I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone. Having far too comfortable a life at home meant I grew complacent. I had no wants, which meant I didn’t find the same pleasure in the simple things as I used to. Here, I live without a cat, without a ukulele, without a regular chance to shower, without locks on the bathroom doors, without speaking the language.
I needed to be reminded of how other people live, and experience things I never felt compelled to do in Ottawa. It hasn’t been easy. I memorize French phrases, and hope no one responds out of a predicted path. Even then, I fall back on an English-French dictionary, and Pouvez-vous parlez plus lentment, s’il vous plaît, just in case. It’s something I’ve been forcing myself to do, and at the end of the day I’m never disappointed.
Various styles of croque-monsieur, a grilled ham sandwich with cheese melted on top of buttered pain de mie, a packaged French bread that’s perfect for toasting. Every bakery and family has their own version of this.
In the back is shredded guyère (a medium-bodied cheese), being sliced is mont d’or (very creamy and salty, and stuck to my teeth), and already halved is Camembert (which was super rich with a smell reminiscent of a garbage, but certainly didn’t taste like it…still, I had a hard time getting over the smell).
Continue reading “France: Day 5, Chartres”…
The Partisan, originally titled “La Complainte du partisan” in French, has always been one of my favourite Leonard Cohen songs. The lyrics are from the point of view of a sole partisan secretly fighting an occupying force in his country, but I had no idea it was specifically about the French resistance to Nazi occupation during WWII, as the only references to this are in the French verses.
You hear of soldiers nowadays with iPods and their murder mixes; playlists of heavy metal, used to keep them motivated (or, in some cases, inhuman so they can commit inhumane acts). I’ve long held the belief that if I was ever fighting in a war, this would be my song — the only one I’d listen to, and on repeat — because the narrator is so cold and stoic in his purpose.
A group of partisans joining forces with the Canadian army at Boulogne, in September 1944.
Continue reading “The Partisan”…
It’s been a great pace so far. No plans, no schedule, no goals, no stress. I didn’t want to cram a bunch of activities on this trip; I’d much rather take it easy and enjoy myself, so I can absorb as much of the culture as possible.
People would ask me if I was excited to come here, and I couldn’t say that I was, probably because there wasn’t anything specific I felt compelled to see. Sure, I’ll probably end up visiting some of the touristy, must-see sites in Paris, but more importantly, I want to live the life, to be a local for a while.
The definitive image of France: a young girl dressed smartly in chapeau and tights waves to the baker, who comes from around the counter to hold the door for her as she leaves the store. Of uncorrupted innocence, simple rituals, and fresh bread.
Continue reading “France: Day 3, Chartres”…
Getting here was most certainly the most grueling trip I’ve ever taken. From door to door, it took me 21 hours to travel almost 6000km, carrying with me nearly 90 pounds of luggage (which isn’t that much of a stretch from my body weight).
I was mainly focused on making it safely and with all my stuff, so taking photos wasn’t a priority. Traveling alone is certainly a lot more difficult than with a companion, because you can’t leave suitcases with someone and do something quick like walk down a street to find a sign, or go to the bathroom.
Giving a pigeon a stern talking-to. Birds are brave here.
At Gare Montparnasse.
Continue reading “France: Arrival”…