Tag Archives: paris

Brighton Belonging

It’s been almost an entire month since I posted last, and all sorts of wonderful things have happened. Not fairytale sparkling fireworks wonderful, but that comfortable, cup of tea, sense of home wonderful.

Firstly, I got back from Paris (I do have some more photos to upload, but that’s for another post). In a whirlwind of a week I moved into my new place, got myself a job and ran out of money! Let me tell you about it…

The Place – I love it. It’s in East Brighton, between Kemptown (the gay quarter) and the Marina (shops, cinemas etc.). I share this cute little two-storey townhouse with my lovely landlord who enjoys Eastenders, The Apprentice (which I watch with her on a Wednesday night) and her cat. We both tend to be out a lot, and keep to ourselves, but once or twice a week we usually end up spending an hour or so over a glass of wine talking about the world’s problems. The bus stop within 30m of my front door, and there is a Lidl (like Aldi) supermarket down the end of the street. Also, I’m about a 5 minute stroll from the seafront, straight down to the end of my road. My place rocks!

IMG_1617

My very cute, sunny little room. And of course, my teddy bear who has always travelled with me wherever I move.

The Job – A couple of days after I got back from Paris and moved in, I figured it might be time to apply for a job. Wednesday evening I applied for 12 jobs online. Thursday morning a recruitment agent rang me and asked me to come in that day to meet him and talk about a position. Thursday evening he rang me to see if I could interview with the company the next morning. Friday morning I interviewed, it seems kind of perfect and I really wanted the job. Early Friday afternoon I get a call from the managing director asking me if I was sure that I was staying in Brighton, as he was worried I was going to get homesick and leave. I assured him I was staying for a minimum of two years, and he replied that I should take the weekend to really decide that I was happy, but if I wanted the job on Monday morning, it was mine. And so, I had a job in 48 hours.

I started a few days after I accepted the position, and it’s been fantastic. It pays well (comparatively, for a job in an office in England) and the people are fantastic. Last week a couple of us went for an ‘after-work drink’ at 6.30pm when we finished. Apparently here ‘after-work drink’ means getting home at 2am. I feel like I’m learning quickly, fitting in well, and everything has just slotted nicely into place job-wise.

The (lack of) Money – Basically after I got the new job I realised I was down to my last £120 pounds. Yes, I probably should have been checking my bank statement more often, but in all fairness I was using an international cash card thing, and it took up to 72 hours to update after you made a purchase. In England they pay monthly, and I didn’t have my bank details in for payment on the day they paid at work (my third day working), so I am waiting again until the 26th of the month to finally get some money!

I’ve had to scrounge and borrow, and I’m living off about £2 a day. Actually, I have to be honest, it’s probably about £4 a day, because I haven’t been able to give up my morning coffee on a weekday which is £2.30 by itself – I just can’t make it through without it! Anyway, it’s meant no alcohol*, lots of porridge, no takeaways, and plenty of cheap frozen food (which I love but is so bad for my butt).

What’s funny though, is that through the stress of not having money, not being able to go out and do anything except walk around and look, being worried about how I’m going to pay rent mid-month, or how I’m going to pay for next week’s bus pass – I still love Brighton!

Yes, I really do. I feel home. I feel like I belong. I’ve moved around a lot (I think I’m up to about my 29th move?) and nowhere have I felt as accepted and peaceful as here. I’m not even weird here!!! I would have to be about seven times more kooky than I currently am to even be a blip on the weird scale. I love that there are constantly parades and festivals, bubbles being blown, free roses handed out, people dressed as sexy aliens, men who are dressed normally except for their pirate hat and feather boa, cross-dressers who don’t even try, 50’s-themed girls being pushed around on rolling step-ladders and more street buskers than you could even imagine. And most of this happens on a normal Saturday.

A few photos as proof… the ‘Children’s Parade’ which opens the Brighton Festival every year. They chose a storybook theme this year, every school in the area with a different book. I only saw about 15 minutes of the parade, and have probably about 50 photos. I can’t imagine if I actually saw all 70+ schools!

I didn't know that the Statue of Liberty was in a story, but sure, why not? Also, love the Lego man in the background.

I didn’t know that the Statue of Liberty was in a story, but sure, why not? Also, love the Lego man in the background.

They actually have a sign somewhere in there saying 'Let's go fly a....' and every kid has a giant kite!

They actually have a sign somewhere in there saying ‘Let’s go fly a….’ and every kid has a giant kite!

Who doesn't love Dr Seuss?

Who doesn’t love Dr Seuss?

I. Love. Brighton.

*I’d like to shout out to my Aussie friend L who has also recently moved here, and on the occasions that she has visited Brighton to see me, has shouted a few pints of cider. The alcoholic in me really appreciates it, and I swear when I get paid it’s my turn!!! xxx

Advertisements

Feeling très French

So it’s time for an update. I’ve been in Paris now for four days, and I am starting to really enjoy it. In fact, I have been mistaken for a Parisian six times in the last 48 hours!

Firstly, I’d like to say that I have enjoyed my journeying in France thus far, but travelling alone is very different.
Pros – You get to do what you want to do when you want to do it. If I choose to wake up at 9.30am and take my sweet time getting ready and out the door, there is no one to tell me that I’m wasting my day away. Likewise I can spend what I want, eat what I want, when I want, and feel no guilt (except what I put on myself, and I can always justify that away). When I decide that today experiencing Paris means reading a book for three hours in Jardins des Tuileries, then I can enjoy it!

Cons – There is no one around to say ‘oh my gosh, did you see that!’, or ‘that’s brilliant, do you want to do that with me?’. Sharing the moment is a little hard. Also, there is no one around to take a photo of you jumping in front of the Arc de Triomphe, or go with you to take night shots of the Eiffel tower all lit up (which I haven’t done yet, because it’s not the same by yourself). Hassling other people is an option, but I’m scared of handing someone my camera and having them run away with it.

Today though, I think is the first time that I’ve had a truly wonderful French experience. I’ve done some day tours (if you want an amazing free walking tour check out Sandemans New Europe Tours) and museums the last few days, and then trundled back to where I am staying to make myself an awesome fresh baguette from the local boulangerie, with deliciously creamy camembert (so cheap!), tomato and olive tapenade, accompanied by a glass of Merlot.

This morning I woke up late (around 9.30am), pottered around slowly, taking my time to shower, get ready, check facebook, answer emails etc. Then I took the metro to Jardins des Tuileries (the gardens of the Louvre) and bought a takeaway breakfast/lunch (coffee, mozzarella and tomato panini, and a pain au chocolat), enjoying the little bits of sun shining through and reading a book for a few hours. Then I went to the Louvre itself to join a small group tour (five people, run by the Arnaud at Babylon Tours) which was a fantastic entertaining few hours. I highly recommend using Arnaud for any private or small group tours around Paris. He definitely earned more than I paid in just the answers to my questions!

I decided to walk to the Latin Quarter (which was a bit of an effort considering my right foot has decided to hate me for walking on a lot of uneven cobblestones and footpaths for the last few days… I think I might have strained something somewhere) and find some dinner. After making it through Saint-Germain-des-Prés without getting lost, I turned down a little side street, then up another one and stumbled across a fondue restaurant called Heurex Comme Alexandre. I’ve never tried fondue before, and thought ‘what the hell… I’m in Paris!’

I turned up and a beautiful french man bounjoured me. I asked if they could do ‘fondue fromage végétarienne’ and he said ‘oui oui!’. Actually he didn’t say that exactly, but he did say yes. Then the owner Alex (of Alexandre fame) came out and he spoke brilliant English. Such a lovely man. They bought me a complimentary apértif , then a salad, then the bread, the potatotes, the fondue… I had a glass of wine, then another one, and basically I’m blaming Alex for the fourth glass. Also for the chocolat tarte he made me have. I’m not even joking, he said ‘come on, have it for me’. So I did. Also for me though, let’s be honest.

Across the road from where I was eating, drinking, smoking, and reading in the restaurant, there is a little second hand bookshop that has a Canadian flag hanging above it. About half way through my meal there was a group of people that sat at tables outside it and started playing guitar and singing! I was totally moved by their Coldplay and Beatles renditions, and eventually almost three hours later, after an amazing gastronomical experience, I tipsily made my way down to the metro to catch the train back. To complete my perfect typical French night there was of course a man playing a piano accordion when I got in the carriage. Happily I toe-tapped my way back to my station and eventually got home (after entering the wrong apartment complex, mixing up 30 and 32 in my slightly sozzled state).

Before today I was thinking that maybe Paris was just another slightly-charming city that smelled slightly like Vietnam if you stepped up the wrong lane way. But after tonight I have to admit that I have once again been won over to the city of love.

Here is some supporting evidence:

Image

Along the Seine

Image

The best outfit on a street performer that stands still for a living that I’ve seen yet!

Image

Ever wanted to know how to put up an obelisk? The instructions are in gold on the side.

Image

Like this even needs a caption….

Image

Looking out over Paris from a clock window at the Musée d’Orsay

Image

Looking out of another window at the Musée d’Orsay (not just great for Impressionist art, but also amazing views!) for the view over Paris, with the Sacré Coeur right at the top of the hill.

Image

Me and the pink sphinx hanging. Better than the pink panther I reckon. At least he’s not a cartoon.

Image

Galerie d’Apollon (Gallery of the Sun King) commissioned by Louis the 14th who loved Apollo and basically wanted to be him.

Image

See the Mona Lisa in the distance over there? Yeah, I didn’t bother. Did you know that the Mona Lisa only got really famous just over 100 years ago because it was stolen by an Italian cleaner (wanting to return it to his home country and make some money), and then when it resurfaced it suddenly had all this extra security and it was in all the newspapers and was this massive thing. It actually took them TWO WHOLE DAYS to realise it was missing from the Louvre. That’s why it’s famous. Not even DaVinci’s best work.

Image

Doing a worrying impression of ‘The Young Martyr’ by Paul Delaroche – my favourite painting here (I bought a print of it seven years ago when I was here last!)

Image

Amazing fondue dinner with bread, potatoes, wine, salad and of course fondue!

Changing my mind

The last week has been quite emotional for me. It has finally hit me that I am really moving overseas, that things will be changing, and that my mum won’t be around for a hug and a chat whenever I want her.  This of course has resulted in a few random emotional explosions (you know, the ones with tears and fury and kicking fridge doors) as well as a migraine (the doctor told me it was the physical reaction to my mental anxiety). I knew that I still wanted to leave, but I was finding it hard to remember why I wanted to go so badly. I even thought about booking a return ticket now.

Last night I was sitting on the couch with my dad and he flicked over to a movie that was on called Vicky Cristina Barcelona. On a sidenote, the main actor (Javier Bardem) was bugging me the whole movie because he looked so much like another actor that I couldn’t remember and I kept thinking of Gerard Butler but it wasn’t him. Turns out it’s another guy from P.S. I Love You. They look so similar, see?

Javier Bardem on the left, Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the right.  Both totally gorgeous.

Javier Bardem on the left, Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the right.
Both totally gorgeous.

Back to the point: this movie is obviously set in Barcelona (see film title), as well as some beautiful little towns outside it like Avilés and Oviedo, and it reminded me why I wanted to live in a different part of the world. To see incredible beauty, different to what we have in Australia. To surround myself in history, and culture, and languages that I don’t understand (but will endeavour to learn). To be the carefree woman riding a bicycle down a dusty road to have vino and cheese and bread for lunch with someone I just met (like in so many European movies!).

So I thought about it and came up with the 10 places/adventures that I most want to experience while I am over there. Not all of them are the stuff that romantic movies are made of, but they will be part of my journey nonetheless!

In a list from 10 up to numero uno:

10. Visit EuroDisney.
Mainly because I have never been to a Disney park, and there is nothing like rediscovering your childhood! It’s located in France (about 35 minutes from Paris by train) and since there are a couple of other things I want to do in Paris while I’m there (and can get £69 return tickets by train from London), why not?

eurodisney

EuroDisney – one of millions of castles around Europe, but this one has real princesses!

9. Sleep in a castle. Preferably haunted.
Firstly, sleeping in a 14th century castle, pretty cool right? Add in a four poster bed, a murdered ghost and a nice breakfast the next morning and you’ve got a pretty amazing experience right there!

ackergill-tower-sea_14

This is Ackergill Tower in Scotland. It boasts several murders in a family feud, and is haunted by the beautiful Helen Gunn who was abducted by the other feuding family and either jumped or fell from the tower, trying to escape.

8. Hang out in Paris.
Last time I was in Paris I was only there for a few days, and I missed out on so much! I want to explore the Louvre again, visit the Musée d’Orsay, chill out in Montmartre, see Versailles, admire Notre Dame from the inside, and stroll once more through the midnight fruit & veg markets in the Latin Quarter.

The beautiful latin quarter in Paris, where I stayed last time I was here.

The beautiful Latin Quarter in Paris, tends to be filled with students and bohemian types.

7. Rock out with the Beatles in Liverpool.
Yes, I am a massive Beatles fan, and yes, I will be doing the Beatles tour in Liverpool. They take you on a Magical Mystery Tour to Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields the Beatles homes and places they hung out at, met at and performed! There is even ‘A Day In The Life’ all day tour that I might splurge out on! Then I truly will know whether or not I Am The Walrus.

The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, England.

The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, England.

6. Soak in the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik.
I first heard about Reykjavik because of an amazing Icelandic band called Sigur Rós. After watching their own documentary Heima, a showcase of their music and their stunning country, I immediately wanted to go there. I then heard that they have a rockin’ mayor Jón Gnarr, leader of the Best Party (satirical political party devoted to making life more fun) who is happy to appear in drag at their Pride parade! Really, he deserves his own post. Please look him up. Anyway, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa which is fed by the water output from the nearby geothermal power plant which provides electricity. Relaxing and environmental!

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, with Svartsengi Power Station in the background.

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, with Svartsengi Power Station in the background.

5. Visit Torchwood Headquarters in Cardiff.
Is anybody else out there a massive Doctor Who fan? I also love the spinoff series Torchwood, which has its headquarters in Cardiff, Wales. I want to stand on the right square near the fountain at Roald Dahl Plass and imagine that I too will suddenly be camouflaged by a perception filter and take the lift down into The Hub. I am a sci-fi nerd, yes. Also, the rest of Wales looks lovely.

BAD WOLF. Watch Doctor Who if you don’t understand me.

4. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey.
I just can’t think of a better place to ever go Hot Air Ballooning. Firstly, you get to overlook the amazing ‘fairy chimneys’ where people carved houses and lived in the rocks. Secondly, the sight of so many hot air balloons in pretty colours in the air at once is just gorgeous too! Thirdly, the rest of Turkey is incredibly rich in history and landscape, and I really can’t wait to organise a trip there.

Can you think of anything better to do? Really?

Can you think of anything better to do? Really?

3. Visit a Greek Island. Perhaps two or three even.
I know that it’s stereotyped and typical and everybody does it. But there has to be a reason why! I have seen so many movies and books and photos of the Greek Islands and I just can’t wait to plan a trip. I want to maybe do a boat that goes around a few of them, but I also want to hunker down in one place for a few weeks, drinking ouzo and eating dolmades every night and soaking up the culture. I can even imagine myself sun baking and getting a nice golden tan! Well. Maybe that’s a bit extreme.

A friend of mine stayed here in Mykonos for a few weeks last year, and said it was absolutely not a cliche but a must-do!

2. Live in an Italian Villa for a month or two.
I don’t necessarily have a particular part of Italy in mind. It can be San Gimignano  in Florence, or Assissi (one of my favourite spots in the world so far), or Siena or Ravello in the Amalfi Coast. I don’t care, I just want to soak it up and live like a local. Find a beautiful Italian to have picnics with. Drink red wine at 11am. Write. Paint. Pick flowers while wearing a floppy hat. I want it all!

Where I will be so incredibly inspired with creativity that I will be positively glowing with it. Then a beautiful Italian will fall in love with me and I will write a best-selling book about it which will become another one of those movies you don't watch for the plot but for the scenery.

Where I will be so incredibly inspired with creativity that I will be positively glowing with it. Then a beautiful Italian will fall in love with me and I will write a best-selling book about it which will become another one of those movies you don’t watch for the plot but for the scenery.

And finally, numero uno!
1. Enrol in Hogwarts.

1. Have my breath taken away by the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
When I was looking for pictures, it took me about 15 minutes just to make myself stop looking at them. They are breathtaking, amazing, incredible and five dozen other descriptive words. The best places to see them in Europe are Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. If the wonder and awe of the lights in the sky isn’t enough, there is usually specially-built luxury lodges near the best Aurora Borealis viewing spots, and other awesome activities like reindeer feeding (especially if you go to Finnish Lapland!), snowmobiling and husky sledding! I’ll be taking a couple of photography lessons though before I go to do this one.

A.ma.zing.

A.ma.zing.

I’m sure that I will have many more adventures than just these ten, and I’m glad I did this exercise – it’s made me remember why I so desperately wanted to be on that side of the word in the first place.