Monday, November 8, 2010

Where does the time fly...

Its been almost 3 months since I've been back in Australia and it's only just starting to get warm. Usually, in my neck of the woods, we're swimming by now. A few days ago, we still had the heating on... in NOVEMBER!

A lot of things have happened since I returned and I realised that the accident in Turkey happened for a reason. I'm back at university, studying away, as well as working as a part time secretary (I'm at work now, and it's a slow day and almost hometime for me!). But most importantly, in less than 2 months I will be off to California, but more on that later once I get the nitty-gritties sorted out, like visas and whatnot.

In my time back, I have been neglecting my blog(s) and have promised my dear friend Cait, that I will start writing again, even if it is crap like this one here, and even if it is just for her enjoyment and procrastination value.

I decided to make a list, about all the things that I'm glad to be back for. But I thought that doesn't paint an accurate picture of my life right now, since there are a lot of things I miss about what my life used to be. So, trying not to be too emphatic either way, I will make two lists.

- snuggling in my big big comfortable bed with seven pillows
- having a wardrobe full of clothes, not a suitcase
(although I still have some clothes in my suitcase... don't judge me!)
- having a fridge full of food that I didn't buy
- comfortable couches for movie nights
- sunday night dinners with the family
- glasses of wine with the mother
- driving lessons with the father
- shopping with the sister. (she is an amazing shopper)
- girly coffee dates
- Adelaide being small, that you can walk everywhere when you're out in the city at night
- lovely dinners at cheap, student-friendly restaurants with ridiculous laughter
- koalas in the garden
- that particularly australian type of sunshine
- the smell of eucalyptus... everywhere!
- timtams and cherry ripes
The next list in the next post. I'm back, baby!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


We arrived in Turkey at around 2am on the 18th August and took a bus from the airport to the city centre (Taksim) and planned to take a taxi from there to our hotel in Sultanahmet, the old city. We decided this was the best and most cost-effective way to get to our hotel quick-smart and finally get to sleep. However, we had a serious car accident on the way to the hotel.

I personally have no memory of the accident (I originally thought it was in a big square, but it was actually in a small side-street). I was sitting in the back with Bertrand, I was on the right (passenger side) and he was on the left. The other car hit us with most of the impact on the front passenger side, thankfully noone was there, because they probably would not have survived. I suffered from a few fractures, mainly to my hips, and had some serious damage to my liver. Also, I have well over 10 stitches on my face because the glass shattered all over me. Bertrand is pretty badly beaten up with a seriously broken arm and will need surgery when he returns to France tomorrow. I was lucky enough to not need surgery and not have lost an eye, as most of the facial injuries are around my eyes. Someone also stole my wallet somewhere between the accident and the hospital and did a fair amount of shopping on my visa. Also, my computer is broken due to the impact of the accident.

The next few days are a blur and I have little to no memory of them. I remember a lot of needles, and ultrasounds and cat scans. I remember changing rooms at the hospital frequently and I remember vomitting from the shock (good-bye German cuisine!). The Polish consul helped us a lot, translating and bringing us food and clothes, as did the family of the taxi driver, who helped wherever possible. The consul was very surprised they finally let us stay in the same room as in Turkey, men and women are not allowed to be in the same room in a hospital, besides emergency.

I remember the final room. I argued a lot with the doctors, who said I could not go to the bathroom, but I screamed and fought and finally stood up and (very very slowly) walked the 2 meters to the bathroom, my drip jittering next to me. My wonderful boyfriend was feeling well enough to leave the hospital for a while and bought me an icecream, having learned after a week in Italy that icecream is perhaps a more effective method of lifting my mood than any kind of drug.

There was one day that started horribly but turned out to be the big turning point in my recovery. That night, I didnt sleep at all untill 6am, and at 6.05am, the nurse woke me up to take my blood, which set forward the standard panic attack when it comes to taking my blood. A doctor then came around to put anisthetic on my stitches and got some in my eye, causing me again to scream bloody murder across all of Asia Minor. I then had a strange reaction to the drip, causing my had to swell and become very very sore. However, it all turned around for me, full of little victories. I walked (with no-one to hold me hand) the the bathroom, I finally had a shower (or half-shower, I couldnt bend to wash my legs) and I sat up on the bed alone! I even laughed!!

The next day was good too, full of little victories. Finally, yesterday, they said we can go! The relief and the promise of a bed big enough for me to stretch out in! (And I'm only 5'2" and the bed was too short for me!!!). It took 8 hours of dealing with Turkish beurocracy and waiting for the understaffed doctors to finally take me stitches out, but we got out! It took a lot of stress and miscommunication but we got to the hotel, we showered (well, I bathed, because standing for long periods is not possible) and I finally (after a week), brushed my hair.... it took a good half an hour but I no longer have dread-locks! And my face looks a little better once I finally cleaned the dried blood and old antiseptic off.

Now, we're just resting and waiting for me dad to arrive (2 hours left!) with pain-killers, and little presents and moral support, most importantly. Bertrand is going home to Lyon tomorrow and my dad and I have to figure out how to get me back to Oz becuase there is no way I can travel like this, I can barely walk and I fear that it will take a long recovery....

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rome... #1

It’s official. I’m in love! I love Rome, I love Italy, I love ice-cream (gelato) and I love tomatoes. I’m a happy girl! I arrived in Rome last night ahead of schedule, completely exhausted and with less than half the things I left Australia with, and still with 1 kilogram more than the official RyanAir luggage allowance. I was so exhausted (blame it on the insomnia the night before and a tiny panic attack before leaving) that I only saw Termini, the route to the hotel and the hotel. I didn’t even eat anything!
So, I woke up starving (and still a bit sleepy) and gladly chowed down on a tomato and mozzarella sandwitch and had a lovely Caffe Freddo (iced coffee) and then the intense day began… here’s a dot-point summarized version of the events of the last 10 hours;

· Colosseum
· Vespatian’s Arch
· Roman Forum
· Trajan’s Column
· Royal Palace
· Basilica
· Beer (for some)/ juice (for me) break
· Piazza Navona
· Gelato (mint and pistachio – my favourite, although odd, combination)
· Pantheon
· Pizza
· Plaza di Spagna
· Siesta (even though I know sleeping in the afternoon is more a Spanish thing...)

Now, off to Trastavere for some good local food – we’re making a pilgrimage to what is claimed as one of Rome’s best trattorias. I’ve been told to ask for Uncle Ennio, and beginning to feel more like I’m living in a bad mafia film while all day I’ve been channeling Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday…

Friday, July 30, 2010

Village Life or the one full of dreaming of running away to New Mexico

So, here I am, in small-town Silesia with the rain pelting down and summer disapearating before my eyes. It is cold. And windy. And rainy. And I like it.

I'm here with family and that's nice too. I have time to think and a lot of time to read and write and scribble.

As always, my nomadic temperament strikes again and I've been dreaming of the deserts of New Mexico.

Santa Fe struck my fancy as it is a pretty town full of artists. Perhaps I'll go there one day. New Mexico sounds lovely. Theres snow, and heat and it seems just right. Perhaps I belong in the desert.

Following photos by Lonely Planet. (source)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vague thoughts for Post #60

I'm easy to get but also easy to loose.

Fight for me.

Because if you don't, I'm out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Next time, I'm taking the bus...

The seemingly endless incompetence of British Airways never ceases to frustrate me, shock me and amaze me. I've flown with British Airways many times. I've had problems each and every time. I've been delayed for hours, had my luggage lost and had my vegeterian meal forgotten. I've missed connecting flights and trains because of the aparent inability of British Air to get anything right. Couple that with their terrible food and the worst customer service I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with, well, I am at a loss as to why they are still in business.

Today was no different. I tried to be a good, efficient passanger and check in at the self check-in booth as recommended by the airline. I entered all my information only to have it rejected, the stupid machine telling me to go see an agent at the "Assisted Check-In" counter. I hate that counter. The word "Assisted" just highlights the fact that the peoplein that line (myself included) cannot even enter some simple information into a computer which results in the printing of a flimsy piece of paper. It is the shmuck line, the linefor the technologically inept, the line for those who will die out once fluency in the InfoTech world becomes as important as the ability to breathe, or digest food. It is the'scarlett letter' line.

Anyway, I digress. As I stood in this line, a wonderful slug-like creature emerged and began to, quite roughly, verbally berate me as to why I did not have a boarding pass. She spoke so fast, asking so many questions, I barely had time to register what she was so snappy about. Her main concern was that now, with me and several other passengers not beingable to check in, she had two lines to deal with. Now, I'm naturally a very polite person, and I expect a basic amount of respect from people, and when someone who is supposed to be a customer service representative acts this way, I'm too shocked to respond and all the witty remarks come too late to use. So, I stood there, flabbergasted, barely managing to saythrough my shocked expression, "the machine said to come here". The creature then walked off in a huff.

Luckily, I was assisted by a marginally more pleasant assistant who informed me that my 1 hour flight was delayed by 40min, which was actually 1:30 and that is why I couldn't check in, because I was likely to miss my flight to Warsaw (at this point, I was having horribledeja vu of my first solo trip abroad). I had to then go to the sales desk, wait in another horribly long line to get on another flight, the only other flight available would arrive in Warsaw at 10pm, far too late to catch a train down to Sosnowiec/Krakow/Katowice, my final destination. The sales clerk was another lovely presentation of British charm and politess, answering gruffly to my desperate (somewhat teary) pleas to maybe possibly get me on another (earlier) flight.

After this was over, I was told to go back to check in, where I waited in line for over an hour only to be told that I should go to the sales desk. I almost cracked. I tried, as calmly as possible, to explain that I have been there, I've stood in line and I've seen the clerk, I've been tentatively put on the other flight and I might still make the 13h50 to Warsaw. I breathed deeply as the assistants brows made funny shapes while she typed things in on the computer, I held my breath as I put my luggage on the scales (4.2kg too heavy, but at least they let that go.) And now, here I am, waiting in Heathrow for 6 hours, bound to spend the night in Warsaw instead of with family.

I met an American biologist on the plane. Once I started recounting (in brief) my travels, he asked; "and what was the most important thing you learned in all these travels?" Strangely, no-one asked me this before. My reply was "don't fly British Airways"... I jest, their lounges are nice.

In all honesty, I'm not sure if this is worth it, if you calculate the time I waited, the stress I went through and the sheer amount of hours it is going to take to get to my homecity via London, it would probably be quicker, and less painful, to just take the 20 hour bus next time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Almost the end.

Well, I've come to the end of my YouEsseAye travels.

It was great,
it was emotional,
it was depressing,
it was uplifiting,
it was... interesting.

It was inspirational.
I want to paint and I wrote my first poem since I left here last December. Wow.

A year ago, I never thought that I would love this place so much, that I'd come back. If you would have asked me a year ago what I would be doing in July 2010, I would have probably concocted some vague answer that included Spain or France. I would have never guessed I would have embarked on this crazy crazy trip of insanity that gave me a lot of clear-mindedness. Perhaps, it was even cheaper than therapy! Perhaps, it would have been cheaper to just hire a shrink. Anyway,
Some stand-out moments;
  • arriving to NYC from London in business class, seeing the big apple from above with the lights glittering
  • many good dinners with good friends (during the whole 6 weeks)
  • turning 21 in NY/NJ
  • The Barking Dog cafe
  • getting asked for my ID when buying alcohol (though no-one asked on my actual birthday!!)
  • sitting on the side of the road in Jersey at 3am on my birthday after the car broke down
  • looking for a mechanic at 7am in heels and a white cocktail dress
  • fighting my way to LaGuardia
  • smelling eucalyptus in california
  • frozen yoghurt in Stanford
  • pretty Berkeley
  • the sheer amount of pick-up lines recieved while walking around the Mission district of San Francisco.
  • spending the night at the SFO airport, on a couch at subway, finding a pill and a penny on the ground. not eating either pill nor penny.
  • 2 memorable hours in Texas
  • seemingly endless midnight talks
  • very unfortunate soccor games (involving Australia and France.)
  • finally getting Ceviche again. God, I missed it.
  • passing customs into Canada
  • passing customs into the USA
  • Cristal Monee Hall playing the Montreal Jazz Festival
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Dad's Tuna Bagels, Montreal.
  • watching jeopardy and drinking wine in montreal
  • Ben and Jerry's icecream
  • finding my way around Paterson, NJ on my own
  • JUST making the bus for Baltimore when I thought I missed it
  • 4th of July fireworks
  • airconditioning
  • walking around Baltimore port

well, thats all I could think of off the top of my head.

I'm glad to be going back to France. Very glad. I'm counting the hours until I arrive in Lyon.

And, although I've decided not to come back for a while, I will miss this country. It's an enigma. There's still so much to see/do/discover here.

But I will be back. I know I will. America, you can't get rid of me that easily.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Running Away.

The thing I noticed about myself on this trip North America is that I tend to run away a lot.
When things get to crazy, I don't try and fix them, I try and get the f*ck out.
Well, I'm here in Baltimore, relaxing on a sunny 4th of July.
I like it.

But soon there's going to be nowhere to run away to.

So then I'll go to South Carolina, I think, and live in swampy Chaleston.
I have my list of places to run away to, but I've exhausted most of them too quickly.

When there's no-where left to run, I'll go to Charleston. Or maybe before that. I'd love to go to the Carolinas or Louisiana or somewhere down south.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Exhaustion and Bravery...

I arrived in Montreal and let's say its so good to be home. To walk down the corridor of my old apartment, sleep on that sinkable marshmellow sofa, listen to the Quebecois, go through the motions of catching the metro and buses like I did everyday for school... it's a great homecoming feeling.

I arrived after a shitty bus ride that made me convinced never to take a greyhound bus again. I've had some bad experiences with them, and we were delayed, which is to be expected when crossing the boarder between Canada and the US. How I miss the Franco-Swiss boarder crossings where you, more often than not, don't even show your passport. Now that's a boarder crossing!

My life is exhausting me. I feel myself aging ridiculously (and no, it's not just my recent birthday that's making me say this). I am so tired but also, ready for more. What a paradox I am! I am the definitive Gemini. I want to stay home, I want to study, I want to work but I find myself checking out buses to Baltimore, flights to Istanbul, hostels in Warsaw and hotel deals in Rome.

On my many sleepless hours on the bus, I began to think about why I keep doing this to myself. I didn't come up with an answer. Perhaps I'm just never happy, never satisfied, and feel the need to run away.

When people hear about my life, the fact that I am 21 and have already been to 23 countries, that I average more than one flight per month and that I do it, for the most part, on my own, they comment on how brave I am. I don't agree with them. I am not brave. I am the opposite of brave. Brave would be staying somewhere, brave would be fighting for what I want. Personally, I feel that I have just taken the easy way out.

I have friends who moved abroad and started to make a life not even knowing the language, getting jobs, getting degrees and getting papers. That is brave. Me; what have I done? The most I've staying in one place in the last year is 4 months. Not quite - an even 16 weeks! I didn't even make the commitment to study here for a year. When I didn't get the internship I wanted in New York, I took the easy way and stayed in France. Well, the EASIER way - moving to France was not easy. But I didn't even have a real life there. I had a crazy half-life that was bound to end on May 30th. That's not brave. Brave is doing something when you don't know what will happen. I know what will happen. There was a BA flight waiting for me in Paris. That's not brave.

Sitting on the bus I thought of this and how I tend to run away when things get too hard. Staying in the US became too hard, too stressful, so I hopped on a bus to Canada. So I jumped the border. What about having my entire summer planned out? That's not brave. Not at all.

When people say I'm brave I smile politely. In reality, I'm the opposite of brave. I am stupid and naive and nothing about me is brave.

And although I wish I was braver, and stronger, and prettier and more outgoing and a million other things that I'm not, I find comfort in the fact that everyone feels like this sometimes. And although I hate it sometimes, I love that I don't just have one life, I have a multitude of lives that I jump in and out of- I have my Australian life, my Polish life, my French life, my Canadian life, my travel life, my Europe life, my America life. I get to live a plethora of lives simultaneously - that's the only way to look at it. And, let's face it, that's as close to immortality as I can dream of.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Birthday Week

As we all know it, time travels on. And before you know it, you're 21 and jumping across 5 timezones in one week. My "birthday week" started in Lyon and ended in Santa Cruz, CA.
To be honest, I did not get totally drunk and crazy like most people do when they turn 21, (I can do that any day) but I think this short resume will prove that it was a birthday to be remembered for sure!

It all began in France last Saturday with coffee, fruit tartlettes and good company. It then graduated to a sushi dinner, Hagen Dazs icecream in the main square of Lyon, cocktails and champagne. A definite amazing start to birthday celebrations and a fantastic 'aurevoir' to France.

The next morning, I said a tearful goodbye at the Lyon Part Dieu station but was soon welcomed into the arms of the British Airways Paris business lounge. And, well, travelling has never been so luxurious. I must admit, I over-did it on the free food and free alcohol on the way, in both Paris and London, repeating my 'birthday flight' mantra of: "They will have to roll me off this plane!!"

Not to mention the fact that I got to see the Eiffel Tower, London Eye AND fly into New York at night in the one day! Oh, I must not forget the complimentary massage and facial in London!

Then, I had 2 days in New York, and, really, you can't go wrong there. On my first day, I took Manhattan for all it's worth, hiking from Riverside to the Upper East Side, from 96th to 40th. There was 5th Ave, there was St Patricks, there was window shopping and amazing food at the Barking Dog Cafe (as seen on Sex and the City... I read that on the menu... I've never seen a single episode of Sex and the City. I have to recommend the Blue Ribbon Museli.)

After this epic day of Manhattan by Foot... it was my actual birthday. Which started off at the Barking Dog (again - this time for blueberry buttermilk pancakes) and ended up sitting on a curb in New Jersey... go figure. So, after breakfast at the barking dog, I spent the late morning and early afternoon laying on the lawns at Central Park, and then browsing through the bookstore at the Metropolitain Museum of Art - because books and art AND New York - well, if you know me, you'd know I'd be on cloud nine.

After that I took a stressful (to say the least) cab ride to the station through Manhattan traffic. And then some metro, because I went to the wrong station. But, before you know it, I was in Seacaucus, New Jersey, having chatted with a lovely Dominican man on the train, waiting for the next train to Clifton. I met up with one of my oldest friends (oldest meaning - who I have known the longest), in Clifton and we stuffed ourselves rotten on Sushi and drank a bottle of wine each. And the waiters sang happy birthday to me... no waiter has ever sung happy birthday to me, especially while carrying a sundae with candles! After dinner, we dragged ourselves home for more wine, and some gin too. We sat on the porch talking until another friend drove past and took me to the Shannon Rose, an Irish pub in New Jersey. Before we even walked in, my heel got tangled in the seatbelt and I was hurled to the ground. Attacked by a Saab! A massive bruise still lingers on my left leg.

After I picked myself up (with a little help), there was, of course, more wine, some sangria and we finished it off with a round of vodka shots (because it was, in fact, a Polish birthday)... and we headed back. (In all fairness, it was 3am at this point). But, somewhere close to Garfield, NJ, the car broke down and we were stuck waiting for a cab for close to an hour, and that is how I ended my actual birthday sitting on a curb somewhere in New Jersey.

The next day started early, at 6:30 or 7, I think. All I know is that I didn't sleep at all, or if I did, it was for less than half an hour. We went back to pick up the car, which still wasnt starting, hiked to the closest mechanics (me in heels, of course!) to get a thingy (my car-parts knowledge is astounding) to re-start the battery to drive the car over and get it fixed properly. All I noticed is that heels and white cocktail dresses are not the most appropriate when trying to find a small-town mechanic somewhere in New Jersey. We were stuck in 'little Poland' for a few hours, so we aimlessly tried to find a Polish restaurant open for breakfast. There were none (apparently my people don't eat breakfast). So, instead, we got some Polish groceries and ate a pseudo-picnic on the side of the road. There is nothing better when you are stranded, exhausted with aching feet in the heat of summer than mint-apple juice. Nothing. Period.

When the car was ready, we headed to get Peruvian food for lunch. I have to admit, I've missed Ceviche while in Europe... missed it terribly.

The next few days flew by quickly in New Jersey. Those days involved some stresses, but most importantly, good food and good company, and before I knew it, I was running around Seacaucus station trying to find which track I needed to get to New York Pennsylvania Station. It was not easy, but I managed. I also managed to find the Shuttle Bus on 7th Ave/33rd St which got me to La Guardia. I checked in, I paid American Airlines' extortionate fee to check in luggage, and I settled down for the few hours that I needed to wait until I could board my flight to Chicago. Now, I dont know if it is common knowledge, but perhaps it should be; Airlines HATE me. There is not one flight with a major airline that I have been on in the last 3 years that was not delayed or cancelled or something. And well, we were stuck sitting on the tarmack in La Guardia for 40 minutes.

Now, 40 minutes is not that long, I understand. But when one only has 40 minutes to connect to one's San Francisco flight in Chicago; 40 minutes is vital. So, we landed at 7:53pm local time at the Chicago O'Hare airport and my plane was boarding at 7:55pm. By the time everyone got off the plane, it was 8:10pm and all I could do was sprint across the airport to my gate. I made it. But only just. All in all, I spent 32 minutes in Chicago. I landed in San Francisco, found Amy and Yusef (my wonderful hosts in California) and we drove back to Santa Cruz.

Today was the last day of a pleasant stretch of time I have refered to as my 'birthday week'. I lounged around a bit and spent hours getting grilled, toasted, baked and all round reddened by the sun on the beach. Then we went out for Sushi. And it was wonderful.

So I didn't get drunk and wake up in a strange parking lot wearing only half my clothes and one shoe. I didn't play 'kings' in a VIP vodka bar. I didn't organise a lavish party for my friends and spend hunderds on a dress. I spent 17 Euros on a dress and traversed through 3 countries, 5 timezones, 10 cities. I experienced the full range of sensations, from free massages to waiting for a cab on the side of the road. Looking back on it, I loved it, and I definately wish all my birthdays involved a crazy week during which, on many occasions, I laughed to myself and thought 'how did I get here' - but in a good way.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On the road again

Wow. I never knew travel could be so amazing. I arrived in Paris after a teary lyonnais goodbye to check in at CDG Airport. I printed off my tickets at the self-checkin station to have a short, fat, balding man patronisingly tell me in his british accent to join the back of a huge cue. I flung my boarding pass in his face, nonchalantly (yet politely) telling him that I am, actually, flying business class. Aparently huge backpacks don't scream ''luxury travel''.

When I got to the Admirals Lounge in CDG, I started almost immediately to stuff myself stupid (it being 2pm and me not having had breakfast yet) on free sandwitches, free wine and free, well, everything, making two bathroom calls just because the bathroom was bigger than my entire appartment. Now this kind of travel, I could get used to.

I regretted my gorging when I was presented with a wonderful prawn dish on the flight to London. I chuffed through it like the little train engine who could. It was brilliant. And now, in the Heathrow gallery lounge, I am faced with an unending array of wines, liquors, chocolates, icecreams and warm meals. They are going to have to roll me off the plane!! (you know what, its my birthday, I want to take advantage)

Top that all off with seeing the Eiffel Tower, London Eye and a birds-eye view of Times Square at night... well... I'd call that a definite win!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baggages, of all shapes and sizes

Today, I started to pack my bags, faire mes baggages.

I don't want to leave Lyon. I will miss France so much it hurts already. I don't want it to be sunday, because it will hurt more. There will be people to see me off at the train station, and I will cry. There will be no-one to pick me up from the airport (all my friends are going away for the long weekend in the USA) and I think that will make me cry too.

My friends will help me with my luggage here in France, to get them down the stone steps of my apartment and onto the train at Gare Part-Dieu. I will drag my luggage all over New York, onto the bus to Grand Central, onto the metro with one change and up the stairs at my hostel on the upper west side alone.

The thought of being alone, lost and detatched in such a huge city is a strangely seducing thought, and the gypsy half of my brain finds this life of arriving into the unknown very attractive. The housewife part of my brain does not. It wants to curl up on the couch with a book and a bottle of wine and a shoulder to cry on. The housewife part of my brain wants to be held and kissed while I sob. The gypsy part of my brain wants to talk to no-one, and just wander, and have no connections, no distractions - it wants to be completely free. Completely.

I think the two will never compromise.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No sugar in my tea.

It's times like right now that lead me to believe that : bad things only come in multiples.

It all started with a cut finger and a tomato. Because tomato hurts when it comes in contact with a cut finger.

Then, there was my handbag, getting her revenge on me by leaving a huge gash at the back of my knee.

After that my computer broke. I thought it was going to be O.K. but only now do I realise that everything for my trip to the U.S.A is salvagable except my visa-waiver form which is not on my email, like I previously thought. Not to mention that I can't call international now, because the computer I am using does not have a microphone, which means no skype to sort out my computer problems... wow.

I called Dell today to see what they thought. I can't call Dell Australia because, well, I'm not in Australia. So I called Dell France only to find out they can't do anything untill I convert my Australian service tag to a European service tag. It takes 2 working days, and it's a long weekend in France.

So, I went to a computer store today only to be told that it will take one week for them to find what is wrong with my computer, which, alone will cost €36. After that, I can get it fixed for around, oh, just say, €500 - if it's a new screen that I need. Now, I'm the opposite of computer-geek, I'm a total computer dumbass - I have no idea. However, I'm O.K. at maths, and I know that a new screen for my computer costs around €100. Where the other €400 is coming from, I have no idea.

To top it all off, my entire bathroom is clogged up - no showers of sink-usage for another day. Great.

Doesn't help that I'm overly weepy about leaving France as it is, without any extra stress.

I'm in the kind of headspace that leads me to take out the sugar, open it, close it and put it away again without putting any sugar in my tea.

I'm exhausted. Completely. And I still have to go to work and to dinner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Advice; it's what we ask when we know the answer but wish we didn't

As it draws to a close, I've been thinking about my time in France. It's been an adventure, that's for sure. It's definately had it's highs and definately had it's lows.
Now, from the corny nature of my first three sentances, you can see my writing has kind of gone down hill right now.
I've had a few moments of creativity when it comes to sketching, drawing and painting. Last night, I watched a lecture from the University of Texas, Austin, about Frida Khalo, which really got my visually creative juices going.
I've had moments when I painted day and night, although there have been not too many of them.
However, my writing has suffered extremely. I haven't written anything good since I was in New Jersey in December, during my last 24 hours in America, and I wrote a bit in Montreal, though nothing earth-shattering.
I've been thinking about it, thinking about what I can do to get my literary juices going. I used to think that I can only write when I'm extremely depressed. On closer inspection, I decided this to be false, I wrote a lot when I was neither depressed nor happy, and have written a lot when I was exceedingly happy. (I was very happy to discover this as I enjoy not being extremely depressed).
I then tested the theory that I only write well when I'm expecting something very very bad or very very good - when I'm sure despite having no reason to be sure. Which explains a lot, because I am very confused right now and, ipso facto, have not been writing.
Another theory is that I've been mixing too many languages, and therefore, I havent been able to work well with words in one language alone. Although, that doesn't really prove a satisfying theory.
Perhaps, it's that I'm no longer in an academic environment.

Whatever it is, I would like it to stop. I want to be creative again. Not being creative is making me feel rather dull.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rain, rain, go away.... come again in 2 and a half weeks...

It's raining like crazy here, and, according to, it will keep raining for the next five days.
I'm still sick, coughing and all phlegmy, (not that you needed to know) but the shoe-soaking weather is not helping... not at all. And I had a horrible dream last night which really shook me up. Oh, and I'm broke again, but what's new?
I have done some organising for my USA/Canada trip coming up, but not much... I need to make some decisions. However, I have done quite a bit more organising for my Europe trip immediately after. My wonderful dad bought me a ticket from Geneva to Warsaw, which means I'm going to see my cousins and maybe even see Warsaw, if I decide to spend a night there.
Lately, I've been having trouble making decisions, in what seems like almost all areas of my life; travel, work, study, personal life, food etc. If I wasn't so broke, I'd get myself some tarot cards to help make some of these pressing decisions which I can't seem to do!
It's strange, I've always been very decision-orientated and quick to know what I want. I seem to be changing in my old age (birthday coming up). And even though I've not yet hit 21, I feel a lot older than that. In a good way, but also in a bad way. I feel I've missed out on being young and stupid, but I know that many people (mostly my parents) will think of my propensity for doing things with a high risk of catastrophe and argue that I have, in fact, not grown up at all and in reality, stayed 15 for the last six years.
So, have I grown up or not? I still have no idea. While friends of mine are writing theses, getting degrees, starting careers, getting engaged and having babies, I realise I'm not even close. I graduated high school four years ago and I'm nowhere near a degree, let alone a career, I'm not going to get engaged soon, and I'm definately not planning on having a baby yet. I always thought I had plenty of time for this - I thought I'd have all that sorted at 25; degree, career, husband, baby. But that's in four years!! Four years does not seem enough time for all that, and I think that's what scares me the most. I always thought all this travelling and this crazy life I have was just to get it out of my system so I could settle down early.
When did I turn 20? And how the hell am I almost 21? And I don't even want to think about what I will be like before I actually turn 25, or even 30!!
And even though I feel older than I am, I feel I haven't accomplished anything that one is meant to accomplish in life, like a serious relationship, or a real job, or an education. I'm not even close.
Just give me my age-defying face-cream and book me in for my botox, I'm having a mid-life crisis at 21!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A short, perhaps premature, review

It was mid-November when I wrote my last '5 weeks left post'
Well, it's 5 weeks left again. But this time, 5 weeks in France, and this time, I'm not hysterical (yet).
In exactly 5 weeks, I'll be in a lovely, comfortable, business class seat somewhere over the Atlantic (and, after just having watched Titanic, the idea is a little strange). Actually, having just checked my itinerary, I'll only just have left England. But, no matter, I'll be comfortable, hopefully a little drunk, with a glass of sparkling white wine in my hand, no doubt (to numb the pain of leaving France and to dull the almost-certain panic-attack when faced with long-haul air-travel)
Also, I am glad to have just read that that unpronouncable Iclandic volcano has calmed down a bit for the moment, and will hopefully (knock on wood) not re-commence spilling its guts between now and then to make at least ONE of my long-haul flights undelayed and undisrupted (just this once!). Or any other volcano for that matter.
I don't know why I'm so calm when it comes to leaving France. Perhaps, this time, I have more plans, I know what's going to be happening. I know what I'm in for (sort of). I have adopted a good philosophy.
Perhaps, I have grown into my life. I know it's a strange phrase to use but I really do believe it. Examining the insane adventure that has been not just limited to my time in Europe, but the last 8 and a half months, I have changed so much. I'll admit that the first few months were a bit more normal. That my Canadian life had a sort of normality about it and that when I got to Europe that relative normality fell away before I was ready to let go, which made my time in Europe a lot harder and also, a lot more crazy. A real adventure, living by the seat of my pants (or skirt, as the case may be).
I really had no point to this blog when I started writing it, but I have come to one by accident.
The last 4 and a half months in this continent in numbers;
  • trains: 8
  • train-related panic-attacks: 1
  • planes: 4
  • plane-related panic-attacks: 2
  • glasses of wine: 937, 589, 793, 432 (although this statistic is waiting to be verified)
  • days without stockings: 7
  • drunken evenings: a few.
  • metros: countless
  • missed trains: 1 (but not mine)
  • jobs: 3
  • croissants: 39, 483, 295
  • countries visited: 6
  • cities visited: 20
  • international plug-converter thingys that still didn't work with my hair straightener: 3
  • museums visited: 11 (shockingly low!)
  • films seen at cinemas: 3 (also, shockingly low)
  • numbers of days when I started counting down to my USA trip: 126
  • days left in Europe: 34

Holy Crap! The last 92 days flew by.

As much as I didn't believe it 92 days ago... I'm going to miss Lyon. France. French. And my life here.

bisous. a.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunshine, books and pretty scarves.

I've been having a pretty wonderful week. I've been taking full advantage of my last week of enforced holidays. Next week it's back to work, back to being able to pay rent, back to 5 days on/2 days off (but not in that order).

On tuesday, I ate an entire baguette because I was finally working a bit again, and had euros in my pocket and decided to celebrate by eating, even though I wasn't hungry. This baguette included tomatos, goats cheese, eggs and jam, but not all together. I was still full this morning. Before work, I sat by the river in the sun, reading, trying to get some colour into these pasty legs of mine. After work, I made sugar cookies and watched Bridget Jones 2: The Edge of Reason in Polish and remembered how much I dont like watching movies dubbed in Polish - the same guy does all the voices, quite monotonously, but it gave a new twist to an old favourite. And, the sugar cookies are quite amazing. Might snack a couple now...

Today, I shopped, having recently found that I have no white bra nor tshirts that I don't swim in (problem with weightloss - now a size S in bottoms and M in tops!). So, I took advantage of H and M's massive lingerie selection. I was tempted by many a cute lacy pink bra, or sexy blue panties, but I stuck to my guns and went for the plain white t-shirt bra. I also discovered some cute basic tops for 7 Euros... done! I splurged on a scarfe though. It was so perfect because I had chosen a peachy-pink top and a turquoise blue top, and the scarfe is beige with peachy-pink and turquoise blue flowers. I opted against this gorgeous denim skirt I saw, because once I tried it on, it made me look pregnant. No, not fat. Pregnant. The fit was perfect except for the little bit that the front which bulged out like a baby bump. I have as much desire to look pregnant as I have to be pregnant, so I had to leave the cute denim skirt with the bows on the pockets...

I indulged again in a 'Chelsea' grilled panini, with an Iced Tea at a little place called something like Bagel Sandwitch Bar, or New York Bagel Bar or whatever. All I know is there was a photo of NYC's Hard Rock Cafe and the Naked Cowboy on my table and a huge New York State license plate print on the wall. I finished up at 5:30pm, with no desire to go home, so I spent 2 and a half hours reading in the sun by the cathedral. It's sunny so long now, it's past 9pm and it's not even fully dark yet.

For tomorrow I envision more sunshine, reading, possibly at the Parc Tete d'Or or at Croix Rousse... and possibly a lesson... still waiting for the confirmation from my student....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shoe Obituary

I've been desperately needing new shoes, but I've been trying to put it off till I go to the U.S. because shoes are cheaper there. However, I can go on no longer.

I love my old shoes... here they are... a bit worn and torn...

... but they have served me well, nonetheless. In Washington last August, I managed to wear out 2 pairs of flats which I bought in Perth. These shoes saved me; US$11.50 on 5th Avenue in New York City. I wore them all over North America, they were my only shoes until the snow came in Montreal. They travelled and have seen Europe with me. Well, it shows:

they have also been stretched beyond belief and constantly fall off my feet. Stairs are a struggle in them. I guess it's time they go.

But I'm very picky with shoes. I'm travelling. They can't be super heavy, they need to suit everything in my suitcase and they can't cost more that 20Euro. But I don't want black shoes.

After over 2 hours of fruitless traversing in what feels like a million stores where the shoes were either ugly, or too expensive, or too colourful, or not colourful enough, or too plain, or too 'out there', I found these wonderful cotton flats for less that 15Euro;

They have no holes, they fit and they don't fall off my feet. They are pretty, they match everything. I really do thing I have a bit of a crush on these shoes. Even so, I have become attached to my purple shoes. I have some good memories of those shoes. It's sad to let them go...
R.I.P dear purple shoes. I will remember you fondly.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Things I love at the Moment (Mk. II)

  • al fresco coffee without jackets
  • need for sunglasses
  • the smell of fresh flowers
  • french markets
  • half a dozen eggs for less than a euro
  • waking up to sunshine
  • backrubs
  • long talks with my mum
  • the look of sunlight coming in through stained glass windows
  • getting things right
  • unexpected outings
  • dancing like crazy while completely sober
  • goat's cheese
  • home-made omlettes
  • the snooze button
  • cover bands at local bars
  • open-air art galleries
  • new jewellry
  • clean apartments (but not "cleaning apartments")
  • cuddling on couches
  • dinner with friends
  • girly talks
  • sunsets at 8:30pm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Today, I am going to the library.

Why, you may ask, is this blog-worthy?

Because, I love books, I love libraries and I haven't been to one in ages.

That is why.

Bisous. a.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wonderful Weekend

So, the weekend is nearly over, it's sunday afternoon and I'm determined to be productive!
I had a wonderful weekend full of sunshine and good company; je suis tres contente

I was so happy to finish work on Friday, after an exhausting day full of scooters, bikes and tears (not my own), and knowing that there will be two weeks of freedom (albeit financial shit) to follow. It looks like I will have to further downsize my already shoestring lifestyle, a challenge, but I think it's do-able. It just means, less convenient grocery shopping to find the cheapest markets in town, more penny pinching, no more giving to beggars (sorry) and no more chucking 1 and 2 centimes pieces in the bottom of my bag. It means bending over to pick up that 10 centimes piece, and possibly (finally) exchanging my safety-net of swiss francs and seeing how many euros I can get for US$8.19.

Anyway, back to my weekend. Friday night involved cocktails, more specifically, pina colada and lots of French! Trying to keep up is still hard, but getting easier. Saturday was brilliant; involving a walk around the old town, croix rousse, down the Rhone river and a petit repose in the gardens of the art gallery. On saturday night, crepe party chez moi, complete with wine, tarot cards, cosmo magazines and a Gerald Butler film. This morning, I called my parents and must say it made me feel so much better but made me miss them like crazy. I realise I do, infact, have the best parents! And talking to my dad, which I havent done for ages, was so good and he helped me get some real perspective on my life and the near future. I don't think he gets quite how much he helped me this morning! Now, I've just finished work and plan to keep up my productivity even though watching some films is getting too tempting. Perhaps, if I write down my to-do list, it will be easier to get motivated;
  • reply to some pressing emails
  • re-post work advertisments online
  • take out the rubbish
  • put my name on the mailbox (finally)
  • clean the kitchen
  • work on some paintings
  • post finished paintings on new blog (yet another!)
  • eat. soup w couscous. not my favourite, but all I have that is not pasta. (which I'm sick of)

Ok! Allons-y!

bisous. a.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What I'm loving right now /// Les Choses que j'adore a ce moment

  • big, brown fabric flowers // les fleurs brun de tissue
  • grey-blue pastel silk skirts // les jupes de soie gris-bleu
  • off-white cotton blouses // les blousons de coton presque-blanc
  • not needing jackets // pas des manteaux
  • big sunglasses // les grandes lunettes de soleil
  • crepes // crepes
  • french white wine // le vin blanc francais
  • balmy nights // les nuits embaumees
  • strolls by the river // promenades au bord du fleuve
  • fresh seafood // fruits de mer
  • long nights // les nuits tres longues
  • longer days // les jours plus longues
  • sunshine waking me up in the morning // quand le soleil me reveille dans le matin

Truely, it's spring! // Franchement, c'est les printemps!

Love, adore, aime, all these things.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And sometimes things just go right...

I woke up this morning feeling pretty average. Rent is due and I had to get my metro pass done. I found out my rent had not gone down since we won't have a new roommate. (insert profanity here).
I barely scraped up enough to pay the cheaper rent. (insert other, stronger profanity here)
I also will not be earning more euros until tuesday (double profanity).
So, I label myself as 'in the financial pits'. I was hoping not to touch my savings anymore until I left for the US.
I put off getting my papers sorted to get my metro pass done by chatting on facebook, reading blogs, muttering to myself and making yet another cup of tea. Finally, I got off my ass, got my passport, my proof of address and my 5 euros for the photomachine (Le Photomaton, just like those in Amelie *sigh*) and headed to Perrache.
Not in a good mood as it was, I grumbled my way through the station to the first Photomaton which was out of order, passing by the insanely full TCL (Lyon Public Transport Co.) office thinking I was going to waste a few hours of my life just waiting in line.
Finally, I got to a working Photomaton and took the photo thinking "I just don't care." However, I was pleasantly surprised. My photo came out looking a lot more glamorous that I had expected. What an ego boost! (that oversized flower I bought at H&M was definately worth the 4 Euro) I quite like it and am considering taping it into both my passports and over my student ID to cover up past photos where I look ridiculous, or very, very stoned.
When the photos came out, and I braced myself for what I learned from past metro-card-acquisition experiences (like those in Montreal), I was set for more questions than I had been asked at Canadian customs (i.e. a lot.)
In Montreal, it took me 6 hours to get my metro pass. In Lyon, it took me 6 minutes. The crowd at the TCL office had disappeard into thin air thanks to the help of a magician named 'Luigi' (it's the only explination as all public service institutions are set up to make life miserable), there were 3 free service people, each smiling as I walked up and gave one of them my documents. She typed things in to the computer, clicked the mouse a few times and gave me my metro pass, valid untill 2015! I asked if I can pay by Visa. She said 'bien sur', smiled, processed the payment and wished me a 'bon journee'.
I thought this is all too good to be true, and perhaps the card only starts working in 24 hours or something. But no, it's true! The card works!!
To celebrate, I bought a baguette and debated which avocado was best (the hard one or the squishy one - I opted for squishy, even though it was more expensive. Also, did you know that 'avocado' comes from a native South American word meaning 'testicle'? The Spanish adopted it to describe the fruit, not knowing the genital reference. Anyway, I digress.), and walked home in the gorgeous sunlight with the breeze that was just enough to make me feel pretty, but not enough to get my hair stuck in my sunglasses and lipstick.
So, despite being in the financial pits, there are some moments in the day where I feel my life has almost reached perfection.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dear New York.

written at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon.

I'm so spoiled. I don't mean materially (I'm writing this on a croissant-wrapper). No, I mean intellectually spoiled. I'm sitting here at the Musee des Beaux Arts, I got in for free (yay to being European and under 25), and yet I'm still so disappointed. I just passed by a Picasso, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to see the Demoiselles d'Avignon again in NYC.

I saw some Delacroix and Gericault originals and thought that the collection is not as good as the Met.

There is Matta, Dufy and Chagall within a few meters of me, but it's not the MoMA - the modern art wing at the Musee des Beaux Arts was barely half of what I expected it to be. There is no Dali, or Khalo, or Rivera, or Calderon, or Calder. And the two Delaunay pieces (one Sonia and one Robert) are unbelievably small and underwhelming.

I don't get the tiniest bit of emotion here. I almost cried when I saw Malevich's White on White in NYC last summer. I'm not joking, I welled up.

I keep thinking my life would be so much easier if I never went to NYC. I would be happy in France. I wouldn't miss it so much. I wouldn't be sitting in a museum (my favourite place in the world; the museum), counting down the days until I leave for JFK.

New York -
My life would be easier if I never met you.
I would be blissfully ignorant of what I'm missing out on.
New York - I hate you
But I'm also deeply, madly in love with you.
Please take me back.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oreos and Milo.

What kind of country is this?!!

OK, so I understand they have one of the best healthcare and education systems in the world. (Kudos to America for catching up with health care reform though - I was very happy to read about that this morning)

And I get that the cheese is fantastic. And the wine. And the bread. And the language is beautiful and the culture is rich. I get that.

And I've made peace with the fact that they don't have timtams or cherry ripes. (almost)

And I'm slowly coming to terms with the French ignorance towards Milo... very slowly.

HOWEVER, where are all the oreos?!

I have been craving oreos like a mad woman (don't worry, unless I'm going to be the new Mary, I'm not pregnant). I don't know why but I have been longing for the dark chocolatey goodness for the last few days and have spent ridiculous amount (1 Euro) on a packet of 6 tiny oreo cookies.

I wanted a big box. I wanted 48 cookies. I wanted to sit and watch crappy sitcoms all day while munching normal-sized oreos, not these French cornflake-sized oreos, totally undoing all my good work and recent weightloss, and drinking milk out of the carton. I would have to spend 10 euros for that. That's $15! to get the equivalent of a regular box of oreos.

Now, I admit that oreos and I have always had a bit of a one-sided relationship. When I start with one, I can't end with only 6. There has to be more, MORE! That puny little pack of oreos left me so unsatisfied.... quite tragic.

In 68 days, I will be in America, though. In 68 days, after I land at JFK, I will buy myself a huge, industrial sized box of oreos and munch away.

Or, even just an American medium-sized box should keep me fed for about a week.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Set in Stone.

Ok, so I recently started planning my next few steps. I have my trip to the US almost all planned, me thinks. It looks a little like this:

30 May: Take train to Paris. Then fly Paris-London-JFK
30 May - 4 June: New York
4 June - 11 June (ish): San Fransisco
11 June - 11 July: Vague idea to spend some time in NY and some time in Montreal. But not quite sure exactly with the details.

Then, on the 12th June, I get back to Paris to celebrate Bastille Day, French Style (after having spent the 4th of July in the US)
Ill then spend some time with family in France, then go to Bratislava, then to Poland for 2 weeks. After that it's Rome, Madrid, Cordoba and Marrekech.

After this, around the end of August, I'll find a place to live and work a bit. Until late December or January. Then, I hope to go to Peru, if all goes according to plan, and maybe Chile and/or Bolivia. Not too sure, but I HAVE to see Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. And, eat some real ceviche. And probably drink too much Pisco. And just have an adventure. As I have been for the last 8 months.

But yeah, that's the vague plan.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Cobbled Streets

Now, I have already posted about my new apartment. It is beautiful. And Old Lyon surpises me everyday, when I go for my stroll in the narrow, crooked streets.

A few days ago, I came across a relatively new inscription over one of the (numerous) Irish pubs on Rue Saint-Georges. It was commemorating a member of the French resistance who was captured there in 1943 and sent to her death at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Its amazing how much history happened right on my street! (well, not on my street, technically, I live on another street, but the back door to my apartment goes out on Rue St Georges)

Another day, I stopped to read about the history of the St Georges church. It's the church closest to my house, yet I've never been there, I've only visited the St Jean Cathedral, a few blocks further down. I discovered that, although St Georges was built in the mid 19th Century, in the Gothic-revival style, it was built on the old foundations of a church built in the time of Charlemagne!

Even further into the heart of Vieux Lyon, I discovered a house which was built in 1635, less than 5 minutes from my place. Another one, in the 1400's. There are houses here from before Columbus' discovery of the New World (and subsequent invasion, colonisation and destruction of native cultures - but we'll save that post for another time).

About 15 minutes from here, there is the Rue Juiverie, named so in memory of the Jews that were forcably exiled from France by Charles VI in 1394, altohugh the street had been inhabited since the 5th century. The signs about buildings that now house modern art galleries and restaurants commemorate the dates when the buildings were taken from their Jewish owners and settled by wealthy French traders, businessmen and bankers. On this streets, there used to be jousting tournaments, and Nostradamus lived here too!

I could go on and on. But this is just amazing. Like, the Rue du Boeuf was constructed in the 3rd Century...

It's just unbelievable. There are courtyards and turrets that remind me of times of dragons and princesses and knights in shining armour.

However, not all the history is all that interesting. While admiring a small little alley yesterday, I discovered it used to be an open sewer... charming.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When you travel a lot, you start to become obsessed with weather.

Actually, I've always been obsessed with weather.

I'm a winter girl, through and through. Give me a hot cup of tea while I sit on the heater and watch the snow. Give me a book to read in front of the fire place while there is a thunderstorm. Seriously.

I'd rather walk in crispy snow than in salty sand that sticks to you and never comes off and you find in your shoes 2 weeks after you came home from the beach.

I'd rather put on another jumper than re-apply sunscreen.

However, when summer hit today like a big, fat, melty snowball, I was amazed. I had a job interview and when I left to go home, I didn't bother putting on my jacket. I didn't need gloves, nor a scarfe. Or even boots. In fact, I got myself an ice-cream. It was 19 degrees. Perfect ice-cream kind of weather. Really, if I'd bothered to shave my legs, I could've probably ditched the stockings.

As I said, I am a winter girl. However, after over 6 months of coats and jumpers and boots and snow, the vitamin D was a welcome hit for my system.

I got home, all smiley, and opened my window to let the fresh air in. Really, now my room smells like canal and exhaust fumes, but the fact that I'm not shivering with the window open is something that makes the canal and exhaust smells worth it... sort of.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feeling Rather Inadequate

After 3 months in Europe, I have come to realise there is a certain charm about this place. There is a certain magic about being able to pop round to the UK for a weekend, or drive over to Italy for a mini-break. And, yes, finding a flight from London to Katowice for 6Euro is rather charming too. However, living in Europe, I am becoming to feel more and more inadequate to be living in Europe.

Firstly, Europeans travel... a lot. My pathetic 22 countries and 4 continents are pretty weak in comparison to some people I've met. I mean, I haven't even been to Africa, or Turkey, or South America. And I only went to Athens, I didn't make it to the Greek Isles. Pretty poor form, Anna, pretty poor form!

Secondly, I don't drink beer. I cannot comment of whether Belgian or Dutch or German or French is better. Mainly, because they all taste the same to me. I'm from Poland, I can vaguely distinguish the taste of certain vodkas. Perhaps I belong in the freezing wastelands of my birth country, where they drink beer through a straw!

Thirdy, I only speak three languages. And not very well at that. I have an accent in English, Polish and French, if someone is kind enough to let me include French in my list of 'languages I speak'. I spend most of my time here being looked at like a crazy person because I accidently used the past imperfect instead of the future simple. Ok, big mistake, but I am thinking on my feet, trying to remember vocab and say things in a semi-french fashion. Tenses go out the window.

However, my ability to fake-speak 3 languages (possibly more when I've gotten through a bottle of rum) is rather unimpressive in Europe. When I start speaking Polish on the phone to my parents back in Australia, or break out into basic French with some tourists, people look at me in awe and wonderment. It's kind of cool, actually. However, in Europe, everyone speaks at least 2 languages, if not 3, perfectly. And they are usually 3 useful languages, like English, French and Spanish, for example. Not Polish. Where can you speak Polish? Only in Poland! My country had no colonies to spread the vowel-less, consontant-filled goodness of 6 different gramatical cases. My language skills are pretty limited. Granted, I speak English, but my French is atrocious and Spanish is non-existant. My ability to haggle and sing a nursery rhyme in Mandarin is not as impressive as being able to discuss Kant's theories in the original German. Plus, someone always knows someone who speaks 7 languages, 5 without an accent, or is the person who speaks 7 languages and 5 without an accent.

Yes, I am rather ordinary here in Europe.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chère France

[Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the people/La Liberté guidant le peuple, 1830, Oil on Canvas. Source: here]

Chère France;

Here are some things I find interesting about you

  • The blue street signs in places like Paris or Lyon. They are so French.
  • Your pastries are to die for, which makes your lack of Milo or TimTams bearable
  • The freedom to explore your museums if one is under 25 and European
  • Your frequent condom-dispensing machines. I have never used them, but I find them very amusing
  • French gentlemen are the epitome of gentlemen (rivalled only by Americans, I must admit)
  • Your artists and writers are pretty amazing (see Delacroix, above.)
  • I truly love your accent (even if you don't)

However, there are some things I dislike about you;

  • Your railway system's ability to make life oh so complicated, and the reluctance, nay, refusal to exchange tickets. Also, your trains are too small, I cannot fit my luggage in the aisles.
  • Your metros are expensive. They are good. But they are expensive
  • You sell too many cigarettes
  • Your language is very difficult. Even after 8 years of A's and Distinctions, and many dollars spent at the Alliance Francaise, I am having lots of problems to communicate.
  • Your bureaucracy is a little on the frustrating side


Mademoiselle A.F.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A House with a Blue Door

Just when I was sleeping on a couch. Just when I thought my only recourse of action at the moment would be to fly to Poland and loaf around, because finding a place is just too hard. Just as I was begining to loose hope. Just after a long, cold, wet 1 hour trek around the 7th Arrondisment of Lyon after getting lost only to find an apartment well out of my reach (financially...)

I found an advertisment. A little too expensive, but if I live on baguettes, butter and drink nothing but tap water for one week of the month, I should be OK. In the Saint-Georges quatier. Look up address... less than 100meters from here. I've seen the building before.... it piqued my interest.

I rang the number on a whim (remember, only just out of my budget). Ok, going to visit it the next day. I ran, late as usual, to the building... thankfully only an 80 meter sprint. I met my potential future room mate, saw the house and said 'I'll take it'. In less than 5 minutes, I went from homeless to home-ful.

It's a blue building, on the quai, with a blue door and a room that looks out on the Saone River and, on the other side, into Bellecoeur, through a huge, bright window. The small, but sufficient, kitchen (a bit dark), looks out on Rue Saint-Georges. There is a stone cork-screw staircase, but also a 1970s-era lift.

The bells of L'Eglise Saint-Georges sound the hour. And, as you walk along Saint-Georges towards Saint-Jean, through the narrow cobblestoned streets past medieval buildings, you hit a string of (rather amazing) Irish pubs where there is Guiness (for those who like it) or cheap French wine (for people like me, who don't). Even at 3am, when the bars are closed, the smokey doors of Citron are open for more drinks, and sleazy dancing - where vodka costs 3Euro, but most people are so inebriated, they don't notice.

You can, during the day, on the same cobbled streets, find independent galleries and workshops. There is a stained-glass window studio, and an art restoration studio aswell. Across the river, you can find the nicest of shops, most expensive cafes... the life I can't afford, but I can look! However, Vieux Lyon is my favourite by far. The buildings, some I'd guess 500 years old, stacked together, accented with Gen-Y graffiti and the smell of guiness wafting down the narrow, crooked streets - this is it....

Vieux Lyon is the heart of the city.

...and it is all mine!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Limbo. Or 'Fighting Homelessness'

Well, as I was typing the title to this post, I got a phone call... perhaps things are not as dire as they seemed before.

I'm currently stuck in a limbo. I have had the most amazing time in Lyon. I've met some amazing and kind people, had fantastic experiences, fallen in love with the city and the improvements in my language skills have been astounding. However, I've still failed to complete two big things on my to-do list;
  • find an apartment
  • find a job

Now, I have written before about my temporary sublet... well, today it is over. I have spent my last night in Decines and I am packing to leave.

I have had the incredible luck and chance of meeting some amazing people who have offered up their couches for a few nights each. I'm not so homeless! Life is good! My faith in humanity has been restored! Even my lovely roommates here have offered up a few extra nights on the couch.

However, right now, I got a call about a room in the 7th Arrondisment of Lyon. Well, not really a room but an alcove. I hope it will be ok. It's cheap and hopefully, I will be able to forsake the joys of a door for 2 and a half months. I'll have to think about it. But... all is not lost!

It seems I am on the verge of something. However, I hope that this feeling of hope and positive pre-sentiment extends to my financial situation. I've spent far too much money here in Lyon. I hope I find some sort of work soon. My appartment hunt has enveloped all the time that I can stand looking at my computer screen. Although it has extended my French vocabulary of real-estate terms... I hope it will end soon.

Lyonaise Love.

a. x

Thursday, February 25, 2010

French Kissing

I have lived in France for almost 2 months now (holy hell! really?!)

Now, I'm used to a bit of affection. I'm an affectionate person. I like a hug and a kiss when I meet a good friend for coffee. But I'm still at a bit of a loss to French kissing habits.

For all those thinking I'm about to disclose my personal adventures here in France, you will be disappointed. I'm not talking about passionate 'French Kissing' but about the kiss on the cheek custom in France.

For example, whenever you meet someone, you're supposed to give them a kiss on each cheek. However, when a guy knocked on my bedroom door this evening to drop off a package for his friend (the girl who I'm renting the room from), I introduced myself and gave him a kiss on each cheek - he looked surprised. So I screwed it up again.

But the other day, when I met one of my housemates, I moved away as he moved in for a kiss because I thought he was going to walk past me. How awkward!!

And I'm not sure if, when I say good morning to my roommates, I'm supposed to lean over and do the kiss on the cheek thing or does this expire after a while?

You'd think I'd be adept at this. In Poland, it is customary for 3 kisses and I don't often screw that up. However, the French have got me puzzled, and I'm lost in a sea of social subtleties that I have no idea how to navigate.

Perhaps its the awkwardness of the 'Bonjour' kiss... there is no hugging, and both participants stand with arms akimbo. I like a bit of a cuddle. I'm not a fan of this part of the kissing ritual.

Perhaps I'm not as affectionate as I would have thought, but people who know my propensity for surprise 'back hugs' may disagree.

Perhaps, I'm just not French enough.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

San Fransisco Dreaming

In just a few months, I will be flying into San Fransisco. I've never been before.

I'm looking forward to visiting the City Lights book store... the cradle of the beat poets. It will be a pilgrimage.

I don't know why that popped into my head.

Perhaps the European winter is getting to me. I havent budged from this huge arm chair but to refill my hot cup of tea. As much as I love sitting by the fire place with the soft glow of the lamp and the alps visible from the city, I think my bones are begining to crave some vitamin D, and my brain is responding with thoughts of California.

soon enough, I'll be counting down until the first snow. It's almost Spring!!! (can you believe how quickly winter is over?!)

xx a

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arriving in Lyon

So I'm 'home' and learning again how to write on an anglophone keyboard. I say 'home', because, although I plan to stay in Lyon untill May 28, I'm not yet 'home', ie I dont have my own apartment.

However, in my preliminary apartment searches, I came across an old posting where the room for rent had already been rented (this I only found out later). HOWEVER, there was one room available for sublet, while the occupant (a comedian), is doing a tour of Africa. The room I'm subletting for a week only sets me back 80Euro and I have my own room and a bunch of cool (although temporary) roommates. They comprise of 3 musicians, a student and a comedian (the one whose room I'm in). And, a stable place in Lyon suburbs to do some field research about getting my own place for the next 3 months.

Arriving in Lyon seemed to be the biggest struggle so far. Before getting off the train I (as politely as possible), woke the lady in the aisle seat to go to the bathroom, having just guzzled half a litre of water. I calculated that I'd still have time to get my bags and calmly wait at the doors of the train. Little did I know that in the time of my absense, a traffic jam had formed between the door of the bathroom and my insanely heavy and bulky luggage. Everyone was ready to get off the train when it pulled in to Lyon Part Dieu, and by the time they did, and I ran to get my big, bulky bag (which didnt even fit in the train passage way, but had to be dragged on its side), people started to get on the train, creating a bigger traffic jam and making it more impossible for me to get off the train. Stressed and almost in tears (the train was about to leave), I babbled non-sensical french to lovely french gentlemen who grabbed my suitcase and my backpack for me and got them off the train. If it wasn't for chivalry, I would have ended up in Nimes, Montpellier or on the Cote d'Azur, wherever that train was heading late at night.

The rest went smoothly. I followed Mathieu's instructions (one of my temporary roommates), caught the tram and found him immediately at the station. He then (like a real frenchman), took my suitcase and walked me to the house. We had a cup of tea, chatted, and he went back to the recording studio downstairs, while I checked emails, explored the rather huge house and just went about making myself at home in a strange new place (something I've come accustomed to in the last 7 months).

So, thats it for now.

More Lyonnaise adventures to come!

Gros Bisous,


Monday, February 15, 2010

My French Life - Ma Vie Française

I have been living in France for over a month now, my exploits have reached far and wide in this great country.

I've paid a visit to the capital, the high alpine region, the flat western coastline and the urbansied north. I've been to some of the biggest cities and the tiniest of villages.

I've seen snow and sunshine, ski-lifts and beaches.

I've improved my language skills, gotten and lost a job and learned how to use French keyboards.

I've eaten escargot, créme brulée and tasted but a small selection of France's 270 cheese varieties.

I've learned the intricasies of shopping for fruits and vegetables and using the national railway system.

I've momentarily hopped the boarder to both Switzerland and Belgium.

All in all, an excelent month's progress.

But now what? with over 3 months until my departure to the US, I'm looking for an apartment in Lyon. Looking for some freelance jobs and I guess that's going to have to suffice untill May 28th.

From France, With Love


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another trip

Tomorrow, I'm catching an early morning train to Lille. I'm kind of relieved. The last 3 weeks have been crazy hard.

I have a job interview in Paris on Saturday. Nervous. More trains.

I feel I have learned alot from my life of travel, namely how to pack well, how to pack fast.

I hate packing. and un-packing. And I hate planes. Kind of makes my life seem pretty unsuitable.

However, the good outwheighs the bad, methinks.

Next post from Lille OR Paris (fingers crossed)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Things that I am in love with right now.

  • boats
  • having a job and making money
  • Milan Kundera
  • keeping a diary
  • the growing urge to paint something
  • the breton wind
  • going to New York in a matter of WEEKS (or months, depending on how you look at it)
  • the purchasing of return train tickets to Lille/Brussels for less than 100 Euro.
  • the relaxation and freedom of weekends off work
  • my new camera (Windows and Doors - new photography project)
  • speaking french

with all the love from Brittany/Bretagne. West France.