Whither Must I Wander


Five Things I Love About Eu(rope)

Por mi amiga Diana, la chica que ama listas. Especialmente los “Top 5’s”.

Top 5 Little Things I Loved About ‘The Trip’ in NPO (sorry for any repeats)

1. The Drunken Irish Men. I’m sorry to propagate a stereotype, but it started with the seemingly sober man walking up to me and my sister, lurching forward unexpectedly and slurring “The two o’ yas, yar gahrgeous, yes yar.” Hi-larious. And there were more, oh so many more, from Belfast to Dublin.

2. Greek Style Plain Yogurt. Those Brits have got it all figured out, at least in the yogurt department. I’ve been on a mission to find it since returning and succeeded just a mere few days ago whilst burrowing through the dairy case in Safeway. Who knew? It was twice the price of the yogurt from Sainsbury’s but I did not care. And it is fabulous, 18g of fat and 9 million calories be damned.

3. The smell in the air while floating down the Seine, and the accompanying feeling that everything everywhere, both in and around my life, was perfect. Even if it only lasted a scant three minutes.

4. Cheap books everywhere. Three brand new books for 10 quid? Yes, please! I did not, however, love the 30 Euros I had to pay when flying to Paris because of the (ahem) extra weight. Exactly how many did I buy? Well…

4a. This book nearly ruined my life. I realize it is not inherently European, but that's where I started reading it, and I needed to mention it somewhere. I knew it was going to be one of those books and I refused to sully it by finishing on the plane, so I holed up for a few hours upon my return. Let's just say that no book has ever come even close to gutting me the way this one did. Is this a good thing? No se.

5. Getting lost in Islington with Jax and her friend Richelle. On our way to the Tate Modern from Camden Town, we got on the wrong bus and ended up in North-ish London. But would I have had the experience of wandering ‘round Islington with the starry-eyed hopes of running into Nick Hornby otherwise? No. And to my dismay, no N. H.

Esta bien? Gracias por visitar! Y excuse por favor mi Espanol horrible.


Gotta Leave Here, Get On With My Lonely Life

Back from Paris and completely exhausted, we collapsed once again in Tara & Sarah's flat. My friends Jax and Dana whom I hadn't seen in ages were also in London at the same time so there were some bizarre reunions to be had. If only if we met all our old friends in London. As we had to ration our time but use up our train passes, we took a day trip to Brighton. Before the trip, The Pants had never seen the ocean, or sea as we were told to call it, and Brighton was perfect for another seaside excursion. We dutifully attended the Royal Pavilion of George IV, a gorgeous Oriental palace and the only building of its kind in England. I was particularly interested as I studied a lot of late 18th/early 19th century history in University. (Side note: It occurs to me that a lot of film versions of important British historical events star Rupert Everett, so as I took the walking tour of the Pavillion and the guide mentioned George IV, I kept imagining him as that saucy rouge Rupert. I really hope I'm not the only one.) No inside pictures in the Pavillion, though. They were pretty strict.

Like most tourist towns, Brighton was laid-back and full of great stores. Apparently it's known as the San Francisco of Britain, and there was no shortage of guys with funky hair. My favorite was the dude with the green goatee. During the trip I discovered a have a knack for sniffing out Lush stores. Seriously. It was confirmed in Brighton when I caught a whiff of essential oils and boldly declared “There must be a Lush shop nearby”. The Pants rolled her eyes, but two blocks up and around the corner was the familiar green and yellow sign. This happened on three other occasions. So, uh, if you’re, um, looking for a Lush shop, give me a call…? Ah yes, another useless skill.

We also found an excellent record shop in Brighton staffed by the jolliest old man who rattled off a surprising amount of information when we bought a Jeff Buckley album for one of our brothers. Well done, sir. And The Pants purchased her third, count it, third, copy of “Is This It?”, this time on vinyl. I imagine that my sister is responsible for funding Julian Casablancas’s sneaker collection.

Our feet on the pebbly, briny beach. The Pants's feet look particularly mangled and band-aid covered, and they were. I'd like to think that'll teach her to buy pretty new shoes too small and wear them everywhere, but it won't. The sea smelled strongly of fish, which I'd never noticed at any other shores, but you get used to it.

Our next to last day we hit Camden Town. Camden Market wasn’t as crazy busy as Portobello, but I enjoyed the endless array of thigh-high lace up patent leather boots and flimsy vinyl basques. (Apparently that’s the Brit term for bustier, not a reference to the people in northern Spain, in case you'd make that grevious error.) Next Halloween, watch out! Hmm. Geez, I can’t even kid about that without feeling slightly ill.

They did have other good stuff not in the S&M category, though. I found excellent earrings for 2 CAD and dirt cheap pashminas in a veritable rainbow of colors. And I don’t care if pashminas are out, they’re comfy. The Koko theatre in Camden would also feature in this post if I had gotten my crap together. We were supposed to see The Shins whilst in London and were tres excited. But tickets were never available online, and then a few days before the show it said they were sold out. What the heck? And being that I was with a minor it would most likely have involved me having a good time and The Pants chatting it up with the homeless Camden folk. So we were despondent. And don't even get me started on the Radiohead debacle. Suffice it to say, the UK was a wasteland of missed live music. But we soldiered on. Later that evening, I saw Thandie Newton outside the Baker Street tube station.

No, we did not make it to Florence. Our last day we went to Harrod's and ogled the food hall and then to the Victoria & Albert Museum. One room was entitled 'Cast Court' so we went inside to investigate. Imagine our shock to see the above statue towering over us. Turns out that the European royals liked to make plaster casts of famous works of art to keep in their courts, hence the name of the room. It was full of enormous Roman columns, crypts and statues, just in cast form, though. But that David is pretty convincing, hey?

More furtive snapshots. This is a Rafael, in a gigantic room with 11 others. The painting is easily 30 ft. x 50 ft. It's an awful shot, I know, but the lights were incredibly dim to protect the paintings and I just had to rebel and use that handy 'museum mode' on my camera.

A frantic dash to Heathrow, one extra suitcase that I 'packed myself' and nine long hours later we landed at YYC. Home again, home again. Exhausted, sick of each other and desperately craving that dry Alberta air.

To sum up my thoughts on this entire experience: while in Galway, I think it was, we were browsing through a used bookshop and I came across a book of poetry by Dorothy Parker. I flipped it open and the first lines I read were:

"Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I'd give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?"

This made me laugh out loud. While I had an amazing time, I was so looking forward to going home, but the next day wanted nothing more than to be back in Paris or London. Ol' D. P. hit it square on the nose.

Well, thanks for reading along, folks. I've enjoyed this blog experience, as scattered as it was, and may dabble again. More upheaval coming my way in the form of moving and new jobs and new callings (yikes!) but I suppose we all need change. But do I really need so much at once? Anyway, maybe I'll see you in Seattle over the Labour Day weekend. On behalf of myself and The Pants, thanks again.


In The Station Of The Metro

Post Louvre, The Pants and I took a stroll through the adjacent Jardin de Tuileries. Parched and dying of hunger, we stopped at an outside café and ordered Crocque Monsieurs. She also ordered ice cream to the tune of $12 CAD. Slaking our thirst was not an option as drinks started at 6 Euros and I flatly refused to pay $8 CAD for 250ml of Coke. Even I have some principles. This is also where The Pants’s mild fear of pigeons took on a new and more horrifying meaning. Turns out the little b*stards can smell fear and would torment her by pecking and bobbing precariously close to her already mangled feet. This induced no end of terror on her part, but at least I was amused. She particularly hates their little red feet. I think that's a bit of projection, but we'll PopPsych my sister at a later date.

At the end of the Jardin is the Champs Elysees (tried not to cringe when someone asked last week if I made it to the "Champs [to rhyme with stamps] El-eese") and a lovely photo-op of the Arc du Triomphe.

That evening, after wandering around St. Germain area, we took a cheesy boat ride down the Seine, which was a perfect way to wind down. Our guide had the most bizarre accent, as if he'd learned to speak English in the Ukraine. Sort of like the narrator of the film version of "Everything is Illuminated". It was the perfect night to be out on the river - warm spring breezes and such. Parfait.

The next morning we went to Montmartre to find a supposedly excellent market, but no luck. We ended up in the dodgy bit and left broken hearted. But we did become officianados of the Metro system. I finally understood what my friend Ezra Pound was talking about. So, to the Musee D'Orsay we went. We waited in line FOR-EV-ER but The Pants was pleasantly surprised to discover that she got in for free, being under 18 and all. Lucky. The clock that hangs in the musee is gigantic. Doesn't look like it here, but holy crap. The Pants preferred this museum to the Louvre, which I think is ridiculous, but to each her own, I suppose. We split up again whilst we roamed the musee, which was once again the best idea ever.

A Klimt.

Van Gogh - La Salle de Danse a Arles. Mucho Van Gogh ( and Impressionism on the whole, really) at the Musee D'Orsay, but to try and get a glimpse of Starry Starry Night was near impossible. Lots of Rodin sculpture here, as well.

Degas - Danseuses Bleues. I love Degas so I was happy to see an original. M. Degas once caused a mite of controversy in the house I lived in during University. Apparently partial nudes are not to everyone's tastes. Philistines.

Everyone smokes in Paris. I've never had such an urge to breathe toxins into my shiny pink lungs in my life. All those chic little Gauloise cigarettes and a certain unaffected air, c'est parfait. I'm sure I'd fit right in with the 1920's Gertrude Stein crowd, right? Also, cigarillos are very popular, as seen here. Giving our poor feet a much deserved rest outside the Musee D'Orsay, we caught sight of this gentleman relaxing and enjoying a cigarillo. The Pants was delighted with him and demanded another random picture, so in all my photo sneakiness, I managed to catch him unawares. Merci, monsieur.

The Pants, admiring the Degas print she bought at the gift shop. Perhaps the most crowded gift shop in all of Paris. Side note - we, or I, managed to get by on Junior High French quite well. Being Canadian has finally paid off! Granted, much of the service industry speaks passable English, but the waiters tolerated my attemps to speak their language with a certain amount of feigned comprehension, for which I am grateful. But really, how difficult is carafe du l'eau?

After another particularly inappropriate film, Chromophobia, we wandered the Latin Quarter and had dinner at a streetside cafe, absorbing oodles of ambiance. Our conversation revolved around how we would find a way to live in Paris, and quickly. I've discovered that there is nothing like the peace of observing Paris nightlife from your seat at a cafe. Au revoir, Paris.

Next (and last) post: London/Brighton


La Musee Du Louvre

When you’re already in Europe, the temptation to travel elsewhere is heightened when you hear that Londoners frequently jet to Spain, Portugal or France for the weekend. A two hour flight for less than $100 CAD? Hell, yeah! So we thought, “We’re already here, let’s take one little side trip,” and we chose...Paris.

Of all the cities we visited, Paris was the place I am sure I could live and be very very content. Despite the language barrier, of course. Less junkfood than London, just as picturesque if not more so, and so many beautiful men in suits it made me want to cry. Seriously. We arrived at 9:00am, after a 5:00am flight, so we were completely knackered, but we sucked it up and tried to make the most of our three days.

First stop: La Musee Du Louvre. We arrived on a Monday, and the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and we were leaving late Wednesday morning, so our time was limited. We hoofed it over to the musee as soon as we were able, after a quick breakfast/lunch of chocolate brioche. Mmmm...Paris. Due to the early flight, exhaustion and general stress of trying to get around in a non-English speaking country, The Pants and I were a little short with each other, to put it mildly. We decided to split up at the Louvre, which is probably the best thing we could ever have done.

I'm not an art aficionado by any means and I have little to no skill in that area. I do, however, appreciate art immensely, so the Louvre was #1 on my list. I'd been previously on my erstwhile trip many moons ago, but all I remembered really was the Mona Lisa, that tiny postage stamp, and the crowd gathered around it. We only had three hours, which is peanuts compared to how long we really wanted to stay, but I think we did well.

As it was early afternoon, the museum was horribly crowded. Once I entered Italian Sculpture, I began to mildly freak out, so I decided to hightail it to a less crowded area to calm down. I went to the top floor to the French painters and it was much less frantic, only a handful of people. I also had the brilliant idea of plugging in the Ipod to drown the noise. Turns out Rufus Wainwright's "Want Two" is the absolutely perfect soundtrack for the Louvre, particularly the song "The Art Teacher".

Theodore Chasseriau - Self Portrait. I loved his paintings and de facto realized that I love portraits. We saw a bit more of his work at the Musee D'Orsay.

Georges De La Tour - The Card Cheat, I believe it's called. This is before I had the brainwave of actually photographing the name plate. Half the time it didn't matter as they were all in French, anyway. I did have a very art-proud moment on this floor. I looked at a painting and thought immediately, "that must be a Goya," and I was surprisingly correct. I think that's the only time it happened, but, hell, I'll take what I can get.

This is me being ever-so-sneaky in the 'cameras forbidden' section. This furtive shot is Bacchus by our friend M. Da Vinci. I tried to blend in with the Asian tourist group and look like I understood the lecture in Mandarin in order to take the shot. This painting was tres interesting what with the weird smiling face and the pointing finger you can somewhat see in this blurry rendition. Weird because next to it was a similar painting of John the Baptist in the same finger-pointing pose. Odd. Either Leonardo was lazy or maybe...maybe there's a secret hidden within the paintings. That would make an excellent storyline for a poorly written novel. Hmmm. Oh, and suffice it to say I was most irritated to be in Paris and the Louvre during the week that a certain movie starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou was set to release. There were posters EVERYWHERE. My favorites were the ones that said "Ian McKellen es Teabing". I kept repeating that in a bad French accent, to The Pants's delight. I was going to skip The Madonna of the Rocks and ol' M.L., but thought better of it and did a quick run-by. Still tiny, still crowded.

I really wish this picture properly conveyed the sensation of standing at the bottom of these worn marble stairs and the light filling the hall, sculpture a-glow. I was somewhat overwhelmed at the Louvre at times. Heaven forbid I go all maudlin on you, but is it possible to be so moved by beauty? I almost teared a few times. Very strange as I'd never experienced that before.

Michelangelo's Cupid and Psyche. I love this picture because it makes it look like I was in the Louvre by myself, which was certainly not the case. And kudos to me, I had to be extra quick on the draw to take this picture without anyone in it because so many people (read: morons) kept posing. Do you really think you're more attractive than a marble sculpture? Really?

So, whilst on the top floor, wandering the various rooms, I walked through one doorway and found myself looking up at this painting, La Tentation du Christ. It's actually over 20ft. high and it took up the entire wall facing me. I don't know if it was the exhaustion or stress or malnutrition, but I was very overwhelmed by this enormous work of art. The room was mainly roped off so you could only stand at the back, so I couldn't even get the name of the painting and had to search online much later.

I don't know what it was exactly that made me react the way I did. Perahps how Satan is depicted completely in shadow, which reminded me of the Ordo Virtutum where he is denied any music, and the contrasting light of Christ...I don't know. It was strangely overwhelming and perhaps put me in the frame of mind I'd been too busy/frazzled to pursue the previous few weeks. It was welcome, regardless. Odd how you can find peace in the most unlikely of places.

C'est la Louvre. I plan to one day have the means to spend a month or two in Paris and visit the Louvre pretty much every day. Dare to dream...

Next: More of Paree


Cheers Darlin'


This retroactive post thing is highly lame, but you do what you must, I suppose. I’m finally accepting that I really am home and find myself half-heartedly attempting to get back into the proverbial swing o’ things. But it is comforting to be back in routine, and I enjoy not living out of a painfully heavy bright purple suitcase. Little things like walking to/from work with Ipod blaring and shopping for groceries make me surprisingly happy. Which is good.

So, anyway, Ireland. I always fancied that I had a good ear for accents and was adept at understanding other’s accents, but as I discovered in Yorkshire, I ain’t as good as I thunk. Ireland was challenging at first in that respect, but then I discovered that if I tuned my ear to Newfie, it worked like a charm. I suppose that’s where Newfoundland got the accent, after all.

Belfast was really interesting. I’m probably being redundant as I already posted about this, but it felt very much like home, or somewhere close to home, anyway. Odd. Except for the barbed wire everywhere, as seen above. We took it easy here, shopped at Tesco, wandered around museums, saw a few movies. Finally saw “The Squid and the Whale” which was excellent, and minus the foul mouth, the Jeff Daniels character was so disturbingly familiar to The Pants and myself it was frightening. Come to think of it, almost every single movie we saw on the trip had some sort of highly inappropriate content, considering the presence of my 17 year old sister. Those European ratings mean nothing, clearly. It’s like being in Quebec. But oddly enough, the tamest film we saw was French. Ironic, n’est ce-pas?

As we were forced to eschew small town Ireland, we hightailed it over to Galway, and I’m glad we did because Galway was grand. It felt a lot like Southern California – very laid back and humid. There’s a park in the centre of the city called Eyre Square where it seems the entire population hangs out and drinks Guinness. The mess afterwards was appalling, but the city cleans it up. Bizarre. We spent three languorous days here, wandering around in the heat, shopping at the plethora of shoe/handbag/jewelry boutiques that peppered the winding streets and lounging in Eyre Square (minus the Guinness, of course).

We did, however, decide to splurge and go on a bus tour of the countryside. The sunshine pulled a disappearing act that day, so we wandered around rural Ireland in the gloom. This delighted The Pants, who had been pining for the misery and gloom she’d so been looking forward to. Our guide, Billy, was hi-larious. I asked him a question at one point and he said “Oh, ‘tis a very sensible question,” and I actually almost giggled.

The Aillwee Caves on The Burren. They took us to this caves deep in the earth - pretty neat the with stalagmites and stalactites. It was a little spooky and when they mentioned bats both The Pants and I got a little anxious, but all was well. Perhaps not worth the 7 Euros we paid for it, but ah well. The Burren is this bizarre part of County Galway that is essentially a sea of limestone rock atop the grass and flowers. It looks rather bleak at first but had a charm of its own, I think.

Poulnabrone Dolmen - "A remarkable megalithic monument and the most famous is the vortal tomb, or portal dolman, located in the heart of the Burren and dating from about 2500 BC. This was also an ancient burial site." Pretty gnarly, no? That's another dolman above.

This is where I became entranced with the tiny flowers growing in between the rocks on the burren. "Are you serious?" I'm sure you're asking yourself. But it was sort of pretty, and think of all the cheesy analogies relating to beauty and adversity you could come up with. The Sunday School lessons practically write themselves.

The Cliffs of Moher. They don't look so big in pictures, but I assure you they were almost 800 ft. high. Billy told us that a woman died here last year when she got to close to the edge and the soil broke away and she tumbled down into the sea. I still stood at the edge, despite the warning, but on the rocky bits so as not to meet a watery death. They were insane, these cliffs. One might even call them...The Cliffs of Insanity. I nearly neglected to mention the friend we made on the tour, Yaele from Bordeaux. She was hilarious, spoke as much English as we did French, but we had a great time. My favorite was when she told us she was going to Dublin "To, uh, make party," dance moves included. Cheers!

Dunguaire Castle and the little tiny flowers growing out of it. See above for the rocks/flower obsession.

Dublin. City of garbage and stench. Sorry, Dublin, but that's all I got. Well, I did get a nice jacket here. The above shot is the river Liffey. Which smelled like sewage. I suppose if someone who knew Dublin and what to see and do had taken us around it would have been different...but it wasn't. And it rained so bloody hard we didn't get to see the Book of the Kells and we'd, ahem, forgot our umbrella. So maybe it wasn't entirely Dublin's fault. But the smell certainly was.

Farewell, Ireland, we hardly knew ye.

Stay tuned for Paris. Ah, la ville d'amour. Je t'aime!