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What You Need to Know About Paris

 

First of all, you need to know that I love Paris. Like: Love as-in-I-would-move-there-tonight-with-nothing-but-a-carry-on-kind-of-love. Looooooove…..

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Recently I was asked by an acquaintance to send some information about my most recent holiday in the City of Light. It took me forever to get back to her. Mainly because I knew just how into it I would get, and therefor how much time it would take me to compose an email as full of useful information as I could muster with all of the enthusiasm I have for the city. I enjoyed every.single.second.

I went on about my favourite places, included links and maps, tips and tricks, and loads of my very own opinion. Which, of course, the world needs more of.

paris cafeYes, I adore all of the idiosyncrisies of the French. This includes terrible and rude (if not also terribly rude) service and their casual sense of elegance.  I love the tiny streets of Montmartre with the colourful shops squeezed together like hippies on a road trip. I love the billionaire-on-a-budget attitude of St. Germain, the connection to great artists I feel when I sink into the reading nooks on the second floor of Shakespeare and Company, and the thrum of those places where new worlds collide and your footsteps become unsure.

Had I only been able to make one suggestion to her though about getting a feel for what to expect, it would be this;

Find a lovely scarf which is slightly too long to wield delicately, and get thee to a crowded outdoor patio in the spring time. Order wine or coffee and a tiny glass of water, and no matter what the menu, expect an exquisite presentation of deliciously prepared food. All of this served to you by the most disinterested and apathetic server that you can imagine while your scarf blows in the wind like a prop from an Audrey Hepburn movie.

Welcome to Paris.

 

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Coffee Shops – Getting Your Money’s Worth

balzac guelphToday I got to visit my Mumster.

Visits with my Mumster usually are bittersweet because it means that I’ve just dropped of my kiddo again. Hey, you win some, you lose some, but I’m grateful for my time with both.

This year I want to experience new places in the cities that I frequent the most.

Increasing  my repertoire of coffee shops is a sure fire way to do just that. It will also lend itself to more visits with friends, and more laid back writing time.

I finally got to Balzac’s in Guelph . I sent the address to Mumster, and she and her manster met me there. As with all new places, finding parking can be an adventure, but today it was a grand adventure.

It was as if I found a whole new nerd world. The best parking was across the road from The Round Table, what appeared to me to be a completely geeked out bar. I have absolutely no clue what any of the board games are that they offer, but it looks so cool that I may recruit a geek friend to take me and train me.

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Also, there was the Medieval Gaming Academy. You know, with axe throwing and the like, but aptly named for a university town. I was admiring the confident, postured pace of two gamers (I’m not sure which establishment they were coming from). The two of them moved with the masculine grace of knights, they carried themselves with a kind of ancient chivalry. Any onlooker could assume they were serious about being part of the round table and medieval gaming community. Fine specimens of men they were; fit, firm, with long flowing hair that only the most masculine of men can carry off. It’s the kind of hair that women fantasize about tumbling onto their neck while making love…  That’s as far as the illusion went. It was shattered quickly when they loaded themselves into a brand new grey, four-door Mazda. There endeth my brief infatuation with Mr. Stand-Erect-Long-Haired-Gaming-Geek.

My muster missed this part. She was already on her way home, but I wished we could have shared the moment together. It’s one of those moments you either get one another’s sense of humour or you don’t. It’s these brief moments of connection that make all relationships memorable. The simple ones that happen at coffee shops all over the world.

These are the same moments my son and I share with a quick glance when we know what one another  is thinking before  anyone else could even guess.

These extraordinary moments…all for the price of a coffee and a google map.

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Paris-It’s a Love/Hate Kind of City-Part 2

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As you read in Paris Part 1, I have a bias toward Paris, so let me start there;

The French, like any nation/culture have their own way of doing things. A way of eating, drinking and socializing that has earned them a place in history as gracious host to a generation of writers and artists who shaped the western cultural world. I can respect that.

Merci pour la petite cafe.

What I cannot respect, regardless of where I am, or who I’m interacting with, is rudeness.

As much as I love, love, love Paris, my most recent visit was a much different experience than that of years ago.

In general I find that human interaction during our day-to-day interactions lacks patience, empathy and kindness. More often than not, whether I am the client or the professional, people tend to express an inflated sense of entitlement and lack basic manners. The elements of civilization have been lost, and it shows in Paris.

Wait staff,  famous for snooty service throughout recent history, were stretched too thin, and much less charmingly rude as they were flat out over-worked.

This is a global phenomenon rather than a French one in my opinion. The world is becoming more economically divided, with access to security much less attainable. Consumer appetite for more, more, more has replaced any sense of spirituality, and everything is expected at the speed of our mobile browsers. We have lost our appetite for connection as our appetite as consumers has grown.

moveable feastParis is a city locked into a nostalgic identity. That’s why we flock there. We are there to see the places where great artists and writers were inspired, lived, worked, and sacrificed for their art. We are not there for the reality of out modern world.

Like any tourist destination the line-ups, pick-pocketing and general collection of human grime is inevitable. The airbrushed photos of the modern city set us up to try to create an unattainable reality, kind of like the airbrushed photos of Beyonce’s thighs.

We like the image of people relaxing on patio cafes, sipping coffee or wine, talking about ideas and art and sensual pleasures, but we find it almost impossible to embody this lifestyle. Addiction to our mobile phones and giant paper-cups full of coffee is a cultural phenomenon unto itself, but it is not compatible with our nostalgic idealism of Paris.  And this is why some people hate it there.

My partner described the city as Disney for Adults. Travel has become a collection of passport stamps rather than an experience. Line-up upon line-up of people at historical sites were more concerned with trying to take instagram-worthy photos than enjoying the actual experience. Watching this, I thought that handing out Valium and wine at the ticket booth would likely make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable for everyone. Even I got tired of my own posts with classic images of the city strategically placed in the background.

The idea of a person or place is often not the same as the reality.

The romance of Paris is like a real romance. Quite often we delight in the potential of our partner, but can’t acknowledge the reality; they’re a shitty person. With regard to Paris, we love it, but personalities don’t always mesh with a city so romanticized by history.

Personally, I can linger over a tiny coffee or scrumptious glass of wine all afternoon while writing or daydreaming, or being engaged in discussions about what matters to me in life; happiness, love, the creative process. For others, slowing down and living the ideal is a much harder thing to do.

 

 

 

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Paris-It’s a Love-Hate Kind of City-Part 1

Café_de_FloreI’m jerked awake  from a fevered slumber as the hotel door bursts open, ” What the f**k is wrong with these people?! I can’t get a f*****g cup of coffee!

Realizing what had just happened at the cafes next door while I was curled up in the warm blankets of my Paris hotel room makes me laugh out loud, and then I cough.

Did you ask for your coffee in French sweetie? Or did you walk in and say, ‘Can I get a large coffee?‘”

At the first place they didn’t even f*****g acknowledge me!

Did you ask in French?” I said, sitting up in bed and grinning at him.

No.”

Honey, if someone came up to you at home and asked you for something in Mandarin, you’d be pissed they weren’t speaking one of our national languages.

He carried on his rant, letting the truth of what I just said sink in knowing, but not admitting that I was right. “At the second place they just said, “Non” (imagine the worst french accent ever), “Cafe this big“. He holds up his fingers like he’s going to pinch a baby.

You may want to try using your French while we’re here honey, or find a Starbucks.

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Less than half an hour later he discovered there was coffee at the hotel, and he lugged up three cups to our suite while I got ready to go out for the day.

My partner was appalled by not being able to order a drink without food, a mammoth sized coffee and the slow service at restaurants. His discomfort was my entertainment. You see, I love the complexities of French service, social interaction and just being in such an amazing city.

To watch someone rage against their own ways while being hosted by ‘others’ was rather entertaining. While he was stewing about how he was going to score his next ginormous caffeine fix ( this morning he had two pots of coffee ),  I was marveling at the architecture, lounging in the warm comfort of the reading room at Shakespeare & Company, and people watching from the famous cafes on Boulevard Saint-Germain. I was in my glory.

My partner now fondly refers to anyone from France as a Euro-Weenie. We differ in our perspective regarding the French as we differ with regard to our politics.

The French, like any nation/culture have their own way of doing things. A way of eating, drinking and socializing that has earned them a place in history as gracious host to a generation of writers and artists who shaped the western cultural world. I can respect that.

Merci pour la petite cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

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Travelling Light: My Very First Travel Companion

mapTravelling companions can make or break a travel experience. Or so they say.

I wouldn’t know. I’ve only ever travelled alone, but for one wild weekend in the Bahamas with my BFF, and we shall never speak of that again.

Pretty soon I’m off on an adventure with my sweetie-bear, my puddin’ pie, my hunk’a-hunk’a burning man love…you get what I’m talking about don’t you ladies?

Basically what I’m saying is that having passed the age of 40, I’m travelling for the first time with a man.

There are only two words for it; Yu Ikes.

Seriously.

Just the thought of it makes me giddy. Because giddy is my inappropriate nervous reaction.

Sweet Jesus. As I look around my hotel room, I see a sight that only a busy, single parent of an active teenager could smile at. My bra is hanging over the corner of the television screen. The large garbage can that is meant for the main living area is full of ice and wine. A French version of a popular food and drink magazine is drying out beside the sink (it got soaked by a half open bottle of coconut water while I was struggling to carry everything in from the underground parking garage), and deep purple remnents of said magazine are stuck to the towel that is hanging from a hook meant to hang up jackets in the entrance. There is a wet creamer package sticking half out of a coffee bag, and my shoes are scattered on the floor. Don’t even attempt to try and picture what the bathroom looks like afer a full-on gal-sprawl of cosmetics, towels, panties and hair accoutrements.  It’s pretty only in a way that that Parisian artists of the golden age could appreciate…while on opiods.

So this travelling without a companion has been a wonderful freedom that very few of my gal-pals have been able to enjoy. I totally get loving this freedom to not give a crap about anyone else’s space or comfort. After all, when you travel alone, your ‘stuff’ is all in one place and nobody bothers the organized chaos. There is also no cleaning up after anyone else either, which is a heavenly bonus. As is the fact that there is no one else’s schedule, priorities or aversions to be considerate of.

There is also no one to share it all with either. Not the messy bathroom and bra and the television set stuff – the good stuff. Well, not unless you go out and find someone to enjoy it with, but I digress.

Simply put, I need some valium and a good whack of booze to get me over my nervousness. But maybe a hug from my sweetie will do. I’ll let you know how it all pans out, hair accoutrements and all.

 

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Departures & Arrivals

"There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go." ~Tennessee Williams~
“There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go.”
~Tennessee Williams~

When I was a younger lady, I used to love spending time at the airport people watching. I was fascinated by where everyone was going and why. I loved to try to figure out  travel-companion relationships, and how people behaved while they were neither here nor there.

When you travel alone, airports offer a place to be in limbo.  Mothers and fathers try to impose order; naps, snacks, washroom rituals, but adults who travel on their own are a fascinating bunch to observe because they have no one else to be but themselves.

This morning at my spa appointment, I learned about my aesthetician coming to Canada as a refugee. It’s always fascinating to hear stories about how people came to be who they are, and what hard lessons they learned along the way. Outside of the waxing room, with my tootsies being pampered in a lovely, hot foot spa, and my shoulders being massaged, I relaxed into watching the movie that was playing.

Today I was almost tempted to ask for a manicure to go along with my pedicure so I could watch the ending. But I kinda had it figured out already, so I saved my twenty bucks for an airport breakfast tomorrow.

The movie was about a successful adult woman who woke  one morning as if just waking up from her 13th birthday party. It was a sweet story about reconnecting with her childhood sweetheart, and how the meaning of success gets twisted into something unrecognizable as we mature into adults.

Flashback to my 13 year old self. Where was I? Who was my best friend? What did I want out of life when I was 13?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember what we wanted when we’ve been through so much living and heartache. What we seem to forget as adults is that we need as much love and nurturing now as we did when we were those starry-eyed kids.

I think about how much I work to be ‘successful’, and how one-dimensional that word has become in our culture of glorifiying being busy and having ‘stuff’.

Success, I suppose, means being in the present, and realizing that today, this very moment, might blend in with other memories of living, but at some point, if we’re lucky, we will remember today as one of the best days of our life, from a time when we were younger, more energetic and still had our friends with us.

We depart relationships and life-roles to arrive at others, sometimes years later, without having realized how much time has passed, and who we have become.

As I find a quiet place at the gate, waiting for my connection, I think I may find my mind wandering to those ideas of success I once had, what success means to me now and how I might go about finding more balance between being nurtured and expending my emotional energy.

For a good number of sunsets over the tiny islands in the Caribbean Sea, I will be toasting my vitality, and what it means to live from the heart, with integrity and joy.

Bon voyage my friends! xo