Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur Sacre-Coeur Sacre-Coeur

Yesterday after school I hopped on the–now not so scary–Paris Metro and made my way to Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur.

For some who appreciate architecture, it’s a magnificent building. For others who appreciate city vistas, it’s a great vantage point to see the Parisian skyline. For still others, it’s a place to worship The Lord.

For me, it’s a combination of all three, despite the fact that I am not Roman Catholic. I took the number 12 metro and disembarked at Abbesses and ambled up the streets. This route is easier because the road follows the path of least resistance through the city and up to the summit rather than fight the crowds and climb the almost innumerable steps if you take the number 2 metro to Anvers. (I will, however, say it’s not an easy walk, do it in sensible shoes!)

I came up around the side of Sacre-Coeur and was immediately struck by the imposing basilica. I felt the expected lump in my throat, took some pictures and ambled around to the front of the cathedral. I had heard that you could take lovely photos of Paris from up there but I was not prepared for that view! If you are ever in Paris and you don’t visit Sacre-Coeur, it’s a big mistake, regardless of your religious persuasions. The architecture in itself is truly breathtaking.

125 Years

I saw this banner at the front of the cathedral and without even thinking, I climbed the stairs and sat down inside. I was in time for 15h00 mass which only happens on a Friday.
Of course, as I sat down I started to cry almost immediately, so taken aback was I at the sheer magnificence of that cathedral. I had just about pulled myself together when the nuns came into the cathedral. They were seated and one of them got up to sing. Well, suffice it to say the waterworks started afresh.
The acoustics in that building are some of the very best and she sounded as beautiful as any soprano I have ever heard. I am going to run out of superlatives when I try and describe the utterly astonishing and angelic beauty that filled that cathedral when all the nuns started to sing together. There were only eight of them but it sounded like the voices of eight thousand angels!
I sat and listened to the service, understood precious little, said a prayer, made a small donation for the pleasure of hearing those nuns sing and made my way outside. I’m not catholic so I didn’t take the sacrament.
I was a little disappointed that they don’t allow photographs inside because nothing I can say will ever be able to do that cathedral justice, but I can completely understand, who takes photos in church?!

It was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was so beautiful, I am going to go back. Next time I’ll stop and have my picture drawn by one of the artists. It’ll be a nice souvenir of my time there.

Thank you for reading.

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Le Tour Eiffel

View of the Eiffel from Trocérdo
View of the Eiffel from Trocadéro

The Eiffel tower is both a happy and a sad memory for me.
The first time I visited the Eiffel, I sat directly underneath it, on the bench and realised my marriage was over. Part of my return to Paris, other than to learn French, is to reclaim the part of me that I felt I lost all that time ago. I came to get my heart back.

I took the Metro from Opéra to Trocadéro because it’s from there that you get really beautiful pictures of the Eiffel. I stood and stared for a while and as the expected tears pricked at my eyes, I realised they were not tears of wonderment and sadness, rather this time they were tears, purely, of wonderment.

If you have not had the fortune of visiting the Eiffel I can tell you that there are few things like it in the world and though I have not seen a lot of the world I would hazard a guess that it’s akin to seeing the Taj Mahal, the pyramids at Giza or the Statue of Liberty.
So magnificent is the Eiffel that it literally takes my breath away. Seeing it again, on my own, really brings home the realisation of how far I have travelled, literally and metaphorically. I have not come ‘full circle’. I have gone 180 degrees in the other direction.
I am, at long last, at peace with the demons of my past, I am at peace with my choices and I am at peace with the path I have walked, the people I have loved and lost along the way and the people who did not care enough for my love to want to keep it.
I am where I am today because of the choices I’ve made, the hardships I’ve suffered and the amazing friends and family I have been blessed with.

I have said it before and I will say it again. There comes a time in every person’s life when you realise that you need to put things down simply because they are heavy and it is exhausting carrying baggage around with you that you no longer need.

I forgive those kids at school who bullied me. I forgive my ex-husband’s family for their treatment of me. I forgive the friends who gave up on me. I forgive the members of my family who don’t treat me like part of the family.
I have been carrying this baggage with me for so long and I am tired. I am tired of looking back and I am tired of undervaluing myself because others do.

If there was one thing I could say to my childhood self, I’d tell her that; It’s never as bad as you think it is in the moment and though things may not ever seem ok, you get stronger and more adept at dealing with them. You also need the bad to value and appreciate the good in your life because there will be A LOT of good!

I am holding my heart in the palm of my hand and it’s up to me who I choose to give it to. I got hurt in the past because of who I chose to give my heart to. I was 50% responsible for my heart getting broken in the first place.

This time, I will choose wisely. I will choose the man who treats me like I am different from everyone else, who loves me and appreciates me for who I am. The man who sees my over-sized and overly soft heart as a positive not a negative, who holds my hand when I cry in the movies or while listening to a song. The man who sees how much I care and not only acknowledges it but understands it at his core. The man who truly gets my quirky nature and loves me because of it and not in spite of it. The man who is waiting for me to fetch my heart and return to him.

This time I make the good choice, not the choice I am expected to make or the choice my heart tells me to make. This time I use my heart and my head and make the choice that is right for me.

Respect the people who love you and make the right choice, not the easy choice, in 2014. Making the right choice will ensure that at your core, you are content. Let the happiness you construct be so sound in it’s design that it is like the Eiffel, which only sways six inches in heavy winds.

Thank you for reading.

The Slightly Braver Traveller…

Well! I got lost again today en route to school. Only an idiot, I know! Well I tried getting there by site only today and like I said before, everything looks the same! Was minor and at least I didn’t get lost on the metro! In fact, I embarked upon a solo mission to Galeries laFayette!

Wow, is all I can say. I knew from what friends have told me, that it is amazing but there really is nothing anyone can say to prepare you for the moment you actually walk into the place from the Metro (handy thing that, a metro stop that takes you to the doorstep!)
The magnificence of the atrium is truly awe inspiring but it cannot compare to the utterly astounding collection of shoes!
Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dior, Burberry, Yves St Laurent, Melissa, Ugg… the list is almost endless. I did a silly little internal girl dance and just stood for a second!

The atrium
The atrium

The seemingly endless choice is really what gets your attention. There is just so much to look at. Almost every brand name you can think of and some you didn’t know existed.

My favourite place, however in that entire centre was the Louis Vuitton shop! I have never seen so many different kinds and in so many truly gorgeous colours!

Just look at all the pretty colours!
Just look at all the pretty colours!

I managed to sneak a photo but the guy next to me who was being more obvious about it got a stern talking to by the security guard. I was not about to go clicking away like the common tourist I am and risk that dressing down, so sadly, there are precious few photos.

No matter, there will be more photos of touristy–and hopefully not so touristy things–in the days to come.

Though Galeries laFayette was certainly one of the shopping world’s seven wonders, nothing could prepare me for the wonder that I was to encounter upon getting home!

My hostess has two granddaughters and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. I don’t want kids. However, if I were to have one, that kid would have to be FRENCH!

I have had the alphabet song, numbers in English and French, sung to me–simultaneously I might add–at the dinner table, repeatedly. I tried to keep up. Futile!

Emma is 7 and Noemmie is 3 (No-emmi ‘No’ pronounced like the French ‘Non’). Noemmie is one of the cutest and most delightful children I think I have ever met. Emma is older and therefore more reserved and cautious but once they realised they had a captive audience and more than that, could teach me something, they blossomed as only children can do! I have had some of the most fun I’ve ever had with kids in the last 3 hours over dinner. What a wonderful way to practice speaking and get pronunciation right! At one point I almost had tears running down my face as Noemmie was almost yelling: Jamias! Jamais! Jamais! (Never! Never! Never!) when told to eat her dessert, which had Fabienne responding to her in a litany of french phrases the only word of which I caught–because it was repeated so often during the dialogue–was fatigue (of course pronounced the french way: fat-ie-geh!) I was trying really hard not to laugh at the antics because when a child sees that it just entices them and I was not about to be responsible for creating havoc, albeit some of the most endearing havoc at that. Unlike a lot of children who simply misbehave because they get their way, Emma and Noemmie were quick to respond to Fabienne’s instructions to sit down, be quiet and finish up. They certainly know their place, like all well mannered children should do. This is probably one of the principle reasons I like them. Tonight was by far the most entertaining dinner in my four nights here!

Until next time, I have homework to do!

Thank you for reading.

Things I’ve Learned Thus Far…

View from the balcony of my temporary Parisian home.
View from the balcony of my temporary Parisian home.

So, after being in Paris for just on 3 days, I have already discovered a few things:

1) I am NOT a natural adventurer
2) I don’t have as impressive a sense of direction as I would have liked to believe
3) Lost children are taken VERY seriously in Levallois
4) The metro can be a scary place for a non-adventurer such as myself but it’s not unconquerable either
5) Doors that open from inside onto balconies don’t necessarily open from the outside of said balcony

I have never been the type of person who took to adventure like the proverbial duck to water. I am a planner and need a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen (both good and bad) should I undertake any kind of adventure. I am much more at home piggy-backing on a friend’s fearlessness in this regard. Strength in numbers and all that.

Reminds me of a saying: I love spontaneity as long as it’s well planned.

I am cautious by nature but I do make decisions very quickly, which can appear as spontaneity to onlookers. I get too wrapped up in the detail to throw caution to the wind, after all, caution is there for preservation! However, one does not want to be over cautious as this can be as costly as hasty decision making.
I am a true INFJ and this trait is common–the need for guidelines and planning–in an exceedingly high percentage of us.

In Paris, most buildings look exactly the same! It is particularly easy to get lost here and were it that I had a good sense of direction, this would in all likelihood not be as nerve wracking to me as it is.
I got on the metro solo for the first time today and it went well. I changed lines and voila! I was outside the Starbucks that was a landmark for me when my host and I practised the route yesterday. (Just as well!)
It was when I was walking to the school that I got turned around. I had a teeny moment of panic before I took a breath and whipped out the iPhone and turned on the map – which works here with GPS only. Found my way within minutes and arrived on time. Victory!

Being lost brings me to my next point.

Upon returning from the market, my host and I happened upon a small scene outside a café. A young child being spoken to by a very elegant silver haired women, another woman on the phone and yet another woman barking orders and pointing at things. Peculiar? Indeed. This was all being witnessed by woman number 2’s husband and a child he was holding. No sooner had I turned my head, as Fabienne–my lovely hostess–started to translate for me, did I see a policeman running at breakneck speed, in our direction. We quickly moved out of the way as he passed us. Fabienne then told me that the child being spoken to by the silver-haired woman was without parents–presumably lost–and the woman on the phone was speaking with the police of Levallois. That is one mighty quick response time! Children in distress, most especially, are taken very seriously by the police here. Fabienne told me there was no doubt he would be reunited with his parents before long. I was well impressed by how complete strangers were immediately concerned with the boy and his welfare. Cue warm and fuzzies.

Speaking of lost children, this is almost how I felt when I was returning from my first lesson at L’Atelier 9 this afternoon!
I again got turned around but on the metro this time. Second guessed my initial decision and found myself heading in the opposite direction of home. Did not panic, changed direction easily enough and was soon headed home.

This victory however, was to be short lived.

I returned to my home in Levallois and had lunch. I decided to step outside on the balcony to take some pictures of the view for show and tell. Tried to open the door to the balcony and realised, you cannot do so from outside!
Epic fail!
The time was 15h30 and Fabienne is scheduled to be back tonight at 19h30. I was in for an abysmal four hour wait.
Fast forward 10 minutes and a couple of messages to my mom and Mr M to tell them of my latest folly and after a quick prayer, the little voice in my head told me to try the window. Low and behold, you can open it from the outside!

I am finally proving to myself what I know on a cerebral level – that I can do almost anything. In the end there is very little to fear and sometimes that fear is what you need to stare down, if for no other reason than to prove to yourself just how resilient and resourceful you are. It’s an affirmation that is long overdue.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is; If I can do it, anyone can do it and there is nothing stopping you. Forget the reasons why it won’t work or why you cannot do it and throw–a measure of–caution to the wind and see what happens. You will end up being surprised in ways you never thought possible and the potential pitfalls are far less serious than you make them out to be. Add to that the great sense of accomplishment you feel and you’ll be more eager to do it again and again until you’re really not afraid anymore.

Maintenant, il est temps pour une verre du bordeaux française! 

IMG_1327

Until next time, thank you for reading!

Bonjour Paris!

I arrived safely in Paris yesterday and found my host family easily. Stress gone!

My hostess is a wonderfully animated and accommodating woman who showed me around the neighbourhood last night–after 24 hours of travelling–it’s fair to say I was exhausted last night.

I am staying in Levallois-Perret which is just outside the 20 arrondissements of Paris. I go to language school on Monday in the 9th arrondissement, which is about 25 minutes journey from my new home.

I have scouted out a green grocer, butcher and a bakery in the nearby vicinity as well as So Ouest, a mall with everything one could need close to home.

Today we go and purchase my 1 month metro pass and then, it’s off to the Musée du Louvre!

More exciting photos and discoveries to follow!

The New Chapter

paris_france_panorama_cardaf-600

My Paris visa has been granted, I have paid for my tuition and my accommodation. I have purchased my forex. I am officially on my way. What has been a year in the making is finally coming to fruition. I should be more excited. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited but I’m also nervous. I’ve never done anything of this magnitude before and that scares me a little. I have recently come to the realisation that this is a very good thing! It means I am moving out of my comfort zone–you know, that place where dreams go to die–and I am harnessing my talents and putting to good use my resources. I am on what even now feels like the cusp of a life changing event.

For anyone, this is big. It may not be big like changing a country’s constitution or orchestrating a merger between two blue chip companies but this is big for me. Too long I have been sitting on the sidelines watching other people achieve greatness. I am not saying that I will achieve greatness necessarily but I will achieve greatness in my life. This is big, for me.

I have spoken before of my–I would not say crippling or debilitating but suffice it to say they are big–self doubt and insecurity issues and how they have prevented me from doing things I was afraid I would not be very good at. I have been working on these issues for the last two years and this is the first big  thing, since my new approach to myself, that I’ve put into motion that is really going to challenge me.

I have never lived outside of South Africa like so many of my peers have. I have quit my job to be able to undertake this great adventure and have given up my apartment. So technically I’m homeless and unsettling as this has been I have been able to recognise that this is a means to an end and that it does not serve me to get too wrapped up in the loss of some security. Being the person I am, security in my life is a big thing. Giving up some of this security has also been liberating. It has also been exhilarating and for the first time in what feels like a long time, I am excited.

I am excited to see and experience and do new things, learn a new language and embrace all the beauty that Paris and the French culture has to offer! In less than a month I will be living my dream and that is something very few people get to do and for that I am thankful. I am also thankful for every person who has supported me in my decision to do this, who helped me believe in myself and who gave me the courage to take the leap.

Thank you for reading.

The New Chapter

paris_france_panorama_cardaf-600

My Paris visa has been granted, I have paid for my tuition and my accommodation. I have purchased my forex. I am officially on my way. What has been a year in the making is finally coming to fruition. I should be more excited. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited but I’m also nervous. I’ve never done anything of this magnitude before and that scares me a little. I have recently come to the realisation that this is a very good thing! It means I am moving out of my comfort zone–you know, that place where dreams go to die–and I am harnessing my talents and putting to good use my resources. I am on what even now feels like the cusp of a life changing event.

For anyone, this is big. It may not be big like changing a country’s constitution or orchestrating a merger between two blue chip companies but this is big for me. Too long I have been sitting on the sidelines watching other people achieve greatness. I am not saying that I will achieve greatness necessarily but I will achieve greatness in my life. This is big, for me.

I have spoken before of my–I would not say crippling or debilitating but suffice it to say they are big–self doubt and insecurity issues and how they have prevented me from doing things I was afraid I would not be very good at. I have been working on these issues for the last two years and this is the first big  thing, since my new approach to myself, that I’ve put into motion that is really going to challenge me.

I have never lived outside of South Africa like so many of my peers have. I have quit my job to be able to undertake this great adventure and have given up my apartment. So technically I’m homeless and unsettling as this has been I have been able to recognise that this is a means to an end and that it does not serve me to get too wrapped up in the loss of some security. Being the person I am, security in my life is a big thing. Giving up some of this security has also been liberating. It has also been exhilarating and for the first time in what feels like a long time, I am excited.

I am excited to see and experience and do new things, learn a new language and embrace all the beauty that Paris and the French culture has to offer! In less than a month I will be living my dream and that is something very few people get to do and for that I am thankful. I am also thankful for every person who has supported me in my decision to do this, who helped me believe in myself and who gave me the courage to take the leap.

Thank you for reading.