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.”
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”
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.
Looking through photos of my recent trip (first and definitely not last!) to Bretagne, I realized those of blue doors were among my favourites. First, I wondered why, then I remembered blue is the colour of the sea and of the sky. And that is exactly the sight I was looking for on my short escapade to another French region I can now be in love with, for love at first sight it was.
Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes, Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes ; Midi le juste y compose de feux La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée ! O récompense après une pensée Qu’un long regard sur le calme des dieux !
This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by, Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly. Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame — That sea forever starting and re-starting. When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding Are the long vistas of celestial calm!
Paul Valery, Le cimetière marin (The Graveyard By The Sea)*
*Not this one, but a writer was born and has a grave by the sea here (a spot all for himself on a little island with the best possible view) that made me think of this poem. (Hint hint to the last door.)
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.
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…
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Cristóbal de La Laguna.
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…
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.
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!
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…
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.)
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!
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.
View from Pop’ hostel.
Palais des Papes.
Palais du Roure.
P.S.: Happy women’s day to all my fellow female travelers, adventurers and bloggers! Keep rocking 🙂
Sometimes, the most usual family Sunday trip, a place you’ve passed by and seen a thousand times from your early years, surprises you again with a view. Because nature always knows how to do its thing and paint a beautiful scene in a familiar surroundings. Earth itself is the best artist, as the say…
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…