A Farewell to London

Thanks, Alexander Pope, for letting me steal your beautifully sentimental line: A Farewell to London. Yet, there is something vague about it, as if a farewell doesn’t mean BYE FOREVER LONDON!!! It’s more of a gentle parting…for now…until next time. And that’s just how I’d like to keep it. And luckily, thanks to all the wonderful people who have come along this journey with me, I definitely feel like I finished this week with a BANG.

Tuesday Arts and Crafts

For my last creative writing activity as a Ministry of Stories staff, we had to search the office for an “intriguing” item – a hint of a story, as Francesca from La Grande Fabricca delle Parole in Milan would say. I brought to the table a packet of hardware screws that had a stamped date of 2011 on it. But, then we were told to grab someone else’s intriguing object and write about it – either in a story or a detailed description of it.

 Via postofficeshop.co.uk

This was mine…

Her knee was spiked with splinters, turning red like an angry hedgehog. Lula had shouted out something, but Roka hadn’t been able to make it out over the clamour of her own lungs pumping out breath. Her foot caught under a drooping vine, causing her to fall straight down upon a pile of wood chips. She rolled around, dazed and in pain. Are those fire ants making shelter on my leg? she wondered. Lula sped over, first to confirm that her friend hadn’t died. Then, she quickly turned her attention to an object gleaming just to Roka’s right. 

‘Woohoo, over here!’ Roka whistled, her pain now taking the form of jealousy. 

Lula waved her hand, ‘Yeah, yeah. I hear you. I’ve found something.’

Lula knelt down in the deadened brush and awed at the wonder before her. It was a black metal box with a key lock and a thin silver carrying handle. She had seen them before, mostly on the telly. Usually, the dad kept his gambling money or even a gun tucked away in the safe box that the mother would eventually find and the marriage would blow up or someone might even die. 

She looked around the forest – even though she knew that she and Roka were the only ones in these parts, save for a few stirring chipmunks and jays. Why was she hesitating so to touch the box? What if someone had electrocuted it for safekeeping? A naughty part of her brain had the sudden urge to stick her finger into the key slot….

And time was up. It was funny how most of our objects turned into character sketches.

Later that night, I walked to the Angel area because I had bought a ticket to see a performance of the Bakkhai (Euripedes’ Baccae) at the Almeida Theatre – which specializes in Greek theatre and happened to be the place where I first snarfed down Ottolenghi takeaway.

But, Angel is only a 30 minute walk away from Hoxton and the show didn’t start until 8. As the rain began to fall, I hurried into the first teahouse I could find and was pleasantly surprised by the gem in which I discovered. Quick! Go to Piacha Tea Bar and treat yourself to a perfectly whisked and foamy matcha tea, served up in a classy glass tumbler upon an industrial wooden cutting board. I listened to the rain mix with the jazz soundtrack playing overhead and relaxed into the sofa. Piacha peace.

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Thoughts on the Bakkhai: 

I read Euripedes’ tragic play in my very first class of university: Great Books, which is also where I met one of my very best friends, so I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the Baccae. Because it is a play known for being quite bloody, gruesome, and intense, I came in expecting to be a bit terrified and uncomfortable throughout, and I was ready for it, perhaps even looking forward to it in a very odd, psychotic way. Instead, the modern translation by Anne Carson seemed to mistake the word ‘tragedy’ for ‘comedy.’ Imagine Monty Python writing their own version of the Baccae, where women are possessed by a god who is obsessed with wine and sex, where political leaders are torn limb from limb by their own mother – and it is no surprise to you to picture a farcical, humorous parody on a classic. Oh, I love Monty wholeheartedly, and the Bakkhai was indeed funny. But in the way where the humor almost seemed forced, so as to please a wider audience.

Via almeida.co.uk

Instead of focusing on the weird/disappointing/unexpected attributes of the play, I decided early on to appreciate the goodness of the performance. First, I admire how they kept with the Greek tradition to have the same three male actors play all of the parts. Their ability to morph their accents, inflections, and mannerisms to fit the various characters was incredible. Ben Whishaw, the star performer, was especially talented, in that he could go from an effeminate, jeans-wearing, Jesus-like Dionysus to a hunched over, agéd and blind Tiresias was so impressive.

Between acts, the “chorus” would perform a song. The Chorus in the Baccae is made up of the maenads, the raving pack of women who are Dionysus’ entranced followers. These women in the Bakkhai were beautiful singers, definitely not crazed. The harmonies between them were so pure that they shot right into your heart. They didn’t instill fear, instead they marked our ears with beauty.

I think that in some cases, to fully enjoy a performance, it is best to separate the viewed play from the written work (the imagined performance). You have to take them as separate beings and appreciate the talent of the actors before you.

Back to Back Nights with Unforgettable Friends

Can you believe that during my entire time in London, not a single chopstick full of sushi passed my lips? Well…that little problem needed to be resolved tout suite! My dear friend, Ithaka, who is a dedicated Ministry of Stories volunteer and just an all around wonderful human being, arranged a little get-together of other Ministry “vollies” to celebrate our time together. We sat, criss-cross and bare feet, on the tatami mats in the A-line attic of Sushi Waka in Camden, and enjoyed boats of sashimi and lots of green tea. (Well, I had the green tea. I think all the others were appalled that they couldn’t order their “normal” tea with milk there!)

The five of us chatted about all important things: what to do after graduating, 90’s pop girl band names, Donald Trump, favourite movies, and Freud’s stages of child development. Then they asked me how I was feeling about leaving. At that point, if I even thought about it, I got upset. London had become a sort of home away from home. I liked who I was in London. I liked how I ordered tea, I liked how I walked down the street, I liked how I was a regular in a few shops, I liked how I didn’t have to look at a map anymore to get from Hoxton Street to Trafalgar, I liked using my newly-found razor-sharp sarcasm every once in a while. How could it possibly be time to leave when I had just arrived it seemed? But my friends had an amazingly positive outlook on the whole situation. They said, “If you hadn’t known that an end date was on the horizon, you wouldn’t have made the most out of your trip. You would’ve put off the chance to go see the sights and do the fun things that you did.” And that’s true. The way I lived, rushing out every night to see and experience something new, is a downright impossible way to live for more than about two months. It was exhausting, but I did it, because I knew my time was short.

I’m so lucky to have found friends as good as these ones.

But wait there’s more!

My very, very last night was spent with my girl gang, self-titled “The Stroppy Madams” – our squad of one American, one English-Canadian, and two Aussies. We met at the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant – which given the name was not altogether “touristy” – it was more like dining in a 19th century version of Mrs. Hudson’s drawing room.

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An altogether perfect last night with friends could not have ended any better. We realized on our walk home that we hadn’t been able to visit Abbey Road to take “the” Beatles-impersonation photo. So, as we walked down Fleet Street, we decided to take the free zebra opportunity to create our own album cover version. You may or may not be viewing the 60th try at our “faux-Abbey” flick, but the fun was in the act itself, not the result. Darting back and forth between dribbles of traffic are the kinds of risks you are supposed to take on your last night in England, right?

London has been über good to me this summer. But mostly, it has been the people I’ve met and the adventures that I’ll always remember that will always stay in my heart. They have all helped me to become the person I am today, still Cammie, but with a few new skills, a few new creative ideas, a few new friends, more than a few new memories, and a few new British words tucked up my sleeve. London has inspired me in so many ways  – to keep writing, to keep believing in the power of storytelling, to stay curious, to keep your eyes open (except when you sleep), to take care of yourself, to believe in yourself, to believe in invisible cats (like the Monster Shop’s own Mr. Wells shown below) and to enjoy all the little things around us whenever we have the chance.

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Isn’t he purrfect? He even has a bow tie! See it?

Thank you all for following along my own English Journey (how does it compare to J. B. Priestley’s, I wonder?). I hope you’ve been inspired in your own little way. Pip, pip, cheerio, and all that rot…for now! Who knows? London may call again soon.

 

via wallpapercave.com

 

 

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Cammie’s Best of England

A Complete List of My English Best-Ofs:

Food

Best breakfast spot: Cereal Killer Cafe for nostalgia or J+A Cafe for fueling up goodness

Best secret lunch: Willow Shoreditch (in the back of the garden shop) on Hoxton Street

Best takeaway: Ottolenghi 

Best tea: Piacha Tea Bar

Best restaurant to feel like you’re eating at home: Sherlock Holmes Restaurant and Pub

Best ice cream: Mr. Whippy with Flake (a classic ’99’)

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Best biscuit: Chocolate Covered Digestives

via favoritefoods-abbz.blogspot.com

Fun: 

Best place for storytelling: the Ministry of Stories, the Story Museum in Oxford

Best exercise: Swing Dance (check out Swing Patrol for upcoming events!)

Best park: Exmouth Markets and the adjacent Spa Fields park (Clerkenwell)

Best Garden to Get Lost In: Kew Gardens

Best Part of Town: Hampstead Heath

Best View of the City: the top of St. Paul’s or the viewing deck of the Gherkin

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Best Shop: Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, obviously

Best Museums (notice the ‘s’ at the end): the Geffrye Museum, the Keats House, British Library, Dennis Severs’ House, Cartoon Museum, Roman Baths Museum in Bath.

Best Sporting Event: Arsenal Match

Best Bookshops: Foyle’s, Brick Lane Book Shop, Blackwell’s of Oxford, Daunt Books (although I didn’t end up going there on this trip, I’m already planning on going next time!)

Best Day Trip: Greenwich, Oxford

Best Hokey-but not Hokey-Must-Do-Tourist-Activity: Canterbury Tales Experience

Best Free Fun: British Film Institute Bibliotheque, Ukulele Hootenanny at the Queen of Hoxton 

Best Shakespeare Production: Hamlet at the Barbican Centre, yet any performance at the Globe is an absolute must!

Best British Lingo Learned: strop, swimming costumes or “cozzies”, faff about, hiya, brill, for f***’s sake, squidgy (how you would describe really moist cake)

Technology: 

Best website for planning activities: www.twentysomethinglondon.com. 

Best app for when you are lost: Citymapper (it has a sense of humour too! For example, it will tell you that a 30 minute walk to the Tate Modern burns off the equivalent of 0.3 jellied eels. Also, if you give up all hope for public transportation, the catapult or rocket launch is given to you as a completely serious option 😉

                                                                  Via easyinstagram.com

Flash Fiction Friday

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 Friday morning – just around the corner from Old Street Station

Heads down, feet shuffling, coats turned up, hats pulled down. Somehow amid the crowd, two Londoners take hold of the gleam in the other’s eye.

Raining per usual.

And yet, these two come together to share a single spark that can light up this overcast pavement.

The greying widow with a broken heart, sewn together haphazardly with her arthritis fingers

And

The half-shaved head of pink, prickled with piercings, streaked with charcoal smudge;  arm muzzled in a cast and I Love Jesus pinned at chest-level.

The flame sketches shadows between the two strangers

as they stare into the dancing orange, the dazzling blue

and see their one steadfast love appear before them.

It rises again out of ash, out of the embers and erects itself with the help of man.

No Great Fire can stop this love from burning true.

The strangers’ eyes scale the Shard, widen at the grace of St. Paul’s dome, and rendezvous at the Third Lion of Trafalgar.

They have done it. They have immortalized London; seared it into their memories. The tar and smoke of the cigarettes worth the sacrifice.

But what feels like forever lasts but a moment.

The Tower Bridge folds into itself with the snap of a completed book; the lighter shuts with a click.

With a nod, the strangers walk their separate ways:

to Sainsbury’s for a Dairy Milk and cat food-

to the courts to plead bankruptcy.

Never knowing each other’s name, they have shared this city.

They have shared this smoke.

They have shared this forever.

 

 

Weekend Update

It is a commonplace that St. Paul’s dominates London. It swells like a great grey bubble from a distance; it looms over us, huge and menacing, as we approach. But suddenly St. Paul’s vanishes. And behind St. Paul’s, beneath St. Paul’s, round St. Paul’s when we cannot see St. Paul’s, how London has shrunk!

Virginia Woolf, The London Scene

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I still can’t believe that last weekend was my final one in London (for now!) Not that I’ve been lacking any energy in these past weeks, but my feet couldn’t fail me now. I had no time to waste! I woke up early at 7:30, made a porridge brekkie, screenshot all of my maps needed for the day, and made a beeline to St. Paul’s, which opened right at 8:30. The Whispering Gallery, which is the area of St. Paul’s three hundred steps up a winding staircase where the faintest whisper in one spot can be heard across the dome exactly opposite, opened at 9:30. So I was able to gawk at the dome, take a listen to the audio tour, and view the modern art. Yes…modern art in the middle of the 300 year old cathedral. Many local street artists were invited to showcase their takes on religious figures and national heroes, while painters and videographers focused their pieces on historical Christian themes. I really loved the juxtaposition of the old with the new; a place where visitors could explore the ways that history influences the present, but also how the present can shape the way you assess the past.

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A bit dizzy from the 528 steps of spiral staircase  – but would you look at the view of London? It’s similar to being at the top of the Eiffel Tower – the skyline suddenly looks very barren without it in the panoramic. I began to realize just how critical St. Paul’s has become to the look and feel of the city.

Just a short walk away from St. Paul’s was the Museum of London (opens @ 10, free). It explores the history of London in chronological terms from caveman/land bridge era to Roman times to Medieval – all the way to modern day. and the future!

My favourite parts?

-A poet-in-residence worked with local children to create a collection of poems that imagined what life in Londinium (Roman London) might have been like. The best ones mixed Roman and modern together. (Question: how do I become a poet-in-residence at the Museum of London???)

-The Victorian Arcade with real shop windows you could gaze at woefully, pretending your petticoat pockets were penniless.

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Did you know? The designer of the Telephone Booth originally wanted the now-famously red landmarks to be painted green and silver!

Next, I took the tube to Kew Gardens, which is technically in the city of Surrey (which is the place where Kate Winslet keeps house in The Holiday!). Surrey is just how I imagined it! A quaint city centre – very wealthy judging by the cars parked in the driveways!

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Kew Gardens are THE Royal Botanic Gardens. They are so huge and wonderful. I wonder if anyone has ever gotten lost or locked in because they couldn’t find their way out. Just walking through, I feel so happy. I probably looked like a freak because I was smiling so much and touching the flowers. And that’s when I had one of my weird philosophical thoughts.

It hit me that Botanical Gardens are really the only true hands-on museums on Earth. This is our chance to share moments with the beautiful products of the world. I don’t think people take advantage of that enough.

IMG_3275            IMG_3278 IMG_3280 I loved the contrast of textures between the crisp, Pringle-thin bark and the rubber-tire soft stem of the banana tree.

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Inflatable Onion!

In honor of the August “Spice” Festival going on at the Gardens, a band called Delicatessen, which specializes in European and Mediterranean music, performed. All of their songs song that day were about spices, naturally!) They were amazing, and reminded me of the Buddha Bar CD’s that I love to listen to. Delicatessen definitely could be featured on Buddha if they wanted!

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At the top of a treetop walk built by the same architects who made the London Eye!

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I exhausted myself walking, getting lost, exploring, taking spontaneous turns down paths, until I decided to call it quits for the day. Instead of rewarding myself with £6 ice cream, I treated myself to a stop at the Ice Cream Van parked right outside of the Garden gates. Ahh…how a simple vanilla cornet with a flake can be so satisfying. I’ve learned that the trick is to gently push the ice cream down to the bottom of the cone just enough to achieve a perfect balance of cone and cream at the end. And the only way to practice is to have more ice cream! Oh, darn….. ::)

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Sunday’s Photo Journal of Canterbury

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Cammie’s Tips on Canterbury:

Definitely go! You’ll be glad you did! It’s nice to get away from the rushed, urban sprawl of London and escape to a confined Ye Olde English setting…but tops, spend 6 hours there. Canterbury is the perfect destination for a DAY TRIP. My friend, Alice, and I took the train from St. Pancras to Canterbury Stations in about 1 h 30 min.

Eat at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom! Adorably decorated, wonderful food, piano serenades, and ghosts galore – though we were warned to not disturb them from their sleep!

Do the Canterbury Tales Tour. I usually don’t like partaking in extremely “touristy” experiences, but this is a must for all English nerds especially…and everyone else, too. An old cathedral, which was a real stop on the historic Pilgrim’s Walk to St. Becket’s Shrine, has been turned into a mini-“walk” through the Canterbury Tales, which is an amazingly funny and quite genius piece of literature written by Geoffrey Chaucer. You learn the story behind the Canterbury Tales, are told the tales of a few of the characters, and the staff/actors (who aren’t cheesy at all – they’re quite engaging and convincing) teach you historical facts about Canterbury along the way. For the price of £8, you are treated to a 45 minute tour of Canterbury’s (and one of England’s) most famous work of literature.

-Make sure to stop by the Canterbury Cathedral. Your jaw will drop at the size of it! It just keeps going and going, a bit like England itself!

 

 

Nothing is Rotten in the State of England

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You can tell from the amount of Sherlock episodes that I’ve watched in the past week that I am desperately trying to recreate the splendour of watching Benedict Cumberbatch perform in Hamlet last Wednesday at the Barbican Theatre.

I literally can’t talk about it without feeling replays of that night skitter across my heart.

Although the show apparently sold out in the first few hours of existence, I sleuthed my way into the Returns section online and was able to purchase a ticket that was in the very last row, but perfectly in the center (I’d like to argue – the best seat in the house!)

I last read Hamlet in my senior year of high school, but I was sure that it would come back to me like that (*virtual snap*).

The lights went down – I wiggled in my seat, unable to control my excitement – and then came the music. Was that a crackling record of Frank Sinatra? Benedict Cumberbatch starts right in with the “To be or not to be” speech. I had to second-guess myself for a moment. I was pretty sure that was not how Shakespeare began the play. But I loved it! Many of the critics rip on the play for it, but not I. It foreshadows the major themes of the play – the moralities of suicide, the uncertainty of the afterlife, and questions of existence –  and gives direct insight into the dark, complex mind of Hamlet from the get-go. It catches the audience unexpectedly – something that is difficult to do with a 400-year-old play that everyone has heard and read a thousand times over.

The director, Lyndsey Turner, is quite the master herself. Everything was stunning – the scenery (turquoise blue drawing room), the special effects, the choice of music (40s; Frank Sinatra), the choreography (the cast moved in slow-motion during Hamlet’s intense soliloquies), the choice to make Hamlet’s downfall into juvenile insanity include Benedict turning into a toy soldier. Bravo Lyndsey!

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The strangest thing I found with this play? There were quite a few moments of sheer laughter. Now, often in a tragic play, the playwright would include a fool or farcical characters to fart around a bit between serious scenes. This would keep the riffraff of the day interested and perhaps to create a bit of comic relief. But, intense conversations between the main characters weren’t supposed to be humorous. I believe that we can attribute that to Benedict, who was so perfect for this role -another brownie point for Lyndsey Turner for casting him. Hamlet is much like Sherlock, in the sense that he is brilliant, but a little removed from the social solar system. Benedict was able to manipulate his intonation to bring a bit of Sherlock into Hamlet. Sometimes, it was the tone of his voice that offered a chuckle, or just the complete madness of seeing him barge through the doors in a toy soldier outfit, waving his arms and drumsticks like a child. To be able to switch from ignorant and childish to brutal and murderous must be incredibly challenging, but Benedict sure did pull it off. He certainly has a way of making us empathize with people who are generally unlikeable, doesn’t he?

I walked home with a pep in my step, recreating the blue room with crystal-encrusted chandelier, the crackling record player, the playfulness of Hamlet’s inner childishness, the sorrow of watching Hamlet watch Ophelia’s burial, the haunting face of Hamlet’s father’s ghost as it peered out at the audience in the final moment of the play. This play was the thing…the thing that has put the cherry on top of a wonderful summer.

Flash Fiction Friday


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 Bird of Paradise

Careful! I scream as the creature pokes its beak above the stone pavement. The force of its head penetrating the ground causes a bit of a sticky pink splotch to appear. The loose strands of its feathers dribble away but are still attached like a drawn-on umbilical. It makes me think of that stubborn piece of gum which always seems to hold onto both your shoe and the earth with every fibre of its being. Some things like to be stretched to their breaking point.

Her foot is inches away from cracking its delicate conical mouth. She falters backwards and catches herself, just in time.

What is it? she asks.

I wonder how many other children have spoken these words. How many other children, entranced by the urban orchestra of clinking-clanking skyrises and zooming zeppelin city islands, have let their careless, unaware feet clumsily stomp on the wildlife below.

She repeats again, but I’m so far gone in my wonderings about the stability of this pavement, that it takes me a few moments to recall the name.

It’s a bird…a bird of paradise, I tell her – though the words feel wrong on my lips. Bird…the b is too violent. Like wings of an airplane crashing through glass. The ‘ir’ sounds of the engines, pumping life into the city. The ‘d’ is too finite. Like I’ve sent the friend request…by accident…and you’ve already seen it.

Is it real?  she says.

My heart quivers. They used to land on my parents’ porch. We’d hear their song drift through the open windows on a hot summer day – a reminder to bring the washing back inside. They were cartoons on our cereal boxes, they were the temporary tattoos we sloughed off in the bath.

It was, I tell her. I hadn’t thought about them for years. I thought they only existed Back Then.

So, what’s this one then? Her inquisitiveness challenges me once more.

I can’t quite say, but you can’t come back with a half-ass answer to a child. They know, they always know that you could have tried harder.

I get down on my knees to get a better look. Its eye dilates to a cloudy blue and swivels the pupil in direct line with my own. I nod in understanding.

To remind us of what paradise was. That it can still be. 

She seems to like that answer. She taps its beak gently. There, there, bird. We’ll take care, and she takes hold of my hand.

The roar of the Six O’Clock Sunbeam floods our ears with noise, but we’re okay. We have our hands in a little pocket of paradise.

 

Paris When It Sizzles

Cue the accordion music and drink in the view.

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Bonjour Paris! Last Friday, I took the day off of work so I could travel with my visiting parents and boyfriend to France for the weekend. I had been to Paris once before when I was five. I do have a good memory, but I don’t remember anything about the trip except for what was recorded on our un-digital camera. So, this was basically my “first real” trip to Paris, and I was so stoked!!!!!

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We took the Eurostar train from St. Pancras Station (St. Pancreas, I call it) to Gare du Nord in the heart of Paris.

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When we go to a big city, my family likes to use One Fine Stay to rent an apartment for the time, as it really does make you feel like you are a local. Our apartment was metres away from the Seine on the Quai des Celestins, and right across the river from Ile St. Louis.

via pinstopin.com

The first night we went on a walking explore of the Ile – mostly on a mad hunt for world-renowned Berthillon Ice Cream. I had a perfect pairing of chocolat noir et pistache. Next, we strolled over to the Ile de la Cité and made a loop inside Notre Dame Cathedral. There was a mass going on, so we had to be quiet (not that you would ever purposefully be noisy in a church). But wouldn’t it be quite disturbing to have a bunch of tourists shuffling around you while you were praying?

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I was the only one in my family to notice this gem of a saint

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The churches here are all so ancient and beautiful, it’s hard to resist the urge to go church-hopping. And so that’s exactly what we did. We walked onwards to Saint-Chappelle, a royal medieval Gothic cathedral, that may be even more wonderful than Notre Dame. Because it’s smaller (the best gifts come in small packages, right?), the saturation of the purple stained glass is stronger, and we all know how I love my colour purple.

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Beneath the glowing altar, we watched a spectacular chamber music concert of five strings and an opera soloist. The pieces varied from Ave Marias to a few classical pieces  that I’ve played over my years as a violinist (including Meditation de Thaïs and Praeludium). If you can see a concert while in Paris and even London, my suggestion is to see it in a church. There’s nothing like stained-glass acoustics that make the rich sound of strings sing.

I already feel like I could stay in this city forever. It truly is such a romantic, slow-down-and-enjoy-life kind of place. I snapped this photo right at sunset. I think it encapsulates all feelings of joy and contentment perfectly and describes it in that universal language that only a photo can communicate.

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Saturday Photo Journal: 

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Today, Trey and I took the day to explore Paris by ourselves. We started at the Jardins du Luxembourg, where Parisians were TaiChi-ing, sunbathing, and racing sailboats in the pond.

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With my hard-earned baguette

After about 3 miles of searching for Shakespeare and Co (the bookshop that I knew I couldn’t leave Paris without seeing!) in the sweltering heat and unfortunately no luck, we took our increasingly sweating selves back to Ile St. Louis to buy some supplies for lunch. I have a very basic vocabulary of French (basic as in a few key words), but I wanted to try my best. We started at the supermarché for grapes. “Zak de.raisins, s’il vous plait.” And a bag of the  largest green globes I’ve ever seen did we receive. YES! Success!

Next to the fromagerie. On the wall before us were lovely-looking cheeses, but we had no idea what kinds they were. The only familiar cheese was gouda. Delicious, yes, but I wasn’t about to eat Dutch cheese in France (even if it is Dutch, my favourite!) The friendly shopkeeper smiled and pulled down a small slab of the cheese he probably gives all his ignorant American customers. He gave us each a thin slice to taste. It tasted great – after all, we’re not cheese connoisseurs. We bought a small bit, but I still had no idea what kind of cheese it was. But how to ask? The only languages that were coming to mind was a strange mix between Dutch and Spanish. What came out was…”nom de fromage?” The man understood my lame request and wrote down the name on the package. It turned out that the cheese was Tomme d’Auvergne for anyone in the know.

The last ingredient for our picnic! Le pain (bread)! That was pretty easy. I walked into the bread shop and said, “Un baguette, s’il vous plait!” “Merci beaucoup!”

We took our picnic supplies to the riverside and sat like locals, enjoying the shade, the sound of the water, the French language spoken around us, and of course, the heavy waftage of cigarette smoke (though enjoy may be the wrong word for the latter).

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As you can see, we finally happened upon Shakespeare and Co when we walked from the opposite direction. We realized that it had been hidden by bushes and flora on our first time past it. If you love books, YOU NEED TO GO TO HERE!!!!! Each room feels like you are exploring an enchanted attic that has been curated just for you (a little a la Book Thief).  And there’s a live kitty – though he was very much asleep when I found him.

Onwards Trey and I strolled until we arrived at the Musee D’Orsay, which specializes in Impressionist Paintings (my favorite!) I think I enjoy impressionism because it emphasizes capturing fleeting moments – which is exactly what I try to do with words. I also caught myself getting very philosophical in the museum, as I noticed the different styles and brushstrokes of the painters. This blue line right here could have just as easily been a harsh line or perhaps a green line. I’m fascinated by the decisions that the painters make, because it reminds me of language and how writers must choose which word they would like to place in a certain spot on the line. And most of the time, it happens sub-consciously! Despite the hustle-bustle of the tourists, I find that museums are a calming, quiet place where you can think and wonder inside your own mind without worrying about talking it out with people. You can share this moment with the painting, really stare into its soul, and question it freely.

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The photogenic clock inside the Musee which looks out onto the even more photogenic Sacre Coeur.

Intermission: a brief snooze in the greenery between Les Invalides and the Grand Palais.

And then…the creme de la creme. To the top of La Tour Eiffel! An engineering masterpiece that never ceases to be entertaining to photograph.

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We went around 8:30, which was perfect because when we finally got to the top, sunset was happening and then the city’s lights flickered on. So we were treated to The Iron Lady in all her finest times of the day.

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I talked my family into walking down the 1,000+ steps which allowed for some really interesting internal structure shots.

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Sunday Highlights: 

-started at the Louvre

-walked to Chartier, a “working-man’s cafe” – not particularly good food, but a fun environment and quick

-strolled along to Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur.

-rode the Metropolitain (not quite as nice and sophisticated as the Tube in London! I’m becoming an underground snob, as you can see!) IMG_3205

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Love Montmartre Street Art
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A tile wall of “I Love You” written in hundreds of languages

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If anything, this trip to Paris has made me believe that the writers’ movement as seen in the film “Midnight in Paris” needs to be revived. Paris is a place you should always keep in your heart, in case you ever need a bit of extra love. It’s beauty, it’s poetry, it’s art, it’s history, it’s life being lived to the fullest.