Getting Personal: Paris is for lovers

It was a sunny afternoon in April 2015. My train had just arrived in Paris Gare du Nord, and I was so excited to finally see my Parisian boyfriend again. We had both been counting down the days for several weeks. We had Skyped, WhatsApped, texted, shed a whole lot of tears and felt the blues while we were waiting for April 15th to come along.

Norway is my country of origin. However, it’s been a while since I could call Norway my home. I’ve always traveled a lot and changed my place to call home whenever I got sick of the current location and lifestyle – or climate, for that matter. I have lived in the UK and the US, and I couldn’t stand the thought of moving back to my hometown in Norway after a fun year in Florida. So I traveled. To Poland. To Czech Republic. And it was in Prague which I had spent four amazing days with the man who ended up becoming my boyfriend. We had talked online for several months while I lived in the US, and we finally met in the romantic capital of the Czech Republic. This man was my soul mate. I felt it. And I was willing to take a risk for him. I was willing to move to Paris, so that we could be together.

I had been to Paris before. Briefly. In 2013 I had seen the Eiffeltower, eaten at touristy restaurants, seen the Louvre without entering the museum and seen the Notre-Dame. I remember falling in love with the city, mostly because of the lovely pastel macarons, delicious tarts and warm, buttery croissants. I was in love with the smell of crêpes and the taste of good fruity red wines. The small Parisian apartments in the Hausmannian buildings with their little balconies – often beautifully decorated with flowers – had become my biggest day dream. I wanted to live there. I wanted to be one of those people who were sipping espresso and eating jam on toast on the balcony while watching people pass by on the streets below. And I don’t even like espresso or jam on toast. I still wanted to be one of those people.

Moving to Paris was a whole different experience than what I had imagined it to be. My boyfriend took me to his apartment. My new home. It was not in the centre of Paris, but in the southern suburbs of the city. No Hausmannian building, but a yellow four storey brick. Not quite the idea I had in mind. At least the inside of the apartment was neat and modern. And the person living there was the man of my dreams. Which was a lot more important than the architectural style of the building I was moving in to.

Little did I know how much of an emotional roller coaster this would be, this new life in France. I took French lessons, made friends, lost friends, learned the language, got lost in translation, learned the local costums, made a fool of myself several times, laughed, cried as I’ve fallen in and out of love with Paris. And back in love again. And so it goes, on and on. All my friends in Paris are expatriates, like myself. We all share the same story. Boy meets girl, girl moves to Paris to live with boy. We all complain about the same things. About how Parisian girls won’t even give us the time of day so we’re just stuck with other expats. About how French bureacracy is a pain in the butt. About how going on strike seems to be the national sport here. And last but not least, how much we miss our traditions from home. France is not really a country of traditions. It’s a country rich in culture, but not traditions. Who would have known I’d miss my Norwegian holiday traditions as much as I do now?

Thanks to LinkedIn, I got headhunted for a teaching position in Paris. I now teach Norwegian to French students who are planning to expatriate to Norway. I teach them not only my language, but also about the traditions, the culture and the Norwegian gastronomy. The things I hold dear and miss the most when I’m away from the place I used to call home.

I still don’t call Paris my home. Paris is still my roller coaster ride. And only time will tell if the roller coaster ever stops, or if I’ll eventually evacuate – together with the love of my life.

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Guest blogger: Brittany Hayward. Adventures in Perth, Australia

Sitting on a cramped bus, in the middle of the Western Australian desert made me re-think downing over 3L of “daily-recommended” water.
Being miles from anywhere led roommates Jose, Vicky and I to the truest of Aussie landscapes; the big and barren WA. Home to white beaches, optional foot attire and the world’s most isolated city.
After an exhausting 4-hour flight we hit the Sheralee Hostel in Perth. Practically an ancient ruin, the place challenged the boundaries of cleanliness. Our evening stay was accompanied by a dead cockroach, a bloody kitchen brawl of Irishman, and a Chinese man determined to catch the mouse inhabiting our room.
Waking up to our neighbors alarm an hour earlier then needed, we were ready to catch our tour leaving for the far north. Leaving the dust mites and grime behind us we boarded the 20 person bus jammed pack with tourists mostly from Europe.
Led by “Bachelor Bob” (coined due to the lack of wedding ring), Bob both guided and drove
the diverse crew up the coast. Stopping at places like the Pinnacle Desert, white sandy beaches and the Wildlife Park where Jose taught a multicoloured finch how to dance. Apparently Spaniards have a way with the wildlife.
Kilometre after another, we continued on towards Kalgone National Park. When entering I obeyed the instructions by keeping hydrated for the remainder of time hiking. The views of the rocky red terrain were one of a kind and my camera couldn’t get enough. By the end of the day we made it to Monkey Mia, but before our glorious arrival we made a much need “pee-pee” break at the Billabong Roadhouse.
Word of the wise: keep water consumption to a minimum when stopping at 3-hour increments.
We capped the day with a sunset over the Indian Ocean, and a bobbing turtle
wishing us goodnight. Getting an early start to the day we watched bottlenose dolphins swim up to shallow beach, followed by a morning of sailing at Shark Bay.
Growing closer with our fellow travelers we headed to lookouts at Shell Beach, Hamelin pools and Eagles Bluff. Our final overnight stay was a farm reserve, miles from civilization and cell phone reception. Luckily the stench of our barn accommodation didn’t bother us too much.
With only a day ahead of us we concluded the tour with sandboarding, peeing in the outback and bowing down to HRH Prince Leonard of Hutt River Principality. Hutt River is an independent state succeeding Australian rules and laws. It’s hard to imagine, but getting a stamp in our passports was definitely the biggest highlight!
The drive back to Perth was long and tiring, but left lingering views of open paddocks, grazing kangaroos and running emus. After this trip, I can confidently wash my pee down the toilet, tolerate the extent of greasiness, speak beginner Spanish, and answer all of life’s questions with She’s the Man quotes. Western Australia is forgotten and desolate, but full of hidden gems.
The 4-day tour was a blur, but I’ve got a lifetime of knowledge.
Follow Brittany’s blog and let her interesting stories and gorgeous photos take you on a wonderful journey around the world!
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Barcelona: Lost in Wonderland

There I was. Barcelona.

La Rambla was as busy as it was rumored to be. Tourists, souvenir sellers, taxis, locals. So much noise. So much life. I watched and listened with curiosity.

I love Spain. The Spanish language is beautiful, the people are friendly – and who doesn’t like sunshine, tapas and sangria? But there’s more to Barcelona than just that. And my trip to this gorgeous city was unlike any experience I’ve ever had.

Park Güell and its colorful mosaic. One of my definite highlights. This is one of the major works by architect Gaudi, the man behind the beautiful basilica Sagrada Familia and many other fantastic buildings in the city of Barcelona. He put his magic touch on the city back then, so that you and I can admire these fairytalesque buildings today.

Speaking of fairy tales. I came to Barcelona first and foremost for a writing retreat hosted by Pink Pangea. But the retreat became more of a soul-searching experience than anything else. I met these wonderful women of all ages. We laughed together, we cried together, we shared. Oh, how we shared. By sharing my deepest thoughts and most personal stories, not only did I reach out to these women, but I reached inside of my heart and opened it for the world to see.

I had the time of my life with these women. We got lost multiple times, though. We visited the crowded Mercado de la Boqueria. We photographed, tasted dried fruits and caramelized nuts and we got separated from the crowd. Me and a fellow blogger from the retreat. It was easy to lose track in Barcelona. Track of time. Track of people. Track of sanity. We went to the beach right before midnight. Into the water. Wet dress. Sand everywhere. Smiling from ear to ear. Like children. And again, during a walking tour, we got separated from the crowd and ended up walking elsewhere and had a lot of fun doing it. Like children.

One day I got up early to catch a glimpse of the sunrise and enjoy the streets during the silent hours. The only people who were out at the time, were the street sweepers and the people who hadn’t made it back to the hotel after the night before. It was a different Barcelona. The city I had learned to know would wake up in a couple of hours.

I loved the silence of that morning. Back home, silence is a sign of boredom. I crave the energy and the childish spontaneity I had back in Barcelona. Gaudi’s world. Wonderland, where me and my fellow writers were all Alice.

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Park Güell

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The things you discover when getting lost

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The market

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Some of the works of Gaudi

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One of his most famous buildings: Sagrada Familia

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The morning I got up earlier than everyone else

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Tapa. Pimientos del Padron.

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