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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

lovely things about Paris

picnic food

The first thing, naturally, was to eat pastries. And then to go to the market to buy bread and cheese and vegetables and a roast chicken that would last several days. In the early evening, we had a glorious picnic on a pathway overlooking the river Seine. We had a bottle of wine, too, but no corkscrew.

‘Should we ask those guys?’

‘Are you kidding? Do you want to be followed for the rest of the evening?’

‘Well, no…’

‘Take it from me: don’t make eye contact with anyone you wouldn’t seriously consider having sex with.’

Later that evening a Buffon show written by Philippe Gaulier and directed by his son Balthazar: took place in an abandoned station now occupied by squatters and theatre practitioners. A great rehearsal space, we were told. Lip-locked clown-gymnasts contorted themselves and created something uncomfortable: ‘This explains a lot of my relationships…’ I said.

What else to do for the rest of the week, but everything?

writing booth at Shakespeare & Company

Let’s start slowly: another picnic of deliciousness, but this time at Jardin des Plantes. We get in trouble with the authorities for sitting on the grass, so we move to the steps of the Museum of Nature mid-picnic. I also get in trouble for riding the carousel in a clown nose without paying. Another friend meets us for tea at the mosque: we talk about going to the Hammam later in the week for a day of relaxation. Picture a sunshine patio with blue and white tiles, sparrows hopping around hoping for crumbs, shisha being smoked in groups, a certain celebrity sitting in the back corner. Then rising with the afternoon to visit wallabies in the park and read tarot cards at one of the oldest ruins in Paris, sporting ground for the ancients. That evening, a scene from Midnight in Paris comes to life between narrow streets, as well as an introduction to Shakespeare and Company: perhaps a dream of a writing residency in future days?

Monday: Sacre Coeur. I enter the cathedral alone, notice a sign that says ‘dress modestly’ followed by a young woman wearing a silver-sequined tube top; accidental rebel. I am overcome by the beauty of grandeur, nuns singing choral music that echoes in the walls, angels surrounding the ceiling, and me trying to ignore camera flashes as I soak it all in.

To be continued…

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A Clown Wedding at the Eiffel Tower

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Profit: £1.50

Photo credit: Jim from San Francisco

For the complete list of 101 things in 1001 days and the progress so far, follow this link.

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I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the art of being a tourist. Some people are really good at it: my grandmother, for instance, plans frequent holidays for herself and her friends and always manages to visit dozens of sites and take hundreds of pictures and never fails to bring home a souvenir magnet. While I admire her dedication to the art, I’ve always preferred to take a different approach and – as I mentioned a couple of posts earlier – just pretend that I live in the city and go about my day as though it were just another day living in… Paris, for instance.

There are some major flaws in this plan. Namely, I don’t know the city. So pretending I do just makes my ignorance of my surroundings all the more obvious. Refusing to carry around a map or ask for directions just means I will get horribly, horribly lost. Not having a concrete plan for the day means exhausting myself wandering around aimlessly.

Eiffel and I can't get up

I was listening to this show on BBC Radio about a husband and wife who take separate vacations because they have different styles of ‘vacationing’. While the wife was content to relax on the beach, the husband always wanted to set goals for himself and go on ‘missions’ to keep busy. And I thought: I am just like that guy! Despite my determination not to do touristy things in Paris, I began to seek out the Moulin Rouge, the cafe when the film Amelie is set, Notre Dame, that really delicious Bethillon ice cream… and I found myself surrounded by tourist shops selling J’aime Paris mugs and Eiffel Tower figurines in all sizes. I went to museums in an attempt to ‘learn something’ – because, hey, that’s productive! I practiced speaking French because I knew, in the back of my mind, that it would be ‘good for my career’. What is wrong with me??

Over the last few years, all of my trips have been ‘working vacations’, meaning I was attending a festival and sometimes doing research, which would pretty much keep me occupied twelve hours a day every day. However, this summer’s trip to London was only a ‘working vacation’ for the first week and a half. After my visiting theatre troupe returned to Tunisia, I still had a month left to do whatever I liked – when I wasn’t working on my thesis (just submitted yesterday, by the way!) or writing job applications. So I went to Paris.

I feel like there’s always this expectation while on vacation to ‘have an experience’. Especially in Paris. In all the popular Amercian sitcoms, at least two episodes are dedicated to a visit to Paris. The lead character goes there for love, for work, for family, for a change, and comes back (see, no one actually stays in Paris – it would make America look bad) a new and revitalized person thanks to some life-changing event that occurs in this magical, yet challenging city. Often this life-changing event occurs when you’re just wandering the streets, which, frankly, puts an awful lot of pressure on wanderers like me.

Am I supposed to fall in love in Paris? Have some scandalous affair with some gorgeous person in a beret and striped shirt who will serve me baguettes and brie for breakfast following our hot nights of passion? Would I even want that? Am I actually resorting to insulting cultural stereotypes? Heck, the only people who actively hit on me were street vendors, and I’m pretty sure they were selling something. Ahem.

Marketplace

I’m really fond of the idea of being a word-traveller, a ‘jet-setter’ as some of my friends have put it. Is that like a ‘trend-setter’ – paving the way for new and exciting things, though through travel rather than fashion? It’s not as though I’m going to discover anything terribly new. I mean, the only important thing I learned in Paris is that ‘bistrot’ is actually spelled with a ‘t’ at the end, but they remove that extra letter outside of France because people pronounce it incorrectly so frequently. There you go.

Either way, if I’m going to do a lot more traveling in the near future, I think I’d better learn how to go about it properly. The problem is, I have ridiculously high expectations for myself and for the places I visit. Again, I blame sitcoms. Or maybe I just prefer the familiar: riding around on my bicycle down familiar streets, seeing familiar faces, knowing the best places to buy fruits and vegetables, being able to visit friends right around the corner.

Come to think of it, I might be a little homesick…

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Good morning, Paris!

beautiful window

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101 items in 1001 days.
To be completed by October 12, 2013 at 27 years of age.

  1. host my own poetry series
  2. host my own radio show
  3. visit Paris
  4. visit my family in Spain
  5. visit another country in Europe (Italy)
  6. visit a country in Asia
  7. visit a country in Africa
  8. visit a country in South America
  9. go to New York City with my mum (or somewhere equally cool)
  10. take a good photograph of A.L.bion
  11. take ‘little w’ to a play
  12. write a poem in French
  13. write a poem in Spanish
  14. write a poem about Ottawa
  15. write an out-of-character poem
  16. record my poems properly
  17. perform in a play
  18. direct a play
  19. write a play
  20. work alongside a stage director I admire (Andy McQuade – La Chunga Jan.Feb 2012)
  21. have sex in a tree
  22. buy an awesome girly bicycle
  23. bike in London without killing myself
  24. complete a long distance bike trip
  25. complete and defend my thesis
  26. get a job with a festival (Canadian Festival of Spoken Word cfsw.ca October 12-16, 2010)
  27. attempt some form of busking (played my flute in London and made £1.50!)
  28. practice good posture
  29. practice speaking slowly
  30. pick up an English accent
  31. watch foreign films in 10 different languages
  32. volunteer with a non-arts organization
  33. go strawberry picking
  34. get a Brazilian wax
  35. tend a garden without killing anything
  36. go horse riding
  37. take a dance class
  38. take A.L.bion dancing
  39. work in a restaurant
  40. live with roommates  (3 of them, to be exact)
  41. live with a partner on equal terms
  42. take a beach vacation
  43. get my dad’s play Celestina produced in English
  44. read Don Quixote
  45. read all the works of Shakespeare
  46. memorize a monologue from Women Beware Women
  47. read 10 new books from the BBC list
  48. remember my parents’ 35th anniversary
  49. do my own taxes
  50. clean out my bedroom (my room at my parents’ house is now fit for guests, though a lot of my stuff is now in boxes in the basement)
  51. design my own jewelry
  52. order one of those duck dinners that requires 48 hours notice
  53. check out at least 5 new restaurants in Ottawa
  54. play mini golf
  55. buy an i-pod (Thanks, Dad!)
  56. hem my own jeans
  57. have a yard sale (with Bronwyn!)
  58. get a job with a theatre company in London (Second Skin Theatre)
  59. play tennis with my grandmother
  60. bake a delicious cake
  61. quit Facebook for at least one week
  62. write a blog entry every week
  63. comment on other blogs more frequently
  64. learn to use advanced ‘html’
  65. start up my haiku website again
  66. find my perfect working environment
  67. develop some photos and fill up a photo album
  68. do a political photo shoot
  69. buy a fish eye lens
  70. buy a video camera (my iPod touch has HD film – good enough)
  71. direct a short film
  72. go camping with friends
  73. don’t wear a watch for a day, on purpose
  74. tour the Canadian Fringe circuit
  75. paint something / create something large canvas-based
  76. buy a pair of ridiculously beautiful shoes that I may never wear
  77. walk across a pretty wooden bridge with Julie
  78. buy a yoga pass
  79. learn to do a proper cartwheel
  80. paint an apartment
  81. don’t get cable television
  82. own a pet fish
  83. donate a substantial amount of money to a local charity
  84. invent a holiday and celebrate it
  85. eventually stop wearing daily makeup
  86. try Ikebana
  87. attend a Cirque de Soleil performance
  88. memorize all possible Poker hands
  89. finish that Stratford Festival model
  90. visit Leah in Peterborough
  91. meet Simon Callow
  92. go outside everyday
  93. learn to drive on the left side of the road
  94. learn to fix my own bicycle (Thanks, James!)
  95. learn to jog without getting winded
  96. learn to dive into a pool
  97. give birthday cards to my friends and family
  98. get someone to take a really good headshot of me
  99. take part in a fashion show (Sassoon Academy – Oct 13, 2011)
  100. visit a Synagogue
  101. get caught…

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I’m not sure which title is more accurate. Probably the latter. Though I like to think of myself as a Londoner while I’m living in the city. I try not to unfold maps and wave them around in public (in fact, I’ve resisted buying a map to avoid that temptation altogether), and I try not to ask for directions too frequently. This, of course, has resulted in my getting lost on several occasions. But, hey, at least I’m wearing cute outfits while wandering around desperately searching for the underground.

I feel like I’m way overdue for a blog entry. My reasons for the delay are three-fold:

  1. LIFT Festival kept me busy! Oh my goodness, we’re talking about 12-17 hour days. Part of that is travel time: living in Upminster means it take 1-2 hours to get anywhere in central London. Also, there were a few complications with the company from Tunisia: set pieces and props arriving late, trying to organize rehearsal space, and arranging for media interviews in our few spare hours. Even after the company returned home, I was keen to attend other LIFT shows, including Home Sweet Home, Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans, Beloved and Haircuts by Children.

    Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans

  2. I’m still working on my thesis. Nuff said.
  3. I’m applying for jobs in London. Man, I hadn’t realized what hard work that can be! I haven’t actually applied for a job in about 5 years: in Ottawa, people have been nice enough to offer them to me based on my prior qualifications. Also, I’ve been in school, so I haven’t had to worry too much about having a full-time job that actually pays a full-time salary. I’m really hoping for this Assistant Producer job with the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill. Check out the description: isn’t it so perfect for me? They have a mini outdoors festival on this week, and I definitely plan to attend/participate in some shows.

Gate Theatre presents DOMINI PÚBLIC

So yes, if I do find an arts job, I plan to live here permanently for at least one year. I’m looking forward to this adventure, but there a few things I’ll have to get used to. I’m going to provide a list of London quirks for anyone thinking of visiting or living here in the near future. Perhaps some fellow Londoners would like to add some items in the comments section. But for now:

  • People see theatre. Like, it’s not a completely niche thing. There is an audience for professional theatre. There is an audience for community theatre. There is an audience for children’s theatre. And there is an audience for weird little site-specific outdoor pieces that take places in obscure corners of the city. I love that people are aware of the arts around them. It is very inspiring.
  • The underground (and all associated forms of transportation) is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, the trains are frequent and generally reliable — except when there is construction, which happens every weekend and some weekdays. In those cases, some lines are closed entirely and you have to reroute your trip. And then the tube stops running just after midnight, even on weekends! Thankfully there are night buses that are in operation across the city. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I’m living in Upminster, which requires a long train ride to get home… which means my nights end before 11pm. Not much time for a post-show drink.
  • There is little to no public recycling. Plus most of the little Italian cafes charge extra if you want to “eat in”, so everyone gets take-out and just throws the waste in the garbage afterward. It makes me cringe so much.
  • Don’t bother asking for directions. Most people hardly know where they’re going, let alone where you’re trying to go. Just check the detailed maps at bus stops.
  • Bang Said The Gun satisfies my need for awesomeness every week. This loud and rambunctious series focuses on spoken word, but welcomes every other kind of art form and every kind of artist. The organizers were incredibly sweet with me, and they even added my name to the (competitive) open mic list even though I arrived a bit late – again, thanks to changes on the underground. Through this series, I found out that London is brimming with poetry shows, and I plan to attend as many of them as possible! Props also to Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe.
  • It doesn’t actually rain that much. Uh, knock on wood.
  • Very few people have commented on my accent. It seems like everyone in London has a slightly different accent, depending on the neighbourhood, or because they come from Ireland or Wales or Scotland or some other part of the world. Each accent is as individual as the people who carry them. It’s kind of beautiful, actually.
  • London to Paris by train takes just over 2 hours and costs £130 return trip – that is, if you book only two weeks in advance. Oh, by the way, I’m going to Paris for a few days in August. Yippee!

I plan to return to Ottawa on August 16. Until then, I’m going to discover some London hot spots! Keep you posted.

Shakespeare's house for rent. Anyone?

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