Monthly Archives: June 2012

Shoes- Walking on Saint-Catherine street

Here is the first walk that I have prepared just for you readers.

Shoes: Green basketball shoes

Time: 1 hour to 1 day, depending on the number of stops you make

First, here are some photos to show you what you’ll be getting into 😉

Sainte-Catherine from Saint-Marc to Papineau (Downtown/Latin quarter/Gay village)

This walk, if done in a straight line and without stopping, will take about an hour and a half. If you take your time, it could last all day!

Ste-Catherine is a very, very long street (the main part spans 10 km, so 6.2 miles). By walking on it, you’ll encounter many different realities and types of people. That’s what makes this walk so fascinating and entertaining. You can start either way, but since the night time entertainment is more developed in the gay village, the example I am giving will start at St-Marc and end at Papineau.

Start out at the corner of St-Marc, right near Concordia University. What you’ll find there is a large concentration of Asian shops and restaurants (come back another day to have dinner at the wonderful Kazu). It’s a great area to find cute, not overtly expensive clothes, objects, and delicious cheap eats. Walk into the formerly depressing Faubourg Ste-Catherine, where you’ll find the newly opened Grumman 78 food stand. They serve tacos that are all-fresh and so tasty. Your lunch should run you around 12 to 16$, depending on your appetite.

Afterwards, keep walking on Ste-Catherine and you’ll pass by Concordia, where you are sure to see lots and lots of well dressed kids with bright creative minds. It’s always a lively spot to go through, even if there isn’t much to do per se.

As you keep walking towards the eastern part of town, you’ll find yourself in the downtown area, where the men in suits share sidewalks with fashionistas, tourists and buskers looking to fund their road trip to Vancouver. The density of people can be frustrating here, but the sheer variety of things to see will make up for it. Opulently decorated store windows stand side by side with strip clubs, restaurant chains and churches. That’s downtown Montreal for you.

If ever it rains, snows, or if the heat is overbearing, you can cheat the next part of the walk by going in through the underground city (a huge indoor shopping mall), which will take you all the way to The Bay, a huge Macy’s type department store. If you prefer to stay outside, you’ll encounter more stores, places to eat and many interesting characters.

Once you walk out of or past The Bay, you’ll have made it to the next part of the walk, which is more culturally inclined than consumerist.

A hidden gem in this city is the Belgo building. You couldn’t see this from the façade, but once you go in and walk up to the 4th and 5th floors, you’ll find a plethora of contemporary art galleries, showcasing the best up and comers and even some well known names. (You’ll find references to specific galleries lower down). Hours can be spent here, and if you feel hungry after all that art, there’s a café on the ground floor that serves good snacks and caffeinated drinks.

Keep going down Ste-Catherine and you’ll find yourself in the Quartier des spectacles, at the Place des Festivals. This particular area of the city has been the core of Montreal’s cultural life for a few years, but since 2009 it is even more so. The city and local government put in a lot of money to make this a hotspot for hosting the cities’ multiple festivals. Depending at which time of year you come to Montreal, you could very well walk into the Jazz festival, the Just for laughs comedy fest, the Montréal Complètement cirque (circus) festival or the World Film festival. Most days during the summer, a part of the street is closed off to cars and there is something happening at the Place des festivals, whether it be a free Stevie Wonder concert or an outdoor screening of the movie La vie en rose.

If you happen to be in town during one of the quieter periods of the year (those don’t really exist but whatever), you could always go check out the Museum of contemporary art, a world class museum that puts on art shows that feature well-known artists like Ai Weiwei, Vik Muniz or Janet Cardiff.

Afterwards, keep on going and you’ll find yourself in the former red light area of the city. In some ways, it’s still a relatively seedy spot, with lots of sex shops and rundown buildings, but gentrification is coming its way! The brand-new, shiny 2-22 building, on the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard is a testament to the new direction that the city wants to give to the neighborhood. There is still a lot of resistance to the changes being done, with people saying that it will become too trendy, therefore sterile. I’ll let you be the judge of what is better. All in all, it’s definitely an interesting block with so many contrasts.

Stop in for a beer at the legendary Foufounes électriques and you’ll be stepping into an old stomping ground for Montreal punks. At night, the place turns into a popular (almost generic) club but during the day, the former spirit of the bar remains, with most patrons sporting tattooed limbs and a dark attire.

Next you’ll be walking through the campus of Université du Québec à Montréal, which definitely isn’t a campus like one would imagine it to be if based on American standards. If you weren’t made aware of it beforehand, you’d never notice that these are the grounds of a faculty of higher learning. It just looks like a regular grid of streets and buildings. What you will notice is a large concentration of brown bricked buildings, cheap places to eat and a mix of students and homeless people. It makes for a fun place to be.

Just in front of parc Émilie-Gamelin, a meeting place for activists, druggies and dreamers of all kinds, you should stop in at l’Escalier, a lovely hippie café/ concert room. In what is obviously a former apartment that has been converted into a chill hang out for people from all walks of life, you’ll find good vegetarian snacks and drinks (alcoholic or not). If daytime is very calm here, at night, things can get wilder, even slightly agitated if you come in a time of social unrest like spring 2012.

If your appetite calls for something meatier, go to the Station des sports. It’s a bar that caters to sports fans (hockey fans, mostly), but also to students. Prices are cheap, even though a certain hike has been noticeable in the last few months. Come here for a nice hamburger and some light beer (nothing fancy here!).

After spending some time in many a man’s dream spot, you’ll find yourself in quite a contrasting environment : Montreal’s famed Gay village. During the summer, this part of the street is closed off to cars, so restaurant and bar tables spill onto the sidewalks and the atmosphere is lively, even electric, most evenings. Choose a place to chill with some sangria and enjoy the show. If you like to dance, there are plenty of good clubs and bars to go to for all tastes. Most are straight-friendly and open to all genders, though you should have a look first. Generally, you can get an idea based on the crowd you see standing outside. Some places have been known to reject women on certain nights.

If drags shows are your thing, Cabaret chez Mado puts on great ones every evening, but try to go on days when owner Mado is present (calendar here). She is quite the popular character here in Montreal.

Keep going towards Papineau street and you’ll have reached the end of our walk. You’ll be tired, but you’ll have seen and experienced so many things. If it’s summer time and Saturday night, try to make it here for 10 pm, find a bar with a rooftop terrace (like Sky or Unity) or walk up to the Jacques-Cartier bridge (follow the crowd) to observe the firework shows that are put on at La Ronde amusement park.

Activities:

Musée d’art contemporain/Museum of contemporary art

185 Sainte-Catherine Street West Montréal, QC (514) 847-6226

Belgo Art galleries (Skol, Lilian Rodriguez Galery, Art45, Sas, Arprim, Laroche Joncas, and many more)

372 Sainte-Catherine Street West  Montréal, QC

Church of Saint-James of the apostle

1439 St. Catherine Street West  Montréal, QC (514) 849-7577

Saint-James United church

463 Sainte-Catherine Street West Montréal, QC (514) 288-9245

Concert halls and theater:

L’astral (Jazz, pop)

305 Sainte-Catherine Street West

La maison Symphonique/ Place des arts (classical, orchestra, jazz)

1600 Saint-Urbain Street

Théâtre du Nouveau monde (Theater, experimental and classical, french only)

84 Sainte-Catherine Street West

Métropolis (One of Montreal’s biggest concert halls. Green Day, Coldplay, Beck and David Bowie have played here)

59 Sainte-Catherine Street East

Théâtre Sainte-Catherine (theatre, improv, comedy)

264 Sainte-Catherine Street East

Théâtre Olympia (rock, pop, musical theater)

1004 Sainte-Catherine Street East

Places to eat: (per person, tips and taxes not included: $= 10 dollars or less, $$= 25 dollars or less, $$$= 40 dollars or less)

Kazu (Japanese) $$-$$$

This restaurant is incredible. You’ll probably have to wait one hour outdoors before you can sit down to eat, but it is worth it! Come in with an adventurous palate and high expectations, you won’t be disappointed. The room is tiny, so be prepared for that. You can’t eat here if you are a group of more than 6, and no reservations are taken. Don’t expect to be scarfing down all-you-can-eat sushi because what they mostly serve here is japanese izakaya (pub)fare. What you’ll get is the best shrimp burger in the city, porc purée that melts in your mouth and other tasty and surprising treats like  sake ice cream.

1862 Rue Sainte-Catherine West Montréal, QC (514) 937-2333

Wok Café (Chinese) $

Standard oriental cuisine (japanese, cantonese, sichuanese, vietnamese) that is good and keeps your wallet happy too.

1845 Sainte-Catherine Street West (514) 938-1882

Grumman 78 (Mexican, NOT tex-mex) $-$$

See description in the text.

1616 Sainte-Catherine West (514)290-5125

3 brasseurs (Alsatian) $-$$

A beer brewing chain that started in the north of France and has expanded here. They serve good alsatian and french cuisine (flammekueche, sauerkraut, mussels, chèvre chaud). Many patrons come here to order the beer meter, 10 glasses of beer presented on a meter-long wooden tray.

1356 Sainte-Catherine West Montreal (514) 788-9788

Reubens deli (Smoked meat, cheesecake) $$

Good smoked meat sandwiches, big portions, yummy cheesecake. What more do you need?

1116 Sainte-Catherine West Montréal, QC (514) 866-1029

Vasco da gama (portugese, sandwiches, salads) $$

A few steps out of the way, but for someone looking for something fancier than other things that were suggested in this list so far, Vasco da gama is a good place to go. They serve sandwiches and salads at a counter, but the meals are more refined and much more audacious than your standard sandwich shop. A sample of the menu: duck and fig sandwich, bison burger and pissaladière.

1472 Peel  Street Montréal, QC (514) 286-2688

Panino (Panini, salads) $

Good coffee, panini, fresh salads. You can eat on the spot, or take it to go.

271 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 664-4440

Club Sandwich (snack bar fare) $

You don’t come here so much for the food (hamburgers, poutine, club sandwiches :)). You come here because it’s open at 4h30 AM and you can hang out with the drag queens that have just turned in their platform boots for the night, the GI Joe lookalike bar bouncers or the overexcited teenagers living their wildest years. This place is big and crazy, especially in the summer, after the Village bars close.

1570 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 419-5259

Places to rest (Cafés, sweet snacks):

L’escalier

552 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 419-6609

Pariscrepe

3000 Crescent (corner of Sainte-Catherine East)

Café Art Java

279 Sainte-Catherine  East Montréal (514) 564-8900

Places to go out:

Boîte à Karaoké 

A favorite hangout with local students. This place is casual and everyone is here to have fun. If you need a little courage to get up and sing, the alcohol is cheap.

2071 Sainte-Catherine West

Sharx pool bar

A nice, if expensive place for entertainment. Here, you can chill on slick white couches, sipping away on your mojito, while your friends play some pool or bowling.

1606 Sainte-Catherine West Montréal, QC (514) 934-3105

Les Foufounes électriques

(see description in text)

87 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 844-5539

Sainte-Élizabeth

Prized in the summer for its’ wonderful courtyard, this old-school pub/bar has a nice selection of beers and drinks. The entrance is a bit hard to find, as it is just off Sainte-Catherine, on  a very nondescript street, but the effort is worth it!

1412 Sainte-Élizabeth Street  Montréal, QC

Station des sports

(see description in text)

862 Sainte-Catherine East, Montréal, (514) 903-8571

Cabaret Mado

(see description in text)

1115 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 525-7566

Unity

Club complex with two dancefloors and a rooftop terrace. The crowd here is mixed and very young.

1171 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 523-2777

Drugstore

This huge bar is a favorite with the lesbian crowd, but is open to all. The set up changes often here but you’ll most likely find a restaurant, one or two indoor bars, two outdoor terraces and a dance floor inside this building.

1366 Sainte-Catherine East (514) 524-1960

Sky

Club complex with multiple dance floors, a rooftop terrace, a street-level terrace, shows on the ground floor and plenty of place to chill with a cocktail.

1474 Sainte-Catherine East  Montréal, QC (514) 529-6969

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Shoes

My next series of posts will be based on my collection of shoes.

I have lots and lots of shoes. Ballerinas, running shoes, converse, boots….

No high heels (can’t walk in them).

I walk a lot, especially in the summer. There’s just so much to see everywhere, and walking whilst listening to good music is just such a good way of getting to know the city and clearing your mind when you feel stressed out.

Over the next few days, I will present to you five pairs of shoes, and along with those, personal suggestions of great walks to be done in Montreal.

I hope you like it!

Léa

East village poster

Another travel story. Yep. What can I say, traveling is my life!

I love my city (Montreal). I’ll probably always come back here even if I do live around the world at times during my life.

However, life is short and I want to experience it to the fullest and to see how people live elsewhere.

Traveling can be many things at once: intense; fun; amazing; exhausting; scary; disappointing.

It can be all those things, but it is never boring and never a waste of time. I’m happy I found a guy who agrees with me on this!

That is why we surround ourselves in objects that remind us of travels past and future.

For example, this lovely poster was found and ordered on Etsy. (Shop now defunt, unfortunately)

It’s a print of a pen drawing done by graphic artist Lucy Kirkman, who recreated the gorgeous view she had looking out of a window in her East Village (NYC) apartment.

I chose this particular piece because it’s pretty, because it’s simple and because it’s New York.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had such a fascination with that city.

I’d dive into my dad’s books, like The best of Life, in which were reproduced legendary photos from the famed american magazine. The stories told and pictures shown amazed me. Sometimes, at the sight of a picture of the cityscape, for a reason that I cannot explain to this day, I became scared and had to close the page, out of breath and panicked. New York terrified me, but I felt so drawn to it.

Summer 2000 marked the first time I went to the city. It was such an exciting moment! My dad had just inherited a bit of money from his childless aunt, so he, my brother and I could actually live it up while there. We went to visit my cousin, who lives an hour away from the city, and then set off to spend some time in the Big apple, on our own as a family. Before we left my cousin’s place, we were introduced to a friend of his who worked at the Empire State building and could lend us her pass to get up to the top without waiting in line. We felt like rock stars. Since this was pre 9/11, security was fairly lax and completely chill with letting people through to the top so easily, even going as far as treating us like VIP. I still remember the look of confusion, envy and anger that we got from the people who had been standing in line for hours. They were obviously wondering (some out loud) why we had zipped our way past them and the guards were putting us in the elevator that should’ve been theirs to take.

A second trip was taken in 2004, this time with my mom, brother, step-brother and step-father. I had a taken the initiative of planning the whole trip myself, since there were so many things I wanted us to experience. I had almost as much fun planning the trip than taking part in it. In fact, I believe all those hours spent perusing through my guidebooks like they were bibles and thinking Brian Silverman was my God, were the starting point to my ambition in becoming a travel writer.

I’ve been back to New York twice since then. Once last year, just for one evening, to take the bus home as I had been visiting my aunt in Long Island.

The other time was in 2008.

I had been traveling a lot during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Come summer 2008, I was now a university student, having to pay rent, food and other costs, so I didn’t have enough money to go very far. My brother and I decided to go on a little trip just the two of us. It was nice being together. We had a blast.  There are definite stories to be told about that time we spent together but none that are blog appropriate for now, so I’ve decided to add a little travel guide for New York.

It’s not complete.

I’ll probably make it more detailed some day but for now it has all that you need to have a blast in NYC if you are spending a few days there.

Here is my little travel guide for the city:

Restaurants to try out:

Pasha–  Turkish cuisine that is refined and refreshing. The mantı are absolutely exquisite. Service is discrete and attentive and the setting is charming.
70 West 71st Street  New York, NY 10023, États-Unis (212) 579-8751

Bubby’s: For some tasty comfort food, there’s simply nothing better than a meal at Bubby’s. The menu is made up of traditional American dishes, which are skillfully prepared, in portions that are generous without being gargantuan. Don’t forget to save room to try a slice of one of their famous pies! Two branches: Brooklyn and Tribeca
120 Hudson Street  New York, NY 10013, États-Unis (212) 219-0666

Kuma Inn: This Filipino restaurant is small and the portions are too, but it more than makes up with a warm atmosphere and food that is full of flavor and prepared with deliciously fresh ingredients. The setting is so intimate you’ll feel as if you were in someone’s apartment! You’ll work hard to find the entrance but once you are in, you will be rewarded for your efforts!
120 Hudson Street  New York, NY 10013, États-Unis (212) 219-0666

Grimaldi’s Pizza: Some people say that they would be willing to run across the Brooklyn Bridge  just to enjoy the pizza in this small restaurant that is located in the trendy DUMBO neighborhood. The decor is typical Italian pizzeria style, with a wall covered in photos of celebrities like Sinatra or De Niro, and small square tables covered with red checkered tablecloths. The service is fast and the pizza is incredible, with its crispy, chewy crust and generous toppings. After a meal, why not make the return journey on foot across the Brooklyn Bridge? The view from the pedestrian walkway is absolutely worth the effort.  There are other branches of Grimaldi’s pizza in the city, but the Brooklyn joint is the best. 1 Front Street, New York, NY, États-Unis (718) 858-4300

Siggy’s good food –  Yet another good restaurant to try in Brooklyn. This restaurant will appeal to vegetarians and other people seeking healthier fare.  Among the dishes tried in our two visits, we especially enjoyed the Live Earth salad, the turkey burger and Eggplant lasagna. During the warm season, tables are set on the street. Sitting there, sipping tea and munching on some sweet snacks, you can spend hours observing the beautiful fauna crowding the streets of Brooklyn heights, a charming residential area of Brooklyn. 76 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY, États-Unis (718)-237-3199 ‎

Hotels to stay at: 

Carlton Arms Hotel  : This hotel will appeal to those looking for accommodation that is less conventional. The rooms are comfortable, but don’t go to the Carlton Arms expecting a 5 star service. You’ll enjoy this place if you want to sleep in a very unique setting: each of the rooms, the lobby and the hallways were decorated by artists. For a modest price (for Manhattan), you will sleep in a place filled with unparalleled creative energy. The rooms have neither phone nor television but the hotel is well located so you would not need those anyway! 160 East 25th Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-679-0680 ‎

Chelsea star hotel : Like the Carlton Arms, the Chelsea star hotel is a bit unconventional. If you prefer, there are rooms here with a more classic décor. For something a little funkier, there are the specialty rooms, each having a theme (Cleopatra, Madame Butterfly, Salvador Dali). People with tighter budgets will also appreciate the dormitories that accommodate about ten people. Here, the rooms are equipped with AC and TV. Prices are very reasonable, considering the neighborhood (a few steps from Madison Square Garden, has less than 15 minutes walk from Times Square).

300 W 30th St, New York, États-Unis 212-560-9010 ‎

Things to do:

The Museum of Modern Art is a must-see for fans of contemporary art. Opened in 1929, the museum has recently undergone a facelift under the design direction of architects Yoshio Taniguchi and Kohn Pederson Fox. The collection includes approximately 150,000 works of art that are presented in an environment all dressed up in glass and granite. Temporary exhibits showcase the work of the most renowned artists from around the world. Among recent past exhibits, one would recognize the names of Diego Rivera, Cy Twombly and conceptual artist Marina Abramovic. 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-708-9400

Brooklyn bridge: If your stay in the Big Apple is short and you need to visit quickly, this place is not to be missed. Crossing on foot via the pedestrian walkway takes about thirty minutes. Take the subway to  Brooklyn, then walk back towards Manhattan. That way, you’ll get the best view.  Each time of day brings a completely different feel to this walk. Why not bring along a book of Walt Whitman poems, so you can read his ode : To Brooklyn Bridge whilst actually standing on it?!

Funky and fun shopping:

Here are a few addresses to note if you’d like to find unique objects and cute gifts to bring back  home to your loved ones :

FAO Schwarz : A store that can be equally fun at 7 or 77, and every age in between!

767 5th Avenue, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-644-9400

Eataly: Paradise for foodies. You’ll find a variety of restaurants, cafés, specialty foods, bakeries, butchers and famously great gelato, all under the same roof. Warning: it will be crowded.

767 5th Avenue, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-644-9400

Dylans candy bar: To satisfy your sweet tooth, they’ve got it all. You’ll even find candy themed clothing or house wares.

1011 3rd Avenue, New York, NY, États-Unis 1 646-735-0078

1095 6th Avenue, New York, NY, États-Unis 1 212-278-0747

Pylones : A gift shop selling colorful objects that are useful, decorative and sometimes both at the same time!

69 Spring Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-431-3244

61 Grove Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-727-2655

Kid Robot : Sophisticated toys (that are actually closer to being works of art)

118 Prince Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-966-6688 ‎

MOMA design store: A collection of design objects and beautiful books to set out on the coffee table.

44 West 53rd Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-708-9669 ‎

Screaming mimis : For fans of vintage clothing, you’ll find retro, hippie, hipster and punk styles in this cute little store that is located in the artsy Lower East side neighborhood.

382 Lafayette Street, New York, NY, États-Unis 212-677-6464

Dean & Deluca : This high end food store is a veritable mecca for epicurean new yorkers.

156 West 56th Street, New York, NY, États-Unis

235 West 46th Street, New York, NY, États-Unis

235 West 46th Street, New York, NY, États-Unis

560 Broadway New York, NY 10012, United States (316) 821-3201

Going to see a play on Broadway:

A luxury, one might think. However, it is possible to find reasonably priced tickets. One might even get lucky and find an incredible deal! The tickets can be purchased via the internet on sites like http://www.playbill.com/or www.broadwaybox.com.  Once you subscribe to one of those sites, you’ll be entitled to substantial discounts on certain shows. The matinees are cheaper than evenings, as most times the stand-in actors are filling in for the main stars. You can go to the TKTS booths (there are 3), where last minute tickets are sold.


The red polka dot dress

Ah, the polka dot motif.  Never one to go out of style.

It’s a style that suits me well, I think. I often go for vintage looks, or cute feminine looks, as I have a round face and a slim but curvy body (I’m no Coco Austin but I don’t do bad in the booty department).

This dress isn’t a designer dress. None of my clothes are. If they are, I don’t know. I rarely read labels when rummaging through racks of clothes. I look at four things: color, pattern, shape and price.

I found this particular garment in a small shop in Paris.

It was my first trip abroad. A trip of many firsts: first time in an airplane, first trip alone, first fling, first moments of independence.

It was a wonderful experience, scary and fun at once.

Let me say, to exacerbate how important this trip has been in my life so far, that I had just come out of a major bout of anxiety troubles. For the better part of a year, I had to be home schooled and most times, I couldn’t even get out of the house. It was pretty awful.

Slowly, I came back to life. Graduating high school and pursuing further studies helped a lot. I felt more challenged at school and met people with whom I had stuff in common.

By the time summer rolled by, I felt ready for adventure, so I planned at trip to France. I was to spend a week in Paris, then three in the Bordeaux region, where I would participate in a work-camp. (I’ll probably tell you about that in another article).

Finally, the departure date came. I remember being at the airport with my dad, my mom and my brother. It was great and odd at the same time. Since my parents had split ten years earlier, rarely had we found ourselves alone, together as a family. We laughed and reminisced. Then when the time came to split, I freaked out a little, but not too much. I cried and waved goodbye. I think my parents cried too, out of seeing their daughter growing up and doing her own thing for the first time.

I was 19.

The plane ride went well, although I never really managed to sleep.

Seven hours later, here I was in the city of lights. My dream was coming true, but all I felt was exhaustion, hunger, a blocked ear and a deep need to pee (I hadn’t gone during the whole flight, so not to bother the guys in my row while they slept like babies).  I couldn’t wait to get my luggage, go use the restroom and move along to the city.

After much wait and confusion about the location of our flight’s luggage containers (the airport authorities could not find them), I finally got my bag, made it to a toilet, ate a granola bar and found the bus to reach the core of the city.

I could finally enjoy the fact that I had arrived! It was quite nice, except for that stinging sensation in my ear.

Then I got off the bus and walked into another confusing situation: how to find the place where I was going to live for the next few weeks! I had the address, I knew where it was but I just could not find it! Rue de Richelieu, close to the Louvre, next to the Palais Royal. Those details had been written in my handbook for the last few weeks, but I still couldn’t find my door. Feeling lost and tired, I walked into a phone booth to call the lady that was to have me over (a friend of my stepmom’s brother). Unfortunately, it must be said that phone booths in France don’t accept coins. I did not know that.

Thankfully, I knew that calling cards could be bought at post offices, so I found the nearest one and got in line.

No less than an hour later, covered in sweat (it was a humid 35 degrees celcius out there and in the post office!), my back in absolute pain because of my bags that were filled with a bunch of more or less important things, I had my calling card.

I walked into the closest phone booth and put my card into the slot. It didn’t work. For a second, I indulged in some quebecois swearing, knowing that it would offend no one here. I then saw that I could use my credit card to make the call.

I finally reached the lady, who then came to get me. Turns out I was less than 3 minutes away from the place. She had simply forgotten to specify that the door of access the apartment building was inside the entrance of a restaurant, and the number was hidden, camouflaged into the sign announcing that eatery.

We walked up four flights to the maid’s room, a tiny little space with a shower, a bed, a fridge and a toilet that she was letting me use for free, for my time in the city.

She gave me my keys and told me to get rested, as we would be going out for dinner with her daughter later on.

I closed the door behind her and immediately began sobbing. What was going on? What had happened? So far, I hated this city! It had not been kind to me. I missed my family. What the hell was I doing? Help!

I felt so out of place here. The lady that was hosting me was kind, but this was a posh place. She was obviously from another level of society and although I despise and don’t usually believe in stratified social systems and generalizing about people, I felt like an alien here.

I cried myself to sleep.

A few hours later, I woke up and prepared to dine out, trying to keep my spirits up. I had nothing fancy to wear and no impressive feats to converse about with these people. Nevertheless, I decided to put on a brave face and go for it.

Not long after, the lady’s daughter knocked on my door and we went out for le diner.

All went well, but I was quickly confronted to a first cultural shock. I had not even touched half of my sushi plate, being as my stomach was still upset from all the stress that it had been subjected to. I asked if I could take the rest home.

At that moment, the lady looked at me, laughing nervously: No, people don’t do that here.

I immediately felt bad even for asking.

Her daughter, more easygoing I guess, didn’t mind inquiring, as this was also a place for takeout.

Turns out I could take it home.

Still, the experience left me surprised. I had heard that doggy bags were uncommon here, but I could not believe that someone would rather walk away and let the restaurant throw out 20 sushi’s, than ask for a box to eat them later.

I thanked the lady and her daughter, took my box of sushi and walked back up to my room. I believe I saw them once during my whole week’s stay. They were cordial and generous but I preferred my own company than spending time with them.

Once in bed, I fell asleep almost immediately.

I woke up in the middle of the night to eat the rest of my sushi.

The next day, I walked around and Paris, with all its charm and beauty, cured me of my fears and sorrows.

This dress, bought during that week, embodies me coming out of my shell and becoming an independent woman, as prominent feminist auteur Beyoncé Knowles would say.

It also made me believe, for a moment, that I could be one of those stylish Parisians. Just for a moment.

I made a journal during this trip. The page that speaks of this first day is hidden behind a curtain of sheets of toilet paper, pink ones like they have there. It still feels so evocative, so telling of the emotions I felt on the moment.  Makes me proud of who I’ve become and how it happened.

The bedroom

We have a tiny little bedroom. Some people would say that it’s too tiny.

I don’t care; I’ve had tiny rooms all my life. Those that weren’t tiny, I shared.

I’m used to cramped spaces and my man doesn’t mind either. He just needs a bed and a bit of floor space to throw his clothes on.

Things that I love about this room:

–          It’s always full of light, but not too bright, so you can sleep in at morning.

–          The color scheme is girly and calm (white, green, wood, touches of fuchsia)

–          It’s comfy (the bed and the furry carpets)

–          The ceilings are tall (like everywhere else in this home, but here since the room is small, we will use this to install shelves to store things that we want to keep but rarely use).

There is still work to be done here; walls to be painted (a brighter shade of white); shelves to be set up; night tables to be tinted. However, this look is very close to what I wanted to achieve.

Over the next few days, I will be telling the tales of certain objects that can be found in my bedroom.

Stay tuned!