Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coming home!

So I am back in my home, back in my bed, and it feels pretty good. Everyone keeps warning me about the 'post travel depression' that will seep in, but I've decided I wont have any of that. Its surprisingly good to be home, in my own space, surrounded by the books and life I have acquired here. I can not put into words how good it felt to sleep in my own sheets last night.  I'm so excited to see all my friends and have started planning a little belated birthday party where we can all drink wine under the stars, and I will bake a lot of cakes.

So here is the thing about travelling that I learnt. Its sort of the same as not traveling. I mean you see new things and meet new people, and eat a lot more food, and shop a  lot more, but in a lot of ways its similar. I guess I expected to go overseas and feel different. The thing is though, I just felt like myself, but somewhere else. I drank some good wine, I bought some pretty dresses, I ate some amazing food, I went on date, and I saw beautiful things, all of which I do at home as well. Im not saying in anyway that traveling is not worthwhile. I feel like the experience stretched me in a lot of ways, and being on my own two feet in a new place was challenging at times. The whole experience simply cemented within me a stronger sense of self which I already was quite suspicious that I had.

As much as there were so many things I was excited for in Europe, Im also excited for a lot of things here. I cant wait to see all my friends, those wonderful people who keep me sane and love me even when I don't act sane. I cant wait to go back to yoga, and stretch out some of the knots I have in my back from sleeping on bad beds and lugging around that heavy case I brought home, stuffed full of new clothes. I cant wait to start uni. Going to Burgundy made me so excited to get back to study. Seeing all those beautiful vineyards stirred up something in me, that felt very similar to the excitement I felt when I first became a chef. I remember that feeling of wanting so badly to be part of the cooking world. To work long hours, put your whole life into food, have tattoos, drink too much coffee, dink to many knock of drinks, get angry, get sad (but never show it), and wear the cuts and scars from the kitchen like medals. Im now excited to feel this about viticulture, but the lifestyle will hopefully be a little different. I cant wait to discuss wine with other people who get excited about it to, to learn about the quality of soil, to work outside, to have dinner parties with other wine makes, to taste, to sip, to write tasting notes, and of course work long vintages. Burgundy made me so keep to start all this.

My trip also inspired me to get back into doing a little meditation. I met a girl in Amsterdam who reminded me of how much I used to enjoy it, and on my twenty fifth birthday I mediated until I felt like I would float off my bed. Im also so excited to ride my bike. I've missed my bike so much. I'm excited to type up the book I wrote while I was overseas. It was such a fun project, and gave my wrestles hands something to do while I sat alone in cafes. Im so glad to have written the last chapter after planning it for two years. Im excited to explore Melbourne more. Before I left I feel like I got a little stale. Work got so busy, and I was tired a lot. I started to feel like I was forgetting how to have a life. I think this year I'd like to work on that a little bit more. Have more dinner parties, paint more, write more, meet more people.....just live a little more.

So that is coming home for me, and none of it, feels depressing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


So today is the second last day of my trip, and to be honest I'm not sad. Im in London in a little hotel, which I accidentally booked an hour out of the city. Its small and not great, but I'm not too concerned as tomorrow I'll be heading into the city for an all day sourdough bread making workshop. My trip really feels like it starting to wind up, and I'm looking forward to things like sleeping in my own bed, seeing my friends, calling my parents, and riding my bike.

Over the last few days I was staying in an apartment in Brussels. For some reason the city didn't really gel with me, and it was the first time in this trip that I didn't feel safe walking around alone. One night a man stopped me on quiet street to ask me where I was going and if I was alone. He insisted he wanted to help and loomed in at me. I smiled at him briskly and told him I was meeting 'my boyfriend' who was waiting for me just up ahead, the man suddenly seemed disinterested and hurried off. This was the first time in traveling that I encountered anything like this, and never felt worried to walk the streets of Paris and Amsterdam alone, looking for places to eat out, and searching for bars. I'll go back to these two cities for sure. I wouldn't mind living in Amsterdam for a while. It felt like home. I could see myself working in one of the tiny cake shops there, ridding my bike to and from work, and going to yoga classes. The idea appeals a lot.

Back to Brussels though! Despite not liking the city, I was staying in a great apartment. It was on the top floor of an old building and you had to climb a huge stair way to get there. The stairway looked old and derelict. Their was paint falling off the walls and it was often dark. Every time I walked in there I felt like it would be the perfect set for a murder mystery. I tried to shake this out of my mind, but the idea stayed. Once you reached the top floor, there was a door behind a curtain (which yes again felt kinda weird and creepy) but inside was this amazing apartment. The guy that owns the place makes sets for movies, so I guess he had used the same creative flare in his living space. The bathroom had plants growing everywhere, and felt like a garden. It was beautiful and lush and relaxing.

Most of the time that I was there I was pretty sick with a cold so one of the afternoons I spent curled up in bed, with the owners pet cat, who kept me company. So I'm not going to lie, I got pretty homesick in Brussels after my birthday. I longed for the sunshine, and my family and friends. I got sick of eating alone in restaurants about a week ago, and have mostly been eating dinner in. I even ordered room service at a hotel once just to avoid having to sit alone. Mostly I don't mind. Its not the actual being alone that bothers me, more the having to deal with people in restaurants who are confused about why you are alone, and seem to forget you sitting there, or give you slower service.

One night I got so confused in Brussels looking for a bar friends back home had told me about. I stopped to ask for directions four times, and everyone seemed to point me in a different direction. I was about to give up, and go back to bed without dinner (I was so disheartened that I couldn't be bothered looking for a place to eat) when I stumbled upon the bar I was looking for. I walked inside and the bar tender laughed at me for looking so sad "Don't give me that! I said to him! I've been lost in the cold for hours," I told him. He smiled, and got me a drink and chatted to me, trying to guess where I was from. The thing I've found while traveling, is people often don't think I'm Australian. The first guess is Swedish usually, but never Australian.

While I was sitting at the bar, I was joined by a lovely stranger, who started up a conversation with me. We sat there drinking our Belgium beers and talking, until he asked me for dinner. This of course turned into wines as well, and then nightcaps of whisky.

This is the thing I love about traveling. Is you never know who you will meet. Even when you are lost, and a little homesick, and tired of being away from the people you love, something nice will happen.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The things I have learnt by 25

The things I have learnt in my 25 years of being alive:

  •  Spending time alone is one of the best things you can do for yourself. 
  • It is of the upmost importance to have a group of wonderful people who you love and love you in your life, so that you can ring them up at 2am broken hearted, or invite them over to drink wine for breakfast (its a thing, don't judge.) 
  • Always eat breakfast. 
  • Most things taste better than skinny feels. Dieting only leads to unhappiness. 
  • Doing yoga makes me feel like I'm extra alive. 
  • Your exboyfriends are your exboyfriends for a reason, and no matter how much you love them, you probably will not run off into the sunset together, even if sometimes that sounds like the most wonderful thing in the world to do.
  • Set your own levels of what self respect means. If people don't agree with them, its none of their business, its your life, your body, your responsibility.
  • Throw a lot of dinner parties. This will be one of the greatest keys to happiness.
  • Always be ready to admit you are wrong.
  • Boys that don't message you the next day after a date, or even that night, to tell you they had a totally rad time, are not at all worth your time. Life is too short for games.
  • Speak your mind, all the time.
  • Be romantic, even if it is just for yourself. Go out on a limb for love, and if it doesn't work dust yourself off and laugh about it with your friends (we have all turned up at someones work place with a rose on valentines day only to be rejected.....right! right?)
  • Your friends don't have to like the same things as you. They don't need to dress the same as you, live the same as you, or care about the same things. They do need to be encouraging, strong individuals who don't care if your a mess, and will always help thatch a plan when you are a mess.
  • Call your a lot. 
  • Don't date artists. Its just so much work, and they might make you cry a lot.
  • Don't date chefs. They are all alcoholics, and are probably dating three other girls. 
  • Don't date wine makers. You will never have their full attention. Wine is so romantic and lets be real, no one can compete with a grad cru Burgundy. That is their first love, not you. 
  • Fall head over heals in love as much as you can. It may end badly, but who cares, at least you lived!
  • Remember that life is short. Ponder this. Act on this. 
  • Doing things leads to thing happening. So do things. Even if they seem insignificant. 
  • Everyone always says 'follow your gut' but sometimes you just wont know what to do in a situation and will have no gut feeling, and thats ok too. Choices are just choices and its ok just to make decisions randomly at times when you don't know what to do.
  • Its also ok to do things that aren't the 'right decision'. The number of times I have said "This is a really bad idea, and Im super excited for it" is ridicules. Sometimes messing up, or not doing the conventional thing can be fun. Life doesn't need to be plotted out in a logical sequence of events. 
  • When grown conservative grown ups ask you if you are going to get married soon, put on your sternest face and tell them you have three boyfriends and can't pick one. It will throw them off topic and confuse them. 
  • Don't feel obliged to fit in. 
  • When you make bread make sure the water isn't too hot or too cold. 
  • Do the things that sound wonderful to you, like becoming a pastry chef/winemaker/writer. 

Romance and Amsterdam

When I was eighteen I went to a psychic. She told me that 24 would be a very romantic year, maybe even the most romantic year of my life. At eighteen I took this to mean that maybe I would get married when I was twenty four, or meet the person who I would be with for the rest of my life. Tomorrow is my twenty fifth birthday, and today I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the year I just had. Obviously I am nowhere near ready to getting married, and my na├»vety as a young girl makes me smile. I think I thought I'd be 'grown up' by now. I am however alone, in Amsterdam, and very aware that I am not yet a grown up.  This does not mean it wasn't a romantic year. 

All day I have been going through all the lovely things that happened in the last twelve months and pondering if they are what made my year romantic. There was that wonderful boy I dated who took me to some of Melbourne's most lovely restaurants and bars, and one morning when I was asleep he went to fetch me coffee. He had no idea how I took my coffee though, so instead of waking me to ask he bought a selection of different coffees and a juice just incase I didn't like coffee. There was the boy who made me a picnic in his garden with such lovely food, and we sat talking for hours until it got too cold and we went inside to build a fire. There was also the boy who would bring me a different wine every time he came to visit, and would always explain in detail how the wine was made and who made it. There was also someone who would take me on picnics and bring old records to my house so we could sit late into the night listening to music and drinking wine. Then there was the boy I met in Paris, and how we kissed under the Eiffel tower, and of course the boy who invited me to stay for a week in a wooden cabin he built with his own hands. This year had a lot of romance. 

The most romantic part though was not at all with any of these lovely gentlemen who spoilt me, but was the things I did, alone. Obviously going to Paris was ridiculously romantic. Also walking the canals of Amsterdam was beautiful. The thing though, that I found the most romantic was working as a head chef in a Cafe. The time I spent doing this was the hardest and most rewarding time of my life, where I felt simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated all the time. In this kitchen alone, before the sun came up doing prep for the day, I feel like I found myself. Doing something creative that I love, and putting every ounce of myself into it felt to me like one of the greatest romances. 

So the lady was right, in some regard. This year has been romantic, but I plan on continuing the romance throughout the rest of my life. I plan on continuing to grow. To learn more, and to continue to settle into my skin. Thats what I believe your early twenties are about. Learning how to be alive. Learning how to survive. Learning how to like yourself. I think I mostly have that all down, and I'm pretty excited for the rest. Im excited for a romantic life. 

Friday, January 23, 2015


"So what are you doing in Amsterdam?" I asked the cute boy in my hostel, who had just moved into the bunk above me. He smirked at me and said knowingly "I think Im here in Amsterdam, doing what everyone here in Amsterdam is doing." I smiled in the best friendly smile I could muster while freezing cold and day two into what seemed like a pretty bad flu. I held my tongue, and mumbled "yeah great," or something of the sort. Really what I wanted to say was "Oh wow! You're hear for the same reasons as me? You came to Europe for a month to write a book on relationships, feminism, and the way we know longer have strong cultural practices that shape the way we form relationships with each other in a western society? You also wanted to go to vineyards to drink wine because you believe becoming a wine maker is one of the most inspiring lifestyles you can think of? And you took a quick trip to Amsterdam because you heard it was beautiful, fell in love with the canals, the great food scene, and visited art galleries because you were raised by an artist, and wanted to see some of the pictures she raised you to believe are important to your education, and when you saw them, you knew she was right, and then you felt so thankful to your mother for installing these believes in you."

I was pretty sure that my reasons for being in Amsterdam where not his version of "what we are all doing in Amsterdam." It quickly became apartment to me in my sick haze of bad sleeps and runny nose that it was time to take some advice from good old Bob Marley when he sang "If you don't like my fire then don't come around, because I'm going to burn one down." The fact that I even knew this song hints at a more open minded past, but right then, in that moment, in that backpackers I had an epiphany. If I decided I no longer wanted to spend a minute more in this busy dorm room, with its tiny beds, that have plastic mattress protecters, being woken up by drunk girls who want to talk to me at 3am, I did not have to. I realised that I never had to have another conversation with some arrogant white dude, who has made the effort to travel all the way to an extremely beautiful country just so he can smoke a heap of weed. So I packed up my bag, booked myself into a hotel room that I found last minute and jumped into a cab.

In a few days I turn twenty five. This is an age where you no longer get to say that you are in your early twenties, which is code for "I have no idea what Im doing, but I don't have to because Im not a real adult right yet." When I walked out of that hostel room tonight I realised that that wasn't something I would have done in my early twenties. In my early twenties I probably would have drunk two pints of beer, suffered through boring conversations with the stoned guy and spent a night not being able to sleep because I was too sick to be able to breath properly. Mid twenties me wasn't having a bar of this. Sitting in my hotel room, overlooking the boats on the canal, I had a feeling that I was going to like my mid twenties.

The other thing I realised that I have loved (despite my small complaints) is Amsterdam. This city is amazing, and to be honest Im a little sad I didn't spend more time here instead of in Paris. This is a city I could see myself living in, with its beautiful cake shops, creative life style, yoga classes, health foods, bike riders everywhere and wonderful scenery. The whole time I was in Paris I was waiting for the moment where it would hit me and I would think "Oh my goodness, I have to move to Paris!" but it never came. In Amsterdam I felt at home though. When I walked the streets I never really felt lost, but more found than anything. I walked into a little cafe off a side street today for lunch only to realise that the couple who served me had not only cooked all the food themselves, they had also grown most of it. This kind of thing is normal here, and the standard of living seems so high.

The city is really strange in that when I came here I thought it would be just sex and drugs. These are the things Amsterdam is known for, and yes they are here. They are also right in your face (I accidentally found myself in the red light district one nigh.) At the same time though everywhere feels so safe. I think the fact that the cities 'darker side' is so out in the open actually helps the city. Its like they have made peace with the reality of what people will do, let them do it, and then get on to focus on other things like art, and music, and amazing cake shops!

I think I'll be back to Amsterdam, and I'm glad I visited this place in my mid twenties.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hanging out in Dijon

Tonight I wrote a list of some of the most happy points in my life. I put down on paper all the moments where I just felt very alive. They ranged between laying on the beach in the middle of the night looking up at the stars, sitting in a little cabin that was made by my first love as fairy lights flashed and lit up the whole room, sitting on a crate out the front of a tiny house I lived in in Melbourne while I smoked cigarettes and wrote into a notebook, spending a weekend in a bed and breakfast up in the mountains, playing house with the first boy I even lived with in an old wooden house in melbourne, we constantly ran out of food, had to store our food on the window sill in winter because we had no fridge, and dried all our clothes on the vents in the floor. All these moments happened at very imperfect times in my life. I was poor, or working too many jobs to pay my way through pastry school, or life was simply complicated. These moments however were perfect to me. They were all the moments that I know I will look back on when I am old and be glad that I lived life exactly the way I did. I think I will be grateful of all the people I loved and the adventures I went on.

Tonight sitting in a little cottage by a fire I have had a similar moment. It is freezing cold outside and I am in the middle of no where in a tiny town out of Paris, and it is perfect. I spent my day wondering the streets, looking in art galleries, eating pastries, and shopping. The town is so beautiful here it feels like a set from a movie. All the streets are cobble stone, and old men walk about with baguettes under their arms. I want to stop them in the street and ask "Are you for real? Are you really wearing that outfit in this town, walking around with a breadstick? Or is someone paying you to do this just to make the town more quaint?"

I stumbled upon a beautiful little park today with a fountain and huge pond in it today. It looked so magical, like a mermaid would pop out of it at any moment. Its hard to believe places like this exist. I saw an exhibition in a castle today.......A CASTLE.

Apart from all this beauty though, mainly I've just been wondering around feeling pretty happy. Maybe its all the good wine I'm drinking, but I think there is more to it than that. I think I'm just so glad that my life has been so full of beautiful moments, and even more so, that I've created all these beautiful for myself to live in. I've been looking back over all the choices I have made over my life. I think its hard in your early twenties to have any clue what your doing at times, and feel so completely lost.  The older I get though the more I realise that none of the things I chose were missteps, but just roads leading to all these happy times I have had.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hanging out in Dijon, the home of mustard (and for now me)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the choices we make and how they effect our lives. I am a firm believer that many of the things that happen and places we end up are because we have propelled ourselves forward in that direction. Sometimes I find myself somewhere, and find myself thinking "How on earth did I get here?" only to remember that I got here because thats where I put myself in life. I've had so many moment like this over my life. I remember when I first moved to Melbourne wondering why I had left my home and my boyfriends, to move to another state where I knew no one. Why was I there? Because I had chosen to be there! Something in me knew that packing up my life and moving it to a new city so I could become a pastry chef was the best thing for me at that time, and it was.

Today I had a similar experience as I got off a train into the cold misty air in a village out of Paris. I had no idea where I was, or what I was doing there. I had simply googled trains that would take me out of Paris and near the wine region that I vaguely remember an ex boyfriend who was a wine maker telling me about. This was not a lot to go on and when I arrived I felt very unsure as to what I was doing here. On the train we went through beautiful country that looked sunny and warm but the closer I got to my destination the colder it became. All the fields where white with frost and snow near the station, and when I got off the train I became quickly aware that I should not have just worn a short sleeve shirt, jeans and a jacket.

I checked into my accommodation which is a beautiful eco friendly little cottage in the middle of the town and went for a walk around. It was Sunday and nearly everything was closed. I was once again struck with the question of what I was doing here, but pushed on through the town, exploring and stopping for lunch.

The thing is, Paris made sense. Of course a pastry chef would go to Paris. Staying with backpackers made sense, even my little apartment near the Moulin Rouge made sense. Here however, in a freezing village in the middle of no where, alone, where no one spoke english made no sense. So what I had to do was trust. I had to put faith in myself that I had come here for a reason, and deep down I knew I had.

So many people in Paris have questioned me about traveling alone, and mostly I can brush it off by telling them I am just on an adventure. I know however that I came here for a reason. That workaholic, busy, social me, needed some time to process a few things. Maybe I just read 'Eat, Pray, Love' too many times, but taking myself away to a tiny village in France seemed like the perfect way to sort out my heart, and have time to think about some things I have been putting off for a long time.

So here I am. Walking around the freezing streets, that are just so beautiful, and just enjoying the fact that I am 25, and may never ever get to stay in a cottage alone in France. Who knows what life will bring next, or where I choose to go. So for now, I'm just going to enjoy having no responsibilities in the middle of nowhere, with just me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On being alone in Paris.

Today a lady at a gallery stopped me so she could do a survey. She asked me a serious of questions about the exhibition I saw, where I came from and who I was traveling with. When I told her I was traveling alone, she sort of laughed like she thought it was odd. I felt confused by her reaction and wanted to stop her and tell her that everyone is alone. No matter if we are married, with children and surrounded by friends we are still alone. At the end of the day the only person we really 'have' is ourselves. I have just been actively participating in this whole 'being alone thing' by going to another country by myself. I think it is important to make peace with our singularity in the world and enjoy it.

Being alone I have learned is very different from being lonely. Over the past few days I have been in a tiny apartment in the city all by my self. I have slept alone, eating alone, drunk wine in restaurants alone, gone to bars alone, explored the streets alone, shopped alone, and danced alone. Being here may have been one of the most isolated experiences I have ever had, but at no point have I felt lonely. I felt empowered, because I became acutely aware that I was enough.

I also made a couple of friends in my week of being alone. There were not the usual sort, but I liked them all the same. A man in a patisserie taught me french each morning when I bought pastries, a girl in a cafe chatted with me as I ate, I sat with a guy at a show I went to and he gave me his Champagne, I even formed a strange relationship with the homeless man who hangs out on my street, wishing each other good morning and good night everyday.

Tomorrow I leave my little apartment, and soon the rest of my tip will be filled with people. The change will be lovely, but I will miss my time in Paris of being alone, but never lonely.

Friday, January 16, 2015

French lessons and Moulin Rouge

Today I just have a pretty lazy day in Paris. I understand that this city is full of culture and wonderful sights, many of which I have seen, but at the same time I am very much enjoying its simple pleasures. For the last two years I have worked two of the most exhausting and wonderful jobs of my life that have kept me so very busy I've hardly had time to just be. Often I would miss meals, or quickly eat while standing up. This has become the normal for me. A lot of my down time got taken up dating some wonderful (and not so wonderful) eccentric, and creative people, and although it was lovely, I am very much in need of some alone time. So this is exactly what I have been doing. I have done a lot of getting lost on the streets of paris but even more sitting in cafes writing for hours. In the first few days I got all the sights out of the way and then settled in to actually just live here. I feel like I'm making up for all the meals I missed and all the days that I spent at work when I should have been at home resting.

The area my little flat is in is so great. The more I explore the more amazing places I discover that I wish I knew about days ago. There are so many restaurants and bars that I want to go into. Apart from that I have been doing a lot of shopping, and even just a lot of relaxing in my little apartment, reading books and drinking wine. I thought that being in Paris alone might be lonely, but I meet people everywhere. The man at the pastry shop I go to every morning is teaching me how to say all the pastries, and last night when I went to dinner I chatted with the owner of the restaurant. Apart from this though its just nice to be here. My friends are always sending me funny photos and messages from back home, and this makes me so happy, know that this is what I will be going home to.

I am nearly towards the end of the writing project that I came here to do. Its been so lovely just to have the time to write without disturbance. Tonight however I'm off to see the Moulin Rouge! I'm pretty excited for it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Eating snails

Today I'm off to see the Dali gallery. The main thing that I've been impressed with in my time in Paris has been my ability to find my way around. I totally have the metro sorted these days (sort of) and have been traveling all over the city without getting too lost at all. My biggest worry when I first got here was that I would spend my whole time having no clue where I am and not being able to ask for directions. So far this hasn't been a problem at all.

Yesterday I went on a walking food tour of the Right bank. We wondered round looking at markets and cheese stops, and then ended the tour with a tasting where we ate treats and drank a lot of wine before 11am.  After this I did a little bit of shopping. Everyone in Paris has beautiful black coats with fake fur collars, and I felt so very left out. I spent ages trying to decide the best design and carefully checked out all the coats of the girls I saw in the streets until I came up with my 'ideal coat' and then set about finding it. I doubt I'll take it off for a very long time. I walked down the street thinking to myself "look how Paris chic I am", and then tripped and nearly fell on the cobble stone sidewalk.

Last night I went out for dinner and had snails. They were delicious but I have a feeling that the herbs and butter they were smothered in was responsible for most of the taste. As a chef I've never had much of a problem with eating meat, as it has been a bit or a necessity when it comes to tasting and preparing different things. I always try to source ethical meat when I cook at home, going out of my way to find butchers that support local trade and that raise the animal in a kind way. So it has never bothered me. Snails however are my favourite bug. I know this sounds odd, but I really do like them. I once had an in joke with someone I dated about snails (its long and complicated so I wont bother going into it) and I always think of them every time I see a snail (yes I'm aware that this is very weirdly sentimental.) I felt a little bad eating these tiny little guys. I was also vaguely aware that I was the only girl in the restaurant covered in tattoos, eating snails alone, while writing in a notebook and drinking a lot of wine. Sometimes I get the feeling I could fit in in Paris very well. Other times not so much.

The street I'm living on I really love. I think its a little like the Fitzroy of Paris. There are lots of beautiful tiny shops everywhere down side alleys and a heap of bars that I have yet to discover. At night time restaurants fill the streets with their chairs facing out onto the walkway, while early in the morning stalls open up selling cheese, wine, bread, fish and fresh fruit. I have been walking up and down this street a couple of times a day to buy bread and berries and cakes.

I have an awful thing to admit. I have been buying one coffee a day from starbucks. I feel like its a really bad thing to do while you are in another country, and I really hate to support large chain stores in the hospitality industry..........but I am so very sick of drinking a short black everyday and just really really really wanted a soy latte. I wouldn't dare ask for this in a cafe, for fear of being kicked out!

Well I better run and go find the gallery. x

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Paris and feminism

Today I've been thinking a lot about the stereotype of thin French women. I once read a poem about how as the French men get older, they get bigger from all the cheese and wine, but the women in contrast shrink, drinking mostly water and smoking cigarettes. The writer put forth the idea that the women were getting smaller simply to make room for the men. They shrunk to accommodate their needs. This poem stayed with me for a long time as I at times have shrunk under the pressure of what I believed it meant to be a woman. This can be seen in the way I never order more food than a man at a restaurant, often letting them make the decisions and talk in a higher voice when I feel unsure or intimidated. "You are just doing a girl thing," someone even accused me at one point on this trip, and the thing that I was in fact doing, was simply asking a practical and logical question. How has society twisted us so much that asking a question is given a negative connotation when it comes from a woman?

I hate that when a woman has needs, she becomes needy, when she is angry she is a bitch, and when she is decisive she is demanding. I hate that we can be made to loose our power for standing up for ourselves. It makes me question, why is society so uncomfortable with women being loud, wanting things, pushing boundaries, growing, and progressing. If everyone is so uncomfortable with the noise of a woman being authentic, maybe they should consider that they are simply insecure of being drowned out? I believe that we as women are more powerful than we let on, or allow ourselves to believe. That we are capable of anything. That we can run kitchens as well as men (if not better at times), read maps, navigate a metro system, live in a country where we don't speak the language alone, get our hearts devastatingly broken by people who don't deserve us, and still dust ourselves off and continue being brave and strong and independent and loud.

This is what Paris taught me today.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Goodnight Paris

So I'm finally in my little apartment in Paris. This was the part of the trip I was really looking forward to. I met some of the loveliest people in the backpackers, but knew at the same time that wasn't really what I came on this trip to do. I didn't travel half way around the world to drink too many cocktails in a dive bar, cram into a room of six people where the bed gives you such a sore hip you have a small limp, or have a romance with an Australian. I came here to spend some time writing, and just be. I wanted to sit in cafes and write for days. I wanted to process the last two years of my life, and how fast they went by. I wanted to look at all the things I achieved and feel proud of that, but also look back at all the things that made me sad, and I didn't have time too feel. I wanted to experience and celebrate all of those emotions, alone, in Paris.

So here I now am, in a beautiful building on the very top floor doing that. I am in a room with a kitchen, bed and shower that is smaller than just my bedroom back home. having a shower is such a weird experience when there is hardly room to move. Its nice to have hot water that lasts for more than a few minutes though. I feel quite at home in this tiny white room, and I feel that I will be happy here.

The area I've moved into is much nicer than I was before and for the first time on my trip here I feel very safe and secure being alone. This afternoon I went on a walk to find some lunch and ended up at a gourmet hotdog shop. The food was so good. I bought what I thought was a lemonade but ended up being lemon flavoured beer. It was weird and delicious.

All the restaurants here close at 3pm and dont reopen until 9pm. The wait between lunch and dinner is epic. Tonight I went for dinner, but my biggest problem here is that there is never enough space in my stomach for all the food I want to eat!

I went to a bar for a night cap after dinner and all the staff were so lovely to me and gave me a free desert. These are the perks of traveling alone.

After a bit of time in the apartment I've started to feel really at home. I think being in this tiny room is the happiest I have felt in Paris. Having some time alone reminds me of what I came here for, and I have been able to relax into the holiday a bit more. I spent a long time writing in cafes and restaurants tonight and did not at any point feel lonely, but just at peace, and sort of connected to the people around me.

Goodnight Paris.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Walking the streets of Paris.

Today I move to my little apartment in the city. Im really looking forward to it. Where I've been staying is just a little bit too far out of the city and I haven't really wanted to venture out at here at night without a friend. the streets are too dark and dirty. This hasn't been much of a problem though because I've been making so many friends. I'm yet to eat a dinner alone in Paris. Last night I met a lovely Australian guy who was traveling alone. We split a bottle of wine and made plans to go to the Louvre together later in the week.

Despite all the friends I've met the majority of my time during the day has been alone. Its interesting getting used to being so very alone. At times I've found it a little confronting but mostly I just shake myself out of any sense of melancholy by remembering that I'm in Paris!

Yesterday I went to the Notre Dame. I'm not sure what I was more impressed with, the beautiful building or the fact that I actually found it by following my map.

One of my main problems in being here has been not being able to eat enough food. One of my good friends always complains about me not getting through my meals at cafes and restaurants, but I have been trying so hard here. I went to lunch yesterday in a lovely little restaurant where I ate beef bourguignon. It was so farm and filling it cheered me up from wandering around in the cold for hours. I left the place full and content and very relaxed after a glass of wine. After that I did some writing in a little cafe. I beautiful french man asked me what I was doing and when I told him I was writing a book he said 'I wish you all the best of luck.' It was very sweet.

The city seems to wake up pretty late here, but I still cant get used to sleeping in. I'm getting in the habit of having a light breakfast of nutella and baguette, and then later eating another breakfast with a short black.

I think a lot of today will just be dedicated to getting to my new apartment and getting
used to the new area.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Im in Paris!

Its really early in the morning in Paris and I cant sleep. My poor room mates must be so sick of me tapping away on my computer as Im sure they are all hung over and worn out. Its been a while since I've posted on this blog, but I think being in Paris and all, its a good time to get writing again. I've had so many adventures here, and its a beautiful busy place. I have to say though, its a lot less French than I expected it to be. I wanted to see more ladies all dressed in black with their tiny dogs, while soft music drifted down the street. The city is actually pretty multicultural, and its often easier to find some good pho over a good french meal.

I arrived in Paris on the Eurostar freezing cold, excited and very lost. A kind lady stopped me on the street and gave me directions to my hostel. The place I am staying is nice, but the area is a little grungy. Nothing is very chic here except a beautiful canal. I was relieved to arrive at my accommodation as it was getting dark and I had a lot of luggage. I was tired from a late dinner in London the night before where a Polish man insisted on taking me out to dinner. We drank some beautiful wine, and ate one of the best meals I've had here so far.

When I walked into my room I was greeted by an Australian guy who was traveling around Europe, and we soon discovered that we grew up in the same area. He offered to go on a walk with me as I didn't know the area, and we explored for about six hours or more walking along the canal, past shops, into bars, eating dinner and talking for hours. This was the start of a beautiful three day romance where we spent every moment together eating pastries and kissing under the Eiffel tower until he took of to a new country. We mades some friends and spent a lot of nights drinking till the early hours of the morning playing card games and laughing.

The day he left I felt a little sad, I got lost a lot and was a little sleep deprived. The city no longer looked romantic, but bleak that day. It was not pleasant. That night I made friends with some more backpackers and had dinner with another Australian guy. We swapped stories and met up with more friends for drinks.

Yesterday was my first real day alone in Paris (although I ended up meeting some people at the bar and having beers with them for an hour or two) and it was the first time I really got to do the city 'my way.' It turns out doing the city my way involves a pretty large hit on the credit card, as I went out shopping and treated myself to a long lunch.

The shops were beautiful, and I found so many things I loved. Even the buildings are ornate. It can be hard to find your way around though as everything sort of looks the same, a sea or beauty and affluence.

Every time I meet someone who asks me about my trip they tell me how brave I am to be traveling alone. At first I thought this was a crazy idea, but slowly I have been understanding the logic. A few times when I got too lost and couldnt speak the language I struggled, and there are moments where I would like to share things with someone, but so far, I am mostly just enjoying the experience.

Today I'm back into the city to explore some more shops and eat pastries. Im really excited just to wear some of my new clothes and practice my broken french.