discoveries.
After a few of my own, I decided to share my personal favourites …
Normandy: The North equivalent of Provence, I’d say. And so close to Paris, too. It’s probably best to rent a car if you have the possibility and just roam from town to town along the coast. Honfleur, Deauville, Trouville, Cabourg are a few of the Riviera essentials among so many. Just be prepared for the wind… and the crêpes. Then, you have the city of Rouen with its own cathedral and Le Havre for the impressionism fans. Another classic, of course, it’s Giverny, a nice village with the perhaps most known personal garden in the world – Monet’s. This, I find a bigger must than Versailles and a far more pleasing day trip from Paris, especially in summer and spring.
Étretat : The absolute favourite among the Normandy jewels. Despite the lovely village, it’s nature that reigns here with the magnificent cliffs and meadows.
Bordeaux : This city is the nicest of surprises. You hear talking about it only because of the wine, just to realize its charm has nothing to do with it. Get a good fix of strolls, markets, bistros, history and art. What more do you need?
La Rochelle : When in need of a seaside break in-between the beach and a little town life, think of this one. Take coffee at the Vieux Port, then hit the sand and the rocks and the welcoming sunshine. Again, be prepared for the wind, it’s still the Atlantic.
You can also choose among the other big cities/towns. Strasbourg, Lille, Bourges, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille… I’d recommend the last two the most, but then they are the furthest from Paris. There, you can easily immerse into their old quarters for a few hours, explore the history and enjoy the laid back atmosphere, in my experience much more than in the others.
Then, of course, there are the smaller ones as well, often even more appealing with their innocent charm, for the last few ideas!
Mont Saint Michel : The magical historical place that competes with Paris for the number of visitors per year.
Chartres : For one of the most beautiful cathedrals and a simple walk through its streets.
Troyes : Another medieval destination, not far from Paris.
Colmar : The least French-like among them all, but so cute.
Now, ready, steady, go! I’ll sure be on my way to a new one soon, I haven’t quite completed the list myself…
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.
The cut between the summer holidays and working autumn that has now transformed into a chilling winter seems more brutal than the one during school years when the classes and the tests began. Or is it just a lack of relying memory? Now, the time when I relax is the time when I rest, catch a moment to breathe, lie down and watch a movie. It’s getting harder to read with this rebellious short concentration, to write is a miracle rarely fully realized.
In summer, though, I actually took a whole day to get away and walk the anxiety out, meditate at a distant grassy spot, I could take my shoes off and splash the sea water around me, I was reading a complicated essay collection that got my brain cells going.
I’m glad I took a photo of those moments. They just reminded me to make a plan and escape the unbearable hardness of the morning commute I somehow became a part of. Work itself is not the problem, its omnipresence and overwhelming-ness is. Its insistance on consuming all of your energy and efforts, so that your personality and joyful passions are slowly vanishing into nothing. Wake yourself.
The view or the smell of pine tress brings back so many things. The feel of summer alone, then the favourite summers of my childhood on the many islands of our neighboring country.
Island Krk, Croatia.
The view or the smell of pine tress brings back so many things. The feel of summer alone, then the favourite summers of my childhood on the many islands of our neighboring country. My grandma’s delicious cooking, my grandpa’s occasional adventuring, my parents’ temporary epicureanism, the sharing and the pricking with my sister, the plays we had with my cousin in a plastic boat, my other cousin as a a-few-months-old baby, the jokes and the anecdotes and the card plays, the staggering difference between the shades of tan, the brownish back and whitish belly, because of my constant reading on the beach.
The insouciance, the ease, the absence of permanent questioning. The quest for my own piece of land anywhere in the South, where they will reign with the olives and the herbs, where come rain or come shine it will be my home.
I’ve always had a special relation to cliffs and edges of any sort – fascination and vertigo entwined, in the most curious of minds. Of parts of my mind at least.
I’ve always had a special relation to cliffs and edges of any sort – fascination and vertigo entwined, in the most curious of minds. Of parts of my mind at least. Everything defined in that mixture of adventure and fear. However, I soon realized they are innocent in themselves, it was me who saw that limit of theirs as something full of options which transforms into charm. They are what I find as the most beautiful type of seaside.
This summer I enjoyed the ones in Étretat, Normandy, France. A day that has stayed my favourite of all the one-day trips. That meditation spot where I took off the shoes after a longish walk, rested my legs and only watched, looked, listened. It was so calm and joyful that the edge lost its edginess.
I don’t think much when it comes to framing my pictures while roaming around. If it’s not the actual walls of the streets’ houses, it has to be the empty branches or the green leaves of trees.
I don’t think much when it comes to framing my pictures while roaming around. If it’s not the actual walls of the streets’ houses, it has to be the empty branches or the green leaves of trees. I use them so often in cities that they almost always make up for some of my favourite photos, of my Paris as well. They easily add something substantial to the chosen view as they did on the Santa Lucia hill in Santiago de Chile or on Cerro Carcel in Valparaiso.
But for this challenge, I chose the natural framing in a natural scene. As so often in my life, I spent the seaside part of my vacation this year in Croatia, Island Krk. It might get touristy and awfully crowdy in August, but when you take the paths along the coast, some parts sizzling in the sun with the dusty grass and poor olive branches, among coarse rocks and latent fear of snakes, others in the comfortable shadow of pine or other trees, they can lead you to some pretty amazing little bays. The whole walk is worth it, if not for the view, for the moment when you dive into the refreshing sea, getting off all the sweat, produced on the way.
There is something about Normandy that always captivates me. But there is something particularly spellbinding in Étretat.
There is something about Normandy that always captivates me. Is it the style buildings wear with such loveliness or the fields and grass and branches and cows and birds that surround you on your road trip and which you desperately swallow up, like a person on their way back to the city desert usually does?
But there is something particularly spellbinding in Étretat. It is so obvious – it is the cliffs, it is the richness of the flora and the fauna, and of course, it is the beach and the sea. While you’re soaking up the sun rays and dipping your feet in the refreshing ocean water, you probably have one of the best possible views, in the meantime walking bare-foot on pebbles will even grant you a free massage, too.
But all that comes at break-time, after already climbing a few steps and following one stunning cliff after another, taking a walk among occasionally quite high grass and numerous meadow flowers, catching bees and a butterfly or two with your eyes and listening to the desperate cries of the many seagulls above you. Don’t stop your stroll at the most obvious point, but go further on one of the prettiest promenade you could possibly imagine. Because then you find your own little meditation spot where not many people bother you and the view is all yours to appreciate for half an hour or so while your skin is slowly getting rid of the winter paleness. Do remember to bring your sunscreen next time, though.
I needed 10 years to finally come to this place I had heard about during a French lesson, and the day I did was one of those days I live for, a summer trip at its best.