Sunday, 20 July 2014

Welcome Home!

Well, well, well, friends (and family? Yeah right! They don't even read this, hahaha!), I've officially landed back on Canadian soil. I've been back home since the end of May. "Home" (as a metaphor) has become transient to me. My actual physical home (a flat/apartment in London, Ontario, Canada), is less so. My family has lived in the same complex for 28 years. As I've wandered to and fro, I've always come back to our safe, relatively quiet and beautiful nook in the city. I love the trees (coniferous and deciduous) that envelope the buildings. I love that my childhood literally happened outside my front door. However, I detest that it encapsulates many memories of my mother. Similarly, I loathe that it's the place where Habibi sang Melhem Zein's "La Tcheki Fiyi" to me when we were dating. I hate the memories that haunt my 28-year-old home.

Coming home to Canada has become painfully difficult because I'm slowly discovering that it's not where I want to call home and the thought scares me. Where else could I possibly call home??? Ironic isn't it, coming from me who calls every place she's lived "home"? My home is a little flat in Ōta-shi, Gunma-ken where stray cats would hang out. It's a basement apartment on the perimeter of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada), oh, so close to wild blackberry bushes. It's even a beautiful apartment on Capitol Hill that has stunning baby pink and dark purple poppies growing in the front garden. Shockingly, it's even the flat in Mahboula that housed my first two awesome roommates!!!

"Home" will be temporary now. It can't be one single location and this fear of calling only one place home was one of the reasons I, once upon a time, walked away from having a relationship with a wonderful man. His home could never be mine, and as much as I cared for him, I knew it would cause more heartache than he deserved. This halfie won't remain in Canada forever.

So, as you may have noticed, I changed the title of the blog. The old title no longer held any truth. I will still blog about food (as often as I can, in fact!), and I will be giving an account of my business journey!!! I have started not one, but TWO businesses! Yes, I like to bite off more than I can chew, hahaha! I will unveil them in the next post or two. For now, I want to say, "Hello, Canada!" It's been good to be back home in spite of the stress and unwelcome memories. At this point, my friends and family have been the BEST welcome home present! I went to Ottawa and to my family's cottage on Little Crotch Lake again during Canada day long weekend (and for the remainder of the week and following weekend). I reunited with an old colleague from UVic and it was so uplifting! Ted Hughes' #1 fan is such an amazing person and we chatted for hours! I didn't want to say "good-bye". I've missed his wittiness, his brilliance and why I loved him so much. Dear Ted Hughes' #1 fan, thank you very much for taking the time to meet me. Please thank your gf for letting me steal for as long as I did! Can't wait to see you again!

Oh, Canada, my home and native land, you are home to so many incredible people in my life...And for now, you are my home, sweet home.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Paris: Unreal & Surreal

Sincerest apologies for not blogging in ages! I've been home since the end of May, but with re-settling (unpacking, cleaning, organizing), re-connecting with friends and family and starting two new businesses while simultaneously continuing to grow my existing editing business (I'm in the throws of editing an amazing novel!!!), purchasing a new vehicle (and all that that entails: insurance, getting new plates and, um, learning how to drive it...Yeah, it's standard), and planning a wedding (not, not mine, but my best friend's), life has been hectic. However, before I get into all the new news in Canada, let me recall the last bit of my trip in Paris.

Paris's historical elements are one of it's charms. This was a feature of Japanese culture that always made me experience awe and a sense of wonder: visiting a spot where people and monuments/structures/natural elements that were all extraordinary at a time preceded my journey by hundreds to thousands of years. Who am I? I'm one person, and let's face it, most days I feel insignificant. To know that I've simply existed where something historically significant has occurred feels unreal. In Japan this happened all the time, but one of the most inspirational was Tōshōgū Shrine in Nikkō.

I studied both Asian and European history courses in University. I took so many history courses that I could have completed a second undergraduate degree in history in less than one academic year, lol! My love of the history inspired appreciation for what I saw. I could have traversed the streets (Ernest) Hemingway or the Fitzgeralds (F. Scott and Zelda) had! Maybe I was seeing the same sights that (Pablo) Picasso or (Salvador) Dali had! My travelling companion really wanted to see the L'Espace Dali (the permanent Dali museum in Montmartre). So early one morning after coffee, croissants and quiche (yes, I know it's a stereotypical French breakfast, but when in Rome...), we made our way to the museum. As we entered, we were followed by a swarm of school children. In spite of my love for kids, I didn't want to deal with the noise or bodies of 30+ children, so we returned the next morning. It was...Incredible. I know Dali is a name most people know, but I didn't know much about him or his art. I read the large information panel outlining Dali's background (both biographical and artistic) and slowly made my way around the museum. I was so interested in the work he was doing that I wandered around, getting carried away with it all. By the time I finished I felt incredibly overwhelmed and curious: is anyone out there creating visual art in a revolutionary way? I feel like art (be it musical, literary and visual) is dying. Too cynical? I digress. Here are some of the incredible things I saw:

 The entrance to the Dali museum
The separate entrance to the gift shop. I love the clock!

 This was one of my favourite. I'm not even sure why, but I was drawn to it.

 This collection was amazing!
 Love the pout, but I was extremely curious as to whether this was comfortable to sit on (of course, it's not permitted).
 The shadow that this sculpture cast was so cool!
 The artistic movement: Surrealism.
I felt like she was just going to up and float away from it all. Haven't we all wanted to at some point?

The L'Espace Dali was great! I didn't stop there though. Obviously, I had to just make a "quick" stop by the Louvre. Holy ka-moly! It's huge! There was no way I could have seen everything in ONE day. I limited my time to half a day. The grounds alone were reason enough to visit. However, I thought it might be worth checking out that insignificant painting that a friend told me see: the Mona Lisa. *wink-wink*. I was told it's not large, so not to have unrealistic expectations. The room where the Mona Lisa is encased isn't large either, so I squished myself into the space and waited at the back of a large crowd standing tip-toe to try and see the masterpiece. People slowly cleared and I was able to come face-to-face with a painting that's both unwavering in its fame and shrouded in mystery. Of course, she's beautiful. She's clearly loved by many. This wasn't taken by me, but it's one of my favourite photographs of the Mona Lisa (photo credit to Catherine Karnow, via National Geographic: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/photo-tips-icons/#/crowd-louvre-paris-karnow_60362_600x450.jpg).

Although you don't actually see the Mona Lisa. I think you can probably guess what people are crowding to see :)

My shots of the Louvre: Outside





The Louvre: Inside
LOVE these paintings by Italian painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Summer (2), 1573.
Mona Lisa behind glass with reflections of the crowd.
 The crowd.
 I can't remember which ceiling this is, but it's beautiful!!!
 Sketches and paintings of Baroque architecture. I LOVE BAROQUE!!!
The chamber of royalty
 A different perspective of the pyramid.
This was the last view I had of the Louvre. At this point I hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower. I kinda felt like Carrie in the HBO series, SATC where she sees the Eiffel Tower, but it's always from afar.

I wish I'd gone back to the Louvre for a second time. The first time we went, a really kind married couple (I think American), accidentally purchased four tickets instead of two and gave us two entrance tickets! It was very kind of them. We were simply the next people in line behind them and they kindly gave us the tickets!!! I loved the architecture of the actual museum and it made me want to go to Versailles EVEN MORE! Unfortunately, while I was in Paris, the workers went on strike for the entirety of my trip and so I was unable to see the palace that I've been waiting eons to see...Alas, it will have to wait until my next visit to France. I think the next time I go to France I'll go into the south or countryside. I loved Paris to be sure, but I wished I could have seen the rural areas, eaten more cheese and drank more wine. Regardless, France was one of the most amazing places I've ever been. It's no surprise that it's the most visited country in the world, that is, according to Inernational Business Times (http://www.ibtimes.com/10-most-visited-countries-world-1253315). If you haven't gone, go. If you can't afford it, save. Do it. Now. You'll fall in love in love with everything the country has to offer.

Additional Photos:

Food
Mmmm, French onion soup!!!


I ate this on cooler day to get warm. It was awesome!
 This French onion soup was so hearty I was full before my meal got to me!
 I made it my mission to eat every popular French dessert I could. Here are a few I actually took photos of (lemon tarte and mille feuillecrème brûlée, and below, a "floating island" which is a meringue floating on crème anglaise). I should also mention that I ate macaroons, éclairs, a baked apple-pictured below the floating island, a strawberry tarte and, although not a dessert, chocolate croissants (as well as butter croissants). 

A floating island
 Baked apple with caramel sauce-delicious!
 Duck confit-the meal that came AFTER the hearty French onion soup and before the floating island...I HAD to walk that off even though we were a bit tipsy, lol!

Last photo: a funny that I saw while walking the streets of Paris. I couldn't stop laughing at the signs and the fact that they're next door to each other:

I know this is in France, but I really want to submit this to http://www.engrish.com/. If you need a laugh, go check it out!

Sorry for the long wait for this last installment of France. I think part of me is still in denial that it's over. Part of me still feels like it didn't happen at all because I'd dreamt of going there all of my life, so much so that I'm still in shock that I actually went, hahaha! I don't even want to end this blog post... *sigh*  Back to reality, folks! BIG hugs and lots of love from Canada. I think I need to change the title of my blog, eh? If anyone has any suggestions, please comment below :)