Australia Post One: Time Out


To You,

I’ve decided to refrain from making any ongoing promises about the consistency of my posts. Because, let’s be honest, I’m sucking at it.

But to err on the side of sounding negative – here I am! Success! Brava to me!!

In February of this year my husband and I finally hopped on a plane to visit my brother and his girlfriend in Perth, Australia for an amazing two weeks. We flew into Brisbane for one night before jumping over to the WA where we stayed with them in their home a mere few blocks from the Indian Ocean.

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[It’s okay. Take a moment to hate them for a moment. It happens.]

It’s needless to say how beautiful Australia is, but it does require reminding on how beautiful life can be over there. Just the idea of breathing in that fresh sea-salt air; feeling that golden sun on your well-sunscreened skin; drinking cup after cup of top-notch coffee. Every evening I became exhausted around 9:00PM, and sure I can blame some of that on the ridiculous jet-lag I suffered, but for the most part my body and mind finally let go of all my worries and uneasy anxiety that I hold onto daily. My brain would just melt down and my body would follow suit. And I rested. My soul just rested. And although this sounds lame and like death, it was quite the opposite. It was a moment for the death of the monotony to escape, and a breath for life to make its way back in.

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The trip reminded me that I need to find my peace in where ever it is that I’m situated. I’m a free bird, and being settled in one location is a very hard notion for me to comprehend. But that doesn’t mean that I have to give in. So no more giving in. I may not live on the Indian Ocean (Damn my brother!), but there’s still a beautiful life to live.

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There will be more posts to follow (who knows when) with more photos and write-ups pertaining to our trip to Oz. You can also check out more on my website, www.VLSon.com/work.

But for now, I’m going to take my own medicine as I head into the weekend. Time to take a breath. And keep on keepin’ on.

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

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My Bright Green Suitcase


To You,

What I’ve come to realize over the past few weeks is something that truly shouldn’t astound my soul, nor make it feel an odd queezy vibe of unsettled wonderment. Although I find that sometimes the fear of which acknowledgement brings to the table is when you lay out in the most basic of words, unable to skirt around the issue any longer in metaphorical realization but more so giving voice to the words that ring true. In this case, such a thing has occurred due to too much time to actually sit and think about life. My life. The epiphany?

I am a hobo. A nomad. A traveling gypsy who is getting to the point where all of my materialistic possessions will soon have to fit inside my suitcase in order for me to keep them in my grasp.

Okay, perhaps I am not a ‘hobo’, but I am living out of a suitcase. I’ve discovered that ‘living’ for me comes with the package right now of not really having a house. Now, this is not to be confused with ‘a home’ because I have many homes. I have my home in Canada where my ma and puppy dog live, and everytime I head back in that direction I know I’ll be greeted with all things ‘homey’. And I have moments of feeling at home in Indianapolis when I’m able to cook my dude dinner, organize his room without his consent, and even raiding his closet and seeing if he notices. I also consider England and London to be my home when I go and stay with family as they are the homes I visited regularly growing up and I know the routines, the bus routes, train stops, parks and stores, and I never feel like anything but a Londoner when I’m there. And now my brother lives in Oz and even though I’ve yet to hit up that continent/country, it’s still home since family is there and he loves it. So yes, I have the luxury of having many ‘homes’, of feeling ‘at home’ in many places. But there’s just one thing keeping me from feeling settled when I’m at ‘home’.

My fucking suitcase. It’s a beautiful case, bright green with two compartments, wheely wheels and a trustworthy handle. It has served me well in many countries, many trips, and has survived many flights with the sight of that bright green mass of my life’s possessions being chucked along the luggage carousel always bringing a sigh a relief to my soul signaling the culmination of a successful trip. I love this case. To be honest, the fact that this piece of luggage is mine, purchased with my own money brings an ounce of satisfaction to my uneasy mind – maybe this suitcase is my house?

Okay, that was too depressing. Let’s scratch that out. Done. It’s scratched. I scratched it rather than deleting it to make a point that I was once so glum, but bitch slapped myself back into place. Kudos to me.

Here are some photos of my suitcase. Where it sits. In an empty room, out and ready to be replenished with denim, cotton-polyester blends, and wooly goodies.

My suitcase. Tired. Worn out. Slumped over for a rest.

Lovely Canada tag. Nothing says “This chick is a Canuck!” better than a tag with dancing polar bears on it.

I love traveling. It defines me. Some people travel to cross a place off their list, which is still a valid reason for travel. Honestly, I love returning to places I’ve already visited to see if I can connect to a homely vibe in that spot to which I now have a new home. The more homes, the better and then that leaves me with the challenge of being a stranger in a new hideaway and starting from scratch all over again. I dig the idea of couchsurfing, but I’m not a people person. And that’s not to be taken as I hate people or despise dialogue, but more so that I like getting off a plane, train, out of my car and figuring out my path into people’s lives. I’m kind of a loser loner, but the people I’ve met and stay in touch with (sincerely) are good people in life. I’ve known a lot of shit people who I kept in my life much longer than necessary and so I want to connect on a genuine level… I’ve very cautious about this now, and very stand-offish to some but it comes with the territory of being scarred numerous times over.

So yeah. I’m feeling unsettled with being houseless at the moment. Homeless, I will never be, but houseless… that’s another problem. It’s materialistic to some, but I’m a quiet, hide-out quirky lass who sometimes wants a place to create, to think, to unwind. This whole not working, not earning money shit right now is driving me crazy because I want something to do! I NEED something to do! Productive. I got bills man. Bills.

First world problems, am I right? I’m bitching about this whilst punching away at the keys of my MacBook Pro and sipping on my latte.

This isn’t a life problem, it’s just an unsettling vibe for my soul. I am in need of a life and soul re-vamp, it’s just been hard finding the confidence lately in myself to figure that out.

Peace & love,

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

“Qui a vu Paris et pas Cassis, n’a rien vu”. -Frederic Mistral


Translating to, ‘He who has seen Paris and not Cassis has seen nothing‘, this post consists of travel information experienced and learned through my recent visit to Cassis, France, a small historic town located along the C么te d’Azur in southern France.

With the knowledge that my other half (I would say ‘better half, but I can’t have such knowledge going to his head 馃槈 ) would be planning a visit to the UK and Europe to visit me in the summer months, I had been pondering quite often as to how I could make it an extra special occasion. With just surpassing our 1 year anniversary, and having survived 9 months of me living abroad throughout this first year, we had much to celebrate and to be honest, I think we were both due a couple days of relaxation together as life proves nothing but chaotic for the two of us in our lives separated by a an ocean.

After completing some research, I eventually landed on the decision that I would surprise him with a trip to France. We were already to visit Paris for a night, but I wanted something on the Mediterranean since I knew he had always wanted to go there. The south of France is well-known for its beach hot spots, such as Nice, Cannes, and St. Tropez. However, neither of us are club-goers nor avid participants in busy beach nightlife. On top of that, the cost of these locations and the glitz and glamor that fills its shores in the summer months was not as appealing to me as it would have been to others. And yes, I am in my twenties, although this all may have made me sound like a middle-aged homebody. 馃檪 No, I wanted something beautiful, classic, with affordable accommodation and French characteristics (French food.. need I say more?).

After much digging around, and searching through maps to see and then research locations along the C么te d’Azur I veered further west of Nice towards Marseille. Marseille, although suitable and gorgeous, something about finding a less recognized location suited my appeal much more. Eventually, I found Cassis.

Little side street.

A small fishing port town 19 miles east of Marseille, Cassis is quaint, friendly, and stunning. And when I say ‘stunning’, its not to imply a reputation of being one of the most beautiful places on earth, but rather that it is beautiful within itself. For me, a location needs no awe astounding magnitude of history, grandeur of buildings, or unimaginable coastlines. Our minds are too caught up in these places of the exotic. No, this is a location of which one could live peacefully, enjoy their days and nights, and for those of us not residing in the area, may visit for a romantic vacation to inspire tranquility.

How to Get There

We flew from London Gatwick to Marseille on EasyJet, and from there made our way into the city center. Make it known- if you have never visited Marseille, the airport is not easily understood with train and bus tickets an ordeal to purchase at times. Having an eye for opportunity and money saving tactics, I eyed the area for fellow confused tourists especially around the taxi port. I approached a taxi driver, asked the cost into town, and then approached another couple standing close whom I could tell were trying to figure their way into the city to access the main train station. I asked them if they would like to share, and the four of us rode into the city for a mere few Euros more than what train tickets would have cost us (of which was to depart 1 hour later.. I did not have the patience at this time in the morning to hover around a small airport with nothing accessible surrounding it).

A 20 minute ride from the airport to the train station in Marseille, and I easily purchased our train tickets from there to Cassis at an electronic ticket stand. We had about 45 minutes to spare, and with caf茅s surrounding the station I figured we could sit in the city and enjoy some espresso during our wait.

Later, having boarded our train we rode 25 minutes and arrived smoothly into Cassis. Make note, taxis are not as predominant here as what you would find in other cities. We made the mistake on walking into the city… a good, but scenic, 30 minute walk. It was oddly overcast that day (count my luck on booking a vacation to the Mediterranean the one day of the summer it could rain!), but still humid. Luckily we just had hand luggage, but still – a sticky sweaty mess by the end of our hike!

The docks off the main street lined with restaurants and bars

We made it, and it was gorgeous. We walked by fields of grapevines, olive trees, villas mounted on the hillsides. It had the air of French countryside in Provence – just lovely and simple, but beautiful and classic. I find beauty in the real, and this place felt very real without the tourist attractions or faux character.

SUMMARY POINTS

  • EasyJet and RyanAir provide easy access to Marseille which I found to be the most accessible airport for Cassis from London, UK
  • If you do fly into Marseille, most people there are aiming to get into the city so sharing a taxi could deem the most affordable. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow English speakers who may be as confused as you are if they are headed in the same direction (in this scenario, ‘over-hearing’ someone else’s conversation may deem helpful to the both of you!).
  • If you are already within France, trains will take you directly to the main train station in Marseille in which you can get the train for 11 Euros to Cassis (roundtrip) of which takes 20-25 minutes

Where to Stay

We stayed at a lovely 2-star hotel, H么tel le Cassiden which was located off of the port. Everything is within walking distance to one another, and there were several hotels surrounding the area. The accommodation was perfect, albeit small. But to be honest – size doesn’t matter, it’s how you use it, right? Well, we were using it for sleep and showers. Not to hibernate in from the beautiful weather awaiting us outside, the numerous restaurants and cr锚peries lining the streets, nor ice cream and gelato caf茅s on every corner. So if you’re spending a week or more in a location with an abundance of luggage, perhaps size of the space matters, but for us students, this place was contemporary, had free wi-fi, was sleek and clean, and had a tall window with opening shutters looking out onto the water and market stalls below. We stayed for two nights, and I would most definitely stay there again.

Our little window view 馃檪

Don’t mind the mess or lazy room model. Yes, it’s small, but for short stays it was well worth the comfort, price, and location.

Clean and contemporary. Headless photographer does not come with room (gotta love quick photoshop blur-outs!)

A small bathroom, but a bathroom nonetheless!

SUMMARY POINTS

  • H么tel le Cassiden, Cassis France – reviews, bookings, images
  • If you are able to book well in advance, there are several villas which provide private grounds and scenic views at decent cost. I would just recommend that the main center of Cassis is easily accessible to you.

What to Do

Eat. A lot. I apologize, but I adore food – good food, and the seafood here was spectacular, the menus not pricey considering you could get a 3-course meal for under 30 Euros at most places, and I had nothing to complain about. My boyfriend mentioned at one place that it was the best octopus he had ever had as he enjoyed his seafood salad. Ice cream was insanely good – again, some of the best I’ve had. One amazing flavor was pure Cacao ice cream which was to die for from a shop which held a large selection of flavors to choose from. We visited this place twice one evening just to try out more. I’m not a drinker, so I cannot help you out there, but I have heard from many that the Cassis local wines are excellent for those who enjoy a glass or two. With all of the wineries in the area, it does not surprise.

Seen from our hotel window, this little sandwich and cr锚pe caf茅 had gorgeous food and coffees for amazing prices

Seafood Dinner

Gorgeous night

Beaches – there are some good options but one of which stands out amongst the rest. Cassis is known for its vast landscape and beauty of the Calanques, and its most reputable beach is called Calanques d’En Vau. And to get there takes effort and money. We were without vehicle since our stay was short, and I have heard that there are accessible routes by road. But for us, I opted for something special which took some research to find. It cost a decent amount of money, I will not lie (a little over 100 euros), but we rented a small boat for the afternoon and drove to the beach by water. D’En Vau is not easily accessible like all the other beaches as it is encased by the Calanque cliffs, and in the summer due to the rising heat and possible bush fires, hiking is restricted during some months. You can also kayak to the beach, but the boat drive took a good 20-25 minutes, and although I’m usually frugal on my decisions, I wanted a vacation and kayaking wavy waters under the sun for an hour or more did not sound appealing. I’m one for adventures, but for once in my life, I wanted to relax while on my travels. Plus I’d never had this type of romantic holiday, and I wanted to make the most of it for both of us. Anyways, when you pull into the beach’s waters, you anchor away… and then swim to the shore. 馃檪 Nothing arduous, but a good 15 minute leisurely kick-kick in the beautiful turquoise waters. And once you reach shore (it is a pebbly shore, mind you, not a sandy one), you just lie back and soak up some sun. We were there at the start of July, and it was far from busy, which made me that much more pleased that we didn’t venture to Nice or St. Tropez where thousands are known to flock to the beaches in the summer months.

180 degree panoramic of Calanques d’En Vau

Calanques d’En Vau

Calanques d’En Vau

Boat ride to d’En Vau

The most accessible beach off of the main streets of Cassis’ center.

We were only in the town for a few days, but there are other medieval cities surrounding the area which are a short drive or train trip away.

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Restaurants are located through side streets, however most are lining the main street which overlooks the water and boat docks. Food is easy to find.
  • If you are looking to visit the Calanques beaches, there are tour companies which take you out on the water for a decent cost and they travel through all the main sites, which is the 3 main beaches along the water in Cassis.
  • NOTE: If you are hoping to stop and swim, these companies do not offer or allow such activities. Seek out a boat rental company (JCF-Boat Services were excellent to me, and spoke English to explain the process if necessary), kayaking, or if you have a car, research the roads and even ask your hotel or information desks ahead of your arrival to see if renting an automobile will serve you best during your stay.

Transport

This isn’t a commentary on the trains, but a note for those whom are like us and unaware of the little things. Taxis are difficult, if not impossible, to find. I tried calling a few posted numbers with no success, and not foreseeing this challenge, we almost missed our train which would have been fine if we were not to catch another main train from Marseille to Paris within minutes of each other. So after receiving assistance from a few lovely local elderly men, I found the bus stop which had a couple buses an hour (if that) to the train station. Plan ahead is all I’m aiming to get at. It made for a very stressful morning, but in the end we did make our train (although with a couple minutes to spare).

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Taxis were completely inaccessible within my experience. Plan ahead, find some valid numbers, or if you’re able to, take the bus. It’s a little more than 1 Euro for a ticket to the train station, and the bus stop is located a short walk (couple minutes) from the port. This is not a big city, and your talents of hailing a cab will deem useless here 馃檪

Language

This is not a highly touristy spot, and so French is the main and at times only language to be found here amongst the locals. The Tourist office spoke good English (I’m not sure as to how many other languages they support however), but at restaurants and caf茅s French was the means to communicate. However, having said that, they were never impatient with English speakers and to those who spoke French rather poorly, so don’t be shy. Although to some they may seem dismissive, they were never rude. Just prepare yourself with the basic understanding of French – and I will say that there were a couple waiters who did speak at a conversational level of English, so it’s hit or miss. I speak French decently, enough to communicate with everyone there which did come in useful when we were highly baffled as to why we could not find a taxi to take us to our train!

SUMMARY POINTS

  • Be prepared to speak French. Pack a little dictionary or travel terms with you as it will come in handy.
  • People are friendly here as long as you treat them as such, and do not get impatient with their lacking in understanding your sign-language indicating what you are in need of. The Tourist Office does have English speakers, so take comfort in that. And some waiters did communicate to us in English when they realized my boyfriend was not as conversational in their mother tongue as I was.

A great find along the C么te d’Azur, and a new place visited in France one of my favourite countries to venture to when I’m able. I highly recommend it, just do your research before hand and make sure you know what kind of trip you’re seeking out as everyone is different. All in all, we enjoyed our time immensely – it was romantic, we ate amazing food, sat on the beach at night, and enjoyed some sun along the Mediterranean waters (of which Calanques d’En Vau proves to hold some of the most gorgeous shades of blues and turquoise in its depths).

Vacationing on a Budget: How I booked our European holiday


To You,

So to procrastinate on my dissertation writing, something of which I greatly excel at already, I decided to recap on some of my travel planning strategies. I am a budget traveler, however, I also appreciate comfort and ease. Mixing the two is extremely possible, doable, however requires much research and time consuming scheduling. This trip is definitely not as re-creatable for others seeing as for one location I took advantage of being a resident in said locale and therefore did not have to fork out hotel prices. However, here are my tips and the resources I definitely spent hours researching in order to secure the best prices for what we were wanting.

1. Accommodation

I’ve tried many sites. A ridiculous amount. Thus far I cannot confirm that this site will always provide you with the cheapest results, however it lumps numerous other websites into one comparable data force of which I love – organized? yes? We are friends. 馃檪 For hotels I solely went through a newly discovered gem called Trivago.com. You enter your location (as specific as you please if you know the area or street or landmark of which you hope to be closest to), alter the price settings, and peruse the selection by price, distance to your search, or rated quality. Conveniently it also relays hostel results which is always a plus for the budget backpacker. Since we were booking for two people and quite honestly did not want to share rooms with others, we opted out of the hostel options since booking a double bed in a 1-occupant room can deem pricey as they typically charge a room rate per individual. You can view other website price offers, and to be on the safe side, call up the hotel you are thinking of booking and see if they have any other available rates. In Paris we stayed at Hotel le Petit Trianon and during our arrival the manager made it known that he personally would have offered a better rate – generously, he gave me cash back on my reservation so to not over charge us as it is written in the small black print that some travel sites charge a commission fee which is already calculated in the cost of the room. At a 10% charge, this can add up. But Trivago basically lists a collection of travel sites offering up deals, and I definitely found some decent ones, especially for Cassis, France where we stayed at H么tel Le Cassiden.

H么tel Le Cassiden – window view onto streets below, water (not seen) was to the right.

2. Transport

We opted for trains and planes for this trip, no car rentals. For the UK we were merely bouncing between London and Durham and therefore EastCoast was the best option for the best prices. For the Eurostar however, look around. Their website does not always offer the best rates, and even though by a small margin, I found tickets for 10 pounds cheaper on separate sites such as TGV-Europe. In the end, always compare. It takes time and much organization, but it can be worth it if you are aiming to save as much as you can whilst still enjoying your travels. Times of day can affect the cost substantially – trains early in the morning and late at night within the UK can result in saving 20+ pounds per ticket. But again, consider the convenience factor for your trip.

For flights, I researched a lot. Again the convenience factor goes into whether you choose trains or planes for long-distance travel. At times flights were cheaper, however due to their flight times and the fact that you have to check in 2 or so hours before departure made trains a slightly more convenient option. The two well-known budget airlines in Europe are definitely EasyJet and RyanAir. Look around though as new airlines are popping up quickly, such as MonarchAirlines. In my planning I even went as far as planning by airport departure, knowing that some airports in London were more accessible than others depending on the time of travel. And yes, I did opt to save a night of accommodation by sleeping in the airport for one evening as the flight was an early 7AM departure, and we would have to be there by 4:30AM for check-in. So on that note – make sure you double check how to get to the airport. For example in London, easy direct routes via train may not get you there in time if you fly at 6AM or so. However, buses such as EasyBus do offer 24hour service to and from Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton into central London. They do also offer trips to and from Heathrow terminals, however not as directly accessible to central London as the other airport routes. Like I said, research. 馃檪

3. Location, location, location

For our trip I had one special locale of which I wanted to book, however I had no clue as to where聽specifically I wanted to go for our romantic getaway. Having that flexibility aided me in being able to pick the most appropriate and affordable for our agenda. In the end I narrowed in on the south of France, and at first was focusing in on Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez – you know, the classic beach fronts. However, I was well aware as to the cost of visiting said destinations, and being July, the crowds would not have assisted in a ‘romantic’ feel, nor a relaxing one. I adore all those locations, but I was also in the mood for something different, somewhere less known, and most definitely more comfortable for my wallet as this was my surprise gift for me and him for our first year together and year of long-distance (I am a full-time postgraduate student holding a part-time job.. my cash does not flow without loads of turbulence). I soon then considered some medieval areas such as Annecy which is gorgeous, and some other mountain areas, but in the end I realized that I had chosen those original destinations along the C么tes d’Azur for a reason: relaxation, sun, water, peace. So after much RESEARCH (my favourite theme for this post apparently), I somehow came along the not highly-written about town called Cassis in Provence-Alpes-C么tes d’Azur. So much ended up being perfect about this find.

A) It secured the romantic factor, as Cassis is a port town along the water, small in size, with amazing food and views.
B) It was affordable. I mean ‘oh my God YES!’ affordable. I got a hotel on the water (H么tel Le Cassiden) for what I was paying for mediocre hotels in London, and it was contemporary with a beautiful window view onto the market and water.
C) Not touristy compared to it’s neighboring cities such as Nice. The crowds were present in the magnitude of market goers on a weekend visiting their local farmer’s stalls.
鈥 And D) Friendly. The locals were sweet, and being the small town their English was minimal at some locations, but they were not rude nor impatient with you. I speak French (although not fluent), and I conversed pleasantly with many.

Another plus – Marseille is a short 25 minute train ride away, and therefore we flew directly from London to Marseille for cheap. There are also several gorgeous cities surrounding Cassis, so if you’re there for a while you can alter your destination easily by a short train ride. And regarding beaches – people may wonder if the beaches compare to Nice and other French Riviera hotspots. I shall post this photo and let you decide. And please, take observation at the amount of people on this sunny afternoon in July.

Calanques d’En Vau, Cassis

Side note – again, research comes in handy. I discovered that this specific beach and the most gorgeous in the area is pretty much only accessible by boat or kayak. So what did I hunt down? A company which would rent me a boat. It took some time, but I found them and it was well worth the extra expense 馃檪 Plus they were super helpful and easy to work things out with: JCF-Boat Services.

鈥⑩⑩⑩⑩

If nothing else, I am a researcher when I know I have a goal in mind – especially a financial goal. We never stayed in anywhere but central locations, all hotels with private rooms and only one had shared bathroom facilities. I know London well, and so I knew where I wanted to stay in that city. Paris, I did not but after doing some reading chose St. Germain-de-Pr猫s which was exactly what I was looking for as we walked everywhere, except underground trains to and from Gare de Lyon, and Gare Nord which is where we arrived into the city and departed from back to London. Cassis, again totally worth the extra time and research. I could not have chosen a more perfect location for the relaxing portion of our trip, and again, not much is written on this stunning French town.. I may do a single post solely on Cassis because a paragraph on it does not do it justice.

I’m telling you – research is well worth the time and organizational stress you may experience the first couple of days of planning your trip. And if to stress one more thing beyond research – book ahead of time. Give yourself time to change your mind, alter your agenda, or research some more for sanity purposes. And again – check for cancellation charges on accommodation especially. Unless you are 100% on your choice, something else may pop up with a better deal or location. That, or your schedule may change. Just do what you have to do for no regrets.

In the end, I will say finding and reserving our trip to Cassis made me feel quite proud of my travel skills – I wanted exactly what I received, and it was overall a beautiful experience. I highly recommend this place to anyone – I’ve many tips to offer up as well if you’d care to hear, and of which I plan to write on shortly 馃檪

Until next time, bon voyage!

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

P.S – Check out my previous post with more photos from our trip. xo

10 Days Worth Waiting For: Durham, London, Cassis, and Paris all wrapped up into one perfect holiday


To You,

I have been rather withdrawn, so to speak, the past couple of days. I have wanted to write a little diddy on my latest travels with my dearest beau, however the energy and inspiration has escaped me. Overall, I don’t think there’s a way for me to relay it all as it was absolutely wonderful even through the arguments, the moments of tension, the minutes of settling into complete time with one another. Therefore I shall write only briefly with a few pictures to add to the ocular amusement to this picture-book story of the past two weeks.

I separated myself from digital communication for the time that my lad was visiting me, and it was lovely. I refrained from updating my blog, from posting up-to-date status posts on facebook, or checking my mobile for texts or incoming calls. And so, I am way behind on updates on my little diddy, aka this blog 馃檪 So here goes nothing…

First Days: June 26th – 27th
Location: London, United Kingdom

I slept the night in Heathrow Airport the night of the 25th since from Durham to London there were no trains that would arrive in time for me to greet the dear boy at the arrivals gate. After a rather noisy night of construction and a group communicating at high volumes behind me, I dolled myself up in the ladies room and awaited his emerging from the gates. After standing for nearly an hour after the boards had updated his arrival, his beardy-face emerged, and I attacked 馃檪 And when I say ‘attacked’ I mean it in the loveliest of terms. I dropped my bags and ran up for a hug. After many hellos, our first stop was the barber shop where he was scheduled to shave that furry thing off his face 馃檪 Clean shaven complete, it was off to our hotel and then the city. In the evening we checked out the Phantom of the Opera (one of my all time favourites), and the following day we explored the sites a bit more, heading to Tower Bridge and further south to Bermondsey to see the exhibits at the White Cube Galleries.

The evening of the 27th we were off to Durham where all we were to do was sleep, drink coffee, and relax.

White Cube, Damien Hirst ‘Two Weeks, One Summer’

Olympic Rings

Next of days: June 27th – 30th
Location: Durham, United Kingdom

Our time in Durham was so relaxing for the most part. Our first morning, we had a much needed sleep in after not being able to sleep the night before until the early hours. Eventually, we woke up and headed into the town for some food and coffee – both essential things for our single and co-existence. After some cakes and sandwiches and many shots of espresso, we wondered further around, heading up to my college, the Castle, and the Cathedral. Later in the afternoon we were scheduled to visit my workplace at Mary’s College and the minute we decided to leave, we were hit with a massive downpour which flooded the streets. Needless to say we were drenched by the time we reached work, and he was drenched to above the knees after pushing a man’s car through the high waters on the streets. Saying good-bye to my old work mates was bitter sweet – I will say I will cherish them more than most people I had courses with, and I’m very glad to have met them all. That evening we watched the Italy-Germany match at a local pub next to my flat, and relaxed for the duration of the night. Durham was lovely – having him here even for a couple of days made me miss him that much more after he left, because it felt so lovely having in my home for once. I wished he could be here always.

Running through the flooded streets

Walk along the river

Days to follow: June 30th – July 3rd
Location: London, United Kingdom… and ???

In the early morning hours of the 30th, we jumped on our train and headed back to London. On the train, I let something out of the bag that I had been hiding from my beau for months. I had told him the plan was to head to London and then take the Eurostar to Paris that evening. So, I kind of lied. Big time. On the train I let him partially into the secret: we were neither going to Paris just yet, nor were we taking a train there. We were to fly to France the following morning, but to where, I was yet to reveal. So, upon our arrival to London, we checked our bags into storage so as to not have to lug them around with us throughout the day. Our plan of action: art. First we headed to Camden Town for some food, where we briefly perused the markets and later took a pit stop at some food stalls. After this, we headed south to the Tate Modern to check out Damien Hirst’s retrospective which was stellar. Although his prized piece was no longer up for viewing, the remainder of the collection was gorgeous – my favourites were the butterfly paintings. Stunning. Post art perusing, we munched on some bread I had made the night before with some lamb sausages we had cooked up as well for the ride. Then we wandered to the Thames where we laid under the sun for a short nap since we were both exhausted.

Pat taking photos of me whilst I attempted to cleanly eat a peach whilst not being able to breathe through my stuffed up nose

Arrival to King’s Cross

Camden for lunch

Time for a siesta by the Thames

Panoramic of the Thames

Later that night, we picked up our luggage again and headed to Gatwick. Now, I had picked up a cold during our walk through the flooded streets of Durham, and so I was not in the best of places. My head was stuffed, my body aching, and I felt a little less than attractive unless you like the puffy face, bloodshot eyes, red-Rudolph nose look. So to cheer myself up, I decided half way through the night to show the dear boy photos of where we were going.

We were to fly to Marseille, France in the early hours and then take a short train to Cassis, a small port-town on the Mediterranean. I think it took him a few minutes to believe me after I showed him photos of the beach we were to visit, les Calanques d’En Vau during our stay. So not to dive into details, his reaction was priceless and it definitely lifted my moods as I had been so excited for months 馃檪

After our arrival in Marseille, we trained it to Cassis, France, and lo and behold, it was stunning. We walked along lavender gardens, olive tree pastures, and rows of grapevines as we made our way to our hotel, H么tel le Cassiden. The location was beautiful, romantic, and absolutely perfect. The day as it progressed was a culmination of exhaustion, and with those few moments of worry as I mentioned at the start of the post, it held it’s times of tension and anxiety. I think it’s always hard when you pair someone who is used to throwing herself into foreign situations with someone who is trying it out on literally foreign territory, but after some sleep, we triumphed. The second day was bliss. We took our rented boat out to the beach, and relaxed under the perfect sun – not too hot sitting at 27 degrees Celcius, and the water was a cool chill that refreshed you throughout the hours. The evening, we ate dinner port-side, and later smoked a cuban cigar on the beach. Lovely.

Walking from Cassis train station to our hotel

Our window view onto the market streets

Driving our boat to les Calanques d’En Vau

Assessing our swim from boat to shore… with our bag..!

Calanques d’En Vau

Seafood dinner on the port. Gorgeous.

After dinner walk. 馃檪

Onto the next one: July 3rd – 4th
Location: Paris, France

After a stressful morning of getting to our train on time, we jetted off on the train from Marseille to Paris, arriving mid-day. After a well-needed nap in our cozy hotel room at Hotel le Petit Trianon in the St. Germain-de-Pr猫s district, we walked out for dinner and then the Eiffel Tower. Again, we had had a stressful evening – exhaustion was getting to the both of us I think. But after a break-point in our discussion, we laid back and smiled under the glittering Eiffel Tower.

Gorgeous Duck Confit.

The following day, we merely walked around the city. We were a little tired of paying city prices, and so gathered some fresh food and made our own meals throughout the day. We walked to the Louvre, along la Seine, through the gardens, and around the ancient streets. Neither of us were up for museum gazing, or tourist attractions, I think we just wanted to wander the city at our own pace and just chill together. To be honest, Paris was lovely – I’ve been told to go there by, well, everyone. However, I would have much preferred to stay in Cassis. We had a few incidents that definitely put us off fully enjoying our time there, but I would definitely return, however I’m not in any rush. I’ve always tried to explain to people why I’ve never gone, and now that I have, I stand even truer to it. If I have the chance to go, I’m typically in London. So why would I leave one city for another? If I leave a city, I prefer going to a completely different scene, like the countryside or the mountains, or the sea. But overall, I am so glad I got to experience Paris first with the chap. But now, it was back to London.

Oh my goodness, yes.

Book stalls along la Seine.

Giggles in the gardens.

Last stop: July 4th – 6th
Location: London, United Kingdom

So, after a major fault on my part (something of which I will not go into), we eventually made our way to London once again on the Eurostar train. Arriving in the late evening, we were both starving and so headed out quickly for food. The following day we wandered to the British Museum to gaze at the brilliant ceramics collection that they hold there. After much inspiration was found, we walked further to Kensington Gardens to find the Ai Wei Wei installation and Yoko Ono’s retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery. It was so lovely to just walk around the gardens with an ice cream cone under the sun. Eventually we made our way to the Thames where I showed him Buckingham Palace along route, and then Parliament Square and Westminster. We sat on the Thames, ate our fresh food purchased from a farmers market in Tavistock Square, and drank our Elderflower cordial that I have also purchased at the market. Yum. Hopped on the tube, hopped off, and then later had dinner in Covent Garden at Herman zee German, a little hole-in-the-wall joint with great German eats. And then final stop was the Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in London 馃檪 As we made our way back to our hotel in Euston, we stopped off at Euston Tap, a bar he had read about, where he purchased some beer to drink later on through the night. Now, it was off to pack as he was set to fly the next morning.

Royal Mile Whiskies, London

Kensington Gardens

Ai Wei Wei’s installation outside the Serpentine Galleries

Me outside the Maple Leaf pub.

So on July 6th, I took the Picadilly Line from London King’s Cross with him to Heathrow where we were say another one of our airport good-byes in the underground terminal. I was set to catch my train back at King’s Cross at 10:30AM to head back into Durham. I did not want this trip to end, and was so sad to be Paddy-less in England now. I know it’s pathetic, but it was nice having my best friend with me for at least 12 days in the country I’ve lived without him since September. He made every location a little brighter, and it was all rather dulled slightly once he left.

And that’s that. The two weeks I had been waiting for for so long, and to be honest, the days didn’t fly by, but instead were enjoyed through every second of it. Not all the moments were easy, and frustration was definitely felt, but I will never say that relationships that are meant to last are never without their worries. Long distance makes that even more difficult – we are not a couple that never argues, as both of us have too much that has happened in our pasts to make the present silky smooth. I do think we’re working tremendously hard to understand each other better, and come to a point where we’re not worried about possible hurt, possible disappointment, possible heartbreak.

Anyways, speak again soon – so much is speeding up right now, that I will write again shortly to update on that. But for now, I am hungry 馃檪

Peace & love,

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

p.s – No, I’m not self-obsessed, but I don’t typically post photos with others in them if they’d prefer me not to, and so alas, no photos of the dude on my blog. He’s lovely looking though, I promise 馃槈

I’ve Taken ‘International Studies’ into A Whole New Context..


To you,

Good day to you all from my cozy little flat in Durham. The birds, as I type, are chirping away as the sun is quietly peering out from behind these grey clouds. It’s a lovely-ish day that started out with a nice lie-in, and some travel planning there on afterwards.

Yes, that’s right – travel planning. One of my favourite hobbies and talents, it’s a shock I never became a travel agent (but never say never, am I right!).聽This time around, however, the planning is much more enjoyable/stressful, because I am planning the most spectacular trip (it’s how you word things that sells it to the buyer)聽for my lovely bloke whom is making his way across the ocean on his first embarkment upon Europe. And so once the initial overseas plane ticket was purchased, it was the silent ‘go-ahead’ for me to start finding every deal in existence for the most travel-attractive months in Europe: June and July. With the Queen’s Jubilee, and the London Summer Olympics, and school kids and their families on the ‘family holiday prowl’, I knew that if I didn’t start NOW (and I say that with the utmost sincerity and due diligence) that deals would fly out the window and into the pockets of people not as deserving as I (OK, perhaps that’s a slightly over-exaggerated, perhaps obnoxious, self-centered assumption).聽

So, traveling. Goes without saying, the accompanying ‘deals’ to that phrase is imperative in my book. I do not travel frivolously. Maybe one day I will go on a luxurious holiday, but not yet, and not this summer as millions flock to London. I’m still a pro at my game, and I refuse to retire just yet. Now, deals – they do not have to imply that you will seek聽ONLY the cheapest options available. You have to make the trip itself worthwhile. And so I did my best to negotiate wants and needs, and I think I’ve managed to book a trip that I wouldn’t deem the cheapest that I would/could have booked, but definitely one packed with hidden deals resulting from a stupid amount of research. And I do mean STUPID.

Trains – deals pop on on occasion, which mean they disappear as such as well. Flights can be the same, as many people know, and sometimes you have to bite the bullet and grab what you think is a fair price. Sure, it could drop again later. But it could also sell out completely, and you’ve lost any chance at getting a seat on that line. I lost a couple good deals because of that – nothing huge, but definitely a hit to my ego, although I had my reasons for hesitating. In the end, thetrainline.com for the UK, and tgv-europe.com for France ended up finding me discounts on tickets not listed on sites like Eurostar.com, RailEurope.com, etc. Hotels – new favorite website is Trivago.co.uk聽which finds almost every deal on every travel site, and minimizes that to a list of the cheapest hotel/hostel/apartment booking site. Go by location, price, star rating, averaged review ratings – it made finding deals quick and easy for Paris and London in my case.

Anyways, I’m pumped. I’ve not ‘vacationed’ in a long time. And if anyone has any specific advice for Paris, France – I’m all ears. Shockingly, I have never been to the French city – a train away from London of which I lived for a year, and have visited on several occasions since I was 8 months old. So, arrondissements, caf茅s, parks/jardins – hit me with ’em, folks!

脌 bient么t!

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

Back Again in Durham Town


To you,

Well, here I am again. Back in my Durham apartment with the wind quietly howling outside my window as the grey sky dulls all the colours of which spring typically presents. I left Toronto yesterday evening for my 6 hour and 45 minute flight to London Gatwick where I sat between two armrest-hoggers which basically means I barely slept on the plane, despite taking my sleepy drugs. And now, it’s evening time in England, and I must say it’s been a long day.

My trip to North America was long, and now it feels like a blur. I left Durham over a month ago and it feels like no time has past, although it does feel like we’ve reversed seasons and are now in the March winter/spring that we skipped and apparently are now making up for with this chilled rainy weather. Overall, the trip was lovely although insanely stressful. Let’s just put it out there without beating around the bush any longer – long distance relationships suck. I suppose the bonus of acknowledging how much they suck on the ‘this sucks’ scale equals how much they are worth experiencing. I mean, it obviously depends on why they suck, but for my situation it sucks for the best reasons. Catching up with your other half is a mix of ‘Hey, so good to see you!’ and ‘Hey, so awesome to be in the same timezone!’ to ‘Soo… life, huh..’ and ‘Well let’s figure out the rest of our life in these next two weeks, okie dokie?’. It’s stressful, especially when the two of you do not have even the smallest, insignificant minute to just talk. Me – essays, geographic relocating, fluster dustering at it’s finest. Him – commission, work, life, school. When I’m stressed, my mood can change at the flip of a switch because that’s how fast my mind is shifting, trying to balance everything that people want me to think about. Me? What do I want to think about? I have no idea – I don’t have time to even think about that. Sadly, long distance relationships don’t allow for much ‘vacation’ time to happen within my Spring/Easter break. For me, you’re either committed or you’re not, and I know how much I’m committed and so I treat that as a priority amongst all other priorities – it’s life, not a teenage obsession, nor irrational love story. It is a part of my life. No argument, no compromise. And it’s leaving me exhausted – mentally, emotionally, and physically. So yeah, long distance sucks. But when you attempt it, you learn very fast if it’s worth it or not, with all the shit that comes along with it. And I’m no where close to quitting on this thing.

Apart from sorting out life, I was able to see some lovely friends while visiting home. The one thing I treasure the most about my life are the people – I hate people in a general sense of human race (you cannot deny it – people are stupid sometimes), but I love those that exist in my life because when you travel and relocate as much as I do, you realize the quality of the significant few. If nothing else, you can look at my life and know that I do not mess around – my people are the purest quality that you will come across. The finest friends. I met up for food, coffees, vintage shopping, an hors d’oeuvres dinner rendez-vous, grilling… I got good people. I think that’s the fun part of not being a teenager or early twenties-something – you don’t need bullshit people in your life, and you realize that no effort needs to go into maintaining false friendships that seem more like social network contacts more than anything else.

So anyways, I’m back now. I wish I could have seen family more, hung out with my puppy (who is actually 7) more – even she’s caught on to my traveling ways: the minute she sees me pack, she knows I’m bouncing again as she runs out to the car and stares at the car door awaiting for me to open it for her to join along in the ride. I’m in the home stretch now in Durham – my next overseas departure will be a one way ticket… now there’s a strange thought.

I need rest, and so I think I’m going to embark on such a task.

Speak again soon,

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

Tired and Hoping for Smiles


To you,

The last time I wrote was about two weeks ago in Berlin. Now I am back in Midwestern America. Why? Well, because the heart wants what the heart wants, and despite others trying to force my brain into rationality, I follow what my heart wants. Thus far, as enjoyable as this past term at uni has been, my heart and head are beyond the point of exhaustion. I am beyond stressed. Stressed was weeks ago. Now I have surpassed that and reached a feeling of utter chaos. It’s strange when I think about it – one year ago I was beyond stressed to the point that I remember breaking down and not eating for about 2 weeks (I survived on bits of bread, crackers, and small pieces of chocolate for sugar.. no exaggeration). In that scenario, I was stressed over all the negative things in my life, the things that I was working so hard to maintaining that I failed to see that I was working within an impossible situation. It was even harder, because the specifics weren’t negative on their own, but mixed all together in the situation that they were living in made it all impossible for every party involved. Almost a year later, I’m still stressed about how much of a mess I feel like I am lately – the tears, anxiety, exhaustion… but this time, as odd as this sounds, it’s about all the positive things in my life [That’s the perfect statement from a crazy person]. I think what the problem is is that I’m still having trouble coexisting within all of the different scenarios in my life. I mean, try this on for size and try to put yourself into this situation:
—>Think about your job or schooling, and then your relationships, and then your family. They are all wonderful parts of your life that present their own challenges, but you’re happy within all of them. You’re so proud of all of these treasures in your life. Now imagine this: your schooling, is in England. Your family is in Canada and Australia. Your relationship is in the United States. Some of you may think that this is amazing, awesome, a dream – I mean, yes, my life is global. But, what if you knew that all of these components cannot be reconciled through distance? My family may move to England, but my relationship will be in the U.S. I could continue work and school in the U.S. in the future and have my relationship made local, but my family will never be there. I could move to Canada, work and possibly continue schooling later on, but my relationship will always be in the U.S. In the end, there’s the painful struggle of looking at these components – school and work is negotiable; it will take lots of work to make it what I want within a confined location, but it’s possible. My family – well, we’re always going to be worldwide, and I will always have them.. and my independence is something my mum encouraged by never limiting our capabilities and travel inquiries. My relationship – like my family, it is irreplaceable… but it needs time to grow, lots of work to remain permanent, and although it too encourages my capabilities in life, it deserves the recognition and respect to negotiate some dreams with this dream.

So, in the end my decisions are laid out in presentable form, but that doesn’t make the jump any easier. Some people (or all) tell me, “Well it is what it is.” True – but for me, life is more than that. I don’t view marriage or lifelong relationships as ‘it is what it is’, but moreso an acknowledgement that it’s not easy, it should have compromise and high standards, and something that requires constant work and attention. I do have high standards – in everything. And I expect the same from others. And in my little Mutt (me)/American love story, I’ve encountered a scenario that expects the same happiness that I do. And so, even in tears, exhaustion, and sadness, I know that I’m fighting for something worthwhile. It’s not easy, and pursuing something elsewhere would be easier and a quicker route to a simple, happy life perhaps. But right now, I think I’m pursuing my happiest life – but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful and hard along the way. And in the end, it may not work out the way I hope, but as it’s been pointed out to be I idiotically never back down from challenges, and as I continue to state in my own personal mantra, I’ll keep fighting for what works until I know it doesn’t work anymore.

And so I am here, in the U.S. right now for a couple weeks before heading back to Canada.. before heading back to England. [Inhale…. exhale…]

These past couple of weeks have flown by at ridiculous speeds. As I mentioned, the last post I made was from Berlin –聽 almost 2 weeks ago! So let’s see what kind of recap I can offer up here on the happenings within this two week time period…

Berlin, (March 21st – March 25th)

I went to Berlin for 4 days to attend the Arts in Cultural Diplomacy conference held by the ICD at their house quarters in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin. Overall the days were long, exhausting, and most definitely had their moments of informative discussions. I met some lovely people from around the world who hold the same interest in arts and politics as myself which was extremely refreshing, however some of the comments made by the ICD staff itself made me question their abilities to further the discourse of arts and politics rather than hindering it. Overall the lectures focused on hip hop, poetry, dance, cultural festivals, and art artifacts as a means for cultural understanding, and the lecturers were everything from political ambassadors, professors, diplomats, political activists, organization directors/founders, etc. I had a few discussions with lecturers from Egypt, Israel, and the United States, and overall although it didn’t necessarily aid me in pushing my perspectives for my dissertation, it did allow me to think of pursuing further projects of my own post-graduation. The visit to Berlin was brilliant, however – although we received very little time to wander the city, the weather was gorgeous, and being Berlin, the opportunities to just sit outside a cafe and people-watch was all I really needed. It’s still one of my top fave cities at this point, merely for the atmosphere and energy.

Toronto

So I flew from Berlin to London on the morning of Sunday, March 25th, collected my remaining luggage, and stayed at a little hostel a couple blocks from Victoria Station of which I would catch my train the following morning to London Gatwick Airport to fly home – finally! The minute I touched down, I was smiling.. home at last! I love Canada – I think that’s a well known fact amongst people that know me. I am Canadian through and through, because being Canadian acknowledges that I could also be an immigrant, be from multiple different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, be who knows what religion, etc. I spent my first night having dinner with an olllllllldd friend (we’ve known each other for about 21 years) and my little sister in the Italian district which was bliss. Yep, I was back home 馃檪 I then stole my car back from my sister, and drove home to Trenton where I spent a few days with my mama and my dog/my child. It was so good to be home, I’m not going to lie. Geographically, my heart lies with Canada. But as complicated as it makes my life, at the same time I am so glad that the people in my life allow my heart to lie all over the world.聽 馃檪

So that’s me right now – tired. There’s really no other way to summarize it, haha! I think it’s time to bounce – things to do.. always, things to do..!

Take care and keep the love,

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo

 

Now, How Did I Get Here?


To you,

My journey from Durham to Berlin seemed like an endless amount of hours culminating in complete exhaustion and hunger. Having been cleaning and packing since Saturday evening to guarantee that I would not forget something important, or forget to do something within my flat since it shall go unoccupied for about a month, by the time Tuesday morning had arrived I was already dreading the amount of traveling to do in the coming days. But at 15:37 Tuesday afternoon, I boarded the train to London Kings Cross station, a 3-hour trip, with my luggage for North America and Berlin. Now, side note: I have found a complication with the task of packing lightly when traveling abroad – when your traveling overseas to not only see family but the person you have been in a long distance relationship with, it is impossible to pack light, because you have to pack everything that you possibly look good in within your wardrobe just in case the occasion calls for it. I mean, you gotta make these few weeks count.. Just a thought…

So arriving in London at nearly 9PM on Tuesday night, I handed my North American luggage to the gracious yet ill Georgina to house my luggage until my return from Berlin prior to my flight to Toronto. At 11:15PM I catch the easybus to London Luton airport, arriving shortly after midnight. From then on, I toss and turn, trying to find a comfortable way to sleep whilst protecting my duffel bag. I have found that being slightly tall in this matter causes a few difficulties in finding a comfortable position. I stretch my legs out, and I kick the person sitting opposite me. I cross my legs and slouch to the side over my duffel on the seat next to me, my hip and metal arm rest collide in the utmost discomfort. So long story short, I didn’t sleep more than an accumulation of an hour within 5 hours. At 4:45AM, I checked in and received my ticket. At 6:35AM, I head to my gate, and at 7:00AM I board my plane to Berlin. At 7:15AM, I am out cold. About 45-minutes later, I awake completely disoriented, and without any recollection that I had boarded a plane to begin with (I don’t know the last time I was this confused, but too ridiculously tired to question any of it). Seconds later, I’m passed out again only to awake by the plane landing on German tarmac.

After getting off the plane, going through German customs, and getting through the arrivals, I get on the Airport express train to Zoologischer Garten where I then walked a few minutes to my accommodation within the Charlottenburg district. Soon afterwards, I finally slept a glorious 2 hours, completely knackered out and sore (I’m pretty sure I have bruises developing on my back..).

Anyways, so I’m back in Berlin, nearly two years since I was here for the first time, and it’s still a comfortable city to be in. Tomorrow morning the conference begins so we’ll see how all goes with that then. It’s 10PM now, and I am dead. The other three girls I’m roomed with are out at various engagements, but me.. I am about to pass out. 馃檪

Speak soon and nighty night,

Love from, Vic Louise xoxoxo