I am leaving you, but will for sure never forget you

New Year

From the first day you changed my life. 

From the very beginning, you made “my reality” collapse. My life plans, my future and the many projects I had in mind … What seemed to be an everlasting truth simply vanished. That was my first lesson.The first of a long list.

Thanks to you, I grew a personality even stronger than the one I already had. I learnt to bounce back and find quick solutions to dilemmas I had never thought about before.

Thanks to you I grew up. I discovered the world and visited places I had not considered going to, such as Serbia or Montenegro.

Thanks to you, I got back my passion for adventures and living new experiences, including this willingness to cross as many items as possible on my “life list”.

Thanks to you I realized what love is about: family love, friendships, kind words, daily attentions and care. It is about areas that are most of the time more meaningful, reliable and rewarding than a romance.

Thanks to you, I met amazing people I now call « friends » and saw long term friendships becoming « family ».

Thanks to you I made one of my biggest dreams come true whilst 3 years ago I thought there was little to no chance for it to happen.

When I thought I had been through a wide range of emotions, if not a roller coaster …came Mid-November. This is when I experienced my first adult sorrow. When I felt at the same time : sadness, impossibility to explain or understand what was happening, and yet I felt hope. Indeed, those tears were full of hope: knowing that eventually love will triumph.

When December came, I stopped and stepped back to reflect on what has just happened in a year… 52 weeks… 365 days. A year that passed by in the blink of an eye.

Little did I know when I was celebrating your arrival, that I was about to enter into an experience that would rock my world, and start the first day of the rest of my life.

2015 .. I am leaving you, but will for sure never forget you.

Never.

Picture is mine

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Je te quitte … mais jamais ne t’oublierai

New Year

Tu as changé le cours de ma vie. Dès les premiers jours.

Tu as fait s’effondrer en quelques secondes des certitudes qui semblaient jusqu’à lors inébranlables. Ce fut ma première leçon.

Tu m’as appris à me forger un caractère encore plus fort qu’il ne l’était déjà. Grâce à toi, j’ai appris à rebondir, à trouver des solutions rapides à des dilemmes auxquels je n’avais pas pensé il y a un an de ça.

Tu m’as fait grandir. J’ai découvert le monde et visité des pays où je n’aurais jamais imaginé me rendre un jour. Ce fut le cas pour la Bosnie et le Monténégro.

Tu m’as donné l’envie et l’opportunité de vivre des expériences insolites, parmi lesquelles figurent ces «  life list moments » que je répertorie au fil des mois.

Tu m’as appris que le mot aimer ne s’applique pas seulement à la sphère romantique, mais aussi à la famille, aux amis, aux paroles, aux gestes d’affections et aux petites attentions du quotidien qui en disent long.

Grâce à toi, j’ai rencontré des personnes fantastiques que je peux appeler aujourd’hui  “amis”, et j’ai vu des amitiés de longue date devenir “famille”.

Tu m’as permis de réaliser un de mes rêves les plus chers sur lequel j’avais fait une croix il a 3 ans de ça.

Et quand je pensais avoir déjà vécu un large éventail d’émotions, s’en vint mi-novembre. Je t’ai alors livré mon premier chagrin d’adulte. Je revois couler le long de mes joues des larmes lourdes, des lames chaudes et salées. Des larmes d’incompréhension et de douleur. Mais aussi des larmes d’espoir où l’on se dit que malgré tout, l’amour triomphera.

Décembre arriva. Je pu enfin contempler le chemin parcouru en 12 mois, …52 semaines … 365 jours. Bref, en une année qui vient de s’écouler en un clin d’œil.

J’ignorais qu’au moment même où je célébrais ton arrivée, embrassant mes proches, je m’apprêtais à entrer dans une année qui allait me donner l’opportunité de commencer le premier jour du reste de ma vie.

2015 … Je te quitte … sur la pointe des pieds et du cœur, mais jamais ne t’oublierai.

Jamais.

Vidéo Sur les pointes par Allain Leprest. 

Picture is mine 

5 signs you are becoming an adult – Christmas time

ohohoh

Whether we like it or not … time passes and the cute baby we used to be, slowly transformed into a nice moody teenager and in the blink of an eye became this interesting creature known as ” An adult”.

I used to say ” I am so looking forward to grow up and be adult so I do not have to do homework and go to school”, but now that I think twice about it, I don’t concur with this no more.

If you are still in doubt as to whether you are an adult  or not – here is a list that may give you indications you are on the right path (YAY). In case this does not apply to you yet… don’t “panic” – it will come faster than what you think. This one is of course a Special Christmas (Let’s be “seasonal”)

  1. You bought an advent calendar but unlike you used to do when you were 7 years old … you really eat one chocolate per day, instead of eating all of them at once. 

That is a huge sign ! You are on the way of being reasonable and playing the game of the advent calendar. It is a BIG achievement.

Note : It is not written at the back of the advent calendar, but I made my own rules… Up to you if you want to follow them. When you are around the 22nd of December, we tend to go back to family, take a bit of holidays before it is actually Christmas day. So in that case, you may not be there to eat the chocolates # 22, # 23, #24. In that case, ONLY IN THAT CASE, it is commonly accepted that you can eat all of them at once. Up to you to decide if you want to eat them alone in the open space of your office, enjoying this guilty pleasure, OR if you are up for a good deed and share them with your colleagues and friends. 

2. You are able to provide an answer to the traditional question : What would you like for Christmas ? 

…Because over the past months you kept a list of things that could be a good idea for a Christmas present – “just in case someone asks you”

3. Spoiler alert – You do not believe in Santa Clause or “Father Christmas” anymore …  but you are the one making sure nobody in your family spoils this lovely legend in front of your youngest cousins, nephews, nieces. (That was such a lovely thought when being kid; and it is still cute to see the youngest one so into this legend)

4.  You may be the lucky one who has been picked by your mum, your Grand-Ma, your boss – to wear the Santa Claus costume and distribute presents  at home or during the company Christmas party this year. Ho Ho Ho

5. You have very good Gift wrapping skills – which makes you be the Official Gift Wrapper for the year … You therefore know all the presents people will be receiving (but as you may be also a great actor, you can totally play it the Actor Studio way : “Oh really you got the Frozen Costume ? What a surprise !!”)

Note :

ALWAYS double check when putting the name tag on the present. True story : During a Christmas I ended up having a boy swim suit and my brother a bikini. Kids are not good at poker face in general. Although I am always thankful for what I get, for this one – I did not know how I shall react, not wanting to hurt anyone or sound like a spoiled kid. 🙂 

All I want for Christmas is you

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes …

The count down until Christmas has definitely started, however the Christmas-y mood I usually sink in from December 1st up until the Christmas eve has not yet kicked-in. Not sure if this is because weather is still rather warm  or because I am “getting used to” it. I am kind of a “Christmas Veteran” about to celebrate my 29th 🙂

I can really not blame it on the Brits for not making efforts to have us prepared for Christmas: straight after Halloween, the witches hats, spooky skeletons and spider webs were replaced by snow flakes, red curtains and Santa Claus in pretty much every stores. Even at my local Starbucks … except that they forgot a tiny detail – they were still playing Bob Marley instead of the traditional Jingle Bells and other Deck the halls – creating a nice exotic atmosphere. 

Soon after the decorations come the usual Christmas rituals. 

Christmas is that time of the year when: 

  • People (including seasoned adults and senior colleagues from the office ) rush to buy an Advent calendar and would then carefully and diligently eat the daily chocolate that get them closer to “the D-day. So far, I spotted many Kinder fans and a small community of Hotel du Chocolat connoisseurs (So chic) 

  • There is an “unofficial” competition at the office as to who would have the kitchiest Christmas ornament at their desk. (Some ending up exceeding expectations.) 

  • All sorts of parties are thrown, ranging from the Ugly Christmas sweaters day; Christmas parties; Secret Santa … 

  • You can – with no guilt – spend your full week-ends watching (for the 10th time) the traditional Christmas movies, namely : Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bridget Jones – while drinking hot chocolate (with a dash of Baileys) and going for binge ice-cream “tasting” 

  • Some privileged members of the “I always do my Christmas shopping at the last moment – despite saying each year : Next time I will start earlier” group – end up spending the 2 last week ends before D-day, looking for the perfect gift. 

Continue reading

Like a rolling stone ….

like a rolling stone

It was supposed to be a post about Dubrovnik, Croatia and its treasures, but as I laid down my thoughts, it went in a totally different way than initially planned.

Dubrovnik is a charming host. A perfect place for a 3 days break. The narrow streets of the old town are calling you, so you go and get yourself “lost” in the city.

You will wander and discover gardens full of lemons and orange trees; come across the music school and if you are lucky enough you can hear the student playing the piano and rehearsing opera songs; you will stumble upon sleepy lazy cats who have nothing to do but enjoying the heat of the sun.

How nice is it, to have nothing to do but enjoying simple moments of life as they unfold on your path ?!

The Dubrovnik experience would not be complete without enjoying a glass of crisp white wine while doing people watching from a terrace : one of the many definitions of happiness for me. 

Day 2 in Croatia, I ended up having to change my initial exploration plans due to stormy weather. “Ciao” the excursion on the lovely islands : no boats would sail the wavy sea… I therefore used this free time to enjoy even more terraces and people watching. It gave me plenty time to “reflect” upon life, travels and any other topics a “20 and something” years old girl would be interested into.

Whilst the change in my travel plans was definitely not a problem, I could not help drawing a parallel between this and a very recent and sudden personal life change. I tend to be a bit skeptical about influential post on Facebook or other social media, but I realized that one of the most recent I read, stating “Nothing in your life should be taken for granted” was a very wise one.

Plans, promises and commitments deemed to be “unsinkable” can vanish when you expect it the least. The good thing is that most of the time, it is only be for the best – giving us an opportunity to reconsider options and opening our eyes to experiences we would have not have thought about otherwise.

I could not help thinking about Bob Dylan’s song, Like a rolling stone : “How does it feel, To be on your own, Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone?”

And what if the answer was: Simply great?

10 signs you are becoming “adult”

Rouge Gorge

 

I was puzzled with the title for this post. I picked the one which is probably the closest to what I want to express. You may find yourself in some of the below statements. J

1. You have plants at home and they are still alive 3 months after you bought them.
And on top of it, you take good care of them, including watering them REGULARLY and making sure they get exposed to the sun on a regular basis.

2. You start to cook some “fancy” dish, such as Asparagus/Goat cheese and chilli flakes frittata, home-made risotto, key lime cheesecake…

3. You think that Queen, Elton John, and Billy Joel were/are TRUE artists compared to the disposable pop music we hear on radio today.

4. There is not a day without seeing one of your college friends announcing on Facebook that they are “engaged, getting married or expecting a baby”

5. You prefer going for a drink listening live music bands or chilling in a lounge bar rather than throwing shots of Jägermeister all night long in a club.

6. You became more “reasonable” when it comes to party and drinking, afraid at the horrible hang over and headache expecting you the day after.

7. Your definition of “old” is in “permanent draft”
When you were 8, someone who was 30 was “old”
At 15, someone who was 50 was “old”
At nearly 30, you think that 60 is the new 30 ….

8. There is some healthy and fresh food in your fridge : spinach, kale, ginger (plus other vegs you ignored the existence 2 years ago). You try to have at least once per week a “greens’ juice” …. because yes on top of it, you are the happy owner of a juicer 😉

9. You throw yourself some challenges like : “get  a six-pack before turning 30” ; “do a marathon before I am 40”; “visit all the continents with my better half before considering getting married or pregnant (or both)” It goes without saying this applies to women only 😉  

10. You take yourself less seriously than where you were a teen or in your early 20s. You realize how life is amazing and precious, and make most of the moments you spend.

Picture is mine. I saw this little bird and I was just finding him super cute… Yes, I noticed that as I am growing older I tend to appreciate much more simple life moments and it makes me feel good.

 

“Home is where the heart is”

Home is where the heart is

Over the past years of intense travels, the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “Where’s home? ”. Believe me or not, some days, I was not sure anymore about the answer.

Is home France? Where I was born, where my family lives….

Is home UK where my boyfriend has been living and waiting for me?

As tough I can be about France, it is HOME. I was born in France. My family lives in France. The love for food and life I have definitely come from France. My native language is French and France is home for many other reasons I listed here.

Last year, as I put an end to my crazy glob trotting life, I finally “settle down” in Scotland. Meaning : lived at the same place for more than 6 months in a row. Even if the transition to a calmer pace was a bit of an adjusment for the first months… I liked it! Seven months later and dozens of cardbox and suitcases packed and un-packed –  we ended up in Bristol, UK. I guess the Skies did not want me to settle down too fast ! 🙂 And surprisingly enough, after less than 2 months in Bristol, I told myself “this could be home too.”

Is this something I should feel bad about? In times I miss France, I would probably say – yes. But for all the other days, I embrace the duality and ambiguity of where “home” is for me and when the “where is home” question comes, I proudly say “I am French but live in UK”. As if I could not dissociate both “homes”.

I was recently browsing books and came across a quote from Pliny the Elder, which is the nicest and most poetic way of putting words on the way I feel today: “Home is where the heart is”.

There could be as many “home” as places one feels linked to…Isn’t life lovely ?

What I’ve learnt since I travel…

Passport

I do believe that in any life experience there is a POSITIVE learning opportunity (even if the positive side is not quite obvious from time to time).

As I started to explore the world, I had “key learnings” I thought I would share with you.
Some of them are a tiny bit exaggerated, but you may well identify yourself in others… 🙂

1.Travel light. Take the bare minimum. Aim to have a list of “must have” for travels

Ask my boyfriend – when I travel I used to take “my home” with me.

YES – “I may need that self-tanning lotion over that 3 days stay. (Even if I never put some the rest of the year)”

YES – “In case the weather changes over the week end – it is a safe option to plan on having 3 different outfits per day… Just in case… You know…. ”

YES – “I need that pair of red flat, the high heels boots and my shiny pointy black shoes….Just in case”

NO – “A black hand bag does not fit with every outfit: if I wear a brown scarf : it would be a FASHION FAUX PAS to accessorize with a black bag” 🙂

Though – as I am growing older – I tend to be more pragmatic and realistic. It was about time ! 🙂

All of the above were a bit of exaggerated, but some of you may see what I am talking about.

2. If you are European : forget about the passport filling contest with non European friends

My boyfriend is American : While he gets a stamp almost everywhere he crosses a border, I have been multiple times across Europe since I got my passport : it is even not half full.

3. US customs agent tend not to be the funniest (but some are still super cool – though)

The good news is that if you have a French accent – they suddenly seem to be a bit more welcoming. I guess it brings them a bit of an exotic touch in their day.

4. Some people can tell where you are from  – even if you do not mention your nationality 

Even if I am not a big fan of saying there are standard behaviors/ways of looking that makes a nationality more or less easy to recognize, It tends to prove right for me.

Example : when arriving at the customs border check in Dublin – I had not say a word or given my passport yet – I was welcomed with a warm “BONJOUR MADEMOISELLE”.

More recently, I was on the phone with the hotel concierge in Romania. I was speaking English – with the less French accent possible… at least I thought… The guy stopped me after the 2 words – saying : “ we can speak French if you want”.

Alright… I was maybe betrayed by ZEE FRRRENCH ACCENT for that one.

For those who wonders :
NO – I do not wear a Beret, or a French baguette every where I go 🙂
NO – I do not have a braid of garlic around my neck.
NO – It is not written on my forehead ” I AM FRENCH”

Last but not least – YES – I do take a shower on a daily basis ( just precising, as several American people came to me asking seriously if “is it true French people do not shower daily but instead use perfume ? “)

So , I guess there is something about my “Frenchness” that may be noticeable!

5. Communicating with people is possible even if you are not familiar with local language. It is a matter of willingness to make it happen

I still remember when I lived in Prague. I could not say a word of Czech.
Even after the 6 months I spent there, I could only stick to the basics “ Hello”, “Thank you”, “Please”.

Though one day as I was doing groceries, a lady started talking to me. When she saw my look – “OMG I could not undestand a word of what you just said” – she understood I was clueless. After a signs discussion, it came out that she just wanted to tell me I had very nice hair. It was a very funny situation, heart-warming and also a confirmation that when putting a bit of effort – it is possible to make connections.

Smile and laugh are international ways of communicating a state of mind, to make others feeling comfortable and welcome. Never be afraid of using it, as it is very communicative!

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Credit for the picture is MINE ! 🙂

About travelling experiences

travel-is-the-only-thing-you-buy-that-makes-you-richer

I was caught by the travel bug “relatively late” but as it kicked in, I can surely say it got me forever.

What I have always loved about travels is this opportunity to really “sink” into the local culture.I have been lucky enough to explore many countries and this gave me the opportunity to think about sustainable travels and culture awareness.

I recall when we were  in Athens last year : 10 am; 35 degrees C – on the Acropolis, admiring the Parthenon. Probably more than 10 different languages were spoken on a hundreds square meters place. Who would have guessed – back in 447 BC that the Parthenon would become one of the most visited site in the world more than 2000 years later?

Anyway … Back to the story…  We were among the crowd of people, ranging from one taking selfies, couple smiling for a souvenir pictures, and the one working on getting a new facebook profile picture. Let’s be clear – I got half a dozen of pictures taken there as well… 🙂

After we were done, a group of youngster asked us to take a picture of them.  As my boyfriend was about to press the button to immortalize the event  – they suddenly deployed their national flag, which was now gently floating in front of one of the most ancient vestige of Greek and Antique culture.

The fun started when this massive lady kicked in, blowing her whistle, asking them to fold the flag and to delete the picture they took. She even asked to see the camera to make sure the picture was deleted. Quite an interesting moment but also a good example of the type of tourism I try to stay away from. 

Even if I like to call myself a “world citizen”, I want to make sure when I come in a new country I exchange about local culture ( and when I can  – about mine). Above all – I want to respect the welcome I am being given, which include not putting on the French cliché show.

The same way when I am invited at someone’s place I would not break in like a hurricane as I step in the place, but rather wait I am told to enter further. Depending on situation I would bring a “little something” as a courtesy and for the pleasure of sharing and making my guest happy… That is the behaviour I try to have when travelling.

As I was on my way to Romania – a new place for me – I was 100% excited, feeling agitated – and asking myself “trivial ” questions : How Bucharest is going to look like? Are people friendly to tourists ? Will I make myself understand given that I speak French, English, Spanish but surely not a work of Romanian…. (Answers will come in my soon to come post on my Romanian adventures !)

Once landed, I crossed the long corridor, heading straight to the exit to finally get the adventure started !

And you – what is feeding your love for travels ?

The picture in this post is not mine… I found it at the following blog

http://www.chrystal-clear.com

Welcome ’14

189

 Not surprisingly, I am part of the million people posting on New Year… but after all – there is no other better moment in the year to do so! 🙂

If it was the “me” from 2 or 3 years ago writing this post, I would probably have named it “Goodbye 2013”. Since then I learnt to look forward – BUT – I still like to reflect on the past year.

In ’13 I dared initiating projects I have been considering for a while – which included starting a blog. I realized after the fact, that blogging is more “complicated” than it appears to be: find interesting topics, make the time to write, overcome the ” white page” standing in front of me… This was also a great experience for me as I continued writing despite comments that were not meant to be mean but which sometimes were not “overly encouraging” for beginners. Such as “why do you blog for “; ” that is no use blogging”…  This was a good experience as I kept on regardless of those comments –as I think one should be able to fulfil personal projects when possible. And actually – I have been read in more than 30 countries and received very kind comments and constructive notes. So THANK YOU for that.

In ’13 I really realized what are my life priorities.

In ’13 – after 2 years spent doing a job I was really not happy about – I finally decided to stop it and take a job I am interested in. The great thing about this “not so cool job” was that as soon as I stopped I realized that picking a role just for the sake of making decent money is not a wise choice long term.

In ’13 I have been lucky enough to discover 2 new amazing countries to add to my countries list.: Greece and Iceland. I hope will be able to do the same if not more in ’14 – and share these life experiences with my better half: “THE BOYFRIEND”.

In ’13 I learnt not to take myself too seriously – like this day I fell in the middle of a train station full of people. Doing a “not so cute” Bambi remake.

Finally – I have been following a very nice blog this year, in which there is a post with ideas/advice I quite like.  So I wanted to share it with you. Advices are probably easier to read than to apply every day… but I invite you to check. It is good food for thought. The blog is called Bucket List publications, by Lesley Carter. The post can be found at the following link:

http://bucketlistpublications.org/?s=30+things+to+stop+doing+to+yourself

All that said – it is time to welcome 2014.Wherever you are, may 2014 bless you all. And to all my traveller friends, I wish you a WANDERful year 2014.