Reims

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.

 

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Bliss and bombs

Paradise is sitting on a bench in a cobblestone plaza, eating French pastry and sipping a café au lait, next to one of the most historic sites in France, la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims.

Nutritious!

Ugly scaffolding


The scaffolding is an eyesore, yes? I was disappointed when I saw it, but having learned a bit more about the place, I think it is perfect.

The Cathedral is the site where all of France’s kings, dating back to the fifth century, were crowned in a sacred ceremony. Its cultural importance was so great that it was spared during the French Revolution, albeit temporarily repurposed as a hospital. It is embedded in the French collective identity.

Reims, being close to the German border, was bombed continuously throughout the 4 years of WWI. The Germans specifically targeted the Cathedral, attempting to grind it to dust, so as to break French moral. And they very nearly succeeded. The lead roof melted in fires, parts of the church collapsed, and 80% of the city core was levelled. My tour guide said that only 60 houses were still inhabitable after WWI; the others had been destroyed or needed to be demolished out of safety. That is why most of Reims has a modern (ugly) Art Deco look: despite being one of the oldest cities in France (existing before the Roman Empire), most of the city was rebuilt after the first war, in the 20s.

Which brings us back to the scaffolding on the Cathedral. The damage was so extensive, the restoration is still ongoing today. That’s right. 100 years later, the scars of that First World War are still visible in everyday French life.

That is why I love France so much. With every step I take, I feel the ghosts of the past walking with me. Every site is pregnant with joy and sorrow, beauty and horrors I can’t even imagine. 

France’s history is both glorious and ugly. That duality is what is so endearing, so very human. The ability to accept such complexity is what I miss the most, when I’m in North America: everything is black and white, good or bad, partisan and never non-partisan. We feel like immature spoiled children; something my grandfather (a WWII survivor) always said about locals, that our innocence and naivety sprang from a lack of suffering – life was too good in North America.

When I’m in France, my heart aches with joyful sorrow. I also feel hope, because here, in this country that has seen absolutely everything for 15 centuries, the best and the worst humanity has to offer, here I can believe in the resilience of mankind. More importantly, this country is proof that although as a species we are capable of great harm, destruction and hatred, and although the consequences of that behaviour lasts for generations, our capacity for beauty and love is greater and stands the test of time. 

100 years’ worth of restoration to heal the wounds of war… On a church that is 1500 years old and is still standing.

Vive la France!!!

Gargoyle removed from the Cathedral during restorations. The melted lead from the roof (due to the fires caused by the German bombs) flowed through all of the gargoyles, instead of rain drops. If y’all notice in the pic of the Cathedral, most of it is blackened? Those are the burns from the bombs. Most of the cathedral is black now.

C’est mon anniversaire, du coup!

So I was going to write this really long post about how this year, I’m filled with gratitude and joy on my birthday, instead of my usual dread/shame, or mere happiness. And that is true. I am. I don’t understand why I’m surrounded by so many good people, from acquaintances to blogging-friends to coworkers to close friends to family: my life is filled with funny, generous, smart individuals from all walks of life. No idea why these losers have had such a lapse in judgment as to like me, but hey! Nobody is perfect and it makes me SO happy. Toe-tappingly, goofy-grinningly happy.

OR that might be caused by all the champagne I drank today. Not sure.

Instead, let me brag about my amazing birthday so far.

Like Winnie-the-Pooh wisely advises , it is necessary to have a “little sometin'” to tide you over till supper


As I was walking down the street, happily enjoying my macarons snack, a French dude called out to me, “But watch out! You’ll get fat if you eat too many of those!”

Watch me, bro.

I then proceeded to have one of the most posh suppers ever:

Bougiest supper ever: kir royale, foie gras, boeuf tartare, biscuit rosé, strawberry gazpacho

Observe the happy tipsy bday smile #stillclassy


But was that enough? No! I wanted a 2nd dessert. I wandered about Reims at 11pm searching for the perfect sweet bite.

Macarons? Mille-feuille? Crème brûlée? Profiteroles? Any other French delicacy?

Nope. 

I had a Burger King chocolate sunday and it was AWESOME. #zeFrenchgaspedinhorreur

Tomorrow, imma finish the celebrations by going to a champagne winery (Taittinger), and doing an intense dégustation, bien sûr! I considered squeezing in two champagne tours, because I am not ashamed of being a lush on my 3rd 30th bday, but then I realized I’d miss out on seeing a famous palace, and I love indulging my princess side. So instead I’ll start off the day with a café crème and a fresh warm croissant, sitting on a cobblestone terrace.

Gratitude and joy are easier in France.

#socheesyyetsoblessed

#happy

#mypeepsaregoodpeople

#champagneismybae

#seriouslythoidontgetwhyihavesomanyawesomefriends #theyarethebest

Bougiest of birthday presents to myself

In a few days I will be turning 30 for the 3rd time. Clearly, a milestone anniversary, that deserves to be celebrated in style.

As luck would have it, my work is flying me to France for a 3 day conference in the countryside, 1 hour away from Paris, next week. Since the plane was already covered, I extended my trip by an extra 5 days. I’ll be in France for my bday. #fancy

  • 2.5 days in Strasbourg
  • 1.5 day in Reims (champagne country!)
  • 1.5 day in Paris

While in Paris, I’m treating myself to a good seat at the opera, to see Verdi’s Aida, because nothing says birthday bash than listening to a warbly love triangle that ends with the hero & heroine being buried alive. #mykindofdatingstory #keepingitreal #ratchetbeforeratchetwasinstyle  My goal in life is to see a ballet and an opera in all the major companies in the world. So far, I’ve only done that in NYC. Soon Paris will be checked off too, and I’ll have no choice but to explore other cultural hubs like London, Milan or St-Petersburg… #mydreamrequiresAeroplan

So yeah. I’m going to celebrate another year of not having my shit together by going all-out bougie. Hopefully this time I won’t break my nose. But it’s worth the risk. Champagne, ridiculously yummy food, sexy accents, quaint scenery… And opera. Best of all? I’ll be alone.

I think I might be getting old.

#hbdtome

#idyemyhair

#atruecatladyatheart