We Went Out Walking and Hallelujah we made it! – El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Jade and I walked over 800km and lived to tell about it.  Easy for my tree planting, uber fit daughter and some days not so much for yours truly.  It’s hard to believe it has been 8 months since we completed the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage already. A lot has happened in that time, a move back home to Canada from Europe for my husband and I and settling into a new old life.  We’ve done reno’s on our 40 year old home that once seemed old by Canadian standards.  This blog needed a little aging  like the Tempranillo-Rioja Reserva vino we found all along el Camino.  You are very missed excellent inexpensive red wine.  Vino tinto was included with our pilgrims menu every night and the calories were not a problem when we walked it off everyday for 5 weeks.  Many pilgrims savored an evening glass or two especially if they were tired. It helped us sleep when the 10 pm-lights out-rule was in effect in the albergues/hostels,  and the snoring began.  A medley of snores, some soft, some hearty some just weird. Out of sync to begin with and then finally a glorious symphony of snorts and muffled whistles performed in sync for a fleeting moment, for the wide eyed sleep deprived pilgrims.  It’s finally morning…Hallelujah!  You do become oblivious sooner than you think. Really.

My 29 year old daughter Jade invited me to do the pilgrimage.  I jumped at the chance to spend a few weeks with just her while savoring being outside. I didn’t know that much about it but it was when I started researching I became even more excited for this epic historical journey together. I thought it was 400km well after I committed to the walk. Jade enjoyed informing me “Ah Mom, it’s 800km not 400.”

The wisest thing I will say in this entire blog is pack light. Your body, especially your feet will thank you profusely. Don’t worry about the things that qualify as “just in case items.” There are pharmacies and stores all along el Camino. Be very aware that no matter how good your shoes are and how well you have broken them in, you may need to adapt or even purchase new ones. The fit is more important than breaking them in at that point. Make sure your shoes are at least 1 full size bigger than normal. I did that but my feet ended up swelling almost 2 sizes. I had plantar fasciitis the whole way but most people don’t. I’ve had it for years but didn’t realize it as it came and went.  For me it was better to have more room due to swelling and have ankle support so I could snug up the laces to keep the boot in place. No friction equals fewer blisters. merino wool socks and liners work surprisingly well no matter the weather. Two pair of each should do. I took polysporin and butterfly bandaids and thats all I needed other than angel medical tape. The kind you can rip with your hands. Don’t be afraid of blisters, they go numb once you start a new day. It is not a deal breaker and really common to get them. That being said rest days for your body, mind and spirit are spectacular.  Fear not, some people do NOT get any blister. If you have good shoes – a good fit – good socks – and you tape up hot spots, you will minimize potential foot problems. Again, pack light or you will throw things away to lessen your load guaranteed so don’t waste your money.

The most profound realization for me is that we really truely are all one, and ONE is all around us. Even if we see things totally different. Walking in nature was a great reminder of life’s circle. The colors of the fields, the weather, the changing seasons that return year after year. We cannot stop the flow of nature, life and death.  Why would we want to, we are all a part of the whole. Nobody has to be wrong or right in what they believe or what they do. Have you ever noticed that when we compare our lives to others, compete or choose to be “right” that we become miserable. One day at a time, one breath at a time,  one step at a time. ONE.

The reality that we always have choices about who and what kind of energy we will be around was driven home on the Camino. It was kind of like life on steroids.  In my experience there was only one seriously difficult soul that I encountered on the trail.  Looking to piss in anyones cornflakes just because – or more likely she was in a lot of pain.  Mixed messages, I think she just needed a little extra love but it got old really fast. I’m no saint but at the same time I am mortified if I think I have hurt anyone. 3/4 of the way through the pilgimidge when my mouth almost dropped open and I noticed people didn’t even know how to respond to her,  I found myself just saying “I’m leaving in 10 minutes so you can have someone new to trash then.” It would have been so easy to stay and argue, I had so much to say but, ain’t nobody got time for that!  She pretended to not know what was going on or maybe she really didn’t see. It just doesn’t even matter. I had a really good sleep that night after the 15 min it took to let it go. Sending out love and compassion to her…from a distance felt like the right thing to do. She allowed me to practice my zen so I guess it was a gift. I got to enjoy many other lovely people on el Camino even more because of the situation. Well, all good then.

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I am imperfect and always will be. Take that self! I hold my power no one else does. I am lovable. I am enough. I am. We are ALL enough. We are ONE.

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It was a huge breakthrough to be able to confirmed that my lovely daughter and I are just fine and didn’t have a whole lot to work out.  Mom and Daughter relationships, sometimes sweet and beautiful and sometimes so complex your head spins. We were presented with the optimum setting of almost 800 km of staggeringly beautiful fields, hills and medieval towns to walk, talk and argue through to our hearts content. Discussing any unresolved life issues, we had plenty of space for free falling tears and few people that would slow their pace long enough to witness them. Away from our routines and triggers, we could have utilized this perfect venue but surprisingly…we didn’t really need to…We only almost argued once over purchasing new hikers at Decathlon in Logrono. Neither of us realized at first my feet had swollen almost two sizes bigger than normal and I kept refusing the shoes Jade gave me to try on. She struggled to not paced and fume as she tried stuffing me into anything it seemed at the time, so she could get back to el Camino.  Can’t say I blame her. I blurted “Just go, I’ll catch up for god sakes!!!” I still laugh at the expression on the face of a fellow pilgrim close by. I was truly in so much foot pain that I couldn’t get the bloody shoes on! So my friends, that’s what plantar fasciitis is. It bloody hurts but doable with shoe breaks throughout the day and ibuprofen.   No way was I not going to finish this walk with my daughter. I finally found a lightweight Solomon hiker that worked, it was even on sale.  Despite a bit of drama, we ended up having an awesome day walking through a peaceful little park, with ducks floating on a meandering creek.  Meandering, that was Jade and I that day.  It was our Canadian thanksgiving and we were feeling nostalgic. The little restaurant/bar in the park actually had turkey stew on the menu. It was the only turkey meal on any of the menus we saw the rest of our journey.  We had a midday wine and toasted to family, friends and each other. It was my son’s – Jades brother’s – birthday that day and I mentioned wanting to make sure to text him when we had wifi service later that night. We glanced around while we took our boots off and noticed a local Spanish family celebrating a birthday with a huge cake. It was touching and we lingered, drinking in the feeling of peace, family and love. I thought and I think Jade also felt we had more to work out after Jade’s dad and I had a tough divorced years earlier. 18 years earlier. We were all holding onto the last bit of heavy energy of old pain because the same old stuff kept showing it’s ugly head over the years. Not that the pain wasn’t truly genuine for all of us at the time, it was, especially for the kids, but after 18 years of open communication, some mistakes on everyone’s part, tears, arguments, and lots and lots of love….really.
I’m convinced that pain and resentment are a very powerful glue. Subconscious and holding many of us tightly to the past even when our current reality is light years away. Patterns are hard to break when they are so familiar and an easy automatic place to land. Some would say that energy is even somewhat of an addiction. Even if it keeps us stuck in pain, we don’t even see it sometimes. So could it be that all we have to do is give pain and old patterns a bit of space and a spotlight to highlight that “it” often isn’t even there anymore? So the self inflicted pain is nothing more than a habit, what!! Nothing more than a useless old story that we hold fast to our ego. What a waste of time.  Let’s let go of that heavy back pack of life’s heartaches and pack light!

The magical Albergue in Granon, a donativo (hostel paid by donation) where we had a prayer circle after a song fest, a community dinner and meditation was where one of my very favorite moments unfolded.  My introverted yet easygoing and friendly daughter shared with the group by candlelight her love for me and an appreciation for our journey together. My heart still swells thinking of it. I am so blessed to have the true love of Jade, a beautiful woman, a true minimalist, very self aware, my daughter. I love and respect you Jadie Girl. We may rarely share so openly but I will treasure the moment forever. On a lighter note, you showed me through example how to live in two sets of clothing for 5 weeks…I can now go commando after failing to clip my freshly washed undies with a close-pin on a breezy Camino night.  Bring clothes pins! I  love how you come and go like that soft breeze Jade. Unless of course you have had one too many with your new friends and your mother can’t help herself and is laying awake worrying for all of you. Nope you didn’t ask me to worry.  I didn’t come a looking Jadie girl, but it was really hard to fight the instinct. You all came home safely and loudly in dribs and drabs. I was smiling like an idiot when I heard the “kids” come home. Mine being the last one. Self appointed mother for ever…yup!

Morning walks and Camino sunrises. Nature,  my church and heaven. I feel it, I get it, especially after witnessing the sunrise the morning we left the albergue in Foncebadon. For hundreds of years it has been said if you carry a rock with you along el Camino, it represents your sins. When you place it near the base of the cross near Santa Columba de Somoza, the next stage after Foncebadon, you will be absolved of all of your sins. Although I wasn’t raised in the church, this spiritual tradition worked for me.  I had to run back to the albergue shortly after we departed as I forgot my rock. I started the journey with 3 rocks but I tossed 2 out….remember the pack light thing…It was back at the albergue that Rodney from the US asked me how I was going to stay focused on my walk to the cross. He helped me remember the words to the Serenity Prayer and I silently recited it as Jade, Ann from Denmark, and Emelia from Sweden walked along and soaked in the epic sunrise that stopped us in our tracks. Rodney hugged me and told me he loved me before I left the albergue for the second time. I really felt loved in that moment. He was definitely the Camino Dad I didn’t know I needed. I was surprised at the emotion I felt and appreciated his guidance. It will always take a village. Sweet Rodney, I didn’t even realize how much I missed my Dad. I think I blocked it as he’s been gone for 25 years. Growing up he was really volatile at times to the whole family.  I have many very tough graphic  memories, however, he was also good and kind in many other ways. I worked through most of the hurt and resentment years ago but I hadn’t allowed myself to feel the sadness around missing the good Dad energy.  Growing up it was confusing to love someone who was a monster at times. Rodney’s healthy Dad hugs were beautiful and healing and exactly what I needed in that moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you Rodney.

A truly close friendship is what I least expected along el Camino.  It turns out Ann and I have the exact birthday in December. Jade came into our shared hostel room one night and found Ann and I head to head laying on the bunkbeds laughing about something and swapping iPhone pictures.  She commented “Now girls do I have to separate you so you settle down for bed.”  Ooh the child within, how good it feels. Ann and I met up last Feb to explore her homeland Denmark and went to Sweden where I have long lost family roots. She could have been a historian with her stellar memory and knowledge. She is coming to our family reunion in Canada this July and in fact arrives today. The journey continues for us all and can be found near and far. If you ever do el Camino your journey will be totally different than mine and that is the exciting part. Life changes constantly but maybe it will be full of surprise at any age if we open our heart’s, look around and within.

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Hallelujah…not just a cry of glee when morning came for sleep deprived pilgrims. It is a favourite songs for many, written and sang by fellow Canadian Lenard Cohen. Coincidentally my daughter and I sang Hallelujah and Patsy Clines “Walking After Midnight” from day one as we were walking.  When I heard along el Camino half way in, that the legend from Montreal had died….no…we kept singing. We felt him and it stung.    His haunting song will be remembered forever. Thank you Lenard for your song, spirit and your gift of reminding us how much our love is magnified when a person is gone.  I will try to love others more deeply right here, right now, today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going walking. Prepping for El Camino de Santiago Compostela-Frances. 776k (+)

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Strengthening the old back on the stairs. 10k/22 lb back pack.

 

I can’t get Patsy Cline’s song “Walking After Midnight” out of my head. I’ve had the lyrics mixed up for years but I’m pretty sure I’ll have them figured out by the time we’ve done our walk. What is El Camino? In english “El Camino” means “The Way.”  Since I’m just now prepping, I only know what I’ve heard and read from various sources. Historically it is one of the many christian pilgrimages dating from over a 1000 years ago. Anyone can do it christian or not but connection to spirituality whatever that looks like for you is the theme. El Camino de Santiago (Frances) runs from France to Spain or visa versa if you like. It is believed that the remains of St James, one of Jesus’ apostle’s can be found at the Spanish Cathedral in Compostela. Early on pilgrimages were thought to absolve you of all past sins.

Today some pilgrims set out to do the entire 776k in one go and many break it down and do parts of the pilgrimage over many years. “They” say you don’t have to be an athlete to do it, just prepare and do it the best you can. I am picturing fall colors, open fields, distant hills and deep breaths.  Upon research it seems there will be many cars and trucks closer to the city and village roads along with some asphalt trails. It kind of makes sense though doesn’t it.  Our plan is, in order to get more solitude, to go in the fall vs the busy summer. Time will tell.

This whole experience is my 28-year-old daughter Jade’s idea. She overheard me telling friends about our adventure and stopped me when I said “Can you believe it’s 400k?” We heard her say, “Ah Mom it’s 800k not 400.” I asked why we were not doing only part of it. While my mind processed the added mileage and if it was possible to gracefully get out of it, she said “Nope it’s all or nothing if you are coming with me”  Apparently, here we go!

Why are we doing it? Good question. Everyone’s reasons seems to be different and by the end of the pilgrimage it will become more clear to each of us…For me, Jade asked me to join her and since I have time right now how could I not seize the opportunity to spend time with my lovely daughter. Nature and the connectedness I feel to spirit when in it, is my church. A health scare has insured the phrase “why not, let’s do it.” falls from my lips more often than not.  I’m really interested in the history of those who travelled this spiritual path centuries ago and the people who live in the villages today along the way. Maybe I can shed some unnecessary expectations that modern-day society has forced upon us all, at least in North America. Very importantly, I hear there is really good wine this time of year. I really don’t know what will happen but I’m staying open to the universe, god, spirit.

Jade and I will each have our own journey together. We are so different it’s going to be very interesting.  Can we both become more proficient at compromising?  I’m in! I predict we’ll master foot care.  In 11 more days, I go out walking and I’m taking anyone along who wants to join us in spirit. I’ll be posting some pictures and singing your songs Patsy. Earplugs anyone?  Buen Camino!

 

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Picture by Caminomyway.com

Sources:

http://www.caminodesantiago.me

http://www.hikingthecamino.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tranquil luxury found at the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris

The Shangri-La Hotel in Paris is an extraordinary 5 star hotel known for it’s unparalleled service. In 2010 when the hotel group opened their first Shangri-La in Europe, there was great care taken to preserve the history of this site and their legendary reputation.  Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte owned and lived in the original residence, at times with his family, from 1896 until his death in 1924. He was a botanist and geographer who also dabbled in striking ethnic photography.  Prince Roland’s eclectic interests took him all over the world. It seemed that he was ahead of his time and well travelled not unlike many of the guests that stay here today.

 

 

Within the hotel you will find many relaxing areas to unwind. Sip exotic cocktails with an Asian flair at Le Bar, infused with Prince Roland’s love of herbs. Drink in the view of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River on your  balcony or from the main terrace of the hotel. Enjoy a casual meal any time of day at the airy La Bauhinia restaurant with cascading natural light from the glass cupola above. Perhaps you would like to soak your tired legs in the serene pool after a day of sight seeing or request a relaxing massage with your favorite essence at the spa. Rejuvenate yourself by strolling in the garden connected to L’Abeille, Shangri-La’s 2 star Michelin restaurant hosting Executive Chef Christophe Moret.  L’Abeille in English is Bee, which was Prince Roland’s favorite emblem. What a harmonious way to deeply breathe in and absorb the many layers of history you will discovered so close to the hotel.

 

 

Interior designer Pierre Yyve Rochon created an exceptional blend of classic french detail and tasteful asian influence throughout the entire hotel. You will find “Empire” styling to “Minimalistic Luxury.” In some suites you’ll feel if you lean over the railing just an inch you would be able to touch the Eiffel Tower that sits on the bank of the Seine River. Gold leaf trim mouldings and Gold flowers found on mantles represent the opulence found in the old world. Beautifully detailed Asian paintings, art pieces and soft materials surround you at every turn making you want to touch them as you move from room to room.  Prince Roland’s former apartment has been transformed to a classic combination of plush extravagance in light blue, ecru and gold comfort for you to sink into.  Fresh smelling essence of Green and White tea are infused in the Bvlgari products left for guests on the marble countertops in the rooms. Irresistible.

 

 

 

Shangri-La’s legendary luxury and masterful customer service will not disappoint and is prevalent from the time you are greeted by the doormen, the assistance from the concierge as to where the top boutiques and museums are located to special requests and discrete checkout service’s upon your departure. The impeccable professionalism in place to insure the satisfaction of the most discerning guests is world class. It appears the Shangri-La group is ahead of their time as well. Surely the Prince’s wandering spirit would greatly approve.

 

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Address: 10, avenue d’Iéna, Paris, 75116, France – Tel (33 1) 5367 1998

Non Guests are welcome to use the pool and spa, restaurants and bar.

The Shangri-La Hotel is in the 16th Arrondissement or (core) of Paris and close enough to walk to many major historical sites, restaurants and top boutiques.
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Chocolate Tastings by the Louvre at Edwart Chocolatier

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Edwart Chocolatier’s storefront sign depicts the Paris Coat of Arms.

 

 

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Edwart’s hand crafted Chocolate Squares. 35 flavors from around the world to choose from.

 

 

 

The moment you approach Edwart Chocolatier boutique in Paris you will notice their sign hanging outside the entrance door. The picture of a ship on the sign depicts the Paris Coat of Arms dating from the 1300’s which means “she is tossed upon the waves but doesn’t sink,” and in Latin, “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur.” Very Impressive now where is the chocolate? As you step inside there is a lovely welcome waiting for you thanks to the amber lights casting a warm glow on the walls and the promise of chocolate soon melting in your mouth. It’s time to get up taste buds.

 

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Owner Edwin, choosing just the right chocolates for each of us to sample.

 

Enjoy the experience as Edwin playfully sizes you up to make just the right choice of chocolates for you to sample. He asks you a question or two about yourself. “What is your name and where are you from?” Pretty simple questions right, but the way his eyes twinkled as he took his time to get to know us, made everyone lean in and want to know more about each other and ourselves. You may find some flavors are subtle like the mango and saffron chocolate squares and the Madagascar cacao with a gentle hint of vanilla. Others are bolder like the Japanese whiskey with a smoky finish, the sassy dark chocolate with two peppers and the mysterious cardamom with a Turkish coffee flavor which took our group of travel writers some time to identify. If these flavours don’t fit your personality or taste buds, there are many other creative combinations laced with spices from around the world to choose from.

 

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Hand crafted chocolates displayed to look like a medieval pipe organ.

 

By the time you finish savoring – or drooling over – your samples around the glass counter, you will probably have noticed delicate chocolate squares arranged as organ pipes in the show case. Just a few short steps further towards the back of the small shop there is another display case arranged behind bright copper pipes. The organ theme has been pulled into the shop’s ambience nicely, making you feel you are surrounded by artisans that are proud to share their city’s history. It was quite appreciated rather than entering another shop with no soul that could be anywhere in the world. We found the dignified Arthur, also a co-owner, (Edwin + Arthur = Edwart) quietly standing beside the various sized packages of their hand crafted chocolates, syrups for crepes – we can do much better than Nutella people – specialty bars and drinking chocolate. Délicieux!

 

 

The prices are very reasonable, working out to under one euro per square for the larger boxes of chocolates and slightly over for the smallest package, check out http://www.edwart.fr  Additionally you can sign up for a chocolate making workshop at this location where you create your own recipe that can be taken home to impress again and again. Their location is prime, right across from the Louvre and Tuileries Garden. It is also not far from the Notre Dame Cathedral and other notable landmarks making it very convenient. The second location can be found in the lively Marais area. Edwart seems to have thought of everything, no doubt a conscious business plan to withstand even the roughest of seas today. If you like chocolate even a little  bit, don’t miss out on this experience. Your taste buds will have no problem waking up and they will most definitely be saying “merci beaucoup capitaine!”

 

Boutique Locations:

244, Rue De Rivoli 75001 Paris – Closest Metro: Line 1-Tuileries  Phone: 01 49 27 03 55 (Concorde area – across from Louvre and Tuileries Garden)

17, Rue Vieille Du Temple 75004 Paris – Closest Metro: Line 1-Saint Paul  Phone: 01 42 78 48 92  (Marais area – factory)

For hours of operation and to book your workshop click here   http://www.edwart.fr

Other helpful sites while in Paris:

http://www.secretsofparis.com

http://www.insidr.paris

http://www.en.parisinfo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Essence of Jim Morrison

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Jim Morrison’s simple grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. It seemed a bit neglected on this day but somehow not disappointing. Ask for a map at the entrance to guide you.

The mesmerizing tinkling of the electric piano helping to create the sound of rain and thunder in Jim Morrison’s song Riders On The Storm held a private concert in my head. As we searched for his grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris I was surprised by this. Although I was a fan of Jim Morrison and the Doors, I had never purchased an album and I certainly didn’t listen to any of his songs leading up to our trip to the cemetery.  Our daughter was in town visiting so I thought it would be something she and my husband would be interested in.

I shouldn’t have been surprised however that this song had seeped into my psyche over the years. Especially since two of my older sisters listened to the Doors on their fold up G.E. record player incessantly in the 60’s and 70’s. The sound quality far superior to the record player, was clear and smooth in my head. I wished Shae and Keray were privy to the same internal concert that I was at, although they did get to hear various songbird melodies floating out of the trees. Between the tweets and the warmth of the sun, we were all in a relaxed reflective state as we strolled the grounds not worrying about the map.  The chills on my shoulders and arms lingered on this rare sunny day in early May but I didn’t want them or the music to end. Was it really Jim Morrison’s essence or just an overactive imagination? I didn’t really care, I was feeling something special that would disappear given too much attention.

 

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A sense of peace emanates at Père Lachaise Cemetery when you take your time.  Several other well known artists are buried amongst these headstones as well.

James Douglas Morrison died 45 years ago at the age of 27 and his mysterious music lives on as strong as ever. Was it his passion for civil rights that still resonates with us so much in his lyrics today or the fact that they were never straight forward and you had to really dig into what he was saying to understand? It is personal for every Morrison fan but he and his band had the ability to create something complex and intangible yet relatable.

Bruce Botnick, the Doors’ band engineer, told Uncut Magazine in 2007 that it took only 2-3 takes to record Riders On The Storm.  In the same article Ray Manzarek, the Doors’ keyboard player, said the song written by Morrison is about a hitchhiker who was a serial killer and also about love and spirituality. Now that is complicated. Your world on him depends/Our life will never end/Girl you gotta love your man. “Morrison felt we wouldn’t be here still in body, but our essence would never end and love is the answer to all things”.

Riders On The Storm was Morrison’s last studio recording before his 1971 death in Paris shortly after that. If you listen closely you can hear his whispered lyrics swirling slowly around the mysterious main vocals. The whispers ending as the storm fades. I hope you have found the answers Jim Morrison, wherever you ride.

Dawn Robirtis

Père Lachaise Cemetary:  16 Rue du Repos  75020 – 20th arrondissement of Paris – Closest Metro:  Philippe Auguste – Jim Morrison’s grave:  Division 6.                                                                                                        

Hours of operation:  Mon – Sat 8:00 am to 5:30 pm/Sun & Holidays 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM

Phone Number:  33 1 55 25 82 10

Link to map of the cemetery-graves of other notable artists     www.perelachaisecemetery.com

Other helpful sites to check out when planning your trip to Paris:

http://www.secretsofparis.com    http://www.en.parisinfo.com   

(All photos by Dawn Robirtis unless noted)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There ain’t nobody here but us chickens

 

 

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Bouquet of market flowers. Bouquet de fleurs du marché.

Paris neighbourhoods, or arrondissements (the city core), present open air markets as exquisitely as Monet gardened and painted. Well, not quite, but they are art installations unto themselves. Most neighbourhoods in the city have 2 markets/week, so you will be able to find them easy enough when visiting. Here you will be able to slowly savour…decadent fresh cheese of all shapes, colors, textures and odors…and gorgeous savory pastries while you stroll…halte, si vulgar!! Other than nibbling on the end of a freshly purchased baguette on the way home, the French rarely stroll and eat. Tsk! Take it home to savor, how rude…As a foreigner you will get the occasional eye roll, tongue tsk and phaa so it’s a good idea to get used to it. Don’t take it personally it is ingrained in the culture. It does become humorous after a short while, and when you’ve had a tough day, you feel zero guilt when you do it right back. No one seems to care and some Parisians find it funnier than we do. As local french comedian Olivier Giraud says, and I am paraphrasing, “We here in Paris, have shitty little apartments, travel on the shit metro with the tourists, go to our shit jobs, go home, sleep and do the same shitty thing again the next day, so no wonder we are miserable!”  This is the basis for the comedian’s long running hilarious one man show “How to become Parisian in one hour,” a must see if you come to Paris. Not to worry, it is performed in English and locals abound, so don’t let anyone fool you, they do speak english!  Point taken, it is much harder to make a living in a fast paced, large city for everyone, everywhere. Persnickety is often an act for some, and a reality for many tired hard working Parisians.  Just relax and be proud to be you, appreciate the French sharing with us their fabulous culture and you’ll have a great time.

Now back to the markets, they have a plethora of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables. There may be a few you won’t know the name of or what to do with them if you bought them. How entirely fun and refreshing.

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The canard or duck, come whole and in pieces with or without the fat layer which is what keeps it so moist and tasty while slowly cooking or pan frying. You will naturally find whole chickens at the meat counter, but what I wasn’t used to seeing was that they come with the odd feather attached which the boucher kindly burns off with a torch.  You’ll notice a nice yellow tinge to the skin vs of the pristine white color we often get in the stores back home.  The taste is magnifique slow roasted. Please look away if you are vegan or vegetarian as the following pic may insult. When I say whole chickens I mean it.

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It doesn’t get fresher than this. Look away vegetarians. No, they don’t send you home to deal with it yourself.
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Notice the color of the fresh poulet.
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If you look past the sweet smile you’ll see how our friend is loading halved marinated chickens into a rack for roasting. He’s prepared paella with a twist. You can get it vegetarian style, pork , or a chicken/prawn combo. The smell is tantilizing  and being able to take home a healthy delicious “fast food” is such a treat. Un regal!

After seeing their love and respect for the local french farmers and vineyards and their age old processes it should be natural for us to support and attend our local farmers markets consistently in Canada. We are not Europe I get that, but a more supportive approach to our local farmers could be more mainstream, no? Personally, our family of two (the kids have flown the coop) have only bought from a CSA (community sustainable agriculture) farm for two seasons now and I’m not sure why. They either deliver or  you pick up your weekly fruit/veggie box from a local farm or market. It’s a treat to see what’s new. If you have an excess of lettuce, we’ve learned to put it in our shakes and the the unknown greens go into soups etc., or get frozen.  What a great way to be healthier and support our local économies.

The way the French think and maneuver around eating is a beautiful art as well. Sometimes their small talk is about what they had for lunch or dinner last night. What region it came from, how it was prepared, how it tasted and made them feel.  Hmm delicious any way you look at it so thank you farming communities everywhere, we may not say it as well as the french but we appreciate you immensely.

Jusqu’à la prochaine fois.   Until next time…

Dawn Robirtis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can…cer…tainly, a gift.

“I’m so sorry to tell you this Dawn, but you have breast cancer.” It was quiet in the doctor’s office while it sunk in. My husband and I just stared at each other and held hands. When I cried Keray took over and asked the doctor questions. After awhile the doctor just raised his hand and said, “let her cry.” My sweet man was trying to fix things out of his control. When he teared up, I took over.”What are my choices exactly?”

Next step,  copious amounts of appointments. Then how do I break it to our children?…and when? Everyone was going to be together for Easter weekend so we headed to the beach with a blanket and dogs in tow. Everyone dealt with the news in their own way. I kept saying, “I’m sure it will be ok.” Jade was quiet and held her head. Austin our youngest and only boy rallied us up for a family picture after awhile. I think he sensed impermanence and instinctively wanted to capture moments. That or he simply knew I coveted family pictures. Shae didn’t know how to be, there is no manual.  Leah pulled out her yellow ukulele and made me sing, badly. Keray quietly supported me with a hug and we laid on the blankets, all 6 of us in our own heads together.  Kimber foraged for food scraps close by. Hard to know what to do when you really don’t know what is going to happen.  How do you tell friends, my sisters and brother and especially my elderly mother? She said, “I’m sure it will be ok.” The rest of the family? My sisters handled telling them thankfully and I am so grateful.  The telling was the hardest part for me.

We listened to the doctors along the way. I researched incessantly. Not the greatest idea but necessary to a point to feel empowered.”The margin was clear but there was a micro tumor in one of the two lymph-nodes removed,” I was told. Along the way I switched oncologists, but in the end I followed a good amount of what they recommended. X-rays, blood tests,scans, partial mastectomy – not a lumpectomy – my surgeon kept correcting me. 25 rounds of radiation. 20 drives to Abbotsford Cancer clinic alone for radiation. “No I’m fine I insisted, I can drive by myself, It’s not physically effecting me.” Right!  I looked the same to me, just a little weight loss, all of my hair in tact. …but I was  tired not only physically but emotionally and the burn was coming. You can’t always see it when you are in it. Truth.  “I don’t want to take you away from work etc.” I felt guilty taking up people’s valuable time and I felt like a damn baby telling people it was really lonely and scary going by myself. Oh the thoughts that take over. I felt weak admitting that out loud….Take my advice, take the damn company!!! People want to help and many don’t know how to,so lead them. Next tamoxifen then letrozole – an estrogen inhibitor –  I’m half way there only 2.5 more years left on the chemo drug (the term chemo also means a mix of drugs in layman terms) that blocks estrogen so any lingering tumors or cancer cells hungry for it, are slowed down. There is going to be one hell of a party summer of 2018.

I lived in a fog of fear for 2 years after treatment. Terrified that “it” would come back. The feelings that come out are similar to grieving. I cried for “no apparent reason” sometimes, and felt deeply alone before my oncologist said “you do realize you have  PTS don’t you?” The letrozole often messes with your emotions not to mention the achey bones that exhaust you – in my case anyway. I hadn’t accounted for that…whoops, how would I know?

The amazing gift in this whole scenario is that I was forced to breathe deeper, slow down and surround myself with more calm light atmospheres, healthy real people, as little drama as possible, voila! Not always possible in this bright light we call life, but that’s what I strive for. If I’m around heavy, difficult energy I literally get tense, hot and I long to bolt. I close up. When I can’t bolt, I visulize being home in my pj’s and before long I’m smiling.  I am not living in fear anymore. If it comes back, that may be another story, but I will not dampen my life now. I know we all will die one day and I’m finally living like there is no tomorrow…just in case;) It feels fantastic and I am so incredibly incredibly grateful to my husband for being able taking me around the globe via his career and hard work, and for being so quietly solid. To the family and friends who took the time to understand and have stuck beside me and loved me when I wasn’t solid.  Real face to face time with family and friends is all that matters. We all know that, hear that, feel that, but always think we have more time than we do.

I had to tweak myself, my actions and reactions, lifestyle and I’m much better for it and much much happier. It was a knock on the head – it was a gift to start living like I longed to inside but didn’t know how.  I realize I have no control over most things so I really try to say “meh” while still feeling and caring deeply. I’m clumsy at it sometimes. I’m a work in progress like you are. You know the old pick your battles adage,  I don’t even like to say that anymore.  If we are expecting a “battle”, we will get one.  So sometimes when things are tough, how about just letting our soul sing when it needs to, as it needs to. Speak up little one, then let it go. Be kind, go outside and have some fun. We’ll get it right sometimes and other times…meh.