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Montreal

“Rester, c’est exister; mais voyager, c’est vivre. – Gustave Nadaud
“To stay is to exist; to travel is to live.”

2017 came around; I found myself standing and the world around me spinning. It was one of those things where I wanted to take a hold of everything; all at once. It took me until the end of March to realize that in my attempt to grab everything, I just got dizzier as I barely held on to anything. School, work, traveling, bills, trying new hobbies, self-care…I thought I could do it all. Yea, I thought wrong. Time sped and here we are at the end of April.

So much for not having a quarter life crisis.

Well as I sit here reflecting on the past few months, I look back to February when a group of friends and I took a trip to Montreal, QC, Canada. Montreal was perfect from the culture to the scenic views. At this time, I didn’t know I was on a spinning spree, but this trip was refreshing; made me even more addicted to traveling and getting away.

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It was five of us; not everyone was familiar with each other, but we all started the journey with an open mind. We decided to make it a mini road trip and left before the sun was even awake (four of us; one was flying and meeting us there.) It was a nice drive and we didn’t hit not one ounce of traffic which, we loved. While waiting at the border we cracked opened our windows, to take pictures of the Canadian flag, and the air felt fresher. It was like breathing in a sense of relief and exhaling all my problems and discontent. I felt happy.

As soon as we crossed the border the signs changed from English to French. I celebrated. Anyone who knows me knows that I become super excited whenever I see or hear anything related to the French language or culture. I was ready to practice speaking all weekend! Yes, I was about to get on everyone’s last nerve…in a good way though!

When we arrived, we couldn’t find parking for the life of us. Guess some things just don’t change in any country. Well when we finally did and figured out the ridiculously expensive street parking situation, turns out our Airbnb wasn’t even ready. So there we are looking like we just woke up and needing showers, in uggs, stepping on slushy snow. So what we do? We decided to walk and search for food and booze. Our first stop was Station 16 Gallery. Contemporary art at its finest. Everything was bold and provocative. Self-expression to the max. Check out the site. It’s worth a look.

After the gallery and stopping at a few boutiques, we found a place to eat. McKibbin’s Irish Pub turned out to be the perfect place to have our first drinks. I had a beer (of course) and everyone else had Irish Coffee. I think this is where it finally hit us that we were in Canada.

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Eventually, we got dressed and looked civilized. It felt amazing. Also, let me not forget to mention how in LOVE I was with our Airbnb. If I could dream up my own apartment it would look exactly like the place we were staying in.

We went to the airport to pick up the last person missing from our group, Jadira, who apparently was stranded, with a dead phone and not knowing any valid French to communicate. It was quite funny especially because she was coming straight out of her intro to French course. Well once she was rescued, we headed straight for Old Montreal where Igloo Fest was taking place at Jacques-Cartier Pier.

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It was a great beginning to our night! We enjoyed a beautiful picturesque walk around Old Montreal. We stumbled across a cute small restaurant, Restaurant Le Fripon, where we had Canadian beer and snails….YES, snails. It tasted okay…I think it was the cheese and garlic; a little chewy for the most part. When we finally got to Igloo Fest it looked like one of those raging festivals I had no business being at. Fortunately, It wasn’t that hectic (EDM just isn’t my thing and neither is raging.) We took some shots, enjoyed the outside view and headed back to get ready for the rest of our evening.

We ended our Saturday at Muzique, which turned out to be across the street from where we were staying. Okay, so what I learned? When a country allows drinking and partying at 18+ DO NOT go out clubbing. Unless you specifically know it’s a school night and the kids will be in bed. I felt like I was at a college party. It was incredibly crowded and everyone was out of control. The funny part is that the bouncer let us skip the line because we were 21+. Ironic right? We made the best of it by dancing and laughing at what was happening around us. Felt like a teen movie could have been made out of it all the wild things we saw.

Sunday welcomed us with perfect (not so cold) weather. We went to Fabergé  for brunch where we probably waited about an hour or more to get seated. The place was small and the line was long (felt like a good sign.) It was absolutely worth it! We had the most delicious Poutine (potatoes with gravy and cheese,) and ate so much food it was somewhat ridiculous! Shrugs. I’m sure we would all do it again without thinking twice!

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Next stop was Mount Royal.  First, i’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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The view was absolutely spectacular and truly breathtaking. I couldn’t stop staring at it. In that moment, I wanted to stay in Canada. It was covered in cold and frost but filled with serenity. I can close my eyes and feel the happiness I felt from looking at Montreal. Moments like that is why I love to travel.

We headed back to Old Montreal where we stopped to take a few pictures of the Notre-Dame Basilica, the first Gothic revival style church to be built in Canada.

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Old Montreal is spectacular. It looked even more beautiful in the rain…something about the wet cobblestone made it look more alive.

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We went to Les 3 Brasseurs for dinner. It was probably the most fun we had thus far during our trip! We started off with the beer sampler, which had a mix of white, blonde, amber, brown and IPA beers. How we managed to taste ALL the beers? Let’s just say we decided to “Be-er about it…” sip and pass until the cup was empty! We finished before we even got our main courses. 

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That night, for some odd reason, we decided to give clubbing another try. We started off at Tokyo Bar and ended at Apartment 200. I guess because it was a school night, there were barely any kids out! So yes, the night was a total success and a complete 180 from Saturday night. I had so much fun that by the end of the night, I shed a few tears because I didn’t want to go home. It was definitely bittersweet for it to be the last night; yet such a fun night.

Waking up on Monday was a bit difficult but we managed to leave by 11am. Before hitting the road we picked up some smoked meat at Schwartz Deli and some more Poutine for me. It was tasty just too much meat for a small piece of bread.

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… but with the last bites of our sandwich ended our trip in Montreal. We walked to the car, got lost trying to buy some souvenirs and off we were to our 6-hour drive back home.

It was a nice getaway, but it left me wanting more. I wanted more adventure and more moments to capture. Therefore, my spinning continued and I quickly started planning my next trip.

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Remember when I longed for a warm scarf?

“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly” – Tony Robbins 

The sun was out, the wind was blowing and the day was still young in San Francisco, California. [Read the beginning of Day 2] We ordered a Lyft and headed straight to Mission Dolores Park located in the Mission District. Dolores Park was once a Jewish Cemetery and ironically it is one of San Francisco’s most popular parks.

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The park was filled with happy people, dogs and music. We picked a spot and just hung out for a bit looking at the scene and the clear blue sky. I only wished it wasn’t as chilly as it was but, we made the best of it. While walking out, we bumped into a few swings and of course, I took advantage. I absolutely love swings! 

After the park, we were off to explore the famous Mission District. Our first stop was Amnesia Bar. The bar was small and quaint. We sat on the stools, ordered our beers, and appreciated the live band playing Bluegrass. It wasn’t really our scene but we made the best of it.

A few minutes in and we realized how hungry we were. Our last Lyft driver recommended a Mexican Taqueria that apparently had the best tacos in San Francisco. Since we were only a few minutes away we figured it wasn’t worth ordering a ride. However, at this point the wind was becoming unbearable and we were freezing. Few seconds into the walk and all three of us were shivering, but somehow when we saw Xanath Ice Cream, Stephany and Damaris craved some. So yes, we had desert before dinner. They both ended up getting cones and I got the smallest cup available. The ice cream was really delicious so I wouldn’t say it was the worst decision made during our trip. After finishing our ice cream, we went back out into the freezing wind, not stopping until we reached El Farolito Taqueria.

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Steph, Damaris and I walked into a dark and sketchy place filled with drunk men. We stood by the door confused; I refused to eat there, even though Steph actually contemplated the thought of staying. **shakes head** Turns out we were in a bar and not the Taqueria. I was so relieved! I already craved tacos and I was extremely hungry. The line was long, the place was not that big, and it wasn’t the most sanitary. Oh well.

While waiting in line to order my two tacos and tostada, we encountered yet another man under the influence of drugs. At this point we all thought, “you’ve got to be kidding me!” Things got extremely awkward. I wondered if we could take our tacos to go, but eating outside was not an option…way too cold for that. Fortunately, after a few minutes of ranting about some girl, the man ended up leaving because they kept telling him to be quiet. Once we sat down it was all history from there. Goodbye tacos.

We were so full we didn’t think walking was possible but somehow, we were determined to do a bit of bar hoping before calling it a night. Remember when I longed for a warm scarf? Well as soon as we stepped foot outside, we all longed for a warm winter coat! It was insanely cold outside. The wind and chill was unbearable. We managed to make it to Cava 22 Bar. I was so cold I had no desire to even have a beer. Steph and Damaris ordered something to drink, but as soon as they finished we ordered an Uber to head back to Nob Hill. We fell asleep as soon as we reached our beds and wrapped ourselves with the warm blankets.

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Thursday welcomed us with a bright and sunny day. We had our morning mimosas and were ready to enjoy our last day in San Francisco. It was such a beautiful morning that we decided to walk to our first destination, the Full House, house.

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Not even five minutes into our walk and we decide to stop in a cute little coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, for some tasty coffee. I had the Coconut Crème Javiva. I was extremely pleased with my selection as we walked and talked about our trip thus far. About 10min into our pleasant walk we came across St. Dominic’s Catholic Church.

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The church was absolutely stunning and we couldn’t pass the opportunity of checking it out. It was super peaceful inside. There wasn’t a mass going on so I took the opportunity to give thanks for the experiences and memories I was making. I also prayed for my grandfather who at the time was seriously ill. I’m not Catholic but I believe prayer is universal; it is received regardless of where it’s done.

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Finally, we reach the house of Danny Tanner and we were shocked! So everyone remembers the white house with the red door, right? Well that house no longer exist! The owners transformed the house completely [please refer to the picture above,] probably to confuse the tourists. Almost had us for a second too. I mean it’s a genius idea, but we were pretty bummed out by the transformation…[cue Full House theme song]

What ever happened to predictability?
The milk man, the paper boy, evening T.V

Everywhere you look (everywhere)
There’s a heart (there’s a heart)
A hand to hold on to….

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To be Continue…

Book #3

My reading journey continues. I told myself that for 2015, in the midst of everything I want to do and have to do, I was going to read 10 books.

I have officially finished my third book:

 Mistress by James Patterson and David Ellis.

James Patterson is a well-known mystery writer known for his detective series. Mistress is one of his most recent mystery novels. I never read a mystery novel so this was pretty much a first for me. I wanted to experience something different.

I have to admit, at first, it was hard for me to connect with the main character but further into the book I was able to focus more on his story. This was a book filled with twists, random surprises and in my opinion, even funny moments. To summarize the book real quick, the story focuses on an online newspaper owner, Ben, who ends up being involved in a conspiracy against the President. How does a mistress play into the story? Well you will all just have to read and find out! I recommend.

I’m proud of myself for venturing out into a different genre of book. It’s so easy to stay in your safe zone…but life is always better when you take a chance and go on an adventure!

7 more books to go!

Differences

The more I read the more fascinated I become with the idea of reading. This idea of putting pause on your life and being teleported to another world for a few minutes or hours can be quite soothing. I have the same feeling towards movies but with books it’s different…it requires a different sort of thought process. Books generate a different reaction from you…with books you submerge yourself deeper into the plot; you disappear into that world and everything around you becomes irrelevant.

The second book I read was A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. Everyone knows Nicholas Sparks for his touching love stories.

I personally never read any of his books but fell in love with movies based on his stories (The Notebook & A Walk to Remember.) I’m a sucker for a good love story, the kind that make you sob like a baby or make you cheese super hard because deep inside you wish that was you receiving that passionate kiss. So I picked this book because the movie made me sob like a baby and when I saw it at the bookstore immediately became super excited. I started reading the book thinking I knew exactly what to expect….but WOW was I completely WRONG!

The book and movie have two complete different plots! I was in shock! The movie keeps the general story line (boy falls in love with a girl who happens to have Leukemia,) keeps the names of the characters and even little things here and there from the original plot but everything else completely changed. I can sit here and list 101 differences but I won’t. What’s the point? Differences are everywhere. It made reading the book more exciting even more touching. The book focused on love, faith in God and the idea that even in the most unfairness of circumstances hope and happiness should never be lost. In its own way the movie did the same thing. So instead of focusing on the differences why not focus on the bigger picture?

It’s a theme we should all apply to our lives and something I try to remember everyday. Hope should never be lost because just how Sparks said in the last sentence of his book, “…miracles can happen.”

8 more books to go!  

Randomness In Gloomy Brussels

Today was a gloomy day in Brussels. It was very windy and wet. From what Belgians tell me apparently, the weather here is usually cold, wet, windy, and gloomy. I would find this out already being here! Oh well! Though the weather is crummy, I was very happy today and pleased with my surroundings. You have to appreciate the little things like how amazing the opportunity to be in this country is!

For this post I would like to share some random stories as I type on this gloomy day! Plus it’s always good to sit back and read some interesting stories.

The Tram

1. Saturday morning, I was waiting for the tram to head to the second day of the Art Fair. As I was listening to some song on my iPod I hear some French that I was pretty sure was being directed towards me. I take off one ear plug and turn around to realize some man was speaking to me from behind the fence. This man had a sling on his arm and was really trying to holla at me! .__. IN FRENCH! I couldn’t believe the situation! I told the guy I didn’t speak French (though I understood everything he was saying) and why did he continue to speak to me! He asked me some serious personal questions and what amazed me even more was how none of those questions included my name! Every other time someone has approached me that’s the first thing they ask! He asked where I was going?, where I worked?, what commune I lived in?, where I was from?, if I was married? (which I said yes) and he still continued to ask questions! The guy even blew me a kiss after 5 minutes of trying and getting denied! I was in shock and disgusted!

2. I think I have lost count of how many tweens I have seen having full blown make out sessions in the streets! I mean these kids go in! The guy touches the girls butt and everything… no shame! I think what concerns me about this situation is that I don’t see adults making out but KIDS!!! Talk about puberty kicking in and hormones being released!

3. Some interesting facts: In Belgium you can drink/purchase alcohol at 16. (21 in the states) In Belgium you can start driving at 18. (16 in the states) In Belgium you can gamble at 21. (same in the states) My Belgian friend broke it down to me. She said that since they allow drinking at 16 driving is not allow till 18 because by then teens know to drink more “responsibly.” Funny how in the states they do it backwards! I wonder what are the statistics for drinking and driving accidents in Belgium and the states! Which system works better?!