bougie

I’m a creature of habit

This time last year, I was getting ready for a hybrid work-pleasure trip to France for my 3rd 30th bday. Today, I’m sitting at my desk, watching my inbox fill-up with reminders of my impending trip to France that begins tomorrow.

  • 4 days in Toulouse (pleasure – sight-seeing à la touriste)
  • 4 days in Paris (work)
  • 2.5 days in Nîmes (pleasure – a mini dance festival)

I’m really digging work’s habit of sending me to France around my bday. This is a habit I am embracing wholeheartedly – may it continue for as long as I turn 30.

Like last year, I intend on cramming all of my clothes into 2 carry-on bags, to facilitate flopping about cities. Like every trip ever, my plane is leaving in 24 hours and I haven’t started packing. I haven’t even done laundry. I’ve no idea what to bring, the weather, anything. Will I rush home after work, and get cracking? Nah. Dance class, y’all. No way I am skipping my weekly 4-5 hour dose of kizomba. #priorities Will I have an exhausted meltdown tonight, as I try finish packing at 1 or 2am? You know it. #thepoweroftradition

Still…

I’m hyper. What else is new?

Bougie ‘Nilla

Kizomba, Afrohouse, Semba, Kuduro, Urban Kiz… That’s all that is on my Fbk, my blog’s fbk, my IG. Y’all are forgiven for believing that I am obsessed. I am obsessed.

But.

My true love remains ballet. Always and forever. There is no greater art or discipline, nothing – and I do mean nothing – that can give me more feels.

I’m headed to NYC for a little bougie weekend getaway with 2 of my cousins. We are going to the ABT to see Giselle. I’m such a balletomane, I insisted on picking the exact date and seats, bc I have my favorite ballerinas, and am very picky about which ballerina is suited for what role.

The last time I was in NYC was in 2014: my 30th birthday present to myself was to go see Polina Semionova in Manon, as a solocation. It was my first solo trip, not for work. It was a few weeks before the start of this blog, a few weeks before my depression, a few days after the biggest trainwreck of my dating life (at that point). I wept as I watched Manon go from an innocent girl, to a woman unable to control her sexual impulses, torn between the desire for a nice life and true love, and her eventual death as the price for her sins.

Now, I prepare myself to watch Giselle. I will weep as I watch a young girl with terrible taste in men fall in love with a playboy. He makes her fall for him, only for her to realize she was just a distraction – he is engaged to a beautiful noblewoman. She snaps – unable to process such dehumanizing treatment – goes psycho (the name for that part of the ballet is the “Mad scene”. Giselle goes bonkers; any woman can relate) and then dies from heartbreak. Playboy filled with regret, visits her tomb, only to be haunted by the Ghosts of Jilted Women Past who seek revenge by casting a spell on him to make him dance until he dies from exhaustion. Ghost Giselle intervenes from the afterworld, because although betrayed by him, her love is pure, and she forgives him.

WHO SAYS BALLET IS NOT RELATABLE?! If both of those plot-lines are not accurate descriptions of dating as a single girl in your 30s, I dunno what is.

#soexcited

#badandbougie


Further thoughts on ballet:

That’s Africa – have you heard of it?

Dance class. We rotate partners every 2nd/3rd 8 counts, as we practice the class’s steps, bc kizomba is a social dance, which means being social with everybody, not selectively. It’s great, bc it allows me to meet all kinds of people, and if a dude flubs up his steps spectacularly – or worse, if I do – NEXT!

As I was waiting for Teacher to start the music, I stood in an ADD haze next to my partner GT, short for Google Translate – same guy as in this story: he remains my go-to guy for immediate translations of kizomba songs during practice. As is wont to happen in an ADD moment, I locked in on a random detail: the pendant of GT’s necklace. It was a small gold pendant of Africa. I’ve seen the same style necklace in painted wood, in larger proportions, but never this delicate version.

The wooden pendant I am used to:

A similar version of the delicate pendant worn by GT – except this image is not to scale. GT’s pendant is less than 1 inch long:

As I peered closer, nose almost glued to his chest (totally acceptable behaviour with an almost-stranger in the middle of a dance floor, obvi), trying to make out the words engraved on his pendant, GT sighed patiently, and explained,

Yeah, ummm, so that’s Africa. You might have heard of it?

Boy, what?! Yes. Yes, I have heard of one of 7 continents of the planet, and can spot it on a map. Fun fact, there are countries that can be found in that continent too! Yes, really! I can name most of them, too! I KNOW! How crazy is that?! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, BOY?! I was trying to read the engraving on your necklace. Sheesh!

Oh, well, ummm, you see, ummm, you are blond… and white.

How many times has a white girl stared at his necklace, unaware of the existence of that prominent landmass?

2-3 times. Per year. Yes, Canadians too. Not just Americans.

Hard to be offended when dude has been traumatized by pervasive ignorance. Still, forevermore, when I greet GT, I always ask “Hey! Africa! Have you heard of it?”

P.S. GT admitted to me last week that even with a magnifying glass, he cannot read the engraving on his own pendant. That makes me smirk.

P.P.S. In case y’all are imagining a redneck à la Kid Rock, no. GT is from Angola. That’s in Africa – you might have heard of it?

 

This is how I handle stress

 

 

That is all. Except I happen to avoid suffocation approximately 5-15 times a day. #scurvy

All while listening to La Traviata as loud as possible. Because what are my struggles when compared to true love, social ostracism, tuberculosis, and terrible communication skills?

Lyrics of that excerpt:

Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The rosiness in my cheeks has already gone pale;
The love of Alfredo I will miss,
Comfort, support my tired soul
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

The joys, the sorrows soon will end,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Do not cry or place flowers at my grave,
Do not place a cross with my name to cover these bones!
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

If that doesn’t give one perspective, what can?! “All is finished”… yup. Sounds ’bout right to me. If you want an even bigger punch to the gut, watch this. Woman is reunited with her lover, all is forgiven, they pledge to live happily ever after, and then after two 3 minute arias, she keels over and dies. #bleak #nowthatssomeheavydutyadulting

#nomorebangingbod #definitelynotaskinnybitch #pleasantlyplump #ineedavacationandabottleofwine #lovemyjobiswear #notadramaqueennoway

The best part of travelling is coming home

Regardless of the purpose of the trip or the duration of the flight, roughly one hour before landing, I begin to feel a bubble of happiness and excitement at the prospect of coming home that is greater than the excitement at the start of a trip, before the plane takes off. No matter whether I had a wonderful trip, like when I went to Beirut, or this time in France. I like my city, my country, my things, my peeps and my gym.

[Off topic, because I have ADD and writing the word “gym” made me think of this.

You guys. 10 days of French cuisine, and no exercise. I am plump. So satisfied and content, but without any doubt, I am definitely plump. I’m not too worried: losing weight will be easy when transitioning back to Mtl food – nothing will tempt me, so portion control will be easy. In North America, we don’t do bread. Not like the French do. I refuse to eat our bread ever again. Also? I won’t be drinking 3-6 glasses of wine per day, every day. I think my plumpness will settle itself pretty quickly. In the meantime, I feel like a camel, having stored up on the sensation of enjoying food long enough to last till my next trip. (You might suggest that I take up cooking, but let’s be realistic. That will NEVER happen.)]

I walked through places of beauty. Saw sites of incredible historical relevance. Museums with exhibits I can only dream of, coming from Montreal, displaying a breadth and depth of works of art that our museums cannot achieve. Watched what Parisiens consider to be a run-of-the-mill operatic performance, with singers that our Montreal Opera Symphonique de Montréal couldn’t afford to invite here to perform. It was incredible.

But I still was homesick.

What did I do on my first afternoon home? Hang out at one of the free neighbourhood pools, soaking up the sun, watching my friend’s pre-schooler flop about with her wee friends in the kiddie pool. And I was just as happy, if not happier, as when I was walking about France with the ghosts of kings past.

#notsobougieafterall

#itsthesimplethings


Still, let me share some pics from this trip (all of them taken with a simple iphone 6, using the filters available and editing options within).

View of Paris’s north shore, from the roof-top terrasse of the Musée d’Orsay. That green space = Jardins de Tuileries, and behind it on the hilltop is the Basilique de Sacré-Coeur

La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame is located on a wee island in the Seine called Ile de la Cité. When the weather is beautiful, Parisiens go down to the water and picnic on the ledge. What a view. City living at its best.

Reims. Located in Champagne country-side. Went for a tour of the Taittinger champagne house, and their caves where they store their champagne. Built on 4th century Roman caves and the foundations of a famous 13th century Abbey, that was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Strasbourg. Fairy tale scenery.

More Strasbourg fairy tale scenery. All of these pics are taken in their downtown core. Because #urbanplanningwin

No filter, because none needed. This area of Strasbourg is a Unesco World Heritage site, called la Petite France. Funny story, it was initially built in the 15th century to house soldiers returning from wars with syphilis. Most beautiful quarantine possible.

Not a vintage pic. I took it while on a boat tour. Strasbourg = a living anachronism.

This is where my work convention was hosted: a medieval French village in the countryside – the Domaine de Rebetz. NBD.

 

Time for a little humble-bragging

My plane leaves in 7 hours… Other than my opera ticket, and the train tickets to get from each of the 4 towns I’ll be visiting, I’ve got nothing planned. And that feels GREAT. I don’t have any travel-books or tour guides. I am planning on winging it.

There is so much freedom in travelling alone, especially when I can speak the language of the country I am visiting. I like waking up in the morning, and seeing where my feet take me. Sure, I have googled Strasbourg and Reims a few times, so I have a vague idea of some of the things I’d like to do (a few cathedrals, 1-2 champagne cellars) but otherwise, nope, I don’t want to plan anything else. I want to talk to the waiters at the cafés, and hear their opinions (95% of which I will disregard); sit on a plaza, people watching, and strike up a conversation with a random person; get lost as I walk about town, discovering fabulous and not-so-fabulous views around every corner and stop and ask for directions.

I haven’t packed a single article of work-out gear. 10 days without stepping inside a gym. I have my walking shoes, and I intend on walking 4-6 hours a day. That is good enough for me. No stress about making it to boxing on time. No regimented schedules, other than the 3 day conference – but even that: it is all outside of my control, I just need to wake up in the morning, and my day will be planned for me. All I need to do is show up. 10 days of eating whatever I want. 10 days of good food. I packed my stretchy pants.

The weather forecast for the portion of this trip that is personal is rainy and cold. Of course. So I’ve packed sweaters, jackets, an umbrella…

But get this.

10 days. I managed to pack everything into 2 carry-on bags, one of which is my work laptop bag. No checked luggage for this girl!

Yeah.

I know. It’s impressive. I was going to humble-brag, but really, I think that feat deserves a full-on brag. Vanilla the Great. I packed 3 pairs of shoes… as well as all of the items mentioned above. Imma have the freedom to galivant between the 4 towns without being weighed down by unwieldly suitcases. AND I will look good doing it.

That is why I am awesome. I can act and look like a princess, and I can cut corners and be practical too.

#humblebragfail

#boastingcomesnaturally

#baskintheawesomenessofmypackingskills

#IamSOexcitedforthistrip

 

A little ballet with your Mozart?

I have trouble accepting that more than one person can have the same name. Infantile, I know. I’m always shocked too, when it turns out that people with the same name have wildly differing personalities. I suppose this is the result of me being an only child with an unusual name – how many Vanillas do you know? That’s what I thought.

Similarly, when I hear a piece of music used in a dance/ballet, I always think of that choreography as being THE choreography. The only one. The original.

Therefore, when I first heard the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto in this modern ballet, I forever associated it to this choreography.

Vanilla moment: I first saw that piece in my late teens, and my mother had to explain to me what “Petite Mort” stands for (orgasm). I was confused, both by the slang (“Petite Mort” translates literally to “Little Death”) and how the choreography embodied that meaning. Having rewatched it several times, I understand better, but it doesn’t move me. It did, however, introduce me to the choreographer Jiri Kylian’s work. And some of his work is pretty fantabulous. Check this short video out:

Who says ballet can’t be amusing too?!

ANYHOW, recently, I discovered that the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto had been used in another ballet, by a different choreographer (Angelin Preljocaj). Funnily enough, this choreography also deals with sex, but in a much more accessible way. And it deals with romance. Would you just look at the kiss from 5:23 to 6:09?

If that doesn’t sell you on the power of ballet to express emotions that can’t be verbalized, nothing will. We’ve all dreamed of being kissed like that, where the room spins, and your body helicopters off this earth. Some of us have been kissed like that. Lucky peeps.

I can’t even imagine what my next discovery for the 2nd movement of Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto will bring.