One month in!

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We've hit the one month mark for the trip. I'm trying my hardest not to incessantly count the days as it's in my nature to always think to the future. Just before leaving for this trip I read the Editor's Letter in the latest Chatelaine (it’s no secret I love this magazine) about how many changes in one’s life can make it seem to slow time down. Read May’s edition for a much better explanation of the theory. If it’s true, I think I’m adding years.

I’m out of my comfort zone.

Traveling for six months in a country I’ve never visited, staying with strangers & living out of a backpack. Add to this “living” with one’s significant other.

I can’t complain though, can I? I’m living in the south of France. However now that Ryan’s started his stage, I’ve the ‘challenge’ of how to fill my days. Such a burden right? But I’m faced with concerns about all the things I could be doing otherwise – looking for a job, securing full-time employment, even spending time with family & friends – girlfriends! I need them now in Menton.

For now I’m embracing the uncertain, replaying the words of those who’ve assured me it’ll all work out….& drinking on patios.

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Oh France…

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We’ve made it to Menton, our ‘home base’ for the next 3 months. Referred to as the “pearl of France,” it’s busier & bigger than I’d expected.

We’ve spent the last week or so traveling between Azille & Menton, covering much of France’s country side. One quickly passes by acres & acres of vineyards to then arrive in yet another beautiful, quaint French village always consisting of a patisserie, boulangerie & cafe.

Almost a month in I’ve, of course, made more observations:

Contrary to the reputation the French may have, I’ve encountered very friendly & helpful people.

France’s well signed highway system & its use of round abouts has made navigation relatively painless even with my severe lack of a sense of direction.

This trip consists of a very tight budget as we’re both (at least for the moment) without paid employment. Therefore, we’ve been very strict about meals out. A majority of meals have been consumed (& created) in hotel rooms, the rental car, or parks & have been delicious.

Restaurant meals have largely been underwhelming save the aforementioned meal in Paris & my birthday dinner at La Fourchette in Avignon where everything from the service to dessert was fantastic.

High quality raw ingredients are readily available & for a decent price making dining in very enjoyable (traveling with a chef also helps) but clearly venues for meals out need to be chosen more deliberately. Simply being in France does not guarantee well prepared food! On this same note, I’m still waiting for a really great coffee & croissant.

Finally, my French skills need work. I can handle basic, short conversations but would really like to improve. It’s difficult when most people default to English. However, advances must be made as there have been some translation mishaps. Turns out I’ve been telling people like restaurant servers & my brand new French tutor that I’m “sexually aroused” not simply (& innocently) “excited” as I thought! Oops. First lesson’s scheduled for tomorrow.

Menton is situated on the water & right near the Italian border making for an interesting mix of people. The next challenge is to acquire accommodation at a reasonable price, which may prove difficult as it’s entering its high tourist season.

Time for more photos!

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One week in…

Where to start? Our travel to France, though long, was surprisingly tolerable. Sleep has never come so easy though than after approximately 30 waking hours & we arrived to our Air B & B reservation. Paris is a busy city, you can’t help but keep a quick pace. But there’s so much to see & one is struck by its sheer magnitude of history. Roughly four hours of walking the first day meant a handful of sites, including the Eiffel Tour, had been seen. Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we enjoyed an exciting & tasty meal of tapas turned out from a shockingly small kitchen at Mary Celeste. Quite the hipster crowd with a friendly buzz, it was perfect.

Now we’re in the south of France house & dog sitting for a lovely couple we connected with via TrustedHousesitters.com. I’m doing my best to master the French way of eating while taking in all the sites & pleasures this trip has afforded me thus far.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) I revel in the ability to swiftly & gracefully manoeuvre my luggage. Hiking backpacks don’t really allow for this.

2) Packing is a true art. I’ve both over & under packed.

3) Paris is a sick city meaning that it exposes you to many viruses. We were warned & then both succumbed.

4) Little things become very important to travellers. The kindness of (relative) strangers & internet access have never been so important.

Until the next post…hopefully with photos!

One week today…

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One week today…

And I’ll be en route to Paris! As I start the daunting task of packing, I’m recalling previous trips I’ve been on. I wrote about my travels to Chicago & Suchitoto, El Salvador on the new Rickshaw Magazine. Check out my recounting of these two amazing cities here:

http://rickshawmag.com/2013/chicago-getaway/

http://rickshawmag.com/2012/el-salvador-a-friendly-affordable-destination/

Loose ends

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Two weeks to go…..&, while I’m very excited, there are many details to tend to that can create a minor (or major) sense of panic. Yes, I realize that fretting about how one will spend 6 months in France & the UK somewhat affordably is a privileged position to be in. However, my elders point out that it’s all relative so, with that in mind, I tend to the issues at hand.

As I alluded to in my earlier post, I prefer things a touch more planned than they currently are. So many aspects can’t be arranged until we’re there so I’m trying to roll with it.

The budget is a major concern – Ryan won’t be paid at his ‘stages’ and I don’t currently have anything lined up although hope to pick things up along the way. It may be unavoidable but I figure this trip is a good reason to go into a bit of debt.

Amazingly, we already have a few social engagements for during our trip including with the creator of Flavors of Paris (www.flavorsofparis.com) & a fellow Stratford resident, one of those “it’s a small world” situations. Already I’m looking forward to seeing friendly faces as I embark on this adventure.

Where Things Are At

First of all, let me thank you for reading. I suppose there was some fear when I hit “Post” that I’d receive less than enthusiastic comments or, even, none at all. Now the pressure may be what to write for my 2nd, 3rd, & so on posts. Let’s start with a few more details about this trip I mentioned, which really, is all I have.

Perhaps most importantly, the flight is booked! Flying out of Toronto on April 9th to arrive in Paris the next day. My mother was quite relieved to hear there’s also a return ticket – currently October 2nd. That’s six months. That’s a while!

There’s also my travel companion. My partner, Ryan, is a chef & will be “staging” at a few restaurants to expand his culinary repertoire. What I’ll be up to remains to be seen. But I’m attempting to remain open minded to whatever may present itself.

We’ve planned on two nights in Paris once we land (via AirBnB.com) & then will make our way south to a house sitting I’ve arranged in Azille for just over a week. We connected with a lovely couple via TrustedHousesitters.com. For a small registration fee, & after completing your own profile, you’re granted access to postings from home owners from around the world looking for someone to care for their home &/or pets.

From there we’ll spend three months in Menton. Known as “the Pearl of France,” it’s in southern France on the border of Italy. With hopefully lots of short trips to the surrounding areas the plan is to then be in Paris for August & London for September. Of course this still may change but, so far, I’ve no complaints!

Food of France

I’m blogging….How’d we get here?

Here we are, a blog about some of the things going on in my life.

I swear I’m not bragging but my friend Drea has been telling me to write a blog for quite some time. And here it finally is.

It strikes me as an uncomfortably self-indulgent, maybe even self-important act. But I’ll embrace that, at least for a moment, if you’ll allow me.

So what made me change my mind? What was the final push for me to start actually publishing words for the public (however small an audience) to read? A couple things.

For starters, I was laid off. I was a key part of this city’s culinary tourism strategy for four years but, due to ever-shrinking budgets, I was let go. For all kinds of reasons this is for the best long-term including some freedom in my schedule enabling me to spend some time writing.

I’m living in this glorious but small city of Stratford, Ontario. A place where I was born & raised which brings with it all sorts of interesting experiences. Some of which might be worthy of documenting. At least I think so.

Finally, I’m preparing (as much as one can) for a full-out European adventure this April. One that will start in France and hopefully include England, Spain, possibly Belgium, possibly more…

What better way to keep my loved ones & not-so-loved-ones (kidding, maybe) posted on what I’m up to than a blog?! Plans are still very fuzzy, which is in stark contrast to my usual approach in life, but I figure I have enough details to know it’s a good idea.

I hope you’ll follow along. I’ll be posting, of course, all about the trip and some random musings as they occur.