On Bravery

3913818658_83bf05f9fc_z

Château de Chenonceau – Loire Valley (2006)

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly brave person. Independent, strong-willed, stubborn – yes. If you asked me to describe myself, I wouldn’t use brave as a qualifier though. It figures pretty low down the list, & I’d actually probably describe myself as more cautious. I reserve that description for soldiers, firefighters, & the like.

My best friend is backpacking through Europe on her own right now though, & we were discussing the comments that ultimately come up when you decide to go on such an adventure. I’ve done the bulk of my travel alone, & as I’ve expressed many times before, I am passionate in my belief that solo travel is important. I suppose I’d given her the impression that it’s also normal. Unfortunately, ten years after my first trip, it’s still not. In fact, more often than not, people comment that they could never travel alone. They’re in disbelief that she’s travelling by herself. I got this reaction often too, & then when I returned, I was often told I was brave for going it alone.

4699_566627547897_210548_n

All the solo travel selfies

1923486_567409156547_6357527_n

Covered Bridges in Strasbourg

1923486_567408358147_5479554_n

Solo drinks & planning

While I also love to travel with friends, I think it’s a completely different experience. (I’m really don’t mean to knock group travel! It has some serious merits too!) I’m sad that the prospect of travelling alone would deter someone from travel at all. Honestly, I feel they’re missing out. I hope perception around this is changing, but we clearly haven’t reached a point of normalization.

4699_566633790387_4763268_n

Prague Castle

10400715_540586145077_7840238_n

Perouges, France

10400715_540586055257_3618118_n

Silly self timer shot in Perouges

If that’s what’s keeping you from an experience, let me just say that you can do it. New experiences can seem daunting at first, but it won’t take long to adapt. Take the leap! I personally loved my experiences & found incredible freedom in the opportunity to do as I pleased. I loved wandering new cities with no real destination, sitting in cafes reading or writing, & taking as many photos as I wanted without worrying that I was holding someone up. It gave me time to figure out who I was on my own, which was invaluable.  & since I was mostly hostelling, I met people in the evenings & enjoyed the company of others when I wanted it.

3785_565921353117_5139078_n

Making friends in Munich

1934664_541312389677_2332712_n

Ski day at Chamrousse

2183_539192358237_4993_n

Lake Geneva

Have you ever travelled alone? Would you consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Advertisements

Living Abroad \\ Journaling

wpid-wp-1441729940203.jpeg

I’ve always loved the physical act of writing. There’s something so cathartic about putting pen to paper that nothing else compares to. While I do keep an online calendar for some appointments & reminders, I still also keep a handwritten daytimer/journal. I find I remember things better if I write them down, but I also enjoy having my memories on paper.

The majority of my journaling has taken place while abroad. I’m a strong proponent of keeping some form of written account while travelling. Whether you jot down things you saw & did in point form or write a full account of your days, it’s both a wonderful keepsake & incredibly helpful when all those buildings in your photos start to look the same. It’s been huge for blogging about our honeymoon & remembering details a year later. I love looking back on them when I have a spare moment & they have the added bonus of jogging my memory when people ask for travel tips. Sure, there are moments I’d like to forget, but most of the time I look back & realize how much I’ve grown. & that’s a pretty cool thing to witness in yourself.

My favourite journal is the moleskine journal. I’ve given these beauties to many people before their trips & have a large collection myself. They’re durable, simple, relatively compact, & have a pocket for postcards, receipts, or tickets. I highly recommend them.

Whatever the journal you choose, I recommend taking a few minutes throughout your trip to sit down & jot down a few things. It doesn’t have to be a novel. You never have to show it to anyone else. It’s yours to do what you want with. I promise you won’t regret the keepsake or the memories.

Happy Travels, friends!

Living Abroad \\ Do your research

I’ve neglected this series a little bit, but hopefully that doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about those travel dreams. Is it even possible to forget travel dreams? It certainly isn’t for me. While we don’t have any travel plans in the near future, the idea is always on my mind. I think 2015 will be a pretty quiet year for us, but I’ve already got my sights on at least five different big trips before we truly “settle down”. Wanderlust, I tell you.

While we were planning our honeymoon my favourite part (aside from the actual experience itself) was the research. It’s always my favourite part. I love giving people ideas on what to do (also known as, what to eat) in different cities I’ve visited. Even when I haven’t got a trip planned, I love reading about things to do in different places around the world. I love hearing about someone’s experience with travel & living vicariously through their adventures (& especially their misadventures). If wasn’t obvious before, my obsession with wandering the globe should be apparent by the end of this post.

Portofino

I’m also a big nerd when it comes to research. & I really think it’s a key factor in ensuring the success of your experience abroad. I’ve done the bulk of my travelling alone & when I lived abroad, made all the arrangements to go on my own. When I have travelled with others, I’ve usually been the girl who shows up to a coffee date to discuss plans with a long list of things I’ve already looked into. I enjoy this kind of thing, so I’m more than happy devouring the information available.

Here are a few of my tips for getting organized before a trip:

1. Look into visa requirements & laws for entering the countries you plan to visit. This one isn’t very interesting, so get it out of the way first. I haven’t run into many issues with this when in comes to travelling to other countries. It’s usually as simple as submitting a form online nowadays. Get it out of the way early though. There’s nothing worse than planning a entire trip & realizing you missed this crucial step too late.

Living in another country is another story & often requires a lot of paperwork & proof of anything from the necessary funds to live for a few months to a clean bill of health. I can only speak to my experience with obtaining a French visa, which I have applied for twice. Luckily I had some help from our exchange Center my first time so I knew what to expect. I can’t thank them enough – they prepared me for the bureaucracy & offered support while I navigated the system once I arrived. Most countries are a bit easier from what I understand, but do your research. Ask people who have been, look into online forums, use the Google. Just get this step out of the way early.
I drove 12 hours to Vancouver for a 15 minute meeting to get this document. Hurrah!

2. Decide what kind of traveller you are: do you like to have a itinerary planned out & booked in advance or do you like to decide day by day? Personally, I like to book most or my accommodation in advance. I like to know that I have somewhere to sleep that night. This is especially true when I travel on my own. It’s usually difficult to get away without booking flights in advance as well. Round trip winds up being the cheapest option.

I’m certainly no expert on getting the cheapest fare; in the past I’ve used anything from travel agents to expedia. Lately, the Google flight search has been coming up with great results. The internet is a wealth of information here so I don’t have much to say about it.

In terms of train travel, you can definitely get away with booking more last minute. This isn’t always the case & you may pay a higher fare, but generally, it’s not a problem. I’ve always had good luck with French & German trains, at least. Sometimes you may have to wait a few hours, but that’s usually the only risk. This happened to us in Venice. The next train was fully booked & we wound up hanging out at a restaurant next to the train station for a few hours, giving up precious hours we could have enjoyed in Cinque Terre. Rookie mistake. It’ll happen.

Gare de Lyon, Paris
As for accommodation, I think it’s getting increasingly difficult to leave booking to the last minute, even if you’re not travelling in the off season. It’s certainly still do-able, so don’t completely discount the idea if you want flexibility. In some cities, namely Paris in my experience, it can even be very difficult to reserve a hostel bed in advance. Again, this just comes down to doing a little bit of research.

When I’ve travelled on my own, I’ve had a definite preference for hostels. The few times I was forced to stay in a hotel were some of the loneliest. Although, I enjoy wandering the streets & eating lunch or enjoying a beer or café on my own, there’s something about returning to an empty hotel room at night that intensifies any feelings of loneliness.

If you’re looking for a safe, clean, & reliable hostel, the HI network will certainly provide them. I’ve stayed in many & they’re generally great. Their downfall is that they aren’t always the most lively or fun hostels. They sometimes have a curfew even. That’s why I tend to gravitate towards the independent hostels. There are no rules with these. That can be great & I’ve stumbled upon so many gems this way. Just be aware that the lack of standards can go the other way too. I rely on hostels.com and hostelworld.com as well as online recommendations. Location, a good night’s sleep, & a fun atmosphere are usually the top things I look for. That criteria has served me well so far. (Although I’ve sort of knocked the HI hostels, the one in Lyon is actually great. I lived there for a week when I was apartment hunting.)

Now that I’m getting older, I’ve moved away from hostels. I certainly didn’t want to share a dorm room with 20 other people on my honeymoon. We’ve been using AirBnB for most of our travel in the last couple years & I love it. I’m such a nerd for research so I’m sure that’s part of the appeal, but we easily stayed in the absolute BEST places on our honeymoon. Our hosts were amazing, the apartments we rented were gorgeous, & they often provided us with ideas for what to do during our stay. Check it out, if you haven’t already. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Our Genoa apartment’s rooftop patio
Lyon apartment

3. Research what to do! This is fun part. Since my first trip backpacking through Europe in 2005, I’ve learned what I really want to do when I’m in a new city. That first trip, I spent a lot of time going to museums because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Maybe it is & maybe that’s exactly what you want to do when you go to Europe, but if it isn’t, that’s ok too. There are some museums that I will still take the time to visit: the Vatican Museum & the Louvre (although I’d skip the Mona Lisa), for example. For the most part though, I pick a couple main sights (I’m a sucker for a beautiful church or a good view) & spend the rest of my time wandering around, usually getting lost along the way. I really enjoy history so if there’s a New Europe Free Tour, I almost always jump on that. (I don’t generally recommend tours, but these ones have been really great. & free. Win!)

New Europe Tour in Munich

It’s obvious that I love to eat so that’s what I do the bulk of my research about. I make a list of all the restaurants that I’m interesting in with a little description & bring that with me. It’s like my little guide. Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but I love those lists. Before iPads & iPhones, I wrote it all out on loose leaf and carried that around with me, usually in the pocket of my moleskin journal. I realize I’ve probably lost most people here, but that’s my jam. Find yours & own it. Get excited!

Incredible Pasta in Portland
Birthplace of Pizza!
Wandering in Prague
Wandering the Beach after brunch in Mexico
Fried Cheese in Prague. The best!
4. Get a little bit organized (or if you’re me, a lot). Since I love research & organization, I’m so into this. You are likely not the type of person who is. I mean, I’m the girl carrying around a list of restaurants, a moleskin journal, a good book, & a DSLR when I travel. I’m seriously into documenting my trips as much as I am into planning them. & I’m all about the details (obviously, my travel posts are rarely less than 1000 words. Sorry!).
The first few times I travelled, I only got online if I went to an Internet cafe so things have changed substantially since I last went. I still like a lot of those old school resources (you can still find me sitting on the floor of the travel section of the library or book store, taking notes & devouring books), but we used our iPad and iPhones a lot on our last trip. Here are some great apps:
– Evernote. This is my number one. I have it downloaded on every computer or mobile device I own & it syncs with all of them, as well as with Nathan’s phone. It’s so easy to use & organize. We primarily use it for meal planing, but it was also great when we travelled. I made lists & reminders & scrapped those loose leaf notes for an online version. When we had online access it was really easy to copy a restaurant address I’d saved & paste it into google maps to get directions. We could easily access it on the go from our phones too. You can’t make everything available offline with the free version, but I was able to make enough of our notes available that it was incredibly useful.
– Google Maps Engine. Everyone knows Google Maps & we use it a lot too, but I really likeGoogle Maps Engine. The difference is that it allows you to save personalized maps & drop pins with locations & notes. I’m an extremely visual person, so this helps me to get a sense of what to do on a day & what sights are near each other. I’m not against taking the metro out to the middle of nowhere for a great meal, but it makes a lot more sense to do things that are nearby on the same day, if you can. Sometimes we inevitably zig zagged our way across cities, but this helps to limit that a little bit.
– Blogger. I only used this app once while travelling & it definitely has it’s downsides (um hello, hyperlinks?) but in a pinch, it’s an easy way to blog. I tend to write a draft in it & then edit it on a computer before publishing, but that just me.
Those are the main apps I find useful for travel. Both times I lived abroad, I used substantially more online resources. I brought my laptop both times & was always connected to emails, my blog, & photo sharing. Facebook was only in its infancy when I first travelled so I mostly kept in touch with email & shared photos on photobucket. (My friends will remember my weekly novels about what I’d been up to. My penchant for long winded story telling hasn’t changed much over the years.)
5. My last tip is to look at a budget. I know it’s so boring, but it’s also so necessary. If you don’t have any means to supplement your travel while you’re actually travelling, you have to pay a little bit of attention to what you’re going to spend. I try to do this before I leave so that I can enjoy my trip.

This is where some of the research comes into play. I like to start with the big things: flights, trains, & any sights or activities that are important to me. I add those up first. If I’m really on a budget then I don’t include my accommodation in those numbers because I’m doing that as cheaply as possible. Hostels in Europe will usually run you about $40 a nights if you’re staying in a dorm. I budget $100 a day so that leaves me with $60 for food & drink. Most of the sights I plan to see are either already budgeted for or are free (wandering the market, sitting in a park, getting a feel for a neighbourhood). Hostels usually include breakfast & I tried to make dinner in the kitchen or spend around $10-15 on dinner. You can enjoy nicer restaurants at lunch at a cheaper price in Europe, so I tried to do that. In France you can get the plat du jour (three courses, usually) for around $20. That left me with $25 for drinks – beer, coffee, or actual partying. Some days I inevitably went over. Some days I wanted to go for a really nice dinner (I tried to budget for that in advance). Some days I grabbed a baguette & some cheese & had a picnic on a bench or in the park. My point is that’s thought about this a little bit in advance & even on my smallest budget, I had a great time in Europe & didn’t max out my credit card.

Giant Pickles in Munich. Cheap & delicious market snack.
Hostel Happy Hour Drinks. Always budget.
Picnic in the Park. Market finds are a great budget lunch.
It doesn’t have to be a huge chore either. These couple calculations usually take me a few minutes. It’s not an exact science & I always add a little bit for emergencies, but I definitely find it helps to think about it a little bit before. (& knowing the ways you can save a bit helps too. Taking an overnight train will save you a night in a hostel & get you to your next destination bright & early, for example.)
This is what I’ve found useful over the years. I’ve gotten better at planning my trips & found myself enjoying travel so much. A lot of my tips apply to my trips through Europe, but I think they apply to other places as well. I’ve just done the bulk of my travelling on that continent & am most familiar with the costs & culture there.

How do you plan your trips? Feel free to share your tips in the comments! (& congrats if you made itto the end of this post!)

Living Abroad \\ misadventures 001

A very quiet Rennes 2 Campus

Misadventures are inevitable. Just like at home, shit happens. &, just like at home, you can’t really plan for it. Instead, expect that things will go wrong & prepare for how you will deal with them. Learn from my mistakes.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling, most of it on my own. I’m only now starting to do some travel with others & enjoying it. As I’ve mentioned before, I think travel is incredibly important & I think travel on your own can be invaluable. I personally learned a lot & a lot of that is because I wasn’t fully prepared. I had a lot of growing up to do when I first went travelling.

I’m going to take a bit risk here – the risk that you may think I’m a bit of an idiot for some of these mistakes I made while abroad. That’s a risk I’m currently willing to take though. For one, they happened long enough ago that they’re now funny & for another, I learned a lot from each of them.

As I’m a fairly long-winded storyteller, I’ll be splitting these stories up. I don’t want to overwhelm you too much with all of my silly stories. Here goes with the first…

The view from my residence

The first time I left North America was in 2005. I’d been dreaming of spending a semester in France & it finally happened. My parents were to meet me in Paris a few weeks after my arrival in Rennes, but I was on my own flying to France, catching a train to Rennes, & figuring out this little french town that would be my home for the next six months.

I really thought I was prepared. I’d read about Rennes a million times & I’d looked at maps of the area near the University where I’d be living. I didn’t print any maps though & smart phones weren’t exactly commonplace. Was Google Maps even an app yet? I’m not sure that it was.

Anyway, I missed the 9am train to Rennes by a few minutes when I arrived in Paris so I had a few hours to kill at the airport before the next train. I found some food & wandered the airport before settling in to wait for my train. I was too excited to sleep so by the time I arrived in Rennes, I’d been up for well over 24 hours.

Place St Anne

Rennes has this incredibly efficient, albeit tiny, metro system. It’s awesome & extremely easy to navigate, so I found my way to Villejean, the area where I’d be living, without incident. I also easily found the University, but since it was a Saturday, it was closed. Unlike so many other exchange countries, no one from the Université de Rennes 2 would be there to meet me either. I was on my own to figure everything out, something that I’d expected, but was not the least bit prepared for. Could I remember the map for the life of me? No. Were there any other students around? Of course not. School wouldn’t officially start for another 2 weeks so, as I’d later find out, there were only a handful of exchange students scattered around different residences nearby.

I started wandering, figuring I’d run into my residence eventually. I probably wandered for forty-five minutes, lugging close to fifty pounds worth of luggage, before I swallowed my pride & decided to ask for help. I fluently speak French so this shouldn’t have been an issue, but I probably didn’t ask very clearly for what I was looking for so the only response I got was that there was a pay phone down the street. Little good that would do me since I didn’t have the proper card to activate a French pay phone.

Metro République

The combination of lack of sleep, being abroad for the first time on my own, & feeling like I’d already failed just a few short hours into my séjour lead to this scene: a blond (very, by french standards) 19-year-old girl in lululemon sweatpants & pumas, sitting on her giant suitcase, crying in the middle of the sidewalk.

I let myself feel wallow for a few minutes before picking myself up. It was time to find somewhere to sleep that night. I headed back into the centre & found a hotel, leaving the search for my residence for the following day, when I’d be clearer headed & fifty pounds lighter.

When I returned to Villejean the next day, I got off the metro & immediately, clearly, saw the residence building. It was literally right in front of me, plain as day.

So what is the point of this ridiculous, long-winded story? Was I just a foolish, young kid? Probably. In fact, I was most definitely young & often, quite foolish too. But there are three things I’ve taken away from that day (three main things, at least).

Rue St Michel, Rennes – all bars

The first thing is that it’s okay to ask for help. The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that I was completely overtired & desperately needed directions. At the time though, I was fiercely independent (Obviously – I moved to another continent by myself…) & hated asking for help. I saw it as a sign of failure. But I should have asked someone for help long before I’d reached a point of feeling so completely lost & exhausted.

Next, anytime you panic, you inevitably make the situation much worse than it needs to be. There’s no point in panicking about something you can’t do anything about. So try not to (I realize that can be nearly impossible sometimes. It’s something I’m still working on too).

Lastly, you’re going to get lost. Embrace it. Yeah, getting lost while you’ve got all your luggage with you isn’t great, but it’s bound to happen. Get a little bit comfortable with being uncomfortable. Getting lost has become something I actually enjoy about travel. Perhaps not while I’ve got all my luggage with me, but one of my personal favourite things to do now is just wander. Funnily enough, that’s actually the meaning behind the name of this blog – Au fil de mes balades, which roughly translates to while I wander.

Living Abroad \\ Travel Young, Travel Old, Travel Often

Raleigh Beach, Thailand
Lyon
Lyon


“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle once said. While I don’t want to sound all gloom-and-doom, and I believe your life can turn around at any moment, there is an important lesson here: life is a result of intentional habits. So I decided to do the things that were most important to me first, not last. – Jeff Goins


This article was circulating around a while back and it really hit home for me. You hear comments about it so often and the hardest part of travelling or living abroad is letting go of all the reasons not to. The older I get, the harder it is to take that leap: quit my job, leave my friends, spend my savings globetrotting. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard to do when I was younger though either. It’s not easy to pick up your whole life and move to another country, especially one where you don’t know anyone. Hell, it’s not even easy to move across your own country. It is worth it though.

Lyon
Lyon
Fete de Lumieres, Lyon

Traveling will change you like little else can. (JG)

I wholeheartedly believe this. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others. Travel most definitely changes you. I believe it changes you in the best way possible. If you’re struggling to take the plunge, stop. Travel will never be the wrong answer, especially if you’re young.

There has never been an instance where I truly regretted having travelled. Sure, there have been times when I’ve thought, “It’d sure be nice to have a downpayment for a house” or “It’d sure be nice to be further along in my career”. Yes, those things would be nice at this point in my life, but would I even want them if I hadn’t had the experiences I did? I don’t think I would. I think I’d still be yearning to live abroad.

Sevilla
Lisboa
Roma

Go now. That’s the best advice I can give you. Go before you’re too entrenched in whatever life you’re comfortably creating for yourself at home. Go before you decide you’re too old. Go before you regret not having gone.

It’s never too late to go travelling, but it will eventually feel that way. & you will eventually put other priorities first too many times. I firmly believe that it will only get harder the more you establish yourself. Maybe not financially, but in every other way. The longer you stay in one place the harder it is to leave.

So get out of here already. The only thing standing in your way are your excuses.

You can thank me later.

Living Abroad

I started this blog while living abroad in 2008. I wanted a way to document that time in my life as well as write, be creative, and keep in touch with friends. My time in France was not only one of the inspirations for this blog but also one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences of my life.

I think about France often. Honestly, I think about travel in general a lot, but especially both of my experiences living in France. I’ve said countless times that I think travel (and especially solitary travel) is one of the best things you can do in your twenties. Those experiences have shaped me in so many ways and I know I’d be a very different person today without them.

I’m grateful I was given the opportunity to live abroad twice. I’ve been told that I’m brave for having the ability to take these opportunities and run with them. It’s hard to always see yourself in that way – a lot of the things I’ve done in my life were possible because of the support of my family and friends. For them, I am also very grateful. A lot I accomplished because of sheer determination. I’m a stubborn person and I knew I’d regret not taking the chances I did. It took a lot of research, planning, and many missteps along the way, but I made it.

I’ve told so many people to go travelling or go live abroad but I realized the other day that I’ve never really written about the how or the why. I think it’s time to change that. I look forward to looking back on my experiences and sharing them in this series and I hope it helps someone who needs that extra push.

Lyon Love

I’ve been home for a month now & totally neglecting my blog. Instead of writing a giant entry I’m just going to post a list I made right before I left Lyon for the last time. Short & sweet- such a rarity when it comes to my posts!

Things I will miss about Lyon:
-my friends
-speaking French every day
-baguettes from around the corner
-springtime flowers IN APRIL
-Croix-Rousse (& all the bobos!) 
-the market 
-cheese
-arome de lyon (cheese) from the shop on my street
-cheap wine 
-the TGV
-walking everywhere
-independence
-picking up food at little local shops
-picnics in the park
-the boats on the quai 
-Paris 2 hrs away
-sitting in cafés for hours
-the velo’vs. 
I’m sure I could think of more…but in a nutshell…there’s a little bit of Lyon for ya….
bisous

Lists & leaving

My bags are packed. I’m ready to go.

…ok, that’s a lie. My bags aren’t packed & I’m not really ready to go. But I’m getting there. My big duffel bag is mostly packed, aside from a few things that are still drying after I washed them yesterday. Same goes for my backpack. I washed most of the stuff that I want to take on my trip, so I’m waiting until it’s all dry to pack it up. Either way, things are coming to an end. Tonight is my last night in this apartment. My final night in Croix Rousse. It’s not to say I won’t be back, but it still feels like more of a goodbye than a see you later. & I’m really quite rubbish at goodbyes. 
Last night, as I was taking all my photos off my wall, I got to thinking about a lot of things. I love to travel. & I’ve loved both of my séjours in France. They were both completely different, but both completely amazing at the same time. Just when I think I’ve learned all the things that I can about myself, I find out that I’m actually still learning. 
I’m excited to go home. But along with the excitement, there’s a bit of fear. I’m not sure what to expect. I know how it was last time I can home & I’m really hoping that I’ve learned something from that & that this time can be different. But I’m not sure that it’s that simple. Sure, leaving home to go live in a foreign country is hard. Everyone knows that. What people don’t realize, is that coming home is harder. It’s never the same as you left it. & you’re never the same was when you left. & even though I’m telling myself I’m prepared for that, I’m not sure that I really am. I’m not sure that I’m prepared to get back to sitting still, so to speak. I know I’ll keep busy & I have tons of plans & I’m excited for all those plans & seeing my friends & family. But I’m also scared of that feeling you get when you come home after travelling for a long time. I’m not sure that I can exactly explain what I mean. I think it’s just something you understand if you’ve felt it before. It’s not really that I’m worried about that I’m going to be depressed. I know that’s not quite it. But more that I’m worried that I’m going to feel an emptiness. 
I love to travel. People ask me about all the places I’ve been & it takes me ages to list them all off. They say “Tu m’étonnes” because I’ve done so much travelling. In some ways, I feel that I have seen a lot of the world. At the same time, there’s so much I haven’t seen. What are people waiting for? I figure I have my whole life to sit around working & wishing I was off travelling. Now is the time to do it. I’d like to be able to say, if I never leave home again after this I’ll be happy with all of the places I’ve seen & all of the experiences I’ve had. The truth is, as anyone who’s done any significant travelling knows, I’ll never feel that way. I’ll always have this hunger for more. 
So with that said, I’ve been thinking about home a lot. & I made a list a while ago. I like lists…they’re simple & concise (something I am not when it comes to talking about my life). Here’s my list about home; the things that I miss. I’ve been adding to it over my time in France & I’m sure there are about a million things missing from it seeing as I don’t always have my little notebook handy but here it is…a more or less concise description of things that I love: 
  • my family & my friends
  • working out
  • mom’s cooking
  • sunday dinners at home
  • the kitchen & all it’s lovely appliances, pots, pans, knives..etc
  • baby beast (aka my car)
  • wing nights
  • The Y
  • my bed/room
  • text messages all the time!
  • my giant closet (full of clothes)
  • school (& learning)
  • privacy (my room)
  • space
  • the rockies
  • sunny days all the time
  • towels/socks/pjs fresh from the dryer
  • biweekly paychecks
  • never having to share my computer
  • a desk
  • large glasses/mugs
  • deodorant (it’s weird here)
  • my clothes smelling good (& not of cigarettes)
  • working out
  • feeling normal sized
  • being understood all the time
  • finding the right words

I also made a list of food I miss…because we all know how much I love food…
Things I am craving: 
  • rice crackers
  • beef jerky
  • popcorn
  • crave cupcakes
  • ranch dressing
  • floss
  • instand oatmeal (alyssa helped with this one) 
  • sweet & salty granola bars
  • KD (she also helped with this)
  • salt & vinegar chips
  • BBQ steak
  • BBQ anything
  • milk (non-UHT style)
  • Mom & Dad’s amazing caesar salad
  • weekend dinners at home
  • chewing gum
  • tic tacs 
  • the gym
  • hot wings with ranch dip (or terihot wings)
  • salmon sashimi
  • flames roll combo
  • sushi, in general
  • breakfast bagels
  • toasted tomato sandwiches
  • frozen burritos
  • my taco salad
  • nachos
  • BLTs
  • bacon
  • salmon on the BBQ 
  • spinach & artichoke dip
  • cream cheese
  • bagels
I’m fairly certain I could go on & on about these things. I love food & I love home. Like I said…I’m excited to go home…there’s just that little part of me that’s scared as well. 
1 more day in Lyon…

adieu starbucks


Never again will I have to hold in my laughter when someone orders a “petit starbucks SVP” or an “tall instant de plenitude.” Today was my last shift at Starbucks. It was a bit sad. I’m really awful at goodbyes so I wasn’t at all looking forward to it, but I got lots of hugs & kisses (especially from Lionel who also offered me a MUG award). It was nice. They all had really nice thing to say as well.

Thursday evening we had our meeting about the new campaign that starts on Wednesday. At the end of it they gave me one of the picture mugs with photos of all of them (& me!) & stamps from all the different coffees. It was really cute & will always remind me of them & how great they all were. 

the cute mug they made me
Villeurbanne was a great store to work at. I remember being sad at first that they were transferring me there. I felt like Papa (as everyone refers to Lionel Becker, our DM) thought I couldn’t handle the fast paced insanity of Republique. In the end though, Villeurbanne is much more what Starbucks is to me & I enjoyed going to work at lot more than I ever did at Rep. After working for Nadya, I can’t imagine going back to working for Elisa. Nadya is so much more laid back. There’s time to talk & joke & have fun. & she joins in in it all. They even refer to her as Tall because of how short she is (she’s the same size as a Tall). You’d never catch anyone coming up with a nickname like that for Elisa. 
Friday night was my going away party. I’d promised everyone at Rep that I’d do something to say goodbye seeing as I don’t see any of them anymore. Funny thing is, none of them really showed except Tonia. Anyways, we went to Café Léon after work on Friday for tapas. I’d been before, but had never actually eaten. I’d heard really good things about it & they were all true. We all shared sangria & then Kate, Anne & I split some patatas bravas, bread con tapenade & deep fried fish. It was really good! Rachel had made her famous muffin cake & so that was a lovely surprise. They even brought caramel & vanilla pudding as a topping. 

Anne & I at Café Léon

Gums & Mie

Maureen et Alexis

my muffin cake from Rach!

Afterwards we headed over to the quai to have some beer & wine & hang out. We were supposed to go to the Bec du Jazz, but it was a nice night so everyone wanted to go to the quai. It wasn’t bad…not great, kinda windy & cold & none of us were all that into partying…but it was good to see everyone together. & I’m glad I was able to get a soirée with my Starbucks friends in before I left. I’m going to miss them all. 

trifecta on the quai

Of course, to make sure I don’t forget them, or my time at Starbucks…I’ve picked up a few souvenirs. (Plus I really wanted a French press & one of our regulars got me a couple lollies on my last day. Cute). 
my Starbucks stuff

vous allez tous me manquer
je vous embrasse
xx

Springtime in Lyon & a "weekend" in Rennes

So, I’m pretty well at the end of my séjour in France. I’ll be back in Calgary 3 weeks from today & I actually leave Lyon in one week. I’ll be heading up to Munich for a few days, then on to Prague & back down to Strasbourg before heading back to Lyon to pick up my bags & taking the train up to Paris for a final day before the long flight home. This also means that I’m on to my final 4 shifts at Starbucks. No more free coffee for me…I’ll have to figure out a new plan to support my caffeine addiction, I suppose. 

Anyways, I’ve been enjoying a really nice spring over here. All the terraces are back out & there’s nothing better than a drink on a terrace after a busy day at work. The grass is green, trees & flowers are in bloom & I’ve even got a bit of a tan. In fact, my friend Jamie (who’s father is black) was mad the other day because I’m just as “tanned” as she is. I don’t really know how this has happened, but I’m not going to complain. Perma-tan is cool with me. 

The majority of my international friends in Lyon took off travelling for spring break at the beginning of April, so I had a pretty chill week. Jamie stuck around a little bit longer so we spend a lot of time together. I never would have thought that shopping could involve so much walking, but we hit the market, rue de la ré (in the center), croix rousse (my neighbourhood up the giant hill) & Part Dieu shopping mall in one day. Did I mention that neither of us have cars or bus passes this month, so we went all over on food. & if that wasn’t enough, we headed over to Rachel’s that night to make pizza, popcorn & watch Bridget Jones’ Diary. It was a pretty good day, shopping-wise as well as food (bagels at City Bagels in town!! yum!) & company-wise. We also managed to enjoy a beer on a terrace & relaxed in the park for a while. Ah yes, life is tough for me. The following night, I headed over to Rachel’s again to watch Remember the Titans. Classic. 

They both took off for Rome the next day though, so I had a pretty lowkey weekend at home. I’d bought a train ticket to Rennes that week & hopped on a train early Monday morning last week to head over to one of my favourite cities in France. I’d been expecting somewhat dreary, cold weather in Rennes, but I arrived to find cloudless blue skies. I found my way to the Youth Hostel & set out for the day, grabbing a picnic lunch on my way to Parc du Thabor. The park there is absolutely beautiful. There are so many beautiful flowers & trees & the grass is so green (it rains a lot, so that’s really no surprise). I spent a good chunk of the afternoon there enjoying the sun & relaxing. I finally decided it was time to leave & got ambushed by some guy as I was leaving the park. He was fairly nice & incredibly chatty, but I really wasn’t interested. Problem is, I really don’t know how to tell people I’m not so interested in French without being incredibly rude. & he wasn’t being incredibly bothersome, I just wasn’t interested in having a drink or dinner with him. I do however, now have a place to stay in Paris, should I ever need. (haha, ya right) Anyhow, he accompanied me to the Tourist Office & then down to the metro & waited for me to buy myself a ticket even (I’d lied & told him I was going up to Villejean to meet friends) before taking off. I saved my ticket for Thursday morning, when I’d be leaving Rennes & went for Ice cream at Quick instead of meeting my imaginary friends in Villejean. 

I spent the rest of the evening wandering around Rennes. The city is really quite small so around every corner I found something familiar. I couldn’t go anywhere without being hit with some memory from when I lived there. The city was virtually unchanged which was a bit of a surprise. It was nice though, however unexpected. I have such fond memories of Rennes, so it was wonderful to just wander around. It’s hard to explain, but that city will always be something special to me. 

Hanging out in Parc du Thabor 

green grass, sunny day, perfect picnic in the park

so pretty

les portes mordelaises: original gates into Rennes

For dinner that evening, I indulged in some typical Breton food- a galette complète at one of the many crêperies in town. Galettes are savoury crêpes that you can find all over Brittany. They’re made with blé noire (dark flour, black flour??) & are one of my favourite things about Brittany. A galette complète has jambon, oeuf, fromage (ham, egg, cheese) on it. There are tons of other combinations however. 

galette complète: jambon, oeuf, fromage

Rennes square

The following day, my good luck with the weather ended. It was rainy & cloudy as I set out for the day after breakfast. I decided to head up to Villejean. It’s not really your typical tourist attraction in Rennes. In fact, it’s not really a nice neighbourhood at all. It’s where the Université de Rennes 2 (aka where I went to school) is. It’s also where my rez was, so I know the neighbourhood pretty well. The school was completely unchanged, apart from perhaps some new paint to mark the building letters & more graffiti. It’s not the prettiest school around. Rez looked exactly the same as well, aside from renovations on the inside. (Excuse me?! Toilets IN the rooms?! not fair!!) Seeing as it’s easter break right now, everything was pretty deserted & it  was a little bit eerie. Not quite as bad as when the entire school was on strike though. 

I wandered back to the center afterwards & did some shopping. For such a small city, Rennes really does have incredibly good shopping. Furthermore, people actually wear colours other than black & grey or some shade between the two. It was incredibly refreshing to see people in hoodies & colours! That night I went to my favourite moulerie/crêperis: L’Abri du Marché. It is so cozy & cute & looks right out onto Place des Lices. I had Moules du Nord, which were muscles with crème fraiche, smoked salmon & leek. It came with homemade french fries & a dipping sauce. I also got a nice glass of white wine & enjoyed the meal. I’d been looking forward to Breton food the entire time I’ve been in France. Actually, I’ve been looking forward to it, since I left in 2006. Yes, it’s that good! I decided to splurge & get dessert as well. I had a dessert crêpe called La Houat which was pear, raspberry coulis & whip cream. Basically: amazing! 

the most delicious moules et frites! Brittany

The following day got even better weather-wise. By the time I arrived to the centreville, I was completely soaked. I had also learned that my rain jacket is, in fact, not waterproof. Sweet. I tried to spend most of my time inside. Wandering around the exhibition at the tourist office, the mall & little shops along Rue du Bastard. Finally I decided it was time for some lunch & headed to another crêperie, this one on Rue St Georges. I enjoyed a galette chevre miel (goat cheese & honey) & a crêpe caramel buerre salé. Caramel & butter in Brittany are both salty, which I love. I’m much more a savoury person, so I really enjoy the buerre salé. & yes, part of the reason I came back to Rennes was for the food. Food is France is delicious, but I especially love the food from Brittany. (we all know my stomach is in charge of most of my decisions…) 
In the afternoon, I headed back to the hostel & took a siesta before making dinner. In the kitchen at the hostel, I met a few guys on exchange in Brest. (ya, I know….sucks to be them…). There were 2 spaniards & a belgian. They shared some beer & brownies with me & we decided to head out for drinks all together. We headed to Kenland first where there happened to be a football game on there. We had a drink there & then they took pity on me & decided to change venues. We headed to Le P’tit Velo, which used to be one of my favourite bars in Rennes. I think they were going renovations though because it wasn’t as large as I remember it being. It was still a nice evening on a terrace in Place St Michel. We headed back to the hostel pretty early so I could pack for the following morning. It was time to go home & back to work, sadly. 
Everyone was back in Lyon when I got back & we all met up at Kate’s on Friday night for a drink & some Starbucks cookies & cake. Then Kate & I headed out to Vieux Lyon to meet up with Anne. I hadn’t hung out with her in ages so it was nice to see her despite the bar being incredibly crowded. There was also a really great band playing covers of Coldplay & the like. It was a good night. I worked the rest of the weekend & then Sunday night headed over to Kate’s to make poutine. Turns out she’s never had it before! It wasn’t as good as when Alyssa & I made it because she didn’t have compté, but it was still quite good. We hadn’t had a sleepover in ages so we did that as well. How grade 7 of us. 😉 haha. 
The next morning I headed out on my velo’v to work. I had picked up a shift to help Nadya out while everyone was doing this training stuff at the other store. I got off at 1 & met my friend Johan that I worked with at Republique (he was my tutor). He wanted to take me for a drink because he headed off to Alsace to see his family & wouldn’t be around to say goodbye. We were both starving though so we ended up at Ninkasi. It’s this little chain in Lyon that has great beer & burgers & fries. It’s so good! We chatted & hung out there for a few hours & then headed back to Starbucks to say hi to some of the others & ended up hanging out for a good chunk of the afternoon with my store manager, shift supervisors & DM. 
Yesterday, I randomly found out it was Free Ben & Jerry’s day! Jamie, Kate & I met in Vieux Lyon & had our fill of free Ben & Jerry’s. It was delicious. They even let people have refills! We were pretty stoked about the random find…especially since the weather was so good. 

Free Ben & Jerry’s day!

So, that’s about it…I’m now in procrastination mode. I should really start getting organized & packed, but we all know that’s not going to happen before the weekend. I have to move all my stuff to my friend, Rachel’s, by Tuesday & knowing me, I won’t start packing until Monday. Smart idea considering how much stuff I’ve accumulated. Oh no…
Anyways, I’ve bored you long enough with my random adventures. I’m sure to have even more exciting stories as I head off for a couple weeks of last minute travel. I’m already dreaming of all the delicious food I’m going to enjoy….& the beer!. Yup, I’ve picked 3 cities that are very proud manufacturers of beer. Now I just need to plan a trip to Belgium & I’m all set on that front!

me & my perma tan in vieux lyon