photography

Maybe I need a selfie-stick?

Bc this is what happens when I try take a sexy selfie.


All of the puffy eyes and dark circles.

This workation to France (Toulouse/Paris/Nîmes) has been intense. My silence is caused by an excess of stories – some good, some bad, some very funny. Rather than say too much, I’m taking my time to work through my tangled jumble of thoughts and emotions; most of these stories merit serious consideration as to the appropriate degree of care, discretion and privacy required to avoid unnecessary drama and betrayal. I’ll resume posting upon my return to Montreal early this week.

However, lest you believe my silence is all bad, here are a few pics from this evening, my last on this trip. Nîmes, in the South of France has some of the best preserved ruins from the Roman Empire. Below, pics from Nimes’ Jardins des Plantes. These were take between 8-9pm. So bright!

 

Growing up in Canada, I always believed fans, of the handheld variety, to be decorations representative of a by-gone era. Imagine my surprise in Toulouse &Nîmes, seeing women AND men fanning themselves in the scorching, exhausting summer sun. Stores sell fans everywhere similar to how drugstore sell umbrellas in North America: the expectation is that people require one to survive the hot months.

I relied on my new fan quite heavily to survive my dancing nights in Nîmes.

Last but not least, my supper view:

It’s hard to write meaningful words when surrounded by such beauty.

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Toulouse: too hot to handle

​​The first leg of my 2nd annual bday workation trip to France is drawing to an end. Toulouse has been great.

I had intended for this to be the sight-seeing leg of my trip, unlike Nîmes next weekend, where my stated purpose in going is to dance as many hours as possible within a 60-hour period. Yet despite myself, I’ve done quite a bit of dancing. I attended a 2 hour kizomba class, followed by a 6 hour dance social on Friday, the day I landed. And then yesterday, this happened:

Because why not have an outdoor salsa/bachata street festival in downtown Toulouse? Despite the heat (36C), the place was packed. I filmed that video at 7:30pm. Look at the vivid colors and sunshine! Incredible. The people were friendly, I danced as much as I could handle (poor little Canadian doesn’t understand how to survive in >25C weather). I thought I didn’t like salsa. Wrong, I love salsa. I thought I hated bachata. Wrong, bachata is fuuuuuun. I didn’t know a single person there, but I danced the day away, until I almost collapsed from exhaustion/dehydration/sun-stroke. Typical side-effects of sight-seeing, obvi.

I’m a fan of this approach: typically when I go on a sight-seeing only trip, I remain an outsider, peeking in. But by going dancing, I met a ton of Toulousains. Dance, talk, dance, listen to their musical southern French accents, dance, flirt. I got to meet ppl, which really gave an extra vibe to this beautiful city. I feel like I experienced Toulouse, instead of just seeing Toulouse. For someone who travels mostly alone, this was a nice discovery. Imma apply it to all my future trips.

 


Here are some pics of Toulouse. No filter, on any of them. The colors are so bright, the sky is so blue. What a lovely, sunshiney, beautiful city. And so hot! I had to go shopping twice for summer clothes – 1 pair of shorts (the only pair I own) was not enough!

 

Follow the church spire 

I’m staying at the same hotel in Paris as during my last trip. It’s conveniently located, reasonably (for Paris) priced and clean. Every day, to and from my 30min walk to metro – I walk the first 5 metro stops in order to take in a feel of Paris – I’ve seen a church spire coquettishly peaking out between buildings in the 9th arrondissement.

Tonight I finally opted to turn down the street and check it out.


It is called Église de la Trinité, built in the 19th century as part of Baron Haussman’ attempt to unify the urban look of Paris. It holds no particular significance, other than its beauty.


My view from the window of the café across the street as I enjoy supper (an omelette with salad and fries – how French! – and a tall glass of wine).


Did I ever mention I love it here? I love it here.

Sick in Paris, le zut alors

I’m back in Paris this week, for work. Just like that. Apparently, I’ll bring value to a special project that is getting fast-tracked from inception to execution and roll out. So wee, here I am, and I might be back in the spring du coup.

Its my third visit to France within 8 months for work. It blows my mind. I have trouble reconciling that I, Vanilla, have insights and inputs valuable enough to merit that kind of company spend. Part of me knows how hard I’ve worked to get here, part of me knows that I deserve these opportunities, but a huge part of me feels like an imposter and the rug will be pulled out from under me at any moment. The terror of joy.

This current (French) manifestation of my joy-terror feels suspiciously like the worst case of jet-lag of all time. I landed in Paris Sunday morning at 9am – as my hotel room was not ready, I walked aimlessly about town, trying to stay awake. I decided to go to the Louvre, as it has been 15 years since I’d last been: it would be like window-shopping, browsing bougie style. 25 euros later, I made my way to the Mona Lisa, laughed at the dozens of people taking bad selfies of themselves with La Jaconde, and almost fainted from exhaustion. 25 euros for 25 minutes. Win! 2pm, back at the hotel, got my early check-in. 3pm, asleep. Woke up at 5:30am today feeling like a marching band had taken up residence in my brain.

Behold the pics I managed to take before my body decided to hibernate:

 

Today I had fever, chills, a brain that was 100% wool and 0% grey matter, weird pasty tongue and dry mouth, and my kidneys hurt. I also lost my appetite. Do you know what sucks more than just losing your appetite? Losing your appetite in Paris. I see all those macarons, baguette, profiteroles, I am aware that my time here is limited and that I cannot find the equivalent in Montreal so I should eat up… and I just can’t do it.

The universe has a petty sense of humor. Hmph.

Zut alors.

Paris, ville de l’amour & l’irritation extrême 

I just wanted to take pictures, y’all. Really.

I am in Paris for a 10-day work trip. (Check out what happened the last time I was left unsupervised in Paris.) Not complaining at all, but it remains I am not here to visit, I am here to put in 12+ hour days. When I leave my hotel in the morning, it is dark out. When I leave the office, it is darker. I gave myself an objective to try walk 30-60 mins every day, and find something worth taking as a picture. I’ve never really explored Paris at night, this trip would be my opportunity to see the usual landmarks in a different “light”.

Monday night, I met up with a former colleague of mine from my auditing days who has recently moved to Paris. I hadn’t seen him in two years. A delightful evening, bien arrosée, because we accountants = alcoholics and French wine is bae. By the time we said goodbye, it was 11pm. The resto was located in a safe part of town, approx 35 mins from my hotel – perfect opportunity to squeeze in my daily walk and pic quest. My walk brought me to the Louvre, which I needed to cross to get to the Seine bank, where I would need to walk for 15 mins, before crossing over the river.

As I stood on the street corner waiting for the light to change, a man approached me asking me if I was lost, because I looked confused. I answered him (in French) that I was debating if the open gate on our side of the Louvre would allow me to cross the entire courtyard, or whether the gate would be closed on the other end (on the river-side); I did not feel like walking about for nothing. He reassured me that the Louvre gates remained open all night, and that in fact he was walking in that direction himself, to reach the south bank. Perfect.

I really wanted to be in my bubble and enjoy the peaceful Parisian night – it is rare to find a moment where the city is quiet, almost sleeping. Chatty stranger watched me take pics of the Louvre, despite my hints that I did not want to delay him from joining his friends. This is the only pic I managed to squeeze in before Sir Annoyancealot ruined my mood.

Having crossed through the Louvre courtyard, I noticed the normally busy Seine bank was deserted. Great. I said goodbye to Sir Annoyancealot, who insisted on giving me a goodnight hug.

I did not want this hug. It was an impertinence, which he knew – he is French: they have the best manners in the world when they chose. That he was asking/insisting on a hug meant he was up to no good. I was faced with a dilemma: tell him to fuck-off and risk an escalation, or appease him. Boxing experience notwithstanding, I’ve been trained to handle a situation smoothly, just in case. Especially on a deserted street. Guy didn’t seem dangerous, more of a low-key creep trying his luck, looking to boost his male ego. Choosing safety over bravado, I let him hug me, but with arms flexed so that he couldn’t pull me close, and he would feel my strength. He attempted la bise, which he technically achieved, despite me successfully keeping him at arm’s distance.

You’d think he would be satisfied with that, no? No.

Sir Annoyancealot offered to walk with me a little more, even though I told him I wanted to be alone to enjoy the view. He continued talking to me, oblivious (or perhaps enjoying) that my conversation had gone from politely chatty to monosyllabic. I lied about where I was headed, and he insisted on re-saying goodbye, this time holding me firmly by either arm (payback for me having stiff-armed him: he had noticed my strength, and now it was my turn to notice his) with another bise. When his first kiss on the cheek landed on the corner of my mouth, I shoved him away such that he had to take 1-2 steps backwards.

He smiled at me, “Non, mais t’es tellement mignonne, j’ai envie de te croquer, tu sais.” Dropping all semblance of manners, I gave him my boxer look, “Tiens, mec, t’es vraiment mieux de ne pas t’essayer avec moi.” (“But you are so adorable, I just wanna eat you!” followed by “That’s nice, buddy, you better not try to.”) I walked away, and he didn’t follow me.


When I told that story to my colleagues yesterday, one dude shook his head and remarked that no French woman would have let herself be in such a scenario. That comment enraged me. It reminded me of the comment my Arab friend made, after I got lewdly propositioned in Beirut. It implies it is my fault, or perhaps that the women of my nationality aren’t as savvy as the locals. Wrong. I’ve been micro-aggressed in Canada too. This is what it means to be a woman; these are the kind of trade-offs I have to make every damn day, all the time: evaluating if I am willing to put up with possible unpleasant encounters in order to not deprive myself of a beautiful solitary nighttime walk. Evaluating if politeness will be a gateway to a dangerous situation. Evaluating the risk of escalation vs the need for appeasement. Evaluating just how far to react, if the guy is an actual dangerous person or just a creep. Having to be grateful that I have 8 years of fighting experience, because otherwise that would have been a much scarier experience.

I just wanted to take pictures, y’all. Really.


Last night, I left work “early” at 8:30pm so as to give myself plenty of time to walk the 1hr walk from l’Arc de Triomphe to my hotel near Notre-Dame. It wasn’t peaceful, bc 9pm is prime social time for Parisians, and les Champs-Elysées are always crowded, but it was nighttime and I did get my pics.

Behold, Paris at night.

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.