Remembering the South of France

In the depths of this deep freeze that is Winter 2014, I find myself reminiscing about this time I went to the south of France.

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I was only there for 4 days visiting my aunt and uncle who had temporarily settled in a small hill village called Sablet.

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Vacationing in the south of France is truly like being in a movie. Driving around in the sun, buying wine straight from the vineyards, eating croque monsieur (pretty much a ham and cheese grilled sandwich) … heaven.

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P1050301_2We visited an ancient Roman Theatre in Orange… the highlight for me, a (then) student of Greek and Roman Studies!

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Provence is full of of absolutely gorgeous cities and buildings! None is more beautiful than Avignon. The Papal Palace is the singularly most impressive building I’ve ever seen. My facts are rusty, but basically there was a period of time where this French guy disagreed with the Pope in the Vatican and said, “I’m Pope now!” and built a palace for the French papacy in Avignon. Though he didn’t do the greatest job with the papacy, he did a fantastic job with the palace.

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P1050524_2If I could, I would go back tomorrow. Anyone feel like paying for my ticket to France?

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My First Real Canadian Winter

I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing that 2014 began colder on Earth than it was on Mars, but this level of chill is completely new to me! Growing up in Victoria, BC, winter meant a slightly wetter, chillier time of year. -10C was pretty much as cold as it got, and snow was light, beautiful and fleeting.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

Pretty much the coldest winter I experienced in BC. Near Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island.

I knew that moving to Stratford would be an interesting experience once winter rolled around. The obvious answer is that it is cold. Cold. Cold. Cold.

This was also the year of the South-Ontario Ice Storm and the Mid-Western States’ so-called “Polar Vortex” (most Canadians would call it “Winter”).

Ice-encased antenna! I've never seen anything like this before!

Ice-encased antenna! I’ve never seen anything like this before!

I’m dumbfounded, I’m immobilized, I’m very, very cold. I’m also surprisingly… clumsy. I mean, I’ve never been the picture of grace, but walking in the knee-high snow and icy patches I am filled suddenly with childlike incoordination.

My arms stick out to keep precarious balance. My steps are small and quick and often result in slips. I stare at the ground to increase my chances of finding sturdy footholds, and when I fall, I fall all the way down and stay there until there is a strong hand to help me up.

Needless to say, it’s very time consuming and a bit embarrassing to go out for a walk. As a 25 year old adult, I’m re-learning how to walk.

Winter also offends my stylish side.

Other than the countless days indoors and the pillow-filled layers of clothing that render me almost completely immobile when I do go outside, winter in Ontario is remarkably enjoyable. I’m just glad I don’t own a car!

I have one friend from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who I know rolled her eyes through this; “Girl, you have NO IDEA.”

Is England’s Southwest the Most Beautiful Place on Earth?

The title of this blog is, of course, an unanswerable question.

St. Michael's Mount, Marazion

St. Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Cornwall

Or is it?

Lanhydrock, Bodmin, Cornwall

Lanhydrock House, Bodmin, Cornwall

If this is not the first post of mine you’ve read, you’ll know that I’ve spent a great deal of time in Great Britain. Mostly, this is because I have lots of family there, but also…. I LOVE IT.

Widemouth Bay, near Bude, Cornwall

Widemouth Bay, near Bude, Cornwall

Many people believe that, for a place to be beautiful, it has to seem untouched by the hand of man. While I do not disagree with this, there is something beautiful about the undeniable and enduring presence of man’s influence on Britain’s southern landscape.

Forgotten, and part of the landscape. Kilkhampton, Cornwall

Forgotten, and part of the landscape. Kilkhampton, Cornwall

St. Michael's Mount, Marazion, Cornwall

St. Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Cornwall

Church ruin, Bodmin, Cornwall

Church ruin, Bodmin, Cornwall

Bude, Cornwall

Bude, Cornwall

Tintagel, Cornwall

Tintagel, Cornwall

Clovelly, Devon

Clovelly, Devon

For me, it is the synthesis of the evidence of humankind and the dramatic changes between nature’s greenness and greyness that make Southwestern England multifaceted in it’s beauty.

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Exmouth, Devon

Exmouth, Devon

Cornwall

Crackington Haven (yes, that’s what it’s called), Cornwall

I think England’s Southwest certainly is a contender for one of the world’s most beautiful places… but it is definitely not the only one!

What makes a place beautiful to you? Where do you think is the world’s most beautiful place?

Holiday Fun Abroad

This Christmas I will be at home. There will be a tree, and stockings, and my Mum, Dad and brother. I am highly, highly pleased about this since last Christmas was extremely lonely. I have, however, been thinking about cool things I’ve done during Holiday-seasons-past whilst abroad.

Watched a hilarious snow-fight in Hyde Park, London, England. This was a LOT of snow for them:

Watched a hilarious snow-fight in Hyde Park, London, England. This was a LOT of snow for them.

Went searching for the Bodmin Castle and found only a field with some foundational mounds:

Went searching for the Bodmin Castle and found only a field with some foundational mounds.

A foundational mound. Woo, exciting.

A foundational mound. Woo, exciting.

Had a ridiculous throw-together Christmas dinner in residence at the University of Exeter, England:

Had a ridiculous throw-together Christmas dinner in residence at the University of Exeter, England

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Watched a (fake) fox hunt one boxing day at the famous Jamaica Inn, Cornwall, England:

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Photographed only the racist part of a New Year’s Day Parade in London, England:

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Explored good ol’ London:

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Did a quick quest-lecture on what it’s like to be a muggle at Hogwarts:

The conclusion? Being a wizard is way cooler.

The conclusion? Being a wizard is way cooler.

Became acquainted with an alcoholic cat named Hamish:

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!!

I Hate Brussels Sprouts – but not Brussels, Belgium!

While spending some time in England, with a friend in Germany, a decision was made to meet in the traditional location for the English and Germans to come together: Brussels. As the seat of the EU, Brussels is a place for international liaison. Perhaps Brussels was chosen for this because of its geographical location, or it’s grandeur. Either way, the single word I would use to describe Brussels is GRAND.

EUROPE

EUROPE

EU

EU

Brussels’ architecture is big, thick, imposing, regal, oppressive, impressive.

"Grand Place" or "Grote Markt"

“Grand Place” or “Grote Markt”

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My favourite building, however, is almost too big to be photographed. The Palais de justice (The Palace of Justice, the name of the Law Courts, which is pretty cool):

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Gargoyles!

Though they live amongst dark, heavy buildings, the Belgians in Brussels have a certain sense of whimsy that is undeniable and goofy. This is evidenced by their weird street art:

Trees…?

Trees…?

Rarely seen is the herd of wild wood buffalo and their young.

Rarely seen is the herd of wild wood buffalo and their young.

I…..

I….. I….

I don't even know. Like, not at all.

I don’t even know. Like, not at all.

Someone had to actually shape this magnificent bosom.

Someone had to actually shape this magnificent bosom.

Even the older sculptures are a bit tongue-in-cheek. The story behind this one goes something like this: a sculptor's son went missing. The sculptor vowed that if his son was found, he would sculpt him in whatever stance he was found in. The little boy was found taking a piss in a fountain. Hence "Le Mannequin pis".

Even the older sculptures are a bit tongue-in-cheek. The story behind this one goes something like this: a sculptor’s son went missing. The sculptor vowed that if his son was found, he would sculpt him in whatever stance he was found in. The little boy was found taking a piss in a fountain. Hence “Le Mannequin pis”.

Le Mannequin pis (loosely, the peeing young man) is often dressed up in seasonal outfits.

Le Mannequin pis (loosely, the peeing young man) is often dressed up in seasonal outfits.

Like many European metropolitan cities, Brussels is largely built of stone. Lots of grey and black… but my travel companion and I DID find some green!

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In a vast field, we could hear a highway, and it was the weirdest thing – the underground highway came up for air in the middle of it!

To be totally stereotypical, may I say: OH, THE WAFFLES. THE SWEET, SWEET WAFFLES!

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I’m so glad I was there before I found out about my gluten intolerance!

On this particular journey, I think I may have discovered the cause of WWII in the war museum:

SLYTHERINS!

SLYTHERINS!

That is all.

Long-Time-No-See! Or Read?

I haven’t written in almost two months. I could blame this on being busy – which I gloriously have been – but it’s also laziness’ fault. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to, to tide you over until my next post 😛

I went to BC! Saw some nature, some ocean, some hippies, some Penthouses, and my friend’s wedding!

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Some nature.

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Some ocean.

Evidence of nearby hippies.

Evidence of nearby hippies.

Very excited to spend the morning on the Penthouse balcony!

Very excited to spend the morning on the Penthouse balcony!

Penthouse view.

Penthouse view.

The beautiful bride!

The beautiful bride.

I made a dope Halloween costume that I was WAY too proud of!

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I felt so badass as Bane!

And of course I needed a Batman!

And of course I needed a Batman!

Found some nature to look at in Ontario – I’m really glad that exists here too!

Wildwood, near St Mary's, ON

Wildwood, near St Mary’s, ON

Tobermory, at the tip o' the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron, ON. Photo credit to Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, at the tip o’ the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron, ON.
Photo credit Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, ON. Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs: http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Tobermory, ON.
Tyler Maxwell Photographic Designs:
http://tylerjgmaxwell.wix.com/photographic-designs

Thank you everyone for continuing to read even while I wasn’t posting fresh material! It’s incredibly flattering to see my number of views grow every day. Anyway, here’s hoping I get it together so I continue sharing my travel and life adventures!

 

25 Things I Thought I Would Have Achieved by 25

This one’s ALL ABOUT ME.

On the eve of my 25th birthday, I can’t help but think about what “25” has symbolized to me in the decade leading up to it. For the many of you thinking “But you’re still so young!” – think of it from my perspective: this is the oldest I’ve ever been! My intention here is not to whine, but to remark on the perception of “25” I have held for most of my teens and early 20’s. The long and short of it is, in my mind, I feel like I should already be more of a grown up!

The 25 Things I Thought I Would Have Achieved by 25:

1. An Adult Job

I have had a lot of difficulty with getting jobs in the past year, as documented by this post.

Perhaps this was naïve of me, but I always thought that by 25 I would have a decent grasp on what I wanted to do – or at least be on the path towards some sort of greatness.

Instead I have felt more often like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. 

Except he, at least, gets interviews.

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2. Irresistible Good-Looks

Ok, so this is absolutely naïve, but every time in my early twenties I ate half a cake, or decided to have nachos for dinner AGAIN, I always thought to myself, “This is ok, when I’m older I’ll know better and I’ll be fit and sexy.” That hasn’t happened yet. Also, subjectivity plays a heavy hand, as I’m beginning to learn.

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3. A Life

I have had a life in the past. When I moved countries twice and I think I must have dropped it out the window over the Atlantic Ocean. I’m not a strong enough swimmer to go looking for it, so I have to start from scratch. As a 25 year-old, back living with my parents, with a lot of student debt and low income, this feels like a daunting task. But the process has happily begun!

4. My Own Place

I am so lucky to have the parents I have. I love them, and if they hadn’t offered to house me during this period of my life, I would have been stuck in Edinburgh at my terrible job that was sucking out my soul. But at this point in my life, I thought I would at least be independent enough to have my own place.

5. Love

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You can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait.

6. Independence

This requires many ingredients. One of which is money.

7. Financial Stability and Debt-Free Status

I think this goes hand-in-hand with the desire for an adult-job, or maybe it will never be? I worked so much the past year, especially in Edinburgh, and it made me even more financially unstable than I ever have been. It was a terrifying glimpse into how some people (which could still include me I suppose) live their whole lives. I don’t know why, but I thought my student loans would just magically disappear with all the money I was going to suddenly come into.

Most awful and pajama-looking uniform ever!

Most awful and pajama-looking uniform ever!

8. The Perfect Wardrobe

I expected to have a perfect grasp of what I look good in, in synthesis with current trends. I still, however, occasionally commit fashion faux-pas!

9. Freedom

Again, this has a bit to do with money. Specifically, I would love to have a car and just be able to drive wherever, whenever.

This would be good too.

This would be good too.

10. Happiness

I understand now that happiness isn’t something you ‘achieve’. It’s not an equation: a + b = happiness; happiness is fluid and constantly in flux from day to day, hour to hour. I believe “being happy” means that your flux remains in the happiness range more often than not – that is a good place to be. I want to go to there.

11. More Travel

I suppose that would require money. Or I need to take my own budget travel advice. I guess I can wait!

12. A Reclaimed Youth

Actually, I guess this HAS happened a bit…

13. Stability

 This will come – I hope!

14. Better Habits

Waking up earlier, eating less cheesy popcorn, watching less tv. These things are in the early stages of happening. Also, the past 3 months I’ve written a weekly To-Do list. I know I’m capable of a lot in very little time, but I’m one of the most lazy and scatterbrained people I know. A To-Do list helps focus me.

15. Acceptance of Mortality and Old-Age

I put this on my To-Do list last week. I wasn’t able to check it off.

16. Perfect Health

I have started eating much healthier (except for the cheesy popcorn) and it feels amazing! My insides sing and I don’t feel heavy or bloated as often. Health is a fluid state and can never really be “achieved” without continuous maintenance (and lots of fluids – ha). But I could certainly have it much worse!

 17. Cool Gadgets

Again, a thing remedied by money. However I just got upgraded by my network to a Galaxy s3 so I shouldn’t complain!

 18. A Following

I am very grateful to the handful of people who read my blog. Please continue and share with your friends!!!

19. A Novel

It’s in the works, but I was hoping to have some sort of significant accomplishment in this area by 25.

 20. The Opposite of Loneliness

I have lovely, amazing friends. BUT NONE OF THEM LIVE NEAR ME. I miss them, and I have only just begun to meet people in my new home.

My 23rd birthday

My 23rd birthday in Victoria, BC

 21. Perfect Skin

I’m not a teenager anymore! When do pimples stop??

 22. Even Longer Hair

How long does that shit take to grow?

 23. An Understanding of What My Body Needs

I know I have a gluten issue, but there’s something else ripping my insides to shreds. It better not be dairy or I will cry forever (I love cheese).

24. Success

I have always been fairly successful, and I guess this last year of non-success has brought me off my pedestal. Perhaps that will be a good thing!

 25. An Idea About What to do in My Late-Twenties, and Goals for Thirty

My Identity is largely based in my youth. I KNOW I’m still young, and, for now, I’m grateful for that. Yet, I also know that I have to start thinking of myself as an adult who needs to start planning for the future – or at least thinking about planning for the future! This is a step I’m not sure I’m ready to take, but I’m afraid to avoid it any longer.

I find it funny how we seem to project increased wisdom and general betterness onto our future selves; it always seems to end up being in a different way from what we expect.

I should say that these are all things that are in progress. Even since I started writing this post a several weeks ago, things have begun to turn around! Of course, at the end of this, I have shifted all of these expectations onto “30.” That’s healthy, right?

Getting Lost in Venice, Italy

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Having studied Greek and Roman Ancient History in University, you’d think that I would have made it a point to visit some of the places I’ve studied. As it’s happened, though, I have not yet had the opportunity to accomplish this. I HAVE, however, had the absolute pleasure of visiting one of Europe’s most unique cities: Venice. Rich in history in it’s own right, Venice is as untouched by modernity as is imaginable in today’s Europe.

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Venice has long dominated the top of my “Where To Go” list, and for me, it did not disappoint. I have heard accounts of other travellers’ disappointment with Venice: it’s too hot, it stinks, it floods, it’s too busy, too expensive.

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Through a wondrous coincidence of timing and good weather, however, I had none of these negative experiences. It was April – warm but not so hot that it was inescapable nor the cause of the famous canal stink. Also, it was late enough in the Spring, that any residual winter flooding had dried up.

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As for being too expensive, well that IS inescapable. My travel partner and I remedied that my buying cheese and crackers from a grocery store as often as we could stand, and we stayed away from the Grand Canal as much as possible (that’s the really touristy area – not that any part of Venice isn’t touristy!).

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

The best part about Venice was getting lost. On purpose.

Italian Job site??

Italian Job site??

Getting lost, you see the people who actually live there, and it’s an odd lifestyle that doesn’t fit into our westernized, modern idea of everyday life. Laundry lines stretch across canals three stories up, front doors with no doorstep – just boat access, and you can be in a completely deserted, silent alley and turn the corner only to be bowled over by a huge crowd. Surreal.

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The population of Venice is predominantly Roman Catholic, and as a result, my travel partner and I kept getting asked by locals we spoke with, “How long have you two been married?” Awkward “umm”s and “ahh”s followed each time.  Apparently a young man and woman travelling together MUST be married – or at least engaged. Super old school!

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An entire island graveyard - no photos allowed!

An entire island graveyard – no photos allowed!

Our only unpleasant experience was getting kicked out of a restaurant because we didn’t order drinks with our dinner… but I’m sure that was unique to that one restaurant!

I was truly entranced with the whole place and I would go back there in a heartbeat! Also, gelato!

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Super, Natural British Columbia

Yup, that’s what the BC motto is!

Having just booked a trip to BC in October to attend a wedding, I find myself getting excited to see all the sights I used to call home!

Here are some nostalgic and beautiful pictures of the most wonderful place on earth!

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Saltspring Island

Powell River

Powell River

Powell River

Powell River

Warship graveyard, Powell River

Warship graveyard, Powell River

Near Parksville, Vancouver Island

Near Parksville, Vancouver Island

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island

Looking onto Brentwood Bay and Mt Baker (I think), Vancouver Island

Looking onto Brentwood Bay and Mt Baker (I think), Vancouver Island

Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Brentwood Bay, Vancouver Island

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Victoria Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island

Victoria Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island

Vancouver

Vancouver

So stoked!!

Have you ever been to BC? Where is your favourite place?

 

Snapshot of Dawlish, Devon

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Located in the UK near Exeter on the south coast of Devon, Dawlish is a brightly painted, extremely small, sunny stop on the coastal railway.

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P1040650_2P1040652_2 Though not necessarily a town worthy of “primary destination” status, if you’re in the area (or riding the train along the coast), it’s a cute wee place to have a quick walk around.

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P1040682_2P1040686_2P1040670_2 Down the centre of town is a river that doubles as a kind of bird sanctuary.

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The infamous Dawlish black swans.

The Dawlish black swans.

This ugly guy.

This magnificent dude.

And don't you dare disturb the river! Cedric patrols vehemently.

And don’t you dare disturb the river! Cedric patrols vehemently.

There’s a small possibly that Dawlish actually exists in a portal in time, where once you ascend from the raised train station platform, you step back several decades. My limited evidence:

Not so latent racism and misunderstandings of racial prejudices. I was too afraid to take a picture of the store that sells only golliwogs.

Misunderstandings of racial stereotypes. I was too afraid to take a picture of the store that sells only golliwogs.

Dated insistence on a product's "stylishness" to entice skeptical buyers.

Dated insistence on a product’s “stylishness” to entice any skeptical buyers. Also, holy cheap prices!

Certainly a curious place.

Has anyone else been to Dawlish? Did you see a different side of it?