Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mestre

I am writing this from the floor of the gate at Linate airport in Milan, waiting for my flight to Dublin to start boarding and wiping tears from my cheeks as I get ready to bid farewell to beautiful Italy. It’s hard for me to put into words the emotions that are washing through me, but mostly I think I could some them up with gratitude.

I have been tested and exhausted by the last two weeks of camp, but I have also had wonderful connections with people and the chance to use my skills as a teacher in new ways and really help and share with people in ways that I hope will be helpful. I haven’t written because I have been absorbed in the work and working with younger kids is supremely exhausting. The last two weeks I was in a camp in Mestre near Venice and it was a delightful, stressful mess. There were a few very strong personalities in the tutor group and so I decided to take a step back and shut my mouth most of the time, waiting to use my currency when it mattered the most rather than throwing my weight around for no good reason. Watching the others, I see that this is a gift that wisdom and age bring us and I feel grateful to have made it to this point in my life that I have learned how to shut my mouth and let the stress go away when it isn’t there to serve my needs or those around me.

In the last week of camp I started to make friends with one of the other tutors and I think I’ve found this trip that I can be friends with people who are 18 and 19, which I usually feel I can’t because I teach them, but it’s been nice not to have the teacher thing in between us and to be able to have good conversations and fun times with people at that age and be forgiving of the fact that they don’t know a lot of the stuff yet without being a judgemental asshole. My friend at camp told me I’m “safe” which is Brit talk for cool and not an asshole, and he said I’m the first 30 year old person he’s been able to be friends with and not feel like they are discounting him because of his age. He helped me a lot actually and we talked about some things that he helped me get some perspective on. I also had the idea that at the end of our camp we should sing “Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles because it’s simple and it was in my head after he had been singing Beatles songs and he went home that night and wrote out new lyrics about all the people at the camp. I was so stoked on his song and the camp directors decided we should do it. It was stressful, and the other tutors were negative and shitty about it at first, but in the end it turned out amazingly well and I think he learned a little bit more that he can do amazing things and that he’s got a lot of wonderful talent to give the world.

On Wednesday night the helpers (high school kids that get assigned to us to help in our classes) invited us to go to a silent dance party, where you wear headphones and pick out of three DJ’s channels the music you want to listen to. A bunch of the tutors said they didn’t want to go because it was late and a weeknight but I said we only have a few more days left in Italy and we won’t remember the nights we went to bed early 10 years from now. So Rob and I went to the supermarket and bough cheap and terrible boxed wine, and met up in the park and sat on a bench and played a horrible drinking game called the Bus. It was a lot of fun and getting to know him was wonderful, I think it helped me heal one of the last parts of the broken feelings I’ve had since this last year. Then our helpers met us on their bikes to show us the way to the old fort by the water where the party was. It was insane and so much fun and terribly dangerous drunkenly biking through the streets of Mestre but we were managing until we went onto a dark gravel pathway at which point I felt my equilibrium shift and felt the deep knowledge that I was destined to go ass over teakettle. This wouldn’t have sucked as badly if it hasn’t been directly into a bramble bush, so I was picking thorns out of my wounds for the next day or so, but I got up laughing and got back on my bike and chalked it up to battle scars. We had so much insane fun dancing around at the party, they were playing electroswing and Elvis and 90’s music and Rob and Jess and Monique and I were just crazy dancing all over the place, the helpers were having a blast and it was fabulous. I lost my little black bag of cosmetics but I felt sure I would find it again and Carla knew where it was and Rob helped me find home and biked back with me and it was an exhilarating adventure that I will remember forever.

The final show was a day where everyone stressed out, but I had made a film with my kids so I took them out to the side of the school in our little secondary garden and we played games all day and they taught me a volleyball like game and I used my body again like I used to when I was a kid and I didn’t feel sure that I wasn’t able to anymore. Rob and I had played basketball and I was actually good and I jumped rope and I ran around and I have been carrying my luggage and I am strong as hell right now and it’s a beautiful feeling. I’ve lost a bunch of weight, my pants are loose and I feel like I found my way back to my body again after being disconnected from it for a long time. Being around kids can do that for you, you remember what it was like when you could just do anything and your legs would bend however you needed them to and you could do a cartwheel because it never occurred to you to think you couldn’t. When you were just your body and there wasn’t the division between who you are and who you want to be, or need to be, or hope you can become one day so you can be an ok human and not a disgusting blob like the world has told you that you are.


My flight is boarding soon, and I’m so happy to see Coco. I spent the night in Milan at Rafaelle’s houe and it was sort of like a circle, coming back around the to the first nights I spent in Italy on my way back. I’m very excited for Dublin, and I am very excited for home. And I have loved Italy and will forever be grateful I had this chance to find my way back to a better me that can trust herself and is strong and powerful and lovable. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ospedaletto Eugeno

I sit here on the couch of my host family beside Vittoria the daughter of the seriously badass single mom who hosted both myself and Alice from England this week waiting for us to leave for the train station in Monseliece to go to Mestre, which is the town near Venice that I stayed at in my Airbnb that I will again call home for the next two weeks. I have been assigned a two week camp there and I am very excited because I will be working with two of the tutors that I met at my orientation week in Nevegal, Monique a seriously cool chick from NYC who is a chef and has travelled the world working for Club Med and on cruise ships, and Jessica a funny ECE from Australia. I know that the three of us are going to tear it up at camp and have a blast.

Ospedaletto is a very small little town and our camp this week only had 19 kids, but it was a truly wonderful group of kids that warmed my heart immensely. I got the chance to work with the older children which was my dream come true because our work was a process drama which is an extended story we create together collaboratively and our story was about a group of us being in a plane crash and ending up on an island where we meet indigenous people and have to decide on how we will interact with them and what we will do to survive. My kids were so lovely and sweet they all agreed immediately to leave each other alone and respect one another's cultures. The Italian kids did a presentation about their culture, and the Indigenous kids created a culture where they had a sacred pigeon named Rosito. One of the episodes involved a monsoon coming in and on a whim I decided to say that Rosito had died, resulting in the kids deciding to build a memorial pizzeria in her honor. On their own they decided to announce her death to the rest of the children and the camp and the other little campers came to pay respects at the shrine we had built in her name with little flowers they had all made with crepe paper and even the camp director made balloon flowers to leave for us. At the end of the story we had to decide if they wanted to leave on a rescue ship and they unanimously decided to stay. It was so much fun and the kids were just complete pleasures to teach.

Our camp director was not very good at organization and on the Sunday night we went to Ferrara for the Busker Festival and she couldn't find where we had parked so we were wandering the streets until about midnight and it was an hour's trip home. Monday morning the school was locked so it was a mad scramble to get things ready. From what I have heard this is very common for her personality and her heart was in the right place, but there were a few moments this week that were slightly disastrous because of lack of organization. Listening to stories from other camps I think I got suuuuper lucky and the family I stayed with was lovely.

I had to share a bedroom with Alice from England and I would be lying if I said I wasn't very ready to have my own space again. Alice is a bit of a mess, constantly falling over, bitten by bugs and she developed a terrible abscess in her wisdom tooth that led to her going for an emergency dental appointment and snoring so loudly last night even my noise cancelling headphones wouldn't do and I ended up on the couch. But it's been a fun week and my host mom has made super delicious food, wraps and getting special cheese for me because I said the cheese here is so good, making pepper pasta and gnocchi and tasty things every night even after working all day in an amazing dance workshop she is doing about domestic violence.

It's been a girl power week here, the other class that Aaron the Italian Irish man that I came here with had was all girls with one boy and they decided to be ninjas and arrest him. It's been hilarious watching him sit in the corner and build fake dynamite and the girls have been strong and practicing ninja fight moves. We talked a lot about Harry Potter and stories with strong women and how my host mom decided to leave her husband to find her own happiness when she realized she was carrying his weight and it's a familiar story to me for sure! I love her spirit and I see so much of the good parts of my own mom in her and how she and her ex are working together and getting along to build a better life for Vittoria and keep her world as open to possibility as possible.

I'm excited for my next place, and I'm grateful for the gifts this one has had for me as well. And I've been losing weight somehow so I will return to Canada as the freakish woman who went to Italy and actually lost weight. Though Italy still has two more weeks to try and fatten me up, there will be a bicycle at the next house for me to get to camp on and I'm afraid of biking in Toronto and getting hit by a car like a few of my friends have but in the Italian small towns I think it will be safe and beautiful to bike around and feel the freedom of my own body's momentum riding in the golden Italian sun to my next stop.

Oh, and I have been speaking to Rafaelle, he's in India but has invited me to stay with him in Milan before my flight on my last weekend, and next weekend some of my orientation friends want to meet up in Milan so he said he will postpone his trip to see his family until Saturday if I come stay over Friday so it will hopefully be a wonderful time in store for me and a reunion with some of my great new friends!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nevegal

I am sitting on the patio at the holiday resort where we have our camp training listening to my fellow tutors sing and play guitar while I type this. It's been a wonderful week filled with drama games and meeting people from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America and, of course, Canada. It's been like grown up camp and it might be the last chance I have this life to be a drama camper so I've been soaking it up as best I can.

I've been lucky to have amazing roomies who have awesome conversations with me and as I have always found when you find the drama people you find your home. It's peaceful and remote here and it feels like the recharge my batteries needed even though we've been up and at em every day blasting through drama learning and teaching practice. I am back grounded in my roots, and it is wonderful and healing.

In the background of this beautiful time has been the Charlottesville violence, ISIS and the terror attacks across Europe running in the background. These things remind me of the fragility of life and as I watched the car plow into protesters today in the VICE documentary that is circling around I saw myself in the people sobbing on the ground. When I heard today about the hostage situation in Barcelona and the car crushing tourists I knew that Coco was safe in Valencia and yet felt the cutting edge of pain in my heart knowing how close we all are to the possibility of terror striking any of us.

And I am reminded that life is for living. None of us know how long we have here on this earth, but I know I am grateful and enriched by the life I am leading and the joy that doing drama work brings me. I got to do process drama again, which I haven't done since my undergrad and it's reminded me why I love teaching so damn much and how incredible people that do this work are the world over. It's a truly terrifying, depressing, scary time. And in the midst of it there are islands of beauty like the one I find myself on right now. For now, that's got to be enough.

I also got my assignment for next week, which will be in a small town south of Venice in the north of Italy. Either of the houses I may stay in will have cats which I am very excited about of course. The next place I will be is called Ospadeletto if you feel like you want to give it a Google. It's near Padua and it has about 800 people I think. So that will be interesting. I would have liked to go to Rome or Florence, but I will take what I get with gratitude and I know that where ever I go it will be a wonderful time because it will be in Italy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nevegal Night One

I am here now in Nevegal which is in the mountains of Northern Italy n my keyboard has decieded again that it doesn't like to give me all of the letters that I need to write in English so I m doing my best but it makes writing this very, very tedious.

I met up with the people from the company I m working for at the Mestre station after waiting about 3 hours for something to happen and finding that there were no laundromats to be found anywhere that were open. I immediately started making friends with all of the other tutors as we are called because most of these people are educators of some kind, or at least interested in education, and a lot of people are also drama folks.

My roomates are two super fly ladies, whose names I like an idiot do not have down pat, but already we have been talking some deep talks about relationships and geopolitics, because I'm me and I can't help but go on tirades against white supremacy at every turn. It was nice to see my roomates who are both ladies of colour smile when I made a joke about shitty white people and relax a bit knowing that I'm not a Trump flogger.

I'm looking forward to the week ahead as we do drama games and learn about how these camps are run and while we all learn about each other and where we come from. There are people from Ireland, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, America and Toronto (yay!) so there's a fun group of us from all over the place and I can tell already that we are going to have a blast together. The WiFi situation here is a bit dodgy and it's only available in one part of the "resort" but I have data on my phone and I can bring my laptop down here in the evening to write an update if I feel like I need to. This is probably goin to be the more boring part for you readers of my adventures until I go to Dublin or start moving around Italy to work, but for right now it is beautiful here in the mountains and you can rest assured that I am having a blast with some super fun folks!

Venice

The trip out of Paris was fairly easy, aside from a few brief moments of panic while I tried to figure out which train was the one that would take me to Orly on the platform. A good travel tip is to be extra cautious about the train you are about to get on and when in doubt, double check. I almost got on the wrong train but I felt like something was wrong and went back up to check again and realized I had been on the wrong platform. Moments like this can be stressful and make me yearn for an adult, but I remember that's me and take a deep breath and figure it out.

Once I got on the train however, it was an incredibly easy travel experience, the airport was easy to navigate and getting on the plane was easy. No passport control seems to happen between European cities which is nice and saves time, but sort of sucks because I don't get nifty passport stamps from France. I was very happy to see they had a Paul in the airport, which is a French chain that makes the most delicious sandwiches I've ever had. I also bought an apple tart and a salad knowing it might be a while until I ate again and I was happy to have them later on!

I decided to splurge on a ride from the airport to the Airbnb because by this point my body is aching everywhere and the whole navigating transit systems you don't know thing is getting a bit old. The buses in this area also don't run very frequently because it's not really a big city but more of a small town outside of Venice so when my host offered to pick me up at the airport for 30e I said yes. My hosts are a lovely married couple named Aurelio and Rosa, and Aurelio is a big, warm Italian man who was happy to take my bag and bring me to his car. He doesn't speak much English and I don't speak much Italian but we did our best talking to each other and his kindness was clear in spite of the language barrier.

We arrived at the house, which to be honest I was expecting to be the least nice of my Airbnbs because it was very cheap, but the house is big and beautiful and Rosa is so incredibly nice. They also have a little dog named Nala who is adorable and sweet! Rosa sat me down and showed me maps and explained in total detail all the buses and when the last one comes. She had bought me a ticket because the ticket office is closed for the August holiday and she marked out for me on the map of Venice where I could go for reasonable meals and nice things to see. I really appreciated this, and her helpful maps served me many times once I was actually on the island.

My mindfulness and meditation practice has been really helpful to me in this week, because there has been a lot of waiting and travelling on transit where I had no control over when I would get to places and knowing how to let go of the stress that doesn't serve a purpose has made this experience much easier to bear. The bus from the Airbnb to Venice takes quite a while, and I had to transfer onto a second bus. I was worrying at first because I was coming close to sunset, but I decided to relax and accept that I would get there when I did and that Venice would still be there no matter when I got there.

Arriving to the island it was a chaotic mess of tourists, but also a place of complete beauty. I took Rosa's advice and hopped on the vaporetto, water bus, which took me along the Grand Canal and to San Marco. This saved my feet a huge amount of walking that I didn't want to do, and also a whole lot of getting lost which is kind of the only possible result of walking in Venice.

I wandered around the square and looked at the incredible buildings, walked down streets and side streets and peeked down the many different alleys and canals that are strewn with lovely buildings and sites. Walking along the fruit market a man gave me a cup of cut up pineapple because they were closing for the night and I ate my bonus fruit and found a place to get some pasta for dinner. I thought about how I was taking myself for a romantic date and I enjoyed the peace of setting my own schedule and not being beholden to anyone else.

Worrying about missing the last bus, I hopped back onto the vaporetto and came back to the bus terminal. Unfortunately, I got on the slightly wrong bus and realized this once I was back in downtown Venezia, the mainland area and got off to find I had a 10 minute walk to the next bus stop that would get me home and that it would be the final bus of the night. This was a scary moment to be honest, because it was past 11 and I was alone and my phone battery was around 20% but as I started walking one of the first street names I saw was Via Olivia (my cat) and when I got to the bus stop there was graffiti that said "Olivia loves Cristina" and I was somehow comforted by the names of those I love and felt better. The bus arrived and I made it back to the house with the figure of a man walking just ahead of me, going to the same house.

The next morning I sat and had breakfast that Rosa had made and met the man who is also staying here, Bertrand. He's a nice Frenchman and we have eerily similar schedules. I took the bus again and spent a few hours wandering Venice by daylight, but by now I m so tired out from travel that I didn't really have the energy to spend on museums and tours I just wanted to see the pretty things and sit on a boat for a while. I had a nice lunch of seafood at a restaurant and decided to come back to the Airbnb and get some rest. And Bertrand was on the same bus again! We chatted a bit while walking back and he told me he's been living in the UK for the past 12 years. We both went to rest for a while, and I left again around 8 to find a place to eat.

I took the bus to a restaurant I found on Google, but once I got there they were closed for the holiday so I had to walk back towards the Airbnb until I found a place. Luckily, the restaurant I found was good and it was cheap. I accidentally ordered a bit more wine than I would usually drink, and a shrimp pizza and settled in to read a book and enjoy, but of course Bertrand walked in shortly after that and I invited him to sit with me.

We had a great conversation, talking about politics in Europe and nationalism and how Brexit will fuck him over because he's been working in England based on EU standards and will get kicked out eventually once they change. It was interesting to learn more about the political system in France as well and how many parties they have and how much they have to work towards compromise. We walked back to the Airbnb and said good night and I settled in to watch some Netflix.

Today is about killing time, I won't be picked up from the central train station until 6pm, so I slept in today and I'm dallying in my room. I am going to have a long shower, rearrange my luggage and then have breakfast. Then I'll go to the laundromat with my luggage and do a week's worth of washing and then probably find a restaurant to have a long meal in before I go over to the station. It will be nice to soon be in the hands of someone else and have an organization taking me where I need to go and feeding and housing me. I'm looking forward to the friends I will make with the people I'll be working with and this Airbnb has been a peek at the Italian hospitality that I'm sure I will experience in the homes that I stay at.

It's been  wonderful week filled with some of the most fantastic things you can see on this earth and I know I will remember it forever. Soon I start the next chapter of this trip which will be different but lovely in it's own ways as well.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Paris, The End of Day One, and Day Two

Here I am! Well rested, well Veniced, and ready to finish my reflections on my first day in Paris.

I didn't have the full energy last night to talk about the Louvre, aside from the boobies, and I think that it's worth mentioning the incredible feats that humanity has accomplished. In the Louvre they have art from so many civilizations, Islamic, and Asian and Egyptian and European and you can't help but feel like you are a tiny grain of sand in this ocean of incredible human achievement. The mastery and dedication and just sheer time and effort that has gone into the works of art there, as well as the building itself which is a staggeringly large masterpiece makes you think that if there are aliens out there and they come to earth, maybe to send them here first would be a good first taste of what we are capable of in the arts. I felt the same way about the city itself, it is a true masterpiece that has taken so many years and hours and lives to create. There are little details on every edifice, little angels or frescoes or marblework that you wonder how many eyes have looked upon, how many hands have touched? How many feet have tread these streets and how many drops of sweat were produced to accomplish such beauty? There were a few moments where I was overcome with emotion and had to sit down and weep, just at the incredible capacity of our species for beauty. We are a species that is capable of the most horrible, painful cruelty and people so often write off humans as having a fatal flaw. I admit that since Trump was elected it has been hard for me to feel connected to humanity, I have been disgusted and disappointed and saddened by what we do to each other and how quickly we forget the humanity of others just because they have different skin and we decided a long time ago what the colour of mine or yours means about how much your life matters. And yet, that same humanity has created this place. Thousands and thousands of people every day pour in and out of the Louvre to pay homage to this experience that we can all feel no matter where we come from, this beauty that we see when we come in these doors. People from all around the world come here and we are all drawn like moths to this spark of what is good about people. I needed this reminder, so, so badly, about the good that we can do too. (And yes, I bet there could be a long thesis written about the problems with the Louvre and there are probably some terrible issues with colonization and theft and ownership that could vex me deeply too.)


Where we left off, I had managed to rebuff the affections of a painter from the Louvre (but like, maintenance painter, not tit-popping painter) and had embraced the stereotype I am and made my white lady tourist way to the Tour Eiffel. Looking up at it, what I think makes it so striking is the geometry of it. It is built to look beautiful and different from every angle and added to that it was twilight so the lights came on as I arrived and I got to see it bathed in the purple light of dusk and come alive with the city. Once I had managed to find a toilet, the ache of the impossible lengths I have walked these pa.st days began to kick in and I was reminded why this is something I am doing now and not when I have retired and no longer have bone density or the capacity to climb up a bajillion French stairs.

Making my way back home for the first time I got bad luck with the weather. While I was waiting in line for the Louvre, the skies were ominous and dark, but no rain fell until about the moment I hit the security check, at which point the glass pyramid was suddenly awash with  torrent of rain. As I emerged from the gift shop hours later, the skies had just cleared up enough to leave the sky looking moody and beautiful but no longer the bearers of cold rain to soak my one and only cold weather outfit. Sadly, this did not hold out once I got back to the Anvers area where my spot was. I had to duck into a shop and buy an umbrella, but seeing as the one I had in Toronto popped its clogs the day before I came out here, I was in the market for one anyways.

At this point I was cold and hungry, I haven't had much of an appetite so my meals have been somewhat sparse. Oh! I forget the meal I had before the Louvre which was a proper French meal with a tasty pasty with mushroom cream sauce and a fish and potato dish with Marseilles sauce that was delightful! But that had been about 9 hours before this, and I didn't want to sit down in a restaurant, I wanted garbage food to garf back in bed while I surfed facebook and listened to a podcast. And so, I did what any world traveller would do in this situation at midnight: I found myself a McDonald's! That's right, I'm a disgusting trash pig that ate of the fruits of capitalism because I wanted a McChicken. I will defend myself by saying McD's is an interesting portal into the cultural norms of the place you are eating it in. For example, in Singapore you get "chili" sauce with your McD's which is common there and its like a spicy delicious ketchup. In Milan, you can get poutine, and also a literal block of cheese with your meal. And in France, you get Pommes Frittes Sauce, which is a delicious herbed mayo style thing that I found super tasty. They also put all of your food into a little bag with handles on it and a tray inside with your drink that makes you feel like you're about to go on a swanky little picnic and not just cram a bunch of rubbish into your poor body.

I talked to my lovely Kirstyn once I got home via Facebook calling and it was cool to catch up and hear the doggies in the dog park having fun in the background in the USA while I was curled up ina loft at the top of Paris and it made the world feel so small and lovely. Then Ben called me from his car where he was driving back from the Southern States to talk about how he had just passed Windsor and to catch up a bit and it again felt so lovely to know that all these people that I love are so close by. That morning, which had felt like a million years ago while I had woken in the pre-dawn of Milan, Kirstyn and my Dad had been texting with me and making sure I got my cab and didn't sleep in. I feel so well loved and while I am alone here, I carry the spirit and love of my framly every where I go, no matter how far.

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After the best sleep I have had so far this trip, I woke up and found my way to the train station, Gare Du Nord near my Airbnb which I was happy was so close because it also was the way to the Orly airport the next day that would take me to Venice. I liked that train station because there were a lot of dogs (I would like to shout out the dogs of Europe, because they are adorable and everywhere and a lot of them are teeny tiny and dogs are always little bolts of happiness walking around that make me smile every time) and there was also a station where you could ride a stationary bike to charge your phone which to me was brilliant and maybe why the European people are a lot less porky than us North Americans. I made my way to the place where the Caatacombs entrance is, and the legend about the long line was not long. I queued up and quickly started chatting with the people both in front and behind me because they were all English speakers and we ended up getting to know each other very, very well because all told we spent 5 hours in that line up. Yes, 5 hours.

The people behind me were a family from rural Utah, a mom and a dad and their 20 year old son who was a missionary for their religion and had been doing a mission in some godforsaken corner of England. The people in front of me were a couple from Cornwall, Leanne and Ian, and all of us chatted and shared about our lives and where we were from. Sadly, the Utah people gave up eventually because the father was an areonautical engineer and he did some fancy calculations about the rate of the line moving and how long we still had to go and determined that we would not get in until 3:10pm, which would be too late for them to see the Catacombs and also catch their train. That ended up being a good call, because he was actually off by an hour and we didn't get in until about 4 (we lined up at 11am) and in the meaintime it had pissed down freezing rain on us. I shared my umbrella with Leanne and after surviving that kind of ordeal, you bond. After the Utah people left we made friends with a new American family that were in front of us who were from Boston and the teen sons and I tried to explain the sheer insanity of the American education system and the debt racket to our UK friends who were shocked to hear about the prison food you pay $5,000 a year to eat at college.

Once we finally made it down into the catacombs, we had become a merry band of irreverant jokers and the trend continued down in the depths of Paris. There were a lot of jokes and laughing and carrying on and that's probably not the most sombre, respectful tone to take in a giant crypt, but I'm glad I'd made funny friends and I think the experience was very different for me with them than it would have been solo. And our jokes were still better than the asshole that graffiti'ed his name onto a skull, or the people who reportedly steal bones EVERY SINGLE DAY from the Catacombs. One thing I will say about the catacombs is that their line system seems incredibly stupid to me. All of the places had different lines for tour groups and people who pay extra for skip the line stuff, and as I said to my friends in line, this is how the French Revolution started in the first place. It's like we were on the bottom cabin of the Titanic and we were trapped in this wet horror show while the bourgeoisie trotted merrily up to the gates and were admitted quickly. Once we were down there, there were almost no other people, so it seemed like they could have been admitting way more people rather than making us wait that long. However, you can't get to twisted up about stuff that you can't change, and I was glad to make it down there and make some cool new friends.

Leanne and I probably hastened our trip a bit more than you would want after having spent 5 hours in line because by that time the coffee and baguette that we had run to get whilst Ian held our place in line meant we both had to pee pretty badly and there are no toilets in the Catacombs. I suggested we pop a squat, but that's also not very respectful and there were those impressionable Bostonian teens about to think of. Once we had gloriously relieved ourselves and I had bought a whole bunch of cool shit for my friends back home from the gift shop, there was a sadness that set in as we realized that the end of our time together had come. "Are you going to the Metro, Bea?" Ian asked me. "Yes!" I said, "Why don't we go together?" and as we walked Leanne asked if I wanted to join them on the boat cruise they had booked for that night on the Sienne. Looking at the time, I knew that there was no way I was going to make it to the Musee D'Orsay before it closed, and frankly my feet were killing me, so the thought of sitting on a boat while someone else does the moving around was amazing.

It turned out that we were staying really close to each other and so we all went home for a bit to dry off and drop off some of our stuff and then we met back up and headed back to the Eiffel Tower and the boat cruise. It was cold and raining, but I had a blast with them and we found some food after at the market and had a beer. By this point we were close friends and were talking about our relationship histories and all the sordid details of breakups and heartache and the things you share over a good beer and paella. They walked me partially home after because it was dark and there were some meth heads about, and we realized their hotel was 3 minutes from my Airbnb. It was so nice meeting them and we have messaged back and forth since. So now I have a place to stay if I ever come to Cornwall!


Friday, August 11, 2017

Paris, Day One

Apologies friends and loves for the delay in the posting, I had written my previous post and was hitting the "publish" button just as my battery died and I shortly learned the adapter I had ensured would work in Italy did not also work in Paris. C'est la vie! Luckily, the one that I had for my phone did, so all was not lost on the electronics front.

So what I did instead of blogging was write myself some notes and I'm sat here now in my bed at my Airbnb in Venice working on catching up. I have a melatonin melting under my tongue so we have until that baby starts kicking in for me to try my best to honor chronology and describe for you all with feeble words the incredible, expansive, breath taking beauty and presence that is Paris.

Stepping onto the tarmac of the Beauvais airport I was hit with one primary thing: incredible cold. I could see my breath coming out of my mouth and that was rather a novelty coming from Milan where there has been record breaking heat and I had to sleep like a starfish in my room to try and let the heat escape my body as best it could without me dying first. Luckily, Dublin is at the end of this journey so I packed exactly one pair of jeans and one hoodie and they served me very well in the French climate.

Getting onto the Metro I got trapped in the turnstile with Belinda (my giant bag) and had to ever so gracefully limbo my way back out, to the disgust of the French people around me but I didn't care too much because those people won't see me again ever and really, who am I trying to impress in Paris? Once I got on the train, I started to pretty much instantly fall in love with the vibrance and magic of the city. The subway cars have windows along them so you can see out, and the stations have white tiles and often lovely designs that make NYC's subways look like the smoldering trash heaps that they literally are. It also helped that  French couple got on board with an accorian and started singing to us. It was lovely and I started to get super pumped for Paris.

Finding the Airbnb wasn't too bad, and my greatest worry, the infamous 6th floor walkup with no lift plus Belinda was assuaged by the husband of the family who came all the way downstairs like a champion hero figure and carried Belinda all the way up for me. I find men in Europe are very helpful with bags and very resistant to my offer to assist them with it, often pushing me off like I'm insulting their manhood. I think feminism might not have taken hold as deeply or perhaps in the same ways. Either way, after all these days of running around the streets of Europe, I was willing to relinquish the task.

The Airbnb was as cool and funky as I thought it would be from the posting, with a loft bedroom for me with funky furniture and decor and a cosy space for me. Bonus: a cat named Lola who looked at me from her place in the middle of the bed and decided she didn't want a thing to do with me, and was never to be seen again. Still, having a cat around in some way was comforting.

I quickly evaluated the time and what was going on with my mind and body and decided to book it to the Louvre, the one of two things I had to see while I was in Paris. I screwed the pooch a bit on my planning, not knowing for sure which days I would want to do which thing, so I didn't do the book ahead thing. And my hard won phone data was not having it when I tried to book an online ticket. So I resigned myself to the offensively long line. Standing there I contemplated a lot of things, a lot of them terrorism related as that morning some military police were run down by yet another car-wielding ISIS asshat. One thing that I enjoy watching is people and their interactions, and the line at the Louvre is stinking with teen angst, couple drama, family tension and reminders that travelling alone is a blessing a lot of the time because you don't have to put up with other people's bullshit.

Once I finally hit menopause and got through the line, I commenced what amounted to a 6 hour visit of the Louvre. I did not by any stretch see it all. I splurged on the audiotour which uses  Nintendo DS which I thought was really funky, until I tried to use it and found the navigation sucked and really it was largely useless. Either way, I saw some beautiful, historic, incredible things that will stay with me always. I am by no means an art historian, but I noticed a distinct theme of shit popping off resulting in women's boobs erupting from their chemises. Possible conclusions I have come to upon much discussion with other tourists include: terrible bra technology at the time, the fact that men were the painters and men like boobies, misogyny, boobs being nice to paint, and what seems like the best one so far from Leanne who you will meet in my next blog, boobs are a symbol of fertility and motherhood and so are exposed as a way of highlighting the fertile nature of women. I liked that one especially for the lady liberty one where she is liberating France and it seems a rather odd moment to pop a tit, but if you think about her wiedling the milk of freedom for the people of France, maybe that makes more sense. Other fun/weird highlights included a portrait called, creatively, "Dead Cat" of a ct that looks exactly like Gregory, only once he's popped his clogs, and some seashells and stuff where I thought, finally, someone is speaking my language! only to notice that it was a lady painter, and so that made sense that she had a fresh perspective on the old tits and sorrow theme.

Staggering out of the Louvre I started walking through the gardens sort of towards the Eiffel Tower because I wanted to get there for sunset, and a man came and asked if he could sit beside me. (Parents, clutch thine pearls, I was talking to a stranger!) and he only spoke French so I got the chance to terribly mangle the language. Almost every person I spoke French to immediately switched to English my whole trip, but he was trying to jump my bones so he was willing to give it the old college try. We walked down to the Sienne and talked about CAnada and Paris, and then he tried to hold my hand. I said, no thanks. He asked me why (why do they always need an explanation?! I don't want to touch you, and now you're making me tell you it's because you aren't sexy?) and to avoid getting murdered and pitched in the river I simply said, I just don't want to thank you, I should probably leave now. And, to his credit, he said goodbye and off he left. I took a bus and wham! There I was at the Eiffel Tower.

I wasn't expecting to think a big tower is so great, but it was so great! I didn't go up it, but I was enchanted with how pretty it is. Ok, melatonin kicking in hard, need to ride this wave to snoozeville, will write more tomorrow! Bon soir!