Ptuj.

The hopes will gather

Like kids around

A pot of stew.

Ilija Trojanow, Straddle

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

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

The whole rainbow of grey

Saint Malo.

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

Saint Malo.

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

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

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

To another life, perhaps.

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.

 

Life is in the streets.

Bonifacio, Corsica.

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

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

 

 

Tavira.

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

Faro.

in three separate days

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

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

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

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

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.

Tenerife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I fell for doors, too.

Montpellier, France.

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

Montpellier.

I guess we have a winner.

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

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

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

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

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

I will stop now.

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

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

 

 

 

More of this please

Abbey Bookshop, librairie canadienne.

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

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

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

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

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

For WPC: I’d rather be…

Avignon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other charms

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

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

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

For WPC.

Forever opening into a story

La Rochelle.

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

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

For WPC.

Annecy.

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

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

Vrbnik.

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

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

 

 

Montréal.

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

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

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

 

Québec City.

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful there!

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

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

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

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

For WPC.

La Rochelle.

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

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

The dense thick air in-between

Lyon, France.

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

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

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

For WPC.

Skofja loka.

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

The (One-way) Streets Taken

Bordeaux, France.

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

For WPC.

Bordeaux.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Colmar.

We are in France, right? Officially, yes.

We are in France, right? Officially, yes. But when you explore the Alsace part of it, you feel the spirit of the bordering Germany and near-by Swiss so powerfully, it makes you wonder. It’s just the feel of it. And even the French themselves later told me when I was listing the towns I had visited and loved in their precious country – ”Oh, but Colmar isn’t really French!”

Well in reality, you enjoy the lovely colourful houses and the Little Venice quarter too much to honestly care. It is just so pretty.

So, you exercise your legs a bit while turning your head around looking for the winner street, before deciding there are many and finally tasting la tarte flambée, the Alsatian pizza, with a glass of wine or beer – evidently, they are both good here – and then you chill in the evening breeze next to the canal and observe the always photographing crowds … or a drunkenly entertaining bunch on a bachelor party if you have our kind of luck.

colmarst

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?

 

Vernon.

Vernon is where you step off the train from Paris if you go to Giverny, visiting Monet’s garden. Since it is on your way, why not take its streets for a quick walk and find houses, carrying history on their walls.

Vernon is where you step off the train from Paris if you go to Giverny, visiting Monet’s garden. Since it is on your way, why not take its streets for a quick walk and find houses, carrying history on their walls.

It’s not a view that will particularly amaze you and you might see similar ones in so many other towns, but it is sympa as they say in French and there is a gothic church, a impressionism museum, a tower and an old mill. Even more, chilling by the river Seine might not be such a bad idea if you have the time and the heat of the sun already made your head a bit dizzy…

Before you hit the train and go back to bare asphalt and cement.

Lisboa.

This city is perfect for solo-travellers. Every day there is a new treasure, waiting to be found.

This city has a bit of a rough beauty, not being polished all over, but instead wearing its scratches only to enhance the charm. What I remember most is how it helped me in a moment of personal turmoil (yes, yes, ok, it was a simple break-up), precisely because of its non-intrusiveness. It said hello with rich rain and thick clouds and goodbye with a radiant sun. My sentimental side saw a certain personal path right there in that natural weather transformation.

But the most important thing here : this city is perfect for solo-travellers. Every day there is a new treasure, waiting to be found.

It was a proof of how you should give the cities their time and not rush them through like a cheetah, ignore the travel guides and take much more than the prescribed three days. They might be enough for a good impression, but definitely not for the deserved savouring.

Personally, I couldn’t have enough of simply mounting the many hills, walking through the streets and admiring the buildings, birds on the windows, ceramics and tiles on walls, stories in them, every day exploring a different neighbourhood. Baixa, Chiado, Alfama, Belem. Small squares and art markets. Daily trips to Cascais and Sintra. Stunning view points and breath-taking climbs. The breezy shadows of the castle’s surroundings. One brilliant museum. The seaside-like sun and air. Always a place somewhere to chill, take a breath and read.

And more : good and cheap coffee, ultra sweet pastries everywhere, an occasional glass of excellent red wine, an olive pâté spread on crispy bread, the tastiest mangos.

It was like there was everything necessary to heal me. You were a good friend, Lisbon, one who knew that letting me enjoy my solitary peace all the while standing by me is the best you can do.

I feel like I could never go back now, I’d somehow rather leave untouched all the special moments I created there…

From Santa Justa Lift.
From Santa Justa Lift.

 

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.

Honfleur.

After too long, I finally got the chance for a first glimpse of Normandy late this winter, during a weekend getaway from Paris.

These houses, these streets, those crêpes. Oh so charmingly French.

But The Wind! The cold that creeps into every skin pore…

So, although you love the ocean and the promenade walks in Cabourg, make sure you don’t walk against the mighty wind. And in the evening, watch the gamblers in the casinos or the non-fellow non-vegetarians with their massive seafood plates.

Still, I kept singing, Jacques Brel’s Vesoul on Saturday, and waking up on Sunday, saying goodbye:

Go back to sleep and let’s sail away to the beaches of Normandie…
(Shout Out Louds)

 

Valparaiso.

Santiago, I liked you. But it is Valparaiso who stole a couple of pieces of my heart, when Atacama already got my soul. Here, I kept thinking how all the rich leaving the town a hundred years ago made a huge favor to its streets and atmosphere.  Colourful houses and lovely hills, sea, tags, graffiti, murals, energy and art everywhere, and reality? In any case, the lack of empty luxury. When it fell, the city didn’t die, things only moved from one axis to the other, left some space. Left people some space. The town breathes and lives. And one just loves the light walks, despite the tiring stairs. And one instantly feels good and comfortable here, despite all the warnings of its notoriety.

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.

Brussels.

One of the loveliest surprises, this city. Its hip, energetic and eternally young spirit with its easy-going atmosphere soon destroys the image of a political capital. A few minutes, a few streets, a few steps and you’re in love. With the bricks and the facades, with the cafés and the pubs, with the waffles and the chocolateries. With its charming accessibility and a confusing mix of impressions that blend so perfectly together they form a unity in your senses. You feel it’s a bit of everything there, but there’s also something quite unique, not captured in the generalizations you could make. French, but not really, serious, but not really, old, but not really, big, but not really, touristy, but not really. Because you feel it’s a city you could keep discovering by walking, walking, walking.

I’ll be back.

Dreams

My favourite mini part of a big, dreamy and absolutely stunning mural made by various artists.

My favourite mini part of a big, dreamy and absolutely stunning mural made by various artists – definitely worth seeing (and quite impossible to photograph) as a whole.

Just another one of the hidden (or not so much) jewels of Paris 20eme – quarter that is really growing on me.