SOL: Masterpiece

I breathe adventure, I sin for travel
He tells me Paris belongs to me as I
Arch my back in triumph while
Sweat pours from suntanned skin the
Shade of café au lait, I want
To ravage his mouth, his hands, eat my way through
His stomach until I feel his heartbeat on my bottom lip
My tongue traces each freckled constellation on his
Back and he tries to make sense of my tangled tattoos with
Hands wrapped in flaxen hair, neck stretched back
Drinking champagne out of collarbones as he pins me
To the wall like a masterpiece, he says I belong in the Louvre
Barely leaving the room, crumbs in sheets, white teeth
Snapping wolfishly towards secret places
He warns me not to fall in love and I
Look at him with a Mona Lisa grin

3AM Thoughts // AKA “Je me souviens.”

SOL: Four Months Later

Last week marked my fourth month in Spain, a milestone that three months ago I wasn’t sure I would make. I’ve been lazy in updating this blog and for that the only excuse I can offer is that I have been letting myself be consumed by life. I am learning how to simply exist and for that reason I have been negligent.

I can’t even begin to describe the events since my post in June. After the hectic week of my friend’s visit the last week of May, I decided to dive headfirst into working at the restaurant and focusing on improving interaction with my young charge. Many days I feel I am caught between two worlds; one of perpetually over-indulgent, snarky travelers and boozed up German tourists and the other of creative play with a four-year-old and testing out my maternal instincts. I wouldn’t have it any other way and both jobs provide a respite from the other. The restaurant has offered me exactly what I was looking for – cash in hand and a social life (arguably too much of a social life sometimes). The tourist season is drawing to a close and so is my contract, but I derive sweet happiness from the summer months spent as a bartender and server in Spain.

It’s hard to try and put into words the massive changes I’ve undergone while being here. I find it simultaneously rewarding and isolating to know that the people who have supported me for years will never truly be able to grasp what I have gone through. A phone call cannot describe every nuance, a picture will never encompass a night in Spain, and a message cannot use poetic words to explain each silly sentiment. I will keep these months nestled within my memory and revisit them often. In April, I thought myself foolishly in love with someone in Canada, to the point that my to-do lists were titled, “What To Accomplish While You’re Stuck in Spain.” Seriously. I promise I am not entitled, though perhaps I am a bit jaded. I am amazed at how rapidly my mindset has changed and how my priorities have rearranged themselves. While I never relish the concept of loving and losing, I have begun to see the upside of loss as a doorway to new experiences and new growth. I find myself perpetually in awe of each happy coincidence of the universe and I truly believe I am exactly where I belong.

Following that train of thought, in mid-July I emailed my boss in Canada and declined his offer to come back to work. I breathed a sigh of relief and allowed myself to melt into a European pool of possibilities. I floated on the cloud of realization that I could be here for as long as I wanted without a care in the world.

That lasted for all of twenty-three minutes until I received his response.

As it is, I do feel loyalty to the company that has fostered my growth and encouraged my travel since I was in third year of university. That said, I will be returning to Canada to complete my contract as agreed and then we will sever ties with mutual respect and understanding. Over the past few months I have realized that I am terrible at walking away from things (and people) even though I know in my gut it is time to move on. In this instance, while I am grateful for everything the company has offered me, I feel a calling elsewhere in the world and I know I would be foolish to try and ignore it. Ultimately there comes a time when you have to be honest with yourself and make choices that will potentially upset and offend. It is important to live as you want and be brave enough to pursue your dreams; life is far too short to contort yourself and try to meet someone else’s ideals. I do not for a second believe that I have my life figured out, but after years of feeling like I have been living in a cloud I finally feel free. I constantly find myself in awe of life – through good experiences or bad. I am caught between perpetually swinging forces of life and I am okay with it; I am slowly learning how to deal with each curveball and lesson thrown at me, difficult as it may be.

Case in point: two weeks ago I was in Paris eating a lunch of baguette and brie while sitting on a bench smack-dab between the Louvre and the Tuileries. I wanted to take a picture but instead I sat in awe and realized that no photo could ever do the moment justice. Fast forward to this week, where I had the sickening experience of watching a man run away with my purse, phone, keys and cash while I was helpless in the water. Not the best scenario, but amazingly I didn’t curl into a ball and sob like I would have done a few months ago. I dealt with it, learned the lesson of my own ignorant carelessness, bought a new phone and moved on. Life will never be smooth-sailing, but once you learn you possess the strength to handle each storm, it gets better.

I’m still learning something every day, both about the world and myself, and in many ways I feel I am gleaning more knowledge than I did in the past few years. It is not an exaggeration to say that my character has changed while here; I am doing, saying and wearing things that I would never dare to in Canada. It’s liberating, it’s exhausting – but every experience is wholeheartedly mine and for that reason I adore it with every fibre of my being.

In connecting with a friend from university, they pointed out that my life as I portray it on social media looks like one giant beach trip with tourist sojourns sprinkled in. In truth, it is easy to create a false aura of grandeur online and I want to emphasize that this is not something I am trying to accomplish. I have shitty days here. There are some days when I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. There have been days – weeks even – where I felt I simply could not stay and wanted to pack up and fly back to Canada. I am preaching happiness while ensconced in Spain but it isn’t one constant high. Not every day is a beach day.

I am happy for the events that lead to bringing me here. I’m grateful for all my experiences thus far and for the people I have met. Let’s recap, shall we?

Celebrating Sant Joan and Trying Not To Shoot My Face Off

Spanish people love fire. Spanish people love being loud. Ergo – Spanish people love fireworks.

Enter the Festival of Sant Joan, a midsummer holiday celebrated with relish in Spain. On June 24 everyone in Spain turns out in hordes and floods the beaches to drink, sit around bonfires and set off fireworks. My friend warned me that I was not prepared for the rambunctious celebrations, and my god he was right.

People congeal in the streets, piling makeshift bonfires high with planks of wood, kitchen chairs, tables – anything flammable, really. Coca de Sant Joan, a pastry, is also sold and eaten this night. I’m sure there is a long religious and pagan background to this event, but I will explain it to you as a local Spaniard explained it to me, “We eat. We drink. We play with fire.”

On the night of, armed with a veritable treasure trove of fireworks, we marched to the Sagrada Familia where bangers were being shot off with zero regard for safety and the pops of each new sparkler were competing to overpower the acrid smell of smoke that hung in the air. At 11:30PM the Sagrada was lit up by lights and the remains of a massive bonfire burned in the centre of the square. It was, to put it mildly, sensory overload.

Sant Joan Arsenal

Fireworks @ Sagrada

We spent a solid half hour shooting all kinds of fireworks into the centre of the square and trying to dodge the flying sparks. My friend bought terrifying fireworks with names like “XXL Destruction” and “Rampage” so I was genuinely worried about shooting my finger off. After he set off one of the huge fireworks my hesitation evaporated and I was throwing exploding firecrackers into the street with wild abandon until he had to tell me to simmer down. We were kids in a candy shop and giggling while setting off firework after firework, much to the glee of the children around us. He explained that due to the crisis in Spain people do not spend as much as they used to on fireworks, but on big nights such as Sant Joan, they will still indulge. We exhausted ourselves at Sagrada, so we wandered down to the metro to reach Barceloneta where we were hit with a mass wave of 20-somethings drinking on their way to the beach parties. Everyone piled off and hit the beach, where people were dancing to live music, drinking, watching fireworks and enjoying the night. I have never seen a celebration like Sant Joan and every Canada Day parade has paled in comparison. Why does Canada even bother trying to celebrate national holidays? Spain truly has us beat. The Spanish culture has such huge joie de vivre that the enthusiasm and pride is contagious. The night ended with vodka, falling asleep on a beach, and finally leaving Barcelona at 8AM while the city tried to recover from the night.

Sant Joan at Barceloneta!

Paris, Je T’Aime (Even When You’re a Frigid Salope)

July was an incredibly demanding month. I started working extra hours with my kid because he finished school; I took on morning shifts and full weekends at the bar and I stumbled into a job as a camp counsellor for an English summer camp, because why not?

It should come as no surprise that I was incredibly burnt out and cranky by the end of the month.

Enter Paris! A quick three day visit was exactly what I needed to do to recharge; luckily I was able to rendezvous with a friend who had never been so I stepped into the role of an inept tour guide. We managed to hit all the main tourist stops in three days, so it was well worth our time there. I love the city and I am perpetually drawn to the Eiffel Tower, however I will always be a tourist in the city, never a resident. Paris is a lover, but Barcelona is a love affair. As always, the mini-vacation went by far too quickly but it was a welcome excursion.

My favourite.

My favourite.

Somewhere In Paris...

Somewhere In Paris…

Urban Love

Macarons are better, bigger.

Macarons are better, bigger.

Follow Me...

Follow Me…

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Candids in Paris

Candids in Paris

Tuileries Garden

“If we dressed up like Quasimodo and Esmeralda I bet we would make a lot of money.”

The cost of being a tourist in Paris is much higher than Barcelona. The train from the airport to city centre is 10E, more than double the cost of metro within BCN. Luckily my travel buddy is as low maintenance as I am and was perfectly content scouring the supermarkets for cheap couscous, baguettes and brie. The only downside to our trip was the weather – we left Barcelona on July 27 while the weather was 60% humidity and about 32 degrees. We landed in Paris in our tees and shorts and did a double-take at each other – it was about 15 degrees. The entire time we were there it hovered the low-teens so I was constantly buying sweaters, but we agreed it was better to be a bit cold than sweating our buns off.

I booked my flight through eDreams.es and ended up flying with EasyJet on the way there and AirFrance on the way back. Online check-in is a godsend so I was able to slide through security and boarding without any problems. The trip back, between transport to and from the airport, boarding and flight time took about six hours, so I was exhausted and sweaty by the time I arrived in Spain, but also happy to be “home.”

Pièce de Résistance: Sex, Men, Nudity, Love & Spain

Quiero Un Amante…

I pointed out in one of my first travel posts about this trip that Spanish people are incredibly sexually liberated creatures. At my French hippie resort last year I thought I had seen it all, really, I did. I witnessed a bit of liberation and politely declined, curled up with my book entitled Healthy North American Shame and left it at that.

Enter Spain.

In a country where people are more attractive than the norm; where the language itself fellates your ears; where the liquor is cheap, the cigarettes are heavy, the beer is light and the local bars stay open late and play sensual music all night long, I suppose it should come as no surprise that everyone walks around perpetually erotically charged.

North American men (all men, really) need to take lessons from these Spanish Lotharios. With faces like damn deities and a purring language that could melt chocolate, these guys know exactly how to woo women. They are near experts at maintaining the proper balance of flirtation, compliments, confidence and eye contact. I dare any woman to come here and not perpetually swoon. A downside to this incredible seduction technique is that they simply do not know when to turn it off, and as such, it is imperative to ask mid-seduction whether or not they have a significant other. On the plus side, they are always honest, but a slight downside is that most of them already have a girlfriend and they simply don’t care. Tread carefully.

Boob Burn & #FreeTheNipple

Let’s revisit my book shall we, the one I held on to like a life preserver in France that focused on the benefits of shame and how it has been drilled into all North Americans with Puritan rigidity. I understand the logic behind decency; I know that private parts are private and the general omnipresent insistence that we keep women’s bodies sexualized only when it’s convenient for the male gaze. As such, I have become a happy deserter of N.A. shame and a firm believer in European nudity.

It doesn’t hurt that every beach along the Maresme coast has a nude beach and even the “clothed” beaches are more often than not spotted with naked people. To be honest, I’ve become desensitized to seeing nudity, an event that has likely spurred on this laissez-faire attitude. I believe we should treat our bodies less like commodities and more like our own property. Free the nipple ladies (but only if and when you want to).

That’s Amore

I truly thought I would fall in love while here. I’m actually surprised that I haven’t given the calibre of men around me, but instead I find myself in love with life and drowning in lust with everything else. I’m happier, to be honest, that I have not tethered myself to another person and as such I have been able to retain absolute freedom and independence. For all my poetic musings, I find myself a little bit in love with a lot of people, a situation I have grown to simply accept. There are too many wonderful people in the world that I have yet to meet.

Coworker Lovin'

Coworker Lovin’

I try to be suave, but at the end of the day I am still a Canadian trying to adopt European culture and as such there are a few hiccups. For instance, would a born and bred Spaniard start a romance with a Frenchman she met at work, invite him to stay with her, realize once he is at her place for three days that she loathes him, allow him to fall in love with her and then physically shove him on a plane back to his homeland?

Probably not

She would also likely be indifferent when he shows up at her work a month later, professing his intentions and offering to start a life together. A homegrown Spanish girl would handle it with an air of unaffected cool – I handled it with alcohol and anxiety, but to each their own.

Looking back, the past few months read like a menagerie of mierda, and to some extent, they have been. I wouldn’t change them for anything and I’m looking forward to what life will throw at me in the next few months.

The Motto

The Motto

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Red-Eyes, Ski-Trips & New Routines

Today marks the end of my first week in Europe, though it feels as though I’ve already been here for a month.

I left Toronto last Wednesday on a red-eye flight to Brussels with Jet Airways. I’ve never flown with them before, but they had an amazing deal to Europe so I figured I had nothing to lose. I had a transfer from Brussels to Barcelona, but most of the people on the plane were continuing on to Delhi. It was possibly the biggest plane I’ve ever been on, with each row seating nine people. I was lucky enough to be in the middle section with three empty seats beside me so I stretched out and tried (unsuccessfully) to sleep. I would definitely recommend Jet Airways to other travelers; the plane was clean, the staff was friendly and helpful and they served Indian food for dinner which was easily the most enjoyable in-flight meal I’ve ever had.

At Brussels I had the pleasure of a six-hour layover, most of which was spent binge-watching TV shows on a reclining seat. I refueled on a green smoothie and tons of water to try to replenish nutrients, but by my fifteenth hour of consecutive travel I felt like a used-up sponge. When a change of clothes and a fresh face of make-up didn’t rejuvenate me I resigned myself to day-dreaming of a hot shower.

After an initial delay the flight to Barcelona (with Air Brussels) boarded quickly and arrived to our destination in under two hours. After grabbing my luggage and winding my way through the carbon-copy airport I finally met my new host family. In exchange for teaching their son English I will be given room and board. After a quick drive we reached the town of Sant Pol de Mar, where I will be residing for the next few months. They were excited to unveil the new room they had been working on and it did not disappoint. The room was finished a few hours prior to my arrival and it was amazing. They converted half of their garage into a mini-apartment, so I have the luxury of my own room and bathroom on a separate level. I like having my own space and this more than suffices. They decorated it with red and white accents and even hooked me up with a new TV and sound system. In terms of accommodation, this place is above and beyond my previous arrangement with Workaway.

Since there is never a dull moment, on Friday, after having spent barely 12 hours in Spain, the entire family piled into two cars and we all drove to Font Romeau in France for an Easter weekend ski trip. This was the main source of my trepidation in preparing for this placement because I may have exaggerated my skill level when the family asked me if I a) knew how to ski and b) enjoyed it. I said yes to both and simply resolved to figure it out later. Prior to last weekend, I have been skiing once in my life; at age 10 on a grade 5 field trip, and I ended up tangled in an orange safety fence. We arrived at the resort at the top of the Pyrenees mountain range within three hours, rented our equipment, and on Saturday we hit the slopes. Literally.

The night before, I wiki’d “How to Ski.” On our first hill they glided down with the ease of professional skiers whereas I rolled down with panache, or as one of my hosts said, “You fall with flair.” After a few hours I improved and was on the same level as the four-year-old. Ahh, humility. All in all, the weekend was an absolute blast; the scenery was breath-taking and it was a great bonding experience for all of us. They had rented a small chalet about five minutes from the centre of Font Romeau and it was gorgeous! I was constantly looking at the mountains while trying to make it down the hill without breaking anything.

S3

S1

S2

A word on the language barriers. Within the first three days of landing I was speaking a confusing menagerie of Catalan, Spanish, French and English with a bit of miming for good measure. Catalan is a local dialect and has a lot of similarities to French, so luckily I can understand and read most of it. Spanish still escapes me.

We finished off Easter weekend in France and by Tuesday we were back in Spain and I had created some semblance of a routine. The host-mom gave me a tour of Sant Pol, brought me to her son’s school and took me on a bike ride to the neighbouring town of Calella. On Wednesday I was able to be more independent and had the morning to myself (which I spent running and laying on the beach) and picking up their son from school. Childcare is hard. I don’t know how all the stay-at-home-moms do it, but kudos to those who are able to handle 24/7 child-rearing.

B1

It’s only been a week but I am already sure this trip will be a positive experience. I am always astounded by how easily people open their homes to others and how completely they absorb workers into their lives. I’m blown away by the hospitality and gregarious nature of my hosts. This placement offers new challenges and learning experiences and I welcome both with open arms and an open mind.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: À Bientôt Europe!

image

Et voilà – approximately twenty two weeks after I left Canada I am awaiting a plane to bring me home.

I am at a loss for words to express the depth of my appreciation for this experience. I am tempted to say that these months have flown by but each month and sometimes each week presented its own challenges.

From start to finish, this was a personal struggle; my goal was more “deep rehab of the soul” than “I bet I can drink my way across Europe.” I came here to see the world, yes, but also to fix the cracks in my soul. It is not an exaggeration to say that when I arrived in France this April I was a broken and extremely depressed individual. I felt increasingly unstable, unhappy and panicked about life and more specifically, my place in life. I can honestly say I was a nervous wreck and for lack of a more eloquent description, I felt like an all-around piece of shit.

Having said that I must confess that on this trip three wonderful things happened:

1) I fell out of love with the people and memories I was holding onto with the toxic hope I would one day have them back again. In doing so I realized that without the grey tinge of the past haunting me my present life became more beautiful.

2) I slowly realized that although I have done terrible things in the past I am actually (and it feels odd to acknowledge this) proud of the person I have become. I realized that my past does not define the person I am today and in doing so I shook off years of angst and guilt and made a home out of my body.

3) I woke up one morning and realized that I had shaken my plaguing depression and had fallen in love with both myself and my life. This is not to say I do not still have lows, but I am much better equipped to deal with them; I now see each low as preparation for a new high and that alone is a beautiful thing.

It is a wonderful moment when you realize that the love you put into your life will be returned. Obviously I still struggle; I still have bad days and shitty moods, but I have embraced the wonderful complexity of life and relish each event, both good and bad. I do not expect myself or my life to be perfect; the bad days and my worst traits only make me value the positive that much more.

It feels bittersweet to be leaving this beautiful country but I am comforted by the fact that I will soon be able to see my family and friends. This trip has utterly revolutionized my worldview and travel itself. When I first voiced my desire to embark on this trip I had numerous people tell me it would be too difficult to do by myself, that I’d get scared or lonely, that I’d be back before the five months were up or that I was completely deluded as to how expensive and confusing traveling can be. I was admittedly petrified that I was biting off more than I could chew but I realized that people often have more tenacity than they give themselves credit for. Humans are resilient – we are durable and capable of much more than the limits we impose upon ourselves. While at times it was difficult to navigate solo-travel I am proud of myself for being strong enough to do it on my own.

My takeaway from this journey is simple:

DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

Life is too short to be miserable. Be honest with yourself about what you want. If you wait for the right time you will be waiting your whole life – do it now! Always remember the best things in life happen when you step outside your comfort zone.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Amsterdam Essentials

image

I’ve been stalling packing for ‘Dam for days but this morning I had no choice but to suck it up and get it done.

Ét voila, the essentials as per Alexa:

1) eBags small carrier filled with tees, leggings and under-things.
2) One pair regular wash jeans, one pair black jeans.
3) French passport & monies for shenanigans.
4) Sturdy padlock for hostel lockers.
5) Eye drops for… Allergies.
6) iPhone.
7) Comfy Converse for trekking the city streets.
8) Leather jacket for fall weather and fashion.

Not pictured: my embarrassingly large backpack, the numerous tickets and maps I’ve printed out, my toiletries, iPad and Nikon camera.

I’m finding it hard to believe I have less than a week left in Europe! The past five months have been a blast and I’m looking forward to ending on a high note.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Travel Updates

“I Don’t Speak Freaky-Deaky Dutch.”

Unexpected travel surprise; upon accepting placement at a campsite in the south of France I assumed I would be forced to flex my française chops all the time. Erroneous on all counts! Turns out not only is there a massive influx of Dutch and English expats to the southern regions of France it’s also a popular vacation destination. As it is I have been hearing more Dutch than I ever expected to hear in my life over the past six weeks of high season. With my blonde hair and fair skin they automatically assume I am of Dutch descent which leaves me nodding frantically as they ramble on in their Netherlands tongue. Sadly, I have picked up zero Dutch language skills while here.

Packing Woes

A month or so before I embarked on this trip I posted a brief description of what I’d packed. I’ve since reread said post, and I would like to make one addendum: I AM A BONAFIDE IDIOT. All the items I painstakingly purchased and packed have been collecting dust in my suitcase. I’ve been wearing the same pair of flip-flips to work on the pool every morning; I hit up a few Vide Greniers (basically an open-air thrift store that circulates from village to village each weekend AKA my utopia) and grabbed tees and hippie digs for 50 centimes each. They have been my lifesavers while coping with the intense humidity of the region AND they carry the added bonus of being tossed without remorse at the end of my trip. I could have easily, and I cannot stress this enough, cut out at least half of what I brought with me, but if I’m being brutally honest with myself 3/4 of my precious packing could have been left behind. This travel rookie is slowly learning the ropes. When travel blogs tell you, “Take whatever you’ve packed and remove half,” they are not messing around. Oh, how the ignorant flounder.

Reaffirming My Faith in the Kindness of Strangers

I mentioned earlier that a lot of people voiced their concerns about me partaking on this long trip by myself. Admittedly I worried I was going to have a complete mental breakdown after months of solitude, but it never happened. By traveling alone, especially with the Workaway positions I have taken, you are welcomed into people’s homes and lives with open arms. I am forever in awe of the acceptance I have received while on this trip. It is a sweet reminder that beautiful souls reside all over the world. We are conditioned to live in a state of perpetual fear (have you seen the news lately?) but when you step outside your comfort zone and experience the world you realize how many truly spectacular people are on this planet. The people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during my trip have been so accommodating and gracious I cannot believe my good luck. I have had such an amazing first experience with Workaway I am already planning out another adventure!

In a few days time, I will leave my hosts in the Lot Valley and spent a few days visiting family near Dijon. Afterwards, I cap off my trip with a few foolish days in Amsterdam and then before I know it, I will be back on home turf.

Safe travels.

Namaste,
AS

SOL: Travel Updates

I have officially started my placement with my new travel hosts in the Midi-Pyrenees. I started off loads better than I did at my first place and the British/Dutch couple hosting me have quickly assumed the role of my “surrogate parents.” Here’s a quick rundown of what has happened in the past week and a half:

Curry Night Debauchery and Clutching the Stick

My last night at my first host ended as it started – on a Monday night (Curry Night) celebration that was one for the books. Curry Nights are always filled with drunken escapades and this one was no exception. We started pre-drinking G&T’s before the table was set at 7PM, so by the time we were served our Daal we were already half in the bag and enjoying ourselves immensely. I was seated next to my favourite Frenchman (as per usual) and by the second course I had convinced him to take swigs of the mixed drink in my Thermos and shun the Bio Bordeaux that we had been served.

There was a new Swedish WWOOFer who got into town at 8:30 and called to say she was ready to be picked up – unfortunately our host had drunk too much wine and was in no position to drive. “Have no fear!” I shouted as I planted myself behind the wheel of the car before I realized I have no idea how to drive stick. Luckily her son took it upon himself to teach me, which left him yelling in panicked, heavily accented English, “Bloody hell, press the clutch ALL the way down!” and me shouting back, “Shut up I’m CLUTCHING!” After stalling several times and a suspicious cranking sound that made it seem like the transmission had given up and committed suicide halfway through our journey, we made it to the village and successfully nabbed the Swede. I think we terrified her on the drive back, but we managed to arrive back at the party unscathed.

Considering my family will read this, I’ll leave the naughtier bits of the night out, but suffice to say I woke up the next morning to catch my train still heavily intoxicated. It was worth it.

Peanut Butter and Chalets

I had a good feeling about my new hosts after our several months of email interaction, but nothing endeared me to them faster than peanut butter.

During our drive from the train station to the campsite, my new host and I were discussing the finer points of French cuisine and I began my well-rehearsed rant about the cost and availability of peanut butter.

Within minutes of arriving at the campsite he placed the Holy Grail in my hands – a 1KG jar of peanut butter that I could have all to myself. Have I died and gone to heaven?

Not only did he bestow chunky PB upon me, but he and his wife have given me my own private accommodation in the form of a chalet on the campsite – basically a small apartment with two bedrooms, a dining room, a bathroom and a kitchen. I also have a weekly stipend to cover my food and a porch that overlooks the Lot River. Life is GOOD. 

One-Horse Towns and Poker

The village where the campsite is located is something of a “one-horse town” – there is a post office and a bar and that’s about it. My host explained that when he isn’t running the campsite his social life consists of a poker league of about 30 people who play on Fridays. Damned if I wasn’t registered as a player in the league within 24 hours of landing in town. I signed in under the alias “Triumph” (AKA my dream bike-brand) and donned my motorcycle tee as my signature outfit. Sue me – I like to play the part.

Friday night rolled around and I marched into the bar for the tournament like I knew what I was doing and sat down to play some Texas Hold’em (in French) with absolute strangers. Mega-nerd that I am, I downloaded “Hold’em for Dummies” to my Kindle the previous night and spent an hour reading up on winning techniques. My party trick of a slick shuffle won me some street cred – so did a ballsy bet and a Royal Flush that cleaned out the old guy next to me. I ended up finishing 7th out of 30 players and caused two men to go ballistic when I beat them. Not exactly a “Triumph,” but hopefully not beginner’s luck either.

Safe travels,
AS

SOL: Tampons, Ice Cubes, Accents, PB & Boobs

There have been a few clashes between Canuck and French living in the past few weeks that I feel can no longer go unnoticed.

SOL: Tampons, Ice Cubes, Accents, PB & Boobs

Marcel Marceau I Am Not

For the past week Chez Quinta has had family staying over in the form of a daughter and granddaughter which has been a lovely addition for me since I am still the only WWOOFer here. The thirteen year old granddaughter reminds me of my sister so I’ve been attempting interaction with her in my broken French. She’s quite confused as to why I’m here, initially she thought I was my host’s daughter and then she assumed I was some sort of maid. Wrong on all counts doll, I’m just a lost and weary traveller… Sort of. She came up to me in the hall a few days ago and told me she had run out of pads and wanted to know if I had any to spare. Since I a) have not used a pad since I was 12 and b) would rather skewer myself than sit in a blood diaper, I had to search for the French word for “tampon” in my mental dictionary. I had seen the word tampon used on a printing store window, so I knew the exact translation didn’t fit, and since in the heat of the moment I’m not known for being too suave my mime skills took over and I was creating an elaborate finger-and-sound motion of a tampon. Needless to say she did not, in fact, take any of my tampons. I can’t say I blame her.

Ice Ice Baby

A slight issue, but an annoyance to me all the same – several Europeans have informed me that ice cubes are not popular in Europe. I seem to recall having this problem last time I toured France, but since I drink a lot heavier this time around, it has been a growing nuisance for me. I’m lusting after a big glass half-filled with clinking and cracking ice cubes, half-filled with tequila and tonic. Forget men; just give me frozen chunks of water in a jumbo cup of alcohol to satiate my desire.

Accents

I’ve always been a fan of accents. I’m envious of people who speak with Cajun peppering their words and honey coating certain phrases that sound bland coming out of my mouth. It never occurred to me that in France I would have the accent. Unfortunately I’m certain I sound like a valley-girl-hillbilly mash-up to the cultured French tongue, but when someone asks me, “And where is your accent from?” I die a little inside. I’ve been told that I speak very hard “English” French, and that when I’m drunk I sound like a Spaniard – must be the wine rolling all my R’s for me.

Where Art Thou Skippy?

Another slight cultural nuisance I have encountered – PEANUT BUTTER. If you thought my lust for ice cubes was borderline raunchy, don’t even get me started on Skippy. I have searched high and low, even scoured my beloved Carrefour, and all I’ve found is the smallest jar possible of PB for a whopping six Euros. What the hell? Namua has informed me that peanut butter is regarded as an exotic food and that my best bet is to try the bio health food stores – or to make my own. I have a love affair with peanut butter, which has peaked ever since I came home drunk-as-a-skunk in university, passed out and woke up only to find out that in my intoxicated state I had a little peanut-butter-party and covered everything in my room, including myself, with a coating of Kraft’s Whipped PB. I’m not even sure if I got any in my mouth, but it turns out it’s hard to get peanut butter out of hair. Where art thou Skippy? I’ll find you.

DD Dilemma

And now for the grand finale of cultures mixing – breasts.

Breasts are everywhere in Europe. On beaches, on magazines, on advertisements – there are bare breasts and bodies everywhere! I would like to think I’m not a prude by any means, but I’ve yet to yearn for the wind on my nipples at the beach.

“You know America was founded by prudes. Prudes who left Europe because they hated all the kinky, steamy European sex that was going on. And now I will return to the land of my perverted forefathers and claim my birthright… which is a series of erotic and sexually challenging adventures.” (Eurotrip, 2004)

It was bright and sunny here in Laroque today so after lunch I decided to sit by the pool with a book and try to soak up some sun. I’m just getting settled into the chaise when I hear an upbeat “Cou-cou!” I swing around to face Sabine, one of our guests, and my smile freezes on my face as I find myself making direct eye contact with her areolae.

Let’s get one thing straight – I have breasts. It’s not like I’ve never seen boobs before. But even among my closest girlfriends we have never once whipped off our tops devil-may-care and pranced around with our breasts flying in the wind. Goddamn these French people and their nonchalant attitude towards women being topless. I envy it! I also fear it. She resumed her tanning place and I felt compelled to caution her against nipple-burn, but decided against it. Just like drinking on the street, (banned in Canada, allowed here), the thought of sunbathing on a beach, or anywhere, topless just feels so naughty.

Cultural clashes aside, I’ve reached my one month milestone in France and I’ve loved every minute. The adventure is just beginning!

Namaste,
AS